Inner Conflicts: A Potential Cure for Depression

How Solving Inner Conflicts can Bring us out of Depression

How Solving Inner Conflicts can Bring us out of a Depressed State

Disclaimer: The model in this article attempts to describe how depression, as well as other conditions such as recklessness, shame, upset, and a lack of fulfillment may emerge. However, I just want to add a disclaimer that I don’t know if this model is 100% correct. It’s just a theory. Sufficient evidence might disprove parts or all of it, just as any theory or way of viewing reality can later be disproved.

Furthermore, my reference to depression is not so much directed at clinical depression, but rather at the feeling of being depressed, or bummed up, draggy, etc – as I have witnessed inside myself, though the depression I talk about here and clinical depression may be one in the same. I can only say that I have never been diagnosed, and my experiences may differ greatly from someone who has. Given these facts, if the information in this article doesn’t seem to match up with cases of clinical depression as you know about them, then that may not be a mistake on my part, but rather due to the fact that I’m not addressing clinical depression. However, I will take a moment here at the start of the article to briefly address clinical depression as a topic.

(If you want to skip to what seems to me to be the cure for depression, skip to the part of the article entitled “In summary:”.)

Depression and Depressed Feelings

“True clinical depression” is defined by the National Library of Medicine in the US as: “a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer”.

This may be a short definition for a very complex topic, but it will do for now. By this definition, it does seem that one or two patterns within the model I will lay out shortly does correspond to this condition, known as depression, as it has been documented by others.

But if I am just talking about (depressed) feelings, doesn’t that mean it is temporary? The depression I’m talking about can indeed be temporary, and last as short as a few minutes, but it also has the possibility to last much much longer, due to the idea that feelings seem to be generated largely by our perceptions, rather than what is perceived. If the perceptions generating our depressed state are not addressed, or if they change to ones generating further depression, conceivably such a condition could not only go on for long periods of time, but it could get worse. As is hinted at here, the main way of solving depression seems to have to do with changing certain perceptions. But which ones, and how?

I feel like changing perceptions is a natural by-product of working through inner conflicts, and that by working through those conflicts, we change our perceptions in such a way that a depressed state is no longer necessary. The model below explains why, and is a theoretical explanation for how depression works, starts, what keeps it in place, and what can be done to solve it.

The Model – How Inner Conflicts and Depression May Be Connected

Interconnected Inner Forces

Inter-connected Inner Forces

Contention 1 – Inner forces: In our inner lives, there seem to be a number of different forces that can act in conjunction with each other or, at times, conflict with each other. This concept can easily be seen with such phenomena as moral dilemmas, which exist as a state where, generally speaking, the direction one feels like taking is in conflict with the limitations of behavior that one places on one’s self for moral reasons. Another example would be the concept of cognitive dissonance. Both of these examples demonstrate a state where a human being can have conflict between their inner forces, thus suggesting that there is more than one inner force, but many, or rather that the inner system that manifests as one person contains a variety of forces that CAN conflict with each other. Furthermore, the existence of conflict between inner forces suggests that there can be a lack of conflict between them as well.

Willpower can conflict with other feelings

Willpower can conflict with other feelings

Contention 2 – Conflicts with our Willpower: One type of conflict that can emerge seems to be between our willpower, or rather our will to move in certain directions that interest us, and any of the other inner forces.

These conflicts can be witnessed in feelings of hesitation, inhibition, struggle, stage-fright, procrastination, doubt, and moral dilemmas, just to name some. All these conflicts seem to have the basic pattern of there being a difference between what we want or wish to do and what we actually feel like doing or think we should do.

Willpower can separate from feelings that do not align themselves with its goals

Willpower can separate from feelings that do not align themselves with its goals

Contention 3 – Breaking Free can be Reckless: One way to respond to inner conflict is by ignoring, denying, or “pushing past” the inner force that is opposing your willpower. Phrases such as “throw caution to the wind”, “push past it”, or “let it go” reveal the existence of this decision within our everyday reality. It’s when we feel something that pulls us back but just go ahead anyway. The benefit of this approach is that we get to do and pursue what we want, and that can feel liberating. However, the danger with this method is that it can lead one towards reckless, uninformed, or unwise behavior, since one’s actions aren’t being tempered by considerations encouraged by the other inner forces inside of one’s self. In essence, one’s willpower isn’t always right, and sometimes one’s feelings, the ones one might rather push past, ignore, or deny, actually have something to share that could help you with how you make the choices you do.

