A Simple Emotional Model of Depression.
Having worked with hundreds of people with depression I have become familiar with an emotional model of depression. Emotions can become repressed when there’s no outlet or way to to express them, creating an emotional blockage and backup that leads to feeling stuck. This can manifest as physical problems or the emotional sense of hopelessness and despair.
This simpler model I am sharing of depression and how it can evolve helps with healing.
Emotions are an energy that wants to move. If it is not expressed, it gets held inside us. There may have been times in your life that you didn’t have the support to let them move, or you felt completely overwhelmed by them, so you had no choice but to suppress them. This suppression can show up in all sorts of ways with something as simple as a sore throat or myriad physical disorders. Quite often in my clients depression manifests itself as a certain stickiness or a feeling of dread or something they don’t want to look at. There is often a sense of loss and hopelessness.
The biggest obstacle is a fear of the emotion, that it will never end, that it will overwhelm you again, that you will never stop crying, that you will be forever left with this painful feeling.
I point out a horror movie analogy and let my clients know that they are not alone in this thinking. When you watch a horror movie and you hear the creepy music playing as the young girl opens the cellar door and in your mind you yell “Stop, don’t go there, you will get killed!” This is similar to how the emotional blockage sounds in your head, telling you “Don’t go there, it will hurt too much, it was so painful. It’s so scary!”
But you are not in a horror movie, you are safe in your house or my office sitting on a couch. There is no threat to you right now, you are safe. Now is the perfect time to learn to let your emotions move, to free yourself from the grip of an old experience.
You can feel what is beyond your fear or sadness that has been suppressed just below the surface for possibly decades.
It’s important to see the power you give to fear when you let the fear of the unknown take over. And it is important to challenge that fear and to let things change and move. As FDR said in his famous inaugural speech “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
I guide my clients by reminding them that the fear of the unknown is always worse than the known. When you open to the possibility of being with the pain and sadness from old experiences, it may very well feel very different now than it did in the past. It helps to do this in a supportive environment, with someone you know and trust and feel safe.
This repeated going back to check with with the emotions in a safe space, allows the emotions to start to move again. This brings with it a feeling of lightness and relief as the old energy of fear and sadness can move out.
And the surprise that comes when you do this is most often a beautiful thing. You start to feel more. As the sadness and fear move out and make room you begin to feel other things like love and joy.
When we block one part of our emotions, we block them all.
You can see that your previous constant state of fear and sadness, even when it is held below the surface or in the background is depressing and zaps your life force and energy. Just as you may feel the heaviness and sadness, let yourself make room for the lightness and joy that is also part of who you are.
Give yourself the gift of looking deeper and being supported in your journey back to wholeness.
ALSO READ by Maureen Magauran, M.D. → The Perfectionism Trap, Why Trying Harder Isn’t Always Better, a holistic psychiatrist’s guide to feeling a sense of peace and gratitude, in a world that demands perfection.