Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Hiding Depression, Part 2: the Signs of Hidden Depression

March 29th, 2021 · signs of hidden depression

As we saw in Part 1 of this series, hiding depression genuinely is a thing that we can end up doing. But, where does it hide, and what does that do to us?

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Depression can often appear in hidden forms, and, in a substantial number of cases, it may even be hidden from the awareness of the person who has it. So, when we’re hiding depression, what does it actually look like? What are the signs of hidden depression?

The Many Forms of Depression

There are many possible signs of hidden depression. Some of the more visible indicators are described below.

Changed patterns of sleeping, eating and drinking. Often hidden depression can manifest when a person sleeps, eats or drinks in a manner that is unusual for that person. This can entail sleeping or eating in unusual patterns or unusual amounts—either too much or too little. Similarly, if you catch yourself drinking in unusual amounts, or at unusual times, it might be important to see if this is related to anxiety or depression.

Forced “Happiness”. If you become aware that you’re wearing a strained “happy face”, or that you’re trying very hard to appear happy when you’re in the company of others, you might be engaged in “forced happiness”. Similarly, if you find that you’re trying to avoid spending too long with people, it might be important to ask if this is because you don’t want them to see your real mood.

Feeling continuously tired. Very frequently, those who are struggling with depression experience a state of near-continual exhaustion. Even if they have regular sleep, they may wake up feeling exhausted. Lacking another explanation, people may even blame themselves, and feel that they must be hopelessly lazy, or some other character flaw.

Preoccupied with “deep questions”. Don’t get me wrong: asking deep questions about life can be a very important thing to do! Yet, if you find yourself preoccupied with questions like “What’s it all about?” or “Does anything really matter?”, and you’re a person who doesn’t usually get engaged by these kinds of questions, it might be important to ask—what’s going on? It may be that you’re experiencing some signs of hidden depression. Simultaneously, it may also mean that you’re undergoing a major life transition, and there’s a need to really look at questions of value, purpose and meaning, which Jungian depth psychotherapists often see as an essential part of soul work.

Feeling things more intensely than normal. If you have hidden depression, you may find yourself experiencing emotions more intensely than you normally would. You might find yourself feeling sadness or anger or even attachment to others in uncharacteristic ways. If you do, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re finding yourself emotionally “triggered” in ways that are not usual for you.

Less optimistic than normal. It may also be that you find it harder to muster optimism than you have at previous times in your life. People who are depressed definitely tend to have a less rosy appraisal of life in general. If you note that your perspective is seeming to be more jaded than usual, it may be an indicator that you have some measure of depression.

Beyond Secret Depression

As Jungian analyst James Hollis tells us, in depression,

Life’s energy, life’s intentionality is thwarted, denied, violated… Life is warring against life….”

To begin to move beyond this thwarting, it’s necessary to become conscious of our depression, and to stop hiding it from ourselves. When we pass this milestone, we are starting to come to terms with our own real lives.

When we recognize the signs of hidden depression in our own approach to life, what begins to opens up is the opportunity to explore our feeling life together with the chance to extend compassion to the deeply wounded and unrealized aspects of ourselves that may lie beneath the surface of our depression. Andrew Samuels reminds us that Jung recognized that depression can be a damming up of psychic energy. When that damming up is eliminated, the energy released is available for creativity and life.

Many people find that working with a supportive Jungian depth psychotherapist can be an effective way to both understand the feeling dimension of depression and to move past the signs of hidden depression into a fuller experience of life.

Wishing you every good thing on your journey towards wholeness,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Are You Hiding Depression? Possibly Even from Yourself?

March 22nd, 2021 · hiding depression

Hiding depression? Is that a thing? Do people actually do that? The truth is that we certainly can do that, and sometimes, we can even hide our depression from ourselves.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

Depression can be a many-sided thing. It can appear in many different shapes and forms, some of which can even fool or surprise experts. As UK psychiatrist Rebecca Lawrence asserts “Is [the hidden depressive’s] depression as real, or as valid, because they manage to go to work, to smile, even to crack a joke? I think it is.”

This is a different perspective than the one that typical stereotypes of depression would suggest. Rather than the sad, emotionally flat and energy-less images we might have of depression, the person who is hiding depression might well appear to be as lively, energetic and socially engaged as anyone else, and yet such a person might be harbouring unseen depression.

