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Where Does Depression Come From?

Last updated on June 11, 2021

Depression, like clouds, seems to come out of nowhere.

Is Depression Really All That Mysterious?

It feels that way when it takes over. But when you look a little closer depression is no mystery at all.

What causes depression?

A multitude of small hurts adding up to something bigger.

Often It Starts With Not Getting Something You Want

That is the first hurt.

I want reality to be a certain way, and it doesn’t cooperate.

The pain comes when I try to fight reality. It hurts to fight an opponent that is stronger than I am. Just like punching a wall hurts only me.

I am causing my pain by railing against reality.

But That’s Just The Start

The mind takes it further.

For example, say someone disrespects me. Not only do I dislike the reality I’m experiencing in that moment, I start to attack the other person. And I attack myself as well.

What does it feel like when I attack someone? It feels low, bad, heavy, angry, draining. It hurts me as much, or more, than it hurts them.

And when I attack myself, I feel the pain of both attacking and being attacked. A double whammy.

That’s The Key Point

Attacking, no matter who or what I’m attacking, hurts me. I bet you could make yourself feel bad calling names to even an inanimate object if you did it in a genuinely hateful way.

And more than that, attacking keeps me engaged in a war that I can’t afford. Because once I start attacking, I’m hooked into it.

Wars are expensive. They always have been. And it’s just as true with the internal wars that I wage with those around me. The cold wars, the silent wars, the active wars, the insults I hurl (even just in my mind), the revenge I seek. All of these wars keep me engaged on multiple fronts.

And that creates a major drain on my resources. That’s what zaps the energy. That’s what causes depression.

Disengaging From Battle Is The End of Depression

What The Work of Byron Katie invites me to do over and over in different situations is to find some way, any way, to disengage from all my pet wars.

With The Work, you go into one small battle at a time and start cutting through the wartime propaganda. As the propaganda falls apart, compassion and understanding for the enemy arises, and the desire to fight fades away.

And when one fight stops, the energy being used to maintain that fight is now available for constructive things again. That’s been exactly my experience over the years. With each bit of work that I do, more energy is freed up. And I feel more like myself again.

It’s a Cumulative Thing

Depression is cumulative–engaging more and more resources in an ever increasing number of battles.

And peace is cumulative–freeing up those resources by disengaging from one battle after another.

That’s why the work is a process. That’s why I like to keep doing it every day. If there’s even just one little battle left active inside me, I want to stop wasting my energy there.

Have a great week,

“You don’t have any control over anything. When you think you should and you see that you don’t, the effect is depression.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

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About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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