The most commonly asked question, when I’m training, teaching, or consulting with clinicians, academics, or organizational leaders is: “How Can I Help People Who Are Depressed, When, In Fact, Every Aspect Of Their Life Is Genuinely Depressing?” This is a particularly relevant question as we continue to slide into a significant economic recession, and we know, from experience, that rates of depression will skyrocket.
We’ve all been taught that people need to talk about how they feel, and that that will help them feel better. But we know (and they know) exactly how they feel – like crap. Talking endlessly about how much life sucks, has diminishing returns. Without connecting the feelings to their experiences of loss, nothing much different will happen. Depression is an oppressive, unrelenting state of change – all for the bad. And the strongest beliefs it creates, is that things will never get better, and I will not be able to cope with feeling the way I do. So, how can we help people break through this massive downer?
Over the years, I’ve developed an exercise that has proven helpful, and I’d like to take you through it: Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line right down the middle. On the left side of the paper, write down everything that is no longer a part of your life – relationships, jobs, moving, illnesses (and health) – anything that was a part of you earlier in your life.
On the right side of the paper, write down everything that is now a part of your life that wasn’t before. (For either side, go back as far as you can remember)
Now, go back and pick the three things, on either side of the paper, that jump out at you as most important. Next, identify a loss that came with each of the three things that are no longer a part of your life; and a loss that has come with the new things in your life (this is harder to do, because we’ve been conditioned to believe that new gains don’t come with any losses.)
Now, take another sheet of paper and divide it horizontally in half, and at the top of the upper portion, write: “Three Things I’ve Left Behind, That Changed Me.” At the top of the lower portion, write “Three Things I Made A Part Of Me, That Changed My Life.” Write a summary of each of those three things (top and bottom), and then sit back and ask yourself how you got through those changes and losses. Don’t over-analyze your answers. Just sit with your feelings and let them percolate.
What’s the point of this exercise? To learn, through your feelings, that all change is loss, and that knowing your losses and embracing them, is how you get through the best and the worst times.
Let’s talk! Reach out to me at www.morrieshechtman.com