Making depression the enemy

Apr 7, 2020

There are as many journeys through depression as there are individuals.

The following approach can be part of moving through depression and out the other side. It's not for everyone, but is often is very effective.

Have you ever heard it said about depression

"Iv'e got depression"

"I'm always depressed, its in the family"

The above statements may be true in describing what we are experiencing but the problem is that these statements harbour the belief that depression is part of who we are, something that we have,  or something we have been born with.

When we internalise the belief that depression is part of our unique, individual identity it can make it that  much more difficult to move through it.  

What if we were to look at "our depression" as "the black dog **", an enabling, controlling visitor, rather than an embedded part of our identity ? When we externalise the depression and give it a name (such as "Black dog") an interesting thing happens, whereby it can become very clear about what this overly familiar, enabling and controlling visitor, black dog, wants us to do with our day.

Tom* re-names what he had named  "my depression"  and now names it "black dog", externalising it.

I ask Tom ...

"Tom, what does black dog want, or tell you to do with your day ? "

"Stay in bed a little longer" when its already 10am

"Eat some biscuits, ice cream or sweets to feel a little better, you deserve it". (a sugar rush "cure")

"Don't phone anyone today, leave that until you feel like it"

"You don't really need to have a shower today, do it tomorrow"

"Leave  housework for tomorrow"

"Don't cook if you don't feel like it, have some toast, get a pie from the dairy"

"Don't go to the gym. Leave that until you feel like it".

"Do it tomorrow"

"Buy some beers, take it easy".

"Just wait until you feel like it"

"Sleep when you want to, day or night"

Tom notices that black dog can get nasty at times as well "you're lazy, you're a waste of space"

I then asked Tom, "Do you obey black dog" ? Tom thinks for  moment and he comes to the conclusion that he was doing everything that black dog wanted him to do. I asked Tom what he would do if he had a  flatmate or partner telling him to do all the same things Black Dog wanted him to do. Tom thought again for a moment and said "I would feel quite smothered, pissed off, angry". I ask Tom how he feels after a day of control by black dog and he says " I feel tired, lazy, unmotivated, bloated, sad, powerless, lonely"

Tom then began to see Black Dog as an overly familiar, unwelcome and manipulative visitor and began defy  black dog,  mobilising his anger and doing the opposite. Black Dog was not him. He could see that Black Dog was selling him the lie that recovery from depression was a matter of comfortably waiting for a miraculous day when he might feel like doing  all the things he was avoiding.

I then asked Tom "Do you have a "wise self" that doesn't agree with black dog. Tom thought for a moment and said "yeah, I do", and his eyes lit up.  Tom has a rebel streak and in the following days he begins to feel some anger and some energy and he begins to defy and rebel against black dog's manipulations, doing the opposite. Black dog began to have less and less influence over Toms day as he began some new habits inspired by his wise self  see link to (Ending an old habit beginning a new habit)

(This particular Black Dog loves unstructured time, isolation, sweet snacks, open ended commitments, junk tv watched in bed, porn, junk food, some alcohol, being inside, the sofa, reflecting on all that is lacking, all that is being lost). Black Dog also hates, exercise, cooking, healthy food, structure, commitments, calling friends.

Know the enemy, Knowledge is power. Power is energy.  Harness the energy.

Is black dog in your life ?  see link to habits link

Also,  see my posts on

Contact Page

** Sir Winston Churchill named the depression in his life "black dog"

If this way of looking at depression does not seem to fit for you, don't worry, talk to your counsellor.

*Tom is fictitious

Martin Fraser, B.A. (Hons) Psyc. Dip Counselling.

Particular interest in enhancing resilience in my community against Depression, Anxiety, Isolation and Addictions. Member of NZ Assoc Counsellors.

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