~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
When it comes to the complex meta-state called “depression,” given that we create it as noted in the past three posts, we can now ask two very different questions. First, “How does a person create depression?” And second, “How can we transform depression?”
How does a person get into such the meta-muddle of depression? What kind of structure does this involve? Here is a common formula for creating depression.
1) Reject, refuse, and attack negative feelings. When you feel down or discouraged, the “negative” feeling could be sadness, grief, discouragement, fear, frustration, stress, tiredness, fatigue, etc. These emotions are valuable. They result as “the difference” between your map (expectations) and your experiences. They indicate the map-territory difference. When you reject them, you reject the information they offer you about your expectations and your skills or experiences. To create a good bout of depression, reject, refuse, and fear your negative emotions. Hate them and get angry at them.
A subtle way to reject negative emotions is to pretend that you are not really down and try to “cheer up.” When you try to cheer up yourself or another, you assume is that there’s something wrong or bad about feeling down and depressed. You “should” get rid of it. Your cheering up, as a command, “Don’t feel bad!”, amounts to a demand to not have some feelings (sadness, pessimism) and a demand to have other feelings (cheer, optimism).
Have you ever tried to cheer up someone who was depressed?
Have you ever offered positive words of cheer and hope and optimism as you confidently assured him with your inspiring words? Did you ever try to reason yourself or another out of feeling a feeling? Have you ever felt assured that if you use the common sense logic of telling a depressed person to “snap out of it and start counting blessings? that will work? It didn’t help much, did it? Do you know why it did not? The “cheer” does not work because it ignores the primary feelings, covers them up, and asks you to feel something that violates your current thinking and feeling.
2) Use your attempted solution to create a second level problem.
If you command your sad feelings to go away, if you hate them, or fear them, all of these “attempted solutions” are actually amplifying the depression and creating a second-level problem on top of things. By ordering yourself, “Don’t feel X, feel Y” this supposed solution itself becomes yet another problem. It implies a taboo (prohibition) against your emotions and sets up a double-bind. By trying to not feel one emotion, and trying to order another (feeling cheerful) creates an internal conflict. In the long run, it will increase a sense of inadequacy, powerlessness, helplessness, and badness.
3) Layer on more problems.
You started with a discouragement, you then used cheering up as an attempted solution that prohibited the first emotion. You then brought other emotions against yourself- fear, guilt, anger, etc.
deepening the sense of being helpless, powerless, and inadequate. These meta-problems then outframed the first level problem generating more negative feelings and amplifying the depression. It’s all a vicious spiral that will only pull you down further into a vortex of negativity creating a full-fledge “depression.”
Transforming and Transcending Depression
Ready to change all of that? Now that you know how you have created your experience, you know a little bit about how to un-create it, how to stop creating it, and how to create something much better and more resourceful.
First, Distinguish the Levels of States and Accept States.
All states are not the same. At the primary level sadness signals you that there’s a difference between your map and experience. Given how you have mapped some facet of the world, there’s a sense of loss in your experience.
Sadness appropriately registers the loss as it also motivates you to replace what you have lost. This is actually good and valuable- you need it it makes you human and real.
Primary level “negative” emotions have a positive role and purpose in our lives. At the primary level your thoughts-and-feelings are in relationship to something “out there,” the emotions, while unpleasant and distressful, are valuable. When you turn your “negative” feelings against your own feelings (sad about sad, anger at sadness, fear of sadness, shame of sadness, etc.), those second-order emotions create the semantic damage of depression.
“Depression” is not a primary level emotion, but a meta-state.
So if you fail to distinguish the levels of states, you will probably mis-understand “depression,” thinking it is a primary state and about something out there in the world. It is not. It is a meta-state made up of negative thoughts and feelings about some other thought, belief, expectation, hope, demand, etc. This explains why it’s easy to solve sadness and why the sadness releases emotional pain. The same, however, does is not true for depression.
Second, Positively Accept Sadness and Negative Emotions.
Knowing that all of your emotions on the primary level are good, valuable, and important, use them for self-awareness. Counter-intuitively, you effectively manage your emotions by positively accepting your fear, sadness, anger, guilt, etc. Acknowledge what you are feeling, then decide what to do. If you have brought negative feelings against yourself, accept that, realize the mistake that you are maing, and set about to reverse it.
And counter-intuitively, by accepting the very thing you don’t like and don’t want gives you control over it. Acceptance means acknowledging what is; it does not condon it, want it, or approve it. Give yourself permission to feel sad, to feel down, to feel discouraged. Paradoxically, the more open and receptive you are with your emotions, you’ll do the emotional work and the emotions pass on.
Third, Undo the De-Pressing.
Therefore instead of pushing down your energies, hope, dreams, values, etc., lift them up. Positively reframe your meanings, set high level intentions to re-ignite your inspiration, get off your butt and get 30 minutes of exercise every day, make a contribution of your time, money, and energy to others. Want to know how to do that?
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