I think that most cases of depression are the result of a mechanism that I will try to describe. This mechanism is a result of a chronic tension which in turn is a result of trauma (think stress) that have not been processed by the body.
What I mean by processed?
First we need to look at the autonomic nervous system which is comprised of two divisions:
- Parasympathetic - which is responsible for stimulation of "rest-and-digest" processes (think relaxation, digestion, pleasure, all is well)
- Sympathetic- it’s primary process is to stimulate the body's “fight or flight” response (think danger, you being attacked, stress, anxiety, fear)
These two divisions of our nervous system are active at all times and sort of balance each other out to keep the body in the state of homeostasis (think optimal state)
Whenever we experience something stressful that causes an immediate, often unconscious, instinctual body reaction (think being attacked or in an accident) body responds by activating the sympathetic part of the nervous system releasing a cocktail of chemicals like adrenaline, cortisol, and other hormones, while “slowing down" the parasympathetic division.
Body is getting charged with energy so we can deal with the situation. We tense up the muscles, our heart pounds in our chest, our breathing changes, we are ready to fight or flight…
We discharge this energy through action. Afterwards as the sympathetic part of the nervous system “slows down” and the the parasympathetic activates to release any leftover tension through shaking of the body and crying as crying is one the major ways the body releases tension.
OK. Let’s now go back in time a little:
In our society our natural body responses are being blocked and repressed in the process of us (as children) being “civilised” by our parents and later on by the society at large.
I’ll give you one simple example:
Think of a little boy that is being scared, which is a stressful situation and the natural response for an overwhelming buildup of tension would be to cry as (yet again) **crying is one of the major ways the body releases tension**.
Now think how often children are not allowed to cry, how often we are being taught not to cry, that “boys or men” don’t cry?
To stop crying this boy will have to use his will to suppress the feelings of sadness, tense his muscles (jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, belly) to stop the natural body response to stress which is the activity of the mentioned parasympathetic nervous system.
Why is that very important?
Parents are constantly conditioning their children not express emotions like sadness or anger often even joy to make them behave in “acceptable manner”.
This conditioning of the child which happens over time is doing two things:
- At first the child is using his will to suppress the feelings, emotions and natural responses. This means that the child is consciously trying to deny the feelings in the body and to stop himself from expressing emotions and control the behaviour. He does so by the conscious use of his muscles. He uses the mind to control the body.
- Because it happens repeatedly over time, the child is starting to repress the feelings, emotions and natural responses. This means that this becomes an automatic process. The child is starting not to be able feel the feelings in the body and is subconsciously stopping the expression of emotions. The control is being done without the child having to exert his will to do so and the child is developing chronic muscular tension. The natural, spontaneous Self is being denied and a False Self is being created in the Psyche.
False Self - it is created as a coping mechanism and is comprised of the ideas of the environment (think parents) about how the child should be and behave, that the child is identifying with. At first the parents try to control the child’s behaviour, afterwards the child is doing it itself, subconsciously. Some call it ego…
It goes downhill from there:
This process continues throughout our lives and it creates “humans” - denatured beings unable to feel their feelings. Unable to cry and complete the grief process after loss of a loved one. Unable to feel what is happening in their body.
A little rant:
Disconnected from our natural self we are trying to think our way through life. Living in our heads, consuming information, endlessly looking for answers in Self Help books. We don’t feel much joy anymore because to repress sadness means to repress joy and happiness to.
Think of so many more ways it impacts our life - we don’t know what to eat, when to stop eating, how many meals in a day, how much water should we drink in a day. Other animals does not seem to have that problem…
But we are not animals anymore right? Or are we?
Disconnected from ourselves we don’t trust ourselves and we can’t trust others.
Disconnected from ourselves we are unable to connect to others, form meaningful relationships, share our feelings.
Our feelings are buried deep in the subconscious mind, repressed together with this natural, spontaneous part of ourselves, the child that never had a chance to Be…
How does this process tie with depression?
It creates people unable to release the tension created by the stress that is occurring in life. This stress builds up within the body. A person sympathetic nervous system is always over activated which affects the chemical structure of the body. The hormones that are being released are changing the way the body works.
- The gut is being affected. Most of serotonin (think feeling good neurotransmitter) is being produced in the gut, but the gut does not work very well anymore and people with depression often have low serotonin levels. This affects the mood, appetite, sleep…
- Major glands are being affected. Adrenal glands are being overworked (think adrenal fatigue), they in turn affect the thyroid, thyroid affects the heart, hypertension…
- Person feels anxious all the time. Constantly in the alert mode always in “fight or flight” mode.
- Body hardly regenerates and heals as the state homeostasis is rarely reached which is being the cause of many diseases…
- Dysfunctional breathing pattern - the breathing is often shallow as the chronic muscular tensions restrict the body’s natural breathing pattern. This affects the energy levels, vitality, mood… well everything…
Without going too deep, just realise that it affects the whole body, and that Mind is the Body. The whole system is compromised.
I think the depression is a symptom of a deeper problem:
A person being disconnected from their body, under chronic tension, unable to release it and express their True Self. More so, if you look at this person life, you don't see why would they be depressed? They "have" everything, they "are" beautiful etc... But it is not about what the perosn has, or whether they are beautiful... It's about whether they can experience themselves as beautiful, as being happy, fulfilled. These are the feelings arising from deep within the body and to the degree the person is cut off from the body, the experience of the Self as ... is being diminished.
The self acceptance is another factor that affects the experience of the Self. The condition I mentioned previously teaches the child that it is not being accepted, unless the child behaves in a certain way (which is why we call the love conditional - when we love the person only when certain behaviours are displayed or unconditional - when we do not try to change the person's behaviour and accept them as they are)
There is much more to this but at this point I feel the need to sit down (I’m behind a standing desk), make myself some breakfast and go out in the sun for a bit…
I tried to show a mechanism that is a root cause of most if not all major problems we experience in Life.
I didn’t even mention the addiction and how it relates to it which is another very fascinating puzzle piece…
This is a huge and fascinating subject, it is quite complex and I feel I could have left many important things out. To paint the whole picture I would have to branch out into other areas and I’m afraid I don’t have the writing skills at the moment to make this in a concise, readable manner.
I hope it paints a little bit of a picture…