My purpose in this post is to explain for you to understand depression. As clearly as I can, what a depression is actually all about. And from this understanding, you will be able to see how depression recovery can take place.
For many readers, the idea that to understand depression can easy will be preposterous. After all, depression is generally held in great awe, where explanations are medicalised in some way. To understand depression is never saying much more than is impenetrable jargon. But it need not be like that.
I am talking about the insights of the Human Givens approach. Human Givens is UK based and dates only from the late 1990s. Yet in that time, it has received recognition in the NHS and there is respectable peer-reviewed evidence of success. Human Givens practitioners (of which I am one) help with depression more effectively that medication or CBT.
Human Givens is much more than yet another model of counselling and purports to be no less than a new bio-psycho-social model of being human. I personally believe that these exalted claims are justified.
Understand depression by knowing why you dream
Tonight you will dream, even if you don’t remember doing so. And what is going on is that 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.
But dreaming is exhausting. And if we need more dreaming because we are worrying too much then we will slip into a vicious cycle – of worrying, exhausting over dreaming, reduced motivation and energy and thus even more unproductive rumination. And this is a depression. Many describe it as being locked in their brain, unable to escape from useless and obsessive rumination – a terrifying trance state of inward obsession.
Why people get depressed
People sink into a depressed mood when their innate physical or emotional needs are not being met and, instead of dealing with this situation, they begin to worry about it and so misuse their imagination. All depressed people worry. This increases the amount of dreaming they do, upsetting the balance between slow-wave, recuperative sleep and dream sleep. Consequently they start to develop an imbalance between energy burning dream sleep and refreshing slow-wave sleep. Soon they start to wake up feeling tired and unmotivated. This makes them worry even more as they feel that “something is wrong with me”. To be depressed is an added layer of misery often piled upon genuine challenges, further reducing the person’s ability to cope with their difficulties.
And then what feeds the depression
It can be a number of things. They would include how difficult is the life situation someone finds themselves in. From a Human Givens perspective, the question would be put this way – how possible is it to live a life where essential needs can be met, around safety, control, relationships and satisfying work. And what is the nature and extent of the crisis that might have triggered depression? Finally, there are the resources of that client – how well are emotions, habitual patterns of thinking and responding to helping or not to get these essential needs met? And finally, it is important to discover if there is trauma lurking somewhere in the past as often it is the active reliving of past traumas that is the main inhibitor to a person’s capacity to get their life working better.
I have an image which explains this quite clearly.
Helping Depression clients – my experience
All efforts must be directed in just two directions. First, to get arousal levels down so that sleep improves and second to help the client problem solve so that they can take the action needed to get their life working better. And this in turn may require the healing of emotional resources caused by past trauma and strong emotional patterning
These two directions are obviously closely connected. The high arousal of a depressed person is a trance-like self-obsessed focus, which destroys the capacity to problem solve and so correct the underlying lack that caused the depression in the first place. And the mere fact of being able to problem solve and so take control gives a sense of hope and movement and is, therefore, a highly effective way to reduce arousal.
I will typically use one or more of the following to facilitate healing
- Explaining what depression is so that the person does not feel that they are to blame. This often leads to ‘light bulb’ moments which are in themselves liberating and relaxing
- Undertake a Needs audit so that the client can begin to perceive their situation differently and in a more empowering way and so can begin to see how they can begin to shift. As part of this, I may very well make suggestions and recommend tasks that that lead to understanding of the changes that might be needed and the options that are available. All of this is designed to reduce arousal and to engage the client’s problem-solving capacity.
- Investigate whether there is trauma or threshold trauma that is prompting high arousal. And if there is, then to clear this trauma which all Human Givens practitioners are trained to do, using trance methods.
- Take every opportunity from the beginning to reframe – which may be directed at softening strong black-and-white thinking or suggesting more empowering explanations of the past.
- Explicit trance work – designed to impart an experience of relaxation, to access the client’s strengths and resources, to heal habits and emotional patterns that are not helpful and to rehearse beneficial changes.
But one thing that I will not do, at least not until my client is beginning to feel better – is to encourage any extended talk that focuses on the past and all the bad that seems to be there. Indeed at that first session, I tend to do more of the talking, which often is a great relief for my client.
I have created six self-help tools, in the form of suites of audios – which as far as possible recreate my one on one therapy. Each of these tools can be used individually and will help many and not just those who are currently depressed. They cover Building Hope for Depression, Trauma Release, Conscious Relaxation, Clearing up Habits and Patterns, Action for a life that works. and Moving beyond Addictions.