depression, expectations, suffering, depressed, sad, sadness, misery

“People who suffer a lot, often times do so, because they are cognitively wrong about what they think they have a right to expect.” – Abraham H. Maslow
“Despair is the only cure for your illusions.”– Alexander Lowen

Depression can be an organic disease in which the chemistry does not work correctly in the brain. Depression can also be a learned passive behavior. Depression can be a cocoon of helplessness that requires interruption. Sometimes depression can be a combination of all three. Getting an evaluation for medication can be an excellent action for self-care.

What Causes Depression?

One theory is that depression is often anger turned inward; unexpressed wants that have been swallowed. Learning to express anger as a way of discovering more about your wants can raise your level of awareness.

Try writing a letter to someone with whom you are angry, and end the letter with what you want. The next step is to write what you want in a vulnerable way. Don’t send the letter—it’s purpose is to work for you. See if you can consider some way to let the other person know what the want is under the anger. The aimed anger in the letter is an attack is not useful in relationships.

Remember that constructive anger never destroys anyone. Anger clears the air, and lets new truths emerge. You might consider speaking up in some small way after you learn more about your wants which could be a step of relief in your depression. If that feels impossible, try returning to your five senses in the here and now and pay attention to the small, ordinary wants they will lead you to.

Depression is excellent at suffocating wants.

Curiosity is another avenue to discovering wants. Try to remember yourself as a child. What was something you were curious about and didn’t have the time or resources to explore? It’s not enough just to think about things; you need to act. Follow that up with an inexpensive class at your local community college (not for credits but to expand your world).

A fresh way to look at depression would be as a collection of unfinished business that is haunting you. Depression is interrupting to the self so you never get what you want. Ultimately, then, depression is about hiding. It can serve a purpose in the sense that it can numb emotions that are overwhelming.

Depression can be triggered by people or anxiety. Even events, such as an old friend who goes out of his/her way to remind you of something you are ashamed of, for example. It is very important to learn what your triggers are and to solve the question of how to do things differently. If the anxiety of Sunday nights before you return to work on Monday are traditionally bad times, create a new Sunday night ritual that is more interesting than being alone with the depression.

Childhood trauma of sexual or physical abuse can lead to a lifelong struggle with depression. The child persuaded to keep secrets has had their spirit squeezed way too early in life. The secret keeper is always the most damaged. To understand the impact of trauma, read the book Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence–from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror by Judith Herman.

Creativity, Choices, Illusions and Anxiety

One of my favorite writers who discusses depression is James Hillman. In A Blue Fire , he suggests that depression is an invitation to be more creative with your life. This is borne out by the fact that many accomplished people have struggled with it. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln would not have written the Gettysburg Address without the push of depression.

How can you tap into the creative edge of depression? Try writing a letter to an old friend that you have fallen out of touch with or telling a favorite aunt how she was important to your growing up.

When there is a lot of despair, it means there is not enough access to choices. Going to therapy or talking to a good friend is a way to embrace more possibilities.

Depression can be about the death of our illusions. Honest despair can be like roto-tilling the land for a garden in the spring. Honest despair about what we used to believe (I’ll be successful, handsome, etc.) can evolve into a useful new beginning.
depression,depressed,what is depression
The following quote from Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham reveals the power of the false fantasy in “waiting for the perfect man.” Will, who is gay and is finally accepting that he needs to let go of the illusion in order to make room for the real human Harry. He is developing a new allegiance to reality as outlined in the following quote:

“He started living with satisfaction, a kind of satisfaction. The satisfaction of bread and talk. The hours of his days took on a new shape, squarer, more densely packed. He lived as himself and he lived as the younger man who was loved by Harry and he lived, obscurely, as Harry, too. The old floating feeling seemed to be going away, though it was subject to fits of return. When it went away Will found in its place a simple joy and a new disappointment. His disappointment fluttered around the edges of his contentment, persistent as a bee. Now he wouldn’t be present for the perfect man, the one who stopped time with the powerful slumber of his muscles. If that man existed – that cheerful and bulky spirit – Will would not meet him because he’d found this one instead, a kind man with thinning hair. Something was marrying him; something was lashing itself to his flesh. He felt exultant and, less often, disconsolate… He worried over everything that could happen, all the accidents in the world, and he cried, sometimes, from a sorrow and a happiness he couldn’t name.”

Anxiety is a powerful trigger to depression. If you are able to make anxiety bearable, take risks, and enlarge your world, you will be less prone to depression. If anxiety strangles choices, then it is likely depression will be nipping at your heels.

When you are depressed it is important to restore movement to your life through your emotions and your thinking. If you are dead in the water, going nowhere it is harder to improve depression.

There Are At Least Three Ways That People Get Stuck in Depression

1. Black-White Thinking & Feeling
Read more on Black-White Thinking & Feeling >here. It’s at the bottom of the page under “Reasons for Divorce”. It explains there are No grays which makes things much more difficult in life. People love making everything into good or bad. This creates the temporary balm of simplifying their emotions. Everything is 1 or 10 without any 4, 5, or 6.

The more mentally healthy you are, the more you can embrace complexity. For example, a person could be clear about both their own regrets of divorce and what was learned or successful during the history of a marriage, rather than, just being angry and blaming the other.

2. Guilt
Guilt is divided into obligation and resentment. When expectations are reasonable, obligation is not a problem. This applies to expectations we have of ourselves and expectations others may have of us.

