My post about mindfulness not resulting in happiness got some interesting responses. One in particular on LinkedIn got me to finally come out about what depression can look like when seen from a different perspective. Since LinkedIn discussions are restricted to group members, below is my reply:
I have been thinking a lot lately about depression since I have spent the last few years in the deepest states of my life. Your comment gets right to the heart of my thoughts when you say, “I don’t know if I can say that mindfulness intensifies depression.” I very much appreciate your bringing it up.
In conversation with others who have pursued a similar path as mine, we have been exploring what depression means and whether we may be cured. We experience the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pains, but not the normal reactions to them that get combined in the normal definitions of depression. We actually feel the “pain” more than we ever have, but act normally because the pain no longer controls our choice of how to act.
In saying “you will experience depression more clearly and more intensely,” I am talking about the feelings, not the reactions to them. If depression is the disabling reactions to feeling the pain, then perhaps we are cured. If depression is the feeling, then we are more depressed then ever. Unfortunately, the standard definitions combine the two as if they are inseparable.
Those of us that have experienced depression in this way see it as a beautiful experience. We cannot imagine a life without it. When it looses its power to control how we respond to it, we begin to see a richness of experience that makes us understand mindfulness at a much deeper level.
There is a book out called “The Depression Cure” by someone who obviously has not experienced the separation of pain from reaction to it. From my quick look at it, it seems that the “cure” is to find ways to make it go away. To me, that is no cure at all. It is a diminished life afraid that it may some day return. It is especially diminished in the inability to experience a beautiful part of life.
The “disorder” of depression is our inability to have a choice of how to react to it. We have not only proven that we can choose; we have taught others to do it too. We did it by teaching them to be mindful of it (among other things) and to see it as equally beautiful as any other state. That is what Saint Teresa of Avila meant when she said, “The pain is still there. It bothers me so little now that I feel my soul is served by it.” You might say she was cured, but still had it.
It may be that mindfulness reduces depression as defined by our reactions, but it certainly increases our experience of pain. Try it next time you stub your toe. Instead of distracting yourself and jumping around, swearing, or any of the usual reactions, see if you can focus 100% of your attention on it without judging it. I am sure your experience of the pain will increase. It might also be mindful to recognize that you should make sure nothing is broken 😉
Please note: I am not saying that I am “cured.” I am asking what outcomes are possible and whether the definition of “cured” has any meaning.
What do you think is possible? Should we be aiming for remission or change our relationship to the pains that we have in life?