I’ve tried many methods for treating my own depression over the years but have most consistently relied on medication and psychotherapy. Most of the therapies I’ve tried, however, have not produced lasting relief from the illness. I think that’s because they often miss the emotional core of depression. Instead of taking it on directly, most therapies try to bombard it from a strategic position outside the perimeter. Mostly, they emphasize words, ideas and reason to define new ways of thinking, making decisions and taking action. If those can change, so the theories say, then emotions and moods will follow their lead. That’s the promise.
If I can retrain my thought patterns, for example, if I can decide to act rather than ruminate, if I can speak about long-suppressed feeling and memories, if I can recognize destructive patterns of behavior, if I can achieve enough detachment from my thoughts to observe what they’re doing – in other words, if I can use my conscious mind to correct these and other distortions, then I will be able to get rid of depression, or at least keep it from dominating my life.
I’ve learned a lot from these cognitively-based approaches. In fact, they’ve given me essential skills. But they rarely reached directly into the painful emotions I lived with for so long, day after day for years. When I finally felt a fundamental turn toward recovery, I couldn’t understand exactly why or how that had happened. It seemed more like a gift than the result of conscious effort. Read the rest»