Learned Depression

“Before I go any further, let me say straight up that all my comments on depression are aimed at learned depression, not clinical depression.
I think learned depression should probably be retitled ‘self-pity’ or be considered a new disorder best described as ‘Look at me, I’m seeking attention’. Using the term ‘depression’ seems to allow people to justify feeling sorry for themselves, almost as if they have official permission to wallow in their own misery. What it actually does is make all those around you feel ‘depressed’ because they have to watch your pathetic behaviour day after day.

I realise that I am setting myself up for criticism with this approach (and boy do I cop heaps from the ‘(depression is an illness’ lobby group), but learned depression is simply a state of mind — just like all the other states of mind we ”“Sure we all get depressed from time to time, but some people attempt to stay there … and for what purpose? Discovering the belief that drives the behaviour is the answer!

I worked with a 33-year-old woman once who told me her problem was depression. She knew she had it and she knew that from time to time it (depression) would go away then come back again. So I thought it might help this female if I asked her a few easy questions about how she knew she had depression. I asked her the difference between the days she believed she was depressed and the days she believed she wasn’t depressed. It took another half hour of questions before she began to understand where I was going with the questions. She finally offered these two beliefs as evidence that she was suffering from depression.

“On the days she had depression she would get up in the morning as late as possible; she would keep pushing the snooze button on her alarm clock and stay in bed. While she was doing that she would say to herself, ‘I don’t want to face the world today.’ (By the way, she wasn’t aware she was doing this until I began to drill down into her unconscious mind and ask how questions, not why questions.) This woman had a recipe for her depression days; she had a way, a structure, a programmed routine.
Then I asked about the days she didn’t believe she was suffering from depression or, in her own words, her ‘better days’. She explained that on these days she would get up very early, go for a run, then come home and cook herself breakfast. If it was a day like that, she didn’t have depression. Are you getting the picture here? Here was a woman who had set up two beliefs. The first belief was that if she stayed in bed until late she would feel depressed. The second belief was that if she got out of bed and exercised she wouldn’t suffer depression.”

“So it’s not rocket science is it? All she had to do was … what? Get up every morning and exercise and she wouldn’t suffer from depression! Right? Wrong! That wasn’t the answer. That was what she’d been doing when she came to me for help and it wasn’t working. Together we worked on collapsing both of her beliefs and, while we were at it, we decided to create different beliefs. These needed to be very empowering beliefs that she would be able to latch onto just as she had latched onto the old ones. Now that she understood how and why beliefs could affect her life, she needed to make sure these new beliefs would change her life for the better.

I asked her to write down her new beliefs and also what each new belief meant to her. Within two weeks of writing down 47 new and different beliefs she began to behave differently. However, when I saw her a few weeks later, she told me there was that one belief that I had suggested to her over and over again that just wouldn’t leave her mind … she needed to become ‘carefree’.
“Over the course of our sessions I had asked her how she thought it would feel to be carefree; how it would feel to not give a damn about anyone or anything in the entire world. She had obviously thought about this a lot.
I told this woman that in order for her to ‘do the behaviour known as depression’ it took lots of hard work, dedication and one special ingredient: she had to be serious to do depression. By becoming carefree she was able to simply release herself onto the world and enjoy her life again.”

“So I’m sure you can understand my belief that I’m fed up with all these new disorders that are being created. Researchers are continually telling us that we can now ‘catch this or that disorder’. Incredibly, these researchers are often linked to pharmaceutical companies who, surprise surprise, have just the pill that will cure the new ‘disorder’. The only bloody disorder that most of the world suffers from is ‘Blissfulness-less’. And the cure for that is easy — blissfulness!”