01 Jun A Matter of Perspective
It’s all in how you look at it, isn’t it? We all see the world as we see it and, frankly, how we see it makes perfect sense to us. In fact, it makes so much sense, we can’t imagine that others don’t see it just as we do. So many of the disagreements I hear in relational therapy have a strong component of perspective. People can see the same thing differently but some people think that the other’s inability to see things as they do is just stubbornness or meanness and is some sort of passive aggressive move to rile them up. But step back some and you will see what I see and that is that the number of perspectives on a topic, thing, or concept is almost always equal to the number of people looking at said topic, thing, or concept. This is true in relationships of all sorts from romantic to political. Your perspective is your own.
I’ve done other blogs on this in terms of normal relational difficulties but this one was triggered the other day as I was talking with a client about her depression. It recently started to creep back in some and with a growing effect on her. Depression is so real and so scary and, yes, so dangerous and I could see in her eyes that she was dreading what seemed inevitable to her. She saw so clearly the path that leads to sleeping too much, isolating too much, avoiding things that have been previously enjoyable, feeling flat, feeling fat, and feeling desperately hopeless.
I also noticed with her and with others of my depressed patients just how much depression colored her view. I said to her, “Along with all the other things that depression is, it is also a perspective; a lens through which you see everything.”
This is usually something I will say to clients that I know well enough to see when they are headed toward but not fully into their depressive cycle. I will also say it to the more depressed patients but I know they will have an even harder time realizing the cause and effect of perspective on what they believe is true and the choices they make.
What I mean is that depressed people (and many others with differing types of thinking or feeling disorders) find, in their worst moments, justification for choices that tend to make them more depressed (or whatever). Please understand that it is WAY TOO SIMPLE to imply that all they have to do to feel better is simply to get out of bed or stop drinking alcohol or spend time with loved ones or whatever. “Why don’t you just stop ______ and start _____ if you really want to feel better?” Please beware. Voicing this is just a blink away from making them feel to blame for their depression. This is not a message you want to reinforce.
That being said, it is important to continue to support and encourage while staying far away from blame. It is important that you let them know that you love them no matter what. Convey that you understand that changing their depressed inertia is unbelievably hard but that you will help them in any way you can to make those moves when they are ready to make them. Let them know that in the meantime, you will be present and listen and make a safe space for what you don’t fully understand. Hopefully, within the context of that safe place, they will eventually let you help them take those first few steps toward recovery.