Archive for the ‘depression’ tag
A Cambodian woman with three of her children at the back gates of Angkor Wat. A fourth child, a girl is sitting on a block of stone that is part of the wall, just off to the left. Family grounds a person, family nourishes. But looking carefully, there is a hint that all is not well. There is evidence that the children, the mother and the face of the world in which they are presented are not nourished as they could or should be nourished. There is evidence of neglect, perhaps of abandonment and abuse. Yet, in spite of appearances, there is also love and hope in evidence.
This is really not a post about this photo, but about the self which is in much the same state of being. Anima, the soul, is not nourished as it could or should be. How does one care for one’s soul? Well, it might sound as though the answer would lie in doing things that focus on self in a way that excludes others or the outer world, but that is not even close to the truth of what it means to care for one’s soul, to nourish one’s soul.
We are individuals and can only understand the world through our limited capacities of body and brain for the most part. We are members of a collective with bodies and psyches that demand connection to others. The pull to join physically, socially and psychologically are the norm, not the exception. In joining, co-joining and cooperating with others, a sense of fullness and purpose is activated. One senses a rightness at that moment. The sense that being with other is part of what makes one whole is important. We marry, we join groups, we teach, we work and we play with others and in the process often find ourselves in the process.
As I listen to voices in cyberspace talking of community in new ways, community that has no geographical boundaries, no racial or religious boundaries, I learn that “otherness” is not something that needs to be separate from “self.” In fact, I learn the opposite, that otherness and self are two parts of a wholeness. And this is a lesson that one needs to learn about the “otherness” that exists within one’s psyche, the shadow world that one senses is there but often refuses to associate with or acknowledge. Denied, the internal otherness, the soul wrapped in mystery and darkness, only results in the self reflecting the malnourishment. Depression, anger, fear, moodiness and isolation eat away at the foundation of one’s self.
Individuation is a work of one within the container of the whole collective with the collective being nourished as one’s soul is nourished.
While taking another walk a few days ago, I came across these two ladies that were standing at the entrance of another housing compound, another of the “hua yuan” or “gardens” that comprise the bulk of modern city residences. I was struck by the colour of their head scarves, colours that talked of vibrancy. However, their faces stood in sharp contrast denying the intensity of energy. As I turned the corner and walked another block I came across a second entrance to the gated housing community where another two women were similarly wearing the same head scarves. Like these two women pictured here, they also appeared bored and listless. At that point I realised that they were manning their stations for the day. What their role was was a mystery, but their faces suggested that it was a role that had long ago lost its attraction to them and now they just took up space, bodily present in order to collect a small salary.
I have to admit that I have been in their shoes. I love teaching. Being with young people and experiencing their presence as they discover yet another new idea, or being with a young teacher who “gets it” as students respond, has its rewards that validate my choice of careers. Yet, in spite of my passion for teaching, I came to resent being a teacher, an administrator, even a therapist. Something was dying within me for a number of years. But, as a typical “man” I plowed on doing my duty to my students, staff and clients. Somehow I was able to “fool” most of them and function enough to escape detection.
But what was it that, for the most part, escaped their attention? They didn’t see that I had sunk into a deep hole, a depression which had stolen my “joi de vivre.”
“One of the first signs of this descent is ennui, or boredom, perhaps even in the career for which one prepared so diligently. Yet, whether chosen rightly or wrongly at a certain stage of life , no single choice can engage one forever. When the intimations of the psyche are ignored over a long time, the psyche will withdraw even more libido and one will be pulled into the underground, as Jung’s father was in his depression and Jung himself during his middle passage. And who has not, like Dante, found oneself, at some point, in a dark wood, having lost the way? If one pays no heed, takes no action to change priorities, the depression will persist.” (Hollis, Mythologems, p. 76)
Ennui, boredom, depression. This was my situation in my outer life that I felt even though my students continued to learn, my clients continued to come for their hours and I continued my roles within the community. I stopped believing in me. I began to again wish for an end to the torment that visited me each night in my dreams, a time I called my “night storms.”
I did all the usual things in an attempt to become revitalized – I meditated, I journaled, I listened to soothing music, I ran and ran and ran, I discussed ad nauseam with colleagues in the field of psychotherapy, I participated in dream groups and online therapy discussion groups – all to no avail. The darkness only became denser. It took me a long time before I could admit that I was mortal and had to once again do the work of descent into my own depths in order to release the gates that had closed on my energy, to become revitalized.
