DEPRESSION & ANXIETY
By Helene Lewis
In order to understand the phenomenon called clinical
depression, it is first necessary to know what is NOT
Depression is not the same thing as having bad feelings,
feeling lonely or feeling sad. Depression is not the same as
feeling grief, agony, pain, fear or anxiety.
All of these and many more negative feelings are a natural and
necessary part of being human. All of these and many more bad
feelings go by the name DYSPHORIA. Dysphoria is not
depression. Without bad feelings -- without dysphoria -- we
would not be human. To live without dysphoria is to not be
Thus, to understand depression, keep in mind that dysphoria is
not depression, and too much effort to escape and avoid
dysphoria can cause depression.
Depression is a FAILED STRUGGLE.
The depressed person strives for three main outcomes when his
or her struggle fails:
to change/improve an unwanted situation;
to be rid of feelings of dysphoria;
to keep up the appearance of feeling good when in a
‘bad’ situation, or when feeling
Actually, the depressed person can struggle with any or all of
these. Stated more simply, depression is a failed struggle to
So why does a depressed person keep on failing in these
struggles, despite working so very hard to feel better?
The depressed person ADAMANTLY REFUSES to accept dysphoria
and/or a disagreeable, unwanted situation. Depression is a
REFUSAL to accept bad feelings or a bad situation, or both.
Another way to understand this is to say that a depressed
person is depressed because she or he is unwilling to adopt a
disposition of RESIGNATION.
Questionable Assumption: Isn’t it good for our mental
health to be proactive, to work hard and to not be resigned to
Before concluding that this is foolishness, let’s look closely
and carefully at this resignation to which it refers. When we
refuse to resign ourselves to an unwelcome situation or to bad
feelings of some sort, it could be for many reasons. Some
of these reasons may be wise and not lead to depression.
But not the reason motivating depressed persons: they are
INTENSELY DEDICATED TO RIDDING THEMSELVES OF THEIR BAD
SITUATION OR FEELING(S). Basically, they can’t adopt the
disposition of resignation, even a little, because they TRY
MUCH TOO HARD TO FIX THEIR SITUATION OR FEELING(S).
There are four kinds of behaviours presenting in depressed
persons that reveal how much they refuse to adopt an attitude
of resignation. When we are depressed, we:
often behave tactlessly in interpersonal situations,
especially if we have a complaint, and we tend to be
act ineffectively when seeking help from others -- and
end up antagonizing others rather than getting their
withdraw into wishful thinking;
escape and avoid our problem situations.
Being combative and confrontational in interpersonal exchanges
is, in fact, a CENTRAL FEATURE of the depressed state of mind.
This confrontational mode has a lot to do with why depressed
persons have trouble getting the help they so badly want and
need, why their personal relationships are unsatisfying, and
why they feel so lonely. If they were to be less combative and
confrontational -- trying LESS HARD to ‘fix things’ and be
‘problem-free’ -- depressed persons would actually achieve
much more towards feeling better and improving their lives.
Questionable Assumption: Wouldn’t a success experience
-- such as success in getting support from others or avoiding
a bad situation -- help a lot to alleviate depression?
Surprisingly, the answer is NO. Depressed persons are so
desperate for success that they end up being REACTIVE to
success. They tend to implicitly believe that their successes
must be FLAWLESS.
a result, they often are extremely unsettled by even the
tiniest ‘flaw’ or inconsistency in a ‘successful’
encounter/experience. The depressed person has a built-in
immunity to any encouragement from success.
Questionable Assumption: Wow! Depressed persons must be
very anxious people!
Indeed, they are. Depressed persons are highly anxious. Not
all anxious persons are depressed, however. Research has found
that depressed persons can be more anxious than persons with
the label ‘anxiety disorder’.
So, how do we help depressed persons?
firstly getting them to accept bad feelings or situations
while helping them NOT to give up. To do this, we help them
adopt an attitude of acceptance and resignation, and thus make
it possible to think and act with less urgency and
confrontational insistence. Expectations for eventual success
are likely to emerge, and this makes one feel better about
future possibilities and act with prudence and foresight.
parting pair of slogans to remind us of all this: Go slow to
go faster; do less to accomplish more.
(Notes on depression by Jim Duffy on the Research & Theory of
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