What causes psychological depression?
Some depression is “reactive” ie it arises from evident causes, such as life difficulty of any type – career problems, relationship difficulties, money troubles, bereavement, stress, redundancy, and losses of many kinds including loss of health or relocation to an unfamiliar town.
Depression can also just turn up without apparent reason in someone’s life. This might when there is past unhappiness or tension or lack of love, most likely in childhood, which has never been addressed. The person has grown up feeling somewhere negative or unconfident about themselves, but in every way taking that for granted and never thinking “something is wrong.” But underneath, the negativity erodes their life and turns into depression.
One simple way that everyday life might develop into depression is something like this. First, a person has some difficulty, maybe stress at work. They feel down, and don’t much feel like enjoying themselves. So they start to drop fun things. Maybe they are anyway prone to think “I’m no good.” The work situation is difficult and they keep on telling themselves “this is hopeless.” Maybe they bring work home and have no time for physical activity. Maybe they find it hard to talk to others about themselves, and so draw back from other people; or maybe they’re just not in the mood for socialising. As a result, they get less and less nourishment and reward from life, and start to feel worse and worse. This spirals down and down. Probably, they don’t even realise “I am depressed,” so they don’t reaise there is a problem they can solve. Instead, they take feeling flat and lifeless for granted.
Eventually, the bad feelings latch into place. The person comes to live more and more in their negative fantasies, less and less in their bodies, more and more in a catastrophically imagined future, less and less in the present. The person can no longer even imagine meeting life in any way that will make them feel better. Even if they could take some action, they feel too down to take it: why bother? All the life energy that should flow out and connect with the world goes round and round in their head, a storm of thoughts about how bad and hopeless things are. Instead of planning action, the person endlessly rehashes the past, chewing the cud over why things went wrong and why they can’t do anything about it all.
This can happen to anyone at all. But it will happen more to people who have unconscious feelings of self-doubt or low worth. Unconscious factors are very important and are often left over from childhood.
Emotional causes of psychological depression
Whatever the life-situation, here are a few of the emotional patterns, typically completely unconscious, which turn up again and again as deep underlying causes of depression of psychological origin. There are many others.
Anger turned inwards. A depressed person is often unconsciously angry, but can’t let themselves feel the anger, let alone express it. Anger is always an outward-directed emotion; you never see a wild animal attacking itself. But if human beings don’t feel safe to direct the anger outwards then they can turn it in and be angry with themselves. The dark hopelessness of depression, with all the beating yourself up – “I’m awful, I’m useless, I’m no good” – is often just this anger, that should go out to someone (maybe a parent or sibling in childhood), turned inwards instead or held in place by a crippling tension.
Sometimes it can be terrifying for someone to begin to acknowledge such forbidden, walled-off anger. It needs to be approached very gently; hypnotherapy is the perfect approach for this.
A variant on this is being in love with anger. Some depressed people have a constant boiling anger which they are in love with. Only when they drop the anger, they get their life back.
Frozen grief. Another way a person can get depressed is a loss which they can’t grieve over. Say that as a child, someone’s mother was present but was too busy to be loving. If mum had been a loving mother and then died, there would have been an obvious loss and the chance to grieve. But if mum is present but just too busy, the loss of mum’s love is gradual and hard to notice. There is no obvious loss – mum is there after all – and no chance for grief. Unless uncovered by hypnotherapy, this sadness can continue a person’s whole life, a depressing gray sadness always in the background which is very deeply depressing.
Again, if someone moves to a new town and loses all their old friends, they may not realise they have suffered a loss and are in grief, and may come to feel depressed.
Turning away from life and action. Depressed people routinely don’t do things they might enjoy, let alone tackle the big issues of their life. The one single key factor in beating depression is taking action in the here and now to start to have fun and get your needs met, and – in time – meet life head-on. Of course, part of the horrible life-sucking quality of depression is loss of interest, loss of motivation, loss of enjoyment. People naturally assume that these feelings provide suffient reason to not take action. But in fact, the lack of action is cause, not effect – the origin of depression is often in not doing enjoyable or necessary things. Indeed, not feeling grief and anger is one form of turning away from life – grief and anger, though painful, are part of our aliveness and turning towards them is in a way an action to turn towards life.
Not getting your needs met. This follows from the previous ones. If you turn away from life, and don’t take action, you won’t get your needs met. Then life is nothing but a drag.
Believing the voice in the mind that tells you that things are hopeless, nothing will ever go well, you can’t cope, it’s all beyond you, you can’t be bothered, what’s the point, etc etc. This voice weaves together all the previous factors and is a destructive companion, yet curiously addictive.
If you have psychological depression then the right talking therapy WORKS. A combination of hypnoanalysis, emotional healing and action-oriented cognitive-behavioural self-help can restore your energy, motivation and enjoyment. To make an appointment and take the first step to get your life life back, give me a ring. I’m happy to answer questions or arrange, in Bristol, a free half-hour introductory meeting. My approach is friendly, respectful, and very effective. Please click here for contact information.