Feeling down in the dumps? No energy or motivation? Poor quality sleep? These could all be signs of clinical depression. But how do we go about treating or curing depression? Is there a way other than medication?
On this page you’ll learn why depression is a trance state, what causes it, and how the right treatment can improve your sleep, increase your motivation, and lift your mood so that you can enjoy life once again.
Let’s find out about how to cure depression…
- Depression defined as a trance state
- Curing depression: changing the way you do the trance
- What causes depression?
- The right therapeutic approach to treat depression
- Curing depression means working holistically
- Is depression biological?
- Is depression psychological?
- Is depression sociological?
- Depression as a loss of meaning and connection
- The link between dreams and depression
- Excessive REM sleep and depression
- The link between depression and lack of motivation
- How to cure depression: summary
- 5 things you can do if you’re feeling depressed right now
Depression defined as a trance state
If you visit a GP and are diagnosed as suffering from depression, they are not likely to tell you that you’re in a trance. But that’s exactly what depression is.
When your attention is locked you’re in a trance state. Sports people call this being ‘in the zone’ and it’s an enormously helpful state to enhance your performance.
But depression is anything but; you’re in the grip of low mood, low energy, pessimism, pointlessness, even despair. And, if that’s not bad enough, your sleep is probably rubbish as well. You become locked into a cycle of emotional arousal and negative thinking which leads to yet more heightened emotionality.
Let’s be clear about something here; even though we might think of depression as being a ‘flat and inactive’ condition, a depressed person’s stress hormones (such as cortisol) will be through the roof (1).
It is this emotional arousal and rumination that locks you into the trance.
So how do we lower this arousal and begin curing depression?
Curing depression: changing the way you do the trance
In my article about why CBT is wrong, I make it clear that you can’t feel better just by changing your thinking. If you want to climb out of depression or cure it completely you’ve got to work with mental processes which happen before thinking. This is where hypnosis comes in.
Before the thinking part of the brain does all that worrying, other processes have already sucked your attention right in. And it is the power of the emotions that keep you there – until you get the right help or are able to change the way you do the trance yourself.
A good therapist will help you not only by challenging negative thinking but by helping you to make changes on a deeper, subconscious level.
When you are taught how to use mental skills better depression becomes a thing of the past and, if it does recur, you’ll be able to nip it in the bud before it takes hold. This is why the treatment of depression should involve some psycho-education so that you can spot the early warning signs and know how to deal with them.
What causes depression?
So, what are the real causes of depression? How does it manifest in the first place?
Despite what we’ve been told over the years about a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ depression is caused by one main thing…
When you worry, ruminate and continually mull over things your mood will inevitably drop. This negative introspection lowers your serotonin levels, affecting your energy and motivation so that life begins to feel pointless. And excess daytime worry leads to sleep problems (which I’ll explain in a minute).
And the things we tend to worry about the most are unmet emotional needs.
When our needs for safety, attention, emotional connection, status, belonging, autonomy, meaning and purpose in life etc. are not met, our more primitive emotional brain takes over. We end up operating on black and white, all-or-nothing thinking. One mistake means your whole life is a disaster.
But when you learn how to meet your emotional needs, stop worrying, and direct your attention elsewhere you start to create better trances for yourself, free of the doom and gloom. That’s what good therapy helps you to do.
But not all therapy is good therapy…
The right therapeutic approach to treat depression
If you’re suffering from depression, one of the worst things a therapist can say to you is, “Tell me about it…”
Of course, sharing your story and ‘getting it off your chest’ might be just what you need but there is a danger in spending session after session exploring your past, looking for the whys and wherefores of what might be causing the depression.
Wallowing in your past looking for a reason is one of the worst things you can do if you’re feeling depressed.
This is because if you’re already feeling low, the mind will tend to look for supporting evidence, conjuring up all manner of woes from your history.
What is proving to be the best treatment for curing depression is a more solution-focused approach, one that deals with the here and now rather than exploring the past (as in some forms of counselling). Only when you have escaped the grip of depression is it worth exploring your history – if at all.
If you’re feeling on the edge right now – even suicidal – understand that you are in a trance and that your thoughts, emotions and behaviour are currently governed by the trance. It is not who you really are! Call the Samaritans on 116 123 or check out the self-help hypnosis downloads for depression
Curing depression means working holistically
Before you take the first step out of the trance of depression, let’s take a moment to understand what might be happening psychologically…
What I’m suggesting is that in order to successfully treat depression we need to look holistically at what might be going on in your life and how you’re responding to life events…
See, for years, mental health professionals have researched the causes of depression and its effects on people’s health.
