Heartfelt Thoughts: The Root of Depression?

Do you ever wonder why you feel so depressed, suddenly and seemingly out of the blue?

The answer may be hidden in plain sight, but for most of us it’s not that obvious. Depression exists in an interactional space. In many cases (excluding major depression diagnosis), particularly in relationships, we learned early on that certain emotions or reactions would be met with hostility, rejection and judgement. 

From that, we developed shame, guilt, and anxiety around feeling our very natural and normal internal reactions (be it a “weird” thought, unusual impulse, emotional activation, or bodily sensation). For instance, you might have that very familiar experience of berating yourself for feeling angry towards someone you love or cherish. As if the anger you feel somehow discounts the love that you have, when in fact it is merely informing you of how you feel in that moment, not forever. 

When we don’t honor our feelings, where do they go? They are not like puffs of cloud that dissipate into the atmosphere. When a feeling does not get felt, noticed, or paid attention to it is very much like a car driving endlessly into a brick wall. The car will get nowhere and eventually die out and be stuck in place. When feelings continue to meet our own resistance, they too will be stuck in place often resulting in depression.

Often the fear of listening to our emotions comes down to the idea that we will be led astray, become “out of control” or be left alone with no one to guide us. 

The truth is that, in my experience, honoring and feeling our emotions brings great relief. Feeling an emotion and acting on an emotion are two very different things. Usually, the out-of-control fear is often associated with “if I feel my anger, it will make me act on it”, when in fact it will give you greater control and assertion, leading to improved relationships.

Last, your emotions themselves cannot guide you astray. They can only inform you. 

I always advocate for individuals struggling with emotion identification, regulation, and expression to work with a therapist who is versed in neurobiology and emotion focused therapy.