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Which comes first - Depression or an Inner Critic?

I used to think my inner critic was the cause of my depression. Every time it reared its head, she was there, tearing me down, adding fuel to the fire. Until about 5 weeks ago, I felt anxious, depressed, was wondering if this life was worth continuing, and there was no inner critic. No voice telling me I was worthless, no teardowns, no fuel on the fire, and still, even without her, my inner critic, I felt depressed.

And it got me thinking, has that inner critic, that voice of condemnation been given a bad wrap as being the cause of depression, when maybe she is simply fired into action by the depression.

For me, and it will be different for others and that's okay, the feeling of depression is a combination of shame, guilt, and sadness. I feel sad, and automatically, due to decades of conditioning feel shame, then feel guilty for feeling the shame and the sadness. And then a question pops up in my head - "What's wrong with me?" In the past, this was where there the inner critic would step in, and innocently answer the question - listing all the things that are and were, and could possibly be "wrong" with me.

I then feel worse, I feel more guilt or shame, and deepen my sadness. The sadness, for me, is an indicator of perceived loss. Of missing out. All these reasons I'm not good enough adding to the sadness fuel, adding to the shame, adding to the guilt and the cycle continues.

In my last downturn, what in the past I would have labeled as depression, and this time I choose to label as an awakening, a time to discover where my values were misaligned; in this last downturn my inner critic was absent, she had nothing to say. When I asked myself "What is wrong with me?" there was no answer. My critic refused to continue my condemnation of self. And still, I felt depressed. Sadness coupled with guilt and shame. A strong desire to hide.

I think our inner critic, who I now see as my voice of reason, the devil to the angel, gets a bad wrap. What if she isn't the one causing the depression, she is simply the one answering the call to make ourselves feel worse about ourselves? And, frankly is unnecessary, I was perfectly capable (and I suspect you are too) of being depressed, of feeling the sadness, the shame, the guilt, without needing to answer the question "What's wrong with me?" The inner critic, the self-berating, the answers to that question notably speed up the process, they aren't necessary.

Dr Demartini says depression is a result of having unmet expectations. Generally, those that are unrealistic and unachievable. And that is certainly what was happening for me the past few weeks. Instead of being unrealistic unachievable expectations on myself this time (which the inner critic will create and drive home when she's in the mood) they were on the world around me, and so to create a sense of depression the inner critic was un-necessary. I only needed to feel sad, due to my perceived loss, and my auto-conditioning then added guilt and shame to the mix, providing my cocktail of depression.

Understanding the underlying patterns - the voice of the inner critic - the reason for your emotions - the messages they bring, we can transform ourselves. It doesn't mean we won't feel depressed at times, it's okay to grieve the loss of perceptions, of our dreams, to get caught in a guilt, shame, sadness spiral for a time. The difference is, when we know how we ended up there, we know the way back out.

For me, the way out - start to challenge the unrealistic unachievable unmet expectations and accept what is; as Carl Rogers said

"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change"

Whether they are unrealistic expectations on myself of my inner critic (who is now generally my greatest champion) or those I've applied to the external world. When we accept the world as it is, when we adapt our expectations of others to that which is possible and perceivable, when we accept what is, as it is, we and it can change.

Maybe it's the inner critic that fires off depression maybe it's depression that fires off the inner critic, either way, there is hope, there is an alternative, and it all starts with understanding which comes first for you. This journey towards self-acceptance hasn't always been easy, with support I've made some wonderful headway, and it's just the start of what I imagine to be a life-long journey. As Brene Brown says: "Shame loves shadows" and the antidote is to allow ourselves to be seen to be validated in those moments, by someone who has walked the pathway before us, who has been into their own shadows, is comfortable in the dark, and comes with a torch to light the way, and a hand to hold so we feel safe as we explore and release those old patterns that hold us back. If you want to join a group of like-minded people that are on this journey, embracing the art of Practice - a Playful Reflection while we build Awareness surrounded with Compassion and Tenderness as we develop Intimacy with ourselves and others through some level of Creative Expression, alongside getting stuff done, increasing Productivity with planning models such as #DailyFROG then click the link below and join us in a Facebook Community where we CelebrateTADA's (Things Already Done & Accomplished)

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