This question arose…
Why did some people have the ability to bounce back from life’s problems, while others spent weeks or months hidden under the covers, unable to work, eat, or talk to anyone?
If everybody faces hard times, why isn’t everyone depressed?
So, the ‘experts’ began looking at depression from all angles…
Is depression biological?
We now know that genes and biochemistry play only a minor role in the onset of depression.
However, most doctors (and pharmaceutical companies, obviously) still overestimate the biological factors when the evidence is stronger that depression has its origins in the way you respond to life experiences.
No depression gene exists. And the idea that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain is simply wrong. The chemical imbalance is a consequence of depression, not the cause of it.From ‘The Human Givens – a new approach to emotional health and clear thinking’ (2)
So, if depression isn’t purely biological is it all in the mind?
Is depression psychological?
Sometimes a painful life event can trigger a depressive episode. The loss of a loved one, the break down of a relationship, financial problems, for example, can contribute to a feeling of hopelessness, despair, or guilt.
Depression is most frequently a product of how one interprets life events as opposed to the events themselves.
There are people all over the world right now going through the very same things as you but who are not becoming depressed. Why is that? What are they doing differently?
This question fascinates me as a therapist. How are you different? How are you using your mind differently? Is depression purely mental?
It seems certain that psychology plays a huge part in the formation and duration of the trance of depression.
But there’s something else to consider…
Is depression sociological?
Depression is now ten times more common in people born after 1945 than it was before (3). This is the evidence that proves depression is not genetic. Human genes simply don’t change that quickly.
In this age of technology and social media, with the pace of life speeding up and the dissolution of real connections – driven by a consumer, ego-based society – we are all susceptible to feeling depressed.
RELATED CONTENT: How your attention has been stolen by Big Tech and Social Media
Evidence strongly supports the fact that the rapid changes in Western society – over the last 40 years or so – directly affect people’s abilities to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
According to the World Health Organisation, the more Westernised the world becomes, the more stress and depression people experience (4).
So, we could say that depression is all of these things: there are biological, as well as psychological and sociological factors.
And let’s not forget spiritual factors too, the things that make our lives meaningful…
Depression as a loss of meaning and connection
One of the key factors in lifting depression is by meeting emotional and spiritual needs.
The secular societies we live in today produce feelings of disconnection from – and loss of faith in – something greater than ourselves. We become self-obsessed, one of the worst things for depression.
Meeting spiritual needs, either rediscovering your faith, finding a meaning or purpose to your life, or doing something that reconnects you to nature or other people can help you out of your mind and all the negative ruminations that go with it.
Indeed, in Eckhart Tolle’s best selling book, The Power of Now, he talks about his suicidal depression before he had a ‘spiritual awakening’, a moment that moved his attention away from the feelings of despair.
It seems that having some kind of ‘jolt’ like this can shift one’s ‘centre of gravity’ away from emotional conditions such as depression and into a larger frame of reference. A type of transcendence, if you like.
And Steve Taylor’s excellent book, Disconnected, highlights many of the problems we now face and how re-connecting can go some way to healing the world.
I say more about spiritual awakening here where I talk about my experience of unity consciousness. The thing is that when you connect up to a larger pattern of reality you’re no longer controlled by your ego and all of its worries and fears.
This is one of the reasons psychedelics are proving to be useful in treating depression. They get you out of your brain’s ‘default network’, like installing new software.
The link between dreams and depression
So, when it comes to your getting better and climbing up and out of depression, we need to address biology, psychology, sociology, and spirituality.
But there’s one more thing we need to look at that can help us get to the bottom of the causes of depression. And it involves something we all do every night…
If you’re currently feeling depressed you will, most likely, have developed a habit of worrying about things. These ruminations are emotionally arousing and tend to have a negative bias. That is, if you’re feeling anxious or stressed your thinking will tend to be distorted in a negative way.
The problem with this sort of emotional arousal is that it doesn’t do anything or go anywhere. Nothing gets resolved by it. This results in an uncompleted ‘loop’ in the brain’s emotional system.
Normally, the emotion would be worked through by some action being taken in your waking hours. For example, if you get annoyed with somebody at work and you deal with it there and then the ‘loop’ is completed and, in effect, switched off.