This photo was taken in Shanghai as a scene from the Costa Rican sector of the Central American pavilion. I took it because of my association with Costa Rica and because of the actual representation of a woman with a ball.
The oldest artifacts in Costa Rica are stone balls which date from about 200 B.C.. before contact with Europeans. Other than the fact that they exist and that they pre-date contact with the rest of the world, there is little that can be said about these balls. In looking at this sculpture, I get a sense that this is all about the “game” of life. And of course, for me, life is best represented in the image of a woman.
As a man, the image of a woman is also an externalised representation of anima, or the soul of a man. I don’t mean to discount the reality that an image of a woman is a real representation of the person behind the image. But when the image is not about a particular woman, then the image takes on an “archetypal” quality. And it is to this quality that I project the contrasexual aspect of “self.”
“Psychologically the anima functions in a man as his soul. Jung described the anima as “the archetype of life itself.” [Jung, CW 9i, par 66] When a man is full of life he is “animated.” The man with no connection to his soul feels dull and listless. Nowadays we call this depression, but the experience is not new. For thousands of years, among so-called primitive peoples, this state of being has been known as loss of soul.” (Sharp, Jungian Psychology Unplugged, p. 62)
I can’t speak for women, but the notion is that a woman’s soul is represented by the contrasexual animus, a masculine archetype. Both anima and animus are representations of life. To live fully, I can’t deny soul, I can’t deny the contrasexual aspects of self. Denying soul leaves me a half a man. I become reduced to functioning in a male body without meaning, no different that a biological machine. Soul is the living water or “l’eau vive,” that courses through the psyche. And, it is only with soul that I can find the will and energy to “play” to engage in being part of the game of life.
I took this photo late yesterday afternoon from the same location as my last photo posted here. The sun is hidden behind clouds, clouds not in this scene. As I took the photo, I slipped back into childhood memories of lying on the grass and staring at clouds, searching for something there in the patterns. I particularly found peace in the contrast between the dark clouds and white clouds and the bright blue skies that served as background. That blue sky was reassuring somehow, a proof that there was a warmth in the light of a sun not seen. I just “knew” that the sun was there, a knowing that didn’t need any “belief” in spite of what my eyes didn’t see.
“ . . . it is not always the contradiction between subjective assumptions and external facts that gives rise to problems; it may just as often be inner, psychic difficulties. They may exist even when things run smoothly in the outside world. Very often it is the disturbance of psychic equilibrium caused by the sexual instinct; equally as often it is the feeling of inferiority which springs from an unbearable sensitivity. These inner conflicts may exist even when adaptation to the outer world has been achieved without apparent effort.” (Jung, CW Volume 8, par. 762)
Yes, subjective assumptions and external facts. The external facts tell me that the sun is there, even when I am in a space where I can’t feel, see its presence, a space where all I can see is the darkness. In the photo, the focus in on the blue sky, a key to understanding my feeling and attitude at this moment.
The focus could just as easily shifted to only the dark clouds. This is a detail from the original photo. This scene exists at the same time as the one above. Where one is bright and light, the other is heavy and dark. The power of the subjective assumptions stands in sharp contrast.
I know that I shift from one attitude to the other, from one mood to the other. I realise that others are often confused when the outer reality contradicts my attitude and mood. And when my mood is light and bright, it becomes harder to understand others who appear stuck in the dark and heavy.
Ah, Jung points out the “sexual instinct” – I must add here that the quote is part of the focus on “Aspects of the Masculine.” The “sexual instinct” is something powerful and primal in man, and within myself. How that sexual instinct is honoured quickly and powerfully influences the attitude and mood expressed in the outer world regardless of the “external facts” of that outer world.
It is as if when one’s subjective assumptions are dark in contrast to the external facts, that one is lost in a narrow and deep tunnel; one is almost blind within “tunnel vision.”
This is another photo taken while driving from my home in Saskatchewan to my son’s home in Alberta. This is an older bridge that has quite a bit of rust showing after a long winter which requires the use of salt in order to allow driving with more safety, something that is “normal” for Canada.
I like photos of bridges but I don’t really care for crossing bridges. Well, I think I had better explain this a bit better. When I was younger, bridges brought out fear in me – I am afraid of heights. Now, I handle the fear much better and only feel a slight dis-ease when walking on bridges, especially close to the edges of the bridge. I know that it is necessary to get across this bridge if I am to get to my destination, so that helps as well. The same is said for all the other bridges, even those that seem fragile and extremely narrow.
