Depression as Anger Turned Inward
Most people think Depression is about feeling sad. And in some ways, that might be correct. Often people who struggle with Depression report feeling sad, but frequently not about anything specific, nothing they are aware of. This not knowing can leave people feeling confused, helpless, and can make the Depression even worse.
But What If Depression Isn't Just About Feeling Sad?
One theory is that Depression might be more about feeling angry than sad. What if Depression is anger, turned in toward one's self? When I propose such an idea in session, my clients are often taken aback. They pause. They might ask questions. But almost always, it resonates. Deeply.
Why would I turn Anger toward Myself?
First of all, people don't typically turn anger towards themselves on purpose, although it is always a strategy that our minds and bodies use to survive. It could be that anger feels threatening, or is perceived to be threatening to the deepest parts of our brain. When anger is scary, our minds and bodies have to figure out a way to protect ourselves, or protect the people we love from ourselves and our anger, and so some of us, we may deny it, push it down, stuff it, etc.. But those unexpressed feelings build up within us, unable to release, and can leave us in a state of Depression.
It might also be that deep down, we are angry with ourselves. A student of mine recently confided that after losing sister as an 8 year old child, they believed it was their fault, because they loved their older sister more than their mother, who had separated from the family, and thought she was being punished for the betrayal. (Details changed for anonymity). Of course such a belief isn't realistic, but it makes sense and feels real for an 8 year old. And those kinds of beliefs can live inside of ourselves, causing us to feel angry with ourselves, blaming ourselves, and not knowing what to do with the anger, it can turn into a depression.
What's the Solution?
If you think your Depression could be anger turned inward, it can be helpful just to understand where the Depression is coming from, what it's about. When something is unpredictable and doesn't make sense, it can be really scary. But when we understand it, can make sense of it, we feel more powerful, more secure.
Healing is also about listening to your anger. What is the anger about? Who is it about? When was it born? How did it grow? Getting to know your anger can help it feel smaller. Understanding what anger does to your body can help you cope as well. If anger makes your body want to move, for example, the opposite of shutting it down (which can lead to Depression) would be to release the energy.
A third piece of healing is learning to accept your anger. Anger is okay. It's a normal part of being human. Everyone feels angry from time to time. It's what you do with it that matters. How will you take good care of your anger?
Finally, healing from anger-turned-inward is about relationships. Recovery requires building a healthy, caring relationship with yourself and learning to trust and share your thoughts and feelings with a trustworthy other. (A therapist would be a great choice!)
At Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, I can help you to better understand your own experience of Depression, to listen to it, better understand it, so that you can feel more powerful in your journey through it. If anger could lie underneath, I can help you to get to know your anger, so that you no longer have to be afraid of it, your survival system no longer has to register anger as a security threat, so that you can heal and re-connect with yourself.
Call today to schedule an appointment! 856-281-1664