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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

An Unlikely Approach to Healing Depression

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 17th 2012

questionYears ago when I was doing my post doctorate residency I saw a flyer up at my site that was marketing a depression group. It said "Fight Your Depression: Join Today." In that moment I thought, that statement couldn't be more wrong if the aim is to come to peace with oneself. Going to war with ourselves only increases the distress. It’s the old saying, “What we resist, persists.” 

If we are able to come to terms with the way things are and actually stop fighting ourselves, what we'll tend to notice is that which we most fear, isn't as fearful as we thought, and in fact, it's temporary. However, our conditioning can be so severe that even the thought of facing our uncomfortable feelings physically and/or emotionally leads to the automatic negative thought "I can't do this." Aha, depending on your mood, that thought will seem more or less believable. Knowing this, we can also know that that thought is not a fact, but is a product of your mood or fear in the moment.

If we were able to slowly face our fears, understand that this is a part of ourselves that feels insecure and in pain; we might begin to change our relationship to it. The moment we notice we’re at war with our difficult emotions is a moment we’re sitting in the space between stimulus and response. The choice, possibility and freedom we experience in that space is The Now Effect

Instead of being at war with it, we can notice that it is more effective to take a radical shift and embrace it, be with it, open up to it, and just hold it in awareness without judging it. Practically speaking, this is a far more effective approach than feeding ourselves hate and distress.

Start with making peace with yourself, noticing when we our minds are littered with self hate, negative self-talk and inaccurate conclusions that "I'll never get better, no one can help me, and I can't help myself."

Acclaimed author and Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, tells us "Peace in Oneself, Peace in the World." When I first heard this statement I thought about all the hate, antagonism, and violence in the world. Something about his statement almost seemed too simple to be true, but as I continued to sit with it and apply it to what I know about the process of psychotherapy it began to ring more true.

One of the primary aims of psychotherapy is to support people in becoming at peace with themselves, so there can be an internal sense of security and freedom. It's almost as if, more often than not, we're at war with ourselves. When stress and pain arise, we react to it as if they are enemies that need to be beaten. Practice this process of "allowing" and "letting be" and see what it does for you.  

Notice any judgments right now and be aware that these thoughts are habits trying to maintain status quo.

Ask yourself, "Did this thought just pop in my head automatically? If I was in a different mood would I be thinking differently?"

Give this a shot and allow your direct experience to be your teacher. 

As always, please share your thoughts and questions below. Your interactions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
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Thank you - Regina - Jun 2nd 2012

for the help.

Readings regarding depression. - liz - May 1st 2012

Just a quick thank you for the insights in regard to depression. I have a teenage son going through a very down period just now and you suggest some helpful points.

Clinical Depression - Thomas M Rayner - Apr 18th 2012

I relation to Clinical depression I find Glyconutrients and Phytogenins are really helpful in correcting this condition. Considering my mum was on antipsychotic injections most of her life we saw great results in her latter years when using the said nutrients and she was able to dispense with her medication, where upon she exclaimed with great delight "I feel like I have woken up". The nutrients even have clinical trials to validate the vast improvement in brain, cognitive and memory function.

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