THE PARADOX OF DEPRESSION - SESSION ONE
(c) From “Think about your thinking to stop depression: A fast and simple system to reduce distress”. 2009. Dr James Manning & Dr Nicola Ridgeway. W. Foulsham Publishers.
ACCEPTING YOUR FEELINGS IS ESSENTIAL TO STOP DETERIORATION IN YOUR MOOD
Client: But that makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Why would I want to accept that I’m feeling this way, when all I really want is for these feelings to go away?
Therapist: Well, just ask yourself, has trying to get rid of your feelings worked so far?
Client: I guess not!
Therapist: I’ll explain what I mean. All emotions have a function, even those that don’t feel nice (such as guilt, shame, disgust and sadness) and we have evolved to have all of our feelings. What impact would there be on society if nobody ever processed painful feelings?
Feeling low is often connected to a process of loss, whether this is a physical loss, or the loss of something that had the potential to happen. What would life be like if nobody experienced loss? Indeed, what would life be like if nobody experienced guilt when they had actually done something wrong? Where would the motivation for people to make positive changes come from?
The majority of us experience low mood for valid reasons. However, for many of us the triggers are not immediately clear. I’ll explain more thoroughly why this occurs in future sessions. What I’m inviting you to consider right now though is that whatever route we take to find the triggers for our low moods, we will ultimately find a good and logical reason for why we have been feeling the way we have.
Client: Erm? I wish it were that easy!
Therapist: OK. Let me put it another way. What I’m inviting you to do is to quite simple leap ahead to that point where you have found the trigger for your low mood state and welcome your low mood. I say this because if we don’t welcome our low mood, it’s likely that we will receive multiple low mood messages that arrive with increasing strength, until the message is eventually heard. This will ultimately make us feel worse.
Client: So why does this happen?
Therapist: Because feelings are basic survival mechanisms that are very intent on getting their message through to us. Their purpose is to help us survive, so if we reject them they may subside in the short-term, but will only return later with increased strength. Basically, our feelings do this because they are trying to keep us safe, whether that is from physical threat – for example, being physically harmed – or from psychological threat – for example, being isolated or rejected from our familiar social group.
Client: I mean no disrespect by this, but what you’re saying makes absolutely no sense to me at all! You’re saying that my feelings are trying to help me and I need to accept them, but I feel that they’re trying to harm me!
Therapist: OK! I understand that ... and, to be honest if it made sense most people would already have found out about acceptance and they would be trying it wouldn’t they? So given the number of people in our society who have depression, how many of these individuals are telling themselves that it’s OK to feel the way that they do?
Client: Not many, I suppose.
Therapist: That’s right! So part of our solution lies here. When we accept our feelings, we consciously let our brains know that we have received the low mood message. This removes the necessity for the brain to continue sending low mood messages with increasing strength, and reduces the risk of our mood deteriorating. So what could you do to see if this works for you?
Client: I suppose that I could try your idea.
Therapist: Good for you!
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