050: Live Therapy with Marilyn, Part 2, Is Depression a “Mental Disorder?”

050: Live Therapy with Marilyn, Part 2, Is Depression a “Mental Disorder?”

The Hidden Side of Depression, Anxiety, Defectiveness, Hopelessness and Rage

We nearly always think about negative feelings, such as  severe depression or anxiety, as problems that an expert must try to fix, using drugs and / or psychotherapy. And there are a multitude of theories about why humans become depressed, including, but not limited to:

  • Reality. We think we get depressed because reality sucks. We believe our mood slumps result from the negative circumstances in our lives, such as being alone following a rejection, experiencing the loss of a loved one, not having enough money, education or resources, social prejudice, or (as in Marilyn’s case) facing some catastrophic circumstance, such as severe illness.
  • Upbringing. We think we get depressed because of insufficient love and nurturing in childhood, or because of traumatic childhood experiences.
  • Biological factors. We believe that feelings of depression and anxiety result from problems with our genes, or diets, or because of a chemical imbalance in our brains.

Certainly, there can be some truth in all of these theories. Reality does kick us all in the stomach from time to time, and the pain we feel is understandable. My wife and I lost her father to Parkinson’s Disease a few years ago. We loved him tremendously, and his loss was extremely painful for everyone in our family.

Most of us have experienced less than ideal circumstances when growing up as well, and many have been victimized by horrific experiences, such as child abuse or bullying. And clearly, some psychiatric illnesses, such as schizophrenia, do result from some kind of biological abnormality in the brain.

But the problem with all of these theories is that they put us at the mercy of forces that are largely beyond our control—since we often cannot do much to change reality, rewrite our childhoods, or modify our brains short of taking this or that medication. And, in addition, these theories all suggest that negative feelings like depression and anxiety show that there is something wrong with us.

In this podcast, Matt and David take a radically different approach, and argue that Marilyn’s intense feelings of depression and anxiety are not “mental disorders” that reflect some defect in Marilyn, but rather the expression of what is most beautiful and awesome about her. They also argue that there are large numbers of advantages, or benefits, of feeling the way she does. They use several Paradoxical Agenda Setting Techniques, including the Invitation, the Miracle Cure Question, the Magic Dial, Positive Reframing, and the Magic Dial. The results are stunning and unexpected.

At the end of this segment, David and Matt argue that it might be desirable for Marilyn to continue to feel some of her negative feelings, and ask her how depressed she would like to feel at the end of the session, using the “% Goal” column on her Daily Mood Log. She also indicates how anxious, ashamed, defective, alone, hopeless, frustrated, and angry she would like to feel.

The third and final podcast next week will include the M = Methods phase of the session along with the end-of-session T = Testing and wrap-up, including Relapse Prevention Training.

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