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So, I woke up today – bright and cheerful – and also sad for those of us who are not consistently cheerful and optimistic, which ‘believe it or not’ is our natural state to be in.
So I thought that the ‘black dog’ is a worthy subject for us to consider…….
Depression, a term coined by Adolf Meyer, has been considered an inadequate name.
William Styron in his account of his depression, Darkness Visible, wrote: “’Melancholia’ would still be far more apt and evocative a word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland formality lacking any magisterial presence.”
American author Susan Sontag was more succinct: “Depression is melancholy minus its charms…”
Churchill named his own depression – ‘black dog’. He was not the first or last to use ‘black dog’ to describe depression. While the term has survived Churchill, its origins remain obscured in the history of the English language.
Churchill’s daughter, Lady Soames, said of her father’s depression:
“A lot has been made of the depressive side of his character by psychiatrists who were never in the same room with him. He himself talks of his ‘black dog’, and he did have times of great depression, but marriage to my mother very largely kennelled the ‘black dog’.”
Whatever our personal opinion may be on Churchill’s achievements, he certainly did achieve, even though chronically haunted by his ‘black dog’.
I say: “We need to celebrate how well those of us suffering depression do function, and do achieve.”
I have worked as a clinical hypnotherapist and licensed psychotherapist for many years with young people suffering with depression. I have total respect for their inner strengths to cope. The psychological and emotional ‘worlds’ of depression which they have, not out of any conscious choice, entered, do not relate in anyway to the ‘worlds’ of day to day life. And so it takes massive energy for the sufferer to even attempt to relate to life.
Depression is often compounded with anxiety, such as shame, fear of the weakness to be able to change; (“Pull your self up with your boot laces!” Which actually defies physics, we can’t!) Guilt about having ‘mental illness’ and maybe guilt about how the illness affects others; family and friends.
We know the unbearable tragic statistics: around one million people in the world commit suicide each year; one in five of us, say the World Health Organisation, will suffer a ‘’mental illness’.
Medication helps temporarily; it helps to get a flow of energy, specifically serotonin. But, it does not cure. For thirty years my focus has been on cure rather than management or control.
As Churchill’s daughter said; “… marriage to my mother very largely kennelled the black dog”.
However, I see that the ‘black dog’ is still looming, a dark presence in the back yard kennel, sadly ever ready to pounce!
How can we bring a cure?
As I truly do not want to lose you here, I repeat, I have total respect for the suffering of depression. I too suffered, in the early 1980’s; my life was not worth living.
I had a brilliant Therapist, David Grove!
I’ve had no recurrence of ‘depression’, the ‘black dog’ was set free, but that’s a whole story in itself, as the ‘black dog’ is a wounded part of our ‘Me’.
Sure, I have had challenges, and sadness and loss, and I’ve discovered solutions to challenges and moved on, and I’ve grieved and moved on from my loss.
The next part of my discussion with you is largely based on my successful Work as a therapist plus my experience and rigourous study:
Anxiety and depression can become compounded into an undifferentiated mass of psychological and emotional information, leading us to experience the unsolvable horrific cycle of: “The same damned thing over and over again….”
My Work differentiates out the anxiety, and brings resolution to the fears and shame; we can then give full attention to the depression.
Depression will have its antecedents in our early formative years, in our learnt beliefs, trauma or crisis. We may or may not know what triggers the depression later, in our teens or young adult life. It’s not always necessary to know or have the insights about what triggered it.
In our early years we unconsciously, as a psychological protective mechanism, freeze moments in time. The unconscious stops time, right on the edge of trauma or crisis in an attempt to stop the next moments becoming worse: For example: I am age 5, this important adult is yelling at me….I unconsciously stop time whilst they are yelling at me in case they start beating me……
These ‘frozen moments’ of ‘the yelling’ play on and on deep within our mind for a year or twenty years until something in our environment triggers the feelings of fear, sadness, helplessness, not necessarily the memories of, in this example, a yelling adult.
We may not even have noticed the trigger, for example: The newspaper seller shouting the news on the street had the same tone and delivery of voice as the yelling adult…..
We walked on by and suddenly we felt low or fearful.
These trigger encounters will connect deeply and significantly with our younger experience. Because, the part of us frozen in time never grew on in time and deeply continues to feel the ‘pain’ of those moments.
My work safely enters these frozen moments in time and brings resolution to the experiences, freeing the part of us who became ‘stuck’ enabling time to move on.
More about black dog depression and support at Blackdog
Thank you for listening.

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