Step Four

Depression holds down stuck feelings. Either you feel that you don’t want to face those feelings or can’t face them. Why? Because you think it would be too painful, and if you start to cry or get angry, you will never stop – and you don’t want to feel out of control. The feelings may be so painful that staying depressed is preferable.

However, you have a tremendous inner reserve. Your spirit will not allow you to lose control. You will only release the feelings that you can handle. If you begin to cry, you will stop when your essence has had enough. If you let out the rage, you will become exhausted before you lose control.

 

You will only be given what you can handle. You will only receive what you can manage. Your mind will only expend what it deems safe to expend. You will only be given what you feel is safe to let out. This is the natural human evolution. You have to trust yourself and push forward, because the central pivot to beating depression is to release those feelings.

 

One person I counseled told me, ‘When I was going through the mill, I had great concerns that I was in fact going mad and that serious damage would be done to my brain. Crazy, I know. However, I was told and I learned that this simply would not happen, as exhaustion would set in well beforehand.’

 

To help yourself get hold of the sadness or rage, imagine the feeling as you see it. What color is it? Where does it sit in your body? What shape is it? I had always seen my sadness and rage as a solid grey concrete block that sat on the top of my chest. The effect it had on me was to drain me, pull me down, and leave me feeling listless, heavy and hopeless, because it seemed an impossible weight to carry. By seeing the feeling, you will start to see it, as it is – a finite sensation that can be dealt with – not an unidentified object that you are unable to cope with.

As you cry or rage, the enormity of the feelings will subside.

LETTING OUT THE ANGER

Anger that is not dealt with in childhood can develop into depression in adulthood. It can also develop into abuse of self and others, which leads to mayhem. I believe that behind every man and woman in jail for violent behavior lies a part of them that is in deep pain.

 

Childhood abuse creates abusive adults. Unexpressed anger can be very dangerous – to both ourselves and others – as the anger that is suppressed comes out as rage. We have to move on from our childhood rage in order to develop into competent and happy adults, but this is not easy.

Many of us deny that we are angry but, if we are depressed, then we have hidden our anger. We are not encouraged to express this emotion – especially as children – and we are not taught how to release it. But every one of us is angry about something, and unchecked anger can lead us into situations we would choose not to be in if we thought about them rationally. If we are angry and do not deal with that anger, it will land on the top of the angry heap inside us. It doesn’t go away; it just accumulates.

HERE IS A CHECKLIST FOR HIDDEN ANGER:

• Chronic pain in the neck or jaw

• Sarcasm• Ironic humor

• Boredom, apathy, disinterest

• Nightmares

• Smiling when you don’t want to

• Controlling your voice

• Grinding your teeth at night

• Becoming irritated at irrelevant things

• Body tics or spasmodic movements that you are unaware of

• Stomach ulcers

• Constant cheerfulness and ‘grin and bear it’ attitude

• Refusing eye contact

• Clenching a thumb in a fist

• Over-politeness

• Not sleeping or sleeping too much

• Frustration at everything around you

• A feeling of one’s life not being good enough

If you don’t recognize any of these signals in yourself, ask people close to you if they recognize any of them. Ask them how they can tell when you are upset about something. Just hear their response without sinking into a pit of shame. Take it as good information. It is normal to deny that we are angry because it’s the way our society is. When someone is angry, others often look at them and say, ‘Ooh, what’s wrong with her?’ It isn’t generally accepted that releasing anger is a path to freedom. But it is. So you must find yours. At this point you have to take it in blind faith that if you are depressed you will have repressed anger.

Take an hour aside for yourself and sit somewhere quiet and safe. Begin to write about what angers you. Make a listof at least ten things – you will begin to see a common theme. Whatever your common theme is, allow yourself to indulgein the fury that accompanies your list. My lists usually encircle one main problem in my life. The ten things on your list will guide you towards your object of vehemence. Forget yourself as the nice, polite grown-up and see yourself as a screaming unreasonable toddler who has had enough.

If you need to take action to dispel the anger, thump the pillow, run it out, throw rocks in the sea, or scream your head off. Do something that dissipates the energy you feel. Let it all out and contain the fear that you will go out of control – you won’t. Don’t be afraid of your anger because it is very power- ful. Use it for your good. Move it into determination, resolve and purpose. Make it work for you to bring about change.

After you have done this you will feel more in control. You will feel a sense of calm and you may feel the pain that is buried beneath the anger. If you don’t, then stick with identifying what angers you, because you are not sated yet. Don’t worry – the pain will surface when you have made the room inside you.

Some of us possess a rage that is so fierce we are scared to touch it. If you recognize this in yourself, it would be advisable to find a professional practitioner to assist you in releasing the rage in a way that will not be harmful to you or anyone else. If you are aware that this rage sits inside you, you are halfway to taking care of yourself, as awareness takes up half of the recovery from depression.

LETTING OUT THE PAIN

Anger is usually the front end of pain. The angrier we feel, the more pain we hold. We need to let out some of the anger in order to reach the pain. Once some anger has been shifted, the pain will follow. When I have felt anger in an extreme way, it is usually associated with a sense of unfairness or hopelessness, a feeling of futility, ‘how dare they’, and other such emotions.

Less common is when we feel tears instead of the anger. Many people have described crying when they have felt angry, as it seemed the only way to let the anger out. These are ‘hard’ tears that can be turned into assertion. Those tears belong to the previous section ‘Letting out the anger’. In this section we are looking at the ‘soft’ tears that lie beneath anger.

Again, find yourself some time and a safe place. Begin to write about what you have lost or what you have that is unwanted. Be specific and honest. Don’t worry about what others might think because no one will read your words. Suspend self-judgement for the moment; it is not required. Instead of seeing yourself as a mature adult, visualize yourself as a child and write as a child would write.

 

To further this,you may want to write with a pen held in the hand you don’t usually use to write with. This helps to reach your vulnerable spot – the one that’s not in control and has no limits. The sense of pain may not happen immediately, but you will be a step further towards it. This has become a lifelong assignment for me, as it helps me to reach the parts that nothing else can.

Allow yourself the gift of expressing your sadness. It won’t go away by ignoring it; it will always stay with you until you express it. Indulge in the pain that lies behind the anger. Hold yourself tight as you let the tears out. Let go of the past.

 

The more you let out, the more you will heal. Letting the tears out will free you from being stuck in the past. Imagine tears as the currency of healing – the more you let out, the more you will heal. Tears do not signify weakness; they signify trapped pain.

Allow yourself to mourn what you have lost. Letting out your pain will lead to a state of forgiveness of yourself and others. The more pain you release, the less frightening the feelings will become, and this will allow you to stop running from your fears.

Your sadness may dispel in hours but, for some of us who have suffered from chronic depression, it may be a long progression. What you will be delighted to discover is that it is the road home. Releasing the pain will only bring you closer to your birthright of happiness and contentment.

Don’t worry if you don’t reach the anger or pain immediately. Remember the attributes of denial and you will understand that your psyche will take you as far as you will go, only open- ing up the next layer when you are ready.

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