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Authenticity and Depression

One way (of many) to understand depression is that, in part, it is the result of an unconscious habit of shutting down aspects of your experience.  When this habit is running itself, you become less and less of who you are.  In a very literal sense you are cut off from your own energy.


Relationship dynamics can sometimes be the trigger for the habit of shutting down who you are.  For example, you make a joke and notice that your partner doesn't laugh and decide not to make jokes like that again.  Or, you have a hobby you enjoy and perceive that your partner thinks it's silly and find yourself doing it less and less.  If you are not catching this pattern, decisions like this start to add up and you find yourself losing energy for the relationship and feeling disconnected with yourself.  The more painful symptoms of depression start to appear over time, like:  a lack of interest in life, a consistent heaviness, feeling numb, thoughts of death, sleeplessness, lack of sexual desire, hopelessness, appetite changes, and a lack of energy.


You can do a variety of things to check-in and get clear that you are living in alignment with what is authentic for you.  Here are a few:


  • Know and watch for mild signs of depression:

    • Fantasies of living a different life like moving to another country or imagining that certain people in your life were gone

    • Loss of interest in what is usually fun for you

    • Long moments of just sitting and staring off into space

    • A sense of burden or routine

  • If you do notice one of these signs, reflect on decisions you have made recently or the plans you have coming up.  Look for moments when you pushed away a feeling, need, desire, or thought.  Reclaim the experience you denied previously by either expressing it out loud to someone else or naming it and affirming it for yourself and then taking action to meet your needs.

  • Regularly ask yourself if there is anything you would be doing differently if you had nothing to fear and nothing to lose.  I use the fantasy of winning the lottery to ask myself if there is something I would be doing differently.  If there is something you would be doing differently, continue to reflect on what is actually keeping you from making decisions that align with your authenticity and get help finding a new way forward.

  • Three or four times a year do something that completely takes you out of your daily life and personal relationships.  This could look a lot of different ways.  For example, stay home alone for 2 or 3 days while your family/housemates are away and devote the time to only doing what is in your heart moment by moment.  Or, go away on a retreat by yourself.  Or simply take a day in the woods on your own.

  • Cultivate a friendship in which you can share the decisions you are making in your life and count on that friend to ask how your decisions are aligning with your values.

  • Take at least a few minutes every day to just feel your experience of yourself, pleasant or unpleasant, and meet yourself with compassion and acceptance.  Meeting yourself with compassion and acceptance might mean an internal softening around your heart, words like "It's okay to feel what I feel, there are no wrong feelings", or noticing your experience as you breathe fully and expand.


Living an authentic life and turning to meet all aspects of your experience with acceptance is a lifetime practice.  And the smallest moments of staying true to yourself add up and give your practice momentum.


Practice

This week watch for little ways you deny your own feelings, needs, desires, dreams, etc.  When you catch yourself turning away from your experience, turn back to that experience and notice it for one full breath.

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3 Responses

  1. Jul 10, 2014
    Bernadette

    Hi LaShelle,
    This Gem on depression was like you read my mind (it's all about me, right?!! ~joke~). Very helpful, as I sit here feeling a small gorilla sitting on my chest. Acceptance and awareness are always my best path, I just find it too easy to fall into triggers for old behavior.
    The August workshop is appealing, glad you posted that notice.
    Peace,
    Bernadette

  2. Jul 11, 2014

    Hi good to hear from you
    I'm glad this is helpful I would love to claim psychic powers that I was reading your mind but I think it might be a little more universal than that. Sounds like maybe I will see you in August. :)

  3. Jul 13, 2014
    Philip

    Hi LaShelle,
    Thank you for this gem. What struck me was your example of a trigger leading to shutting down.. "you make a joke and notice that your partner doesn't laugh and decide not to make jokes like that again". Just noticing that in myself is like a cloud lifting... feel happier already. Of course I am sure this is just one example of many that might arise from a relationship with a lot of pain. And to look out for the mild signs .. I know I have experienced some of them as some times. Just want to express gratitude for the thought and effort you put into this/these gems.
    Philip

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