How Observing Self Can Help With Depression

Observing Self

Depression may occur due to a loss of connection and relationship with self and others due to ongoing stressful and traumatic events. Over time the energy to maintain an OK position is drained and this results in a change to metal, physical and cognitive perceptions and experiences.

When in a depressive mood we lose the connection to our OK self and that of others. Immersed instead in a feeling of futility and hopelessness that becomes overwhelming.

The experience of depression can envelope us so that our world is reduced to what we are feeling.  Experiencing hopelessness and lovelessness it can seem as if there is no way out of this.

Just as our energy levels rise and fall so does our mood and capacity to cope with demands and difficulties. Our thoughts affect our feelings and our feelings affect our thinking. In turn what we do physically affects thoughts and feelings. Everything about us that we experience is interrelated.

Changing what we experience therefore can then in turn change how we think, feel and do things.

Changing our Experience

As described in ‘Depression Our Ally’, using curiosity and questioning of your depression can be used to gain greater insight into its nature. This is one method of bringing about change.

Another method that can be made is using ‘Observation of Self’, to help introduce perspective. This is similar to mindfulness with the additional elements of being part of a physical, mental and cognitive process to bring about change.

Observation of self can help you to develop and hold your sense of self separate from what you are thinking, feeling and doing. It about not getting caught up and lost in your thoughts and feelings as this reinforces your being trapped.

Sitting quietly, eyes closed examine your breathing, you want this to be long, slow and deep. Your thoughts and feelings will continue to surface. You don’t fight them, nor do you get caught up in them. Instead keep bringing your attention back to what is going on for you inside and outside.

The thoughts and feelings are still present, but you are not fuelling them. You observe them as you might casually observe water flowing along a gutter after rain. They are held in context of the bigger picture of you sitting in the place you are, breathing and maintaining attention and awareness.

Separating Ourself From the Experience

By expanding your attention to include your self as the experiencer and what you are experiencing this brings about an inner space. We can then slowly bring a degree of distance between us and our thoughts / feelings. Our expanded landscape of awareness then gives us the possibility for greater emotional manoeuvrability.

Observing our own awareness helps to separate self from our painful experience. This creates the quiet and calm of the internal space. It is held alongside but distinct from the negative thoughts and painful feelings.

When more used to this practise it can be done at any place or time. It is best started off for a short time such as 1 or 2 minutes and then built up over time. Regular practice is most beneficial as it becomes part of your routine.

Building Tolerance

Being mindful and observing self enables you to monitor your inner state. So can be done when walking, working, eating etc. There is no wrong way, part of this method is to accept that at times we can’t focus our attention, that our mind keeps drifting along the river of thought and feeling.

It is the catching of our self drifting off and gently bringing our attention and awareness back to our self that is the key. Being present in the moment with our self just as we are there and then. Quietly choosing to observe.

Overtime we can build a greater tolerance to being more comfortable with uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Ongoing non judgemental observation is turn can help to de-escalate feelings of anxiety and depression.

This enables a change in our internal landscape and for our OK mood to slowly expand back into this more present and self aware space.

See also:

Working with Depression Counselling

Depression Our Ally, how we might gain insight from our depression