One example of the recklessness of separation is with fear. While ignoring fear may seem courageous or heroic, it can also be quite dangerous, since fear comes up in response to perceived threats, and if those threats aren’t taken into consideration, you might do something like gamble your life AND actually end up losing it. With this in mind, pushing past fear can be seen as being very able to produce reckless behavior.

If we give up in our will to pursue what we want, then we can get depressed.

If, faced with inner conflicts, we give up in our will to pursue what we want, then we can get depressed.

Contention 4 – The Probable Cause of Depression: A second method of handling these conflicts with our will is to give in to the inner forces that pull us back, and to stop moving towards what we want, since fighting with ourselves to get to it can feel too tiring or difficult to bother trying. This is where depression can occur, as well as feelings of being upset. It’s what happens when we give up, give in, “lose the will to fight”, and/or settle for less in our life than what we want. We end up wanting things without actually pursuing them, or wishing for life to be different without actually taking steps to change it. And we might not even see a way TO change our life for the better. This also seems to produce negativity and bitterness.

In other words, our willpower, rather than pushing past all feeling in pursuit of what it wants, can go to the other extreme: giving in to the forces that conflict with it, and allowing them to dominate and limit what they can or cannot do. Ideas like “follow your dreams”, “shoot for the stars”, “believe in yourself”, and ignoring naysayers seem to be in response to this condition, and are meant as ideas to help break people out this condition of skipping out on the pursuit of what they want because of the feelings that get in the way. Feelings like shame, generated and enforced by one of the dominate non-will inner forces (like one’s judgment), may keep this condition in place.

When a lack of conflict exists, with no inner force dominating or suppressing another, then we can pursue what we want freely, but without separation from our feelings.

Harmony, or a lack of conflict, without dominance, between inner forces seems to be the ideal state, and is a state of positive feelings.

Contention 5 – Restoring Harmony: The ideal condition of the inner system seems to be when the inner forces act in harmony with each other, rather than in conflict. Yet, with conflict so common, a way of working back towards a state of harmony seems important as a means of solving the downsides of the methods of dealing with conflict mentioned in Contentions 3 and 4. After all, it would be better to be neither reckless OR depressed, wouldn’t it? The key to achieving harmony seems to be in resolving the conflicts between the willpower (“you”) and the inner forces (“your feelings”), when they appear. Sometimes, however, states of conflict can become habituated and so conflicts may not be apparent within awareness. However, the symptoms of depression and upset will still appear, as will other clues, such as conflicts with other people, since other people have feeling intelligence like you do as well, and even if you ignore your own feelings, their feelings might prompt them to conflict with you. If these conflicts cause upset, anger, or you feel unequipped to answer them, this is a clue for a feeling that you have perhaps an unresolved conflict with. Working through the upset that other people cause in you, and examining the argument they seem to be presenting to you fairly, seems to be a good enough approach to restoring harmony to the connection with the feeling that was brought into your awareness by the other people’s argument.

Two important skills for achieving harmony.

Two important skills for achieving harmony.

Contention 6 – The Importance of Assertiveness and Listening: Assertiveness and being willing to stand up for one’s self and what one wants seem to be essential to solving depression, since it seems that giving in to the opinions and feelings of other inner forces causes depression. At the same time, the ability to listen to one’s conflicting feelings seems equally important, as being open to what one’s feelings have to say and share with you, and looking at the reasons for why those feelings exist, can help to bring wisdom and consideration to one’s actions as well as to help the side of one’s self who feels conflicted to calm down.

In summary:

  • Conflicts that occur between inner forces can prompt us to choose one of two unhealthy options: one produces reckless or unwise behavior in us (though freeing), while the other produces feelings of depression, negativity, and upset.
  • The way to solve depression seems to be, rather than ignore our feelings, to try and resolve the conflicts we have with our feelings.
  • To resolve inner conflicts, it seems we need to bring those conflicts to the surface through various methods:
    • Look at what we want and see what’s standing in our way, then try to understand the inner force that’s blocking us and see if there’s a way to answer the reasoning that inner force brings to the table.
    • Work through the upset or anger that other people’s criticisms or conflicting attitudes can cause in us
  • Two skills that seem important for this process of conflict resolution seem to be assertiveness and listening.
  • Restoring harmony, which can also be called friendship, to a conflicted relationship between inner forces seems like the ideal solution for addressing inner conflicts.

This all goes back to the point about perceptions causing feelings, and how changing perceptions can change feelings. Say for example you’re experiencing fear. If, without denying your fear, you can convince your fear that what it feels threatened by isn’t really a threat, if you can change its perception, then your perception, on the level of what is a threat and what isn’t, changes, and so the fear will just go away. As long as the fear persists, there’s still some perceived danger, meaning continuing to listen to that feeling and ask why that feeling is there and what danger it’s perceiving may help to get to the root of the problem within your perception, where you can address your own attitudes and perhaps identify for yourself a new way of looking at the situation that will alleviate your feelings from the inside out.

