One in seven Australians suffer with some form of depression in their lifetime. Based on a measure of its negative effects on communities and individuals, it is currently rated as the world’s third most debilitating and costly illness. The World Health Organization has predicted that by 2030 it will be number one. Studies have shown that depression is implicated in the development of other conditions such as chronic fatigue, weakening of the immune system, heart disease and suicide. It attacks all age groups and social classes, and its effects on family members, friends and work-mates can be enormously challenging.
What is it that makes this depressed experience so wide spread and debilitating?
These days, when I talk to clients, friends, and others I meet casually, as well as when I examine my own life, I sometimes sense that many of us strive with the same powerful forces that seem to stand in the way of our gaining satisfaction in the lives we live. It seems our primary responsibility is to fulfil expectations, ours and others, of what our lives should be, rather than to be with and bear compassionate witness to the lives we do live. I am not talking, here, of resignation, of a despondent giving up on ourselves because we have not turned out to be the person we dreamed of being earlier in our lives. What I mean is a more self-understanding, dare I say it, a more self-loving attitude towards ourselves. Children blossom when they feel understood and loved. So do adults. Might our lives be freer and less burdened without all those shoulds? But then the question arises; what would prevent us from becoming self-centered, amoral, if not immoral, individuals? And that’s the fear! Many of us learned long ago that the way to become a good person, the person we should be was not to listen and be guided by our own inner experience. We need shoulds, shouldn’ts, regulations, policies, laws, edicts, codes, commandments, correctional institutions, outcome statements and legal contracts to protect us from anarchy. We have learned not to trust ourselves.
Over a hundred and fifty years ago, a Danish gentleman by the name of Soren Kierkegaard suggested that an individual’s prime responsibility in life was to his or her inner source of selfhood and, in our relationships, to that same source in others. He argued that was the only way of gaining a satisfying, ethical and moral life. The widespread practice of not noticing, or dismissing if we do notice, our own and others’ deeply subtle experience of living inevitably leads to marginalizing aspects of our lives that belong together. That sense of something missing, an emptiness, an absence of meaning and motivation and of loneliness can be signs of a misplaced responsibility, of overly responding to popular received knowledge at the expense of our deeper experience. The latter needs attention and response.
As a counsellor, it is my job to support you in attending and responding to that quiet voice within yourself.