JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - February 2019
Breaking the Patterns of Depression
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
Perhaps you’ve dreamed of a life without problems, carefree and happy, nothing but ‘blue skies.’ However, life brings with it all the opposites; suffering and joy, clarity and chaos, anger and peace. In today’s society, where expectations for happiness are high and patience is limited, depression has a wonderful breeding ground.
Current research tells us that seventy percent of Major Depressive Disorder can be attributed to the environment and about thirty percent can be linked to genetic heritage. This can vary dramatically from individual to individual. The good news is that many of the people suffering from different forms of depression can be greatly helped by changing their habits of thinking and acting.
One pattern is the ‘Chicken Little’ approach to living. Walking through the forest an acorn falls on his head. He is alarmed and begins shouting, “The sky is falling. The sky is falling.” Before long, all the creatures of the forest are upset. Then it is discovered that it was only the acorn of an industrious squirrel dropped accidentally from the tree.
Think about your responses to everyday events. Were there any times when something small happened and you immediately jumped to a conclusion that evoked fear and apprehension. For example you call a friend several times and leave a message. When the call is not immediately returned, you begin imagining catastrophic scenarios. Are they sick, angry with you, skipped town, or don’t’ like you?
Living in the here-and-now is a powerful antidote for catastrophizing and futurizing. If Chicken Little had stayed focused in the moment, he would have looked at what fell on his head and said, “Oh, an acorn must have fallen from the tree.” Instead he went from one small event to a horrible, future catastrophe. When we do this we often make precipitous decisions or judgments.
One way to identify thought patterns that might be destructive and causing depression is to keep a log of events. Write down ‘happenings’ and your response or reaction to them. Try to refrain from judging yourself as you are writing. Read them in a week and look at any patterns. This technique assists you in taking those fleeting, recurrent thoughts that float through your head, and discovering the thinking patterns in your daily life.
Another pattern of processing that can send a person spiraling into depressive anxiety is the ‘kitchen sink’ approach. We unconsciously include many previous, sometimes unrelated, experiences into the present situation and generalize saying, “My whole life is a mess.” Or “I can’t do anything right.” If a person treats us coolly we think, “Nobody likes me. I have no friends.”
The antidote to this kind of thinking is to look at events, both internal and external, as separate and individual experiences. Sometimes a present experience is linked to one or more negative or traumatic events in the past. When this happens, the person is likely to get into that ‘kitchen sink’ thinking. At this point it is helpful to identify the past experience which have contributed to this attitude and, and separate it from the present experience.
Studies have shown that these and other patterns of thinking predict who will more likely suffer from depression and who will not. Michael Yapko, Ph.D., in Breaking the Patterns of Depression, talks in depth about the patterns and ways to begin changing them. Here are some steps to assist you in this process:
-Keep a log of daily events and your response to them to identify specific issues
-Take an inventory to identify the possible causes of your depression-
-Choose one thought pattern to begin changing
-Write an alternative, positive response or behavior (thought or action) that could replace the distorted thinking and behavior
-Practice, practice, practice!
Find a support group that deals with depression, work with a qualified mental health professional who is knowledgeable about this approach, and research other complementary approaches that will interrupt and heal the depressive cycle: exercise, nutrition, supplements, acupuncture. Make a plan and stay with it.
The fast-paced, high expectation, work driven materialistic society puts us at risk for depression. We begin to believe the hype that we don’t have time, we don’t have enough things and we don’t get enough love or success. The challenge is to develop your own set of values, attitudes and beliefs that are reflected in your thoughts, your speech and your actions. This is the path to a life without the blues, feeling happier, more content and ready to face each new day.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to