It helps to have a guide when tackling these bridges encountered. Even now, in the time passed midlife, I do better with a guide. For example, the footbridge I had to cross on my journey to the Arenal Volcano. It didn’t “look” very safe to me, especially with the declining light of night’s quick approach. The guide gave me enough confidence, especially since I knew that he had made this journey numerous times. Still, I felt each sway of the bridge and a small tightening within as I stepped onto the bridge and began the crossing. My calm only returned when I was safely on the other side.
It isn’t much different with one’s journey of individuation, one’s journey of the psyche through life. It is good to have a guide when one meets with fear and depression. How does one “trust” the storms that are a necessary part of the transitions such as I noted in yesterday’s post? With the approach of storms and terrifying bridges, one is often paralyzed by fear. What if fear is trying to tell us to “stay away” from this place, to go a different direction? Without a guide, one gets stuck, frozen. This is the time when a guide can show us a way forward.
Too often I have seen people retreat into drugs, into alcohol or any other “aide” that allows them to sit still in their fear rather than face the times of transitions.
Well, this is a second go at this post as the photo and parts of the original post disappeared leaving a mess here. Interesting. Well, this is a photo of the Red Deer River and valley near Morrin, Alberta. It was time for a rest stop in order to stretch the legs and of course to get a few photos. I couldn’t wander too far as it was very muddy. I didn’t stay long as there was a blizzard on the way and I wanted to get to my son’s home before travelling became a hazardous adventure.
Spring is not my favourite season. It is a season that bounces between winter and summer. The season is unsettled and I can’t do all that I want to do, all that I expect that I should be able to do. The land isn’t ready – muddy trails restrict movement placing some areas off-limits. If anything, spring just makes me feel impatient and restless. It’s as if with the lifting of winter’s icy grip, the world is wound up like a spring ready to leap into full life. Yet, there needs to be some transition time, time so that one eases into action lessening the risk of injury.
The human spirit isn’t much different. The movement from the shadowlands into the bright light of active consciousness must pass through the borderlands, a psychic demilitarized zone. But, in this zone between depression and full engagement with the world, one meets with occasional storms as well as brief moments of full presence as though to teach us, to remind us of the need for balance. Hopefully one will remember and not get so caught up with the extremes of either polarity.
And so, I returned to the car after taking a brief break for this photo (and a few others) before continuing on to my son’s, mindful of the approaching storm and also mindful of the forecast for a warm and sunny week-end to follow the storm.
There is no doubt that it is spring here on the Canadian prairies as the Canada and Snow Geese have arrived. En route to the city in order to have my hearing aids repaired, several thousand geese were noted in a series of sloughs (large ponds on the prairies) and farm fields). Here on the outskirts of our small town, I got this photo of a pair of Canada geese on the edges of the town’s reservoir. It began as a record of another spring’s approach until I saw the result on my computer. Then, I knew that it belongs here.
Perhaps it is just my imagination (of course it is, it all is about my imagination – active imagination), but the elements of the image point to so much – relationship, blocked libido, spirit, the unconscious – and, of course, hope, renewal and alchemical transformation (rebirth). Looking at this photo points me to a holistic view of being in the world, in the present, a world that is cyclical and where everything exists in states of movement between points of polarity.
Life isn’t only about depression, there are periods where depression recedes and one is engaged with life with all the energy one would hope for and expect. When this doesn’t happen, one has a medical issue. This is something important to note. Depression that is constant needs medical attention, usually a regime of medication. Not all depression is about the soul. That said, all depression affects the soul, the psyche. Therefore, though there may be an organic cause for the depression, the fallout for the psyche would require that one seek therapy as well as medicinal relief.
Here I think of one of my previous long-term clients who suffers from a bi-polar disorder. He requires the help of both a psychiatrist for his pharmaceutical needs and a counsellor for the needs of his psyche. This is something he needs for the rest of his life even though he has already been in treatment for more than fifteen years. Counselling alone would not meet his needs; neither would just the medications.
When I talk about depression here, I do so from a Jungian point of view, one that focuses on the psyche, a depression that is based on loss of soul which usually finds its roots in the woundings one experiences, especially in childhood but not limited to childhood. For my readers, I felt it was important to remind all of this focus. As well, I must reiterate that this blog site doesn’t pretend to be talking about anything more that my understandings. This is not a site that proclaims any “truths” about the human psyche. I don’t trust any person or site that claims to have the answers. Life is about living the questions in order to discover individual answers as one passes through the questions.
