Apathy and Depression

Dr Lana Publication #1—Nov 05…published in: Holistic BC Nov / Dec 2005 Issue 1 P31

 Apathy and Depression in Relation to Archetype Education

By Dr. Linda Marie

Linda Marie, a 5-year student of Drs. Caroline Myss and C. Norman Shealy believes that Archetype Education and Analysis can be used to reach many people suffering with health maladies and has focused her study on depression.

            There is absolutely no fun associated with the symptoms of depression, and while some people can hide their challenges with this illness, many cannot…at least not at the location where they feel the freest to let the true self out. And, to make it worse, many observers of depressed people still feel the victim is faking it somehow, or could just “snap out of it” if he/she really wanted to.

While my book, Archetypes to the Rescue, provides a process to use to provide people challenged with depression some tools, if they are immersed in the deep, black hole of apathy, they may not have the ambition needed to go to the store or get online to order it.

In fact, apathy…the loss of passion for past interests, or the lack of ambition to do anything…seems to be the greatest complaint I receive from the loved ones of depression victims. The person being challenged may have the same complaint but may not care enough to be able to express it. The good news is that depression in many cases seems to have a life cycle and once it has reached its end the person can get back some sense of self. But, the bad news is that many people get stuck in chronic-mode and the depression switch gets stuck in the “on” position.

I have worked with both types, but can say it is best when the person afflicted can muster up the strength to seek help and desire change. When it is the loved ones that have gotten frustrated with the victim’s behavior I can provide comforting words and offer to help, but it still has to be the person being challenged by depression that has to do the work to change.

My theory is that when a person becomes depressed, the whole person is not affected; and the part that is can be reached through an aspect of his/her character identified as an archetype. My foundation is based on the work of Dr. Caroline Myss, author of Sacred Contracts, Awakening Your Divine Potential, who teaches we all have twelve archetypes present at birth and these archetypes help form the personality we will have through life. For instance, a person might be born with Servant, Warrior, King/Queen, Philosopher, Caregiver, Clown, Author, Healer, Child, Prostitute, Saboteur, and Victim (the last four, Survival Archetypes, being common in all people). This person might be described as someone who keeps feelings to self but uses humor to help others feel better; strong of character, a loyal friend; is comfortable being in charge and exerting power, but does it in a caring and protective manner. This person might end up in the military or healing professions, or may have some other kind of profession where leadership is paramount to success. This person would be a deep thinker and enjoy conversations that take him/her out of the box of limited thinking.

If depression became a part of this person’s life he/she may become disinterested in helping others. People would start to feel more like drains on his/her energy rather than sparks. He/she would have to withdraw from others just to maintain enough energy to get through the mandatory functions of life. Humor might be the last thing to go, but once it did it would be hard to get it back and even harder to share with others again.

One of the biggest issues with most depressed people is the guilt they feel when others complain about their apathy. They want to care again, and participate in life, but they simply don’t have the energy to do so. And it seems that the more others complain, the less energy there is. Frustration builds from both sides and eats away at the bonds that brought, and has kept, the family together…until the erosion leaves an empty abyss.

After reading this article so far, we have some common ground…we know we’re talking about depression and you have been able to identify with some of the behaviors…but that doesn’t help one bit! Descriptions of symptoms and behaviors are great, and validate suspicions and curiosity, but when you get done nodding in agreement you’re just as lost as you were when you started… so let’s change that and give you something solid to try.

If you were working with Archetypes to the Rescue you would be assisted in identifying which part of you is being affected by depression, and which part of your life to focus on honoring to bring your emotions back into synch. But, we can approach this from a generic point of view too and still provide you with some things to work with to try and get you, or your loved one, back on track.

 

Things to try if you are challenged with depression:

 