Of course, sometimes we don’t have the time or the luxury to resolve the conflicts with our feelings. Luckily, we still have the options of either pushing past our feelings or giving into the them. Ultimately, us, with our willpower, still gets to make the call. But as long as we have SOME kind of method of working through these inner conflicts, we can always make a decision to give in or push past while still intending to come back to the conflict later and resolve it.

Conflict Resolution: A Method for Resolving Depressed Feelings (and Recklessness)

Below is one method that, using the understanding from the above model of how depression works, aims to bring whoever uses it (like you!) out of a depressed slump by calling out the feelings with which they conflict and giving them a means to work through that conflict and move back towards feeling better. Granted, many forces may conflict with one’s willpower, so simply using this technique once might not be enough. However, theoretically, if you use it, it should allow you to boost your mood significantly. Even if you resolve the conflict with just one conflicting side of you, that’s one less thing standing between you and what you want. Granted, your ideas of what you want may change as you do this, but how or if they change is totally up to you, and this process really is meant to allow you to fully respect what you want, no matter what it is. That said, here is the step-by-step method:

  1. What do you want? Open up a text document and write down a list of what you want. If you can’t come up with anything, write down what you wish for. Even if you’re not actively pursuing these things, or even if they’re impossible (such as for the past to change), then chances are you still can feel out what those things are. Feeling like on is able to pursue these things or conditions seems to be the main cause for either upset or depression.
  2. Pick one and write why. Take ONE of the items on the list – the one that maybe you want or wish for THE MOST, and, in a new section below your list, write out both what you want or wish for and your argument for why you want it.
  3. Identify the conflict. Why can’t, or shouldn’t, you have what you want or wish for? On the next line, write as if you are telling yourself WHY you can’t or shouldn’t have what you want or wish for. Get in the voice of the FEELING that conflicts with your desire. Treat it like another character – it doesn’t have to sound like you. It might sound like someone really judgmental (“you can’t have that because you’re worthless and shouldn’t have good things like that”), or maybe fearful (“no I don’t think that’s a good thing to want!! That sounds dangerous and scary!! Please don’t go for that!”), maybe down to earth (“look, it’s crazy to want that – I mean get your head out of the clouds – something like that just isn’t possible! Let it go!!”), or any other feeling. The main point here is to express the other side of the conflict.
  4. Work through it. From here, let the debate happen, and move to a new line each time you change speakers. Really let each side bring their energy to the table – don’t settle for either giving in to the feeling or just judging everything it has to say and pushing past it – instead, try to let neither force lose the fight. If, when everything is laid out on the table, one side naturally adjusts to the other, or maybe there’s give or take on both sides, that’s something positive – that works as a solution. The point is to get both sides going in the same direction, so your feeling is on board with your willpower, and they find a point of agreement. Let each side try to convince the other. If there was total agreement from the get-go, you wouldn’t have had this conflict in the first place! Another way of thinking about it is that you want to restore balance, heal the relationship between these two sides, bring the relationship back to a positive state, a state which could be identified as one of friendship. Depending on the intensity of the animosity of the two sides towards each other at the start, this could be very, very difficult. However, at least, no matter how bad the relationship is, there is at least a means through this method to bring those conflicts to the forefront and actively work through them.

Conclusions

It seems that, from the model described earlier, that the cure for depression, interestingly enough, seems to have to do with friendship, harmony, and positive relationships between the various forces that exist inside ourselves. The more we can act in harmony with our feelings, the more we are able to feel less conflicted and free to act, as well as benefit from the insights and considerations our feelings bring to the table. And on the external level, the less other people, and situations, will be able to upset us.

The idea that we might be able to not be upset by anything may seem rather pie-in-the-sky, but think of how it CAN just feel normal to act without inner conflict with regard to certain actions. We’re probably not that conflicted when it comes to mundane things like going to the bathroom. What if we could find ways of being as unconflicted about most if not all our things in life? Or, if that’s not possible, at least we might learn to appreciate the forces that conflict with us, and to have the humility to admit that while the decisions we make may seem good, the objections our feelings raise to those decisions might prove to be right after all.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of this model is in feeling like there is a way OUT of persistent depression, that we are not necessarily hopeless victims when it comes to our feelings. And when we know how to move towards what we want, and how to stand up to our feelings, depression loses its grip, since we are able to live or actively work towards (which is sometimes the best we can do) the life that we want, in all aspects of our wanting. Yes, while moving towards what we want we may still have to learn how to live without it, but we can still, at any time, decide to put in effort towards the life we want. And that, even when nothing is the way we want it yet, seems like something to remain positive about.

