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Depression's Silver Lining

Hiding behind the one of the world's most feared 'diagnoses' is a friend waiting to be discovered. Depression isn't what most people think it is. When probably understood it becomes a guide to a life worth living.

I ask all my ‘depressed’ client’s one simple question - “tell me what your valued future looks like”. Invariably, and I mean without exception, they either can’t see one or they don’t believe they can achieve it.

This isn’t be-cause of their ‘depression’. It’s the-cause of their depression. Long before we called this state of being a disease we had another name for it - DESPAIR.

It’s an emotion, and like all 'negative' emotions it is telling us that our needs are not being met. Despair tells us that the life we are living is not in alignment with our values, talents and aspirations. i.e. it’s not a life ‘worth living’.

Like all emotions, despair bypasses your conscious thoughts and interacts directly with your body through the endocrine and nervous system, so we are not going to be able to ‘think’ our way out of it (unless our thinking is causing it).

Like all emotions, despair makes us do exactly what it wants us to do. Despair makes us stop living out the same old choices, personas and meaningless pursuits by robbing us of all motivation and joy until we change course. It forces us to stop being the person we learnt to be and become the person we want to be.

How else would we know that our life was unsatisfying to us, or that we had become trapped in living out other people's agendas, or that we had unaddressed trauma to deal with, if not for despair telling us so?

Delicious Despair

Despair is our emotional brains way of making us reconsider our life choices, dropping the pursuit of other people's ideals or aspirations, becoming our own authority instead of seeking other people's approval and dealing with whatever is causing us pain or suffering. It literally sits our bottom on the couch and forces us to rethink what we are doing with these precious years we have before we "shuffle off this mortal coil".

Despair goes by many names.

'Hopelessness' is a useful one that tells us that what we are pursuing isn't taking us where we want to be, so give up hoping for a positive outcome and do something else.

'Powerlessness' is another friend and ally which tells us that we are trying to change or control things we have no power over. It tells us to refocus on what is possible.

Despair makes us 'give up' or 'give in', and these are good things to do. They refocus us on what it good, possible and worthwhile instead of pursuing empty dreams. They make us consult with a higher wisdom (give up) or with our deeper self (give in).

As silver linings go, its a pretty shiny one.

In Conclusion

Most people with depression don’t have a ‘mental health’ problem, they have a 'life health' problem. Once they get back on track to a satisfying life the despair goes away, because it has achieved it’s purpose.

It will be replaced by passion, excitement and joy because we are now committed to being the person nature intended us to be and to living the life that feels good to us.

The good news is that we don’t have to achieve the new goals to feel better, we only need to start down that track. Despair is telling us that our need for growth and self-actualisation is not being met.

So as we move into 2020 let me ask you a question - "What's your valued future look like?"

I hope that helps

Adam Blanch

Good Psychology

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