Updated: May 24
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, being one of the leading cause of disability worldwide.
From an experiential point of view, it can be experienced as persistent state of hopelessness and agony after a failure, exhaustion of having to live up to extremely high standards and expectations, prolonged grief after the loss of a loved one. These experiences are usually coupled with a state of anxiety and agitation. The self is viewed as weak, defective and worthless; with ongoing internal dialogues and self-narratives heavily dominated by these themes.
According to emotion focussed therapy, depression is experienced as a result of loss of contact with emotions and underlying needs. Problems and barriers in adequate emotional processing leads to creating distance from one’s inner resources and attachment needs. This can take place through incomplete emotional experiencing, blocking emotional experiences and lingering on maladaptive emotional experiences.
People who are depressed are dominated by three kinds of self-organisations (narratives) which have their origins in interpersonal experiences of rejection, abandonment, humiliation or loss during formative years. One is perception of self as unlovable or worthless, secondly, considering oneself as incompetent or helpless and thirdly, being trapped in sadness and loneliness. Self-organisation based around self-defeating themes such as being defective or worthless are maintained by high levels of self-criticism or coercion, which activates the core feelings of shame in response to failures or rejections. Depression is also explained by the intense attachment based fear of abandonment centred around weak sense of self characterised by anxious insecurity and triggering maladaptive coping strategies such as submissiveness or avoidance. Sadness and inability to process it leads to being oblivious of the underlying need which often leads to self-isolation and loneliness.
All these maladaptive self-organisations shut down the ability to process current emotions and experiences which when becomes overwhelming leads to person shutting down. Lack of access to painful feelings leads to powerlessness and weakness since they don’t have access to adaptive needs.