What could be going on in the inner life of such a person, who “presents”, as they say, in a way that is so much at odds with what is really going on in their inner life? Dr. Lawrence offers us an important insight:

[D]oes that mean they suffer less when smiling? No: in fact, the strain of keeping up appearances, the weight of a misplaced sense of responsibility to others, can be one of the most onerous aspects of mental ill health.

Dr. Rebecca Lawrence, “When depression wears a smile”, The Guardian, 18 March, 2021

This offers us an important insight: if we’re hiding depression, we may well be doing it for the other people in our lives. This misplaced sense of duty or care has the potential to do us serious and undeserved harm.

Am I Hiding Depression?

For some people who are dealing with the reality of hidden depression, the answer to the question “Am I hiding depression?” will be obvious. These individuals know that they are hiding depression from co-workers or people that they love. This hiding is done to protect these people, to keep things in a good place in the work place, or for some other consciously chosen reason. Yet there are many other people who are either semi-conscious or completely unaware of their own depression.

How do I know whether I’m hiding depression? Well, there are several common characteristics exhibited by individuals who are struggling with depression that is hidden.

People with hidden depression can often be perfectionistic. They are often people who set a very high bar for themselves in many areas of life. They have a sense of constantly measuring themselves against expectations—and there’s an inner critic ready to lacerate them with intense shame if they fall short.

People with hidden depression can actually often be “rigidly positive”. They can feel a strong face of shame or failure if they are anything other than unfailingly positive and optimistic. It can often be that any attitude of kindness to oneself, or acknowledging any of the difficulty or pain in one’s life is prohibited by a rigid, shaming inner critic.

Facing or expressing painful emotions can often be difficult for some one who is hiding depression. Sadness, anger, disappointment and grief often are all “no go zones” for the individual with hidden depression.

People hiding depression can have a very high need to feel that a situation is under control, and can feel intense anxiety when it is not. There is a very strong drive to feel in control, which individuals may keep very well hidden. Such a person may tend to worry a lot, and avoid situations where they cannot be in control.

An individual with hidden depression can have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. This means that the individual certainly has no trouble taking responsibility for things—but can all too easily end up blaming themselves.

Being Honest with Others—and with Myself

When people are hiding depression, it can be a real challenge to be fully honest and vulnerable with other people. It can also be really difficult sometimes to be fundamentally honest with themselves about their actual mood state. Yet it can be fundamentally important to listen to what others are saying about how we seem to them. Even more basically, it may be important to listen to ourselves, on all kinds of levels.

This certainly means stopping and trying to gain an understanding of how we really feel about things. Taking a few minutes to check in with yourself on a daily basis may be essential, including noticing things like energy levels, whether appetite is normal, length and quality of sleep, and just basically asking yourself how you’re feeling about things—and giving yourself an honest answer. Some people find that journalling every day on what is happening in their lives and how they feel about it can be an invaluable tool.

Staying in touch with yourself, dialoging with yourself… This may all be new territory. Yet it may have a lot of life in it.

If I’m Hiding Depression, What Can I Do About It?

If you’re concerned that you’re hiding depression, it can be a very good thing to speak about that concern with someone whom you really trust. Sometimes, it can be very valuable to talk to a relatable, knowledgeable and supportive counsellor or therapist, such as a Jungian depth psychotherapist. (NOTE: If you are in need of immediate support, please contact your local distress line. In my area, that is Distress Line Halton 905-849-4541) It can be of tremendous value to speak with someone who validates you, and who affirms that your feelings are important and worthy of respect.

Exploring those feelings and what your deepest, even unconscious, self has to show you about the threads of meaning and energy in your life can be vital. It can certainly help immensely in opening up what lies beyond hiding depression—moving on the journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Coping with Changes in Life in This Demanding Time

March 15th, 2021 · changes in life

Major changes in life, or major life transitions are always a challenge but this particular time makes them even more so.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

In this context, I’m using the term “changes in life” in quite a broad way. These might be changes that are imposed on us externally, by, say, a job change. Or they might be changes that seem to come from a more internal place like the transition that comes in midlife, or the transition into life as a older adult.

The major changes in life have always been matters of deep concern to human beings for as long as we have been human. One of the reasons our distant ancestors developed rituals and rites of passage was to enable human beings to better cope with change, as the noted French anthropologist Arnold van Gennep illustrated in the early twentieth century.

