~ Article written by L. Michael Hall PhD ~
We are now heading into the Christmas season and all of the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Years. For many this is the season to be jolly, however for others, ’tis the season to be depressed. At least this has been one of the regular characteristics of the holiday seasons for many years in the US. Given that and given the large percentage of the population here and around the world that suffer from “depression,” I thought this might be a good time to talk about this thing that we call “depression.”

Depression Is Not All The Same

A first distinction is that all depression is not the same. There are actually many different experiences which are called “depression.” In fact, the term is over-used and all too often is used in far too trivial contexts. So let’s begin here.

What Does Depression Mean?

First of all, the term “depression” does not refer merely to feeling sad, disappointed, or discouraged. It is far more than any one of those experiences, although it frequently (perhaps primarily arises from one of these states). The clinical term depression refers to a very abnormal state and one that is no longer just a mental state, but one involving one’s body, emotions, neuro-chemistry, etc. And depression, unlike the healthy and useful emotions of feeling sad, disappointed, or discouraged, is an unhealthy and dangerous state.

Let’s Start With Sadness

In the primary state of sadness, you register a sense of grief due to a recognition of loss. In fact, the emotions of grief and sadness help us deal with our sense of loss. So, if you have experienced a real loss-you have lost a loved one, a treasured position, a relationship, a project, your health, etc., then the grief enables you to come to terms with things and re-focus your energies. An actual loss means that something valuable and important is no longer present or available. So your mental and emotional investments (your ego-investments) in it are gone. How you defined yourself or even identified yourself in terms of that person, object, or position is also gone. And you feel the less for it. You may be asking yourself, “Who am I now?”


The grief and sadness enables you to register the loss and then to focus and reinvest your energies into something else. The emotional intensity of the sadness generally relates to how important the loss was to you. It gets your attention so you can release it, alter your ideas about it, change your expectations, and put your energies into something as a replacement.

How Dow Does Depression Differ?

Depression differs from loss in that you are now de-pressing yourself, your energies, your hopes, your dreams, your wants, etc. and as you push these things down you reduce your appetite, exercise, sleep, sexual desires, desires to work, to contribute. In a word, you are avoiding the challenge of staying in the vitality of life. Depression is not merely being sad, it is more. Often it is a way to cope with sadness. It could be being sad about being sad, a meta-sadness that is now turning your energies against yourself. It could be shaming or guilt-ing yourself for some aspect of the loss. It could be that you are “turning your anger inward” against your self- that was Sigmund Freud’s analysis of depression. Or it could be a dozen other meta-state configurations.

A Meta-Reponse?

There are actually many ways to generate a depression meta-state wherein you press down (“de-press”) your energies, hopes, passions, resilience, and resources. In this all “depression” is not the same. There are many configuration- all of which is a misuse of your meta-responses to yourself.

The Matrix Of Personality

Using the Matrix Model as a way to model personality, you can see how “depression” can show up in each of the dimensions of the Matrix. A person could feel down and discouraged in so many ways. The matrix model is
developmental psychology.
In the Meaning Dimension where you make and experience positive meanings, you may be creating boredom, futility, emptiness, meaninglessness.
In the Intention dimension that concerns your intentions, motivations, and agendas for living, you may be experiencing the loss of hope, direction and purpose.
In the Self dimension, you may be experiencing you value as a person as conditional, inadequate, flawed, and worthless.
In the Power dimension that involves your powers, skills, competencies, and resources, you may be experiencing your powers as weak, limited, controlled, and determined.
In the Others dimension, you may be experiencing feeling unloved, rejected, unwanted, even despised relationally.
In the Time dimension, you may be experiencing yourself as stuck in the past, fated by past events, impulsive in the moment, etc.
In the World dimension, you may be experiencing a loss of an important role, status, or position.

The Common Cold

Depression has been called “the common cold” of mental and emotional disorders. When a person truly becomes depressed, he depresses his energies, activities, hopes, sense of meaning, etc. No wonder depression is also one of the most dreaded states. As a very unpleasant state, it then feds many other self-destructive behaviors.

Down Feelings

In many of these cases, the problem is really not “depression.” People are using that term far too loosely. Instead of depression, many are suffering from discouragement, lack of motivation, a wide range of fears, anxiety, fatigue, burnout, and so on. They confuse their “down” feelings with depression. Many times the real problem is that they don’t have a big and exciting challenge in their lives. There’s not sufficient meaning and meaningfulness. It could also be that they are playing life too safe, too small, and/or too perfect. Or they could be expecting absolute success with no problems and they could be wanting it now without any effort.
Do you want to talk to a specialist where you can see how you are using the word depression? Connect with us now

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