An overview of depression: a soulful approach
Depression can often be a consequence of unresolved, repressed or forgotten feelings resulting from experiences of loss, trauma, crisis and conflict; such as unresolved grief. The depressive state can also occur due to a sense of meaninglessness and lack of purpose in one’s life, affecting the individual on an emotional, spiritual and relational level.
The experience of depression can be described as a state of profound sadness, alternating with numbness, which manifests itself with a lack of liveliness and energy, and is often accompanied with the feeling that nothing can be made better and a terrifying sense of being overwhelmed by sorrow. Individuals suffering from depression often lack desire and pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. They may also find it difficult to think clearly (fogginess), feel physically tired, and experience a strong pull into withdrawal and isolation, focusing mainly on the negative aspects of life. Moreover, often in the depressive experience, anger becomes focused inwards and struggles to be expressed outwards. On its deepest level, depression is sometimes described as a loss of soul.
Certain negative beliefs arising from the depressive experience may be; “I shouldn’t feel like this” and “It would be better if I wasn’t here”, accompanied by a great sense of guilt. Depression can sometimes lead to suicidal ideation or actual attempts at taking one’s life to cease the unbearable suffering.
Depression can have its roots in early childhood and is linked to trauma. Sue Gerhardt underlines the evidence of an overactive stress response in individuals with chronic depression (2014). Gerhardt also describes depression as a condition that can be inherited from the parent which can develop early in life when the caregiver is not responsive to the child’s emotional world.
Psychotherapy with a soulful perspective does not only focus on getting rid of the symptoms, but rather places importance and attention on making meaning, in order to understand the purpose the depression may serving in the person’s life. The psychotherapist strives to listen to the story that wants to be heard.
The experience brings the individual into isolation so that something can be worked through. Thus, we could say that the power of depression is the initiation into a descent into our internal world. In this sense, we may think of depression as a state of emotional and psychological hibernation.
Carl Jung moved from a medical model, which focused on the cure of the symptoms, to the realisation that psychological and emotional disorders tell us a great deal about the nature of the suffering. In fact, he believed that the precocious attempt to take away the symptoms actually prevents insight into the roots of the disturbance.
The use of creativity can help move out of the depressive state. Try creative means of expression like free drawing and painting, writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal and recording your dreams. This can be a powerful tool to begin to understand your emotions and to find a sense of relief. Furthermore, taking a walk in green spaces and spending some time in nature can bring a sense of solace and well-being. Research has shown that people who spend more time in natural environments have lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone), positively affecting one’s mood and general emotional state (Williams 2018). Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for support. You don’t have to go through this alone.
If you are feeling low and depressed, seeking professional help can be a truly life-changing step. The impacts of depression can be very debilitating and challenging to manage, thus finding support is key to understanding and coping with the difficult feelings that may arise, and to begin to make meaning.
- Gerhardt, S. (2014) Why Love Matters. London: Routledge.
- Hillman, J. (1997) Re-Visioning Psychology. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
- Tacey, D. (2013) Gods and Diseases: Making sense of our physical and mental wellbeing. London: Taylor and Francis.
- Williams, F. (2018) The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative.
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