It’s not just unexpected changes that can be demanding or difficult. Even changes that we expect and plan for can cause us upheaval and stress. Also, it’s not only changes that we would interpret as bad that can cause us a great deal of stress. Changes that we would interpret as good can also be very demanding. For example, an individual may have wanted the opportunity to move to a certain favourite city or location for a long time, yet when it comes, the process of moving there can prove demanding and stressful.

Facing Changes in Life Now

In addition to all the other changes in life that we encounter, we are currently still living with the pandemic lockdown. The end of this situation may be in sight, but it’s not over just yet, and we continue to deal with its unique stresses. All the major life transitions that we’re undergoing are occurring against the backdrop of the most impactful outbreak of disease in over a hundred years.

This has a big effect, as I’m very aware from my experience with clients in this time. Situations that would be very demanding at any time can easily seem unmanageable against the backdrop of society-wide stress and trauma. Individuals are facing very important life issues such as: relationships undergoing change; the shift in priorities that often accompanies midlife; the loss of loved ones; issues around vocation and what is fundamentally meaningful in life, and many other things. Often people can find that situations that, at least until recently, seemed fundamentally containable and manageable are not feeling that way any longer.

People currently facing such changes in life can easily feel that their particular ways of coping are exhausted, and that they are experiencing considerable anxiety and depression. They’re aware of needing something different, but they’re not sure what it could be.

Powering Through?

One of the things that we all have a tendency to do when we are confronted with a type of life change that seems insurmountable is to just try and “power through”. We can easily feel that, somehow, if we just keep on doing what we always done, maybe a little more intensively, the situation will be fine, and all will be well.

Often, this kind of response amounts to a form of psychological denial of what it is that we’re living through. It can easily amount to simply acting as if the change was not occurring. In the long run, it’s highly unlikely that this kind of response is going to do anything other than make the situation worse.

Well, is there anything else that we can do to cope with a changing situation, other than just hoping to “power through”? There are a number of kinds of awareness that it can be helpful to have as we move through major changes.

For instance, we need to stay in the awareness that major changes in life almost always create puzzlement and disorientation. We thought that we knew the rules! It turns out now that things are not so predictable.

Finding ways to connect with other supportive people can be very valuable for us in the midst of change. This is harder in the midst of the pandemic, but there are ways to do it that are worth exploring.

A third important thing to do is to practice self-care. Finding things to do that really feel like taking care of yourself are particularly important. This can include exercise, meditation, and also depth psychotherapy.

Compassion for Our Changing Selves

A fourth and vital thing is to be self-compassionate, and to avoid judging yourself. It may take some doing to get our inner critic quieted down in times of intense changes in life, because it’s easy in times of intense change to feel that something is wrong, and all too easy to believe that what is wrong is really us—when we may well be doing our very best to manage unpredictable change.

As human beings, it’s also essential for our well-being that we are able to make some kind of meaning out of the change. Often, this can be where symbols and messages from the unconscious psyche can be of great assistance. For many, working with an empathetic and supportive depth psychotherapist at a time of major life transition can be a valuable form of self-compassion.

With very best wishes on your journey of change and growth,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Personal Care and Compassion for Self in a Demanding Time

March 9th, 2021 · compassion for self

This post will be quite a lot briefer than my usual posts, because I’m away from the office for a couple of days, engaging in some activities involving compassion for self.

Photo: Stock Photo Secrets

I felt that it was important to take a couple of days with a different rhythm, because I’ve been pretty busy over the last while. So, I’m catching up on a couple of professional requirements, and also taking time to do some things that are concretely important for me.

As I’m taking this time, I’m reflecting quite a bit on compassion for self. It’s a phrase that we hear quite frequently in therapy and other circles nowadays, with many therapists, self-help authors and authorities of different types urging us to have compassion for self. On the whole, it seems to me that this emphasis is a very good thing.

The very best of therapy has always emphasized self compassion (as Jung certainly did). Yet the fact that now it’s talked about as much as it is means that we’ve become more consciously aware, and more intentional.

It’s good for us to talk about self compassion, but it’s even more important to ask what we’re actually going to do about it. It’s important to value ourselves by taking concrete steps that turn that value into action. What will you do to make your compassion for self a reality in your life? This is a question that takes on particular importance as we emerge from the demanding times of the pandemic.

For some people, it can be an essential kind of self compassion to seek to explore themselves, through a supportive depth psychotherapy relationship. Whatever you do, make sure that it’s something that reflects a kind and appreciative attitude to yourself.

