This Thing Called Depression”

~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
Sometimes a word is highly informative and tells the story of all experience. This happens to be the case with “depression”. People who suffer depression not only go through a disappointment, loss, frustration, etc., they also “de-press” their life’s energies. They press-down their emotions, their hopes, expectations, inspiration, physical energies, determination, persistence, sexual desires, etc.

In fact, this pressing-down lies at the heart of the depression. That is, depression is revealed by the pressing-down, so that if and when a person stops pressing-down, the depression lifts.

Because depression is not a primary state, it is not an emotion like sadness, frustration, anger, fear, etc. Instead it is a meta-state, a state-about-a-state. It may be fear of sadness, rejection of sadness, anger at sadness, anger turned against self, surprise and shock at a disappointment, etc. And because it is not a primary emotion, it does not provide information about the relationship between one’s map and experience in the territory. Instead, because it arises as a person turns his negative emotions against oneself, it is the result of misusing one’s emotions.
The proper use of emotions begins by accepting that they measure the difference between what we mapped and what we experience. As such, every emotion is useful and provides valuable information. Perhaps the map was off, perhaps our skill in the experience was deficient. Either way, we can change our emotion by changing either what we’re thinking or what we’re doing or some combination of the two.
By way of contrast, we misuse our emotions and abuse ourselves when we take our negative emotions and turn them against ourselves. Whereas a negative emotion tells you that something is wrong with either your mental map or the way you are coping with things in the outside world, that negative emotion gives you the energy to take action to change the map or the experience.
However, when you turn the emotion against yourself, the emotion’s energy has nowhere else to go but against your mind and body. It’s what I originally called a “dragon” state- an unresourceful state. This is the source of all sorts of psycho-somatic illnesses.

The mental mapping typically goes to the expectations that we have mapped.

Given that, we can ask, “What were you expecting?” Take any situation of loss, disappointment, frustration, anger, etc. and ask, “What expectations did you have as you went into that situation?” Then, when you get the answer, ask a follow-up question, “What is the quality of your expectations?” “Was it realistic, probable, impossible, improbable, demanding, etc.?”
A person’s expectations refer to what a person has projected into the future. The expectations may be coded as representations, beliefs, understandings, and so on. These are then projected into the future as what we anticipate. They become expectations when we look forward to seeing them happen … and if the thoughts behind the expectations are “shoulds” or “musts” then high demands are driving them.
“I must succeed.” “Things should always be fair.” “I should reach my goals quickly and with little effort.” “I should be approved and respected by everybody.”
Now if you want a good case of disappointment, here’s the formula: set unrealistic or high expectations beyond what’s realistic about what will happen. Imagine this beautiful future as vividly as you can- in full color, close, with the most enhancing sounds or music, then step in that movie.
Then say, “This is what I expect, what I want, and what I demand will happen or it will be the end of the world for me.”
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