A radio talk show I listened to a few years ago featured a female sociologist being interviewed on the subject of depression. She said that according to recent studies married women are more likely to suffer from depression than married men, that some two thirds of all married women do experience depression, and that employment outside of the home doesn’t reduce a woman’s susceptibility. Later it was brought out that men intent on suicide are generally more efficient in disposing of themselves than suicidal women; the latter quite often botch the job and can be pumped out, dug out or fished out.
While these may be interesting facts to some, they probably have little relevance to a consideration of depression for our purposes. Probably many people reading this article have yet to commit to marriage or suicide. But how many would claim that they never experience periods of depression? Can anyone on Earth make such a claim? I doubt it. Depression is a fact of existence (notice I didn’t say life) in the mixed-up, messed-up world in which we find ourselves. And pockets of depression will remain until the mess is completely cleaned up.
Psychologists distinguish between two different kinds of depression: that which is related to external factors and that which doesn’t seem to have an external cause but is just there. In the first instance things like failure in school, rejection in a relationship, the loss of a job, slumping stock prices or deterioration in the world situation can trigger periods of depression. In the second instance the depression cannot be directly linked to anything external but manifests nevertheless in deep and persisting feelings of boredom, loneliness, emptiness, futility and disintegration. It has been described as a vibrational void or vacuum in which nothing seems to give pleasure anymore. As it was put in Ecclesiastes: “All is vanity…. There is no new thing under the sun.”
Chemical imbalances, vitamin deficiencies and childhood trauma
In some circles depression, like alcoholism, is considered to be a disease. It has been related to chemical imbalances in the body, a situation that can presumably be corrected with certain drugs such as Paxil or Prozac. Other forms of depression have been traced to low blood sugar and specific vitamin deficiencies; in these cases high-protein and vitamin-rich diets are often recommended. And of course psychiatrists have a field day connecting depression to the deprivations and traumas of early childhood.
One can go on at great length describing and analyzing depression, classifying and sub-classifying its causes, symptoms and supposed treatments, applying high-sounding scientific terminology to all these things, and thereby making it quite respectable and even worth talking about at your next bridge party. But what is the value of any of this beyond providing the sufferer with a handy excuse and the false assurance that depression is normal? Does any of it get at the root cause of personal and collective depression? Does it help me to deal with the immediate effects of depression in my own consciousness? No to all of the above.
The ultimate cause
I’m pretty sure that nothing resembling depression existed in the original, pristine, garden state of humanity. It follows that all depression, whether triggered by external events or not, is nothing but an effect of fallen human consciousness—i.e. the self-induced separation of human beings from the original divine state—and won’t be eliminated until human consciousness is universally restored to correct polarity with the creative process of life.
OK, so how, in the meantime, do we handle this effect? By fighting it with anti-depressant drugs, mega-vitamins and other substances? By seeking to erase childhood conditioning through psychoanalysis? By taking a long vacation or moving to another city? By getting married? Or divorced? While these procedures may provide momentary relief for some people, nothing is done about the underlying cause, nor is any real inner strength built; and so the depression, though temporarily driven underground, will inevitably surface again, perhaps in a more insidious form.
To handle depression the first thing to remember is not to fight or resist it in any way, since resistance simply gives power to what is resisted. Traced back to its origins depression is found to be nothing but an emptiness, a void. So unless you enjoy chasing shadows… what I’m getting at, of course, is to do what nature does whenever there is a vacuum—fill it; express life!
Go dig a ditch!
A few years ago I asked a trusted mentor and health professional what to do about depression and he simply told me to go dig a ditch! In other words, get the capacities of body and mind moving, release something, give something. Don’t withdraw or withhold. Don’t sit around and sulk. Nothing is more devastating. Blast through the void with a solid surge of spirit, thereby declaring that no feeling, however painful, can prevent you from smiling, laughing and otherwise revealing the strong and radiant being that in truth you are.
And nothing is gained by heaping guilt upon your head for feeling depressed. There has been a tendency to think that depression is God’s way of punishing a person for wrongdoing. Nonsense. Everyone, even the nicest people, experience at least mild forms of depression. Indeed there are downward pulsations or lows in the creative cycle of life itself! So there is nothing sinful, immoral or personal about feeling a low. It’s what is expressed during these periods that counts. And if this expression springs from the serene and positive centre of being, then depression may become just another of the interesting circumstances that can be used to advantage in sounding the true tone of life on Earth.
Read more on this topic in DEPRESSION: Ten steps to overcome it»
Jerry Kvasnicka, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, has had a varied career as a youth minister, a radio news reporter, a writer and editor for several magazines and journals and a custodian with the Loveland, Colorado school district. Jerry currently edits and writes for the mind-spirit section of The Mindful Word. He has lived at the Sunrise Ranch spiritual community in Loveland for twenty-six years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.