I look forward to being back to regular blogging, continuing on themes of hope and resilience, next week.

With very best wishes for your personal journey,

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Hope, Consciousness and Healing Collective Trauma

March 7th, 2021 · dealing feelings, healing collective trauma

Healing collective trauma is a matter of particular importance as we move through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. Hope and increased awareness will play decisive roles in this healing.

PHOTO: Stock Photo Secrets

During the era of COVID, people have gotten used to (and fed up with) quite a number of buzzwords. I will certainly never forget the significant number of my clients who have said to me, “If I hear one more reference in the press or on the media to COVID as ‘the new normal’, I’m going to scream!” Fair enough: I understand how they feel. It might be easy to see the term “collective trauma” as just another such shallow buzzword, but there are very good psychotherapeutic reasons for regarding it as much more than that.

What Is Collective Trauma?

A collective trauma is a traumatic event that is shared by a group of people. This can be a small group, like a family, or the occupants of a vehicle, or it can be big enough to take in a whole society. As social worker and psychology lecturer Amy Morin asserts,

Traumatic events that affect groups may include things like a plane crash, natural disaster, mass shootings, famines, [or] war…. Well-known collective traumas include… slavery, the Holocaust, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the September 11 terrorist attacks. We are currently experiencing an ongoing collective trauma through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amy Morin, LCSW in Very Well Mind

It might seem that COVID doesn’t have anywhere near the impact on us that the other events Morin lists had on those who were affected. However, if we really examine the kinds and amounts of change that COVID and the associated disruptions have brought to our work, schooling, social gatherings, travel, key social rituals and so much more, it’s clear that we’re dealing with a formidably impactful collective trauma.

A lot of trauma experiences are individual. A life-threatening illness may affect only one person, for instance. Traumatic experiences differ greatly in their effects. Two very similar traumatic experiences may affect two people very differently, with one person emerging virtually unscathed, while another has his or her life fundamentally changed.

Trauma may negatively impact our ability to handle stress. Or, it may make it difficult to enjoy things that were once quite pleasurable. It’s common enough for people who experience trauma to feel that their lives have lost meaning, or, alternately, that questions of meaning or spirituality have become front and center for them.

These effects of trauma may be experienced by individuals, or they may be experienced throughout an entire group or even a whole society. In this age of modern media, people don’t need to experience events first-hand to be traumatized by them. Trauma can be transmitted through radio, television, or social media.

How Can We Begin Healing Collective Trauma?

As a society, we’re experiencing collective trauma from our society’s experience with COVID. If there is strong evidence to support that conclusion—and I would suggest that there is—how can we begin to find our way to some kind of healing?

One of the most important steps in healing collective trauma around COVID is for each of us to acknowledge that it exists, and to acknowledge the impact of this trauma on our own lives. Many of us have encountered some degree of trauma as a result of COVID, and it’s very important for us to honestly acknowledge that.

This acknowledgement, that COVID has hurt us, has cost us, has traumatized us, is a centrally important thing of which we need to be aware. It can be a very hard thing to look at, to acknowledge the damage that has been done, but as C.G. Jung would tell us, there is something vitally important in this consciousness. Difficult and painful as it is, it is the first step to hope and renewal.

There are some famous lines in Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”, a song which essentially celebrates the acceptance of the way things are when they’re broken. As Cohen puts it.

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in [Boldface mine]

Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”

Paradoxically, it’s only when we can find the undesirable crack, that we can start to see the light that streams through it. In the case of our COVID trauma, this means that we can only find our way to the seeds of hope by first of all acknowledging the depth of our wound.

Moving Beyond Collective Trauma

Acknowledging our trauma can be an important step in feeling better about it. Although individuals will naturally wish that the event never occurred, they can also acknowledge the resourcefulness, strength and resilience in themselves which has carried them through the experience to this point, and will enable them to get to the end of it.

Positive things may also occur on the collective level from acknowledging our trauma. People who acknowledge trauma, and share its impact can feel a sense of deep connection and solidarity with one another. They can even feel less psychological pain and anxiety as a result of carrying it together with others. Through supporting each other, they may come together on shared goals and even find a sense of shared meaning.

Finding ways of healing collective trauma starts with our own journey, and with acknowledging on an individual level that we have experienced trauma. Jungian depth psychotherapy can be an excellent supportive place to start this journey of healing.

With very best wishes for your journey towards wholeness.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional

Certified Telemental Health Practitioner

© Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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