I consider myself a content person. I have a lot. I give a lot. I receive a lot. And yet, sometimes I get depressed.
Sometimes I don’t even know why. I check if there is a full moon, and there isn’t. I ponder what may have gone wrong throughout the day or the week, and there’s nothing.
For the longest time I have searched inside myself why I got depressed. Often it’s some residue of childhood wounds. Being left alone, neglected, yelled at – whatever. It’s part of being human. Everybody feels this way some time.
Often I tell myself to snap out of it. That others have real reasons to be depressed about, and may not even be depressed in the first place. Usually, that doesn’t help. It just makes me feel worse about myself.
But a couple of days ago, I seemed to start to understand what the purpose of this could be. Sadness is a universal feeling. Sadness is grief, sadness is loss, sadness is loneliness. No one is exempt from that.
Knowing that every single person on this planet knows sadness is a unifying and transformative thought. It creates compassion for others, and for oneself. There’s nothing wrong with being depressed sometimes, because it is the very definition of being human.
It doesn’t matter if there is a palpable reason or if it’s buried deep inside of you. Just knowing that it serves to understand one another better lifts me out of the muck of the heaviness a little.
Richard Rohr in his brilliance has given us another explanation for sadness: As soon as we start to do some soul searching (and if you hang around on Psych Central, you are one of us), we start to meet our shadow selves: those parts of us that had to accommodate and bend into a pretzel for the sake of others and our own survival. We created a false self that was made for the sake of others, but denies the existence of the real self.
So as soon as we start dealing with our authentic selves, the false self feels threatened and eventually gets depressed, because it knows that its game is over. “A certain degree of such necessary sadness is important to feel, to accept and to face” writes Rohr. “People who have never had no inner struggles are invariably both superficial and uninteresting.” How comforting!
Of course, we do have to make the distinction between necessary suffering and a form of depression that is more a symptom of not facing ones shadow self. Lots of people go through the world never dealing with their issues and their losses and they will inadvertently get depressed because they never dare to confront their demons. This form of depression is a signal to deal with what has never been dealt with sufficiently.