Don’t ask someone why they are depressed
This is what you read in the mental health forums. People talk about the Black Dog. It is a metaphor for the state of deep depression that people experience. The Black Dog represents a state that is out of their control. It represents an illness.
But what is depression? As a label we all have an idea what it means. In fact most of us, if we are honest, will be able to say we have had a period of our lives where we could have been classed as depressed. For some this period extends out to span their whole lives. There is a perception that you will always be prone to depressive spells.
Labels comfort and constrain us
You are unique. No two people will experience depression in the same way. How can a label possibly represent this?
When you have been battling for a long time, you can feel like you are going mad. Everything can feel out of control. Then you go to your GP and they give you a label. They have to because once they have labelled you they can treat you.
At first a label can be a comfort. You can read around. You can find other people experiencing the same thing as you. You feel part of something. You feel like you are not creating your own problem. You experience the catharses of talking and letting out a big secret.
But you are unique. In time you might realise that you are not the same as everyone else. You may realise that it’s not enough to know that others have a similar problem. Because all those people are now constrained by their label, in the same way that you are.
Medication for depression is not a cure. Medication for depression balances the chemicals in your brain to stop you going too low. They have a value for this. Chemicals in the brain can be very powerful for influencing our state. However medication is a sticky plaster. A plaster doesn’t heal a wound, it just stops it getting worse.
If you want to get over depression, you need to get rid of the trigger.
In my experience as a therapist, there is a reason for depression. The thing that people get wrong is they use their current reality to try and explain why they shouldn’t be depressed: “I have a great life”, “I have great family and friends”, “I have a good job and I’m really successful”
The reason for depression doesn’t come from your current reality. It comes from your past reality. It comes from childhood.
In my experience, the state of depression comes from a mismatch between expectations and reality. Expectations that you should be somewhere in life that you are not, or expectations that you should be able to cope better than you are.
This is why you can’t talk someone out of depression. They are living in a different reality to you and won’t be listening
Moving on from depression
So if you want to move on from a depressed state, instead of addressing current reality, amazing change can be achieved by addressing the source of the expectations
You are not as in control of your thoughts as you think. At least 90% of the time your subconscious is in charge. This part of you is a primitive and emotional part of your brain, but it means well. It’s job is to keep you safe from harm. This goes beyond keeping your heart pumping, fighting off viruses etc. The subconscious also protects you from stuff in your environment that may cause you harm, both physically and emotionally.
Because we are all unique, we all have different rules for what might harm us. This is why some people are scared of spiders and others aren’t. This is why some people are scared of picking up the phone and others don’t even think about it.
These “rules for survival” are created as we grow up. As children we are learning many things. A tiger cub will learn from its parents how to hunt safely, how to sleep so nothing can hurt it, etc. In the same way, our subconscious learns lessons on how it can keep us safe once we are adults. Those lessons go into a rule book.
Between the age of 14 to 16 your brain switches to following the rules in the rule book rather than writing them.
So let’s look at depression differently. I said that it is about expectations versus reality. It is the expectation part that’s the problem not the reality. If there are no expectations then you are able to accept your reality.
When I work with clients who have symptoms of depression, I seek out the point at which the expectations were written in the rule book. We time travel through a web of memories to find the significant moment where a lesson was learned. Did you know there a 7,363,282 minutes that you experience by the time you are 15 years old? Any one of those minutes can be taken by your subconscious as significant enough to learn a lesson from.
Try this. Think of the most recent time you laughed. Got it? Now think of the very earliest memory where you felt happy. There is a web of memories and your mind will automatically make the right connections if you just touch on the right strand of the web.
There is a reason for depression but that reason does not come from your current reality. It comes from expectations versus your current reality. If you get rid of the expectations you can accept your reality. If you change it this way, then you will not keep on going back into that depressed state. It frees you up to accept your life without risk of sinking into extreme lows when life gets on top of you.
To learn more check out my book “The Caveman Rules of Survival”