Can psychoanalysis heal depression?

It may not at first and it may worsen it for some time and eventually it will get better, much better. I write about it, because I never knew I had depression and I want to write about it, because many people don’t write or speak about it. That is confusing because according to the World Health Organization almost 238 million people suffer from depression. I will not write about what it is, in fact you can look it up. I recommend looking up different resources too, because different resources will provide different explanations. In a similiar way depression is felt differently and is presented as such too. For example, I never thought I had it, because I was quite smily in public and one of my skill-sets was to cheer people up and to be super fun.

I no longer am that fun and cheer-full and at the same time, I start to no longer feel depressed. Some people may argue that comes at a loss of my joy and increased negativity and I start to counter-argue that it comes with gains; joy and realness. That is the joy, that when I feel joy feels real and not the joy I wish to feel “wish-full thinking” or an image I create to distract myself from the pain or void I actually feel, to keep a distance between what I call my true self and the part of it that would like to be protected, defended, or is not even visible because of how insigificant it or the parts of it can feel.

I decide to write about it and as I write about it, I hope to give you a glimpse and already have of what psychoanalysis can feel like and why it does help me, when it does. In fact, I write about it, which could come at the dismiss of some people such as relatives and lets say at a time in which I am open for employment. One could say writing about it reduces my hiring chance and it adds a negative image onto me. I argue the opposite. I don’t want to work somewhere, where mental health is stigmatized and secondly, I don’t want to hide behind a mask, which is that it has put me into depression primary. In addition, it does not limit me, does not define me. It does the opposite.

What is depression? I don’t know, but what I have learned in psychoanalysis is that one can understand or at least feel it, if what we call our self-defenses are being removed. That is to say to remove what we think we think to keep and maintain the life we have; relationships, things and forms of knowledge we have acquired that can come with other committments in life too; friends and family. Generally, you would not want to change or give up on them, even be critique of them, because they feel as much as “safe” and “certain”. That is where you belong and where over time you have acquired a certain life or status, of which you don’t want to break free off, even if you suffer. You don’t know that you suffer to begin with.

Unconciously, you likely suffer, because “it” might not be something that you really want. You are used to it and you think it is what you want. If you learned to be denied to write from a young age, or not to do the thing you want to, you will do another thing you want less likely and you will also seek out to people who will make you or find ways to make you do the thing you don’t want to too. These may even be the things they want to or deem as right for them for you, whilst that might be a projection of what they want and wished for themselves. Most of us have not studied psychology, or the tricks our mind does, so we wouldn’t even think of something like that keeping us locked in the rabbit hole of unconcious misery; a form of denial of ourselves and who we want(ed) to be. We do it because it is “familiar”, it feels “save and yet it is what makes you feel tired, drained at a job or in a relationship for example. It makes you feel “depressed”.

How do we get out the rabbit hole? In psychoanalysis we are being made aware of it and that is painful. It is as much painful as it begins to free, which is that through awarness of what we might have gotten a bit twisted that we no longer want to stay in the rabbit hole but leave it. For example through dream analysis, we may realize that the dream in which we played soccer with a position in the back left, is not a representation of how we wanted to play socccer, but how we were in fact “left behind”. That we had desires that weren’t heard, because they were perceive(d) as less important, or even wrong, or punishable. Through a slip in a toung we find we don’t like something that we thought we like, which is what we are not aware about (the unconcious speaking to us). In analysis we give it room to surface, what is unspoken, could not be addressed at home or because of other socio-cultural reasons. A bit like saying “I hate my husbands/wife favorite dish, but I eat it to make him/her happy”. Well, what about you? What makes you happy?

Why depression though? We repeat what we claim as safe and what feels familiar. But because it is, it does not mean to be true to us, or who we are. For example, happinness tends to be a reward function, but we tend to wanting to feel it all the time, which is exhausting. Or we may want to try out something different, but in your familiar environment you find phrases like “that’s gonna be difficult, you are probably too old, you shouldn’t do this, this is not what family or work expects form you… “. While these are likely meant well, to keep you from pain, they may lock you in pain, because of how something might be denied that is for you to experience; life and the challenges unique to you. It “pushes you down”, it depresses.

Can Psychoanalysis heal depression? First of all, it is for you to try, I am doing a Freudian psychoanalysis and it made me aware of what I was not aware of, which provided me with the awarness of what makes me feel uncomfortable of which I did not know it does or did. And through the awareness one could say to not “heal” from depression, but to change the narrative so that it may no longer be felt as much or in other words keeps you down, drains you of your energy, whatever it is. [Latin: press down. My interpertation: the thing(s) that keep(s) us down]. And you’re not alone in that.

Cover Image Source: https://www.planstreetinc.com/keep-an-eye-on-your-mental-health-for-a-healthier-life/

THe unconciousness, why and how we end up collaboration, when we don’t want to.

