Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Fear-Anger-Depression Cycle

There is a direct link, often overlooked and minimised, between the emotional states of Fear, Anger and Depression. I will break down each emotion separately first to explain further...

  • Fear is a distressing emotional state or feeling that is induced by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism and gives us the ability to recognise danger and flee from it or deal with it head on - also known as the Fight or Flight response. It is important to distinguish fear from anxiety which can occur without any perceived external threat. With Fear, the threat can be real or imagined.

  • At it's core, Anger is a signal to us that something in our environment isn't right. It gives us a sense of power in powerless situations and the illusion of control in an uncontrollable situations. For the duration of the anger episode, a person does not have to feel the distressing Fear of the perceived threat or condition and can feel empowered instead. The Fight or Flight hormones of Adrenaline and Cortisol help this enormously.

  • Every day Depression (as opposed to depression caused by a death, a major life event or other trauma inducing situation) is invariably caused by bottled up and stuffed anger and according to Louise L. Hay (of "You Can Heal You Life" and Hay House Publishing fame), is anger you DO NOT FEEL YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO HAVE. When people do not express their anger (and other emotions - especially negative ones) it builds up inside them and manifests in the form of reactive or clinical depression.

As well as building up over a period of time, incredibly, it is also possible to go from fear to anger to depression in seconds without even being aware how you even got there. The body and mind (conscious and subconscious) are so interconnected and so incredibly amazing that they can process the perceived threat, give the body the adrenaline and cortisol to "Fight or Flight" and then stuff the anger - all in seconds - if the subconscious tells the body it is not safe to express that anger in relation to the perceived threat. An extreme example of this would be the spouse of a violent partner not feeling safe to assertively respond to a violence incident.

The rate of depression differs between women and men. A loose estimate is that 1 in 4 women verses 1 in 10 men experience depression at any one time. Maybe this is connected to societal programming which teaches females that being angry (or indeed expressing emotions of any kind) is not ladylike verses men who are not exposed to this same programming. This view was supported after the results of a study were published of male and female prisoners which found that when incarcerated, women tend to self harm as a way of expressing their pain whereas men will fight. The fear-anger-depression cycle is heightened in women therefore who much of the time are not even aware that they are even angry at all such is the power of their programming.

Do yourself a favor... whether you are male or female, next time you feel the onset of anger or depression, ask yourself as soon as you reasonably can "what am I fearful about?". This will save you a lot of unnecessary pain in the short, medium and long term as you get honest with yourself about what is really going on with you.

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