The Positive Side of Depression

At the Psychedelic Science 2013 Conference many doctors and researchers reported the rise in depression world wide.  Ayahuasca is effective in treating the symptoms of depression and providing space for the person to search into his/her past for the trauma(s) underlying their depression.  But many people do not have access to the medicines of the Amazon Rain Forest and there is hope.  There is a positive side to depression.

In The Spiral Way: A Woman’s Healing Journey  (1986) Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto talks about depression.  He says, “What is depression?  Among psychological ailments, it is perhaps the worst.  Although it is easy to recognize, it is not easy to describe.  While we often feel ourselves overwhelmed by outer events, depressed individuals feel inundated from within, and must therefore collect all their energies–which are generally needed for day-to-day living–in order to be able to face this rising tide of despair that threatens to destroy them.  But even here one can grasp a positive meaning.

Depression can be a golden opportunity if we are able to appreciate its true significance.  It represents a period of solitude and rebirth, in which we enter into combat with the destructive forces that are trying to annihilate us.  In this struggle, a tiny gleam of light–the ego–is set against a tide of mud that tries to submerge us.  The most favorable result is the stabilization of the ego, which restructures itself during periods of depression.
If depression is too strong, it destroys the ego, if instead the ego can hold its own, it will emerge more solid.  Jung himself,

Carl Jung

Carl Jung

who went through four years of depression, had occasion to observe that his whole psychology derived from this period.  Jung thought he had gone mad, and it may indeed have been a kind of psychosis.  But it was a psychosis in which the ego was able to confront the contents of the unconscious and understand things that otherwise it would never have understood.
It is only the superficial person who does not experience depression.  Clearly we are not speaking here of endogenous depressions, that is, those that derive from an altered biochemical equilibrium.  We are referring instead to the kind of depression to which we are more easily subject, namely a regression of one’s energy to very deep levels, to an archaic matrix.  If one has the courage to go into the depression (rather than try to escape it through outer distractions), it is precisely this journey within that enriches a person and allows one to face the world with greater awareness.  The one who after such an immersion succeeds in remaining in contact with this archaic base–establishing an ongoing relation between the ego and the unconscious–will be in possession of a broader and more profound self image.  Such a person is no longer an object among things, but a subject–not directed by others, but self-directed.  This is the essence of the process Jung calls individuation.”  (pp. 69-70)

How did Jung establish this kind of relationship with the unconscious?  His recently published Red Book was created during the time of his depression.  It is filled with paintings inspired by his dreams and active imagination.  He gave expression to his process throughout his journal, both written words and images, thus honoring the source of his turmoil, the unconscious, or what we could call the spirit, that realm which is struggling to communicate with us.  That is why keeping a journal is so important.  It is a safe container for the contents of the unconscious, it is the jinni in the bottle, contained, limited, within a safe place, where it cannot destroy us.  Humans were designed by Mother Nature to heal themselves.  Jung discovered the way to access this inner wisdom.

a page from The Red Book

a page from The Red Book

About Michael J. Melville

People describe me as a Spiritual Catalyst because their spiritual evolution speeds up when they share their process with me. Discussing dreams, addictions, sacred medicines, family histories, or personal relationships moves one closer to the core, where the inner child dwells. Once contact with her/him is made, growth resumes.
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