Put into words, the stuff of psychotherapy can seem hopelessly obvious. One thinks: Of course your depressed friend has nothing to be depressed about; why can’t he see it? Why can’t you just tell him so, give him some books about depression and how to overcome it, and end the problem that way? Of course the overly timid, cautious, and withdrawn man became that way because he grew up with an intolerant, volatile parent; everyone else who knows the family can see that, and they can see that this man has no reason anymore to be so scared. If they can see all this, why can’t he do the same and get moving with his life? Of course the arrogant, know-it-all only irritates the very people he’s trying so hard to impress? Why can’t he keep quiet a bit, so that he doesn’t end up jobless, friendless, and solitary?
The short answer is that it’s too painful. Your depressed friend is stuck in this depression partly because, believe it or not, it is easier to feel depressed than to face what really hurts. It is easier for him to believe that everything about him is worthless, however much this flies in the face of all the data, than it is to cope with whatever else is going on. That is why his depression seems so irrational to us — because it’s a distraction from something else. Meanwhile we can only drop our jaws in disbelief as this handsome, talented, successful man mopes that he has nothing and is worthless. The bright and attractive woman who attaches herself to one unreliable and dishonest man after another prefers — at an unconscious level — to cry or rage over the current man’s behavior rather than to feel and acknowledge more pervasive and unweildy dissatisfaction with herself and her life. Even the timid soul finds it more comfortable to flinch his way through life than to face all the rage, despair, and fear involved in questioning his habitual view of himself and the world.
Therapy can help. Your situation may not be as extreme as the cases described above, but perhaps we all have a hurt child somewhere inside.
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