The three ways into depression
It might surprise you to learn that there are only three basic reasons why people become depressed or suffer from any form of emotional ill-health :
1. They are in a toxic environment or situation that prevents them meeting their emotional needs.
If you put a plant in an environment where it cannot survive, in a dark, dry place with not enough earth, sunlight or water – it will wither away. This is not the fault of the plant; it is the fault of the surroundings. It has all its biological systems intact but is unable to use them properly to survive. Likewise, if a human being is situated in an environment that is toxic, and are unable to get their innate emotional and physical needs met, they will suffer in the same way by exhibiting signs of mental distress – depression, anxiety, anger or addiction.
Perhaps they are in a difficult situation at work, at home or elsewhere. Perhaps they are lonely, and need to be with others or feel part of a community, perhaps they are in a relationship which isn’t working for them, their status has taken a sudden fall or they feel they have no meaning in their lives and are not being stretched enough. Whatever the issue is, it needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
To treat a plant that is dying in an environment that is unhealthy for it, you must remove it from the dark into sunlight and give it regular watering and quality soil to take nutrition from. Then it will use its innate resources to get its needs met, heal, grow and blossom again. To treat someone living in a toxic environment, the answer is obvious – change the toxic environment or situation (or remove the person from the toxic environment) so they can get their emotional needs (or ‘human givens’) met in a healthy way – then the depression will lift and the person will flourish.
If this involves helping them to get a job, detraumatising them from past events, start a new hobby, get the courage to get out of a failing relationship, getting them to ring their bank manager and discuss their financial situation with someone who can help, or just give them the time to talk to someone who can listen – then a good human givens therapist should do everything they can to get their client into a situation where they can start living their life again without worrying about emotional needs not being met, perpetuating the cycle of depression.
Please see the needs section of this website for more information on each of our emotional needs.
2. They have not learned how to use their innate resources correctly to meet their emotional needs.
Not using, or not currently having the ability to use, or misusing any one of our innate resources (the second strand of ‘human givens’) is likely to result in mental distress. If someone is using their innate resources badly, then they need to learn how to use their resources in the correct way, either on their own or with a therapist.
Misusing imagination by creating ‘worse case scenarios’ in our minds, for example, creates negative expectations, and raises levels of worrying, which can begin a cycle of depression. A good therapist will teach someone to use their imagination in constructive and healthy ways, often by using guided imagery, which is the most effective way of doing so.
Through life we are constantly learning, and different people naturally have different levels of ability in many areas. There are many behavioural and personal skills required to function healthily in our society, and if someone is currently at a lower level of ability in one of these areas, they may find they have difficulty meeting their needs.
A good example of a capacity many people need help with are social skills.
There is an art to making friends and talking to people, which is largely learned by experience, so if someone is depressed because they haven’t got many friends, or have difficulty talking to others, then treatment should focus on teaching the person specific social skills and techniques that they can practice and use for themselves.
Please see the resources section of this website for more information on each of our innate resources.
3. They suffer from a genetic, biological or trauma based condition that prevents or damages their capacity to use resources to meet their needs.
Unfortunately, some people suffer from conditions that affect how well they use their resources to meet their needs. In these cases however, the focus is still on getting emotional needs met by using all available innate resources, with more long term help if needed. (Please see the following article for an example of using the human givens approach in a school for autistic children. Good choices – Autism and the human givens.)
Examples of these conditions are ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, chromosomal disorders, developmental disorders etc.
Biological causes can also lead to damage to our innate guidance system, for example strokes, lesions and accidents.