The work of psychotherapy often involves uncovering themes and patterns in our lives. Where have you had a similar feeling, desire, or relationship before? Tracing the roots of current difficulties in work, love, and play, can often reveal unfinished business and unresolved feelings. Drawing connections between the stories of our past and present can ultimately empower us to choose to write new and better stories in the future.
Margarita Tartakovsky, in an interview with psychologist Dr. Ryan Howes, explores the role of self-fulfilling prophecies in perpetuating these themes and cycles in our lives. Dr. Howes gives examples from his life and practice of our desire to "right" past wrongs, and how self-fulfilling prophecies dampen our insight and hopefulness that we can make positive changes.
"Often self-fulfilling prophecies are an attempt to guard against grief, failure, disappointment, rejection or any other upsetting outcome. It’s an attempt to “pre-grieve something,” Howes said. “We have a belief that if we see something failing now and start grieving that loss before it happens, it won’t hurt so much.” But that's rarely the case. "A loss is a loss." Trying to grieve before a supposedly painful outcome doesn't reduce our pain. It only creates more of it. And we grieve just the same as if we'd expected success, Howes said.
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Mental health practitioners speak of and research common symptoms of depression including avolition and anhedonia. Avolition refers to the loss of motivation to initiate and carry out purposeful activities (e.g., cooking dinner, balancing your checkbook, keeping a dinner date with friends), while anhedonia describes a loss of pleasure in once valued activities. Journalist and author Anneli Rufus published a piece this week which appears on Psychology Today eloquently describing the lived-experience of these losses: depression's theft of one's passion, pleasure, and awe.
Depression is a cruel thief that raids your heart, your home, your future, your present, your past. It steals your most precious possessions not to keep or use or give away or sell but just because they're there. Those loves for which you lived become loot burning by the wayside. This is stealthy, silent theft that masquerades as aging, failure, sulkiness, stupidity, ingratitude, unmindfulness, unwillingness to try. This is a monumental crime that masquerades as just another day. ~Anneli Rufus
Those who have not endured or born witness to depression often struggle to understand the experience beyond what we think of as ordinary "blues." Rufus's poetic voice speaks to the depth of loss that is at the heart of depression. Her words may move you to a better understanding of those you love who have been robbed by depression, or it may give voice to your own struggle and help you know that you are not alone.
Read Anneli Rufus' full piece here.
About the Author
Clinical psychologist Dr. Kristy Novinski contributes insights, book and film reviews, discussions of pop culture, and exploration of news and research in the field of psychology.