All you have to do to make a woman depressed is to use a simple three-part recipe:
1) listen to her ideas and desires, then talk her out of it;
2) substitute someone else’s much better idea; and
3) when she protests and gets upset, tell her to calm down and explain in a slow, rational voice why the other way makes much more sense.
This will work especially well if you can convince her that the better idea will save money, time, and inconvenience. If you keep this up whenever she has a good idea, she will begin to have trouble making up her mind, followed by a mysterious loss of initiative. Over time, she will start to show classic signs of depression: low energy, hopelessness, poor self-esteem, self-doubt, feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and trouble sleeping. At this point take her to a mental health professional who will identify her medical illness of depression. It is so easy!
Women’s depression is just like men’s depression, yet we often miss the causes that seem so transparent in a man’s case. For instance, we would have no trouble understanding when a man becomes depressed following the loss of his job, title, or relationship partner. It would be no mystery to us why the poor guy was down in the dumps over being thwarted in his quest for personal prestige and satisfaction. It’s a simple equation. We get it.
However, the lead-up to a woman’s depression is such a slow accumulation of frustrations that we often do not see it happening. The events contributing to her emotional downfall are frequently so small and commonplace that we overlook them as causes at all. The ones that do catch our attention – a loss, a marital problem, a difficult child –are likely to be just the big last straw in a long series of personal frustrations. Women are able to put up with a lot, but there comes the point where it catches up with them.
One depressed woman I knew began to feel better as soon as she stopped letting her husband make “innocent” changes to her plans and choices. For years if she came up with an idea for something she wanted to do, her husband would show her why her way was inefficient and offer her a more sensible alternative. She was systematically being deprived of her own autonomy in choosing the actions she wanted to do.
When you repeatedly interrupt an individual’s natural sequence from forming an idea to carrying it out, you puncture that person’s initiative. It is very subtle but very destructive. A little unwanted change in an idea is all it takes to create a rapid drop in interest and energy. There is no satisfaction or fulfillment in carrying out someone else’s version of your own idea.
Many men would instantly grasp this concept if applied to the work world; they know what it feels like to have someone mess with their idea, or have it implemented in a way different from how it was envisioned. In these cases, men know the ripped-off feeling, the exasperation of seeing a great idea being turned into something mediocre. This is exactly what happens to many women in little ways at home, when someone else’s ideas repeatedly modify her own, or when plans have to be changed or given up at the last minute. Somehow women homemakers are supposed to tolerate this interruption of their initiative by loved ones, when it would drive anyone else crazy if it happened in the workplace.
Your ideas and hopes for the future are vital for your mental strength. They generate the energy for doing things, and give you confidence that you have control in your life. Don’t forget that your vitality comes from thinking up ideas, whether simple or profound, and then seeing them through start to finish. People who try to help by taking over or by making unsolicited suggestions just don’t understand that the excitement lies in the autonomy of action, not just in getting the thing done. Have the courage to defend your choices, and make plans that accommodate your instincts. Being a little inefficient or bullheaded is a small price to pay for preventing depression.