Depression – is it really holding on to the past?

Depression can affect any of us at any time. Hopefully for some of us it is a short interruption to our normal mental health pattern and we can then get back on with our lives. But for many it can be a daily struggle to get motivated to get out of bed, get showered and dressed, and even preparing breakfast can feel like a tall mountain to climb.

I recently read a face book post, possibly taken from the work of Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, that stated, ‘Depression is living in the past’. Yes, it is partly as the mind can replay moments from the past that can weigh us down in the present moment. But I personally believe the condition is more complex than that. I have met a number of people in my therapy work and I think that this glib statement, (although well intentioned) would make them quite cross, as they are not the kind of people who dwell on the past very much.

If you think for a moment how overwhelming feelings can be, they can hit us out of the blue and pretty much affect everything in the present moment.  Some people need hours or days to internally process what has happened and others might immediately call a friend/loved one to listen to what is going on for them. It really depends on the emotional temperature and personality of the depressed person.

Living with Depression can be about living in the moment. For example, if we have come to a place in our lives whereby we have become more aware of what we are feeling in the present moment, and then get on with the rest of our day, the sad feelings may not change immediately, but they may not stop us from conducting our lives. Taking this a step further, when we notice the black mood is there again, we can stop in our tracks – acknowledge it, examine where it can be felt in the body, and then move on.

I call this process ‘becoming an observer’ and is something I do with my therapy clients. If they can become curious during our therapy sessions, the learning from their time with me can then be practiced outside of the therapy space. And, as I suggested earlier, observing and moving on may not change the feelings themselves, but it may make them less potent and allow one to live a life. It is also important to note that there may not be a smile on your face but you are learning to live with the feelings that in the past may have kept you in bed and off work.

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