Here is what a brain scan for a depressed person looks like (strange how it looks to me like an angry face). The front of the skull is at the bottom of the image. The orange and yellow flare-ups show increased activity in the limbic system in the centre of the image. The amygdala (arousal) and hippocampus (emotional memories) are both involved. At the bottom of the image we see increased activity in the frontal cortex – the so-called ‘thinking’ centres.
Since the limbic system governs the production of emotion we can see immediately that the depressed person is more emotional than the average. Yet the subjective experience of depression is the total opposite.
The language of depression that reflects this subjective experience is:
‘Numb – nothing touches me, ‘Just going through the motions’, ‘Lifeless’, ‘Dead inside, ‘I just want go to sleep’, ‘I wish it were all over – now’, ‘I am empty, Life is empty’, ‘Pointless’, ‘Same old thing, again and again’, ‘Death – how I long for it…’
This tells us straight away that depressed people don’t feel the emotional storm that is actually being created in the brain. The thinking centres are not processing emotion! So what are they doing instead? Well, if you listen to depressed people talking you soon get the answer: they are thinking about failure. About loss, about pointlessness, about the past, about the catastrophic future. About what ‘bad’ people they are. You can get more information about the link between the brain, emotion and language here.
By the way, ‘positive thinking’ won’t make any difference, despite what some Cognitive therapists might positively think. And here’s why: the problem is not negative thinking but the fact that the person’s thoughts are not dynamised by passion. A ‘positive’ thought is just one more empty idea to add to the log-jam that already exists in the depressed brain. A dynamic idea is one that brings you alive again. An empty idea is just a thought.
At some stage the depressed person has (without realising it) suffocated her own passion. She has de-pressed it because she has bought into the idea that her passion is bad, destructive, evil, selfish. Those ideas deny her permission to live. But because emotions belong to life, to emotional truth, to the growth of the organism they have to be suppressed and denied. Hence the numbness, emptiness and longing for death.
To become free again she has to let the ‘monster’ out. The ‘bad’ thoughts, the ‘bad’ emotions and the ‘bad’ desires.
For Reverse Therapy we take the necessary steps in this order:
- The first step is to treat depressive symptoms as a signal that emotion is not being allowed expression.
- The second step is to connect to the emotions (these are usually the ones that were there are the start of the depression and are connected to some significant life challenge going on at that time).
- The third step is to talk to someone you can trust about those emotions – and the desire, the love, the excitement, the need for comfort, the longing for fulfilment or connection that comes with them. This is the first stage in letting the monster out.
- The fourth step is to start acting on those ‘bad’ desires or hopes. This is the second stage in letting the monster out.
Next post: I will give some examples of how this process works in real life.