Often collaboration has many benefits and if you don’t want to or someone else does not want to, there are several guidelines on how to do it or how to improve collaboration (1). The premise is to make collaboration desirable and also managable. As a result the option of whether collaboration is not wanted or should not happen is often not mentioned. Instead the benefits are mentioned, which on the other hand could be a form of gaslighting if it is not actually wanted. That is the manipulation of ones own reality towards a different one (2). For example, being convinced that a particular collaboration is suitable for a particular reason, whilst it might not be.

What is bad about convincing yourself in wanting to collaborate?

Often times it might not work out in the long term. An easy to understand example is going on a first date. The chemistry does not fit, but for the sakes of dating and the idea(l) of having a relationship (such as in most goals actively looked for in collaborations), one might start to think of benefits for this relationship to work, a bit like cherry-picking. As a result, one may twist themselves to appear more suitable and starts to accept and appreciate differences. This might go well for a bit, but after some time it won’t, because it is not true. The ending of the honey moon phase and the reality then presented is a good example. “Oh you don’t actually like this?” “yeah..sorry, I did that for you kind of.”

Why would anyone want to collaborate, while not actually wanting it?

There are different reasons, some may be concious and some may be unconcious. Let’s explore different thought processes and how they play out in practice.

  1. Modification of an object

Someone might not like the idea of collaboration firstly, which shows as a tiny thought, but then actively point out (sudden) collaborative benefits. However, unconciously a different thought process might happen, in which collaboration is continuesly not wanted. In psyche one of such mechanisms is referred to modification of an object (3). It is a mechanism that turns something not of liking into something of liking. The purpose of this mechansim in infants for example is protection of the self such as from harm or neglect. For example, if a caretaker is neglecting a baby, it would naturally dislike them and leave. Because it cannot do so it turns such disliking into liking.

In adults or in workplace cooperation this might look like needing to cooperate because it is essential for company survival or for example also an individual position. As a result – of modification of object – and present in concious argumentation one might find benefits in collaboration and believe so “oh this company is greatly positioned, this sounds like a cool vision, this person seems fantastic to work with. I like it, lets do it.” On the other hand one might unconciously think “I would not spend a dime on this.”

2. Sugar-coated belief system

At the same time you might have read and learned about all sorts of unconcious biases such as on racism and feel ready to avoid them. For example, you may believe that you actively share no racist trades, but when it comes to collaboration with a partner of a different skin color or accent, you may find yourself naming different reasons why the collaboration does not work. For example research (4) conducted on neuropolitics by Liya Yu, found that although “white people” claimed to be actively not racist, their brain regions showed signs of fear when seeing “black people.”As a result you may choose to collaborate with someone different, less suitable or you may choose to still collaborate, whilst you unconciously don’t want to and that shows for example by being or becoming avoident. Here it might be interesting to explore a few “Whys’?” Why being avoidant? What’s that feeling of discomfort telling me? And whatever it is, it’s okay. It is okay in that sense, that it can be be explored further.

Why is there a discrepancy between conciousness and unconciousness?

There are different reasons. Our brain develops bottom up and lays an unconcious foundation for our own survival; How to relate to another, what feels safe and unsafe. Depending on the latter, these traits become part of our unconciousness. For example there is no need to be concious about how to move your finger tips, when eating. And similiar patterns likely apply to our psyche and thereby our notions of survival. For example, if you grew up in a solely x-skin colored family environment, then this is what likely feels safe to you “your tribe with its habits and belief system”(5). However, suddenly you may find yourself with different people of different backgrounds (habits, skin color, religions, accents etc) and it does less. And I believe the larger the discrepancy from what you are used to; feel save with, the more likely your “concisouness” will shut down, and your primal instincts including what is unconcious but feels safe will be present or to some extend guide you, while not being aware of.

What does this say about effective collaboration?

Collaboration is great and it does hold many benefits if collaboration is true. For example, again if you go on a first date and the chemistry fits; values, or certain values shared align with each other, you truthfully complement each other, you don’t twist yourself to make yourself fit to the other, you can be honest, you lay out your cards. Whatever it is, I mean complementation can work so different, it fits and that’s okay. That’s great actually. For example, it’s okay wanting to collaborate with someone from your hometown, or the same cultrual background if that makes you feel safe and the collaboration too.

What if I don’t want to collaborate, but you know, I have to?

I believe you should not twist yourself for anyone or let anyone twist you. Secondly, in business model research, different business models are suitable for different market segments. I believe a similiar approach can be used for collaboration. If partner x is not suitable for project b, a different one can be found. At the same time, becoming aware about certain bias might help you to actively avoid collaboration, but at the same time it also gives you the chance to work on understanding them with the intent to encourage collaboration; Why do I hold certain bias? Where do they come form? What do I fear? as oppose to: I am aware of my bias or ignore it, let’s get it on with.

