This article will explore what depression might be trying to tell us and indicate what needs to change. It will look at the circumstantial depression that may be linked to jobs, partners, or the fact that we need to change something in our lives.
This article will not explore depression and chemical imbalance in the brain. The type of depression I will discuss here is that which may indicate something is wrong in our lives, this could be a relationship, job decision, a move of an area, or a spiritual issue.
As a counsellor, I have noticed that some clients say that their life is great and they don’t know why they are depressed but after some time they begin to share that they’re really not happy in their relationship or they feel bullied by their boss. In today’s world, we are programmed to shy away from negative feelings with distractions and by keeping busy. So much so that we really don’t realise what is truly wrong until we have to stop due to exhaustion or emotional collapse and have an opportunity to deeply explore issues in some kind of therapy. It is as if the body and mind send us a message that something is wrong and we must stop and pay attention to it.
As humans, we feel as if we need pressure to be OK and in control all the time but this can lead to suppression of feelings and possibly result in one of the most common outcomes – depression.
Many clients’ mental health improves once they are honest about their true feelings. This then leads to a feeling of freedom from their internal prison. Many people often deny feelings and truths because they scare us, but once we realise that they are our true thoughts and experiences we can begin to look at and accept them for what they are: thoughts. Through this process of acceptance, we can decide what to do with our thoughts. This process is sometimes enough in itself and certainly an important step before taking any action.
The suppression of feelings is exhausting; keeping emotions and feelings buried puts a lot of strain on the body and mind, leaving people feeling fatigued and ‘dead’ inside, often reporting feeling un-excited about things they should be excited about. The body and mind are working too hard to feel joy and happiness. Relief often comes from finding out what’s going on in our inner world, the one we try to run from in order not to feel. Strangely it’s the running from that actually causes the pain. As a counsellor, I help clients identify their true emotions in a way that is not uncomfortable and scary but loving and self-nurturing. We do this by going back into their history together to see where this way of coping might have come from. We look at what gave them this belief system that tells them to try to ignore their feelings. Many people find it very helpful to look at these belief systems and bring them into the light and explore how useful they actually are. I have also seen how important dietary improvements and a little exercise can be to help the body recover from the exhausting process of suppression.
This work can only be done in a safe non-judgemental environment. I find it very beneficial to offer safety to the client by being totally accepting of what they want to discuss. To the best of my ability, I am empathetic and always try to put myself in the client’s shoes in order to get a sense of what they might be feeling.
With the internal belief system, it is important to identify what benefits it may have for them and to explore what it might feel like to let all, or some, of these beliefs, go. Whilst exploring these beliefs it is important to notice when a client might have had enough at that moment or when they might be using old coping mechanisms to deny their truth. One method I use is to ask what they think they might be doing. I find this can be very powerful in giving the power back to them. It also invites them to set their own boundaries within the session and hopefully, if they can do it with me then they can do it in their lives outside the counselling room. For example, people with abandonment issues in their lives often find it difficult to set boundaries; this can lead to internalised anger which the client experiences as depression. I enable clients to explore questions of why they think this helps to empower them and how their beliefs about themselves can change – by changing the beliefs we can change the behaviour that so badly affects their lives.