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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I don’t want to bake more cookies- Rethinking life towards and after retirement

Some of my acquintances retire and I hear them talking about the things they will do or not after their jobs end, or already do or don’t. Some are happy and some seem dissatsified. “How is your retirement? ” I ask someone and he’d reply that well the notion is most elderlies go on hikes, I did too once, but now I want to go on about my day and life. I actually miss working because it gave me a sort of purpose. Not that I liked it, but hm oh well. I’ll find something to do.”

This and further conversations, made me think about what life I want to live, if when I set a seemingly “psychic end” to work life already, or center my thoughts on life after retirement, for which I don’t know how it will be like anyways, if the life I live is pursued because of generiousity to myself, or because of my imagined after-worklife retirement. If for the latter, does this result in me working too much, a job I possibly dislike or follow because of its financial incentives? I write so, because so often I hear” I can’t wait for retirement, finally to do the things I enjoy.” I feel it should be “I am looking forward to life itself “.

Retiremenet often seems to be perceived as the end of life phase. A start of a new life, which in retrospect is a continuity of life as whole. If someone has experiernced furstration before, they will continue to experience it after.

Yet in the retirement phase, I feel that increasing levels of loneliness or dissatisfactions suddenly originate too. In one way not doing anymore what one possibly did not like, let’s say the factory work and therefore prone to experience an increasing emptiness “How to fill such lack of work now with what type of meaning?” And in other ways not being able to continue to do what one has previously liked “industrial design,” for example because one is now the retired.

It made me think about notions to the end of life; whether a career or profession could be sustained that creates a particular meaning in the “retirmenet phase”, a form of continuity. And at the same time what form of activities could possibly be pursued so that one who experiences such a huge loss of work, even if it didn’t pleasure, can fill their time with a different form of meaning and pleasure that not necessarily relates to hiking and playing Bingo only.

Why does this worry me?

I began thinking about the retirment phases of my grandmother(s), and other elderlies in elderly homes or different forms of care; some that still lived through WW2 or the aftermaths. Some that simply lived. Some who complained at me that they didn’t want to be read out children stories or bake cookies all the time, but how much they still want to feel alive in other notions too; to design, to engineer, to teach. I guess they could, but yet they aren’t often offered the opportunity, even to fall in love again at 80 or to start a new business, if they wanted to.

Why can’t we be more engaging with the elderlies? someone could ask and the reply would be “dementia” or other symptoms of aging. But I’d say that between those moments of amnesia, there is some depth of joy that can be experienced, even if forgotten after. Though parts of it, the joy felt, the emotions, stored in the lower brain regions, they likely won’t be forgotten that easy.

Why does this matter, why does this relate to sustainability?

Just like babies, our brains still want to be stimulated. And possibly similiar to babies and brain growth; if such stimulation little exist, then brain is more likely to experience detoriation. And when we talk about detoriation of the brain, we can also talk about increases in somatic and other forms of illnesses. Furthermore, loneliness and lack of engagment turn into a major public health concern. In fact, it already is.

What can be done about it?

While these problems are known about, expenses for health care are quit high, leaving elderly care often at a minimum of care. To circumvent that the Netherlands has piloted a project in the city of Deventer in which students rooms are rented out for a discount in an elderly home in exchange for one hour volunteer work. Often students end up doing more hours for the community, then they actually have to. In another example, UK primary school merges generations by inviting elderly to work with them, a concept that originated in Japan.

And then of course there is you, us; how can we live as society, but also as individuals that the life lived is worth to be pursued as a whole and less as to be seperated stages?

Working With Instead of Against Emotional Dysregulation at the Workspace

The article with a focus on trauma and behavior, was written for and published by the online community “normalizing the conversation“, aiming to destigmatize and normalizing the conversation(s) around mental health. Thank you.

Healthy brain development serves as foundation for emotional regulation

Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist with a specialization in child complex trauma is known for his expertise in healthy and unhealthy brain development; The brains’ development starts bottom up with the brainstem being responsible for core regulational activities such as blood pressure, up to the cortex in which abstract forms or aspects of language are formed too. In between there is the Diencephalon responsible for functions such as arousal, appetite and other, followed by the limbic system for emotional regulation.

