Breaking the Cycle of Depression and Disappointment || Understanding Depression

Breaking the Cycle of Depression and Disappointment || Understanding Depression


Um, my name is Marcus Harker. I am a
licensed professional counselor by licensure. I work with married couples
who are struggling. I work with individuals who are trying to recover
from personal frustrations —anywhere from just lack of self-discipline—but mostly
to addictions. Most of the people I work with have a comorbid condition which
means it just happens at the same time of depression and sadness, disappointment,
frustration, there’s lots of different words for it. I rarely use the word
“depression” when I work with people because it’s too convoluted. I try to
isolate it more to the actual emotion they’re experiencing regularly. Most
people experience like five to ten emotions at a time. And so… you can only
have one thought at a time, but you can have lots of feelings at a time. And so,
um, what I’m going to talk about today is, um, for simplistic terms dealing with
disappointment and what the person goes through. I’ve learned that people handle
it better if they understand it better. It’s kind of like women going through
pregnancy. If they know why their body is doing what it’s doing if they know where
the pain’s coming from—why it’s there—it’s more tolerable. And so, you often—you
can’t get rid of the pain of pregnancy but you can—and you can’t get rid of the
pain of life sometimes. There’s a difference between depression grief—
depression is usually a genetic condition. I usually use the term to
refer to people who are sad for no reason. They are experiencing a gray
cloud that follows them around but if you look take a look at their life their
degree of sadness does not match their life experience it’s a little too
excessive. But I meet plenty of people whose sadness matches their unfortunate
life experiences. If you had a lot of life plans and you get hit by a car and
your body’s not working correctly you should have some sadness about that if
you were growing up hoping to raise a family as a young woman
and either you find out you are infertile—you can’t have babies—if you
don’t find marriage, or the committed relationship you want, then there’s
disappointment there. And then men have their own huge list of reasons to be
disappointed. “Wow, this is not the way I thought it was going to be…” Quite
frequently, around their ability to make as much money as they wanted to make or
they just keep doing stupid things they can’t stop themselves from doing. Okay.
For most of the history of psychology, the theorists were men. The first—one of
the first respected female theorists was Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. And she’s the one who came up with the grief cycle. She says it starts with
denial. Denial. It sounds like this: “This can’t be happening to me. Things are
supposed to be better than this. I can’t believe this is so horrible.” It was
originally designed to be for death—the experience of death. “I can’t believe this
person’s died.” But if you look at, like, newlyweds, you know, “I can’t believe
marriage isn’t as good as I thought it was going to be.” Men in business: “I can’t
believe that I’m not making as much money as I wanted to,” et cetera, et cetera.
Okay. The next stage is: bargaining. Bargaining is the phase that Kubler-Ross
refers to as the: “I—I could have done more, I should have done more. I could
have done better— something should have been different.
What if I had done, what if I had done, what if I had done? And so, it’s a lot of
rethinking, and rethinking, rethinking. So I often refer to that as the “thinking
stage.” And there’s more than one ways to think about things, okay? In her original
paradigm, you went from there to: anger. But why would you become angry—is
because you’re thinking, and thinking, and thinking isn’t getting you anywhere. Now
there’s different ways to think about things. So, this is my addition to the
grief cycle there is something called “fretting.” Fretting is a form of thinking where
you’re not getting anywhere. Okay? You go around, and around, and around
in circles and you’re not getting anywhere. This is very uninspired
thinking. A lot of people stay “fretters” when I’m diagnosing somebody, I can tell
where their psychology is at right now— by if they’re fretting, that actually
tells me a little bit about them—that they are trying to avoid anger. They’re
not the “angry type,” “I’m more of a thinker than I’m an angry type.” But when you find
no solution after a while and you see this in small occasions like, um, like
parenting, you know? I’m trying to figure out a raise this kid right. I’m trying to
figure out a raise this kid and they’re just bargaining by it and they can even
go to the denial—”It can’t be this hard. This kid can’t be this difficult. It
can’t be this. My parents—it was easy for them. I don’t know what’s wrong!” So there’s a denial
stage there to bargaining and then you know what it ain’t working—anger. Okay.
Now people tend to split themselves into two personality groups when it comes to
the emotions of disappointment some tend to spend more time in the next stage
which is sadness, while others spend more time being angry.
And then, if they keep moving forward they can get to something called:
resigned. Now this is where you’re going to see one of the biggest splits between
stereotypical men and stereotypical women. This is where men say: “You know what? It didn’t
work out. It’s too bad. How sad for all of us. Let’s get off of the wagon, get out of
the cycle, and let’s just be resigned, okay? Life sucks, move on, get over it.” And
because so many men say that, a lot of women feel broken if they don’t stay
resigned. Okay, let me give you an example, on a personal level, of how this—women
can contribute something that’s very painful but very powerful at the same
time. You see, in my own situation we’ve dealt with infertility since we got
married— no birth control for 20 years, okay?
After years of trying different things, I became resigned. “You know what? That’s
just how it’s going to be. Let’s plan your life—your son’s going to be—your
adopted son is going to be old enough to move out when I’m 40. Empty house—you can
do a lot with an empty house, okay? Came home one day, and my wife had gotten off
course, okay? And she did something that I call: denial of reality. The word we use
for it sometimes is called: hope. And she says, “I was thinking…” You know, men do this
sometimes, too, with business type stuff or other projects—”So, I’ve got an idea…
you know last one didn’t work…” Thomas Edison, okay? All sorts of people—who
everyone else is saying, “Let’s stay resigned to live the way we live,” until
someone has a denial of reality: “Maybe there’s a way to create a source of
light without fire!” Okay? Maybe there’s a way to build a building that’s taller
than it is wide without it falling over. Maybe there’s a way we can add a child
