The Depression Bubble


The Depression Bubble – a metaphor for understanding a loved-one’s depression – and compassion

and suggestions for the healer…

Depression can be like a bubble blocking the person inside from receiving positive influence from the outside world.

Inside the depression bubble the person is left to deal with their hopelessness, apathy, sadness, meaninglessness, lethargy and despair all by themselves… we try to pull them out of the bubble or to push them into positive activities, but the bubble prevails.

Left to their own devices, the person in the bubble attempts to make their life more bearable by engaging in behaviors that lesson the burden… Substance use, TV watching, empty calorie eating, responsibility avoidance, video gaming, indifference, self-sabotage, lashing out, and sedative behaviors ensue in an attempt to bring a moment of relief.

We get frustrated with the bubble… and eventually, we get frustrated with the person in the bubble. Our thoughts attack us… telling us that the bubble is the person’s fault. “the Bubble will go away if you exercise, stop watching tv, stop smoking pot, start eating better, make plans with friends, go to therapy, get on meds, dedicate yourself to school/work, and find a hobby”

Our frustration leads to desperation and we forget the impossible truth… the bubble is stronger than our coaching… the bubble does not allow our positive influence to reach the encapsulated person.

humbled we find that no amount concrete action is having any impact. There is no force which is effective at budging the immovable object… strength is irrelevant… behavioral techniques consisting of consequences and rewards seem to only strengthen the bubble – thereby reducing our potential influence.

But it feels impossible to let go of control and we often resort to punishing the person for engaging in the behaviors which are a symptom of being trapped in a depression bubble. We punish them for not doing their school work, constantly critique their substance use, and take away their electronics while at the same time bribing them to exercise.

how do you move an immovable object… how to you impact something that is not receptive to behavioral conditioning?

This is where the healers’ job becomes impossibly hard… we must love unconditionally past the disruptive behaviors. We must not condone and yet accept fully at the same time. We must see the person despite the bubble.

We have only one tool – Love

and one mechanism of intervention – Connection

The strategy of connection takes patients and perseverance… but perhaps more challenging than those attributes is our own growth towards a more honest perception of reality. Past cognitive reprogramming, we have the opportunity to spiritually transcend into an acceptance of that which is beyond our control.

We want to believe that life is controllable and through our actions we can create predictability and permanence. We are so tied to this belief system that we, the potential healer, find ourselves in a bubble of rigid repetition – endlessly engaging in the same feudal behavioral interventions – endlessly upping the consequences set on the person trapped in the depression bubble. Without connection we have no positive influence (other than fear – which works very poorly on an apathetic person) … and as we move into the role of punisher we unintentionally remove our ability to help.


Through connection a person may gain the resilience necessary to allow their own self-determination to emancipate the self from the bubble.

Through connection we might keep hope just a little stronger than despair until time affords a quantum shift and the bubble pops in response to any one of an infinite number unpredictable catalysts. (ex. a developmental shift, a change in environment, hormonal/biological changes, entrance of a romantic partner, finding of purpose, a significant event etc.)

through connection a ‘we’ identity is formed and positive influence can permeate the bubble leading the trapped person to potentially make movement towards those behaviors which destroy depression bubbles (exercise, relationships, sleep, purposeful activities, art etc.)

Sometimes connection just slightly reduced the symptoms of being trapped in the depression bubble.

And finally, sometimes connection doesn’t seem to do anything and we are left with our acceptance and faith in the way things are. We gain in our own spirituality and in energy saved from engaging in the impossible. Because when we spend all our energy physically controlling the depression bubble we weaken our self and allow the potential for the depression bubble to encapsulate us.

We offer connection while offering compassion to the self for engaging in such a trying task. Love is intrinsically wonderful, and it is best for us to remember that not even love has the ability to control reality.



William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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