Thursday 11 February 2010

Depression update

Well, my previous post to the depression forum went down like a vile smelling lead balloon.
So here's the response I posted, which may be of use to those reading here, who also didn't like it.

My post was written very carefully to find the balance between sympathy and truth. It wasn't intended to offend, and - reading it again - I don't thing there is offence in it, except in so far as it does not support your current world view.

It would be the easiest thing in the world to pour sympathy all over you, and you would feel better for it, but you'd still be carrying around the pathology which put you where you are. So - do you want a lifetime of pathology and sympathy - or do you want to make changes?

As a personal development consultant, I walk this tight rope daily. Do I make my client feel better in the short term and keep taking the money - or do I tell them truths which are difficult to hear, allowing him to adjust his world-view and move on in life with a more accurate one, which he can use to accurately interpret meaning from his experiences, and to reach for happiness.

The "pills" in my post can be bitter, but they are no less therapeutic for that. As long as you perpetuate a view of yourself as helpless victim, and view the world out there as owing you happiness, then you will not make progress, because - no matter how much you want it to be true - it just isn't true.

There is a story of a wild monkey who wanders into an encampment and he sees a banana in a cage. He reaches in to grab it, but can't get it out through the bars. Unwilling to let go of the potential meal, he stays there holding the banana and he starves to death there.

If you want to move on, you have to let go.

This is really hard stuff, because our ego is invested. To let go means to admit imperfection, to admit we had some things wrong. And until we can find the more correct versions, we're somewhat adrift; we lose a part o ourselves.

It's also hard because it means letting go of something we loved - the delicious passive dependency of our childhoods.

Of course, if there are brain chemistry reasons involved, then medication may be the appropriate course of action, but there is growing anxiety about anti-depressants, and also a body of professionals (Dorothy Rowe being my favourite) who say that depression is not a mental illness anyway. In that connection, there's an audacious phrase which springs to mind - it's not one of mine, but there's some interesting thinking in it. It's this:

You don't HAVE depression, you DO depression.

I can well understand how that might offend many depressives. Don't shoot the messenger.

I don't think this means to imply that you prefer to be utterly miserable, so you make sure you stay that way. But it DOES mean that there is a wilful component to depression driven by the conflict between your inner beliefs and your external reality. This is very hard stuff to work with, and anyone who is depressed has my respect and my sympathy. It is a sad place to be and it's hard to get out. Sometimes lives go by in that place. I don't dismiss it at all. Perhaps if you read what I said again in that context you might find something of use in it.

Perhaps not.


  1. As an NLP Master Practitioner I have to echo your sentiment Chris. From an NLP perspective, illness is a behaviour and I often ask the client to teach me 'how' to do it :) Lots of preframing and rapport building required! Youre right there is no merit in reinforcing the thought patterns that keep them stuck in the problem. Might as well chat to a mate over coffee! :)
    Gill x

  2. Hello Gill. Thanks for your supportive comment and sorry I didn't see it sooner. I appreciate you taking time to give me your perspective.

  3. Chris
    I just wrote a long explanation, which disapperaed into cyber space ... However I think it is important to say that, with reference to your child analogy, that we treat children gently for a reason becuase we can see that being harsh will hurt and scare them. People with depression (illness or not, victim or otherwise) in my experience are extremely intelligent and sensitive people, and on occaision over-sensitive. I have had depression from my teens (I am now 37) and depend on medication to prevent feeling suicidal and being practically bed-bound. However this alone has not helped me improve my life, whereas making changes has. This has included changing my friends to ones who are supportive and honest. Who remind me that I'm having a 'blip' rather than my whole life falling apart (as it feels) and that I was right to make to a change (although it doesnt feel right now) and that I can make another change (when I feel better / postive / strong enough to do so). I had 20 months of psychotherapy where I basically felt I was being told 'to pull my socks up' and whatever I felt was never acknowledged but constantly questioned. I guess my point is that when dealing with depressed people be kind and try to empathise more strongly with the fact that they do want to change but are like terrified children in a very bad place and need a lot of hand-holding and nurturing. Dont shout at them and tell them they are wrong for where they are and how they see things. Just show them that there are other ways and when they are ready to try, support them. I once asked a NLP therapist why he had chosen NLP and his response was that he felt other therapies didnt work and weren't fast enough. I think NLP can be tremendously helpful but pushing people to do things faster then they can cope with is definately not.