Sunday, July 6, 2014

Case #93 - Depression is in the relationship

Terry was at a loss. He had been in a relationship with Dianne for several years. They clearly loved each other. They were both interested in the inner life, and had a strong bond.
But Dianne was depressed. She variously took medication. She had tried to do some therapy, but it hadnt helped much. She had a demanding career, which kept her busy, and stressed.
Somehow, they fought a lot when together (she travelled quite a lot, and they didnt live together). They would always work things out, but it was quite exhausting. Dianne was extremely critical, whereas Terry was easy going.
Dianne would occasionally break off the relationship, but then after some time, would make contact again, saying she missed Terry.
Terry had been quite patient, had tried hard to make it work, but was at his wits end. He found it stressful rather than nourishing, and it seemed that the two of them just couldnt find a way to be together that was healthy for them.
I explained to Terry that in fact, it was just that Dianne was depressed. The depression was 'in the relationship', and in that sense, he was also depressed by what was happening. He might not have her black and white thinking (that tends to accompany depression), but from a systemic point of view, he was somehow caught up in a depressive field.
What was his role? To be helpful, to make suggestions, to try to find solutions, to try to talk about things rationally. This all seems harmless, and what else can one do? But in systemic terms, both people co-create their field. What is obvious is how Dianne contributes. What is not obvious is how Terry contributes.
His helpfulness, or patience for instance, become part of the problem.
So the solution is for him to find ways to step out of the co-created system - by finding his limits, stating them non-reactively, being proactive in declining invitations to rescue, and to stop being so helpful.
This is a big ask, but it empower him, as instead of being dependant on Dianne to change - which is not happening- he can work on himself.
We talked about how when he could adopt a sense of humour, the dynamic changed completely. We explored how he needed to support himself, to find ways to find his own centre and happiness, in order not to get drawn down into negativity. We practied ways he could step back from being so helpful, and be more boundaried instead - recognising his own needs, and drawing limits about what he was capable of handling.
Terry felt much stronger, clearer, and could see what he could work on. Whatever happened with the relationship, this would be useful learning for him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

© Lifeworks 2012


Who is this blog for?

These case examples are for therapists, students and those working in the helping professions. The purpose is to show how the Gestalt approach works in practice, linking theory with clinical challenges.

Because this is aimed at a professional audience, the blog is available by subscription. Please enter your email address to receive free blog updates every time a new entry is added.

Gestalt therapy sessions

For personal therapy with me:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

© Lifeworks 2012




Informed Consent & Rates


Gestalt Therapy Defined





Book:Advice for Men about Women


• English






Greek ελληνικά

Hindi हिंदी








Russian Русский

Serbian српски

Chinese 中文

Japanese 日本語

Arabic العربية

English Bahasa České Deutsch Español Filipino Français ελληνικά हिंदी Magyar Melayu Italiano 한국의 Polski Português Română Русский српски 中文 日本語 العربية

If you are interested in following my travels/adventures in the course of my teaching work around the world, feel free to follow my Facebook Page!


This Gestalt therapy blog is translated into multiple languages. You are welcome to subscribe


Interested in Gestalt Therapy training?

Contact Us


Career Decision Coaching


and here


Gestalt training and much more

For Men

Here is a dedicated site for my book Understanding the Woman in Your Life

The Unvirtues

A site dedicated to this novel approach to the dynamics of self interest in relationship

Learn Gestalt

A site with Gestalt training professional development videos, available for CE points

We help people live more authentically

Want more? See the Archives column here

Gestalt therapy demonstration sessions

Touching pain and anger: (40m)

Permission to feel: (54m)

Marriage after 50: (1h 17m)

Serafina - Angel wings: (45m)

Barb Wire Tattoo: (37m)

A natural empath; vibrating with joy: (39m)

Dealing with a metal spider: (51m)

Interactive group: (1h 57m)