I have written this as a reaction on the question “What are your best tips to conquer anxiety, depression and uncertainty?”. The reason I have written this comment because I believe depression is treaded too lightly, and people either don’t know what depression is or try to cover it up with temporary remedies. Instead I think we’d all be better off if we accepted it for what it is, and choose for radical self acceptance as a way of properly dealing with the root cause of issues. I for one believe that ones emotional well being is not solely the task of a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist, but of society as a whole. When writing the original comment I tried to explain the interactions by which a depression may be formed early in one’s childhood.
Note that though I’m not discussing this, there are many other reasons for depression, such as physiological forms, or reactions on grief or other life events. Not all depressions are equal.
How was your childhood? Take a while, reflect on it, and then come with an answer.
The reason I’m asking is because many people, especially those with a really shitty childhood, will be the quickest to answer it was great. Was it? Or was your frame of reference so small you did not have anything to compare it with?
I totally get it that this question is difficult to answer. Another, and maybe easier question to frame this is to ask yourself what you would do different with your own kids compared to how you have been brought up.
What has this to do with depression, anxiety and uncertainty? Alice Miller, a Polish-Swiss psychologist, psychoanalyst and philosopher, has extensively written about the impact of one’s youth on the development of ones personality. In her first book “The Drama of the Gifted Child”, she has described two reactions to the loss of love (from caregivers) as being depression, and its counterpart grandiosity.
An interesting dynamic between child and caregiver which highly influences how one turns out is the availability. In normal situations the caregiver should be available towards their child, but there are situations where it is expected from the child to be available for the caregiver. A specific example is when a child will get attention, and only get attention if it does something which gets the approval of the caregiver. You might think this is how people are being raised, but when a child only gets attention when it does something which is being approved of, there will be no space for their own exploration of the world, their feelings and their personality. There is no love for the child is not accepted as to who they are.
The end result paints an image where we see an adult who’s trying its best to actively earn the approval of their caregivers. Working hard, following up on all the advice -implicitly or explicitly given- in order to be someone, someone they are not. They do not know how to be their true selves, because it is they have always had to suppress in order to be accepted into this world. As Alice Miller wrote; “People are free from depression when their feeling of self worth is derived from the truth of their own feelings, and not on the possession of certain qualities”.
While I’m at this topic I’ll take the moment to write a bit about suicide. How many times, in the context of suicide, have you heard something along the likes “But we’ll miss you when you’re gone”. Assuming the wish to commit suicide flows forth from a deep and ravaging depression, there is little more selfish than such statement for the reasons stated before. Saying something like that is egoistic, signals a shortsighted view, and makes it look like as if said person wants to get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. Suicide isn’t a topic to avoid. Have a compassionate conversation with the person battling such heavy feelings of depression, and listen attentively to what’s going on. It might save a life one day.
Back to depression; being able to identify the root causes of your depression absolutely is a super power! If you’re able to match situations from your childhood with where you’re at now, it’ll enable you to draw parallels and identify reasons why you feel those feelings of anxiety, depression or uncertainty. Remember that the way you perceive your past is only a reflection of what you remember from it. Because of this it is possible to revisit an event from the past, but with all the knowledge you have today. You might discover that the situation was completely different from what you had remembered and turn a negative memory into a positive one. You might even feel grief and sadness for the person you were in the past, maybe even for the first time ever.
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