In a culture such as ours where the goal of instant and total happiness is promoted, depression can be a stigmatised condition; and is often viewed as a moral failure. This can make it difficult for people to seek help, particularly when a part of the system may have internalized this belief. The very nature of depressed parts is that they may believe there is no hope, and again may dissuade a person from seeking support.
When depressed parts blend with us (so we experience ourselves as only that part) we may experience “depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.” (World Health Organization) and it is hard to recognise that this is a part of the personality system seeking attention.
Oftentimes depressed parts are protectors for the system. The blanket of emotional fog that emanates from them can effectively prevent the parts that have hope and motivation from being accessed.
One might ask how this can be protection, and the answer lies in recognising that a continuing cycle of hope, then hopes being dashed, then more optimism, then devastation can lead to protectors deciding that it is simply not safe to have hope; it can only result in more pain. If depression or despair is present then there is no “risk” that hope will lead to more pain. There is no need to take responsibility for anything. There is a kind of peace in the system – the peace of absence of feeling.
When working with a depressed part it is important to recognise the value it has as a resource in the system. And to ask it if it is willing to allow you (Self) access to the part or parts it is protecting; the ones that carry the pain and hurt (exiles) that may be connected to hope for change.
Once the exiles are heard and unburdened the protector may choose a different form of protection for the system, and the depression need no longer be present.