  1. Give yourself permission to embrace this phase of your life. You are not a failure because you are depressed; depression is an illness and may have a physical factor involved. Take the time you need to get through this and allow yourself to stay at home if you need to. But, try to set a limit to the length of time you will give this phase power over you. This will help your subconscious mind realize that your conscious mind has a vote in this matter too.
  2. Ask your doctor for a blood screen to analyze whether or not there is a chemical imbalance in your system that is causing you to feel the way you are. This does not mean that you will have to go on medications, but you may want to for a while to see if you feel better. There are also many herbs and more natural ways to approach body chemistry if you wish to pursue them.
  3. Apathy is often associated with behaviors, or ruts, we all can get into. Once a habit of doing the minimums has been established (e.g. going to work, eating dinner, going to bed) it will take work to get beyond the apathy associated with the behavior. But, it is important NOT to beat yourself up if you try to change a habit but fail a few, or many, times. Remember that guilt and apathy tend to hold hands and make you feel worse about your situation—you cannot fail as long as you try, and we want to be sure not to set goals that are too grand. If the behavior above described your routine now and you wish to change it, set a small goal to reach. For example: instead of going straight to bed, you take the dog out for very short walk, or you set out on the porch for a few minutes, or you decide to go out to eat rather than eating at home. Whatever you choose, make it a small goal, an attainable goal, and something that won’t affect you if you can’t do it for a few times. Most importantly: don’t beat yourself up if it takes a while to reach a goal; and be sure to praise yourself and feel good about reaching the goal once you have.
  4. The ultimate goal here is to get you out of yourself and back into the world. Once a small goal has been met, make a few more attainable goals and see how you progress through them. Apathy is associated with the 5th Astrological House of Eros and Creativity. Anything you can do to become a bit more passionate about your previous loves (including people) will be helpful. But be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Don’t plan to go into your studio and paint that portrait, or sit down and write that novel…you may need to just start with an inventory of your supplies, or an outline for your book. Any simple task to help stir up the ashes and spark some interest. Then the next day you do a little more. You may have to fake your interest at first, or really force yourself to get out of bed and do it, but you will start to feel better about yourself once you can feel some of your old passion again.
  5. Humor is the biggest weapon you can use to combat depression. Find a movie that makes you laugh and watch it when you’re at your lowest. Or maybe there’s a friend that can always make you laugh…give him/her a call. Some television commercials are hilarious—don’t be afraid to laugh out-loud and express your joy.

 

Things to try if your loved one is challenged with depression:

 

  1. The very first thing you have to do is to check your blame response at the door. This is going to be difficult because by this time you may be frustrated to the point of doing something drastic. If there are dirty dishes everywhere and the chores have been ignored while your loved one sits in front of the tube all day while you’ve been at work, it’s your job to do your best to ignore the situation. The more you nag and complain the guiltier your loved one feels and the deeper he/she will go within to hide. Sometimes that will mean that drugs and/or alcohol will go along with him/her too (or other behaviors an Addict archetype might express to help with the pain, e.g. shopping, gambling, eating). It may mean that you have to carry the weight of the family for a while. Do some things to help make it easier: make or buy some casseroles to where you only have to cook one day a week. Buy some paper plates and plastic ware so you don’t have so many dishes. If you have a computer you may want to pay your bills online to keep things a bit more uncluttered. Get creative about simplifying your home life.
  1. Once you’ve mastered “ignoring” your loved one’s withdrawal, which will stop his/her downward movement, you may want to try and find things to inspire him/her to start to get involved with your home life again. You must be very careful how you go about this though—you cannot do it in a way that establishes blame or guilt. Perhaps you are interested in seeing a movie that has just been released. Invite your loved one to go with you. If there is resistance or you receive complaints instead of a happy response, just let it go and tell him/her that you’ll be back after the movie. This relieves him/her from guilt about you missing out on something you want to do, and gives him/her a feeling of control about life decisions. A few times of doing this may make him/her feel as if there is more to life than lying on the couch, and the next time you ask you may just have a date! If not, at least you’re not resenting him/her because you felt you had to stay at home too. It is equally important not to resent your loved one because you have to go places alone. If you do, perhaps you should explore your own emotions—you may be a Vampire draining your loved ones by expecting them to supply your needs or happiness rather than being strong enough to provide for yourself. Just because your loved one is in a rough patch in the moment doesn’t mean he/she will remain there, so be careful not to over dramatize and give up on him/her before you give the situation some time to work itself out.
  2. After you’ve succeeded with limiting blame and gently encouraging involvement, the next step is to ensure you praise your loved one’s efforts. Even the tiniest of improvements must be recognized and encouraged. Be careful not to patronize or sound insincere, but do what you can to celebrate the tiny improvements your loved one is making to come back into balance. If he/she has been drinking heavily and you start to notice an improvement in the amount of consumption, try not to focus on the alcohol because that may spark guilt and send him/her back to the bottle. Just say you appreciate how hard you know he/she is trying to come back into balance and leave it at that…change the subject to something less volatile.
  3. You know your loved one’s passions better than anyone. If there is something you know he/she loves to do, offer to do it with him/her (even if you can’t stand doing it). Doing something, even if it’s playing computer games, is better than doing nothing when depression comes to visit. A little step forward is great progress. After a while efforts can be made to do more active or social things. If there is resistance to going out, then perhaps a less social event can be planned like playing cards at home or inviting a few close friends over to watch a sports event or movie. It doesn’t have to be a big party with lots of work, expense or pressure. The small things in life are what we start to avoid when depression sets in. It’s those small things that define us and make us who we are. Some of us are music people, some love sports, some love to work on projects…we all deserve the right to do the things that interest us. The best thing you can do for your loved one while he/she is experiencing depression is to help him/her back toward those small, defining things.

 

Keep things slow, and keep them simple. This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon and you have a lot of distance to go before you cross the finish line whether you are the one challenged with depression or the one doing your best to cope with your loved one’s illness. Remember that small steps forward win the race…you can be proud of your victories no matter how small they may seem.

Next month we’ll chat more about guilt and depression.

Dr. Linda Marie, 2005

 

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