Talking back to your depression

I think Martyn Lloyd-Jones gets it right when he tells his readers (Spiritual Depression, pp 20-21) to take charge of their thinking by talking back to their feelings rather than passively listening to their own feelings. In many respects, this is what the author of Psalm 42/3 is doing. This is good medicine, if taken on one’s own. Probably not so good if forced down the throat of another…

I say that we must talk to ourselves instead of allowing ‘ourselves’ to talk to us! …Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? …The essence of this matter is to understand that this self of ours, this other man within us, has got to be handled. Do not listen to him; turn on him; speak to him; condemn him; upbraid him; exhort him; encourage him; remind him of what you know, instead of listening placidly to him and allowing him to drag you down and depress you.


Filed under Depression, Despair, Great Quotes

7 responses to “Talking back to your depression

  1. it is so hard to do that when you are in the midst of your dark moment. The voices of fear condenmation, guilt, accusation seem to scream so loud. It’s easier to not fight, but exist. Good words, I needed to be reminded of this again.

  2. I hear you. It’s like trying to stop your email server from delivering email while it checks for more every 2 seconds. Some times the best we can do is to rehearse one simple truth, over and over again; one simple alternative story line that counters the one in our heads.

  3. Ron

    Martin Luther, in a letter to his friend Spalatin who was then in a depression on account of his having sinned in some pastoral advice he gave (note the context, please),

    These and similar reflections, drawn from consolatory Bible-texts, have been snatched from your memory by the accursed Satan, and hence you cannot recall them in your present great anguish and despondency. For God’s sake, then, turn your ears hither, brother, and hear me cheerfully singing—me, your brother, who at this time is not afflicted with the despondency and melancholy that is oppressing you and therefore is strong in faith, so that you, who are weak and harried and harrased by the devil, can lean on him for support until you have regained your old strength, can bid defiance to the devil,…. [Therefore] since I am laying the Word of Christ before you, it is Christ who speaks to you through me and bids you obey and trust your brother who is of the same household of faith. It is Christ that absolves you from this and all your sins, and I am a partaker of your sin by helping you to bear up under it.

    There are times we cannot shut our own voices down, but perhaps then we need to hear humbly another who has faith for us, and can speak those words we need to hear. Luther points out that he has been in this state, so it is not a glib word from someone unacquainted with this condition. I think my main point is that community is needed here.

  4. Well said. Thanks for the addition here Ron. There are many times where counselors say similar thoughts to their counselees, “You may not have faith, but allow me to have faith for both of us and allow me to tell you what you must think.”

  5. Kurt

    Very interesting advice. I went through a deep depression about seven years ago, just about everything short of becoming suicidal. I came away from the experience convinced that I had talked myself into my depression. I recall repeating dozens (probably hundreds) of times, “I can’t take this any more,” and “I want to be out of here,” etc. And I accused God of not loving me, etc. My coming out of the depression roughly two-and-a-half years later coincided with my resolving three things, of which I can only remember, “I will not entertain the thought that God doesn’t love me,” and “I will not entertain the thought that God is not good.” (I can’t recall the third.) Someone had told me that dismissing my emotions “is called repression by some people; I call it taking every thought captive.” Now reading this quote by Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I realize more clearly what was going on. Yes, there is a sense in which we need not to listen to that “voice” (often just a feeling), which is what, the Old Man, Satan, Or perhaps both? In any case, we need to throw what we know to be false out on it’s ear–which is precisely why I didn’t get suicidal. I was so offended at the thought of harming others around me by suicide, by being that selfish, that I simply refused to countenance any suicidal thought. If only I had had that sort of integrity in responding to my accusations toward God. I like the way Mr. Lloyd-Jones framed it. Very timely as I’ve been feeling frustrated lately. My difficulty right now is I know how to get depressed and have just enough aversion not to do so (well, I haven’t been depressed in the last four years or so), but am not robust enough in my response to embrace a more correct set of thoughts. Thanks! (P.S. Loved the Luther quote. Also crucial to a proper response to depression.)

  6. Kurt, thanks for your personal story here that underlines the hard work of talking back to oneself. No easy task. Denial or repression, by the way, is to say something isn’t happening when it is. What you did was say I’m not going to think those thoughts. But you didn’t deny you were in despair.

  7. eclexia

    I’m currently reading a book called Get it Done When You’re Depressed by Julie Fast. This post reminds me of one quote in her book, “Never negotiate with a liar, especially when the liar is your own brain.”

    I sort of agree with Martin Lloyd Jones, but not totally. On a heart level, I hear him saying something a bit different than the Psalmist in 42 and 43.

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