Feeling depressed? Get redirected

2,073 words

Depression is common. Understanding its core message is not. All feelings are trying to tell us something. Are you listening?

Deep down, your body knows what you need. Your body reports your needs, prompting you to relieve them in some way. Often in most general terms.

You never need to decide when to draw in nutrition or fluids. Hunger and thirst naturally do that for you. Your body will even suggest what optimal food or drink to consume.

Your options, of course, can be limited. Instead of finding time for a healthy breakfast, you get by all morning on a cup of coffee or two. You settle for what’s less than optimal.

Are you denying yourself what you emotionally need?

Such limited options spill over into other areas of your life. For example:

  • Instead of standing up for yourself, you feel powerlessly bullied into appeasing others.

  • Instead of boldly being your misfit self, you submit to social pressures to fit in as expected.

  • Instead of following your passionate pursuit for art, you accept family pressures to pursue a more pragmatic career.

  • Instead of pursuing your dream to start a side business, you resign to paying your hated bills from your hated job.

  • Instead of complaining about borderline sexual harassment at work, you hold in your doubts to avoid losing your job position.

  • Instead of confronting continuing abuses of authority, you keep silent to avoid reliving the trauma.

In short, you suck it up, and push forward. While your body keeps score.

Eventually, your body pushes back. Consider how your body would react if denied its intuitively determined direction. How would it feel if your body suddenly slammed on the brakes, to deny you this misdirection?

By intuition, I mean the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning. When ignoring the informed direction of your body’s wisdom, to serve some reasoned expectations of others, you can expect a host of symptoms to complain about this apparent misdirection.

Symptoms reporting a misdirected life

1. You feel a growing frustration. Barriers to your life’s deeper direction understandably evoke frustration. That’s what frustration is for. To report unacceptable barriers.

If your intuition pulls you one way, while you’re pulled in an opposite direction to serve some questionable commitments—demanding family, bill collectors, contentious roommates, irate mother-in-law—then why wouldn’t you feel frustrated?

2. You lose concentration. Something continually yanks at your attention, struggling to get you to refocus. How long have you been concentrating on something for someone else?

Doing what you passionately enjoy requires little focus. It just pulls you in, letting the hours fly by. Stuck doing what you can’t enjoy may require more focus than your misdirected life can now afford.

3. You lose interest in once pleasurable activities. A deeply meaningful life can be most enriching. Missing cues to delve in deeply can can sap all the fun out of life.

Self-indulgent pleasures often provide a momentary distraction from lingering pain. But fail to fully fill that hole filled only by meaningful existence.

4. Your energy drains. Your body denies you misdirected energy down a self-disrespecting path. Fatigue pulls energy away from constantly pleasing others, against your own best interests.

Serving others who reciprocate in kind sustains itself. Serving the self-absorbed robs you of rejuvenation. So you feel your love tank run empty, and then the bottom falls out.

5. You become restless. Energy spent at odds with your meaningful existence feels intuitively wasted. Your best interests, sitting below your conscious awareness, pumps the brakes. Sometimes it takes you for a frightening ride.

Misdirection tosses you around like a little ship caught in a storm. While indeed alarming, your restlessness may actually pull you closer to safety. While restless you’re moving, not sinking in the storm.

6. You have trouble sleeping. Your circadian rhythm gets thrown off course. When denied its meaningful purpose, your life may find little reason to get out of bed.

Your energy is already drained. So you sleep in. Then find it impossible to sleep normally the next night. A misdirected life may find little reason to maintain a schedule for others. Especially if intuitively your body knows they don't support your neglected needs.

7. You feel guilty for some reason. Guilt reports a contradiction between what you believe you should’ve done and what you actually did. A misdirected life pulls you subconsciously to do more for yourself, despite your hardened commitments to others.

You may cling to the belief you should be doing more for others. But your body denies you the energy to fulfill these commitments. So you understandably feel guilty.

8. You feel hopeless. A meaningful existence can carry you through almost any calamity. Adjusting to a deep loss often involves finding some meaning in it, to carry on.

Hope provides you a bridge to carry you there, past all the pain in the frightening moment. When your meaning gets cut off, any loss can prove devastating. Hopelessness may be among life’s deepest pains to ever endure.

9. You feel an overwhelming emptiness. Finding your life’s purpose fills you with meaning. Gives you direction. Sustains you through the hardest of times.

Without such meaningful purpose, daily challenges can suck the life right out of you. Ending your life may seem preferable to such profound pain. Misdirection takes no prisoners.

Sound familiar?

You can now find a way out of our current toxic climate of political polarization. Think of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development. Value Relating replaces our crumbling political conventionalities with a post-conventional alternative.

According to anakelogy, emotions convey needs, in more ways than one.

  • Emotions quickly alert you to some need that likely cannot wait, initially in most general terms.

  • Emotions typically prioritize your self-preservation; without the self then little else would matter.

  • Emotions ready you for a behavioral response, for relieving any urgent need.

Consider your bodily response to intuitively unacceptable misdirection.

  • You become vaguely aware that you no longer can function as easily as before.

  • Your body “depresses” your energies not meaningfully directed toward your own purposeful existence.

  • Your body pulls you to “redirect” your committed energies, back toward needed self-nurturing you likely neglected from imposing external pressures.

In indigenous anakelogy, this is called redirection. It’s the natural bodily response to the problem of misdirection. Specifically, an intuitive reaction to a life pulled unacceptably off course from its meaningful existence.

By any other name

This “pressing down” aspect is merely the most plainly felt element in this natural process. The term “depression” replaced melancholia as a descriptor of these observable and self-reported symptoms. Without isolating its underlying need, it made sense to label it by its most striking feature.

