Growing up, my dad was severely depressed but we didn’t call it that. We called it: “Quiet, Dad has a headache.” We called it: “Dad isn’t coming today. He needs to lie down.” We called it: “Don’t tell Dad, he’ll just get upset.”
We sectioned off from him out of thoughtfulness for what we thought he needed from us. But the truth is, we were afraid of him. Afraid of his moods. Afraid to challenge his request to be left alone. Afraid of his depression.
How does isolating someone who already feels worthless and broken make things better?
Depression is repressed anger, not repressed sadness. The sadness or despondency is like a lid holding the anger down. To become fixated on the lid is to miss the container, and all it holds within, entirely. Depression is always about anger. Anger which has given up on any chance of expressing itself. Anger that has nowhere to go so lies down instead and ferments, sickeningly.
It’s very scary to challenge deeply thwarted anger. I think we know this intuitively even if it isn’t spelled out inside our relationships. More of us are willing to accommodate than challenge.
I caught myself kowtowing to a client’s depression just the other day. Saying the soft, deflective thing instead of the true thing that might push a button further. It took me straight back to my younger years, walking through the minefield of my dad’s crippling depression and my mom’s diehard denial that anything was wrong. I noticed what was happening and was able to breathe and pivot out of the old habitual reaction of despair into a more skillful, informed one. I couldn't do that once upon a time.
A therapist I know used to say: When the situation is awful, the first response is always despair. I had never thought of it this way before. Despair can feel like the only response. Calling it the first one means there could be a second, next response. This feels way more empowering.
We're allowed to get triggered. We're allowed to lose our footing. What happens next? That's what really counts. Not the punches we never saw coming. The ones that sock the wind out of us. It's what we do after, when we've had a moment to collect ourselves and witness our own reactions, that matters most.
This is the beauty of healing and the power of being present with ourselves while being simultaneously attuned to what is happening within the other person. We can begin to outsmart our Wounds. We can begin to choose differently in any given moment. And choose from an awake place, not an unconscious one.
Anger is no match for love. Just like the tulips in my neighbor’s front yard are no match for the rain. They bow down, in their bright reds and yellows, like monks in colorful robes, leaning into prayer.
If you bring love to any equation, it will solve. It will quench. It will transform. We don’t have to challenge anger or depression with a fireplace poker. We can just bring love. It knows how to put the fire out. It knows all.
Till next time, beauties : )
Rooting for you always! Mary