Further reading

Wikipedia article on Major Depressive Disorder – for a reference on clinical depression as a topic

Negativity – article on the condition that, alongside depressed feelings, seems to result from giving up in one’s willpower due to what other inner forces are saying with respect to certain areas of life (such as one’s mind telling you you HAVE no way forward).

Impatience - another experience rooted in inner conflict that can prompt one to give up more easily

Beauty in the Emptiness

Even when nothing else is there, you are there.

Even when nothing else is there, you are there.

In today’s culture, it’s very easy to find things to be entertained by. And I’m not saying anything’s wrong with that! The experiences created through our senses can be pleasant, nice, or even beautiful. Watching a sunset, talking with a friend, listening to our favorite pieces of music, eating our favorite foods.

But what if we could have none of that? What if it all suddenly vanished or was torn away, and we were left alone, with nothing, nobody, nor a way of experiencing those things?

Sounds pretty bleak, right? Sounds like something to avoid at all costs! And it’s a very accessible experience, because if ever we decided to stop filling our day with things to stimulate us, then we’d fall right into the experience of emptiness. But we don’t have to experience that, because we can keep filling our lives again and again, moment to moment, with things that keep us from that emptiness.

But at the same time, there is a certain beauty to that experience of emptiness. And here is why, from my view.

Because even when nothing else is there – no input, nothing coming in and stimulating you – you are there.

Yes, when there is absolutely no input, you still remain. The one who’s receiving the input.

And why is that beautiful? Well, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it makes it so that even if you lost everything else, you’d still have a connection to yourself. Maybe it’s because losing everything outside yourself, or losing awareness of those things, at least, doesn’t necessarily lead you to an ugly, or bad place. It just leads you back to you. Your own little home in the world, so to speak. Yeah, you may not be perfect. You may not even consider yourself beautiful. But maybe you can see the beauty in being able to be with yourself.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a stretch. Maybe emptiness really is something worth avoiding, but I don’t think so. Because are you worth avoiding? Not like you really can – you’re there with yourself all the time anyway – even when you’re being overstimulated, it’s you being overstimulated, feeling the overstimulation. And same when there’s absolutely nothing there. But if there’s nothing else there, then it seems like there’s nothing else to connect to, either, but you.

In any case, those are my thoughts on emptiness, and I thought I’d share them because it seems like a common experience to want to run away from emptiness, when really it’s not so bad after all, at least in my view. I just think of it as absolutely no input – and that’s not to say anything bad of the input. Just that a lack of input isn’t so bad either. And if you can be ok with being anywhere on that spectrum, well, that’s one less thing to worry about, or run from.

In other words, it can be acceptable to not be able to pull anything you desire into your life, because your life is still there, no matter what you pull or don’t pull into it. In one sense, emptiness is really about not getting what you desire, or feeling as though it has escaped your grasp, no matter how tightly you tried to hold on. This kind of experience can also lead to responses of anger, sadness, or pain – but after those emotions subside, it can leave an empty feeling in its wake. But sometimes life ends up that way, despite your efforts, so seeing a way to be at peace with emptiness may be able to go a long way in helping you to be at peace with the whole process of putting effort into something.

All this being said, I realize emptiness can be a tough thing to deal with. I just wanted to offer these thoughts on it for those who might end up there anyway, despite their best efforts, and to show that emptiness can, from a certain angle, have its own beauty to it.

Experiencing and gaining new Perspectives on Emptiness

This exercise might be a little tough, so use with caution. But for those who want to perhaps try changing their association with emptiness, following these steps might be helpful to you:

  1. Think about all the things in life that “bring you” pleasurable experiences and feelings – like your senses, family, friends, etc.
  2. Now imagine that all these things were to suddenly disappear from your life. What kind of feelings does this bring you? What kind of place inside you is it like? Notice the way you feel about these feelings.
  3. Is there anything redeeming about this kind of situation? You don’t need to be so quick to answer with what I shared in the article – maybe your solution or insight will be different. But if you can find anything positive here, just notice it. Or maybe you can’t right now, but that’s ok, maybe your insight is that there isn’t anything redeeming about how that might feel, but I’m not so sure. There may be at least one thing, and even if you can’t see it, at least you can recognize that someone looking at similar feelings can see something positive, even if they are crazy, at least it’s possible.
  4. Return to the present moment and how things really are – those things aren’t missing from your life after all, and even if it were possible, they aren’t right now.

