more on depression and self reflection

reading over the contents of my last blog entry on depression and self-reflection, a few thoughts came to mind.

the article was not written by someone who had done systematic research and observation of people dealing with depression. rather, the writer seems to have a certain view, and in order to support it, he cites a number of different researchers. of course, there is nothing wrong with that – people, including researchers, do it all the time. i’d just like to present a slightly different view here.

the first research cited is about mildly depressed college students who, after spending a few minutes thinking about mundane topics, report a better mood than their counterparts who spend a few minutes thinking about themselves.

i have no reason to doubt this research, and agree that there are times when distraction is the best thing to do in a depression. however, it would be unwise to conclude from this that depressed persons should not think about themselves.

for one thing, self-reflection and what the writer terms “rumination” need not be the same. it is one thing to bring up one’s problem over and over again (like a cow ruminating) and another to look one’s situation squarely in the face and try to make sense of it.

(as an aside, it is unfortunate that the dictionary explains the word ruminating as pondering, musing, contemplating or meditating. meditating and ruminating are two completely different mental activities).

ruminating, for the depressed person, can be like picking at scabs – picking at the scabs of a problem – which is not helpful. reflecting on one’s situation, on the other hand, can bring insight and lead to an eventual solution. (the instrumental words here are “can” – nothing is written in stone when it comes to how we process our experience).

another piece of research cited is that debriefing procedures right after a catastrophic event such as 9/11 may do more harm than good. i have come across research like that before. my hunch is that at least some of those that do harm may just not be the best debriefing procedures, but let’s leave that to one side.

however, in the vein of another recent post, i’d like to reiterate that it is important to talk about painful experiences. how and when – well, that’s a different question.

when in the throes of immediate recovery from a trauma, quite possibly the most important thing will be to gain some ground under one’s feet. make sure that the basics are met, that life feels somewhat “normal”. to take the metaphor from the accident in the post i just mentioned – in order to get to the point where i could pay attention to my body, i needed to first feel safe and looked after in my environment. nevertheless, once these basics are in place and back to some kind of autopilot, it is important to deal with what happened.

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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