THEORY

Categories:Anne's Blog
Anne Hooper

FACTS ABOUT GETTING OVER DEPRESSION

  • A third of all people with depression get over it spontaneously with no outside help
  • In comparisons between depressed subjects being treated with drug therapy or with talking therapy, both groups responded positively.  CHECK
  • If there are indications that hormone problems may be involved, many gynaecologists would prefer that the women in question were treated with hormone therapy.  However there’s a battle raging at present between the psychiatrists and gynaecologists since the psychiatrists say there are often cases of women with either PMT or menopausal depressive symptoms who need anti-depressants as a first line of treatment.  (More about hormones in a later chapter.)

DEPRESSION – A FULL BREAKDOWN


There are many different types of depression starting with the little ones when one day we feel down and gloomy while the next we are bouncing back into life as cheerfully as if it never happened.  Sometimes people realise, only because of a special incident, that they have in fact been mildly depressed for years.  Many women are depressed at certain types of the month and there seem to be certain phases of our life such as late teenage and mid-life when it may be a normal part of our mental development to be depressed.

Depression isn’t always a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s a signal that our minds are readjusting to difficult aspects of ourselves and of tough situations in life.  Often it is because we are forced to look at these difficulties through depression that we sort ourselves out in order to live successfully in the next phase of life.  In other words there are times when it is normal and appropriate to be depressed.  For example, if your man friend chucks you, it’s normal to feel gloomy.  If someone dies, it’s normal to include depression amongst the many feelings that are experienced.

When depression is triggered off by such real life events, doctors call this kind of depression “reactive”.  That is to distinguish it from another kind called “endogenous” which is when there is no specific reason for our miseries.  Often the cause here stems from unhappy feelings that may have been lodged inside us from childhood.  But whatever the cause, depression signals that there is something wrong with our life.

If a depression is the  sort that happens very occasionally it’s probably an instant reaction to something discouraging.  If therefore we can alter the ingredients that have discouraged we can start coping again with whatever our normal everyday stresses consist of, without any outside help.  Different people have different methods of shaking off their gloomy moments.  As a teenager I used to dance very hard to jazz music and would always feel better afterwards.  Laughter is a great cure – I defy anyone to feel depressed after for example, watching Woody Allen in Sleeper.  Some people swear by aerobics and jogging, while others uplift their mood by turning out the kitchen cupboards or by tackling and achieving jobs they’ve been putting off.

Women with depression that afflicts them at specific times of the month may find they are helped by taking special vitamins such as Vitamin B6, or by seeking hormonal advice from the doctor or by going on a course of evening primrose oil. ( See Chapter ? for further details.)

It’s when we realise that we have been mildly depressed for some time that we may need to examine the reasons why closely and this is often a situation best helped by one of the talking treatments ie. talking things through with a good counsellor or psychotherapist.  Talking things over is always a good idea because it helps us put our feelings into words and understand them better.

Some of the grimmest situations are those where there may have been very good reasons for becoming depressed in the first place yet however much we understand them you we can’t shake ourselves out of the gloom.   For example we may be completely unable to prevent ourselves from crying all the time.  Even if talking treatments have helped, they aren’t enough.   These are the situations where the medical profession now feels that anti-depressants are the answer,  in combination with counselling or therapy.

Very occasionally of course there are much more severe forms of depression which are classed as a type of illness and need much more specific medical attention and treatment.

There is a way out of the prison of depression for most people however.  Since depression invariably means some kind of change,  it’s often what you do with your depression, even in a very minor way, that is of most importance.  I have one friend, an experienced counsellor, who prefers to call a nervous breakdown a nervous breakthrough because she feels it is an important formative experience that ends up being positive if used appropriately! The most useful books on the subject are Depression – a way out of your prison by

Dorothy Rowe published by Routledge Keegan and Paul and Defeating Depression by Tony Lake published by Pelican.


THE ISSUE OF LEARNING TO BE SEPARATE


Although I focus on specific subjects that are likely to be of relevance during our life time  I try to pick up on immediate issues as they occur.  One important point that had arisen from the stories we had just heard was the issue of learning to be separate from another, either by giving each other more space within the relationship or by learning to live alone.

  • Victoria was managing to live alone after having separated from the father of her child. But Victoria had a young child.  And most mothers feel, not just attached to their child, but as though they are their child, or at least that they and their child are ‘merged’ somewhere.  So Victoria may have drawn strength from her love for her baby which allowed her to cope well with living apart from her ex-partner.
  • Hannah was so in love with her man that even though she was deeply unhappy she couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him.  Separation to her felt like a physical pain.
  • Lucy on the other hand already felt very separate.  Her anxiety might be that she was too separate.  But can someone be too independent?  Is that necessarily a problem?
  • Shanni had no difficulty in initiating separation and had enjoyed stages of feeling very independent indeed.  But she had so worked through the experience of being separate that she was returning to a need for togetherness again.

Traute was not so much concerned with being separate.  She had after all managed to separate from her son in the normal scheme of things appropriately and with success.   The main issue at present was about grief

  • Lucy on the other hand already felt very separate.  Her anxiety might be that she was too separate.  But can someone be too independent?  Is that necessarily a problem?
  • Shanni had no difficulty in initiating separation and had enjoyed stages of feeling very independent indeed.  But she had so worked through the experience of being separate that she was returning to a need for togetherness again.

