Supporting a Loved One with Anxiety and Depression
Dear Ask a Professional: How do I support a loved one with anxiety & depression? Everything I say and do seems to make things worse.
Reinhard: Seeing a loved one suffer is very difficult to bear. And as you have already realized, nothing you do or say seems to help. Often even the opposite of what we intend happens.
One reason for this is that we want our loved ones to feel “better” and then we try to convince them that their view of "things as they are" is wrong. We then tend to give them tips or take the initiative to change something without being asked. But what meta-message are we then sending to our loved one? The message is: “The way you are and the way you think and feel is wrong”, and maybe also: “I don’t believe in you and I don’t think you are able to do the right thing for yourself.”
Deep down you can probably sense that you don't want to convey such a message. And you sense that it may lead to an instinctive counter-reaction, which, in turn, makes matters worse.
So the question is, what can I do? And the answer to this question is also hard to bear: Nothing. Supporting someone isn’t primarily about doing something, such as forcing your help, which isn’t your responsibility on someone who didn’t ask for it. It is about how you try to be there for your loved one. And this has little to do with doing something, but rather with having a certain inner mindset.
Let me ask you this: How would you like your significant other to treat you when you are in a bad mood? Probably in a friendly way, with lots of love and compassion, but presumably without any pity. And how can you do that? By “telling” the other person in your mind what you think, such as: “You are right for me just the way you are and I love you the way you are". It is very important to feel the truth behind these words as you “speak” them.
Another very helpful inner mindset, expressed in a sentence by Bert Hellinger, is: "I love you and me... and I love what guides you and guides me." In this mindset you connect with something greater. And this is also a wonderful way to take out the pressure that you put on yourself.
Lastly, it is also important that you don’t forget to take good care of yourself. Only then can you be as loving and resilient for others as they need you to be.
Disclaimer: If your beloved person shows serious signs of being a danger to themselves or others, please have them get professional help.
About the Professional
Reinhard Schotola is a certified Life-Coach and Family-Constellation Coach for ReFlow. His life has been marked by constant change on all levels. He combines empathy and psychological understanding (soft facts) with his special analytical skills for hard facts.
Reinhard loves to answer the question: "What the hell is really going on!" He also solves complex personal or organizational-operative problems with passion, and guides complex transformation and change processes together with his clients. People who come to him seek out new perspectives, true understanding and are willing to change.
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