Celebrate Your Depression
The first thing to give up is the idea that depression is caused by anything. Depression is caused by depression. Any attribution of cause other than this will get you stuck in trying to handle the “cause” rather than the depression. Moreover, it empowers the “cause” rather than you, who contributed your reaction to it.
So let’s start with the idea that events don’t cause experience, but rather that experience searches around for an event to attach itself to. In other words, if you’re depressed, you’ll look around in your life and quickly find something to pin it on.
There are an infinite number of events that can possibly happen in this universe and likewise an infinite number of possible reactions to each event. In Camius’ ‘Stranger’, Meursault feels nothing when his mother dies. So even grief in response to the death of someone close to you is not a given, but your contribution to the situation. Looking at the positive side of this, people in mourning could also be grateful for a close enough relationship with someone that they’re now inclined to grieve.
Getting stuck in the cause of your depression is pointless.
Let’s make one distinction here. Depression isn’t grief. Grief is a natural phenomenon, the healing process after loss. Depression is something added to that. Grief ends naturally. Depression is incomplete, often stuck for a long time.
Nor is depression, in accordance with a popular theory, unexpressed anger. Unexpressed anger is unexpressed anger. The theory that depression is unexpressed anger misses that, given who you are, depression or turning inward is preferable. To say that you should express your anger to relieve your depression is just adding one problem to another. Saying where you should be or what you should do is a great way not to experience where you actually are and what you’re actually doing.
When you’re depressed, ask yourself the following question: What wrong with being depressed right now? What’s your objection to it right now?
Some comparison is required to make a problem of it, either some looking back or forward. To say, for example, that your objection to depression is that you’re not accomplishing as much as you used to or as much as you thought you would, refers either to the past or future, without sufficient regard for the present.
Let’s take the point of view that depression, like all the other emotions we choose, is actually a problem solver in disguise. To suggest that there’s some value in depression may lead to extracting the value and giving up the depression or appreciating the depression more.
Take a look at exactly how what you call depression benefits you. In other words, find the payoffs and then re-name the experience.
Relabelling your depression can truly be a changing experience
“Depression” relabelled can thus become “taking the chance to rest up” or “adopting a conservative posture toward life” or “a sign of knowing the true reality of the human condition”.
If you’re having trouble with this, find out what depression is better than for you. One woman said that depression was better than making trouble. Depression was then renamed “an active avoidance of trouble-making”.
Let’s say that instead of three emotional states “up” and “down”, there are actually three:
Down about being down
In #2, you’re down and that’s okay. In #3, you’re down and that’s not okay. So here is where the problem exists.
The difficulty is that most people want to jump from #3 to #1 without going through #2. The intermediate solution then is not to try to feel up, but to feel okay about feeling down. Better yet, as strange as it sounds, celebrate being depressed.
So we come up with a circular kind of definition. Depression is the experience of depression resisted.
You make it up in the first place that it’s not okay to be down. So to get from #3 to #2 you need only to give up those extra feelings you’ve added to feeling down – anxiety, heaviness, anger or whatever.
Then what you have is just depression, which, when you experience it instead of resisting it, will lighten up.
The problem is not the tragedy, but that people have trouble getting up to comedy about tragedy.
This was an extract from 'Feeling Good About Feeling Bad: A Brief Guide To Optimistic, Practical Existentialism' by Brad May, Ph.D.