Transforming Depression Using IFS

Ginger felt listless and low energy. She was feeling lethargic and it was hard for her to do anything because her life seemed hopeless. It was difficult for her to get up the energy to do more than minimal tasks around the house.

She had a good, well-paying job, but she lost it when the economy crashed. Then six months later her mother died. This was too much; it threw her into a deep depression that lasted for over a year.

Ginger reached out to friends less and less, and even when she was with them, she was withdrawn and down. So she became more and more isolated and alone. This increased her sense of hopelessness and bleakness. She felt dead inside.

She came to believe that this was her lot because there was something deeply wrong with her. She couldn’t say what it was, but she just felt like she was a loser and so, of course, she had no friends and couldn’t find a job.

Though she had enough money at the moment, she knew it wouldn’t last too long, so she had to do something to find employment. She continually told herself that she had to work on her resume, do networking, apply for openings, but she couldn’t even start on these tasks. A part of her felt that there was no point in trying because nothing was going to work. She sunk deeper into misery and sloth.

Ginger went into IFS therapy. As she got to know her Depressed Part, she discovered that it was making her feel low-energy and hopeless on purpose. It was afraid that if it allowed her to be energetic and hopeful, she would be disappointed again the way she had been so many times before. When she was hopeful and then got disappointed, the resulting crash was much more painful. So this part was trying to keep her from feeling this pain. Of course, it was actually causing her tremendous pain in the process and ruining her life, but it didn’t really understand that.

Ginger discovered the wounded inner child part that her Depressed Part was trying to protect. It had a Need Wound that went back to Ginger’s earliest relationship with her mother. Ginger called it the Needy Baby. Ginger never really felt connected to her mother, and her mother certainly didn’t bond with Ginger. There was very little nurturing and caring, very little love. Mother was mostly distracted with the other kids or lost in her own pain. Ginger’s Needy Baby Part felt totally abandoned.

So when Ginger lost her job, that began to trigger this part. But when she also lost her mother, then it was clear to this child part that she would never get the love and caring she so desperately needed from her mother. This triggered the pain of this child in a big way, and so the Depressed Part stepped in to deaden this pain. It also wanted to keep her from ever feeling hopeful again so that another disappointment couldn’t happen.

Ginger made contact with the Needy Baby from Self and gave her the caring and nurturing this Baby needed. She held the Baby and suckled it to her breast. She told the Baby how much she loved her and how precious she was to Ginger. In between therapy sessions, Ginger kept up her connection with the Needy Baby and made sure that the Baby knew that Ginger would be the mother this Baby needed and the Baby would never be alone and neglected again. Gradually the Needy Baby transformed into a happy, joyful baby, and then grew into an excited, playful, adventurous child.

Once the Depressed Part saw this transformation in the Needy Baby, it realized that it didn’t need to crush Ginger and make her hopeless any more. The Baby didn’t need its protection so it could relax and stopped depressing Ginger. Her energy and enthusiasm for life returned. She began to build her self-confidence, and she felt alive and vital. She had the spark and vitality to take the steps to look for a job, and she began to ace her job interviews. She reconnected with some of her friends and made one new friend as well. She began dating again because men were now drawn to her new aliveness and she was open to connecting with them.

For help with depression: Self-Therapy Journey is an interactive online tool for psychological healing and personal growth that has a module for depression.