Awakening from Depression
Photo and text © 2006 by Jonathan ZapYesterday I received an email from my former college roommate who had just reread my September 2nd email entitled “Sadness beneath the Hype.” He found much relevance to the sadness he was feeling in his own life and synchronistically I had just written a new image oracle card (image attached and text to follow) entitled “Awakening from Depression.” The temporal proximity of these two events led me to believe this may be a subject of general interest.The former college room mate is a very wealthy physician with a good marriage and family life whom everyone considers a shining example of success. Everyone except himself. Here is what he wrote (I put in blanks_____where he used names).
A long time ago I was studying at a desk in _____’s (his exgirlfriend) parents house and it was late and a TV sat on the desk. Well I turned on the TV (which was a very easy and liberating thing to do at that time) and stopped studying and began watching. ____’s mother walked in on me and said, “You’ll never get to Heaven that way _____”. You know what she meant. Well John I did GET TO HEAVEN, at least the most common corporal definition of that word. And if this is it, it would have been better to keep watching that TV all those years ago.
No one ever told me what to do once you got to Heaven probably because no one I ever knew actually got there. The emptiness of “Arriving” is so pervasive that the best adage I can apply is “Be careful what you wish for, for you might just get it”. The emptiness ironically exemplifies what “having it all” really is: it’s not fulfillment but rather “full of it”. Engorging on all La Dolce Vita has to offer bloats the “go for it zealot” to the ultimate fullness, of oneself. This delusion is so pervasive that the “you the man” lives life blithely unaware or dies from the denouement, suicide…
Regarding myself I would ask that you write me something on GETTING TO HEAVEN in the here and now. My sadness is great and your advice to keep positive is optimistic but I need insight into what to do with my life in concrete terms; quit medicine, go to Iraq, enroll in a Buddhist temple, all of which I have considered. You said to me when we were at (the college we attended) that ” to you the struggle to get there is all important, the goal anticlimactic if not meaningless”. Your words were prophetic, sadly. Do I need another struggle or a true-to-thyself goal. I await your counsel and hope that all is truly well with you, _____.
My answer when life seems empty is to fill it by engaging with more meaningfulness. If you enroll in the Buddhist temple you are likely to get quite a different answer. They will probably tell you that, ” All being is sorrow ,” and get you working on a long program of disengaging from all attachments and identifications and attempting to dissolve your personal identity. I prefer engagement with life and integrating (rather than dissolving) the ego, the mind and all psychic structures with the core of one’s being.
Where can you find more meaningfulness? In the Sixties many people went on the road to, “Look for the meaning of life.” In my book The Capsule of Intentionality I wrote, In the Sixties a zeitgeist phrase and activity was to go out and “Look for the meaning of life.” A wiser and more thoughtful person pointed out, however, that people out “Looking for the meaning of life.” had the question reversed. Meaning in life is not a question that we can ask of life, it is an answer that we have to supply to fill the existential void. We might almost say that life asks, “What is the meaning of your life?” I believe this question is asked to us heart beat by heart beat. Our being and actions define the answer. If our answers are worthy enough, life may conspire with us to set us on a worthy quest. If we don’t have answers, but only the conditioned reflexes programmed into us by commercial designers, then life steers us toward the dark, downward flow….It’s as if a black hole has entered our collective psychic space and weaker souls are being pulled into an immensely powerful gravity which is continually increased as more selves are absorbed into the mass. Don’t let go of the rope. The only way to resist the powerful, dark gravity is to hold tight to our life line—-the worthy core of meaning in our life.
So what if you have trouble locating that “worthy core of meaning?” One way to find it is to ask yourself a question a wise, older man recommended to me, “What will you remember well on your death bed?” That question will cut through the trivia like a red hot knife through trans fatty margarine. I find that the core of meaningfulness in a human life contains two interrelated elements. The first is self development—-learning, growing, becoming more conscious, what Jung called ” individuation .” The second related element is helping/loving others. One of the great attributes of these two interrelated elements is their almost universal availability. You can work on self development in almost any circumstance, and especially the dark and distressing circumstances. With the internet and other new media, resources for self development have never been as available as they are in our time. Many resources tend toward scarcity, but the most perpetually abundant of resources are humans and other living beings that can benefit from our love/help. Add yourself to the list and start with self compassion. Or get out of your inner chaos by switching immediately from internal considering (what you are feeling, thinking, wanting) to external considering (focusing on the needs of others).