Traute was not so much concerned with being separate.  She had after all managed to separate from her son in the normal scheme of things appropriately and with success.   The main issue at present was about grief
another emotionally.  But what seems to be happening to Josie, living in a time when independence is prized, is that she is becoming separate from her husband in spite herself.  To this end she has been developing sides to herself that have nothing to do with her marriage – a concept that her mother for example might have difficulty in understanding.


 SEPARATION AS AN EMOTIONAL STAGE


To throw some light on what I’ve just been talking about, I must explain about one of the stages of personal development.  The famous psychologist Erik Erickson constructed a theory that we go through at least eight developmental stages – that is phases when we come to a new emotional understanding of life.  These stages begin in babyhood and continue till we  die and for each positive aspect of a stage, there is also a negative one. Professor Erickson identified puberty and adolescence as the stage when we work on establishing our own identity but with the down side that accompanying this is a sense of role confusion.  In other words we cannot actually establish ourselves in our own minds as people separate from our parents without also going through a sense of confusion about the process.

  • Adolescence therefore is usually around the time when children start to go through this emotional passage of separation. It means literally that they begin to want to be seen as separate people in their own right and not as their parents’ child.  It’s one of the reasons teenagers are often over the top with rebellious behaviour.  It is their method of saying I am very different from you.  I am separate.  This is a normal and natural stage of life.  The complication is that we don’t all do it during the teen years. Some of us take longer to do it than others.  Some of us never do it.

    How well we may have managed this during adolescence affects how we relate to our partner in later life.  The first stages of love are those rapturous times when we are so passionate that we feel blissfully ‘merged’ with our lover.  We think alike, feel alike, want the same things, it’s almost as if we’re the same people.  It’s at this time that we become closest to being a little child again.  A little child really is merged with its mother in the womb.  And after birth it takes years for the child to start operating with its own consciousness.  Until those teen years.

To some extent this process is echoed in marriage.  After the honeymoon period, we start becoming separate again.  One psychotherapeutic theory is that with every new relationship we re-work the original one between parent and child.   The difference is that we are not expected to separate totally, as do the original parent and child.  In marriage we are expected to be able to tolerate each other’s difference, to allow each other a  separate personality and yet to remain connected at a level of loyalty and affection.  It is a hard task and, in that last part, is radically different from the task of separating from a parent.   Which is why it’s legitimate to ask the question should we really stay together in one partnership with one person for the rest of our life.  I’m not sure anyone knows the answer.


One theory is that since we have a drive towards independence, perhaps we would be fuller people if we choose to live alone after years of successful marriage. Please bear in mind this is only a theory.  There are other theories which point out that the greater challenge is learning to stay with someone since that is probably a harder task.  Either way, living on our own is not necessarily something everyone wants to do or feels strong enough to be able to do.  So we are left with a fine balancing line if we do decide we want to remain in a marriage.  If we become too independent what is there left to make the marriage worthwhile?  Finding the balance between independence and togetherness is the main emotional task of marriage.  Bearing all this in mind, it’s interesting to note just how far the group members have travelled down the line of dealing with separation and of being separate.


HOMEWORK


Each member of the group is asked, during the next week, to think back to some Early Recollections.  In this case I ask them to jot down their early recollections of

  • feeling sexy,
    • sexual dreams
    • sensual touch
    • sexual play

    For each incident I asked them to describe 1) their picture of the scene, with accompanying feelings, 2) if they could freeze on the event, what would be the ‘snapshot’ picture they viewed? 3) what title would they give the snapshot?


    HOW EARLY RECOLLECTIONS WORK


    Early Recollections is a method used to help establish what kind of emotional events shaped your life in the early years up to the age of five.  The reason for doing this is that the impact the eventsmade on you in infancy may still be shaping your life in adulthood and this may not always work to your advantage. By getting a handle on such very personal motivation you can learn to alter it or to use it as you feel appropriate.  The method entails thinking back to an earliest memory, visualising the scene plus the accompanying feelings and giving the ‘snapshot’ image a title.  What ensues may be a ‘blueprint’ of the Lifestyle that affects the individual’s behaviour for the rest of their life.  (Lifestyle in this case is terminology for emotional style of life.)

    For example, a woman remembers as a girl child being displaced in the pram by her baby brother.  She visualises herself on the toddler’s seat looking back at the baby in her place.  She feels cross and put out.  The snapshot title is Ousted.  In later life this woman may be still attempting to prove to herself that she is as valuable as her brother by being competitive, driving herself to her limits and impressing those around with the strength of her personality.  She may continue to do this even when there is no need of any kind to do so.


    ESTABLISHING PRIORITIES

    The I WANT/I DON’T WANT exercise. List up to 10 aims that you do want and 10 aims that you don’t want.  The aims can be about everyday issues, sexual issues, anything that is right for you.

    For example:  I want to have more freedom from my family/ I don’t want to continue ironing my student daughter’s clothes.  I want to get much greater intimacy in my marriage/ I don’t want this only to be associated with sex.