Depression is a Disorder Wherein the Self Attacks the Self

So what is your ‘self’ telling your ‘self’?

Recently I have been reading I Don’t Want to Talk About It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression by Terence Real.

In his book he describes depression as an auto aggressive disease.
He writes this

For David and Thomas, the pain they had but refused to feel stemmed from a toxic relationship to the self, what psychiatry labels a self disorder. I call depression, in both its overt and in its covert forms, an auto aggressive disease. Like those rare conditions which causes a person’s own immune system to assault itself, depression is a disorder wherein the self attacks the self. In overt depression, that attack is borne; in covert depression, the man attempts to ward it off. But such attempts are never fully successful. The underlying assault on the self always threatens to break through the defenses.

Lots of interesting material here to chew over.

Depression as an ‘auto aggressive disease’, the ‘self attacking the self’.

I couldn’t agree more, and then expectations of others and the challenges of daily life all add to the warfare of words bombarding the self.

Do you find this the case for you?

To handle this warfare we often create a false self that is projected and displayed to the world that all is good in ‘self’ land when in reality its a bucket of pus and it feels like your’e swimming in circles against the tide. (yuk, did I just write that!)

One of the most honest of sentiments of true reality was found on a baseball cap of a man I used to know. He had been through the hell of  medical abuse in a Mental Health hospital. He was an absolute mess. Self harm was his  greatest challenge. On his baseball cap were the words ‘Shit happens’.

It offended the religious types with their strict rules of edicit and shocked those who lived in faith based fairy tale lands of happy ever afters.

To those that had been into the darkness and had emerged with the scars well they knew they loved and they had true compassion and friendship to offer.

No quick easy answers or band aid recovery programs.

Shit happens. Perhaps we could have a ‘Shit happens’ cafe forum ‘thing-a-me’ on this blog. Would you join?

The self attacking the self.
What would be a healthier option?
  • The self nurturing the self.
  • The self affirming the self.
  • The self soothing the self.

Over and over again I come back to my fellow ‘shit happens’ friends in the Bible. They werent superheroes, they were people like us. They woke up in the morning, got dressed and shuffled out into life. The Bible records their journeys, their failings, their faith, and in some cases their battles with the self.

The Bible records not just their self talk battles but also how faith emerged out of the trials. How the Gods Spirit came and nurtured the wounds of living in a broken world.
David suddenly springs to mind as one of those that gifts us with the most in depth look at his soul talk.


He writes this out in poetry.

1-2 Clear my name, God; stick up for me
    against these loveless, immoral people.
Get me out of here, away
    from these lying degenerates.
I counted on you, God.
    Why did you walk out on me?
Why am I pacing the floor, wringing my hands
    over these outrageous people?
3-4 Give me your lantern and compass,
    give me a map,
So I can find my way to the sacred mountain,
    to the place of your presence,
To enter the place of worship,
    meet my exuberant God,
Sing my thanks with a harp,
    magnificent God, my God.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.
Psalm 43 (The Message)

In Davids heart expression I find some comforting guidance.
  1. He writes. He is a poet and we have the privilege of reading his journals. Do you write? Writing is the best means I have found of getting stuff out of the whizzing thought blender of my mind. Just by the process of writing it out the thoughts seem to take shape and join together and begin to make sense. Dawson Trotman, who was the founder of the Navigators ministry used to say, ‘Thoughts disentangle themselves when they pass through the lips and the fingertips’.
  2. He says it like it is. David doesn’t pull the punches. He expresses it all. He says this is where I am and this is how it is. Every mall has a map, and on that map is a big arrow pointing to a Red Dot indicating where you are. David exposes his ‘Red Dot’.
  3. He taps into a deep desire within himself. He knows that there is a place of God’s presence that he longs to be part of. This is the poet’s desire. I want God nothing more, nothing less.
  4. He asks questions of his ‘self’. Three times he ask his self ‘why’. He wants answers to the emotional conundrum. Do look for the ‘why’ of how you might be feeling?
  5. He speaks to his ‘self’. ‘Now listen here self, I want you to listen to what we truly and solidly know about God and about life’ Do you at times take your self aside and speak to it?
  6. He recognises that its a matter of focus. David sees that he is caught up in a focus on the negatives. He declares to his self – Fix my eyes on God. He isnt denying that life is rough, he isnt making the reality of pain into a fairy tale. Instead he is choosing the focus of his attention. What I focus on gets me. Focus on the negatives/challenges will always take me down. Focus on the positive/ good things will always give me hope. Hint – write this down on a card and keep it in your wallet or purse to pull out and remind your ‘self’ of some truth.
  7. He nurtures his self with truth. He self soothes, he nurtures his soul with Gods truth. When he shifts his focus back on to God he remembers the intimate steadfast love God has for him.  So he writes this – ‘He puts a smile on my face’.

Real faith cannot be reduced to spiritual bromides and merchandised in success stories. It is refined in the fires and storms of pain. Eugene Peterson


David emerges from the fire and storm of pain with a new supernaturally released sense of Gods presence.

David has been comforted by the whispered counsel of the Gods Spirit.


Perhaps its time to put down the weapons of self hate and embrace the comfort of Gods Spirit who whispers ‘I love you and I am with you’.

Barry Pearman
Photo Credit: FotoRita [Allstar maniac] via Compfight cc

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