Well, that about wraps it up. As always, thank you for reading.

Related articles

The Deep Darkness of Desire
How to be an Honorable Person (connected to who you are when you’re not desiring, and being ok with things not working out)

The Importance of Making Mistakes

Made a mistake, but it's ok

The ability to freely make mistakes, messes, or accidents without being punished for them can be a beautiful thing.

No, this isn’t going to be a post about how to turn mistakes into success, or how mistakes are really just a precursor to success. This isn’t about learning from mistakes, and it’s not about how mistakes aren’t really as bad as you think they might be. This is about the gift of giving yourself the freedom to make outrageous mistakes and accept yourself anyway.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a mistake is “An error or fault resulting from defective judgment, deficient knowledge, or carelessness.” The language of this definition reflects a judgmental attitude towards mistakes – that mistakes are the result of something defective or careless or deficient in the person who made those mistakes. This vicious attitude towards mistakes seems to be tied with the word’s very definition.

But maybe we should hate mistakes. How dare we mess up?? How dare we not do exactly what we need to do to create the life we want for ourselves? How incompetent, how careless!

Yet… the thing is, at least from what I’ve seen, there is a deep longing in the heart to escape this judgment and to be able to make mistakes freely. Sure, we can tolerate being judged, yelled at, kicked around – even by our own selves. But it’s not a condition that we thrive under. Rather than walking a tightrope in life, with spikes on either side, what we seem to really long for is to be able to fall and laugh. To make a mess and still smile. To do something careless and not be laughed at or judged. And while you can’t always control the amount of judgment that comes from others, you can confront your own judgment.

There is something beautiful about making a mess, whatever kind of mess it is, and feeling like your mess-making will not shake the bonds with those around you, but instead can be grounds for an enjoyable time. Maybe, instead of reacting in anger, the other person might respond by joining in, and you can both make even more of a mess together, laughing and playing. Freedom seems to be more about giving yourself total acceptance than achieving the freedom to do whatever you want. Because if you ever fail to do what you want, you might fall into anger with yourself, getting impatient and frustrated with your own inability to produce the results you desire.

So many other ways of valuing mistakes seem to be based off of ways of seeing mistakes as a pathway to success. But instead of seeing things positively only for what they can get you, what about being comfortable and totally at peace with a lack of success? Can you laugh and smile at your own failure, and what others might call stupidity? This ability, while I certainly have not completely found it for myself yet, is something that I now see is one of the keys to inner freedom, and is something that would make, well, me at least, happy on a deeper level than surface-level “fun” can. “Fun” is usually achieved, after all – some things are fun and others are not fun. Acceptance isn’t achieved, at least not in a momentary way – it is a way of being, one that results from a way of seeing that doesn’t label behavior as bad or wrong. Acceptance isn’t just “tolerance”, either, but instead is deep and appreciative. Really, it’s grounded in friendship.

I feel like the first step to finding acceptance, acceptance so strong that it welcomes things normally called “mistakes”, is in seeing the longing for it inside one’s self. And one place where you can see the longing is in how painful it is for you when others insult and demean you, and you believe it. The pain of abuse, as far as I can tell, is the sign of a longing for true acceptance.

And I feel like a lot of good can come of self-acceptance. A seed that’s stepped on in impatience cannot grow, after all. Or in the case of the self, it might grow to be twisted up, or burst wildly out in one direction or another, as if fleeing an unseen enemy.

Exercise: Feel self-acceptance now.

  1. Think of a time that you were hurt or abused – verbally, physically, emotionally, or however. Think about how it made you feel. Take those feelings with you to the next step.
  2. Now, flip the scenario to what you would have liked instead. How would you have liked to be treated? Specifically, what kind of scenario would it have taken for you to have smiled deep down inside, and been deeply happy instead of hurt? Hold that longed-for scenario in your mind and let the feelings rise to the surface.

If you really thought of a scenario that would make you deeply happy instead of hurt, then, as far as I can tell, that is what it feels like to be accepted and loved, instead of persecuted and abused. Reminding yourself of your ideal scenario can help fuel you, and help connect you to the feeling of self-acceptance – it’s kind of like wrapping yourself in a warm, comforting blanket.

Related Articles

Why You Should Bother to Accept Yourself
Find Your Unconditional Kindness, Feel Self-Acceptance
Total Self-kindness
The Natural Self and the Intellect
Move Beyond Your Dissatisfaction with Life