A Spiritual View of Depression, Part IV: The Wisdom of Depression
If it can be said that there is wisdom to be gained through hardship or suffering that we would not freely choose, then it can also be said that there is deep learning and truth to be gained through the experience of depression in all its many forms . As with all experiences that are painful and that create limitation, the deeper self or soul can bring out of this, something valuable for the heart and for the spirit. Though this may not immediately be apparent to the self in the midst of pain, grief, or sorrow, what has limitation on the one side, offers the possibility for learning and for greater life on the other.
A choice that the inner self must make – whether to adhere to a perspective which emphasizes indifference, loss, randomness, deprivation, and lack in life, or to believe that at all times there is a purpose behind the manifestation of what life brings to us.
This paradox is hard for the human self to grasp, because the human response to suffering is to want it to end, and the human heart cannot help but believe that what feels bad — what deprives it of joy, love, meaning, hope, and energy — cannot be the source of something good. However, the perceptions of the soul and the choices that the soul makes during a time of pain or limitation are invisible, and everything depends upon the choices that are made.
For example, it is possible, as a result of feeling disconnected from joy or meaning in life, to begin to seek that joy with a fuller heart, to value life more, to hope for the possibility of experiencing one clear and pure sunlit day without the cloud of sorrow on the mind or in the heart. It is possible in the presence of aloneness or isolation to feel the heart longing more for love and connection. And it is possible to feel, in the presence of the wish to die, an even greater wish to live. These are the choices of the soul. In fact, they are more ‘orientations’ than choices, and they turn the inner self in the direction of pursuing the fulfillment that is needed and toward new possibilities for growth. In this sense, though depression may be a ‘dark night of the soul’ which we would not choose and in which it may appear that every light has gone out, the soul, within its own domain, continues to support the seeking of that light and continues to radiate light toward the self that suffers and struggles. For this reason, it would be well to look at all forms of depression as a spiritual crisis in its underpinnings, for although no positive movement may be visible on the mental or emotional levels, on the level of spirit and soul a question is being asked and a question is being answered all of the time, namely, ‘what is this life about, what is its value, and what am I doing in it’?
Whether flooded with feelings, or numb and experiencing merely a sense of deadness, on the level of the soul a groping movement is taking place during this dark and painful night — a search for a way toward the light that is, for the moment, invisible. In the blackness, there is a sharpening of vision as one seeks the promise of this light and pursues the elusive hope of an end to darkness. Even on the conscious level, where everything may feel quite bleak, there is often a reaching out toward that which may have seemed impossibly far away before, namely, to the awareness, however tentative, of our Divine and holy self, the center of our spiritual being.
For those for whom the higher self or soul remains a hypothesis rather than a reality, this type of understanding will seem invented. However, this, too, is a choice that the inner self must make — whether to adhere to a perspective which emphasizes indifference, loss, randomness, deprivation, and lack in life, or to believe that at all times there is a purpose behind the manifestation of what life brings to us, and that this purpose, when found, can become the springboard to a new and more vital sense of ourselves and of life.