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Depression : Anger Towards Parents Turned Inward?

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The idea that depression is the result of our anger towards others (such as our parents) who have hurt and betrayed being turned inwards towards ourselves is usually thought to originate from the theories of Sigmund Freud, 1856 -1939 (who discussed the concept in his paper entitled ‘Mourning And Melancholia‘), although it is more likely to derive from the work of the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) who, a few decades earlier during the 1880s, wrote that ‘no one blames themselves without the secret wish for vengeance’.

And, more recently, Horney (1885 – 1852) proposed that depression originates from having parents who lack warmth or are hostile, inconsistent and preoccupied with their own needs rather than with those of their children. This negative parental treatment leads to the child developing feelings of anger and resentment towards the parent. However, because the child is dependent upon his / her parents, s/he cannot risk expressing these angry and resentful feelings and so represses them (this repression may also be driven by feelings of guilt about resenting his / her parents, by fear of the consequences of openly expressing anger towards them, or by conflicting feelings of love for them – in relation to the latter, you may wish to read my previously published article : Why Children Idealize Their Parents). This process takes place on a largely unconscious level, of course.

However, rather than dissipate away, these feeling of anger and resentment are REDIRECTED TOWARDS THE SELF. This negative energy then combines with the child’s feelings of his / her own impotence, the negative attitude of his / her parents towards him / her, and a sense of his / her own feelings of hostility, to cause the young person to create a self-concept of being someone to be ‘despised’ (in relation to this you may wish to read my previously published articles : Childhood Trauma Leading To Self-Hatred And Intense Self-Criticism’ and How The Child’s View Of View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated.’)

According to Horney, however, at the same time, the child simultaneously develops the compensatory concept of an ‘idealized’ self which is unrealistic and unobtainable, no matter how hard the child / later adult attempts to realize it.

However, in a desperate need to compensate for the ‘despised’ self, the child / later adult develops an insatiable and all-consuming, neurotic need to achieve this ideal state, even though s / he is not consciously aware of the origins of this need. This intense, neurotic need may manifest itself in various ways including perfectionism, an overwhelming need to be loved and admired by everyone (e.g. by becoming famous), or to be omnipotent.

Needless to say, living up to these standards is impossible and the inevitable failure to do so, according to Horney, generates feelings of self-hate. Indeed, the anger associated with these feelings may become so deeply entrenched and buried within the body that the result is psychosomatic symptoms such as headaches and back ache, representing an unconscious, masochistic need to punish oneself.

Anger turned inwards against the self and self-hatred clearly suggests an utter absence of self-compassion which is why compassion-focused therapy may be helpful for some who find themselves trapped in this self-lacerating, masochistic frame of mind, whilst Horney recommended psychoanalytic psychotherapy.

RESOURCES :

Develop Self Compassion | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

About David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Psychologist, researcher and educationalist.

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