One of the biggest issues in the world today is depression. Recently the World Health Organization came out with a finding that depression is the single biggest health issue in the world...the world! It is the most prominent contributor to disability and is a “major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.” This is something I’ve long-suspected, but in our increasingly hyperconnected and war-torn world it has taken on new dimensions in terms of its impact on everyday people. Other forms of mental illness can be equally bad, and many of them have the feature of major feelings of shame.
How Beauty and the Beast Can Provide a Key to Overcoming Depression
No, I’m not talking about watching the movie over and over again until you feel better. What I am talking about is that there are some key themes in this classic tale that relate to every person and how they get through life. One of these is how every depressed person and people who are filled with shame feel about themselves. You generally feel pretty rotten about yourself when you are depressed, especially if shame is one of the symptoms. Other mental illnesses can carry an equally negative stigma, if not an even worse stigma that can foster feelings of shame as well. Watching this movie again recently in its live action form reminded me that many people feel the way Beast did about himself in the movie: that there is something inherently unlovable about ourselves, or that we are inherently unworthy of being loved. This latter notion is one that is consistently something that renowned author, therapist, and social worker Brene Brown has addressed most directly in some of her now-famous TED talks. Millions and millions of people, particularly in our modern societies suffer from major degrees of shame, even if they don’t suffer from depression or other mental illness as well.
What Does It Matter That a Movie Is About This?
I’ll tell you what: this story is about one of the deepest truths about being human. Namely, that it is in what we think is most ugly about ourselves that makes us most human: our flaws. Sure, we really want others to think well of us and be seen as ‘wonderful’ people. We want to be loved and adored by others, but that simply makes us praiseworthy. It are those parts of ourselves that we think are ugly where there is the greatest potential for transformation. There is a famous saying about how there is a ‘little bit of bad in the best of us, and a little bit of good in the worst of us.’ This saying is at the root of the conflict in Beauty and the Beast, and in our lives in general. We try to whitewash what we consider ‘bad,’ but in doing so we leave a part of ourselves in the dark. In doing so, we fail to love and accept ourselves fully and completely; this is what most needs to happen if we are struggling with depression and shame.
How Depression Therapy Can Help in Bringing Out Your Inner Beauty
One of the other noble truths in Beauty and the Beast is mentioned early in the story: that real beauty lies within. Depression therapy is one of the best ways to look the ‘beast’ in the eye and find the real beauty that lies within you. I have helped well over a hundred individuals from all walks of life in my work as a therapist to find their inner beauty when they thought there was none there at all. There’s an old saying in 12-step recovery circles that ‘it’s an inside job’ when someone is working to recover from an addiction. It is much the same in working to recover from depression and shame. Much of the focus has to be on the inner person and issues that may have been long neglected. I’ve seen people in my practice who have been so shut down at the start of therapy, to later become radiant individuals who may still suffer to some degree; but are so much better off than before they came into the light of day. This can be your experience, too. I encourage you to pick up the phone and call me at 512-374-0100, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about how I can help you.
About the author: Scott Kampschaefer, LCSW is a private practice therapist in Austin, Texas. He has an extensive background in working with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder at a clinic for older adults with these disorders in Austin. He now works with adults and adolescents of all ages in private practice.