“How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world!” – Shakespeare, Hamlet
Depression is a universal human experience. Most people will have at least minor episodes of depression in their lives. 30% will seriously consider suicide for 2 weeks or more. No matter where you stand on whether depression is an “illness”, the fact is, depressive symptoms are so common as to amount to an expectable, normal part of life. We will grieve losses, and sometimes we will grieve, lose motivation, or “go numb” for no obvious reason.
Whatever the cause, being depressed can be a gateway to greater wisdom and compassion. When we choose to accept any and all feelings and thoughts, when we practice being present and conscious of our bodies and minds, no matter how much they hurt, we can deepen wisdom.
What do I mean by “deepening wisdom?”
I mean we can deepen our compassion and understanding of others. We can see that we are not the only ones who suffer, that millions, perhaps billions of others, suffer acutely, often for no obvious reason.
I also mean that when depressed, we can use our painful feelings as a cue to re-examine our priorities and values, and see whether we are truly “walking the walk.” We can take stock of our lives and see if we are truly striving to go in the direction we most want to go. We can take actions to turn our lives around, in the direction we want most to go.
Practicing mindfulness, self-compassion, and self-acceptance is not a cure for depression. To the extent that depression is severe and involves medical signs like loss of energy, sleep disturbance, and suicidal thinking, it may need treatment with psychotherapy, behavior therapy, medications, or some combination of the three.
However, regardless of how we “treat” depression, in being depressed, we always have an opportunity to transform this universal, if horrifically painful, human experience into a source of wisdom.
Do I hurt? So do millions, billions of others on the planet.
Am I disappointed in myself? So are millions, billions of others, disappointed in themselves.
Am I vulnerable, self-critical, despondent without reason? So have been millions, billions of others, throughout history. If we have the energy to do so, we could go back and read classic literature. Hamlet was severely depressed!
By using depression to cultivate self-acceptance and compassion for others, compassion for all who suffer on this planet, we can transform pain into wisdom. It helps to have a therapist or meditation teacher guide us in that process.
You can do it, even if you think you cannot.
– post by Joe