Manifest the qualities needed to beat depression
Depression can be a massive leveller, as feeling down can severely impact an individual even when that person appears to have a great life, is happy in their work life, enjoys happy relationships and appears to be happy in their home life. It is more than feeling sad. It can stop you from fulfilling tasks in your daily life. Depression is rightfully regarded as a major mental health condition deemed worthy of utmost respect in how it should be treated.
Feeling depressed can sometimes involve having limited mental and emotional defences against catastrophising thoughts. It is almost like there is a cascade of negative thinking that follows a bad experience. So, a depressed feeling can emerge after something bad that has happened, and this, in turn, can evolve into feeling negative about seemingly every other part of life. A form of distorted thinking can take place where everything is viewed through a lens of black or white thinking, discounting the positive or having tunnel vision (what might also be termed as 'cognitive distortions' in the CBT school).
Elements as a metaphor for transformation
It can be useful to think of mental and emotional equilibrium in terms of balancing the elements. The metaphoric system of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air and space) has been part of our European culture and everyday language for millennia. Metaphors can potentially point us towards greater meaning to integrate deeper, latent and hidden aspects of ourselves. Viewing the elements as a metaphorical map for achieving emotional balance provides a useful and simple way of uncovering a possible path for transformation.
We should aim to be relatively balanced in each of the elements so that we are resourceful and creative in all areas of our lives and relationships. We can be emotive and in touch with our feelings yet assertive and confident enough to be successful. We can be creative and analytical but also open-minded and persevering.
Depression, however, can feel like stagnant water with an absence of movement or creativity. For emotional equilibrium think of a vibrant flowing river or the waves on the sea with bustling energy. Now compare that to a stagnant pond comprised of dead and heavy water. Sometimes what is needed is for an injection of some form of spark in order to shift and reinvigorate energy levels.
It could be useful to think in terms of qualities associated with the fire element to create the spark for some energetic movement. Perhaps the qualities of confidence, truthfulness, and knighthood could be what is needed to manifest a more powerful and radiant way of being. Carl Jung believed that archetypes were models of people, behaviours, or personalities, and were inborn tendencies that play a role in influencing human behaviour. For Jung, archetypes represented universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious (as opposed to the ego/conscious mind or the personal unconscious). Jung believed that we inherit these archetypes in the way we inherit instinctive patterns of behaviour. The archetype of the knight or the warrior might be appropriate as a means of transforming blocked energies associated with depression and bringing about clearer thinking and revitalised energy.
Seeking medical help for depression
Depression can do great physiological damage to the body. It may well be that medication is needed to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain. If you are worried about depression, you could make an appointment with your GP or family doctor who might undertake some diagnostic blood tests to check that there is not some other organic negative health effect impacting on your well-being. Your GP could also potentially offer a referral to specialist services, if necessary. Medication, such as a course of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), might prove effective, especially if you feel your depression is severe. Medication can only be prescribed by a medically qualified professional and the tablets take about 2-4 weeks to start working.
Is medication a good idea?
Some prescribing of medication, however, can be based on the serotonin deficiency theory. This is when medication such as SSRIs are prescribed to fix an undersupply of serotonin levels in the brain. The pills may potentially be the answer to correct a chemical imbalance for some people. However, an alternative view is to understand SSRI medication as boosting neurogenesis (the process of boosting more neurons in the brain and the enhanced ability and capacity of the brain to retain more of the neurons). Opponents of SSRIs argue that it is neurogenesis that more safely boosts serotonin levels, and neurogenesis can be boosted in a healthy and holistic way without having to endure the side-effects of the medication. Healthy ways of boosting neurogenesis include engaging in mindfulness and meditation, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a high-impact exercise routine and seeking to gain good restorative sleep. There are rarely any real short-cuts to boosting mental and emotional well-being.
It is often unrealistic to expect that mental well-being can be boosted in a healthy way by merely taking tablets. Medication, even where appropriately prescribed, invariably needs to be backed up by a healthy regime of doing the things that make us feel better in the long run, such as not avoiding things in our lives, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet and reaching out to others in our lives for emotional support.
Counselling for depression
Depression often feels like experiencing dullness, despair and sluggishness. Counselling and psychotherapy could explore what prevents you from manifesting more positive qualities to overcome negative states of mind. It could be that long-held, self-limiting beliefs are stopping you from letting go, moving on and ultimately transforming your mood, relationships and life. Successful outcomes of therapy could be to identify and discard distorted qualities and replace them with more powerful and positive qualities. Developing the qualities of an appropriate archetype could prove to be a transformative experience and lead to a fuller and more productive life.
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About Noel Bell
Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.… Read more
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