I have come to the conclusion that some aspects of depression are less of a mental/physical condition and more of a spiritual crisis, which has been medicalised. It can be a form of spiritual dis-ease/spiritual amnesia, or, put another way, an existential crisis.
Who am I?
There must be more to life than this (whatever ‘this’ might be)? What’s it all about?
Why do I feel so anxious and insecure all the time?
Why am I always so angry and confused?
Not knowing the answers to such questions, in my experience, lies at the heart of many types of depression.
Such questions are not new. For centuries people have experienced what is often referred to as ‘the dark night of the soul’. Many have spent years desperately seeking solace through the study of religious texts or books on philosophy. Others have journeyed within, seeking answers through contemplation, meditation, prayer, pilgrimages or communing with nature.
What is new in our era is the rapid global decline of organised religion and the parallel rise of scientific rationalism and mass consumerism. The worship of gods, saints and gurus has been replaced by the religion of science and the cult of celebrity with its emphasis on good looks and material success. For some scientists and social commentators, human beings are little more than an advanced type of ape or chimpanzee that has evolved over millennia, ruled by its brain and instinct for survival. Just like other animals we come and go and that’s it! Here today and gone tomorrow.
The wisdom and insights of spirituality and religion gathered over thousands of years are often brushed aside. There is no longer an agreed common understanding or language through which we can talk about the deeper aspects of ourselves and the need to belong and live with others in a state of peace, harmony and common purpose.
We have thrown the baby out with the bath water and are left floundering in a state of limbo, not knowing where to turn or what to do.
This situation has been made more challenging by the profound psychological legacy of those religions that tend to emphasise the sinful nature of humanity. Consequently, from an early age we can be made to feel ‘not good enough’ and are controlled through a mixture of fear (of rejection and disapproval) and punishment. The result? Low self-esteem and a lack of confidence in ourselves.
In most societies, our essentially good nature has been suppressed by a collective barrage of criticism, complaint, blame, judgments and comparison from parents, teachers and significant others. This has been fuelled by the media and an advertising industry, which plays on our insecurities and anxieties and does its best to create dissatisfaction and discontent in our lives.
It is time to turn within, reconnect with our essence, the being in the body, and learn to be peaceful and calm. In this state of inner attentiveness and awareness, we can start clearing some of the dark clouds of depression, which prevent us from respecting and loving ourselves. Appreciating our unique blend of virtues and values we can start rebuilding our lives from the inside-out and learn to be happy again. Seeing and understanding the bigger picture – that we more than an object, or a body, opens up a new world of possibilities. The spiritual crisis is over.