Find your core of meaningfulness in life and engage with it immediately, that’s my answer to the feeling of meaninglessness in life. I was tested with an acidic dose of meaninglessness while I was writing this email. I had just written the very last sentence, not the second to the last, the very last sentence, when the computer locked up. What I thought I had done to save the document had not worked. All of my morning’s creativity and work dissolved back into the homogenous mass of zeros and ones and became a frozen Windows hour glass icon. If I were more of a Buddhist possibly I would have felt satisfied with this as a lesson in the transitory nature of all things, considered it a cybernetic version of the elaborate sand mandalas that Tibetan monks will create only to brush them off the table once they are completed. But I didn’t feel satisfied; I felt anxiety at the seeming meaninglessness of the occurrence—-another maddening example of that mechanical resistance that corporeal incarnation is always presenting us with. Rollo May defines anxiety as, ” Being asserting itself against non being. ” For reasons of self development and helping others I had set out to write this email and I did not, do not, feel ready to surrender that engaged goal to random computer gods that decided to hurl my creation into non being, the cyber cracks of doom. I did what I have learned to do in other such moments (we’ve all been through this) of cybernetic oblivion. I realized that what I had written was still in my memory, I was the source of the original draft, and I am still here, so damn it, I’m going to rewrite what I wrote, and more than that, I’m going treat what I first wrote and was about to send off as a shoddy first draft and am going to use this accident to write something better.
If you feel regrets over your life and what seem like past failures, remember that the present and future can redefine the past. If I quit after my document was lost then the morning would be defined in my mind as a failure. I chose to redefine the meaningless computer oblivion as a creative accident, a meaningful test and episode and immediately began engaging the creative process once again. You can use this same principle with any of the dark areas of your life— redefine them as extraordinary learning experiences which have taught you volumes about human nature and developed your insight and empathy empowering you with abilities to help yourself and others heal and develop.
Awakening from depression is often about awakening from self defeating narratives, negative definitions of what has happened to you in life. If those narratives and definitions are depressing you then treat them like corrupted computer files—-delete them and upload new definitions and immediately begin acting on those new definitions.
Of course there will be an intense threshold of reluctance, a cosmic speed bump, inertia, to overcome and inner and or outer threshold guardians resisting your transformation. I found myself paralyzed at the threshold of resistance for a few moments, staring at that frozen hour glass in futile rage, shouting at the computer, ” Give me back my writing !” That feeling of futility continued for a while as I started rewriting, feeling like I was just unnecessarily redoing what had already been done, probably better the first time. Working through the resistance I then discovered how I could reinterpret the mishap as a creative accident and write something much better. So gather your will to get over the speed bump, the rubber meets the road of life when you redefine your darkness and engage life with meaningfulness. Here’s the card I wrote yesterday, Zap Oracle Card # 305—Awakening from Depression:
Subclinical depression is almost the norm in our society. Many people go through their days burdened, their gaze lowered, suffering under a generalized feeling of oppression. Although it is easy to attribute much of this to fractured, alienated lives, environmental toxins and poor diet, research indicates that the primary causes are negative thought forms, often occurring just beneath conscious awareness, which frame perception negatively so that one lives in a darkened reality tunnel. For example, “Life sucks, and then you die…I never get my fair share…I can’t do anything right…” etc. The negative thought forms trigger negative emotions that in turn trigger physiological changes, and the process feeds on itself as a vicious circle. This card indicates that this is a propitious time for you or someone close to you to awaken from depression. There are many ways to go about the awakening, but the will has to be there for recovery to occur. Depression is a yin condition, associated with lowered energy and a murky wateriness. Take deep breaths, stand up straight with good posture and get going, get active, raise fire, the yang principle, by doing useful stuff! Don’t feel like it? Excellent, that is the sure sign of how well getting active will work. Start simple and pick tasks that give definite results–cleaning up your home, for example. Shift to a high vitality diet with more live and raw food. Do a fearless moral inventory and ask yourself what you will remember well on your deathbed and prioritize doing that.
Depression is often suffering that is neglected and not confronted. For this reason I prefer anguish and the dark night of the soul because these are more dynamic states capable of transformation. Confront what haunts you.
Read A Guide to the Perplexed Interdimensional Traveler for specific techniques on how to deal with negative thoughts and feelings
Are you unhappy about being in your body? This is the core of much neurotic torment and takes the form of dissatisfaction with looks/weight/aging/health. Read: The Glorified Body Metamorphosis of the body and the Crisis Phase of Human Evolution.
Are you unhappy about romantic relationships? Read some challenging thoughts on love.
Having trouble finding a path of meaning and creativity in your life? Much depression is caused by a deficit of meaningfulness. Read: The Path of the Numinous
For more on discovering the core meaning of your life and facing some of the tough existential realities of human incarnation read:
The Capsule of Intentionality and read all parts of the guide to the perplexed interdimensional Traveler. If your depression is related to a devastating loss or shock, part IV of the guide will address that directly.
Worries have you down? Read: Antidote to Worry
Feel like there’s something wrong with this entire plane of existence? Read: A Splinter in Your Mind
Want an effective life stance that will hold up to the darkest moments? Consider the path of the warrior:
Finally, if you’ve looked into all these other possibilities and feel that an outside force is depressing you, read the documents in the mind parasite category of the writing section or order a copy of the Mind Parasite Matrix.
Use these resources and summon your will to awaken from depression!