But if you don’t resolve this type of emotional arousal and subsequent introspection during the day, you take these incomplete ‘loops’ with you to bed. Then the dreaming brain gets involved…
Excessive REM sleep and depression
When these emotionally arousing triggers remain unresolved by the time you go to sleep, the dreaming brain gets to work. It creates scenarios – in the form of dreams – that complete the loops. This is the purpose of dreaming (5).
The dream acts out, in metaphor, a situation that will allow the emotional loop to be completed and therefore ‘flushed’ from the brain.
But the thing is this…
With depression, because there are extended periods throughout the day of emotional arousal, worry and rumination, the brain has to increase the amount of dreaming you do in order to complete the loops while you sleep.
And this leads to two problems…
- Spending too much time in REM (dream) sleep is exhausting for the brain. It means you miss out on slow-wave sleep, which is physically rejuvenating
- Extended periods of emotional arousal in your dreams depletes your hormonal system.
Stated simply, emotional arousal (usually because of unmet emotional needs or unresolved trauma) causes depressive thinking styles. This then adds to the emotional arousal and leads to increasing amounts of night-time dreaming. By the morning your brain is exhausted.
The link between depression and lack of motivation
This extra dreaming is to try to ‘free the brain’ for the next day, but because the negative arousals are excessive if you’re depressed, the natural rhythms find it hard to cope because dreaming is hard work. It is not a restful activity for your brain.
Indeed, as far as your brain is concerned, dreams are real, resulting in the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones. And the more time you are in REM sleep the less time you get to recuperate in slow-wave sleep.
If most of your sleep consists of long periods of REM, your body and mind will often awaken feeling very tired the next morning.
Or, it might be the case that you wake early and are not able to get back to sleep. This is very likely caused by your brain trying to protect itself from over-dreaming and the resultant exhaustion.
In effect, the brain says, “I’m getting worn out with all this dreaming so wake up this minute…wake up!”
RELATED CONTENT: How to sleep better – starting tonight!
How to cure depression: summary
In summary, what I’m saying is that depression has to be treated holistically if we can ever rightly use the term ‘cure’. Medication might be needed for short term emergencies but research shows it is little more beneficial than taking a placebo (6).
Talking therapies can help but the therapy needs to use the right approach in that it needs to address your physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health – without dragging you too far back into your past.
The most important thing to remember is that the trance of depression is manageable and recovery is highly likely if approached sensibly and skilfully by addressing all aspects of your life.
The fact is that when you learn how to limit daytime introspections and take action to resolve issues in the here and now, you will be able to sleep much better because there will be less dreaming needed to turn off the emotional loops.
Less daytime worry = less REM sleep = less depression. The trance starts to lift, like a witches spell that’s finally been broken.
5 things you can do if you’re feeling depressed right now
Breaking the trance of depression requires action which, of course, is not easy when your motivation is low.
So let’s start by applying some understanding from what you’ve just read…
- If you’re feeling depressed recognize you’re in a trance state: the emotional brain will distort how you see reality
- Understand you are not the trance: there’s much more to your identity than that
- Commit to working with your own body-mind-soul system in a different way: change the way you do the trance. (You might need professional help to do this: consider booking a Free Online Discovery Session with me)
- Assess your emotional needs: see if any unmet needs might be causing or contributing to your worries: Do the emotional needs audit
- Visit your GP and/or get the right type of therapy: there is a place for medication but you shouldn’t come to rely on it. And as to therapy, avoid therapies that explore your history session after session
The first step out of your depression trance…
I hope you’ve found this page useful and that it has helped you understand depression and given you some ideas about how to start feeling better. Remember, you’re not the depression, the depression is the depression!
If you’d like to give feedback on the article please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you’d like my professional help, find out more about my therapeutic approach in a Free Discovery Session.
Also, take a moment to check out The Natural Depression Treatment Program developed by the people who trained me in hypnotherapy.
Remember, if you’re in the UK and need immediate help for suicidal thoughts call the Samaritans now on 116 123
Notes and references
- Cortisol and depression Cortisol and Depression: How Stress and Depression Are Linked (psychcentral.com)
- The Human Givens – a new approach to clear thinking and emotional health
- How to Lift Depression Fast
- The global burden of disease (1997) The World Health Organisation Mental disorders (who.int)
- Why we dream: Why Do We Dream? Theories Of Interpretation, REM Sleep & Fulfilment (why-we-dream.com)
- Anti depressants vs. placebos. Which is best? Depression: How effective are antidepressants? – InformedHealth.org – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)