How to Be Free
Author: Joe Blow

Chapter 16
Depression

When we are depressed we are cut off from reality, trapped within the tiny world of our own withdrawn ego. This is a bit of a paradox. If reality were an unpleasant place and we withdrew into our own ideal dream world, that might make sense. But reality is a beautiful place and when we are depressed we retreat from it into a place which is truly horrible. Why?

Thoughts are the body of the ego, whether it is a free ego thinking spontaneously and laterally, or an obsessed ego running around in circles.

Though it has many variants, the central thought of the depressed mind is, Im a bad person. This thought makes us think that we deserve to be cut off from the beauty of reality and, ironically, our attempts to fight our way back out again are what keep us where we are. We become like the man who is so anxious to escape the burning building through the revolving door that he runs too fast and ends up constantly revolving back in again.

What keeps us cut off from healing reality is that we keep thinking about ourselves. There is a simple trick we might try to short-circuit this process. If we fear that we may be a worthless individual, then we might ask ourselves : How bad would it be if that were the case? What would it mean if we had no worth? Nothing could be expected of us. The world would not cease to exist. We would still be capable of experiencing pleasure. To be worthless would simply be to be insignificant or unimportant. (Of course this isnt the same as being bad, but it is still worth a try.)

If we can accept that, even if we were worthless, it would not be such a bad thing, then we can stop the self-justification merry-go-round that keeps us cut off from our capacity for unconditional love. Our inner child is capable of loving us unconditionally as much as anyone else.

There are two major kinds of depression - reactive and endogenous. Reactive depression is depression which is triggered by an outside event. This could include the break-up of a relationship, a death in the family or giving birth. Endogenous depression seems to originate spontaneously without an outside trigger.

Given that the central thought of depression is I am a bad person we can see that the most likely cause for endogenous depression is self-condemnation based on sick ideas formed from repressed emotions. Very often those most prone to depression are those whose behaviour is impeccable. So why should such individuals come to believe that they are bad? The well-behaved person is someone who represses any antisocial impulses. This means that the subconscious of the well-behaved individual is more likely to contain evil thoughts. Not realising that the existence of such thoughts is a sign of moral rectitude rather than the opposite, the endogenous depressive condemns himself when he comes in contact with such thoughts.

One of my early depressive episodes, as Ive mentioned, was exacerbated by the thought of killing a baby. Such a thought is a fairly typical one for the individual who keeps a very tight reign on his anger. When we are feeling unhappy it makes us selfish. A new baby gets all the attention, so we feel jealous. Our mind throws up the idea, If I killed that baby, then they would pay attention to me. It is just a passing thought fired off by the brain. But the conscience comes into play. The conscience, as Ive said, is another part of the ego which contains our ideas of right and wrong. The conscience condemns us for such a though. We try to think of some way of proving we are not really bad, but even the best defence is, in itself, a jail cell, because it is thinking obsessively about ourselves which keeps us cut off from the healing power of our deeper unconditionally loving self.

With reactive depression the process is exactly the same. It is not the event which triggers the depression which is really important to understanding it. What is important is understanding that the event leads the individual to feel that they are a bad person. In the case of a relationship break-up, If Im a good person, why did she dump me? In the case of a death there is no doubt some regret involved for the person who becomes depressed, If only Id been a better son, or whatever. In the case of postnatal depression, there are two possible kinds of negative thought, What a bad, screwed up person I am when I compare myself to a healthy, unspoilt infant! and/or Im not a good enough person to be responsible for the care of this precious child.

Some claim that depression is all a matter of brain chemistry. While it may be true that the stress of depression brings about changes in the chemistry of the brain, from a close examination of the way that the obsessional thinking characteristic of depression keeps us trapped within ourselves and cut off from the healing potential of spontaneous and open communication with other people and the world around us, we can see that there are better approaches to releasing ourselves from depression than swallowing pills or having epileptic seizures induced by the application of electricity to our brains. These things have provided a limited amount of help to some individuals, including myself, but they are really the equivalent of providing air-conditioning in the prison cell instead of unlocking the door.

 

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