|Publisher:||Crown Publishing Group|
|Edition description:||1 PBK ED|
|Product dimensions:||5.23(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.61(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.
The secret of life is in the shadows and not in the open sun; to see anything at all, you must look deeply into the shadow of a living thing.
It is the paradoxical secret of transformation itself, since it is in fact in and through the shadow that lead is transformed to gold.
Depression is a quest for vision; its essence is transformation. Depression wells up and encompasses us for a time in a state of painful, dream-saturated formlessness, but its true purpose is to provide the opportunity for healing insight, renewal, and reintegration.
Though we may not have recognized it, almost all of us have gone through this process, either partially or fully, several times in our lives. Most of us can think back to difficult times when we've lost a lot of sleep, felt irritable, and our appetite changed. Depression is one of the basic responses of human beings, produced when we encounter a difficult emotional challenge. As I'll show you, it is a natural and healthy response, and is actually specifically designed to help us deal with problems. It only becomes an illness if something goes badly wrong with it.
Consider the story of Andrea, a young woman who had come to a crisis point in her path. As you'll see, because she respected and worked with the wisdom of her depressed response, it healed and enhanced her life as it was designed to do.
Andrea could not understand why she was feeling depressedeverything was going so well for her. Afinancially successful real estate agent in her late thirties, she had what most people would consider to be a very comfortable life. She was married to a caring and supportive man, and a nanny helped look after her two elementary school-aged children. She owned two houses and three cars. Her mother lived nearby, and they got along together well.
But somehow, sneaking up within her over the past few weeks was the suspicion that she was a failure. She was plagued with senseless, recurring thoughts that she was useless. At work, she felt unusually anxious in meetingsher heart would pound and her mouth would go dry. Social occasions, too, were becoming a kind of torture. She was respected for her success, but putting on a cheerful face was a strain, and she felt like a fraud.
She would lie awake at night worrying about trivial things. As she lay in the tangle of bedclothes, her mind paced restlessly through inner, winding corridors. And she dreamed:
She stood barefoot on the cold cement floor in an aisle between rows of gleaming office furniture. She was in a large factory, and there was new-looking machinery in it. But it was strangely still and silent. There were no people there.
She woke feeling very disturbed. The next day, she was cranky and impatient from lack of sleep. The dream came back to her again the next night, and this time she woke up feeling exhausted. She canceled the appointments she had scheduled for that day and tried to get some rest.
Once the children were off to school, she sat in bed, daydreamed, and wrote in her journal. As she mulled over the dream, she realized that the furniture reminded her of her fathers office, which she had visited as a child. It was at the time when he had been promoted to division manager in the large company he worked for. She remembered that visit well, since it was the last time she'd seen him at work. A few months after his promotion, he was killed in a car accident.
Suddenly her dream made sense to her: the shiny office furniture and the eerie absence of people. She understood that as a child she had connected the two events in her mindher father's shining success at the office and his tragic death. Success is dangerous, the dream was telling her; no one can remain there. And as she thought about it now, she felt a sudden stab of anger at her father for having been at work, away from her for so much of his time, and for having been so successful.
On a subconscious level now, she understood that her own success in business also felt dangerous to her. Her heart had been trying to tell her this as it pounded in her chest during meetings. These vague feelings were compounded by her nagging worries that she was neglecting her children because of her work schedule. The real danger of success in work, she realized, was that it can take you away from your childrenas it had done with her father.
This complex mixture of issuesunresolved grief, negative beliefs from her childhood, and a desire to spend more time with her childrenhad been partly submerged in her unconscious mind. Her symptoms of depression had been a sign that her mind and body were struggling to resolve the conflict. Because she was willing to pay attention to her dreams, the issues had been brought to light. Now she was able to add the resources of her conscious mind to deal with them.
Andrea decided to cut down her work hours, from her previous sixty or sixty-five hours per week to a more reasonable forty. She accomplished this by taking on an associate. This improved her lifestyle tremendously; with her associate covering much of the after-hours work, Andrea had more time for her children and partner. She was also able to set aside time for herself for a daily morning walk.
Within a very short time Andrea experienced a dramatic improvement in her mood. She felt that for the first time in her life she was fully actualizing her priorities. For her, the depressed response had been an important step in the process of her self's unfolding.
As you'll discover in this book, stories like hers are not rare. If the depressed response is respected, and treated properly, they are more the rule than the exception.
Our Bodymind's Healing Responses
Every disease is a physician.
We usually think of our body and mind as somehow being independent of each other. The truth is that they are so inter-dependent that they might really just be different ways of describing the same thing. I like to refer to them with a single term, the bodymind, because it expresses their essential oneness.
The human bodymind has a profound ability to heal itself. Over the millennia of evolution, built-in healing mechanisms have been developed to protect us from all sorts of problems: infections, poisons, physical trauma, and even psychological difficulties. When these healing mechanisms are activated, they cause major changes in our bodymind, changes that are designed to help us overcome or adapt to problems. Many things can be altered: the functioning of our cells and organs, the level of hormones, the body's temperature, the amount of energy we feel, the sleep/wake cycle, and even our mood.
But these healing changes in themselves can be distressing. In fact, most of the symptoms of illness that we experience are actually produced by our bodymind as it struggles to deal with and overcome the underlying problems.
Consider the following example: You unknowingly ate a toxic substance. Your bodymind would then respond with changes specifically designed to overcome the effect of the toxin. Your brain's built-in vomiting centers would be activated, causing nausea and vomiting in order to expel the toxin. You would also lose your appetite, encouraging you to rest your bowels and allowing you to recover. Your healing responses would thus be acting wisely to overcome the problem, even though all that you might be conscious of is that you're feeling very sick and distressed. You might mistakenly think that your vomiting is itself the problem rather than the solution.
Another example: You were exposed to a flu virus. Your bodymind would respond with changes specifically designed to enhance your ability to fight the infection. Your brain's built-in fever center would be activatedraising your body temperature so that your immune system could work more efficiently. Your immune cells would release large amounts of interferon, a chemical that is antiviral but also causes muscle aching and tiredness. Those unpleasant side effects are meant to encourage you to rest and conserve your strength for the fight against the virus. You might mistakenly think that your problem is just that you have a fever, muscle aches, and feel tired. In fact, those symptoms are caused by your body's healing forces in actionthey are the solution, not the problem.
Now lets consider the example of when you are consciously or unconsciously facing a difficult emotional situation in your life, one that you are unable to resolve through normal, everyday means. Your bodymind would then respond with changes specifically designed to enhance your ability to do inner work and to create a solution to the crisis. Certain areas in your brain and endocrine system would become activated, causing changes in your emotional and physical functioning. You would become fatigued and irritable, symptoms that are intended to encourage you to take a break from your other activities and to spend some time on your own. Your mind would become preoccupied with the problem, searching for all possible solutions. Your appetite and sleep would usually diminish, thus allowing you to focus on your inner work, and feelings of profound dissatisfaction and restlessness would occur in order to motivate you to continue this work.
From the Trade Paperback edition.