Understanding Depression

© 2017 Devaraj Nick Sandberg


Depression affects many millions of people the world over and it’s becoming increasingly clear that “the drugs don’t work.”

Yes, pharmaceuticals can alter the way that, for example, the feel-good chemical, serotonin, is metabolised by the brain. But with millions of people now addicted to these kinds of medications, it’s obvious that this approach is at best a stop-gap. We need to find a new way, or we risk our culture becoming submersed in misery.

In this article, most of which you’ll also find covered in the YouTube video linked above, I want to discuss a new, body-mind approach to more deeply understand why some people seem to get locked into depression. And to point to a Way Out, for those who are interested to take it.


The Body and Mind of the Depressed Person

Rather than focus on the neurobiology of depression, I want to look simply at the Body and the Mind. Because, from a psycho-dynamic approach, Depression, can be understood simply as a refusal to move, when actually you need to move. For most people some level of bodily, physical movement and some level of mental movement – new challenges, situations, interests – are a prerequisite for feeling good. So what is going on in our body and mind when we feel constantly down?

The sensation in the body is usually one of “heaviness” – a feeling of torpor and strong resistance to movement.

In the mind, one usually finds a strong attachment to self-reinforcing, negative thought patterns…

there’s no point,
it’s not worth it,
no one cares anyway,
I can’t be bothered

… to give some examples.

The attention of the mind stays attached to these repetitive thought patterns, rather like a wireless stuck on one channel – Radio Depression! Other, more positive patterns of thinking are simply negated by this channel, not allowed to get attention.

This combination of a heaviness in the body and repetitive, negative thought patterns in the mind, make a potent formula that can keep us locked into not moving, physically or mentally – a self-perpetuating state of depression.

I want to now look more deeply at some of things that can be going on in the depressed mind. And ask the question – why don’t we change the channel? The mind does not have to attach only to negative thinking, it could equally find a more positive outlook – so why doesn’t it? Let’s check out some of the different reasoning I’ve come across in my work as a therapist…

  • We’re comfortable with our negativity. It’s what we know. It’s all we know. Who would we be without our negativity? – Yes, fear of change is frequently a big component in why we stay thinking negatively. It can be useful to recognise this.
  • The daily routines of certain behaviours, alcohol consumption, or drug use, keep the brain habituated to a pattern of being – Also very common. We often find that our daily behaviours and casual substance use keep us in “a track,” day after day.
  • We’re stuck in “Child-mode” – Because as small infants we need to receive love and care from the outside, which is frequently not adequately given, when early life feelings are triggered in us as adults, we can often believe that the outside should change, not us. As adults, we need to take responsibility to get our needs met – getting the connection we need with others, finding a role or job we enjoy, taking steps ourselves to resolve conflicts and dramas. But the mind stuck in child-mode will often refuse to make a move, convinced that someone else should see us or move towards us.
  • Holding ourselves hostage – An extreme form of “child-mode.” Talking to people suffering depression, it often becomes clear that they know very well what they could do to make things better for themselves… but that they’re simply refusing to do it! They take themselves hostage, refusing to give themselves what they need, as a form of protest, or as a way of paying back for real or imagined grievances from the past. Whilst this sounds ridiculous to the rational mind, it’s a remarkably common thinking behaviour in the minds of many people.
  • Choosing a relatively mild negative self-belief over a more scary one – When we start, as adolescents, to understand traumatic events from our childhood, maybe abuses or abandonments,  our mind may come to believe that they happened because we are a certain type of person. The core fear of the human psyche is usually that we are unlovable. Faced with this possibility, the mind will frequently choose to believe something not so scary – perhaps that we are just a bad person, or a not good enough person. Thus we start to adopt behaviours, perhaps around drugs or crime or repeatedly failing or getting things wrong, in an ongoing bid to prove to ourselves that we are not unlovable, but rather simply “bad” or just “not good enough.” Positive thinking is very dangerous for this kind of mind, because if we are a “good enough” person, or not a “bad” person, then the more scary fear emerges as a way to rationalise the traumatic event from our childhood.

If, on reading through this list, you recognise any of these mental behaviours from your own mind (I know I recognise a few from mine!), then recognise also that you do have a choice. You can change your thinking if you want to. You are lovable. And you can let go of repetitive behaviours and get any support you might need.

The most powerful position you can take, in my opinion, is to get involved in workshops where you are supported to express your emotions more deeply. The underlying issue, in all of these unhelpful thinking behaviours, is a lack of fluid emotionality. The fears in the mind, the repetitive behaviours all finally serve to keep repressed emotions down. Learn to express more of your feelings and depression will shift.

You Can Do It!

Your mind might be telling you that you can’t!

But Actually You Can!

Devaraj 2017

Below I’ve pasted a pic of the whiteboard from the video.



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