How we think of ourselves - a cause of low mood and depression

I wonder if you have ever thought about how you describe yourself, to yourself? How we think of ourselves can be surprisingly limiting and disempowering. These internal thoughts and beliefs can be the cause of much dissatisfaction and can potentially cause depression. What we think of ourselves often feels like fact; fixed in our genes and cannot change.

I wonder if you relate to these ways of describing yourself:

  • I am a dutiful, caring daughter.
  • I work all the hours I can.
  • I provide for my family.
  • I need to be loved.

What happens to your emotions, when for one reason or another, you cannot be this person? You haven’t the time or energy to do your mum’s shopping, you want to leave work at five, you lose your job or someone argues with you?

Perhaps you feel guilt, anger, frustration, disappointment, annoyance, sad, worried, misunderstood, and that life’s not fair?

Perhaps it more than this, because when you fail to be this thing you describe yourself, you feel lost, have no identity, worthless, don’t know where you belong? Despite this, you continue to believe you must focus energies on being that thing you cannot be.

Wow, that is a powerful recognition, ‘I am trying to be what I cannot be’. This feels impossible; there is no way out. You may start to lose some self-esteem, become depressed and lose touch with the cause of your low mood.

Research has shown that there are times in our life when we are more susceptible to this challenge, to who we are and what we believe in. We are aware of the ‘mid-life crisis’ but it also happens as we approach our mid-teens, and 30’s as well as towards the end of life. It can be worse for some than others.

Why these ‘stories’ are so powerful, is because most of the time we don’t realise we have them, or that they might be the cause of our problem. We tend to want the cause of our moods to be out of our control, blame someone else, or the situation. If it is about who we perceive we are, we assume then we cannot change. This can make our mood worse.

Counselling provides a space to explore these stories about yourself and be gently challenged. It allows opportunity to play with ideas of who you are, why you think that, why it can or cannot change, what has influenced you and is there a new way to look at yourself. To look at the costs and benefits of maintaining these ideas and experiment with being different in a safe non-judgemental relationship.

Clients have found it life changing, to simply change the story of who they are.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Brighouse, Yorkshire, HD6
Written by Emma Dunn, MBACP (Accredited) Registered Counselling & Psychotherapy
Brighouse, Yorkshire, HD6

Emma Dunn is a psychotherapist in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, and works with issues of anxiety, self-esteem and depression. She is a qualified dietitian. She is qualified as a mindfulness instructor.

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