The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

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Values and Happiness

My wife has a life long depression about everything.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      David?


David:              I am an RN and so I deal with a lot of people with different problems, but I have some people close to me, in my immediate family, who suffer from depression for many years and it looks like the pharmaceutical route has only been marginally helpful, along with a lot of other problems. I’m looking for help and what is a non-pharmaceutical method or advice for how to deal with this?


Dr. Kenner:      Because you’re an RN, you’ve seen so much. Is this a younger person? I know you’re trying to camouflage who it is, so you can change the sex, the age a little bit, but just give me a sense of the age range and what’s going on.


David:              She is 38 years old and presently expecting, twins.


Dr. Kenner:      Twins! Oh my gosh. How far along is she?


David:              19 weeks.


Dr. Kenner:      And so did the depression start before this or did the depression start with the realization, “Oh my gosh, I have an instant family?”


David:              No. She suffered with it from early adolescence and has had all kinds of different psychiatric attempts at helping her. It sort of has spilled over into other problems, stemming from depression.


Dr. Kenner:      When you say other problems, do you mean drugs or alcohol or what are you referring to?


David:              Yes, drugs and alcohol and some what we call mental disorders and things that were related that were treated with pharmaceuticals. She had been getting her life right and straighten things out, but she still suffers from depression and actually, when we found out she was expecting, it kind of seemed to help actually. Things were going smoothly. But she’s still suffering from bouts of that and the last time she was expecting, she had a severe case of postpartum depression.


Dr. Kenner:      She has children already?


David:              Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      How many kids?


David:              Two.


Dr. Kenner:      What ages?


David:              12 and 10.


Dr. Kenner:      Oh my gosh, she’s going to have her hands full. Here’s the issue. This is someone close to you, I’m assuming. I don’t want to violate your privacy. Here’s the problem, psychologically, with depression. When you feel depressed, you have nothing to look forward to, or very little to look forward to, and you haven’t surrounded your psychological life with your top values. I’ve had times where I felt bummed out – it would never reach clinical depression – but sometimes it was just a transition period. I didn’t know where I was going in life. Sometimes when I was younger I can remember feeling insecure and just not knowing where my place was. But really, values are the fuel of your life, and there are four major categories of values, if I could simplify it for you. The categories are, number one, a job or career that you enjoy. I don’t know if she has that.


David:              No, she has a part-time job that she doesn’t enjoy right now. She’s looking to stop that, with the issues and progressing with pregnancy.   


Dr. Kenner:      Let me go through the four, just to give you an overview, and that might be fuel for thought for you. One is a job or career or purpose that you like. If you’re retired and you don’t have a job, what is your purpose? What is your goal? What do you love doing? One of the categories is your main focus in life. Usually your job or career. The second is, what are your hobbies? What do you offset your career with, when you come down and want to let down your hair? Do you like swimming, tennis, row boating. Funny things come to your mind! But what are your hobbies? Horseback riding? Reading a book? Are you more of a quiet person? Not drinking. Not destructive hobbies. A third category is friends. And I include family and friends, only family members that reach the criteria of being someone you feel at home with. So I don’t know what her friendship circle is like and whether it’s a healthy one or if she needs an upgrade. And the fourth one is romance. What are your top romantic values? Who is your partner? Who do you care for? I don’t know, is she with the father at this point?


David:              Yes.


Dr. Kenner:      She’s with the father. So it’s really hard to help somebody else, but if you focus on what does she love? Not why is she so depressed? But what does she love? What are the values that she once had in her life or had dreamed about having in her life that are no longer there now that she could still bring back into her life? But of course now she’s pregnant. She’s got two children. Does she have help?


David:              Yes. She’s not alone.


Dr. Kenner:      So what are the values that she can bring back into her life to give her a spark of hope? Now, can you do it? If my kid’s really depressed, I can’t force them to get a hobby. I can’t say, “Go get a hobby. Go get a job. Go get a romantic partner.” You can’t do that. You really need to respect that person’s autonomy. What you can do is be a very good listening ear, but listen for the positives for any sign of hope, rather than for their despondency. If they say, “I just feel like giving up,” but they also say, “I feel like taking a nice walk today. It’s nice outside.” Focus on the positive with them. Not that you’re putting down the negative, but you want to help them observe their own values. And then I don’t know if you’re the partner or the father –


David:              Yes I am.


Dr. Kenner:      Oh my gosh, this would be a whole other phone call, but you have to take care of yourself. You have to have those values rich for yourself. You need the social support of friends, people you can trust. You need to have a strategy going forward with twins. You need to decide is this relationship working for you? I know it’s a bad time to decide, but you need to do a lot of thinking and to guide yourself through that, I could recommend a book I wrote with Dr. Ed Locke. It’s got a provocative title, The Selfish Path to Romance, how to love with passion and reason. You’ll get a lot of tips in that. And it does not mean the mean, rotten way to romance. It means the self-esteem, self-nurturing way to romance. You can go to Amazon for that book or Listen, I wish you the best of luck with this. You’re welcome to call back if you want to talk about yourself and how to cope with this.


David:              I’m guessing that those four value areas apply to me as well?


Dr. Kenner:      100 percent. Thank you so much for your call David.


David:              Okay, bye-bye.


Movie clip

Female:           If you help me dig it up, you can have half and I’ll have half. Is that okay? I mean, is that fair? Because if I have half of the money, I can go away somewhere where nobody can find me. Not Russell or my mother or Sylvester, anybody. You don't know what that would mean. Why, if I had enough money, I might even be able …


Dr. Kenner:      That’s from It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World. If you haven’t seen that, that’s a lot of fun. What is she running away from? Her mother, Russell, Sylvester. She’s having a hard time dealing with people, and if you’re surrounded by people who are really obnoxious and you can’t run away, what can you do with it? You’re not going to go digging up money and taking half of it and running away. What can you do? You need to know how to hold your own. How to make boundaries for yourself with those people. The most important boundaries are psychological. You can’t let them traumatize you. You can’t let them keep you awake at night and thinking, “Oh my God. Now they’re hurt. How do I make them feel better?” When maybe you did nothing wrong. Maybe the issue is that they’re manipulating you. Or they’re being obnoxious to you and they’re tormenting you. You need to say, “I am so glad I am not them, or I am so glad I’m not married to them and that I can escape.” Psychologically you need to escape. And sometimes if you have the capacity, it’s very healthy to make a geographical move, to get out of their psychological net, so to speak, so that you can feel liberated. You can feel like you’re on your own. Think of it – teenagers do this all the time. They go off to college and they want to go far away. Maybe their parents are loving. Maybe they don’t have obnoxious parents, but they go far away because they want to experience themselves as an individual too.