- EXPLAINING DEPRESSION
- THE UP'S AND DOWN'S OF HAPPINESS
- UNDERSTANDING HOARDING AND OTHER COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOURS
1. EXPLAINING DEPRESSION
Depression is still considered by many, to be something of a mystery.
As someone who experienced chronic depression myself for almost four decades of my life, I had plenty of time to try and figure it out. Even as I struggled with it, I was fascinated by it. I studied it, found ways to work with it and gradually came to understand it properly. The depression lightened and lessened and finally disappeared altogether - this is still a source of huge celebration for me, some ten years later!
My recovery was made possible by understanding and applying the following principles:
Depression is an unconsciously driven strategy of retreat and shut down. It occurs as a natural and instinctive response to internal overload and overwhelm. It points to some unfinished business within – a processing of past/recent/ current life events that has not yet been attended to properly. It tells us that we are holding the lid down on our emotional store place and that it is absolutely full and will not take any more.
Depression is the way the vast intelligence of the mind/body/spirit complex forces us to comply with an absolutely necessary 'time-out' from the world around us. In exactly the same way that an animal will retreat to a safe and sheltered place to heal a physical wound, depression works to pull us away from everyday life and into seclusion and inactivity, to conserve energy and begin the healing process. It is a message that we are meant to heed. Unfortunately, all too often, it is still considered necessary to medicate this vital message into oblivion.
Many people make the mistake of assuming that willpower and determination and medication are the best antidote to use to 'beat' depression. They are not. When we fight depression as if it is the enemy, we just use up more of our energy reserves. The root cause of the depression is not resolved. When willpower fails to work, we become burdened with frustration and a sense of disappointment and failure at our own perceived 'weakness', when in fact we are not weak- just approaching things from an ineffective angle.
Depression is a red flag, alerting us to the fact that we have buried something that does not want to remain buried any longer. Depression forces us to go within, because that is where the answers lie. The solutions are right under our noses. We only need the courage to become travellers into our own interior. If we do not, depression will continue to have a justifiable need to protect us, by closing us down.
The intensity of a depression is directly proportional to the amount of healing we need to do. Sometimes we may know what that healing relates to, (for example, having suffered a bereavement and knowing you have not been the same since) but it is equally as common to have no idea why you have become depressed. Often the life events that are at the root of a depression happened so long ago that we do not realise they are in fact, a major contributor to it. Those things may be over now, but they are still 'alive and kicking' inside us. Depression can also be caused by an accumulation of several things, that individually do not seem like big problems, but as a combined 'emotional load' are big enough to topple you. If you do not know the reasons for your depression, it takes only a little gentle and professional psychological 'detective work' to discover the source.
Depression can herald a new phase of your life. When we are ready to find new meaning in past events, and develop new aspects of our self, working through depression can become a rebirth of sorts, into a life in which we have access to more wisdom, power, creativity and self assurance. There is a sense of having lived through and survived a crisis, and emerged all the stronger for it. It is highly probable that this is actually the 'purpose' of depression, and we unwittingly prevent this process if we consider depression to be a sign of a 'malfunctioning mind'.
A physical wound looks unpleasant, and as it heals, the scab looks that way too. But we know this is the body's healing mechanism in action. We protect and encourage that process. Depression is the wound in our minds and hearts. The same inner intelligence that heals a physical wound is trying to proceed.
As soon as we begin to respect and understand the depressive mechanism, we can be more objective. We can start to take the appropriate measures to resolve and process our internal blocks and feelings. We can work through and resolve the things that have wounded us. Things gradually change for the better. Depression starts to lift and lighten. The need to retreat and shut down lessens, and we can re-engage with life again. It takes time to do this properly but with patience and trust in our own life force, freedom from depression is an absolutely achievable outcome.
Modern holistic psychology processes are a revelation. They give us a new way to respond to the unmet needs that are at the root of depressive illness.
Depression is one of the most common psychological problems and yet it is often still so inadequately dealt with. Depression simply wants us to listen; to stop and give ourselves the time and space to address the things we are not yet truly at peace with.
© Cathryn Deyn 2016
Please contact her for permission to reproduce in part or whole.
2. THE UP'S AND DOWN'S OF HAPPINESS
The quest for happiness.
Many people believe they should strive to be happy 24/7 and that they are failing if they are not. The strain of living with this expectation can in itself, be a cause of unhappiness!
Current mental health statistics do not make pleasant reading. Earlier this year, figures showed there has been a 54 per cent increase in the number of young people prescribed antidepressants in the UK between 2005 and 2012.
And the latest official NHS statistics on prescribing revealed there were 61 million antidepressant items prescribed overall in 2015.