More to it? Let me know in the comments.

References

(1) Nevins, M. (2018). How to Collaborate with People You Don’t Like. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-to-collaborate-with-people-you-dont-like

(2) Thomas, L. (2018). “Gaslight and gaslighting”The Lancet. Psychiatry5 (2): 117–118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5PMID 29413137.

(3) Training Material from the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis (Modification of Object)

(4) Yu, L. (2022). Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Columbia University Press.

(5) Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introductionGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.

What are unconcious biases and why do they matter for sustainability?

A bias is something, that we believe to be true, but in reality it might not be. These biases can relate to our own perception – how we see ourselves and how we think to see ourselves. They can also relate to how we see the world around us in relation to ourselves and how we think to see it in relation to ourselves.

Does our own reflection hold true to what we believe is true? Who we think we are , whether what we enjoy, follow or do holds as good or bad? And if not, would we rather believe so?

Biases can be harmful, if they lead us to making false ideas or assumptions about ourselves and others, but also if they support prejudices or stereotypes. Think about not “looking young enough” to be a reporter, or too old to try out something that could bring joy to oneself. – You are likely not too old and your qualities as reporter shouldn’t be determined by your age.

Now, we could think about getting rid of biases, but that is more difficult to do, because many of them are hiding in our unconciousness. This means that we are not aware of them, until we are made aware. Freud, the psychoanalyst, believes that most of our unconciousness is repressed and only through disinhibation, one finds what holds most true to themselves or can live a life most concious.

Because most biases are manifested deep within ourselves and thus, our environment, we are more likely to accept our biases, or even support as oppose to change them. – Change and awarness can be scary!

Making us aware of biases is difficult, because it changes the way we view ourselves and others. It can also make life or actions difficult, if awarness in unconcious biases lead to an understanding, that a situation needs to change, while there may be limited resources to do so. Resources can relate to emotional capacity, a support network , but also financial, technical or knwoledge capacity on a firm level. On the other hand, being aware of biases can support better decision making and because of that can help in creating valid opportunities for ourselves, businesses or societies.

What are some example for unconcious biases?

One of the most known biases is the “confirmation-bias“. It relates to a belief that you hold close i.e. believing that the product you bought or produced is sustainable. To confirm that, you are looking for a support network that verifies that. You’d less likely look for critiques, because you want your product to enter the market and stay there. For sustainability innovations, this can be a challange, because the system, in which the innovation is embedded has huge influences on its success or failure. While shoes made from recycled ocean plastic sounds great, plastic continuesly needs to be produced. On another note, an entrepreneur may think that technology only, will save the climate, when literacy in terms of language and technical vocabulary are just as important to run such innovation. Think about how many people in this world still don’t have access to education.

Another bias could be a belief or practice that has been followed for centuries, but does not hold true anymore. An example is the idea of it being normal to work 8-10 hours a day and that part-time work is only for parents or people in need. In reality, part time work can be for everyone. It gives more energy, time to be human and research from Denmark shows that people working 6 hour shifts are just as efficient; They are more happy , more productive and possibly more innovative.

Another bias might be cultural. An example is the perception that one can only find fullfillment in life, if one has a family, including a child and a house. In reality, this does hold not true, families can be diverse and different people can seek different types of fullfillment that holds true to their own beliefs and values. Even single parents can be great foster parents, but the perception still persist that a child needs ” two parents”. A consequence is that many children , who could have a loving “one parent” remain in the foster system.

One may also support a knowledge- bias; believing to know everything or believing that knowledge is fixed and not able to change. Most likely it is not because science advances and different people have different forms of knowledge based on experiences, education and other valid factors. While in fact, carbon-neutrality is essential for this the human race to sustain, resolving war and other social conflicts, might as well be just as important.

Why do unconcious biases matter for sustainability?

Sustainability is more then CO2. It’s about a society that thrives, a society that promotes well-being and social justice, a society that can make concious choices and thus, lives to its fullest potential. This is only possible if biases are being made aware of. These biases can relate to businesses that aim at doing good, but may unconciously engage in social or greenwashing. They may also relate to consumers who cannot make accurate choices, because they believe in certain biases. Besides consumer and producer choices, biases can also support discrimination and other mental health discrepancies that can negatively effect the individual and society on short as well as long term.

Why should we be learning more about it?

With more attention and P&R being done around “Sustainability”, other just as important issues such as social injustice, prejudices or discrepancies between the rich and poor are regarded less. Removing more biases, or learning to explore them for ourselves and others, can help to create a society more critical, more prone to change, more likely to work together and more ready to thrive. [Of course it can also help to save governmental and business cost] πŸ˜‰

Resources

Learnings and inspiration from my own psychoanalysis that follows Freuds method of exploring the unconciousness (and biases).