Suffering is a shared human experience that can be viewed integral part of life. Our suffering can range from mild to severe and can take the form of physical or mental and emotional pain.
Whatever the form of our discomfort, we can agree that “suffering of the mind” is one of the biggest concerns of our time. The severity of mental health issues is on the rise, particularly the number of individuals experiencing depression. According to the World Health Organization (2017) over 300 million people are estimated to suffer from depression, equivalent to 4.4% of the world’s population.
The Causes of Depression
The causes of depression can be wide-ranging; however, depression is commonly triggered by stressors at work or at home, unresolved grief or traumatic experiences. Sometimes the catalyst of depressive episodes are unclear, but there exists an underlying loss of meaning or purpose in one’s life.
Depression as an Illness
Depression is often diagnosed as an “illness” something to be treated through medication and “recover” from. As a result, we usually approach experiences of depression by trying to avoid or move away from the discomfort we are experiencing. This may be through the use of medication or distracting ourselves from our pain.
The harmful effects of some of these distractions are more obvious than others — such as addictions to drugs, alcohol and food. There are also more subtle types of distraction such as the tendency to over-work, spend too much time on the internet or watching TV. When we engage in any of these activities in excess, we are attempting to move away from a sense of loneliness, emptiness or the pain that coexists with experiences of depression.
The label of depression, the diagnosis and the over-identification with it as an illness may cause us to get stuck in a limited sense of self. Phrases like, “I am depressed”, “I suffer from” or “I am ill” can stop us from being able to step away from our diagnosis and perceive our experiences as having an alternative meaning or purpose.
Depression and Psychospiritual Growth
What if this mindset of needing to overcome the illness of depression, neglects one of the most fundamental parts of going through these experiences? This involves recognizing that episodes of depression have the potential to catalyst exponential growth and transformation in us, that is, if we perceives our difficult experiences as having this potential.
What is often not discussed as part of the mainstream approach to depression, is the relationship between experiences of depression and psycho-spiritual transformation. Psychospiritual transformation is the combination of psychological and spiritual growth. It involves a greater connection to the authentic or true Self and a movement away from the egoic or conditioned self.