Could depression be a blessing?
By Marlyse Carroll
(Author of ‘Am I Going Mad? The Unsettling Phenomena of Spiritual Evolution’ – www.amigoingmad.com.au)
This question sounds far fetched, doesn’t it? Yet could it be true that depression, in some cases, is a blessing in disguise?
The label ‘depression’ covers three different inner experiences:
- Reactive depression, which is triggered by a painful life event.
- Endogenous depression, which happens as a result of physical imbalance such as disease, lack of sunshine, lack of essential nutrients, or substance abuse for example.
- Spiritual depression, which reflects the pain of feeling disconnected from The Force – to use Star Wars’ language.
Current Australian medical statistics tell us that depressive illness – the severe, long-term version of a depressive episode – does at some stage disrupt the life of 20% of the population.
Whatever the cause, this condition is painful and can severely affect our relationships, health and ability to work.
So from a medical perspective, depression is best avoided at all costs. And since psychiatry doesn’t differentiate between causes, it treats them all under the same label – clinical depression – and with the same tools – psychotropic drugs.
Yet, the prognosis and outcome of a spiritual depression are very different from the other two.
The ‘dark night of the soul’ is a wake up call in our journey of personal evolution. It tells us that we’re missing something essential. Something that our soul is crying for – a conscious connection to spirituality. As such, this crisis represents a landmark for growth, not a sign of mental illness.
This is why successful and well adjusted individuals can also experience feelings of depression. They might have achieved everything they wanted from a material perspective and yet they suffer. They feel alone, sad and disconnected. As their achievements appear meaningless, they’re likely to ask themselves “Am I going mad?”
International travels, a flash new car or multiple affairs can become temporary band aids. Others attempt to suppress their uncomfortable feelings with overwork, drugs or alcohol.
Needless to say that none of the above solve their problem. What they really need at this stage is a reality check. Or even better, an epiphany. They need to consciously connect with their spiritual nature and start living accordingly.
Spirituality isn’t religion. It’s a broader perspective of life that expands our consciousness beyond the material world and its mundane concerns. In time, it moves us from ‘What’s in it for me?’ to ‘How can I be of service?’
So spiritual depression benefits from an expanded awareness of who we are and our place in the universe. Not a suppression of consciousness through medical drugs. According to Dr John E. Nelson (holistic psychiatrist and author of the book ‘Healing the Split’), pharmaceutical drugs crystalise an existential crisis, they never resolve it.
This is why ‘May the Force be with you” is such an insightful greeting!
Because the Force is the life energy that sustains the whole Universe. The Zero Point Field that physicists study. The Web of Indra discovered by ancient Eastern traditions.
And once we acknowledge its existence, we can reconnect to that power and fill our existential void. Which in turn heals spiritual depression.
So how do we connect to the Force?
Three steps are needed:
- The first one involves going within through regular meditation or prayer. Joining a meditation group is often very helpful.
- The second step is an intellectual one. Reading good spiritual books, including books on spiritual crises, helps facilitate integration. As is talking with a transpersonal counsellor or therapist.
- And the third step is to apply spiritual values and be of service in any way we can.
For more practical suggestions, please check the following article on transmutation.
And soon enough, depressive feelings vanish. Joy and energy return. We have gone through our dark night of the soul. We have had the courage to face our monsters. And eventually we come out the other side.
Are we the same as before? No, far from it. We’re now spiritually awake, stronger and wiser. And our rewards are greater emotional intelligence, physical wellbeing and spiritual fulfilment.
So as a wake up call, spiritual depression is indeed a blessing – as long as it is handled in appropriate ways.
- Carroll M., ‘Am I Going Mad? The Unsettling Phenomena of Spiritual Evolution’, (Inner Peace Publishing, first edition 2007, 2nd edition 2009)
- Nelson John Dr, ‘Healing the Split’ (SUNY 1994)