If you feel inexplicable anger, fear or guilt on a regular ongoing basis, as Beth’s story illustrates depression may be to blame.
What is wrong with me? Beth wondered. The worry, never far from the surface of her thoughts, intruded again. But still, Beth had no answer. She felt run-down, listless, and unable to generate energy or enthusiasm about anything. She made sure her kids were taken care of and pantomimed her way through a declining number of social functions, but she couldn’t remember the last time she could honestly say she felt good.
Her husband had even commented on her early nights to bed — without him — and her inexplicable lethargy. She wasn’t eating, and her clothes had begun to droop on her diminished frame. Even wearing bright colors seemed like a lie. Her smile was a pale echo of its former self, detached from any presumed goodwill.
And it wasn’t just her inability to feel joy that frightened Beth. As she went through the motions 0f cleaning up her youngest son’s scraped knee, she realized she couldn’t even feel bad for him. Empathy had left too. Picking him up, kissing his cheek, cleaning his wound and bandaging it, all had been accomplished without the expected emotional attachment. She could display a form of concern, but it was without substance. What is wrong with me? she continued to ask herself. Where did my passion for life go?
Just Who Do You Think You Are?
The answers to the question, “Why do I feel this way?” come from a variety of sources. Many important answers come from the first aspect of the whole-person view we refer to as the emotional self.
One of the key areas we consider when assisting clients in recovery from depression during therapy is how the person feels about himself or herself. In essence, we say to our clients, “Tell me who you are and why.” If clients are not optimistic and hopeful about their own future, depression can establish a stranglehold. Once established, depression produces the negative self-talk that reinforces feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, and helplessness. The person’s optimism is drowned in a flood of negative effects from excessive anger, fear, and guilt. Over and over again we have seen the damage done by these three emotions spilling over their appropriate boundaries and inundating a person’s sense of self-worth. In almost every case, this trio of emotions holds the key to depression.
This is not to say that anger, fear, and guilt are completely negative. If someone treats us poorly, it is natural for us to feel anger over the injustice. If we are threatened in some way, it is appropriate to be fearful. If we have done something clearly wrong, it is helathy for us to feel guilt. This kind of anger helps energize us to protect and defend ourselves. This kind of fear motivates us to quickly seek a solution to our danger. This kind of guilt produces the remorse that causes us to change our behavior.
In proper proportion, the emotions of anger, fear, and guilt are healthy, appropriate emotions. But, as with many things, too much of them can wreak havoc. Left unresolved, these three emotions can eat away at your sense of optimism, hope, and joy.
Learn more about depression here, including 30 conditions that may signify depression.
SOURCE: Chapter 1: “Emotional Currents,” Moving Beyond Depression by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD., founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources Inc.