Depression and our Dreaming Brain
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Andrew Richardson - Feelbetter Counselling
8th August, 2008
Tonight you will dream, even if you don’t remember doing so. Your brain will act out in story-like form the hopes, fears and reflections that occupied your mind today. Today’s concerns are tonight’s dreams. In simple terms, dreaming is our brain’s emotional flush toilet. This extraordinary process refreshes our emotional brain, leaving it better prepared to deal with tomorrow’s stresses.
Today’s worries are tomorrow’s depression.
The cycle of depression becomes established in the following manner. The process usually begins when some circumstance or event in the environment triggers an increase in worry. Examples may be the birth of a baby, loss of a job, changing circumstances like a new school or university, or the feeling of overwhelm related to stress at work or home. The person spends large amounts of time focussing inwards on their problems. This leads to a huge increase in emotional arousal. When the person sleeps at night there is a massive increase in dreaming. The corresponding decrease in stage 4 sleep results in the exhaustion commonly associated with mornings for the depressed person. Now the person has little energy to actually do anything about the problems and spends another lonely and miserable day focussing inwardly again. This leads to a further increase in dreaming the next night and so the cycle continues. Depression is an added layer of misery often piled upon genuine challenges, further reducing the person’s ability to cope with their difficulties.
How Human Givens therapy breaks the cycle of depression.
The primary goal is to get the client off the worry circuit and help them become outwardly focussed. Using guided use of the imagination and relaxation techniques the emotional arousal is reduced and through the employment of a host of therapeutic interventions the client is encouraged away from the negative ruminating and towards re-engaging with normal activities again. Very quickly, sometimes in as little as one session, the sleep pattern starts to return to normal and energy levels rise. With more energy the client finds it progressively easier to become more outwardly focussed and to re-engage in life again as well as embracing new activities that better help to meet their needs.
People come into therapy to change their future, not their past.
The dredging up of real or imagined miserable memories from the past in counselling further damages the client and contributes to deepening the depression. The evidence is unambiguous about the fact that any therapeutic approach to depression that encourages further worrying and scrutiny of past misery only adds to the problem and is clearly contraindicated. The client is already spending far too much time on those worry circuits.
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