Depression and the game of “pretend”

Written by Amie on April 1, 2013 – 3:04 am -

 playing the “fine” game

Pretend as though everything is “fine”? No thanks.  Just hearing the word “fine”still triggers a bit of anger in me. How many times did I answer the question, “How are you?” with “FINE”, when in fact, I was far from feeling fine! I quit. I quit the game. The game of pretend is over for me. I refuse to do it. I choose healthy behavior, and pretending is not a part of healthy behavior. I will only choose to answer “fine” if I am just not in the mood to give someone my energy. I spent years playing the “fine” game, and it is a really unhealthy game. I understand why we do it. We do it to avoid having to feel the truth of any given situation. We do it to avoid being vulnerable. Most of us have been trained well at the game of pretend. A few years ago I changed the rules. Many people around me were not too happy. That’s okay. If they choose to continue playing, that is their choice. For me, the game of pretend equals suffering. I no longer choose to suffer. I chose the path of looking at my life and feeling the pain that was blocking my authenticity. I chose the path of truth.  In order to be authentic, we have to feel. We have to be real with the emotions that come up in our lives. I didn’t know how to do that until a few years ago. I’m still learning.

 suppressing all of my innate needs and emotions

I know for certain that my depression was the accumulation of years of pretending. I pretended I was feeling fine, I pretended as though I didn’t have needs, I pretended as though nothing bothered me, I pretended I was happy, I pretended like I was fulfilled…..I could go on and on. Pretending is another way of saying I was suppressing all of my innate needs and emotions. We all desire (need)to be with like minded people who love and support us. This is being human. We all desire(need) to be seen and heard. We all desire (need) to feel safe to express who we are. We all have needs, this is what we do as humans. It is healthy. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have needs. When we pretend, we stuff all of our needs and then try to talk ourselves into believing we don’t need anything, and that we are “fine”. And then when one of these needs speaks really loud, we tell ourselves we are being too needy, too sensitive, too…fill in the blank. We have been conditioned to feel shame and guilt for having needs! We have learned to feel bad about having real human needs. We have been conditioned to think we should be perfect….which means we shouldn’t have needs. If we don’t have needs, then we don’t have emotions, right? How can you have emotions if you don’t need anything? How can I be disappointed or sad when someone who says they care about me is disrespectful? If I don’t have the need for respect and safety, then I shouldn’t feel anything when these things don’t happen.  But the truth is, we all have needs! Just because we have been taught to ignore our needs, doesn’t mean we don’t have them. It just means we are pretending, so that we appear “normal”. (whatever that is! There is no such thing, in my opinion)

guilt and shame galore

We have been conditioned to judge ourselves for needing, and then judging and shaming ourselves for having emotions over the fact that we aren’t getting our needs met. If we continue this pattern, self-hate sets in. We think we “shouldn’t” feel a certain way, and when we do feel that way, we hate ourselves for having those feelings. It is a vicious cycle. Guilt and shame galore! Guilt and shame are learned “emotions” (it can be argued whether or not they are even true emotions). Guilt and shame are used to control others and to condition people. Guilt and shame are used to get a person to feel bad enough about themselves that they will comply with what someone wants them to do. Think about a situation with a child. If the child is doing something “undesirable” in the eyes of an adult, so often the adult will use tactics that actually teach the child to start feeling bad about themselves. For example, the adult may say, “but I will be so sad if you don’t stop doing that”, or “that is bad, you are bad for doing that”, or “why would you even think of doing that?” All of these examples begin the process of conditioning a child to feel guilt and shame. They learn to feel responsible for others’ well being. The adult is conditioning them to believe they should act accordingly so that the adult is comfortable. Therefore, the child starts thinking they are bad for expressing their own truth. If a person lives many years this way, they are in the habit of hiding their own truth in order to please those around them. They hide their true self, their true needs, their true desires, because they want to avoid feeling “bad”, and they want to avoid upsetting others. This is how we begin feeling ashamed and feeling as though our needs make no difference. Others’ feelings are more important than ours.

it is easier to isolate than to reach out

It is not surprising to me at all that depression is rampant. The majority of people go through their days pretending as though they are fine, feeling afraid to reach out to others for fear of being shamed, or labeled as weak. This is so sad. I understand how it is easier to isolate than to reach out. I did it for years. I pretended as though things were great, when inside myself I was feeling so lost and so sad. I reached out and started getting help, I read every book I could get my hands on, I began learning how to love myself and nurture myself, and I began seeking others who were on the same path. I sought out others who also wanted to stop pretending. I need authentic people in my life, and I am not going to pretend that I don’t. Once I opened my heart to this fact, some really wonderful people started to show up for me. Although it is sad to let go of those who would rather I pretend, I knew in my heart that I had to let them go with love. I have compassion for their struggles, but I can no longer stay in their stories with them. I have to take care of myself. I will allow people in my life who are authentic and respectful of the real me. They love and support me for who I am. They encourage me and lift me up. They show up for me in ways that I never thought possible. I also know and understand that I am responsible for my feelings, and others are responsible for theirs. Knowing this gives me the confidence to express who I really am. For this, I am grateful.

 

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