Series: Emotions You Thought You Knew
Most people have at some point have felt the nagging feelings of depression. It can be as simple as feeling tired, apathetic, bummed, lacking motivation or distant. It can be very frustrating and confusing to be stuck in this emotion. What do we do when we feel this way?
First of all, I want to speak to clinical depression which is a very specific intensity and persistence of the emotion. Please get professional help if you have been stuck in deep depressive feelings for more than a couple of weeks and/or the feelings are dark, oppressive, suicidal, or despairing.
Secondly, just like any other emotions, when we become aware of depressive feelings, don’t try to get rid of them but give yourself permission to feel this way. Remember, every emotion is valid and trying to tell you something, it is important that we pause and listen.
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Depression is in the sadness family of emotions and sadness is always telling us that it is time to let go of something. In depression we are stuck in limbo, feeling the weight and pain of something that needs to be let go, but not allowing ourselves to let it go yet. Most times depression is not just about one thing or one event, but is in reaction a continued pattern of the inability to let go. This creates an emotions dam. A superfluous abundance of un-expressed un-grieved emotion sits there agitating our inner world. We spend so much internal energy holding back this dam we don’t have much energy for anything else.
Those who are not too comfortable with mystery or the unknown are very susceptible to depressive emotions. As a “recovering controller” myself I can relate. The problem is, that when we try to control things, we hold onto them too tightly, trying to force them into our plan. We sometimes illogically and stubbornly hold on to things that are unhelpful in a reality that has moved on. We can learn to not attach so tightly to things. Instead of holding on with white knuckles we can take a deep breath and practice holding on loosely. We can say, “This is thing is good or helpful, but it is not life.” Thank it for what it is and then let it go. This gives realistic expectations on other people and moments in life.
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Another thing that may surprise you is that often it is unexpressed anger that leads to depression. Anger is telling us that a boundary has been broken. When we don’t do anything about a broken boundary (defend the boundary or move the boundary) then we feel helpless and hopeless. We slide into a victim mindset feeling stuck and like our current reality will never change. We can’t let something go until we deal with the boundary, our fear and anger are too protective of us.
Here are some helpful questions to ask when you are feeling depressive emotions:
-What grief have I been avoiding and how can I grieve it now?
-What am I too attached to and how can I hold on to those things more loosely?
-What unrealistic expectations have I been holding onto?
-What boundaries have been broken that I have not done anything about? Do I want to defend those boundaries or move it?