Sue was not alone in her struggle with depression. As many as 8% of the population of the United States struggle with depression and this equals millions of individuals who are experiencing this painful condition.
Simply speaking, there are two major types of depression, (1) endogenous or genetic based depression or (2) reactive or a depression brought about by our reaction to situations we face each day.
Genetic based depressions have a great deal to do with the basic building blocks of our genetic makeup. We all know individuals who develop sugar diabetes at a very young age. Some of these individuals have done nothing to contract this problematic condition. They were simply born with it. Those who suffer from endogenous [genetic] depression are similarly born with this condition. Like a diabetic, they must rely on medication to help them function. Modern medications has offered some good choices for these individuals. Most of us hold nothing against the diabetic but we can be less sensitive to the depressed person. Maybe it is because we do not understand or fear getting involved in something we feel we may not be able to deal with.
Reactive depressions form the vast majority of depressive episodes. It is an understatement to say that life can be very difficult at times. Reactive depressions are the result of how we choose to interpret the situations that are part of our everyday life. As one ancient philosopher pointed out, most of the time we are affected more by how we perceive events than the actual event itself. Two individuals can have the same event happen to them and one will view it as a crisis while another will shed it like water off a duck’s back.
I was never as good as my older sister. She was so outgoing and attractive while I kept to myself. I would sometimes hide when a stranger came to our house. I was so shy and admired my sister’s ability to talk to anyone. I wanted to be more like her but I just couldn’t. Mom used to tell me that I should be more like my sister and this made we feel worse. I just couldn’t be something I wasn’t.
Can you describe your feelings when you concluded that you couldn’t measure up to your sister?
I felt sad, discouraged, depressed, helpless, hopeless, and frustrated.
I had provided Sue with a list of emotions to help her get as many of her feelings as possible out in the open. Many people have trouble sorting out and even recognizing their emotions. Recognizing the emotions that we feel is the starting point for understanding where we are emotionally and is the first step in trying to understand what is causing these feelings.
Understanding how one feels is a necessary step in an exercise that I call “Finding the Truth” [FFT]. This exercise is primarily used to find how Sue perceives situations that cause her conflicting and painful emotions. Many times these perceptions are unrealistic, that is, they are a distortion of what is really happening in her life. Consider this example:
A businessman had a very stressful and trying day at work and was exhausted. As he was getting on a subway to go home, he picked a car that was empty to avoid any noise or human interactions. He simply wanted to be left alone.
I would like you to try, as honestly as you can, to feel what this man was feeling. Can you sense the need for peace and quiet to soothe your frayed nerves?
The man pulled out a newspaper and settled back with a sigh of contentment and all was well for a time. Suddenly the door of the subway car flew open and a young boy and girl, accompanied by their father burst into the car. The man sat quietly in a back seat but the kids ran around the car yelling at one another. The last straw came as one of the kids accidently knocked the paper out of the hand of the businessman. Robbed of his chance to relax and regain his composure by these rowdy kids, and ticked at the father for just sitting there, he felt compelled to say something.
I again ask you to be very honest and identify what you are feeling as you see this businessman’s world invaded by a couple of out–of–control children and the passiveness of the father. The feelings of peace and quiet that were just beginning to bud were thrust aside and chaos had returned. Try to pick out your feelings as you place yourself in this businessman’s shoes.
“Can you do anything to settle your children down?” the businessman asked. The father just stared at him for a few minutes as if he was having a difficult time concentrating. “I’m sorry”, he said, “they don’t usually act like this. We just received word that my wife and their mother was raped and killed several hours ago. We were a very close and happy family and we just don’t know how to deal with this loss. I have withdrawn and the kids are climbing the walls.”
Consider carefully how you now feel. Have your feelings changed? What has changed your feelings? If you look carefully, you will find that it is the way you have perceived the situation. What is the moral of this story; the way we perceive situations has a profound effect on how we feel, and how we feel has a significant effect on how we act. Since this is true it is very important for our psychological and spiritual well-being to try to see life as accurately [realistically – truthfully] as we possibly can.
Stay turned and we will see how Sue learns to see life more realistically and how it affects her depression and her life.