The aim of this brief article is to offer you an alternative understanding of depression, to locate it not in the private world of the individual but in relation. As a counsellor, I see various people coming through my door who either have been diagnosed with depression or feel a sense of hopelessness and end up self-diagnosing themselves as depressed. The title of this article is not meant to just present a shift in our language but a shift in our understanding.
Part of the struggle when one goes through depression is that it feels static, as if something alien took over one’s body and pushed it right down to deep, consistent melancholy. The colours are faded, everything feels measured and a sense of inability to move, to shift, to change overwhelms the individual. It can feel incredibly isolating as if it were to happen in one’s own private world.
Thinking about depression as depressing helps me in seeing how I am depressing in the room with my client. Noticing how my client and I relate supports us in understanding how they’re relating to people around them and vice versa. The person who is labelled as depressed is often seen as the lone one with the problem and that swiftly takes any responsibility off their environment. And so the family and friends of the person tackling the problem as if it belonged to the individual without realising that they’re relating to that individual and that they are part of this depressing. My aim is to keep my client company and see what their and my part in that dynamic is. We also work collaboratively on how we might gradually break out of that depressing and move towards different ways of relating to each other.
The word 'depressing' is also more suited as everything is changing all the time. Changing the noun 'depression' to the verb 'depressing' might in itself give you a sense of hope that what you’re going through is a process. Your sense of feeling low now will be different to your sense of feeling low tomorrow. It may vary so subtly that it will take all your energy to acknowledge that it isn’t the same as yesterday but it will come as a relief when you’re able to notice the small shifts in your feelings. Try not to evaluate it as better or worse but just note that it isn’t static.
An important aspect of depressing is a sense of holding back emotion in relation, which might be anger or an outward expression of sadness or joy. This is often due to the lack of support around you in allowing space for you to express whatever may be going on for you. Noticing how you’re holding emotion back in your body, how you’re tensing up in your shoulders, how you’re guarding that space in your chest can arm you with a sense of responsibility.
Counselling can give you the space to feel less isolated and more empowered. Depressing, like everything, happens in relation. It is a process, which you don’t need to bear the weight of on your own.
Roubal J., Depression – A Gestalt Theoretical Perspective, British Gestalt Journal, Vol 16, N1, 35-43, 2007