Depression Breakthrough (part 2)

The question becomes: What can be done to break this dreadful cycle and lift the black cloud of depression? To break this cycle, to move away from the sad end of the scale, the orientation response mechanism needs to work again. Working properly, it enables us to concentrate and focus, to prompt motivation so that emotions are discharged by purposeful action during the day and not overload the system at night. Although some sufferers can, given enough time, make this shift along the scale themselves, many people suffering depression find they need professional help.

A professional that fully understands this recent understanding of what depression actually is, and is up to date on new insights from various fields other than their own, is usually able to make a difference quickly and simply. They would start by lowering the emotional arousal allowing the clear-headed part of the brain to think properly. Remember, emotions are designed for action, not thinking, and they are capable of ‘hijacking’ the thinking part of the brain.

I must stress, that working with the emotions first in order to influence thinking is crucial. Emotions are in place before thought, so any attempt to fix emotional problems by changing the way people think, is working against the way the brain works. If it works at all, it will take a long time – most psychological intervention is based on this faulty assumption, leaving depression rates to rise alarmingly.

With emotions calmed and thinking in place – therapeutic in itself for a depressed person – it is possible to look for things that once gave them pleasure, something they were passionate about – usually something they have not done for a long time. Notice that I am not looking for why they are depressed – dredging up events of the past only makes them emotionally aroused again.

While concentrating on some activity that they used to get pleasure from, we put in place a simple goal, something they can start and complete before they sleep that night. The goal is clear, achievable, and will meet a deep emotional need, a need for purposeful action; to feel alive, and engaged again with this thing called life.

It is possible to have agreement, commitment, and an intention from the depressed person, but little emotional buy-in because I have not impacted the part of the brain where the problem lies. A lot of head nodding because it sounds like a good idea, but the emotional brain doesn’t do words, so the person goes away and soon the old feelings of not doing anything come up again.

To reduce the chances of that happening, I work with the emotional brain, in the language it understands. As it doesn’t do language, I simulate a healthy dream process and use metaphor, images and stories to effect change at the feeling level. The goal of purposeful action that will set them up for a better sleep becomes embedded in the emotional brain, it is like a script complete with what it feels like – I have made a difference where it matters.

It is called a ‘breakthrough’ because it makes so much sense to therapists, to people who used to be depressed, and, I am sure, to you as well. It makes sense because it is based on what depression actually is, not on what we thought it was. It makes sense because the therapy is simple and effective, and lifts depression for good.

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Merv was a teacher, trainer and therapist using the Human Givens approach to emotional health. He is the first Australian qualified in this revolutionary treatment method, and since retiring from private practice, spreads his time between running an online course in psychotherapy and sailing his yacht.

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