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Out of the Patterns of Depression

Your Values

There is one significant aspect of your makeup: This is your values. In fact, most of your other patterns are directly related to your value system. It is in your first twenty years that the largest part of your entire value system is developed and integrated.

Your value system is a mostly unconscious but strongly internalised framework for forming judgements about, and reactions to, the events of your life. Through your value system, you make determinations about each and every experience you have, evaluating what is normal and what is not normal, good or bad, right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, important or trivial. All of us must make judgements about our experiences in order to have a meaningful way of relating to them.

On the basis of your value system, you are likely to seek out one type of desirable experience, thereby precluding another type of experience. You develop certain abilities that seem important or worthwhile, and you ignore others viewed as less necessary or valuable. You can't be everywhere learning everything! This is a simple, but significant concept, particularly in viewing depression as often arising from incomplete or incorrect learning.

The things you don't know how to do can cause depression. Ultimately, mental health is the ability to adapt your abilities skilfully to the varied situations that you face in life.


  • Think about the values you hold and how deeply you hold them.

  • The question to ask is: "What is it that is important to me about what I do?"

(This is significant because values can create rigidities that put you at risk for depression if those values are challenged in some way. Periods of crisis in an individual's life that may show up as acute, serious depressions usually occur with the failure of the value system on which the person has based his or her life.)

Well before depression hits, the risk factors that lead up to it are usually in place. Too often, people notice and respond only to the most obvious triggering event for an episode, and never see the invisible risk factors (such as their values) that made them vulnerable in the first place. This point has tremendous preventive value. It is imperative, therefore, to examine your values in order to know the strengths that each permits you, as well as any associated limitations that may put you at risk later.

In order to live life well, you must acknowledge your values and seek to maintain a lifestyle that reflects them consistently. However, to feel good, it is also important to acknowledge the value of experiences that life outside the boundaries of your previous experiences. Learning to do so is how you can develop a greater degree of flexibility.

Maintaining balance in your life means being able to change effectively with the changing times, comfortably adjusting to circumstances as the need dictates.


  • Ask yourself: "Do my values fit with my current realities?"

Also remember that the values you learned early in your life may have little to do with living life well today. When what you are doing doesn't work, you have to adjust to the reality of the circumstances and do something else!