A vast amount of clinical research has been done about depression. We are not going to give a scientific analysis of depression here, but rather examine the syndrome within the context of separating emotions. Depression is a frozen state which keeps us from feeling anger, sadness (or occasionally) fear.
Depression, therefore, is an unconscious, self-protective strategy. When you are feeling depressed you are not feeling much at all. Being depressed is like being in a wasteland.
People who suffer from depression probably had parents who believed that anger, sadness or fear were not-okay. These parents no doubt devised various strategies to help them, when they were children, avoid feeling these not-okay emotions. Many of us had this experience as children over and over again with anger, sadness and fear. Therefore in adulthood we unconsciously believe that:
- if we become too angry, sad or fearful, we will be swamped with these feelings and never be relieved of them; and
- someone else has to rescue us from these feelings.
So, in the event that these feelings arise, what does our mind do to protect us? It freezes one or more of these emotions in our body (depression) so we won’t have to feel them.
For example, Elsie blamed her husband Walter for two years after he had an affair with their next door neighbour. For a while Elsie’s friends sympathised with her and agreed with Elsie that Walter’s behaviour was unforgivable. One day Elsie’s sister was brave enough to suggest that she could begin to see this experience in a new way. Had Walter been unfaithful to hurt Elsie? How alive was their marriage before this incident? Did their ‘marriage need a shake up? Elsie admitted that she was tired and worn out by always feeling blame and anger towards Walter. She decided to forgive her husband, the next door neighbour and herself. She realised she was using blame as a protection from becoming more intimate and vulnerable with her partner.
If you ever feel depression coming on, ask yourself if underneath it you are feeling angry, sad or fearful (or maybe all three)! If you are, then give yourself permission to feel them without judgment and the depression may gradually dissolve.