Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

The most efficient way to address everyday issues with your teen

Empathy for Self Helps With Depression

Can An Improvement Of Self Empathy Help With Depression?

Once upon a time, a college freshman seeking to make an appointment with me for a counseling session revealed that in the days past he had experienced suicidal ideation, and now that he was feeling much better he had decided to give me a call. A quick glance at my calendar revealed that I had an eight o' clock opening the following day. I shared with him this news, and there was a pause on the other end of the line. He then thanked me, and asked if I had an opening on the weekend, because he had to be at work the next day. This question called for a pause on my end, and then I asked,

"If you had killed yourself, would you be at work tomorrow?"

Depression can be best described as anger turned inwards, a conundrum of buried feelings that refuse to die. In the story told in the previous paragraph, this person had gone so long in disregarding his needs, that even though he had experienced thoughts to end his life, and he was now being proactive about the situation, he still considered his well being less of a priority. Beating depression isn't an easy process, but it is a highly probable one, with the probability of a person overcoming depression being higher as that person develops a genuine sense of self empathy.

There once was a doctor, who set out on a mission. His mission was to get more men coming in for more physical examinations, at least twice a year. So he launched a media campaign, and I happened to listen to one of his interviews over the radio. In the hour long segment, where he transitioned between answering the interviewer's questions and the questions of callers, he made one statement which made an impact on me. He said,

"Most of us spend more money on taking care of our cars, than we do on our health".

I would agree with that statement, and a similar phenomenon occurs with most of people who suffer from depression. They don't put much value in themselves, even when others do. This also ties in with why depression is also about buried feelings. If you don't put too much stock in yourself, why should you bother listening to your feelings? After all, feelings simply help assign a meaning to what's going on, with or around ourselves.

For those who suffer from depression, when they realize that they are struggling with depression, it can feel like a sudden onset. Especially with the pronounced feelings of hopelessness, loss of motivation and interest, and perhaps a pronounced sense of sadness. In truth, the depression has been there for some time, and getting worse as each negative feeling goes unprocessed, and buried on top the other.
With an unfavorable economy, made no better for those in the gulf coast region affected by an ongoing oil disaster, there are a number of external triggers that can trigger a gradual build up of depression in most people.

The problem with depression is that for those who are struggling with the condition, their perspective on life becomes unpromising. This is because they find themselves routinely consumed in their dark state of minds, and not thinking outside the box and reaching out to others.

One of the number of strategies I use with clients who struggle with depression, is to enable them to develop a sense of empathy for themselves. Take for example, a typical question I would ask would be,
"So if you were your friend, and you walked in on yourself, sleeping late and at risk of missing out on school or work, what would you do for your friend?"

As clients learn to do for themselves what they would do for a friend in need, they inevitably create a renewed sense of hope for themselves, which will lead to a much needed sense of relief from their depressive mind sets. For example, just the simple act of "doing" will present with a new set of consequences. This can be especially beneficial, if the act of doing were healthy and productive, even on a small scale.

 

Ugo Uche is a Licensed Professional Counselor who specializes in adolescents and young adults.

more...

Subscribe to Promoting Empathy With Your Teen

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.