When expectations are unreasonable, resentment occurs. Unexpressed resentments tend to be with others. Our unspoken feelings then chew away at our sense of self when we fail to tell the other person that their expectations are unreasonable. Some ethnic groups, such as Catholics and Jews and those who grew up with guilt as a heavy-weight parenting tool will find these distinctions hard to make. This lack of distinction feeds depression.

3. Shame
Shame is important to pinch us towards being a better person.
Unfortunately, people are too often drawn into shame and sink under its weight. This only contributes to staying stuck. One opposite of shame is belonging. One reason self-help groups are so powerful is because shame is shared and the experience of belonging helps grease the wheels of change. If there is a trusted friend that you can share the shame of sharing an STD it will help diffuse your pain. Shame born in silence is often unbearable. Follow this link to the self-hatred section for suggestions to restore movement.


This involves taking the combination of guilt and shame too far. The individual makes choices as a way of payback for an exaggerated belief of misdoing. Penance thrives on self-hatred. We are more comfortable with self-hating than with figuring out forgiveness. This self-designed punishment can take a lifetime. It is crucial to understand that it is a wasteful illusion. Be aware if a partner is trying to extract punishment.

Link to Understand Suicide
Landsberg: His Depression and His Friend, Wade Belak

Link for Light Boxes for Winter Blues
A Portable Glow to Help Melt Those Winter Blues


“Remember this, very little is needed to make a joyful life. It is all in your way of thinking.” –Marcus Aurelius

Your expectations are not what is.

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Often therapy is about the disparity between expectations and reality. Greater honesty in facing reality is a place of greater soul and greater maturity. Reality really is your best friend. Growing up in the 50’s with Lassie, Leave it to Beaver, and Ozzie & Harriet seemed false and surreal even then. Grimm’s Fairy Tales offered a glimpse of harshness, struggle and a preparation for a future where terrible things are possible. Witches, trolls, and evil had to be faced with honesty, honor, and courage. These are all the infrastructure of character. It is ironic that fairy tales offered a safe connection to reality while television in the 50’s struck such a false note and really helped create exaggerated expectations.

Disappointment is a huge part of life and kids that are too entitled are not going to learn that lesson early enough. I would say, “You need more practice in disappointment,” to my kids when a “No” would illicit too big a response. Consider the first time a child loses their balloon or a pet, as small glimpses into reality that prepare them for the future.

Hanging on to expectations by not accepting disappointment or loss as a part of life means keeping a wound unhealed. It becomes an insistence that life is supposed to be different. It shouldn’t rain when I am on vacation, my body should be different, my job should be more exciting, my partner should be more romantic all may pile up into a constant unhappiness with the way things are.

Let’s insert the AA prayer here “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.” Balance is being able to make a distinction.

So many people come into the office & say “My life was not supposed to be this way”. I don’t think there are any success supposed to “be”. Life is accepting the ups & downs.

It’s important to make disappointment bearable for our entire lives. It’s work to feel it and comfort yourself, as all of us must bear disappointment. If disappointment is not made bearable, there are two ugly choices:

1. Spray your expectations over everyone else
2. Hold your expectations in and become paralyzed with regret and resentment.

In 2003, research has proven that we do mellow as we age, which is in part due to the weathering life offers. As the Rolling Stones acknowledged, we may not get what we want, but we can figure out how to get what we need.

Expectations can work as an inner push, but not if taken to levels of perfectionism. Expectations can be helpful as fuel, unless you are drowning yourself in them which is too harsh on the inner spirit. It’s difficult to keep desires balanced and ignited at the same time.

expectations,what to expect,expectations of

There are cultural expectations of specifically high SAT scores, of marriage within an ethnic group, of sons who are catered to and do not do chores that are required of daughters, etc. Each individual has to do the work of sorting out his/her own direction in the midst of these demands. It will be a different answer for each of us.

Bitterness is the result of unmet expectations as a pattern over time. Bitterness is a very dangerous path that very few ever return from.

I remember our family’s dance teacher who described leaving her studio in Hawaii to care for her mother in Pittsburgh. She appeared to be perpetually sad at having left her life behind. Recently I was at a blues concert, distracted by the son of the singer who radiated bitterness and misery. It was more than desultory playing. Bitterness feels irrevocable and permanent because it can become a way of life.

Movie about Expectations:

500 Days Of Summer (2009)
You can read the full review on my

4 TED Talks about Overcoming Depression

Movie about Depression
depression,depressed Ulee’s Gold (1997)
Peter Fonda turns in an amazing performance.

Books to help Depression

The 10 Best-Ever Depression Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Depressed and What You Can Do to Change It

A Secret Sadness: The Hidden Relationship Patterns That Make Women Depressed by Valerie Whiffen

A Woman’s Guide to Overcoming Depression by Archibald Hart & Catherine Hart Weber

depression,depressedCan I Get a Witness?: Black Women and Depression by Julia A. Boyd

Undercurrents: A Life Beneath the Surface by Martha Manning – A therapist’s reckoning with her own depression.

Unmasking Male Depression: Recognizing the Root Cause to Many Problem Behaviors Such as Anger, Resentment, Abusiveness, Silence, Addictions, and Sexual Compulsiveness by Archibald Hart


Depression in New Mothers: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment Alternatives by Kathleen Kendall-Tacket

The Postpartum Husband: Practical Solutions for living with Postpartum Depression by Karen Kleiman

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamisen


• Read Depression After Miscarriage by Lisa Belkin in the NYTimes

• Check in with your PCP to rule out a vitamin B-12 deficiency or a thyroid problem.

• Finish this sentence as many times as possible: “I am angry about __________!”
When you’ve completed the sentences, ask yourself, “Is there a want that you can speak up about or take action on?”