Ideally, all these brain regions develop healthy from the bottom to the top. That happens if one ,for instance, has been responded to when cried (crying is the expression of a need since babies cannot express their needs in language yet). Responses to cries can be hugging, feeding or humming the baby or child as it grows up, so that it or more specifically its emotions and feelings feel regulated and validated. Later on these healthy or regulated brain regions will then serve in better understanding and processing emotions so that these emotions are easier put into language so that one can express needs but also feelings well. In school or work this can look like more directly responding to questions, describing less, being more direct instead of descriptive.

What happens in unhealthy brain development and how does that show in adult behavior and how to better work with it?

However, if the baby has not been responded well to, or if the baby and child has been punished or ignored for crying or having in that sense a need, then the adult version of the child will likely have difficulties in regulating emotions, but later on also in expressing them. The consequence is that one who experiences emotional dysregulation, may also experience dysregulation in speech, not literally but the ability to express needs, including wishes and desires fundamentally to their livelihood and ability to thrive as a person, privately and at work. The inability or difficulty to express that can lead to greater levels of miscommunication and thereby create conflict at the workplace and in addition feelings that one is not listened to well or other forms of behaviors such as being avoidant, withdrawing, but also being very active or too affirmative, saying yes to most things to avoid being ignored or feeling useless.

This causes a lot of energy and this makes working for those who grew up in a less nurturing environment (not only as a baby but throughout childhood and teenie years) sometimes extremely difficult. It may not even show like that though, because being punished for acting out; this could be as normal as crying, being, angry or frustrated, – made it feel that the parts of oneself that feel or are not ideal to what a parent or other caretaker might have had expected, are unworthy of showing or being (basically feeling one can’t be sad or frustrated at work, home or anywhere). As a result, one could work in a permanent dissociated stage (detached from any feeling, working like a machine). One could also show up in the work personality, that lasts around a work day and present themselves as the best employee, while in a fact the mind beyond that look could feel much different; feeling that one is mistreated, feeling like one is not valued, feeling like one is unworthy, everyone else sucks, the jobs suck, everyone is evil, feeling like one just wants to run away, because one’s’ feelings don’t matter. Chaos breaks out, when finally out of the office, at home, anywhere.

Working like that is difficult and it becomes even more difficult if certain work policies or mental health programs are conflict avoidant too, so that someone having grown up in an avoidant or punishable home, has to keep up that mask or let’s say work identity. It can be like “ we are trying to avoid conflict here, by being more positive in team-work.” Urges big No Go and a sign for a lack of a supportive mental health environment, because it is indeed conflict or the ability to have different opinions, or to show different emotions so that working with a sort of “dysregulation” or an identity that works at home and at work, works.

In fact it is that a range of emotions have to be lived and expressed, so that one better expresses themselves and others can better respond too. By the way, there is no right or wrong to how one feels, but only in denying feelings and thereby oneself. Yet, while feelings are right, the result, or the action or conclusive thought that might follow might not be true and there a lot of frustration, anger or avoidance can pop up too. In practice it looks like that” I didn’t receive an email response within a day. I am sad. I conclude I am hated. I am the most hated and worst employee.” In fact it is not like that. One indeed can be sad, even very sad or any other sort of feeling, but one is not the thought. One is not the most hatred employee or a loser. In fact, another person might be out longer for the day, is sick, doesn’t feel like replying, is lazy, is too busy, is sad, is stressed, has to deal with other things. There can be so many reasons. And these are so important to think about so that whatever thought one has, no longer defines one or the feeling.”

To make life for any employee now more easy, it could be recommended to ditch some of the positive work culture and introduce concepts of clear communication without leaving room for interpretation. “Thank you for your email. I will reply by tomorrow.” Further “You did this great, and here this needs improvement, because of… Please get back to me by (date)/ I will get back to you by (date). You can contact me during the week here or there. Over the weekend I am not available.” The word because does magic, because it leaves nobody wondering.

Resources:

Perry & Operah (2022). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing.

Rosenfeld, H. (1983). Primitive object relations and mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis64, 261-267.

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