Emotional avoidance hurts. Avoiding negative emotions seems reasonable but it’s the main cause of all psychological problems. Avoidance is an effective solution in the short term but life is a long-term proposition. You can stuff the emotions but the content of the feelings don’t go away, they're stored in memory and the effects seep out as self-talk that screams unworthiness.
You pull the covers over your head hoping the darkness will bring sleep the sweet relief from your painful thoughts but when the light of day streams in nothing has changed. Depression is described as a state of prolonged sadness and hopelessness affecting about 6.7% of the U.S. population over 18. It's the leading cause of disability for those aged 15-44 years old.
"You largely constructed your depression. It wasn't given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it."
- Albert Ellis, Psychologist
The Psychology of Depression
To some it becomes a label for a mental disorder such as major depression, depressive personality disorder or dysthymic disodter -- all depressive disordersinvolve a pervasive pattern of negative thoughts occurring in multiple contexts such as work, school and personal relationships.
But depression may also be seen as the mind's healthy response to difficult life situations like temporarily taking yourself out of the game to ponder over the best response. For some its temporary breather, a productive period. But for others it may nudge you downward to below your functioning levels. Are you depressed?Take the test.
Depression may involve feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness and likely low self-esteem. Asking your self, "What’s wrong with me?" requires an answer. "Do I measure up? Do people see me as a failure? Am I guilty for something I did wrong or not doing something right?" When answers don’t appear your past and the future can seem dark.
Drugs and alcohol self-medicate you, dulling the painful feelings but when the effects wear off the pain is still there with added shame. The more you avoid, the weaker you feel, coping skills vanish and the quality of life diminishes. Life becomes a negative comfort zone.
Emotional acceptance heals. Avoidance teaches you nothing. Accepting your emotions means accepting the truth of your situation. If you can tune in, accepting says its not that bad and it won’t kill you. Stay with it and eventually negative emotions will lose their destructive power over you.
Emotions are the universal language, a source of information about what’s going on with you in the world around you. Add your rational thoughts, stored knowledge, your experience and values and then when they're appraised and evaluated rationality it will help you decide how to behave in each situation.
Emotions are rational survival tools that identify trouble or opportunity and suggest methods to repair or regain a higher level of functioning. Each component of every emotion has a critical job to do: Preparing you to move toward what you want (anger); Urging you to improve your standing (envy) or allowing you to undo a social gaffe (embarrassment). Knowing how to deploy all your emotional tools helps you live with yourself and with others.
Emotions appear in steps: A thought occurs, you assess an event, which cues the emotion, fueling an action, enabling coping strategies to emerge. Your emotional behavior then defines the emotion.
There are eight basic emotions: Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions describes eight basic emotions:
Depression has many names: Fashionable depression includes histrionic and narcissistic features where unhappiness seems stylish and suffering ennobling with a benefit of getting attention from friends, family and possibly doctors. Self-derogating depressive traits focus on blaming yourself for your shortcomings. Morbid depressive traits include masochistic features such as feeling drained and oppressed by life. Restive depression includes avoidance features in which you are in despair and thoughts of suicide appear as the only way out of the painful feelings.
Your emotions whether conscious or unconscious are your body's path to survival, they fuel these feelings. In prehistoric times the "fight or flight" reaction was fueled by emotions warning you of danger, but today in some cases, the danger is perceived and may not exist. Inaccurate perceptions create anticipation, which creates a heightened state of awareness, which then sets creates a pattern of avoidance and despair.
It’s assumed that most people pursue pleasure and avoid pain. If you’re addicted to unhappiness you prefer to wallow in misery thinking you don't deserve to be happy and fearing the unknown entity make positive feelings appear as a setup for disappointment. Characteristics of chronic depression include:
Depression isn’t a life sentence. Unhappiness does not have to be terminal. Turn down the volume on your critical inner voice which appears without notice, triggering a cycle of self-criticism and worthlessness all over again. There are steps you can take to silence the self-talk.
We all choose our own thoughts and reactions so it’s possible to take steps to change your thinking. Lift the dark cloud of depression by staying mindful in the here and now. Doing this develops healthier coping mechanisms. Only chronically unhappy people refuse to get help. Healthy people don't buy into the stigma of mental illness, they reach out to find the help they need, whenever they need it.