Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Demon Lover

November 14, 2010

A certain joy and freedom from worry have been courting me lately. I’ve been captivated with the energy of it, and have allowed myself to be pursued by it without my usual suspicion. But about three days ago I felt something like a change in air pressure, maybe the kind of sense an animal gets before a tsunami hits. It kept me up at night for two nights, and then yesterday the wave came in.

A depression hit like a train. Knocked me out, took me down, ravaged my spirit with its dark thinking. I’m not new to such episodes, but it doesn’t make it easier to go through them, even if they are familiar. Today, with a little bit of perspective coming back, I had a revelation.  For the first time I saw this pursuing energy as something like a jealous lover. “How dare you leave me behind, I own you! I am the only one who knows you, loves you truly, will never leave you, will always be there while other moods come and go.”

I thought of the story of the Phantom of the Opera. Christine is trying to have a human love, but the compelling darkness of the Phantom who taught her to sing and seduced her into a fealty to his underworld tries desperately to break it up. His powers are strong and hard for her to resist, and her heart knows that what he has taught her has made her who she is.

Depression is such a demon lover. It becomes a familiar way of knowing, of sensing the world, a dark teacher who understands what those who have never traveled in its realm do not. It is reliable, easy to return to when others disappoint. But it is also like the abusive parent or spouse who keeps you so down you don’t believe you can survive elsewhere, or could possibly deserve anything different.

The fact that this story occurred to me this day after yesterday’s assault let’s me know that something is shifting. As Carl Jung says, once you make a thing conscious 90% of the work is done. I have been in this dominating and abusive relationship for too long, but now suddenly I see it rather than just descending unconsciously into its grips. I can call in “social services,” get some treatment, and realize I don’t have to submit. It will take work and practice, but I am utterly relieved and grateful for the breakthrough. Something good is blessing me now.

Myth and Meaning

October 3, 2010

Through experience I find what I believe is the core problem of depression – a loss of meaning. In depression, meaning seems drained out of existence; there it all is – color, sound, smell, beauty, love, life all around and in front of you – so what? It is just there. Purpose and meaning are extracted. It all looks and feels like nothing. I think the barometer of joy and happiness in life is measured on the scale of the amount of meaning one finds in it. Physicist David Bohm suggested that meaning is the third principle that constitutes reality. Einstein saw the dual principle of matter and energy. Bohm suggested a third aspect to our very physics — matter, energy and meaning. Meaning is as much a part of our physical reality as the other two, and is unfolded from the other two. Depression is a result of a loss of this dimension. I’m speaking from experience. No one ever told me this.

I don’t know what causes bouts with depression. There are so many theories and ideas and doctors and analysts, so many who conscientiously diagnose and prescribe and listen, many times to the great benefit of others. I am 59 with a doctorate in depth psychology and have been helped and have been able to help in this area. But there is much more to the mystery than I believe we have yet encountered or articulated in general. As Robert Romanyshyn says, depression is not the cause, it is the cure. And Marie Louise von Franz says to go into depression, let it take you to where it is going, underneath all of the superficialities of life to where you can discover what it wants, what it has to say, its purpose, its meaning.

The trick is to be able to come back with what you find, to bridge the worlds. I saw a movie last night just as I was coming out of a strong bout with depression. The movie spoke to me in a gorgeous and timely way. It is called Ondine, a movie directed by Neil Jordan with Colin Ferrell starring (p.s. Colin Ferrell is one of my favorite actors ever.) The story is of an Irish fisherman who catches a woman in his fishing net. The movie deals with harsh realities, but shows the magic and mystery that a dimension of meaning contributes for all involved. It is that dimension which storytellers and movie makers and musicians and poets and artists consistently address that are utterly life-giving, that revolutionize and move life forward out of meaningless, repetitive, deadly spirals.

I was reminded of the following words in Jung’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections as I started to write on this. “Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything. No science will ever replace myth, and a myth cannot be made out of any science.” Myth is another dimension altogether.

Star Wars, Harry Potter, fairy tales, Iron Man, the Greeks – without such as these we would be a lost species. If you have a friend who is depressed or find yourself in this state, sit with it until the meaning and the myth emerge. Some would say those are the stories that take one away from reality and lead to insanity. I say to be without them is insanity. I know whereof I speak.

The Cave of Being

October 2, 2010

Humans begin their lives in a watery cave, the womb. That is where the individual’s consciousness is initially formed. In some ways that consciousness is lost as the daylight world begins its play, makes its demands, and tricks the mind into literal interpretations of the stories that a person lives.

Many cultures believe that carefully designed initiations are necessary for a soul to remember what it knew before entering this earthly play of light and shadow, form and spirit. From prehistoric records in cave drawings to the Greek, Dionysian, Eleusynian mysteries and the rites of Orpheus, to practices of shamanic and indigenous initiations all over the globe, the importance of these rituals are a ubiquitous part of human history.

In my own life I have been drawn to study many of these cultures and their rituals. And I have observed that the psyche so needs these rites that even if they are not provided, as modern cultures generally fail to do, Nature herself, working on behalf of the psyche, will create them for the soul that wishes for initiation.

Caves are an important location for many of the rites of passage. They provide a withdrawal into seclusion, into the subterranean worlds, into the world inside the world, and into the darkness beyond solar limits. As Rilke says, “You darkness of whom I am born, I love you more than the flame that limits the world to the circle it illumines and excludes all the rest.”

I submit that Nature can and will create cave initiations without the need for a physical cave. It can submerge the spirit into a cave-like dwelling where light does not penetrate. There is a cave inside our being, the deep memory of the time inside the womb and what came before that, and the awareness of spaces where light does not reach that inform the soul of the truth of its being. I get drawn into these caves and find it hard to emerge. The events occur as part of an illness, a struggle with depression and PTSD, but they are part of  the fulfillment of my soul’s wishes too. There is a huge tension to hold in this.  The facility to pass between these worlds gracefully is my quest now and I believe it is coming. I am grateful for what I am learning.