I recently learnt a good lesson about depression from a client of mine. I thought to share it here:
When we feel very depressed, apart from feeling hopeless, losing a sense of our future, feeling like we're dragging ourselves through treacle, experiencing self-loathing and having motivation that is in the red; we also sink into this (ironically) comfortable funk where we just want to...not move.
And yet, and yet...for most of us, there might be that tiny nagging voice, perhaps an impulse that flickers like the beginnings of fire in the pit of dead ambers; telling us that we need to get up, to do something. to move forward.
But we don't, and the nagging voice transformed into more self-loathing laced with guilt.
And so we stay as we are, frozen in time.
My client helped me realize a way through this:
It's about balance.
In Focusing, we talk about different aspects of our Emotional or Feeling Self. These can be classified broadly into 2 large groups: 1) A stuck part, and 2) a part that feels alive, filled with vitality and growth (often hidden by the stuck part, or frozen into a stuck part). Both parts are pointing to important emotional needs that are yet to be fulfillled.
I realized that we can treat the depressed emotion as a stuck part...AND...treat the little nagging voice as a feature of the part that feels alive.
From here, all we have to do, a la Focusing, is to pay equal attention to both parts, tease apart the stories behind each part, and also discover the needs inherent in each part. We do so by getting in touch with the body-feel (felt sense) of each part, and then linking that to memories and life stories.
This is the first level of balance: We balance our attention given to the two parts of our Emotional Self.
Now, we also know that depression really benefit from staying active and being connected (to people, things, purpose and to Life). But depression makes us not want to do things. What to do?
The second level of balance is this.
Each part of our Emotional Self also contains an impulse to do or not do things.
At the action level, we can then pay attention to the action impulses of each part, equally. So on one day, we might feel a stronger impulse not to do things. FIne. Respect that and take a break.
On another day, we might feel a stronger impulse to do something, however tiny. Respect that and take action. Alternatively, we might be taking action and then feel the impulse to stop, to rest. We can respect that and take a break. And vice versa.
This kind of balacen can take place hour-to-hour in a day as well.
Action and non-action, starting and stopping. If we keep on balancing the action and non-action that correspond respectively to both our parts, we will find ourselves gradually shifting out of the depressive state we are in.
So it's about balance at at least 2 levels.