The symptoms of depression are often due to depressing circumstances, not a disease.
In other words, under certain circumstances, it makes sense to be depressed. Many of us live dulled lives, somewhat robotic in nature and devoid of deeper meaning and purpose. We live in an intensely competitive culture that rewards achievement and success.
Our identity and esteem become reflections of these external markers of achievement. Our pursuit of happiness and well-being has become terribly misdirected. The demands of our intensely and neurotically driven culture strain our emotional and psychological balance well beyond its comfort zone. The cultural paradigm in which we live leaves us disconnected, disenchanted, and isolated.
When this occurs, we tend to honor and seek material acquisitions at the cost of devoting ourselves to intimate and loving relationships—with others and ourselves. Depression is symptomatic of feeling isolated and cut off. In our drive to live the good life, we typically isolate ourselves from relationships that might nourish us.
Intimate and loving relations have become somewhat marginalized and have lost value in our very hurried lives. Our frenetic pace of life sees one day blur into another until life begins to lose its meaning. We don't have time to nurture our loved ones or ourselves, and we lose our vision of a well-spent life. In fact, the problem is that we don't know how to live well. Our therapeutic community attaches labels, such as "dysfunctional," to people and families.click
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People are not dysfunctional; social systems are. People suffer and experience pain. We are human beings, not machines that dysfunction. Such terminology expresses contempt for the human spirit. A society that produces such staggering rates of depression is dysfunctional. Our culture has created this epidemic. Part of the problem is that we become corralled into a consensus of belief that does not serve our higher purpose. The desire to fit in and conform induces us to lose our inner voice.
We are products of a cultural belief system that ignores or devalues matters of the heart and then turns and points its accusatory finger at those who suffer. When we do so, we victimize the victim. If we began to look at the depression as symptomatic of living depressing lives, we'd begin to understand that the cure lies in addressing what our souls are longing for.
When we suppress the voice of our soul, depression arises. Depression surfaces for a reason. The symptoms of depression are crying out for our attention. The epidemic of depression is simply indicative of lives lived errantly, without joy or purpose. People who feel passion for their work and friends and love their families and partners don't become depressed as often as the population at large.
People who are in touch with their spirit and enjoy a sense of community don't incline toward depression. People who maintain a sense of wonder and awe don't become depressed.
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Depression isn't the enemy. It's simply a warning sign that we're not on the right path. Our disconnection and folly pursuits of happiness may have much to do with this. Before the advent of modern psychotherapy , and well before the pathologizing of the word "depression," we would refer to such symptoms as melancholia.
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Life would bring certain periods and events in which one might feel some melancholy. Sadness is appropriate at times. But they weren't told that there was something wrong with them. Loving support is the most powerful agent in the treatment of depression.
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When we lose our compassion and relegate depressed people to their diagnosis, we tend to dehumanize them. A dominant theme in our society is that you should be happy, and if you're not, there's something wrong with you. Life can be difficult at times. It is in the labeling of people as depressed that the greatest injustice is done.
I'm not suggesting that there aren't people who are indeed clinically depressed, but simply that the indiscriminate manner in which diagnoses are meted out to people without proper discrimination is grossly absurd. If we see depression as a signal that something is off, we might use the depression to catalyze positive change. Very often, depression makes perfect sense.
In my practice, I often treat individuals who are being abused, living in loveless relationships, or suffering from loss. Depression in such instances seems quite appropriate. Rather than treat the depression, I prefer to assist these people in coming to terms with their life challenges. It is essential to treat the person, not the depression. We must come to understand how the depressed person struggles contextually in their lives and to appreciate their particular struggles and challenges. We must, at all costs, refrain from reducing them to a clinical compilation of symptoms.
In some instances, depression is situational. Working through the loss is more healing than medicating the pain.
It is essential to address the underlying causes and not simply suppress the symptoms. The difficulty is that in our quick-fix mentality, we believe that if we can suppress the symptoms, then all is well. When we come to see depression not as the enemy but as an expression of struggle, the epidemic will likely subside as we come to honor the integrity of our human spirit. We do not ordinarily grow without engaging in struggle. So the irony is that by medicating our symptoms with psychotropic medication , we ensure continued stagnation, for the struggle is never resolved toward a breakthrough; it is merely placated.
Gary Greenberg, in Manufacturing Depression , suggests that depression as a clinical disease may indeed be manufactured. He references best-selling psychiatrist Peter Kramer's assertion in Against Depression that "depression magically skyrocketed after the drug industry introduced SSRIs and that diagnostic criteria can't distinguish between depression and grief.
What I am strongly asserting is that depression, and anxiety for that matter, are the most likely outcomes of living in and with the unmerciful and misguided constraints of a tired and destructive worldview. Our constructed reality is, for many people, depressive and anxiety-inducing. In effect, the way that we are living is producing tragic results. Even non-depression isn't an indicator of health. It just means you don't feel trapped, but you can still be a mess. America's religious zealotry is proof enough of that. I completely agree with the points this article makes.
The last couple of years, I have been working non-stop - holding down a full-time job while going to school part-time -to keep trying to 'get ahead' and create better opportunities for myself. While this is a worthwhile goal, I also experienced a bout of what I think was 'situational depression. So I decided that no matter what, I had to get a life to bring back some joy. So I started scheduling in fun time, more time with loved ones, no matter how busy I was. I also got my first dog, and despite the stress of a new puppy, I was overcome with joy I had never experienced.
Sounds strange, but the puppy forces me daily to take time to sit and unwind, get fresh air, and play - something I so desperately needed - talk about pet therapy! About a year ago I was told my job was ending. I couldn't sleep, wasn't hungry, had no joy in anything, etc, etc. During a regular diabetes checkout I mentioned these symptoms and voila - I was diagnosed with depression, given medication and sent to a therapist who strongly recommended group therapy. I did not go to therapy, I did not take my medication.
My job ended. I acknowledged that it was okay to feel angry, sad and even depressed. I slept in late, watched a lot of TV, ate junk food and basically hibernated. Six months later and I have a new job. I'm sleeping better, eating better and watching less TV. I'm also leery of confiding in my doctor again.
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So what happens if I was to really get depressed and need help? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I had the same problem - made the mistake of confiding in a doctor when I lost my job. Only I did pursue the therapy and medication. It turned out to be a huge waste of time. The meds gave me side effects so I eventually stopped taking them. And therapy got me exactly nowhere. Should you feel depressed again, ask yourself if its due to life circumstances or something more personal to yourself.
If you ever feel depressed due to more internal matters, try to seek a therapist who can assist you in a way that feels congruent to your needs. This is a pointless comment. What are 'internal matters'!? If you mean emotions and feelings then they are mere responses to the outside world.
Really there is no separation between internal and external.
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