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/

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What’s therapy like?

It’s mental health awareness week, 2022 and indeed, I am visiting a therapist too. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a good thing? Yes. Unfortauntely therapy is often stigamtized although in the USA it was for some time quit common to have a therapist. Therapy can be for everyone, of any age and often its not just about being “mindfull”, sometimes its a change in perception or putting emotions into language. Much I didn’t know about, so that I put together this small blog on a few of my learnings, to kind of change that narrative on mental health and illustrate that different forms of looking at mental health and perception can contribute to well-being as individual and within the broader cultural context. After all, its for all.

Look at the bright side!

Its’ been one of the comments I heard most in my life and also said it most to myself. Something didn’t go well, but I had to or made myself look at the bright side. “A relationship ended sadly, but on the bright side it ended. A family member died, but on the bright side, I was on holidays. I got rejected for a job, on the bright my CV looked great. I was sad about moving to another city, but on the bright sight new people could be met. I lent someone money who did not pay it back, but on the bright side I still had money. I was scared about teaching, on the bright side I looked beautiful. The project proposal did not get accepted, on the bright side new calls would come. I felt lonely, on the bright side I have a cat.”

Though, my therapist taught me, these statments have nothing to do with the experience felt. They devalue and they distract from what has caused the feeling to begin with; Why did the project proposal fail? Why was I scared of teaching? Why couldn’t I be sad on holidays? Why did I lend money to this person? Why didn’t I get the job? Not feeling “the side not bright” instead pushed feeling inwards, made expressing them difficult, has led to isolating more inwards. It devalued, took away the meaning of what was felt, created uncertainty and supported acceptance over the non bright side. Leading to no changes that could serve a truly brighter side. Its’ called toxic positivity.

Your feelings are wrong!

I remember one of the first conversations with therapist and I said “Sorry for crying I know it’s stupid to be sad about this.” From then on many conversations were about “Why would you feel stupid for feeling a certain way? It’s how you feel and there is nothing wrong about feeling. It’s like saying it’s stupid that you feel sad for having lost a leg [if you did]. It’s not stupid. It’s valid in your own experience”. From then on, more conversations centered around the validty of my feelings, the fact that each of us has an own “subjective narrative” to which we react in certain ways that holds true to how we feel and perceive. Indeed telling others that their feelings are wrong, is by fact wrong. Its okay to be annoyed, its okay to be angry, its okay to be happy, its okay to be.

A narrative on celebations on mothers day being for happy mothers only is one-sided. When we have a society that celebrates or rewards only certain type of behaviour or feelings and disregards different perceptions and experiences, society is limited in its being. That is reducing the feelings of people to an inadequacy that more likely pushes them into shame instead of finding a supportive networking or feedback that more likely reinforces or is accepting their feelings. Telling them, that their feelings are”right as oppose to wrong”.

This won’t work!

There are probably many times in which we got rejected, as child, as lover, as employe, so often that trying feels scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Trying to avoid rejection, is a bad thing. Telling someone that a change in direction won’t work because the risks are uncertain may not pay out in the long term. Sometimes we do have to risk. Telling someone they can’t love someone because the circumstances are off, minimizes their feelings but may also leads them to self-reject, before they may even try within the circumstances that are off. Recommending someone to avoid talking about a certain topic, because it won’t be liked, likely leads to that things will always stay the same.

It is not rejection itself that people fear, it is the possible consequences of rejection.Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself (Robert Foster Bennet)

It’s not important!

My shoe is dirty, but it’s not important. I have relationship problem at home, but it’s not important. I feel lonely, but it’s not important. I am stressed because I have to pick up my child earlier, but it’s not important. I want to take a shower, but it’s not important. I want to become a writer, but it’s not important. I want to try out a new music instrument, but it’s not important. I want to study something else, but it’s not important. I want to set up a business, but it’s not important. I want to change my curricular, but it’s not imporant. (…)

“Why isn’t it important?” my therapist asked and I said , some things I think, in the large scale don’t matter. I can’t change them, I have no experience” “It matters because it matters to you.”

Whatever small it is , it matters. If nothing really matters or if importance is reduced to the smallest feeling, then everything that is perceived as seemingly not important, will always stay that way, when its the small things, the small irritants that need more listening to. Small things, that make living so worthile, a clean shoe, a random post, a great conversation, an egaged student, a happy pet, a great meal, shiny hair, a great book, time to breath, time to do nothing, a boring holiday, a cool class, an experiment that fails.

This has to be perfect!

There is no perfection. Even in nature, leafs don’t look perfect symmetrical. There is always some sort of lack of perfection. But we tend to want make things perfect, write perfect, say everything perfect, think it all through, wait so much, copy other people who we think that make something perfect, lose some sort of sense of self or how ones own uniquness can be perfect to another, thinking one needs to be like another, than realizes one is not, had their own perfection already been perfect to themselves. Misses hours and days of simply “doing” or “doing” by perfectionizing, when things aren’t always perfect. They may appeal, more or less, but there is no guideline on perfection, and where there is, they miss out the uniqueness that imperfection offers; a typo in a CV or text of a brilliant person, an academic article trying to be published by a non-native struggling English speaker, an idea terrible explained, but fantastic in its implementation, a haircut not appealing to the mass, but so appealing to one it truly does appeal to, love true and messy in the eyes of others, but so rich and fullfilling in the eyes of oneself with the other, a uniqe business to be shared, but isn’ because its not like other [go for it !]

Narratives on mental health?

Hiding, not feeling, pretending not to, ignoring, avoiding, not living, not being, determine how things should and should not be, all that effects our mental health. It is the range of feelings, the range of narratives, the range of experiences that makes being human more human, within the experience that one shapes with oneself and the expereince one shapes with another. There is no right or wrong to being, there is more likely wrong to “denying being” and that is where much of the mental health headeachs reside ; thinking one isn’t good enough the way they are, devaluing feelings, the experiences one makes, not wanting to change, because one things they can’t, wanting others to be the same, denying individuality, denying love, denying being.

(…)

Resources

[Experiences from my therapy and readings following Freud, Lacan, Instagram posts from therapists]

Mari Ruti (2013): The Call of Character: Living worth being. Book