Overcoming Depression with IFS

In studying how to work with depression using IFS, I have seen that a depressed part can be either a protector or an exile. In this article, I’ll just look at protectors.Overcoming Depression

Protectors That Block Hope 

One common cause of depression is having a protector that doesn’t want you to feel hopeful. Such a protector doesn’t actually feel hopeless. It makes you feel hopeless in order to keep you from feeling hopeful and then suffering the disappointment of not getting what you were hoping for. Therefore, it is more accurate to call it a Depressing Protector rather than a Depressed Protector. It is afraid of your feeling devastated if you are disappointed. It believes that if you are hopeful and your hopes don’t work out, or if you fail at what you are trying to accomplish, you will be devastated. It isn’t just worried about your being disappointed; it is afraid you will be devastated in such a severe way that you couldn’t handle it. Its fear probably goes back to times in childhood when you were hopeful and then your hopes were dashed and you were devastated.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your hopelessness is realistic or that your Depressing Protector feels hopeless. It is purposely trying to make you feel hopeless to protect you from devastation. However, even though it is causing your depression, its heart is in the right place; your Depressing Protector is trying to protect you from pain. So you can get to know it and connect with it.

Of course, the pain this Depressing Protector causes you is far greater that the actual disappointment you might feel if your hopes failed to materialize. But your protector doesn’t realize that.

Protectors That Depress Your Energy

A Depressing Protector may squash your energy so that you can’t feel the underlying pain or trauma of your exiles. This protector believes that you can’t tolerate this pain. It is stuck at a point in your childhood when you didn’t have the internal or external support to handle such pain. So it keeps your energy low to prevent this pain from coming to the surface.

A Depressing Protector might also suppress your energy so you won’t assert yourself or take risks, which the protector believes will lead to failure or trouble. It thinks that if you took a risk and failed, you couldn’t handle the disappointment. Or it may believe that if you asserted yourself, you might be attacked or abandoned.

In most cases, the depression that such a protector causes is much more painful than what would happen if it allowed you to feel an exile’s pain or if it allowed you to assert yourself in the world, but the Depressing Protector doesn’t know this. It believes that it must make you depressed to protect you from overwhelming pain or from the negative consequences of being powerful and visible in the world.

Inner Critic Parts

Inner Critic Parts, which are protectors, can also create or add to your depression by attacking you so harshly and mercilessly that you feel bad about yourself. These Inner Critic attacks trigger exiles who already feel inadequate or worthless, and the attacks make the exiles feel even worse, which contributes to depression.

Self-Therapy, Vol. 3This article is an excerpt from Self-Therapy, Vol. 3.

The Depressed Pattern

The Depressed Pattern is one of the patterns in the Pattern System and Self-Therapy Journey.

When your Depressed Pattern is triggered, you may feel hopeless and low energy. Your natural buoyancy, spark, and energy is literally depressed. You may feel lethargic and believe that there is no point in doing anything because your life seems hopeless. It may be difficult to get up the energy to do much of anything other than go through the motions of your life. You may have little appetite, or you may eat too much. You may have difficulty sleeping or, on the other hand, sleep too much.

You may isolate yourself from most people because you don’t see any point in trying to relate to them. Of course, this often contributes to the sense of bleakness in your life. Your inner landscape may feel empty and gray with no life. You may feel sadness and grief, or you may just feel dead inside. You might also feel anxious and agitated.

You may also feel bad about yourself. You may feel that the reason behind your hopelessness is that there is something intrinsically wrong with you. You are worthless or inadequate and that’s why your life can’t work. You believe that you are deeply flawed. You carry much pain about this, though the pain may be buried behind the bleakness.

Overcoming depressionThese feelings come from protectors that can be healed and transformed, leading to realistic feelings of aliveness and hope.

Self-Therapy Journey has a module for the Depressed Pattern and the Aliveness Capacity, which transforms it.

Webinar: Overcoming Depression Using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey

Please join us for this free webinar: Overcoming Depression Using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey

August 13
4:30 – 6:00PM Pacific | 7:30 – 9:00 PM Eastern

  • Are you hopeless and full of despair?
  • Are you low in energy and listless?
  • Do you feel bad about yourself and worthless?
  • Do you feel stuck in your life?
  • Is it hard to face each day?

Image of a person with a Depressed PatternThese feelings and beliefs aren’t true. You aren’t worthless and your life isn’t hopeless. These beliefs are promoted by parts of you that are trying to keep you from feeling childhood pain or taking current life risks which they think are dangerous.

Using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey, you can get to know these parts, heal the exiles they are protecting, and transform them.

In this webinar, I will discuss the nature of depression and how to work with it using IFS and Self-Therapy Journey. You will learn how to develop aliveness and realistic hope.

Click here to register for free.

Feel free to register even if you can’t make that time. A replay of the webinar will be available afterwards.