In my many years of experience as a psychologist and a psychotherapist, I have seen exceptionally few clients for whom depression was simply a disorder of the brain.
In the vast majority of cases, once a person begins to examine their feelings and their life more closely, they discover that their depression has a meaning and a message.
Depression, in other words, is not just a medical illness, but is what happens when a person is stuck in some aspect of their life without knowing exactly why.
Depression Hides its Own Cause:
Depression often conceals its own reason for being there. It is not unusual for a person to be depressed without being able to pinpoint some definite event that explains why they are depressed.
This absence of a cause often makes it feel like depression has no meaning and is simply the sign of a brain in disarray.
Perhaps this is why the vast majority of people end up treating their depression with anti-depressants, encouraged, no doubt, by commercials on TV.
However, if you go down this route you will largely miss the point of your depression, and will not grow in the way your depression is challenging you to grow.
Your Depression has a Message:
The reason why you are depressed is often not apparent. This itself is one of the hallmarks of depression. Depression tells us: you are stuck in some way, unable to deal with some emotion, haunted by the aftereffects of some experience, or dragged down by the reoccurrence of some pattern of behavior.
If you simply knew which emotion, experience, or behavior made you stuck, then perhaps you would not need to become depressed. Then you would have a pathway out: you would know what to do, or what to change.
The fact that you are depressed, however, tells you: it is not that easy.
Perhaps you have a need to be more assertive in life in order to not be walked all over, but this in turn triggers a fear that other people will reject you or that you will be abandoned by others.
Or perhaps, you have a vague hunch that you are not happy in your marriage, but this realization would have such disastrous consequences for life as you know it, and so instead you suppress it with the consequence that you are now depressed.
In both of these examples, depression simply communicates that you have hit some stumbling block to the authentic acceptance and expression of yourself.
It tells you: you need help to find a different path out of your current dilemma, and that your current solution of ignoring or suppressing isn’t working.
How to Get Unstuck from Your Depression:
What we discover when we take the challenge posed to us by our depression, is that we are almost always depressed for good reasons, even if it does not look like it from where we stand.
The trick of getting out of your depression is to get help to expand your awareness of what it is that is keeping you stuck. Once the full picture of what is keeping you depressed is brought to light, you will no longer feel stuck, and therefore no longer be depressed.
This was the case for both the person who could not be assertive, and the woman who could not allow herself to embrace her discontent with her marriage…
The Man Who Could not Be Assertive:
If the person who is unable to be assertive begins to examine some of the fears that keep him stuck in unfulfilling relationships, he may begin to gain access to more of his frustrations with other people, which he now no longer needs to block from his awareness.
As he allows himself to more fully embrace his anger, he may realize that he is tired of always trying to please people, and may begin to express more dissatisfaction when people let him down. As his anger becomes accessible again, he may also be able to feel entitled to his sadness that people have not really been there for him, and to challenge his negative view of himself as someone who is not deserving of respect. As he gets to the root of where his negative belief of himself comes from, and begins to access more compassion for himself, he may be able to shift his view of himself and feel more entitled to have his needs met.
His depression, which was simply telling him that he was stuck in the dimness of a narrow awareness, would now give way to insight and new possibilities of being himself. As he would then no longer be stuck, he also would no longer be depressed. His depression would have served its purpose, and he would have heeded its message.
The Woman Who Was Unhappy in Her Marriage:
If the person who is unhappy with her marriage begins to more fully allow herself to feel her discontent, and if she examines what the fears are about that hold her back from accepting her discontent, the dilemma in which she is stuck may begin to shift. She may be able to more fully discover what she needs in order to be happy in her marriage and may begin to realize that she has some options to more actively fulfill these needs that do not involve getting a divorce. The fear of realizing that she and her husband may in reality be incompatible, may then lessen, and may cease to serve as a barrier to more fully embracing her needs and wants.
As the unconscious dilemma in which she was stuck begins to become known, and she begins to become more fully aware of the reason for her fears and her unhappiness, she is then able to unlock the message of her depression and use it to become unstuck.
What is Your Depression Telling You?
In the majority of the cases of depression I have seen in my many years as a psychotherapist, there was a message to be unlocked in the person’s depression. Once the person began to fully access and examine the full extent of their feelings and experiences, they were able to see what their depression was telling them, and were able to feel unstuck again.
The reasons for one’s depression, cannot be found by looking at the bottom of a pill bottle, but must be discovered through a process of self-examination that is best facilitated by the process of psychotherapy. Only then will you address the real issue which your depression is telling you to look at, and only then will you be able to set your life on a different path.
If you want to understand your depression better, watch my video in which I explain some frequent causes of depression:
About me: I am Rune Moelbak, Ph.D., a psychologist who specializes in helping people unlock the message of their depression. Please visit my website for more information about the treatment of depression.