to our family… I’m all, “No.” Now, why do we resist this? Because it hurts if it
doesn’t work. So we go into bargaining again, thinking again, and fretting. But
there’s another form of thinking that can be an inspired form of thinking
—inspired thinking is what I call: pondering. Now, most people —if you take a
second and you ask them just to feel the difference how does fretting feel
compared to pondering? Fretting decreases the likelihood of being inspired by
brilliant ideas and pondering increases the likelihood of being inspired by
great ideas. But let’s talk for a second about people who get stuck here in this
unpleasant experience of fretting that can get them unable to get out of it
—which can grow increasingly negative emotions that are mixed
in—some will call it depression—but it has lots of feelings—especially when
there’s anger and if there’s sadness in it and you feel stuck. You see, along the
way, one analogy for the way the brain works with all its neurological pathways
is that it’s a pathway as you go thinking and you’re thinking along—you’re
walking along—and there’s these trip wires in this forest connected with some
buckets with chemicals and if you walk down a certain thought path it will
trigger buckets of chemicals that will spill into the brain causing an
emotional and physiological reaction. For most people, the most obvious experience
with this is when you see a police officer in your rear view mirror—with
his lights on—while driving on the highway—the freeway. The average driver
tends to have a significant un-ignorable chemical reaction called: panic—or
freaking out, okay? What’s interesting to observe about that experience is that we
all think it’s an automatic experience but if you look at it more
scientifically, if there’s someone in the car with you from a third world country,
like Africa, who’s never seen a car or a cop in their whole life, they’re not
going to have the same reaction. Why? Because they don’t have a connection
between the idea of getting in trouble with the lights on the cop car. And so,
what this tells us is not actually the cop that causes the chemical or
adrenaline reaction it’s the meaning of the cop, the idea of the cop, or the
thought of the cop. And so, sometimes when we’re going through our day certain
thoughts will flash into the mind, okay? So, we could have lots of ideas bouncing
through our heads that we’re not even aware of at a high speed and if those
are running through these neurological paths—and one of those paths has
connected to it something like seeing a cop in the rearview mirror—but maybe in
this case it’s more of a depressing thought like you’re never going to make
enough money, or life is going to suck forever,
too bad you’re ugly and fat. There’s just a lot of different thoughts
that can just flash through the mind thus causing a chemical reaction and our
body says: “I felt this before… oh yeah that one time when someone called me
names in elementary school.” That memory flashes into the brain, spilling more
chemical in the bloodstream—thus intensifying the feeling. Well, now I’m
even more depressed which brings back to the file cabinet for a whole nother
conversation or remembrance of something depressing—”Well, you’ve tried to lose
weight before and that didn’t work…” So, that bumps in the head, et cetera, cetera
cetera. This “spin” has been measured to be as fast as four times per second going
completely around and around and around and around. But most of us are trying to pay
so close attention to our thoughts that we don’t even notice what the chemical
is doing in our brains and what is happening with the chemicals the brain—
you see, we function at our best in the frontal lobe part of our brain. And many
good things happen here, including pondering or meditating. As these
chemicals that I was just describing continue to pour into the brain the
brain is starting to transfer its energy out of its frontal lobe and more towards
the middle brain, or the animal brain, or the survival brain—and people go into a
fight, flight, or freeze mode where they either start fighting with people,
fighting the situation, or running away from it. People become isolated. They—”I’m just not someone who likes conflict.” So they never problem-solve. They freeze.
But between these zones is when the fretting starts to occur and fretting
—because it has no answers—there’s no solutions—
the chemicals continue to get worse and the person just moves closer and closer
to what we call: “the give up moment.” When a person has the
experience of hope they go” “Ah! Maybe… what if…” Okay? That’s
actually quite a pleasant chemical experience? Okay?
Then they launched it into the bargaining or thinking zone.
If the rut your brain goes through is more likely to be a fretting brain than
it is a pondering brain, you got some work to do. You got to put a little alarm
system about right there that says: “Now, fork in the road here. Are you going to
fret about it or are you going to ponder about it?” “Well, I don’t want to be angry
and I don’t really trust a miracle so I’m just gonna fret.” I got lots of people
that go: “You don’t understand, Maurice! I need to keep thinking about this until I find a
solution! And we’re going to go a million miles per hour! And if inspiration
doesn’t come then I’ll find it myself!” They go around, around, around and as
they’re going around there’s the chemical buckets right there and they
trip it every time they go around which increases the velocity of the spin until
they finally crash—and then they’ll go to anger, then they’ll go to sadness, then
they’ll go— maybe they’ll go into a healthy
resignation—there’s more than one. There’s—you know what the unhealthy
resignation. And then there’s healthy resignation: “All right, a tsunami just hit
us. There’s lots of things broken let’s go find some bricks and sticks and let’s
start building.” That’s a healthy resignation. And then you have hope again.
Anyway, so you don’t get off the wheel. You’re happier—going back to the
comparison to pregnancy—if you know what you’re experiencing it’s not as painful.
And healthy people cycle through all five. And we call it emotional
constipation if you’re stuck in any certain one. Imagine a person who’s stuck
in denial of reality—hope. “Everything’s going to be great. Everything’s fine.” Okay? They
never sufficiently think it through. They never prep. They’re just—”La, la, la, la, la.”—Pollyanna-ish. There are those who still get stuck on
thinking. There are those who get stuck on anger. There are those who get stuck on sad. Those who get stuck on resigned. None of those are healthy. The healthiest thing
to do is when you’re resigned, start looking for hope. That’s how you avoid
getting stuck in depression.

One thought on “Breaking the Cycle of Depression and Disappointment || Understanding Depression”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *