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Coping With Depression - Samples

Depression Audiobook

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Coping With Depression:
A Patient's Guide To Conquering Depression

Extract from Chapter 5:

Dealing with Emotions

In order to learn any new skills that will help overcome and prevent depression, it's essential to start with emotions. Depressives fear feelings. There are many self-defeating habits that depressives have developed to help them not feel certain things. Unless they understand first that these emotions are not to be feared, they won't be able to change.

Most people, depressed or not, have some fear of feelings. Many experts think that "anxiety"-the fear of being torn apart, consumed by our emotions-is the underlying problem in most human situations. And one of the central truths is that there is really nothing to fear. It is our fear itself, and the habits we develop to control or avoid it, that leads to most of our suffering. If we stop running, and turn around and face the demons, they usually turn out to be no threat at all.

People with depression have a special talent for stuffing feelings. They can pretend to themselves and the world that they don't feel normal emotions. They are very good at the defenses of repression, isolation, and intellectualization. They raise self-denial and self-sacrifice to the point where the self seems to disappear.

People with depression hardly let themselves feel any emotion at all. Instead of the normal fluctuations of happiness, sadness, disappointment, joy, desire, and anger that most people cycle through many times a day, depressed people don't have these feelings. However, even though they aren't aware of the emotions, they still get to feel guilty about them. When the meek, depressed wife of a bullying husband doesn't consciously feel angry at his ill treatment, she will still feel guilty about her rage without even experiencing it. If a person's drinking interferes with their ability to work, even though they are in denial about their drinking, they can still feel guilty. This is one of the great secrets of depression. The depressive is full of guilt about feelings, desires, and impulses that he doesn't even know that he has. The first step in overcoming the guilt is to become aware of the feelings.

Learning to Feel

How do you go about recapturing the ability to experience emotions? First of all, it's necessary to understand that emotions are innate, instinctual responses that are with us from infancy on. When the baby is feeling warm, comfortable, and secure, she experiences an emotion we can call contentment or happiness. When she experiences something that pleases her, like a new puppy, she experiences joy or delight. When something startles her, she feels fear. When she's deprived of something she wants, she feels anger. Left alone for too long, she feels the beginnings of sadness. The capacity to experience these emotions is hard-wired into the human nervous system. If someone steps on your toe, you feel pain. If someone steps on your psychological toes-for example, by being rude-you feel anger. If you don't experience these emotions, it's because you are spending psychic energy to keep them out of awareness. This psychic energy could be better spent on other things.

Emotions in themselves are absolutely value-free. They are reflexes, like salivating when hungry or withdrawing your hand from a hot iron. But how we express emotions carries important social and individual values. We have the ability to control how we express emotions, but we get in trouble if we try to control how we experience them. If a man gets angry and beats his wife, that is both condemned socially and destructive psychologically. But if he tells her why he's angry and then tries to work things out, or if he blows off steam by exercise, or throws himself into his work those activities are both socially approved and psychologically productive. The point is that although we have control over how we express emotions, we've been taught that we shouldn't even feel some feelings-an almost impossible task.

It takes a great deal of practice for the depressed person to learn how not to experience emotions, but we get very good at it. Women get especially good at not feeling anger and men get good at not feeling sadness. All of us stop experiencing much joy or happiness. It seems as if when you lose the ability to feel painful feelings you also lose the ability to feel positive ones. We go through life numbed.

Coping With Depression Audiobook

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