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In the framework of Nonviolent Communication depression is an alarm that lets you know you are disconnected from your own feelings and needs.

One major trigger for depression is a series of jackal thoughts you have about yourself.

If you have ever tried sitting still and clearing your mind, you likely noticed thoughts coming and going at great speeds and quantities.

It's not surprising that you are often unaware of a good deal of your own thinking.

Depression lets you know that jackal thinking has been happening outside of your conscious awareness.  Jackal thoughts that stimulate depression typically come in one of these forms:

"I shouldn't feel sad, scared, angry, disappointed, depressed, shocked, tired, stressed, upset, happy, bored, lonely . . .etc."

"It's not okay for me to need affection, understanding, friendship, trust, comfort, safety, rest, family, community, intimacy, love, . . . etc."

"I should be more independent, less reactive, more patient, more aware, more focused, more energetic, more healthy, . . . etc."

"What's wrong with me? I should be over this by now. This should not be an issue. I should know better."

"I have got to stay in control of my emotions. If I let myself feel what's coming up I won't be able to handle it. "

"Emotions are dangerous and unpredictable and will take over if I don't keep them in check."

"I don't deserve to take up space with my own needs and feelings. I deserve to be punished."

"I am being selfish."

These all send one basic message: DON'T EXIST. Suppress who you are. Suppress your feelings and needs.

The tricky thing about thoughts is that they can run from habit energy created a long time ago. As a child, you might have been in a situation where you were given the message that your feelings and needs weren't important or had the experience that expressing and having them was wrong.  You may have internalized this experience such that it became a habitual way of thinking about and perceiving yourself.  How do you undo these habits?

When you notice depression coming up, stop and review what your thoughts have been. Look for all the situations where you could have possibly given yourself the message not to feel, or not to be the way you are.

I find it easiest to first ask myself what has happened. I work my way from the most recent events backwards.  If I feel any bit of emotion recalling an event, I start writing the thoughts I had. If you haven't done this before you may draw a blank when trying to remember your thoughts. Keep asking the question: "What were my thoughts?  What was I telling myself?" Wait, and they will appear.

When you have found the disconnecting thoughts, write them down.  They have much less power over you when they are outside your head.  Then begin working through the four steps:

Observation: What actually happened?

Feelings: It's okay for me to feel what I feel! What feelings did I have when it happened? You might notice here that your feelings are stimulated by your interpretation of the event rather than the event itself. You might also ask the question, "What do I feel when I don't believe my interpretation of what happened?"

Needs: It's okay for me to have needs! What needs were alive for me in the moment? What needs are alive for me now?

Request: What actions do I want to take to meet my needs? Is my request specific enough that anyone hearing it would know exactly what to do?

You have a choice about your thinking. You can choose not to believe your thoughts. You can choose to change your thoughts. You can create an internal reality that connects you to life.  For more on this check out Richard O'Connor's book Undoing Depression.

Feel your feelings. Honor your needs. Know your thoughts. Choose to shine a light inward and care for your inner world with compassion.

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Depression and Abandoning Yourself
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Identify Your Needs On The Fly

6 Responses

  1. Dec 04, 2011

    Hi LaShelle, good points about the negative self-talk, and underlying belief systems, that can create depression. Agreed. The other important factor that we are seeing is that depression is anger turned inward (or anger without enthusiasm - lol!). If we stay angry long enough, and we have the belief system (like you said) that "I shouldn't feel angry", our body eventually gets overloaded and shuts down... depression.

    The key seems to be to "deal with" our anger! Trace it back, discover it's root, accept it, listen to it, understand it... and then express it (in safe, healthy ways, please), release it, and let it go. We have seen some amazing turn-arounds in clinical depression, numbness, shut-down, even suicidal tendencies mostly by focusing on Anger.

    Some say anger/venting/rage reduction is a BAD thing, and only causes more anger... that has NOT been my experience... you? (thanks for the cool site!)
    - Matt

  2. Dec 04, 2011

    I am finding your connection gems tangible and useful. With so much to learn, I intend to go back into your archives and read your old gems as well. (You may start seeing comments from 2009) Specifically, in today's gem, the idea that depression, with all the thoughts leading to it, says, "DONT EXIST". What I think might work for me, when I am recognizing depression growing in me, is to start with the question, "What part of my own particular existence scares me right now?" As a former anorexic, this resonates deeply, and offers me further understanding of my history and present challenges. Thank you.

  3. Dec 04, 2011
    Micheline Ronningen

    Very well stated. Seeing "don't exist" was startling. Thank you. Recognizing that depression is a secondary state allows one to say "it's okay to feel depressed!" while continuing the investigation. Very cool.

  4. Dec 04, 2011

    Yea, thanks for these comments. That's helpful to hear about anger and your experience with it. I will give some consideration to what you said about anger. It resonates.

  5. Dec 05, 2011
    Julie Lawrence

    This is just what I needed today. I've been in the pits of depression for some weeks now, and the bright light of NVC, my passion of the last 6 months, didn't seem to be helping at all - I could see that it was about believing incorrect thoughts, but couldn't find a way around that using the "feelings and needs" stuff. Just yesterday I listened to a Byron Katie audio, and that helped me to remember that my thoughts are just stories, nothing more than that. Thanks so much for this article - it has given me a solid process to help track down those thoughts/beliefs - thank you!

  6. Dec 06, 2011

    Very glad to hear it Julie

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