The spiritual path has been known to attract people suffering from depression because it's often people who are familiar with the darkness, that decide to seek the light.
As Native American author Vine Deloria Jr says: “Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”
Depression can sometimes feel even worse for a spiritual practitioner, who may work hard to experience moments of transcendence and divine elevation, only to come hurtling all the way back down to their flawed, human self.
This is why spiritual depression can take on an extra level of hurt. It’s like we weren’t satisfied with a normal fall, we had to climb to the top of a building before taking the plunge. But whatever your beliefs and practices are, the pain of depression is real, and many times it comes from the same place: your core wounds.
All of us have some sort of core wounding. There’s no way around it. These wounds were most likely to have formed before we were seven years old.
The range of trauma associated with these experiences can be great, but it’s important to remember that when you’re just a child, it’s easy to feel traumatized by an experience that didn’t necessarily warrant it. It doesn’t matter. Whether you were physically abused or your mom didn’t validate your macaroni art, you took on a negative message about yourself that continues to cause you pain. You absorbed the energy you felt at that young age and it’s waiting to be released.
If you haven’t given any attention to your core wounds, they’re likely taking a toll on your body and your spiritual energy. You might start to feel good for a time but at some point, the core wound will try to pull you back down into the depths.
For me, the depression was the check engine light letting me know that I needed to start dealing with my wounds. And I didn’t. I procrastinated and avoided it and reasoned that I was highly spiritual, so why would I need to deal with those “lower” emotions? The truth was, they scared me. What if I had a disorder? What if I was messed up? What if this meant I wasn’t a pure, spiritual being? If I never looked at it, then I could always reason that maybe it’s nothing.
The more I avoided, the stronger the depression became, and unfortunately, the more scary the issues became. Eventually the symptoms became unbearable. I could barely do my job, my girlfriend didn’t want to be around me, and stress had me walking around with bags under my eyes and a ghastly pallor to my face. After much deliberation, I finally dragged myself to a therapist and other healing options, such as the Mankind Project, where I slowly started to face some of the wounds. These types of people are trained to help you address your core wounds.
Through slow, steady work, you can inch closer toward those dark, shadowy places that live inside of us and create so much fear. Eventually, within a safe container and an environment that makes you feel secure, you can take the leap and move through the pain that has been holding you back.
An Inconvenient Truth
One of the issues that arise with people who are already committed to spirituality and begin suffering from depression or anxiety, is that they may try to heal themselves through strictly spiritual means. All forms of healing, if they come from a good place, are beneficial, but if you’re grappling with the trauma of being abandoned as a two year old, then, at some point, you may need to face the issues head-on.
You will need to address the problem on the ground and move through this core wound. Crystals, oils, and astrology all have their place and they are powerful allies to assist you on your path to healing, but if you’re in a place you don’t want to be, then you might have to do some things you don’t want to do to get out. You might have to get out of your comfort zone and get into the uncomfortable feelings.
Moving Through It
It’s never comfortable to face your pain head on, many of us literally build our lives around avoiding it. You can build up to it, working slowly at a pace you’re comfortable with. Or you can wait, like me, until you’re grinding your teeth at night and losing your breath from anxiety and it becomes so unbearable that it finally seems easier just to deal with it.
No matter what path you choose, the key component is moving through the pain. So much of our lives are built around avoiding our pain but this is not a sustainable move. We need to feel it, because once you move through it, you can finally let it go.
One important thing to remember is that you’re not alone and you should not try to tackle this alone. There are people trained to deal with these exact issues. Seek out healing groups, talk to a therapist, confide in family and friends you trust. If therapy is too expensive, there are many practitioners who work with a sliding scale and some who work for even less.
You can overcome your wounds. They don’t have to define you and they don’t have to drown you. There are people who can and want to help you. These are the times when you must rely on others.
The Life You Want
Once you work through these wounds, your spiritual practice will ignite in ways you never could’ve imagined. The weight of unfelt emotions that were pulling towards the heavy feelings will be released and you’ll find yourself moving through life without getting caught up in negativity. As Indian sage Nisargadatta Maharaj puts it:
“The world is made of rings. The hooks are all yours. Make straight your hooks an nothing can hold you.”
You will begin to move through your life without your baggage using up all your energy. It’s well worth the discomfort of facing your fears. If you start the steps toward healing, you will see results.
(*Disclaimer: depression comes in many different shapes and forms and we are NOT recommending you get off your medication or discontinue seeing a professional.*)
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