As well as understanding depression itself (see article above) we also need to consider the pressure to 'be happy' and the impact that has on us. Why is finding happiness proving to be such a frustrating and unattainable goal for so many people? And what exactly is happiness anyway?
Happiness is a physiological state
that is designed to vary..
Emotions are feelings ( inner experiences) created by our nervous system and by our biochemistry. Emotional hormones are released as an expression of need. They are an internal feedback signal.
They create the urge to move towards something ( to seek pleasure, comfort and relief) or to move away from something ( to avoid pain). Emotions that are flowing and working properly, keep us safe and motivated; out of danger, in a state of balance and moving towards the things that work for us in our lives.
Certain factors though, complicate what is potentially a straightforward mechanism -
The smooth running of the emotional response system becomes compromised when we try to ignore our more 'negative' emotions and 'stay happy'. The emotions we have denied, repressed and resisted, accumulate within us and 'block up' the system, wreaking havoc.
We end up in emotional turmoil. The 'feeling responses' we have to life can start to occur the wrong way round, at inappropriate times and lead us into all sorts of troublesome scenarios as we try to keep a lid on it all and stay in control.
Instead of the helpful indicators they are designed to be, emotions then become 'back seat drivers' of our life, compelling us to do all sorts of things that are not beneficial for us, and stopping us from doing the things we should be doing! Typically this will create a sense of confusion and we wonder 'what on earth is wrong with me? Why can't I just get on with things the way I used to/should be able to/want to?!'
Our basic emotions originate from the older and more animal part of our brains. If we didn't have to 'interfere' it would run perfectly. (As this same mechanism does in animals.) For a human being though, it is a complex situation! We DO interfere, and often.
We have physical, personal and social needs that conflict with our instinctive emotional responses ...
Our thoughts, beliefs and ability to choose what we express means that we usually control and suppress our authentic selves. We need to maintain our public image! We find it hard to be honest and open, fearing ridicule or rejection. We try to stay positive and happy by telling ourselves the 'right things'. Our 'heads rule our heart's because that is what we were taught was the best way to function. Unfortunately it is not. There is now a heap of scientific evidence that reveals how repressing our natural emotions directly impacts our physiology and our health.
Our head and heart are supposed to work together, as a team. ( this is called 'congruence') They cannot do this if they are at odds with each other! Ignoring emotion has enormous consequences.
If we are angry, we have a need to defend/ change something that really doesn't suit us. We are motivated by the emotional hormone of anger to take action; to engage with the problem in order to change it into something that suits us better, but we may suppress and block this instinctive urge, to avoid confrontation and maintain our social status...
Harry is late to arrive and is really hungry. He picks up the only remaining sandwich and is about to wolf it down, when his friend, Tom reaches over, grabs it and runs off with it, laughing as he eats it himself. This is not the first time Tom has made a fool of Harry. Harry is full of rage and disbelief; everyone is laughing at the 'joke.' Harry doesn't want to look like a loser again and so pretends he is finding it all equally amusing and laughs along too, when what he really wants to do is fight back and stand up for himself. Afterwards he can't stop thinking about the incident, even though he knows it was 'only a sandwich'. He is now angry with himself for the way he handled it! And he is still hungry! He tries to tell himself to let it go, but finds it really difficult and stews on this incident for days. Twenty-five years later he is beyond shocked when this memory surfaces in a therapy session. He cannot believe he can still feel the rage, but he does. Only when he is allowed to work through his own needs during the incident, and acknowledge them properly, do they subside and disappear, leaving him relieved, finally calm and shaking his head about the whole thing.
And the reason for his session? To address his anger issues and his low self esteem.
This real life example of how emotions can control us from behind the scenes is absolutely typical -even seemingly small emotional experiences can have a major impact upon our whole persona, however much we like to think they don't! ( the key here is that at the time they occur the events are highly charged and very meaningful).
Harry had more than one memory of situations similar to this to work through and resolve, but the theme was the same in each. Once he had done this ( it took just a few hours ) he enjoyed a huge shift in his anger issues and an increased self-esteem.
Once his difficult emotions were acknowledged appropriately, they simply went away, and did not come back.
Emotional needs IGNORED...
Most of us grew up without an adequate education on the subject of our emotions. We did not learn how to recognise, understand and respond appropriately to the amazing feedback system we possess.
We judge many of our emotional needs as 'weak' and ignore them; we criticise ourselves for having them, and try not to have them! We use the word 'needy' as an insult. We stuff negative feelings into our proverbial 'Pandora's box' and seal it shut whenever we can. This is akin to shooting ourselves in the foot because we feel a desire to run, or sealing our mouths closed with tape because we feel hunger or thirst! Ignoring our emotions is self- destructive and a highly effective way to psychologically disable and sabotage ourselves.
