Depression is almost always the result of the negative “inner dialogues” we have with ourselves. An interesting pattern has emerged from my experimental and survey research into depression: Individuals rarely became severely depressed without engaging in highly submissive inner dialogues.
These dialogues are familiar to all of us. They often involve guilt, where we say things to ourselves like: “I’m to blame for what went wrong,” or “It’s all my fault.” These dialogues can also involve thoughts of unrealistic despair, such as “It’s no use. Things will always turn out wrong.” Or: “My job situation or my family situation is hopeless.” Or: “People are always mistreating me.” Or: “I’ll never be able to accomplish anything.” Or: “I’m just of no use to myself or to anyone else.” Or, the dialogues can involve despair about the depression itself, like: “I’ll always be depressed. It’s never going to get better.”
Typically, individuals have strong reasons for these thoughts. A terrible family or job situation, or other interpersonal problem, can be horribly debilitating. But, by engaging in these sorts of inner dialogues, we are playing a very risky game. Simply, we are risking overwhelming our submission response - and thereby plunging ourselves into perhaps a lifetime of severe depression.
Often individuals who have participated in my research have said to me: “But these kinds of thoughts didn’t make me feel severely depressed. Because first I felt depressed, then I had these negative thoughts.” However, on closer examination of virtually every case, I find that these kinds of negative thoughts, in fact, do appear first, then severe depression results. Simply putaeout bad thoughts produce our bad feelings.
But, like any habit, changing something we practice as much as our inner dialogues is extremely difficult, especially once we have trained our submission response to activate so easily, so unconsciously.
Depressed persons get very tired of hearing people say things like: “Just snap out of it. Be more positive. It’s not that big of a deal.” Well, once we have reached the stage of severe depression, it is a very big deal. And just simply telling ourselves to “be more positive” is not a strategy that is concrete enough to be very helpful. What we can do, however, is to take a different approach, one that my research has shown can be remarkably effective. It is a method that takes advantage of the flip side of the submission response - the dominance response.