I believe, as do many spiritual traditions, that depression is the dark night of the soul, a term used by mystic priest Saint John of the Cross, describing his journey through despair to fuller holiness. Seeing depression this way reframes it. The “dark night” speaks to your soul’s development. It’s not just about a biochemical imbalance or a neglectful mother, though these may be the provokers. It’s a releasing of your ego’s grasp on the psyche, permitting positive change that can prompt redefinition of the self. Since the period is profoundly unsettling, it’s commonly perceived as “darkness.” Mystics consider the dark night of depression not a negative, but a test of faith, an occasion for transformation.
The dark night varies in intensity for each of us. It may last weeks or longer. Sometimes your depression may be all encompassing, or it can be less extreme. Whatever your experience of the dark night is, it’s invaluable to find a therapist or wise guide familiar with the divine nature of this terrain…
I stick close to my patients who’re undergoing the dark night. I want to lend a supportive, dependable voice. I want them to know they’re not alone, to show that depression leads to awakening. To feel separate and adrift is a phase of depression.
I’m no Pollyanna, but what I’ve learned about the dark night is that it can organically incubate something drastically unexpected–and good–if you have the proper support. The emphatic “I can’ts” often evolve into surprising ways of viewing yourself and spirit even when everything in you argues against such possibility.
During depression, you’ve got to look into eyes you trust. You’ve got to receive consistent, reliable counsel to keep moving ahead. Whenever I’ve been depressed, you’d better believe I’ve sought a spiritually canny guide to be there for me.
Oddly, the path to emotional freedom can sometimes wind in directions that may seem like the wrong way. I cherish Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s position on the dark night: “In the process of discovering our true nature, the journey goes down, not up, as if the mountain pointed toward the earth instead of the sky. We move down and down and down, and with us move millions of others, our companions in awakening …Right there we discover a love that will not die.” During depression let this expanded awareness sanctify your passage and bring hope. Hope that depression will end. Hope that you’ll ascend from the depths, brighter, more open-hearted. Hope that you’ll gain deeper compassion for yourself and others.
I stumbled upon Dr. Judith Orloff’s “description” of DEPRESSION… and she makes some sense to me as she “reframes” the clinical definition.
I ove how she sees the parallels between the symptoms of clinical depression and John of the Cross’ “dark night of the soul”… I wonder how his “dark night of the spirit” connects to these, if it does? What do y’all reckon?