Sometimes we just feel sad, yet we do not really know why. It seems like it comes out of nowhere and holds us in a way we can’t ignore. We wake up to this feeling of gloominess and laziness. We can’t even decide if we want to get up to make a cup of coffee.
Even if we did decide that a cup of coffee would do us well, we seem unable to meet even this smallest of challenges. I mean, what’s the point anyways?
If you haven’t already been to a doctor, it’s probably because you know what he is going to tell you:
You are severely depressed.
A doctor might tell you that depression is the result of vicious anger directed at oneself. It is an anger that feeds an aggressive and brute perception of one’s flaws. The desire to perceive one’s self with such hostility that is born out of feelings of inferiority and insecurity.
These feelings are typically the result of:
Organic brain function problems and/or injuries
It is punctuated by the belief that one deserves or is supposed to feel bad as a way to explain why they feel bad and/or why bad things happen to them.
‘I deserve to feel bad.’
Sometimes it goes as far as believing that because something happens that is painful, it was because the individual was too weak or too stupid to prevent it. Or most commonly, they don’t deserve, or are unworthy of, love.
In a way, it makes people feel safe to accept inadequacy with a deep passion. It creates a kind of logic to it all. Being negative prevents feelings of disappointment or being wrong. By getting deeply angry at oneself, it affirms that we are bad and we deserve to feel bad.
One of the greatest insights psychoanalysis gave us was learning that depression wasn’t about sadness. It is about anger. It is about anger that is unable to find its proper form of expression or target, and hence, it turns towards the person themselves. We feel like we are sad about everyone and everything, but really, deep down, there are specific people or things that we are angry about.
It is the challenge of understanding our emotions, particularly our fury and frustration, that is the key to getting a grip back on our overall spirit. Going beyond the nihilist ways of blaming everything as the problem, existence itself really isn’t the problem of our emotional turmoil. It is just a few things, perhaps events or people, that we have just lost in the muck of our minds and need to identify and deal with.
[I just started watching ‘Justified’ and beyond the accents and culture, it has really hit home for me.]
Yet how is that possible? How can we be so profoundly angry at someone or something yet have no idea where it is coming from?
Honestly, it isn’t that surprising. We usually misplace the cause and nature of many of our feelings.
We can get a nostalgic feeling from a painting without really knowing why.
We can beat up our partner about the dishes, when it really wasn’t a problem.
We can laugh maniacally about something that really wasn’t that funny.
It is the rule and not the exception that understanding comes after feeling. In fact, it usually comes trailing along far behind the feeling and may never seem to catch up until long after (if at all).
Despite the elusiveness of our feelings and the lack of time we spend trying to understand them, there may be a more obvious reason we don’t unleash our anger outwards. We were taught at an early age that if we don’t have anything nice to say, we shouldn’t say anything at all.
Getting angry at people may very well damage the image or idea we have ourselves as being a good, nice, and decent person. It might be painful or just shameful to admit we feel rage or vengeance boiling in our blood. Especially when the people we feel that way towards are those we love and who have made sacrifices or compromises for us already.
More than that, the reason we are angry may sound ridiculous. We know if we even try to bring up what has happened that upset us will seem petty to the person that did the hurting. Besides, we are tough, we aren’t bothered by these ‘small’ injuries.
Another reason we may be afraid to admit our anger and to release it in a healthy way is that we honestly don’t know how. We’ve never seen a good example of anger being used where it came to a successful conclusion.
Just the word anger may give us graphic images of a crazy person destroying everything around them. Quite honestly, it seems to do more harm than good. And for good reason, the way most people deal with anger is dangerous and counter-productive.
Or you may come from a family like mine that just swallowed all their hurt rather than raise their voice towards each other. The idea of a controlled and cleansing conversation isn’t even imaginable when such volcanic feelings are involved.
The way out of depression isn’t to be blindly or naively optimistic. It is to mourn. To mourn is to feel grief, but to focus that grief at a loss we can name. We have to turn this vague overwhelming sadness into an identifiable pain.
It could be:
A sibling who turned on us
A partner who lied about their finances
A parent who was never there
A lover who betrayed us in some way
A friend who lied to us
It isn’t necessary to go out and pick a fight with these people. The truth is, you may not even speak to these people anymore or be able to speak to these people even if you wanted to. Or you may speak to them, but they pretend they didn’t even hear you (or read you). [Which is quite awkward when you can see they’ve read the message.]
Yet, whether or not they are in the right place to respond doesn’t change how being conscious of our own rage can in itself negate the feeling. The very act of being aware can significantly change our overall mood. And that is, at the very least, what we should aim for.
There are certain people and events in our lives that will always seem like a complicated mess, but with a little time and patience and awareness, life, in general, will start to become a little easier and rosier.