This post is an excerpt from the study guide which accompanies the “Overcoming Depression-Anxiety: A Personal Responsibility Paradigm” seminar. This portion is one element from “STEP 3: UNDERSTAND the origin, motive, and history of my sin..” To RSVP for this and other Summit counseling seminars visit bradhambrick.com/events
Often depression-anxiety has an active-pursuing motive. There is something we want and do not get so we respond with fear or despair. A temper-tantrum is not the only unhealthy and immoral emotional response we can have to disappointment. But, often because anger is the primary emotion children use to respond to disappointment, adults miss that their fear-despair can also be an emotional revolt against things not going their way.
Control / Autonomy: Often depression-anxiety is the result of wanting more independence to shape our life than we actually have. We want events and relationships to conform to our preferences or ideals and if they don’t, we experience depression-anxiety.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Isaiah 48:17-19.
Acceptance: Another dominant motive for anxiety-depression in our culture is over-valuing the approval of others. We move from enjoying people (healthy community) to needing people (unhealthy codependency). It is normal to be hurt, but for many people rejection-conflict, or even the possibility of this rejection-conflict, can lock them in a state of chronic depression-anxiety.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Proverbs 29:25.
Pleasure: A tell-tale sign of an inordinate desire for pleasure is busyness; either because of the number of extra-curricular activities engaged or the number of hours worked to fund pleasures. When we sacrifice our ability to live with peace and hope in our pursuit of pleasure two things are true: we’ve made an idol of pleasure (unholy) and we’re making a bad trade (unhealthy).
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Hebrews 11:23-28.
Ease /Comfort: For some the basic responsibilities of life (e.g., caring for family, work, maintaining a home, etc…) are perceived as “too much to ask.” These fundamentals of life are responded to as if they were perpetually being asked to “go the extra mile.” This form of laziness causes all of life to be seen as a burden or stressor and result in generalized anxiety-depression.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on II Thessalonians 3:9-13.
Immediacy: This is chronological comfort instead of situational comfort. In an era when technology allows everything to become increasingly fast and efficient, it is easy to lose the serenity that comes with valuing delayed gratification and contentment. This motive can also be particularly strong for individuals with a highly organized, systems-oriented personality.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Hebrews 10:35-36.
Select Justice on Demand: A preoccupation with when God is going to rectify a particular offense can create a life under-girded by depression-anxiety. We can easily reduce God’s trustworthiness to the aspect of temporal justice that is more important to us. When this wrong is not promptly righted we begin to feel like we live in an unsafe world overseen by an un-good God.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Psalm 37:7-9.
Read Ecclesiastes (yes, the whole book). The entire book of Ecclesiastes is one long book of motives for the pursuit of peace, hope, and happiness; or, said differently, the escape from anxiety-depression. As you read, realize this is the journal of a very wise and influential person. Realize your motives are not new and your disappointment in what they cannot provide is not unique. Be encouraged that someone has walked your same path, experienced the same emptiness, and learned where to find the security and fulfillment you’re seeking.
“Needs are looked upon today as if they were holy, as if they contained the quintessence of eternity. Needs are our guides, and we toil and spare no effort to gratify them. Suppression of desire is considered a sacrilege that must inevitably avenge itself in the form of some mental disorder… We feel jailed in the confinement of personal needs. The more we indulge in satisfactions, the deeper it is our feeling of oppressiveness. We must be able to say no to ourselves in the name of a higher yes (p. 163).” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in the 1950’s as quoted by Leslie Vernick in Lord, I Just Want to Be Happy
Other times, unlike “I want” motives, our depression-anxiety has a self-protective motive. There is an undesirable outcome and we believe our depression-anxiety can protect us from and makes our emotions “worth it.” This is the emotional equivalent of the child who is so afraid of getting their skinned-knee cleaned with a disinfectant wipe that he is willing to endure the injury getting infected.
Perfectionism as Moral Teflon: Depression-anxiety can result from trying to assuage our conscience with our performance. We live by the motto, “If I do good enough, then I cannot be blamed.” If we’re exceptionally talented this can feel like it works for a while. But eventually we either wear out or fail, and our emotions respond with the full-weight of the condemnation we thought we were staving off.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on II Corinthians 5:11-21.
Redemption through Overcoming: If we do not try to stave off depression-anxiety with our performance (see above), we may try to reclaim what has been lost with our performance. We want to “make things up” to those we’ve hurt, or prove that an under-privileged upbringing will not hold us back. These are not bad things, but when these become the foundation of our emotions or the basis of our identity, we lose the ability to rest in these good pursuits. The result is inevitable depression-anxiety.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Matthew 11:28-30.
Another question that can reveal the motive of our depression-anxiety is “To whom do I run when I am upset?” Anxiety-depression can as easily be motivated by allegiance as the desire to obtain or avoid something. However, the flimsiness of whatever we rely upon in place of God inevitably gives way to depression-anxiety.
Myself: In our day of self-reliance, the first place we are told to turn is within. When life gets too hard, we try to get stronger. While additional motivation and confidence are good for those who are prone to premature discouragement, this is the equivalent of saying, “When you can’t run any further, start sprinting.” Even the Christianized versions of this approach treat God more like a steroid than a refuge; a physical trainer than a father. The result is a magnified version of the emotions that come in response to “do more.”
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Romans 12:1-3.
Others: When we rely on others as the answer for our depression-anxiety we grow codependent during our struggle (expecting them to be our deliverer) and bitter after our struggle (angry that our source of refuge failed us). Living “in” community is very different from living “on” community. When we turn to others to quell our emotions, our fear-despair deepens as we realize they are inadequate for the task.
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on Psalm 1 on being rooted in God.
Possessions: Banks, the nicest building in most towns, are like temples for the modern god of money. We buttress what we believe will provide security and hope. Possessions can be a direct motive (i.e., my security is measured by my networth) or an indirect motive (i.e., money provides what I need to appease other motives / idols on this list).
If this motive is strong for you, begin by reflecting on I Timothy 6:9-11.
Read Psalm 56:3-4. As you read these verses, notice one thing. God wants us to run to him when we are afraid. He does not want us to muster more faith to calm down and come to him when our pupils are no longer dilated. He wants us to come when we are afraid, so he can be our source of true comfort. The problem with the “I trust…” motives is not that they are inherently bad, but that they distract or delay us from coming to “the God of all comfort” ( II Corinthians 1:3).
OVERCOMING DEPRESSION-ANXIETY: A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY PARADIGM
Date: Saturday October 18
Time: 4:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
For the various counseling options available from this material visit www.summitrdu.com/counseling.