“You largely constructed your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it.”
Albert Ellis, Renowned Psychiatrist
I need to divorce her or I’ll go crazy!
Bill had called two days before to make an appointment and arrived early for it. He seemed both anxious about being there and depressed about whatever brought him. He sat in my office looking downtrodden and beaten like he had just done twelve rounds and lost the fight…badly.
When I asked him what had brought him to see me he responded, “My wife…I need to divorce her or I’ll go crazy!”
“You look discouraged and depressed about it.” I said. Then added, “How much is it bothering you right now?”
“A lot…I have no energy, I feel sad all the time, people are asking me if I am OK, it is just terrible!” Bill replied.
“On a ten point scale, with a ten being the worst, how depressed are you about your situation with your wife?”
“Depression is the inability to construct a future.” – Rollo May, Renowned Psychologist
I’m at a twelve at least!
“I’m at a twelve at least!” He replied without any hint of humor in his demeanor.
“Well, Bill if you are that down about your marriage then you must have one thing which is enabling you to create your depressive feelings.” I said carefully, …really not sure yet if he was ready yet for the truth of his situation.
“What would that be?” Bill asked sarcastically.
“I would bet you are feeling very resentful toward your wife right now…is that accurate?” I asked.
“Damn right I am!” he responded angrily, showing the first energy I had seen so far.
“Depression is rage spread thin.” – George Santayana, Philosopher, Writer
“Bill resentment only comes from one source…infatuations!” I said slowly.
“Infatuations…I don’t infatuate her Ken…I am really mad at her and it is driving me crazy…I can’t sleep…I can’t work…my life is falling apart!”
“I don’t think you infatuate your spouse…I think you have been infatuating either your marriage and or someone outside your marriage!” I said.
Bill looked up quickly with a startled expression emanating from the three day beard on his face. Then he looked away quickly.
One sided experiences cannot happen…
I continued, “Bill to create depressive feelings we have to have long standing beliefs in pleasure without pain, support without challenge, up without down and elation without depression. Such one sided experiences cannot happen in our world and certainly not inside a relationship as intimate as a marriage.”
“Are you saying I have unrealistic expectations about my marriage?” Bill asked me with a sudden sense of curiosity about his situation.
“Bill, have you been expecting your wife to be more optimistic than pessimistic; more up than down; more supportive than challenging?” I asked him.
“Well, yes…I guess I have! I watched my Mom support my Dad all my life while he worked hard to building his business and support us. And I expect my wife, her name is Madeline by the way, to do the same thing…it’s her job…isn’t it?”
“No Bill…it is not her job…if she really loves you!
“No Bill…it is not her job…if she really loves you! Bill, real, successful, lasting love must be 50% support and 50% challenge. This optimizes our learning as individuals and the survival of our relationships…it is a basic law of nature.”
“It sounds like you have been infatuating your parents’ marriage and expecting this fantasy in your own marriage. But let’s check it out to be sure! I want to ask you a couple of questions about your childhood. OK?”
“That terrible mood of depression, of whether it’s any good or not, is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.” Ernest Hemingway, Renowned Author
“Sure…go ahead!” Bill replied.
“Growing up do you remember your parents having disagreements or arguing at times?”
“Well…at times I suppose there were…but it wasn’t constant…He said reluctantly. Then he added, Ken it is like I can’t do anything right!”
“Since you mentioned your Dad built a business…Bill were there ever times when things were tough and uncertain?”
At one point Dad almost went bankrupt.
“For sure…at one point Dad almost went bankrupt. Another time he had to lay off some of his staff during a down turn in the economy…yes there were lots of challenges…but Ken my Mom stuck by him.” He said with pride.
“So Bill, when you say she stuck by him…does that mean she only supported him with everything he wanted to do during those tough times?” He paused looking into the middle distance. Then he looked up and said,
“You know as you say that I am reminded of some of the heated exchanges,usually in the kitchen, they had back then.”
“So can you see your Mom, not just supported him, but equally challenged him…and how that made their relationship grow and last?”
“Concern should drive us into action, not into a depression.” – Karen Horney, Renowned Psychiatrist
I never put it together like that before…
“I never put it together like that before…are you saying Madeline’s job is to challenge me as much as she supports me…otherwise we don’t grow as individuals and as a couple?”
“That is exactly what I am saying Bill!”
“Then that is what has been bugging me about my other relationship…my other woman!”
He went on to explain how he had started an affair with a former customer. He said she was a lovely person and the sex was great but there was no “depth” to their relationship.
“Ken, she is so supportive, so kind, so positive I can almost ‘walk on water’…it is driving me to distraction…because some part of me knows it can’t last…it is like a honeymoon…I know it won’t last.”
“Enthusiasm is followed by disappointment and even depression, and then by renewed enthusiasm.”
– Murray Gell-Mann, Renowned Physicist
We all know that 50/50 law of nature but we resist it.
“Bill, that is your intuitive sense of the balance to all the things in life…we all know that 50/50 law of nature but we resist it.”
So Bill went on to rethink his marriage, his two relationships and his life. As he did his depression dissipated quickly. He resolved his illusionary delusion of getting more pleasure than pain from his marriage and from his life. As he applied this principle to other parts of his life he described to me in later consultations how it served not just his self worth and self confidence but other situations even some of those in his business.
“Depression opens the door to beauty of some kind.” – James Hillman, Renowned Psychologist
Next time we will continue our exploration of the many forms of depression. In the meantime, notice when you depress…appreciate it…then go find the’and delete ‘its gems of genius for your future.
POINTS TO PONDER AND REMEMBER are:
- Depressing is a common human feeling experienced by everyone.
- Depressing helps us learn important things for our future.
- Depression is generated by taking a one sided perception of a situation of your life.
- Depression is created by seeking pleasure without expecting equal amounts of pain in your life at every moment.
- Depression in relationships is created unconsciously by expecting your partner to be one sided…supportive but not challenging.
- Depression can be resolved more quickly by learning every successful relationship has had equal amounts of support and challenge.
- Depression is an important human learning tool.