Not all depression is equal. Depression exists on a continuum from mild to extreme and where it lies on that line dictates the treatment appropriate for resolving it. I’d like to look at a couple of reasons for depressive symptoms that we don’t typically hear about, the cure for which is readily accessible.

Personal Incongruence
When our beliefs and practices are aligned or in agreement with one another, we experience personal congruence. Ideally, our beliefs and practices work together to meet our needs. But sometimes we aren’t even aware of our needs. It might be that we never learned to identify our own needs. We have simply continued in the patterns we learned in our family growing up. Or our needs may have changed since we were kids but we’ve never taken the time to reevaluate. When this happens we experience personal incongruence.

Patty grew up in a family that didn’t tolerate crying. When her dog died, eight-year-old Patty couldn’t help but cry at the loss of her little companion. Her mother shamed her saying “crying is for babies.” That was the last time Patty cried about anything. Since then, her mom and sister have both died but Patty hasn’t cried about her loss. She does suffer from depression that is persistant and can be disabling, causing her to miss work with increasing frequency. Patty’s belief that crying is only for babies is not meeting her need to feel and express sadness over the loss of her family members and thereby receive comfort from others. Patty’s depression is trying to tell her that she is incongruent; Her belief and practice are not meeting her needs.

Dan has suffered from depression for a decade. He’s confused about why he’s depressed. He had a great childhood, his parents are still married and celebrated their thirty-fifth anniversary last year and he now has a fine young family of his own. Dan became an accountant because his dad is an accountant and he insisted Dan follow in his footsteps. His dad thinks Dan is a Democrat like himself, because it’s incomprehensible that his son would ever choose another party. Dan is not a Democrat. During family gatherings Dan has to listen as his dad berates his political beliefs. He hates being an accountant yet he stays the course and doesn’t correct Dad’s perceptions because he desperately wants Dad’s approval. At one time, Dan decided that he needed his dad’s approval more than he needed to be fulfilled in his career and more than he needed to be loved for who he truly is. He doesn’t realize it’s better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not. Now his depression is telling him that people pleasing is not meeting his deepest needs. Dan is incongruent.

Stress erupts from incongruence. Depression is one way the body diminishes that stress. To increase congruence we might ask ‘What part(s) of my Self is not being honored in my work life?’; In my relationships?; In my emotional expression? Then, ‘What can I do to honor that part of me?’ Maybe it will mean exploring other career options or speaking up for yourself or even just telling the truth when asked what you think. It may mean expanding your range of emotion and being OK with expressing them to others. And maybe it will mean valuing yourself and your own opinions more than you value what others think of you.

Patty and Dan need to identify their current needs. What may have allowed them to survive as children is no longer working for them. Patty must recognize that sadness is part of being human and crying is a legitimate way of expressing that experience, even for adults. Dan must recognize that by forfeiting his desired career path and being silent about his political affliations, he is actually supporting his belief that his dad’s love is conditional.  If that is true, then he’ll have to grieve that as a loss before he can move forward. When Patty and Dan become aware of their current needs, declare them valid, and give up people pleasing, their personal congruence will increase while their depression, no longer needing to speak for their souls, will decrease.

If you believe your depression might be related to personal incongruence like Patty or Dan, call me to set up an appointment to begin your path to freedom from depression  855-255-5993

Which of these areas do you struggle with? What steps could you take to increase your congruence? Share it with us in the comments section below.

Posted by Lee Ann

Hi, I'm Lee Ann, an extrovert; perpetual learner; book collector; Jesus-follower; A “doer” in recovery; Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in Greater Denver, CO

7 Comments

  1. As someone with anxiety/depression, I find the ‘people pleasing’ element really hard to deal with. For years I just wanted everyone to like me and if they didn’t, I’d stay awake at night obsessing about what I’d done and why they weren’t interacting with me. I’m learning and trying to recognise this need and overcome it like Patti and Dan. Thanks for sharing these experiences!

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    1. Thanks for reading. Like you, I struggled with people-pleasing for most of my adult life. It was crippling me. I finally had to take a look inside and see why everyone else’s opinions mattered more to me than my own. It wasn’t easy or fast but the work was worth it. I hope you are able to conquer it Myanxietymatters.

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      1. Thanks so much. It’s re-assuring to read that others are going through similar things. It’s a big step looking at yourself and finding all the great things about you. So glad that it worked for you 🙂 I’m working on it!

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  2. Thank you, Lee Ann, for this great article. I appreciate the clarity of the phrase “personal congruence.” That makes so much sense to me. I have recently learned that my tendency towards “conflict avoidance and people pleasing” is a mechanism I used as a child to seek safety, but that in my pursuit of emotional health, I am learning the value of speaking up. The concept of personal congruence gives me a word picture to understand why this is speaking up is so critical for me to experience health; otherwise, I am living incongruently. Thank you for the insight!

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    1. I am so glad you found the phrase that enables you to express your internal experience. Congratulations Linda, on finding your own personal congruence! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. I loved this LeeAnn and I love you! 💕 I am a recovering People- Pleaser! I realize that I may have 10 positive affirmations from people I lead and coach, and one negative, and yet, I focus on the one negative!!! Ugh! I am learning that all people see circumstances through their own lense. That could be a distorted lense as they bring past baggage with them, as we ALL tend to do! God in HIS goodness, reminds me that “He is the lifter of my head, and rights all wrongs” It’s really not my battle to fight… Thus, I release it… humbly….. if there is a message I need to learn, I am open to hearing… from Him!

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    1. I have so been there Mary! One criticism could send me into days of anxiety. I learned like you, to ask God if there was any truth in the criticism so that I could learn and grow. If not, then I could let it go. Learning to receive criticism constructively is a journey for most of us, I think. It’s well worth taking! Thanks for sharing Mary.

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