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Depression In The Culture

CHRONIC MILD DEPRESSION

Professionals refer to ongoing, mild depression as "dysthymic disorder."

People who do not know the jargon tend to say much clearer things like:
"I just feel blah all the time."
"I'm sick and tired of how my life is going."
"I'm tired and everyone says I'm grouchy."
"I don't have much motivation lately."
"I'm not even interested in pleasure anymore."

WAY BACK WHEN

Before the late 1960's and early 70's,
people who were mildly depressed were almost ignored.
Sufferers were essentially told to stop complaining and live with it
because we didn't know what to do about it.

But in the 70's we began to see that
the more people expressed their anger the less depressed they were!

This led to many treatment strategies which emphasized that
anger is good and natural
and that expressing it is vital to our emotional health.

But some people stayed depressed,
no matter how much anger they expressed.
Why?

OVERLAPPING ANGER AND EARLY CONDITIONING

The cause for chronic, mild depression is 'overlapping anger.'

People stay depressed because they face so many anger inducing situations in daily life
that they can't get over the last thing that made them angry
before the next thing comes along!

SOME EXAMPLES FROM HISTORY

We can easily see how these people would have been chronically depressed:

        • Those who worked in sweatshops early in the century.

        • The starving poor during the depression.

        • African-Americans in many situations throughout the century.

        • "War widows" in the 40's.

        • "Housebound housewives" in the 50's.

        • Frightened citizens of all ages during the 60's and 70's.

BUT WHY SO MUCH CHRONIC DEPRESSION NOW?

We don't work in sweatshops.
We aren't living during economic depression.
Unless we live in a terribly violent neighborhood,
we don't have to fear losing loved ones through war.
Even bigotry - against women, blacks, and in all it's forms,
is much less severe than in the past.

When we look back on current years,
how will we explain all this chronic depression?

I think we will understand that we got depressed
because we were like kids in a candy store!

We were usually able to find work
but we worried about increasing our income
and we worked way too hard!

We were able to afford luxuries,
but we couldn't decide how much was enough!

We got depressed because we overvalued work and play, and undervalued rest.

SOME EXAMPLES FROM NOW

Some things I've actually heard from the chronically depressed people I've met:

        • "Sometimes I only work a little over 50 hours most weeks."

        • "I can't be happy until I've socked away my first million."

        • "My wife and I only have the two cars, but at least they are recent models."

        • "My career is all I've got!"

Most frequently heard, and the most telling of all:
"We don't have time for each other anymore.
We're even too tired to make love."



CULTURAL CONDITIONING: THEN AND NOW

The people who had plenty of good reasons to be depressed in past years
were our parents and grandparents!

For them, depression was normal!
(A natural response to a life of overlapping anger.)

We learned much from them about keeping our anger inside,
acting "nice,"
ignoring our needs and wants,
and expecting and accepting a life of chronic depression.

And those people today who are chronically depressed
are our coworkers, bosses, and friends.
They, too, keep showing us by their example
that we must keep our anger inside and "act nice."
By their example, they make depression
seem necessary and normal
at a time when it is not.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
    • Make your decisions about what you want based on how you feel, not on what the culture says.

    • Reject the direct or implied advice from depressed people in your past and in your present.

    • Know that you need your time and your energy much more than you need more money for new toys.

    • Rest when you need to rest (about one-third of your awake hours).

    • Learn to feel satisfied when you have enough work, play, or rest.

    • Know that "more" is not always better. Balance is better!

THE BOTTOM LINE

You don't have to escape sweatshops, wars, poverty, or even extreme levels of bigotry anymore.
You need to escape past and present conditioning
and think for yourself.

Your enemy is not the sweatshop owner, the economy, or another country's troops.
Maybe your enemy is the culture of "More! More! More!"


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Write To Me, I Want To Hear From You!
Tony Schirtzinger, Therapist (Milwaukee) 

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