Emotions have been little understood, to society's great detriment. It is no surprise that the number of people with 'mental health' problems continues to increase at a disturbing rate, and is seen as a growing epidemic.
Mental health issues are actually 'mental/emotional health' issues.
Emotions are bubbling up, demanding attention and interfering with the smooth running of the mind.
The epidemic will keep growing until the focus of attention is placed in the right place. We cannot 'fix our heads' if we ignore our hearts. Most people know how to think positively, and try to , very hard! Unfortunately, using only 'positive thinking' and sheer willpower to make things better has limitations, and sometimes doesn't work very well at all.
Holistic psychology is an approach that acknowledges both head AND heart and enables us to work with our thoughts and emotional needs and crucially, address them both in the appropriate way - at the same time.
THE EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER
The exhausting emotional rollercoaster ride that so many people experience in life, is created when we are unconsciously driven to respond to underlying, unmet emotional needs. We seek pleasure and relief to offset our emotional pain.
for example: going on a drinking binge/ a shopping spree/ eating a whole packet of biscuits/ working out madly at the gym/ lolling on the couch/ watching too much TV/ wild partying or doing anything to excess, that is really just a short term 'fix'. This behaviour is so common it is almost regarded as 'normal'.
It is understandable that we find such ways to escape and distract ourselves from our feelings, when we don't know any other solutions. Unfortunately this strategy usually results in a 'crash' shortly afterwards. Our conscience and bodies clearly tell us when we have over indulged. We feel guilt and remorse. We feel 'off' - low, disappointed in ourselves, unsettled, dissatisfied. And of course, those still unmet inner needs soon become evident again, persistently nagging away within us. And back we go to seek relief and repeat the patterns again and again. It is a horrible cycle to be stuck in!
I was stuck in exactly this situation. For several decades I used food as a source of comfort and a reliable way of numbing my own feelings. It drove me crazy that I was not able to eat 'normally' and yet I was drawn back into the destructive behaviour for years, despite repeatedly trying to use my willpower and my logic to stop myself. My emotions were in control and I was powerless to stop them...until I discovered holistic psychology processes and dealt with my emotional log jam.
It is perfectly possible, with the right help and instruction, to identify and resolve emotional needs, (even very old ones) and become a master of your own emotions. Once you begin to understand what emotions are and how they work, you will develop an new way of functioning.
A. Identifying and resolving stored up feelings and unmet needs, means they no longer niggle away from within.
B. Learning how to understand and deal with feelings at the time they arise, means we do not need to bottle them up in the first place.
This is incredibly liberating and empowering.
Your mind becomes naturally settled. There is more harmony. Your perception of the world will become noticeably improved. You will feel more in control, and yet more relaxed. You will choose different ways to spend your time and free your creative self. Whatever life brings, you will know that you can deal with the events in a constructive manner.
By reducing our dependence on external situations to make us happy, we increase our ability to feel happy and peaceful, despite what goes on around us.
This is a different sort of happiness! Inner peace is not wandering around in some sort of spaced out eternal bliss, disconnected from the world.
It is simply spending more time in a genuinely calm, contented and relaxed state, because you can quickly navigate through any unwanted, intense 'peaks' in your natural, emotional responses.
This is the happiness that is sustainable, dependable and truly your own to enjoy!
It exists within us all...
We would not expect any other mechanisms that we use constantly, to continue to work perfectly if we did not maintain them- keep them clean and repair them properly when there is a fault.
Our mind/body mechanism is in need of the same care and attention ...
By attending to our 'emotional and psychological MOT' when we notice symptoms of stress, we can resolve, and even prevent all sorts of serious malfunctions.
If you are tired and bored of feeling stuck and frustrated with certain issues, and/or bored of your own 'emotional rollercoaster' existence you may be further inspired by the experiences of Cathryn's clients - visit the Testimonials page of this website to read about their achievements using Holistic Psychology.
© Cathryn Deyn 2016
Please contact her for permission to reproduce in part or whole.
3. UNDERSTANDING HOARDING AND OTHER COMPULSIVE BEHAVIOURS
The first step in understanding compulsive behaviour, is to realise that the behaviour itself is not the 'real problem'. It is a solution. This will seem an odd idea if you have never thought of it this way before. Let me explain.
As we go through our lives we all have to live through some painful experiences. When things happen to us that are intensely upsetting and feel overwhelming (often in childhood) we cope the best we can at the time, but the experiences can remain a problem for us, held in our memories and affecting us in many ways from the unconscious part of our minds.
This ‘hidden pain’ itself is the real problem. It is the 'driver' that pushes us to behave in ways that make no obvious logical sense.
Our mind is programmed to try to find relief from physical, emotional or mental pain. At the simplest level, if we bang our elbow, we will grab it and rub hard! If we have a headache we might take a ‘painkiller’ or take some time out. Physical pain is hard to ignore. We notice it and are compelled to seek out relief.
