Depression can be a bear to deal with. Heaviness; bleak thoughts; and lack of energy, interest, or motivation can conspire to make you feel like you need to push a giant boulder up a hill just to find relief.
To foster self-compassion in the face of depression, education is key. Not only is it helpful to be aware of some of the possible sources of your depression, knowing how to alleviate symptoms can help you better manage it. My intention is to offer some hope by suggesting that the boulder before you might not be as heavy as you think, nor the hill quite as high.
The following list of depression sources and possible antidotes is simply a starting point. If you experience depression, may this list inspire you to think constructively and curiously about your suffering.
Source: Disowned Anger
For some people, anger is a dangerous emotion based on unconscious beliefs or experience of harmful expressions of anger passed down in the family of origin. Anger is an important emotion, however. It often signals that someone is doing you harm. If you push down your anger, it can turn inward (the harsh inner critic) and cause a depressive response.
Antidote: If you sense a fearful or adverse relationship to anger, begin to bring more attention to it. Examine how anger was expressed in your family. How do you react to anger? Engage with it. You may notice a lessening of your symptoms with this inquiry.
Source: Being Cut Off from Emotions
If you are disconnected from your feelings for any reason, you are cut off from a major part of who you are. This is inherently deadening. Feelings make you human and alive. For people experiencing depression, feelings may feel foreign, unpredictable, scary, or pointless.
Antidote: Start a conversation about your feelings. What feelings are you in touch with? Which ones are you not? What hidden beliefs do you have about emotions? See what arises.
Sometimes, depression is a learned way of being. If either of your parents experienced depression, especially major or chronic depression, you may have adopted depression as a way to feel connected with them, leading to an unconscious impression that this is how you need to be in the world.
Antidote: If either of your parents experienced depression, reflect on how that impressed on you. Do you believe depression is an essential part of being human? Are you afraid to NOT be depressed because you might feel less connected to a parent? It’s rarely that simple, of course, but there could be an element of this at play.
In some cases, depression is primarily an inexplicably chemical issue. There may be an emotional component if you traced the depression back in your family lineage, but sometimes the emotional component can change the brain chemically in ways that are then passed down between the generations, even as the emotional component or cause recedes.
Antidote: If your depression is debilitating, it is a good idea to consult with a psychiatrist. Medication, particularly when paired with psychotherapy, can sometimes lift the veil of depression enough to do the emotional work that can shift the tides.
Source: Misalignment of the Self
It can be depressing to be living a life that isn’t true to your heart and soul, especially if you don’t have a solid sense of who you are, what you need, and what brings you satisfaction and joy. If you grew up in an environment where you didn’t receive proper emotional holding and reflection, you may need help getting in touch with your true self. If you are misaligned or feel a lack of meaning in your life, it might link directly to your depression.
Antidote: Finding a good therapist who can help you explore the holes and emptiness may allow you to grieve past experiences, perhaps going back to childhood, and begin to discover who you really are. This is deep, important, and enlivening work.
Depression may be your psyche’s solution to difficulty regulating an aroused nervous system.
Source: Difficulty Self-Regulating
Depression may be your psyche’s solution to difficulty regulating an aroused nervous system. Perhaps due to trauma or an absent parent (anxious or insecure attachments), you may not have learned to regulate (calm) yourself properly.
Antidote: Do you get easily agitated or overwhelmed? Try a meditation practice and inquire about your ability to regulate. Is it hard to calm yourself? If so, working with a trained therapist can help.
Source: Existential Angst
It can be difficult being human. Having an awareness of all the suffering in the world is hard, as is the fact we all must face death. If you tend to focus on these existential issues and sobering realities, depression can result.
Antidote: Speak to a therapist about your concerns. It may be that your mind kicks up these things as a way to avoid your vulnerabilities. Explore the ways you might use existential fears unconsciously to manage other discomforts.
Source: Pervasive Anxiety
Depression can be a way for your psyche to manage deep anxieties. It may be that you are more anxious than you realize.
Antidote: Explore your thought patterns with a qualified therapist. Consider whether depression is operating as a buffer against more disturbing, anxious feelings.
Turn toward your depression. Getting to know its somatic qualities will help you unlock the doors that lead to self-compassion and healing. If you can find the resolve and commitment, you can find relief.
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Ben Ringler, MFT, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert Contributor
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.