The Emotional Turbulence of Depression

This is an addendum (Section III)  to “Life Under the Influence of Depression” .  I have temporarily made it a separate post. 

The central issue of  my depression is the untrustworthiness of my emotional states. Generally speaking, it is out of sync with the reality of the situation. To the people who say “well yes, feelings are no guide to truth”, let it be known that I agree. However, let me state that the problem is elsewhere.

The problem is this; that one can be in agreement with any truth, whatsoever,  but the emotions (or desires)  continually  demand that you go another direction.  The problem with depression is that you can know something to be true, yet go a very long time without feeling something to be true.

I will call it the principle of cognitive dissonance (PCD):

Someone = S
Proposition = P
Mind = M
Emotions = E
(exclusive) logic disjunction = v

1. S believes P with M
2. S disbelieves P with E
3.M v  E
4. P is true
5. S  holds to the truth of P with M at the expense of E.

I think that the problem of sin causes everyone to experience this disturbance to one degree or another. However, it seems that this struggle is magnified in depression. In my experience  it has lead to seasons where I  distrust my emotions so much, that I experience emotional numbness (to some degree).

Dr. Edward Welch, a christian counselor who is also a licensed neuropsychologist, provides an encouragement to people who have this experience:

“Depression demands another way to live (Hebrews 11:1)….Even though I’ve been a believer for decades, I still live by how I feel. Depressed people encounter feelings and say, ‘why bother, there’s nothing good.’ These feelings demand a radical call to live by faith, rather than by sight. When a depressed person lives by sight, everything is dark.”

Could it be that the Christian’s faith goes beyond the dark and thick smog of the emotional interpretation? I think the Word of God speaks directly to that (Psa 22:1; Psalm 31:11, Psalm 38:11, Job 19:13, Lam 3:1-2) . It is a struggle to remember that faith can “speak the hard things from our hearts to the Lord.” We don’t have to ignore our feelings or pretend that they aren’t there, because God isn’t surprised by them. He speaks to them!

I think the biggest struggle here (at least for me) is the way I relate to others in spite of my emotions. I am required to love others, in spite of this ongoing war in my heart.  Even with the ongoing emotional burnout, I am called to think the best of others (1 Cor 13:4-8). My failure in all of these areas drives me to question the genuineness of my faith. Again, this introspection only leads to more depression.

But scripture acknowledges these differing seasons and experiences  among the the psalmist(s) where “lover and friend” are far (Psalm 88:1), where they are the “object of dread among the closest friends (Psalm 31:11), where “friends and companions avoid [them] because of [their] wounds” (Psalm 38:11)

I think the ambiguity of the nature of the experience in question provides a welcome to every sufferer in the LORD (2 Cor 1:5; Phil 3:10). In the my experience, it’s all too easy to read scorn, ridicule, anger, and/or dread into family, friends, and neighbors when in fact they do not feel that way about you at all. Due to the constant strain of stress, your emotions begin shaping the way you think, and the feelings resemble facts. Sadness, bitterness, and anger become the lens from which you read things.

Faith in Christ, in light of this, is going  to Him to interpret those experiences in light of His own interpretation, because I’ve heard His Word (Rom 10:12-13,17). Repentance takes the painful “limp” of walking contrary to the imperatives of those loud emotional experiences (Eph 2:8-10). Grace is God’s pursuit of us and rescue  from that dungeon of despair (Lam 3:22).

This is the newest  addition to “Life Under the Influence of Depression” .  


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