Depression is a Cave and other metaphors

Cindy and Owen have written to me, with a very powerful metaphor for depression – depression is a cave. What you think?

Depression is a natural condition, they write. It is natural formation. Better yet it is a natural resource. The list of implications of the cave metaphor can provide strategies to deal with depression. Thus:

Every cave is unique. The forces in nature (erosion, stress, upheaval) that form caves have emotional equivalence. Trying to figure out how a cave was formed doesn’t change the cave. The ENTRANCE to a cave also serves as the EXIT.

Caves are better for temporary shelter rather than long-term residence.
Caves can be fascinating, comforting and starkly beautiful but at the same time , very dangerous. Going too deep and getting lost in a cave may require help to return to the EXIT/ENTRANCE

Caves are useful for storage. Unwanted unneeded, painful and harmful memories can be consigned or stored in deep pits. Treasured memories and precious thoughts are best stored near the ENTRANCE/EXIT.

Attempting to fill in a cave creates a depression somewhere else. Remember the adage: In a cave or any dark place it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

What I like about this depression is a cave metaphor is how flexible it is – that you can find the best way for you to use it. You can contrast this extended and flexible metaphor with how some of my clients describe depression:

  • People talk of being locked in a burning room, with the impossibility of escape and the flames just get closer.
  • Of being bound securely on a treadmill that cannot be stopped so that all you can do is to keep running despite utter exhaustion.
  • Of becoming obsessed with the idea of suicide as the one certain means of escape and this is so terrifying.
  • Of a fearful terror borne of complete helplessness that then fuels anger or a desperate isolation borne of shame and then indeed the full gamut of overwhelming and drowning emotions.
  • Of being like a car that is flooded with petrol – so you just stop with a judder.
  • And at times an ice cold clarity of thought – however fleeting and beguiling
  • And finally, let me quote from a recent client who explained it beautifully. This is what she said:  I can’t control my emotions or keep them where they can help me. I feel saturated in them, exhausted and no other part of me is getting a look in. So I just cannot help myself.

What depression metaphors make sense to you? And how can you understand that the restoration of hope can change the metaphor – subtly but profoundly.

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