Working With Clinical Depression (part 2)

Questions to Answer:

What is your depression narrative? Do some writing about the story of your depression.
How do you judge yourself for being depressed? Do you blame yourself, or do you project blame onto others, or both?

How we internally react to our depression is also crucial. As a depression patient myself, I notice that I typically get reactive to my depressed moods. At the slightest hint of a depressed mood, I will typically tighten up and armor up. I think that depression means I am weak, that I cannot handle my life and my responsibilities – so I hate it. But my reactivity and hate (instead of helping) only fuels my depression, making it deeper and tougher to work with.

Because this is true, working with depression is typically counter-intuitive. In essence, fighting depression doesn't work. Depression will not be intimated or scared away. Getting mad at yourself and the world because you are depressed only deepens and strengthens the depression. This has the net effect of placing me at war with myself – and when that happens, I lose.

So what's a more useful reaction to depression? Let's start with an analogy: working with depression is like falling into quicksand – the more you struggle, the worse things get, and the faster you sink. On the other hand, if you can just slow down, become mindful and grounded, and place your arms and legs away from your body, then you begin to float, then you can very slowly begin to inch your way out of the quicksand.

Here is another analogy I use with my patients: working with depression is like being in a Chinese finger trap – the harder you pull, the more you panic, the worse you are trapped. Just as in the quicksand analogy, the solution lies in relaxation and acceptance of the present moment as it is. The solution lies in making friends with your depression; in making your depression an ally in your evolution. In the end, I had to make friends with my depression, I had to "invite the demon in for tea" (to borrow a Zen phrase), and only then, once I had the courage to stay and connect to my demon of depression (without adding or subtracting), only then do I have the chance to dissolve it or transform it into a more useful emotion.


After relaxing for a few minutes with your eyes closed, in your mind's eye, call forth your depression and instruct it to take a shape (e.g., an animal, a person, a thing, etc). What shape did it take?
If you could speak to this creature "Depression" – what would you say? If it could reply, what would depression say in return?
If you could touch your depression, what would it feel like?
If you could smell and taste your depression, what would it smell and taste like?
After doing steps 1-4, have you noticed any change in your depression? Has the depressed mood increased or decreased? Is it as solid and heavy as it was before, or have things shifted a bit somehow?

After making some room for depression, indeed after inviting it in for tea, the depression typically decreases in intensity, or is dissolved altogether. This occurs because the questions you asked of your depression – they are mindful and curious questions. They were not blaming, judging, or insisting – only curious and grounded. And in response, the depression must weaken, for you are no longer fueling it.

Can My Marriage Be Saved? (part 1)

Modern couples face a radically different world than their parents faced. Confronted with economic, family, social, and geo-political stressors that did not exist fifty years ago, modern couples must create meaning from an multi-layered, interdependent, complex, confusing, and always shifting reality.

At times one partner may react to these stressors with depression and anger. The other partner may react to these stressors with anxiety and compulsivity. This being the case, it is very difficult for modern couples to keep their psychological balance while simultaneously continuing to evolve, both as individuals and as a team.

As a marriage counselor in Denver, Dr. Wilson has noticed that couples tend to enter the process in one of three basic ways. First, some couples enter Denver couples counseling because they realize that their relationship is not as healthy as it could be. In essence, these couples are proactive in the face of their ongoing struggles and tensions. They want to continue growing together, and they begin couple counseling with this motivation.

Some couples begin Denver marriage counseling having already done some significant damage to each other, often over weeks or months. Such damage usually comes from one partner attempting to cope with feelings of dissatisfaction, helplessness, fear, or even boredom by taking drugs and alcohol, or engaging in sexual infidelity and/or economic betrayal (one partner is spending money in secret, etc). Of course, such coping mechanisms for dissatisfaction and fear have nothing to do with “feeling better,” but merely represent a deepening of basic conflict and pain. Couple counseling makes it clear that feeling better at your partner’s expense can not possibly lead to lasting satisfaction and happiness.

Finally, some couple's begin Denver couples counseling with significant and very serious quantities of damage intact from years or even decades of consistently harming each other. These couples are usually on the verge of separation or a termination of their relationship. Sometimes the damage can be transformed into a rebirth of the marriage. Sometimes the couple decides to end the marriage, in which case they have an opportunity to work towards a collaborative divorce. Many times, through such therapeutic collaboration, these couples can end their marriages with an increased sense of compassion, patience, and kindness (as opposed to cruelty, contempt, and bitterness) for each other. This not only spares friends, family, and children a tremendous amount of grief, it usually saves a great deal of money in the end as well.

No matter which couple you resemble, the process of Denver marriage counseling begins with the creation of psychological awareness. As a marriage counselor in Denver, Dr. Wilson is skilled at creating relation and awareness in his clients. Any good relationship counselor must also be able to inspire courage, for it is only with courage that genuine communication begins. An open recognition of all those things between a couple that they normally never talk about is a necessary starting place. Each member of the partnership must become willing to go to these "scary places," both with themselves and with their partner. Most couple's, even if they started out healthy and happy, somehow (with time and complacency) lose the ability to effectively maintain that co-created health and happiness. Cultivating a deep and abiding awareness about each other, and the relationship, as they actually are, is therefore the first step of couple counseling. This stage of relationship counseling builds the foundation for authentic caring and courageous intimacy.