This psychologist talks about depression from his dual perspective as a therapist and ex-patient.
Nacho Coller is one of the most interesting voices in Spain in the dissemination of Psychology.
His carefree style and close to explaining his experiences and opinions regarding his life and his profession as a psychologist have led him, in addition to Clinical and Sports Psychology, to collaborate in numerous media both in the press and on the radio, as well as to develop a lecturer and trainer facet. He currently collaborates weekly in the psychology section of the program À Punt Directe on the Valencian television channel À Punt, with Carolina Ferre.
Recently, Coller has published the book A Tortoise, a Hare and a Mosquito , in which he talks about different aspects of the vital philosophy necessary to lead us to be mere spectators of our lives. It shows basic principles of psychology explained through a format, sometimes autobiographical and sometimes imagined, full of humor and timely reflections.
We interview Nacho Coller, psychologist and popularizer
In this interview, Nacho Coller talks to us about different aspects related to mental health, also explaining how his first-person experience of depression was.
Psychology and Mind: Your book is characterized among other things by displaying a very personal sense of humor. Do you think that among psychologists this treatment is missing more from you to you in their way of spreading beyond therapy?
Nacho Coller: Well, I think so. One of the things that most reinforces the figure of the psychologist and that the staff most appreciates is authenticity, coherence and showing a certain vulnerability, that is, showing ourselves human. I believe that the fact of disseminating psychology with an accessible and fresh language without losing sight of the rigor, normalizes psychology and brings it closer to the general public. we have to bet on a psychology available to everyone.
In the book you explain several keys to turn the page and stop obsessing over the problems of the past. For example, learning to live without resentment or assuming that no one is perfect. Of all of them, which would you say is the most important?
I keep two. Assuming that reaching perfection is a deception that leads to frustration and to live under the umbrella of anxiety; and knowing how to turn the page and cut with those situations or people that cause us discomfort. Regarding the latter, the word forgiveness has a determining role, both when it comes to forgiving ourselves and when learning to excuse others. Without sincere forgiveness there is no life satisfaction.
You also talk about resilience, our ability to overcome adversity. Do you think this is a skill that usually appears spontaneously and almost without realizing it in many people, or is it necessary to have made a conscious learning about how to manage one’s own emotions?
I believe that there are many people who do not need to consciously work on managing emotions. For example, without going any further, the number of people who fight for their survival and who are capable of crossing a sea full of dangers and a thousand borders, who live or have lived with death, pain, rape and what worst of the human species, and even so, they are capable of maintaining a smile, of showing generosity by helping the one they have at their side; they are capable of living.
I don’t think any of these people have done conscious work or signed up for an emotion management course, they just kept fighting, they fought for a dream, they fled hell, they bet on living a slightly better life And the fact of getting started and facing the vicissitudes of life has made them get the best of themselves. I would bet on the motto, more life and less mind and obviously more life with a meaning.
Have you ever told that you suffered from depression? How does a psychologist who has gone through such a delicate stage of his life feel?
Well, I went through different stages. The first, in which the first symptoms began due to an excess of stress that led to a championship insomnia (I slept two, three or four hours every day), of disbelief with a “it cannot be what is happening to me, that this Is a passenger”. I thought I would control my depression, that is what I was a psychologist for. That mistake.
The second stage was that of silence with shades of shame and a lot of guilt (what will they think of me? What a professional you are made! You are a failure!).
Sadness, insecurity, an underground self-esteem, some problems at work, crying in silence (some men are such idiots), blockages and irritability among other negative symptoms, led me to ask for professional help. In the third stage of this process, at the end of the depression, I accepted that I was not superman, I took medication, I transferred my discomfort to the people around me, my friends and my family, I started up and I got hooked again lifetime.
I had a terrible time at that time, but I tell you one thing, one of the best things that have happened to me in my professional and personal life (in my case the two are very close) came after that depression. The day I published an article in which I narrated my experience, I think I closed a stage and some pending accounts with myself. Do you know something? When you show your vulnerability, you become stronger, and I believe that today I am a better person than I was before.
In the problems related to the symptoms of depression, do you think that the person who suffers is still blamed a lot for it, as if they are not trying hard enough to overcome it?
Yes, this is a classic in many relatives or friends of people who are with depression and our obligation as psychology professionals is to disclose just the opposite, which is not that they do not want to or do not make an effort, it is that they cannot. The culture of effort is good for the world of business and life, but I like the culture of gratification and reinforcement better.
Problems such as depression are usually discussed in a way that it seems that what is wrong is isolated within the person, as if the context in which they live does not matter. What aspects of our society do you think have the most power to promote the appearance of depressive symptoms?
But if the context is very important. Not having a decent salary, not being able to make ends meet, living in a work environment in which the boss or colleagues make life impossible for one, the accelerated pace of life we lead, the excessive pressure from certain neoliberal areas in the one that they sell individualism as a formula to be happy, the denial of suffering and the hundreds of slogans of everything to a hundred that you have to be happy at any cost and if you don’t get it you are a failure.
By the way, there is another factor that favors depressive symptoms; listening to electrolatino or reggaeton, this is not good for mental health. Her music dries up my meninges and her lyrics embarrass others …
What is your opinion of antidepressant drugs and their effectiveness in treating depression?
I have never liked to enter the dynamics of drugs yes or no, nor have I liked to fall into the demonization of antidepressants. My opinion agrees with what the WHO indicates; before mild depression, practice sports and put yourself in the hands of a professional psychologist, no more, no less. Faced with mild-moderate depression without functional repercussion, psychology; and when the depression is moderate – severe with functional repercussions, combination of drugs and therapy. Regarding the Therapy model to be used, I recommend ACT Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, it has excellent results.
In your book, you also talk about “ringworm people.” Do you think most of us are capable of recognizing them, or do we tend to act like they aren’t and even reward their negative attitudes?
Well, look, I think we do recognize them to a great extent, what happens is that living with them is very complicated and they can screw up your life. Think about your workplace, that you get a colleague, or several like that, or a boss; They can scorch or destroy you emotionally and psychologically.
Tiny people are petty people, who live with complaints, negative, resentful, who have a gray and hollow life, who always go with a loaded shotgun waiting for the failure of others, who love to speak ill of others behind their backs, who have as a motto I am bad if you are good, and I am good if you are bad; these guys or girls are a time bomb that is good to detect early and learn to distance themselves from them. And it is not easy to escape from them.
You are somewhat right in the question because on many occasions, especially at the beginning of a relationship, we laugh to thank the uncle, be it out of social courtesy, because we are caught off guard or because we all have a tiny spot.
Using positive humor is a good tool to get stuck as little as possible, and if you can put your foot down and take distance, all the better.
Finally, and focusing on Spanish society, what idea do you think is worth claiming in regards to our way of managing our own emotions?
Accept your own and others’ imperfections, bet on positive humor and being generous with those around you, gratify and recognize the progress of the people you love, show gratitude, be kind and condescending with yourself and with others, accept that we are not supermans and that suffering is part of life and finally, live life with passion and intensity; that life is very cool and is full of fantastic people even though sometimes we spend real whores.