Mental and emotional pain seem easier to ignore. We tend to push unpleasant thoughts and feelings to the back of our minds. We are not sure what to do with them. We believe they are harder to resolve. Once a difficult event or period of our life is over it is easy to pretend it no longer affects us but unfortunately this is often not true. It does indeed affect us, remaining a part of our internal and unconscious landscape. The suppressed emotional energy creates repeating echoes of the original pain.
People suffering with hoarding and other compulsive behaviour issues have learned, (usually without realising this consciously) that certain things ‘work’ for them as emotional pain relief, whether it be holding on to their 'stuff' and collecting more, ‘comfort eating’, drinking alcohol, shopping, taking drugs, playing computer games, gambling, surfing the web for hours on end, and even keeping excessively busy being a 'workaholic'. The actions are performed to excess at the expense of other things in their life.
All of these things are solutions for the person. When we approach those behaviours as a ‘problem’ we are not talking the language of the mind/body. This is one of the reasons we have such poor success rates at resolving them.
When we use logic and rational argument to try to stop a person using the behaviours that bring them relief, it can cause extreme distress and actually make the problem worse. The person is usually all too aware of the logical viewpoint and is already beating themselves up in frustration as to why they cannot just stop it!
To free a person from the incessant need to seek ‘pain relief’ via their compulsion, we need to resolve the past experiences that are creating their pain.
We can achieve this (using EFT and other energy psychology methods) much more effectively than in the past. Often in a matter of hours, the underlying drivers that cause a person to seek their particular ‘solution’ can be reduced enough to bring relief, real changes, a reduction in the behaviour, and eventually a complete cessation of it.
My own compulsive behaviour ( food addiction) was the bane of my life for almost 30 years. What was originally an all consuming daily battle, gradually disappeared completely,as I resolved my painful life experiences. Nowadays food is one of the great loves in my life, and every meal is a simple pleasure, the way it should be.
By understanding any compulsive behaviour as a ‘solution’ and understanding that the surface symptoms are NOT the cause of the problem, we can live with our own behaviours and those of others in a more tolerant and compassionate way. When we address the underlying issues, the hidden pain drivers are resolved. We can finally escape from the 'stuck cycle' of mental and emotional pain and no longer have a need for the 'comfort' of the compulsive behaviours.
INTERPRETING THE EMOTIONAL ECHOES
A person with hoarding problems is surrounded by 'stuff'. These possessions feel incredibly important, and there is often the urge to collect even more. Accumulating items can be a highly reliable way of gaining some short term emotional relief, because in their mind/body there is a conditioned link between the items and that comforting response. This creates the incredibly real illusion to the hoarder that items viewed by others as just rubbish, is 'treasure' to be loved and kept safe. In the long term of course, this habit creates a literal physical mountain of objects. Ironically, the 'solution' to the underlying problem has now created another huge and practical problem. It often becomes a prison for a sufferer and their families.
When hoarders really begin to confront their hoard - to look properly at all of those possessions, they typically become aware of many feelings. ( It is important that this is done in the correct therapeutic setting as it can be very challenging. Empathy, support and effective processing methods to help them are essential.)
Typical comments are- 'I feel overwhelmed' - 'I feel trapped' - ' I feel disappointed in myself' - ' I feel ashamed'.
There are vital clues in these emotions...
If a person feels overwhelmed by their possessions, then there is an unresolved issue from their past, concerning 'being overwhelmed'.
If a person feels trapped, then there is some scenario in the past, when they felt trapped in some way.
If the person feels disappointed in themselves about their hoard, then they also have the same feelings for other, more profound reasons.
If they feel ashamed, then they are ashamed, more deeply, about something else that happened to them...and so on.
Why is this? It happens because we all unconsciously create a world around ourselves that quite accurately reflects our INTERNAL world back to us.
We choose what we do with our things, and we can only acquire them, arrange them, place them, sort them, store them, or let them go according to the mental and emotional landscape that we are living with inside of ourselves.
This being the case, in therapy work we can examine our external problem( wether it be hoarding or a different compulsion) and use it to help us realise what issues we need to resolve. The way we feel about the surface problem tells us quite clearly how we feel about a deeper, unresolved issue.
It is the most extraordinarily useful way to begin understanding ourselves, and to begin focus in on what we need to deal with. As we heal within, our outward life will begin reflect a far more positive and enjoyable reality back to us. It takes time to recover from chronic compulsive behaviour patterns, but it is certainly possible when approached with an accurate understanding of what causes it in the first place.
© Cathryn Deyn 2016
Please contact her for permission to reproduce in part or whole.
Check back soon - more articles to follow.
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