Now, back to a bit more comment on the photo. I noted the pair of geese and thought about how for many of us, depression affects one’s partner as well as one’s self. Relationships must work through the loss of libido experienced by the depressed partner, a loss that interferes with being fully present. This loss of libido expresses itself during the day with a lethargy and a lack of interest or focus; at night, it affects the quality of sexual union, sometimes to the point of withdrawal. The partner who tries to navigate through the depression of his or her partner, needs to learn as much as the depressed partner. In my opinion, it would be wise to have this non-depressive partner also engage in personal counselling. The human psyche is porous and one can never stand outside unaffected by what is happening around the “self,” what is happening to “other.”
This was my hardest lesson to learn, one that I am still working hard to deal with – I can’t do this work fully on my own and protect those in relationship to me from the workings of my psyche. As much as I want to do this all on my own and keep my shit to myself, it is not possible. This is a problem of being human, being connected to other humans on both a conscious and unconscious level.
I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, my first real walk since I have come back to Canada. The blizzard kept me indoors for a couple of days and my allergies stole whatever energy I had on the other days. The allergies are still going on strong but I knew that I had to get out or else I would simply turn into a zombie.
Out in the countryside, I found this lone seagull standing on the ice-covered lagoon looking rather lonely. I would imagine that he felt abandoned and alone out in the cold, a feeling that I share at times when depression decides to pay another visit. Depression, as described in this article, Fighting that Frozen Feeling, steals one’s energy to do things and to interact with people.
So what to do with this feeling? Well, the first thing is to realize that there is some purpose at work. The depression isn’t simply an incident of chaos. As my friend Ur-Spo reminds us:
In the Jungian theory, depression is a symptom of a wrong direction, or a necessary step of discarding false matters to make room for real psychological growth. So, in Jungian psychology, depression is not an ‘illness’ per se – it is a signal; sort of like a ‘red warning light’ that comes on when your engine has a problem. (Ur-Spo, Spo-Reflections, Depression From a Jungian Point of View, January 6, 2008)
Rather than fleeing or trying to deny the depression, one looks carefully at the depression in order to see what needs attention. Yes, there are roots, past events that can be held as responsible for the depression’s origins. However, it is something about the present that is not quite right according to the psyche, something that needs to be brought to light so that energy or libido can be freed up so that normal living can continue.
With energy freed, one begins to feel warmed by the spirit, the inner sunshine which then thaws the soul. Being able to move again, one can then relate again with others in a life-affirming manner, so that one is no longer alone and out in the cold.
This is quite a change from the photos I’ve been posting in the last three months. I have to say that I wasn’t prepared for this as I have been watching the weather forecasts for my home area in Canada for a number of weeks, and that weather featured above zero temperatures everyday during that time. My friends commented that they had even been able to golf a few times the past week. As always, I’ve come to expect the unexpected.
It would be easy to get upset as though I was owed good weather rather than a mid-winter blizzard for my return home. But, the truth is, I am owed nothing. None of us are. Life is what it is and it is that simple. To think otherwise is only setting ourselves up for a world of grief. It is this kind of thinking that has us adopt a world view as a “victim.”
Blizzards are natural phenomena, not some manifestation of some malevolent deity out to punish us for some mysterious broken rule, or simply to torment us for the pleasure of seeing us suffer.
Realizing this helps me to deal with my own inherited, experienced and self-inflicted crap. I didn’t have a good model for a father and had a rough go at it during my childhood and youth. But on thinking about it, this isn’t so abnormal in the big picture of the human race. Sure, it could be better, but it is what it is. So, what does one do about it? What does one do with being excessively shamed, or verbally abused, or being ignored to the point of feeling invisible, or bullied, or physically or sexually abused? In my opinion, it is only when we accept the fact of the abuse, accept the fact that one was a child or youth and that the past cannot be undone.
Accepting the facts, one has to let the woundings become simply yet an experience which has forged the person we have now become. To expect something to be done or undone is to stay in the place and time of wounding. One is obviously not in the present, one’s energy is trapped in the past. Now, if only it was easy enough to say, “suck it up” and have one come unstuck so that one can recapture one’s energy to live in the present. But, it isn’t that easy though the song by Darryl Worley, Sounds Like Life To Me, would have us believe it is that easy.
