The dialectics of depression

Dialectics has to do with the concept that two seemingly inconsistent or incompatible ideas can both be true. Conflicting realities have elements of truth that can both fit together despite being conflicting. One is not more true than the other, and one is not more true at the expense of the other.

The treatment for depression generally involves behavioral activation- taking some sort of action to increase contact with pleasurable events or rewarding activities. Depressed people become easily overwhelmed, tend to avoid people and activities, and withdraw from life. This inactivity also decreases contact with naturally rewarding interactions.  The agenda of behavioral activation is to get people engaged with with people, activities, or events that generate pleasure, give meaning, and provide a sense of accomplishment. Without these things, it kind of makes sense that people get depressed. So the message is essentially: Put your energy towards getting active, engaged, and connected!

On the other hand, people who are depressed often feel a great deal of misery. Often they struggle with unreasonable guilt and low self-esteem. They may have made multiple attempts at making connections and have had bad experiences.   They may have reached out and been punished for it. They may feel so bad about themselves-and have worked so hard on changing who they are- that they got lost along the way.  They may have stopped liking themselves because they worked so hard to make things different. They may have become exhausted at the prospect of change. They may have a very strong need to be accepted as they are- without having to do something, keep changing, and keep trying.

Do you see the dialectic? 1) Changing behavior is a part of the treatment for being less depressed. Get involved! 2) Don’t try to be or become something that you are not. You are fine just the way you are!