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The poet, William Butler Yeats said, “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.” I would certainly agree with him on that. Dealing with depression takes tremendous courage and fortitude, even as it also can be a tremendous opportunity. We have swept the house clean, so to speak, and now we can decorate it as we see fit. But if we’ve never done that before, how do we do that?
Human depression is a very interesting state. Since it is one of the things that our current society holds such shame and judgement about, let’s take a deeper look at depression for a moment.
If you take the word “depression” apart you have the prefix, “de,” the word, “press,” and the suffix, “ion.”
“De” means “the undoing, reversing or ridding of something.”
“Press” means “to urge onward.”
“Ion” means “the process of.”
By the sum of its parts, the word depression means: “the process of losing the urge to move forward.” This means that the driving force in your life has been turned off. There’s not much joy present. However, viewed from the soul point of view, this state of depression is potentially as good, as society judges it as bad. The soul views the depressed state as the ultimate moment of choice. When depression strikes, all the normal drivers in one’s life have been removed. There are no more commands coming from outside anymore, telling us what to do. Instead, there is a vacant space where those orders and automatic societal demands usually reside. Now, it is up to us to choose what we really want.
An employment loss can precipitate a period of depression as much as completing a soul lesson can. When a person no longer has their job or spiritual mission urging them onward, they can enter a feeling of disorientation, if not depression. Students may find themselves depressed when they graduate. Depression is also a common occurrence after a divorce. For the primary caretaker, the death of family members, whose care has been labor intensive towards the end, can actually bring on a depression, not the expected or assumed relief the primary caretaker thought would happen. In each case it is time to start over again.
Part of the challenge of getting beyond a time of depression is learning how to make decisions that we have freely chosen for ourselves. We begin to place something new into that “empty space” within us. This is the beginning of reinventing our definition of self. For those who have no concept of their self-worth, a period of depression can cause a feeling of devastation, or even paralysis. For those secure in their own power, this dark time of taking stock and regrouping, can be thought of as a time of freedom.
We can begin by creating an inventory of our abilities, our tools, and our desires. We can plan where we want to go and then begin the trek. It’s helpful at these times of transition to try our best to live in the moment. What is done is done. There isn’t much value in spending precious time blaming other people or condemning ourselves. We have a new start and it is up to us to decide how to use it. We can choose to seize this new opportunity that has presented itself, whether we feel like we chose it to not, to now explore and showcase our strengths. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain by embracing our newly hatching self.
This new self can make new choices, to follow our instincts into new arenas we have always wanted to explore but may have not had the time or given ourselves permission to do. This approach can help us view depression as an opportunity, an as yet unformed possibility which holds many potential gifts. If we choose to survive it, depression can catapult us into places we had never dreamed possible.
Woody Allen said once, “Humor is tragedy, plus time.” Eventually after the long Dark Night Of The Soul is over, the Hero’s Journey completed, we walk out into the dawn of the new day, with deeper wisdom and hopefully, our sense of humor still intact.
*Note: If you are feeling really depressed, I suggest you consult with a licensed medical practitioner and/or therapist and get some support and guidance.
In his book, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering, Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that one way we can begin to create joy and happiness in our lives is to experience the kind of joy that comes from letting go. Many of us are bound to so many things. We believe these things are necessary for our survival, our security, and our happiness. But many of these things, or more precisely, our beliefs about their utter necessity, are really obstacles for our joy and happiness.
Sometimes we think that having a certain something, a career, salary, house, car, designer outfit or partner is absolutely crucial for our happiness. However, have you ever noticed that even when you have achieved that certain something, it never seems to feel like enough? If we look deeply into our fearful attachments, we will realize that they are, in fact, the very obstacle to our joy and happiness. Letting go takes a lot of courage but once you do let go, happiness and joy can come very quickly. Then there will be no need to search for it.
How have you navigated through depression in your own life? Please share anything you have found particularly helpful or useful in the comments below.