Got a call last night from an old friends wife, said, I hate to bother you
But Johnny Ray fell off the wagon, hed been gone all afternoon
Well, I know my buddy, so I drove to Scullys and found him at the bar
Said, Hey Man, whats goin on, He said, I dont know where to start
Sarah’s old car startin to fall apart and the washer quit last week
We had to put Mama in the nursing home and the baby’s cuttin teeth
Sounds Like Life To Me
I didnt get much work this week and I got bills to pay
I said, I know this aint what you wanna hear but its what Im gonna say
Sounds like life to me, it aint no fantasy
It just a common case of everyday reality
Man, I know its tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk youre caught up in some tragedy
It sounds like life to me
Well, his face turned red and he shook his head
He said, you dont understand, three kids and a wife depend on me
And Im just one man, top it off we just found out that Sarahs two months late
I said, Hey, bartender, set us up a round, we gotta celebrate
Sounds like life to me, aint no destiny
Yeah, the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight, just enjoy the ride
Get used to all this unpredictability, sounds like life
Man, I know its tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk youre caught up in some tragedy
Sounds like life to me (sounds like life to me)
Sounds like life
The song isn’t all that good as far as music is concerned, but there is a truth in it, that of having the darker stuff as being a normal part of living. Since the darker stuff comes with being alive, there needs to be a use for it in our journey, a use that is positive. If anything, it allows us to put the dark stuff that lies within each of us to be held differently. Rather than lying to ourselves about our own “stuff,” we can own up and acknowledge it and set it safely within our consciousness so that it doesn’t come sneaking out of the darkness of our unconsciousness so that we inadvertently act out and repeat these abusive patterns.
That’s my task, to see the abuser in me and allow myself to consciously choose behaviours and attitudes. Denying that hidden abuser and I don’t really get to choose as the shadow will act out (unconsciously acted out behaviours) and leave the conscious part of me left holding the bag wondering “what in hell just happened?”
I think that this becomes the key in forgiving those who have abused us in the past. We realize that we are not that much different from those who have wounded us. And then, we can begin to start forgiving ourselves.
What a surprise when I woke up yesterday morning. The day before I drove from my son’s home to my eldest daughter’s home. It was a sunny and warm day, a great spring day with temperatures going up to 19 C. Yesterday’s photo could have been taken in many locations here on the Canadian prairies. And then? Yes, a blizzard with the temperatures down to -4 C. This is normal as well, here on the Canadian prairie.
In full colour there wasn’t much difference than this rendition in black and white, or should I say, a universe of greys. It’s interesting how nature shows us images of the inner landscapes.
Depression is not much different than this. And for me, the appearance of depression comes just as unexpected as a spring blizzard. With the depression I lose interest in heading outside to enjoy nature. Rather, I retreat into a shell, a cocoon in order to protect myself from the intense winds and cold of my psyche under seige.
But, is this a bad thing? Well, in the big picture in nature, the answer is no. In fact, the spring blizzard is often a blessing as it brings in needed moisture that will nourish new life. In Jungian psychology, one could consider that the arrival of depression can also signal something positive, that it can lead to a renewal and a promise of needed nourishment. Here is what one of the blog authors on my blogroll has to say about depression:
Depression is a state of being where libido (psychic energy) is sucked down from the conscious state into the unconscious. ‘The well is dry’. The waters have retreated down into the depths. According to Jung, the Unconscious or the Self does this as a protective measure – your psyche wants to you sit up and pay attention to something awry in your life. And your Psyche doesn’t want you to squander libido foolishly – so it is withdrawn for your protection and for your attention. (Ur-Spo, Spo-Reflections, Depression From a Jungian Point of View, January 6, 2008)
This description fits well with the image of the blizzard that I have captured. I withdraw into the warm house of my daughter’s and I am protected from the extremes of wind, snow and cold. So what is my depression, your depression trying to tell us? What is awry? What needs attention? Where does one’s energy really want to flow? What are we denying our soul? As we try to silence these inner questions, the depression grows deeper. We deny and rush to doctors for medication for the depression hoping to hide the inner voices and place responsibility for dealing with the “self” with the medical profession. We become victims rather than take on the role of main hero in a heroic journey that must face all the trials that appear in any heroic journey. Or, we can pay attention and let the questions be heard.