I’m not claiming that all that gets labeled as depression must be redirection, as described here. Nor am I suggesting that such depression can be simply solved by redirecting your life toward some meaningful purpose. Depression has many predecessors.

There may be occasions of residual depression, where feelings of depression linger long after the underlying need has been redressed. Depression tends to be too complex for simple answers, especially those in want of critical testing.

When symptoms of major depression crash in, checking with a medical professional remains prudent. Or even contacting a loved one, for starters. Problems generally don’t care what you call them. Pain pricks by any name.

Treating the need, not just the symptoms

If all emotions report possible needs, as anakelogy asserts, we can relate better to our needs. Even if initially vague and inaccurate, we can embrace our unpleasant emotions as messengers of troubling news. Instead of shooting the messenger, we can start looking around at what we painfully need.

By recognizing the problem of misdirection, we can better appreciate redirection as a natural response to a need. And catch mild depression before it can slip into major depression. We can embrace one’s intuitive awareness to turn their misdirected life around, instead of trying to tame their symptoms to normalize them. Trying to tame nature is ultimately fruitless.

By framing redirection as a natural response, we can do more than treat the symptoms of depression. We can get right to the underlying need. Instead of relieving symptoms, we can resolve the needs these symptoms report. If we dare look beyond the individual sufferer.

We’re so used to the normal reactions that only look inward.

  • We trust a medical response, to beat back depression with antidepressants or ECT.

  • We trust a psychological response, to fight depression with psychotherapy.

A medical and even purely psychological intervention has its place, when they work. Promptly relieving symptoms often secures a path toward long-term resolution of needs. But while gazing inward we can easily miss the full picture. We could even enable the culprits, which may actually perpetuate the pain.

Emotions are typically cued by something external to the body. Not merely from within. Perhaps some forms of depression (if not most) can only be fully resolved by looking both inward and outward. We likely need to trust a full bio-psycho-social response to fully resolve the pain.

We may need to address external contributors to misdirection:

  • mounting economic pressures,

  • overwhelming job stress,

  • powerlessness amidst family dysfunction,

  • recurring sources of trauma, and the like.

We can then more fully address internal contributors to misdirection:

  • empower personal agency to push back economic pressures,

  • cultivate self-efficacy to remove oneself from a stressful situation,

  • balance service to others with sufficient self-nurturing,

  • find deeper meaning while adjusting to a painful loss, and so forth.

An intuitively redirected life

A full psychosocial response (including any necessary biological component) empowers the depressed to liberate themselves from external pressures hindering their meaningful existence.

  • Instead of powerlessly bullied into complying with another’s demands, you find supportive others to help you stand up for yourself.

  • Instead of submitting to pressures to fit in, you take courage-building steps toward being your full misfit self.

  • Instead of succumbing to family pressures to work at a job you passionately hate, you find the loving words to win their support toward your passionate purpose in life.

  • Instead of getting stuck in that purpose-draining job, you get the support you need to pursue your entrepreneurial mission in life.

  • Instead of censoring your doubts about traumatizing harassment on the job, you connect with the resources you need to break free from that debilitating pattern.

  • Instead of fearfully avoiding trauma triggers, you reach out and find the support you need to take on the seemingly powerful.

None of these are abstract examples. Each is taken from my own life of momentary redirection, or so-called depression. Each applied the anakelogical principle of respecting pain as important need indicators. Each correction of misdirection dissolved all the depression I was feeling at the time. Next?

Basically, I asked myself the miracle question. “If I could freely do anything right now, what would I love to be doing?” The answer compelled me to reconnect with my life’s purpose, and the supports needed to help me pursue it relentlessly. The shared perspective help to convert once insurmountable obstacles into worthy challenges, and then into meaningful opportunities.

Obstacles are plenty. My vulnerability to redirection stems in part to trans-exclusion. Not only from enduring years of painful rejection and state sanctioned stigmatization, but from being relatively more in tune to my intuition. Perhaps my feminine energies also make it easier to look outward and seek the psychosocial supports I’ve needed to overcome misdirection.

Since feminine persons, namely women, tend to be more in tune with their intuition, it can make sense they exhibit more redirection, or depression. Masculine folks, typically alpha males, tend to error on the side of erring against others. Do now, they’d say, and ask questions later. They’re more likely to experience guilt than depression.

Guilt, more specifically, reports a contradiction between one’s self-serving actions and one’s proper social commitments. Depression informs a contradiction between one’s best self-interest and one’s people pleasing behaviors. They’re practically gendered opposites of each other.

As for me...

I personally find it disingenuous to continue referring to this batch of symptoms as depression. It makes as about as much sense as continuing to call transgender people crossdressers, or still label gays as homosexuals. It fixates on a visible feature, while glossing over underlying needs that create it.

You can continue calling it depression. I’ll just translate the word in my mind, to keep myself alert to these many needs pushed back by an often imposing status quo.

You may even find it necessary to ease the symptoms. Sometimes prioritizing relief proves necessary, when pain-cancelling solutions take too damn long.

Meanwhile, I’ll press ahead to solve the pressing need for meaningful existence for us all. Ensuring we all enjoy such psychosocial wellness happens to be my purpose in life, my meaningful existence. So, yes, I’ll start at home. Who’s next?

BIONOTE: Steph created an eCourse to counteract political polarization. The course includes a unit linking the generalizing of politics with the generalizing of our feelings. Eventually, Steph aims to create an eCourse delving into anakelogy, including this take on depression as conveying the need for a life pulled off course, as political polarization can do. Sign up for updates to see further developments, and notification for when the eCourse finally gets published.

Steph is a self-described transspirit, which is a kind of sacred misfit. By transcending conventional limits—gender norms, religious identities, political polarities, and more—Steph experiences a unique connection in life. And suspects others do as well. This blog shares that spirituality, and affirms others of a similar state of being.

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