by Susan Heitler, Ph.D.
Depression produces feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. Depressed feelings are triggered by a situation in which a person gives up on getting something of felt importance.
The following visualization, illustrated on the audiotape Depression: A Disorder of Power, can powerfully combat depressed moods. Designed for therapists to use with patients, the visualization may also be used as a self-help technique.
The depressed person closes his/her eyes, and the therapist asks the following questions, leading the depressed person through six re-empowering steps. To use the technique as self-help, ask a friend to read you the questions aloud. Alternatively, open your eyes to read each question, and then close them again to observe the images that come up on your visual screen.
- Identify the conflict. “If you were going to be mad at someone, or at something, not yourself, notice what image comes up of who you could be mad at.”
- Fill in the details. “In that scene, what do you see him (her) doing? How do you respond? What do you want? What do you feel, and think?”
- Check relative sizes. “Who appears bigger, you or the other? By a little, or by a lot.” Note: if there are no size discrepancies, you are not dealing with depression, or have not yet identified the depressogenic situation.
- Alter the sizes, increasing the patient’s sense of power. “Picture yourself suddenly growing very tall, like Alice in Wonderland, shooting way up tall.”
- Broaden the database.“From this new height, from this perspective, what can you see now that you may not have noticed before when you were small?”
- Find new solutions. “Knowing what you now know, from this bigger size, what are some new ways you might handle the problem to be more effective in getting what you want?”
Note: This protocol can reestablish normal power, eliminate the negative thinking of depression, and reestablish a sense of positive humor and well-being. For well-being to be sustained, however, the pattern of depressogenic interactions needs to be changed. For this reason, when depressogenic conflicts occur with a spouse, both partners need to be included in the therapy process so that both make the changes necessary for cooperative, rather than dominant-submissive, interacting.