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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Depression?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Depression

A Particular Perspective on Depression

If you do not feel this unconditional passion for the truth, if you are unwilling to submit completely to the truth, you remain a worshipper of belief, what was in the old days called the worshipper of idols, an infidel. If you are going to wake up, you will need to eliminate all your beliefs, all your ideas, all your needs, all your desires, so that you simply wake up and see the truth. You wake up as the truth. You need to go beyond looking at yourself from the perspective of deficiency versus fullness, from concerns about whether you are good or bad, weak or strong, small or large. All these things are just part of the self-centered perspective. What really matters? What does it matter, ultimately, whether you have a year or two of depression or misery, if ultimately you are the totality of the whole universe? What difference does it make whether you are living in a wonderful palace or a little cottage, if you realize that who you are, what you are, is the immensity from which the totality of the universe arises?

Becoming Comfortable with Depression

Some people are so used to feeling pain, anxiety, and depression that they’re comfortable with it. They complain every day about how unsafe life is, but what truly terrifies them is to feel something light and open that doesn’t have pain and heaviness. What they lack is the courage to let go of the familiar ground that defines their experience of the world. Inquiry is in some sense an invitation for our Being to transform our experience, to change our lives. If our invitation is limited, the revelation of our Being will be limited. However, if our invitation is completely open, then Being will be welcomed to reveal the fullness of its possibilities. Such a daring and courageous attitude, however, does not come from pushing yourself. It’s not that you grit your teeth, act tough, and stop feeling anything. It’s more that you’re courageous enough to feel, you’re bold enough to be vulnerable, daring enough to be open. The openness itself has a boldness; it doesn’t buckle under when you feel fear or terror. It embodies a fearlessness that has the capacity to be present regardless of the fear. We may tremble, but we keep piloting our ship.

Depression Can be Smelled

In addition to having a texture and a taste, essential aspects have a smell as well; you can begin to smell the inner state. Some people say that they can smell fear. We do have a capacity to smell emotions. Not only can you smell fear, you can smell love. Love happens to have the smell of roses, or sometimes jasmine. If you smell the Green Essence, it smells like mint. You can smell freshness, you can smell staleness, you can smell rottenness, you can smell depression. You can taste, smell, and touch the quality of restraint, which is much like leather. You can do the same with the state of inertia, which feels like lead, or with the state of deadness in the soul, which feels like wood. As we see, all of these familiar ego states have textures, tastes, and smells just like external physical objects do. And different people have developed different capacities for sensing these states. Some people use mostly the inner touch. Some people can perceive taste easily but haven’t developed their sense of smell much; others develop smell to an unusual degree. But the development of a given subtle capacity has a direct relation to the corresponding physical capacity. For example, people who develop a fine appreciation for different kinds of food and a discrimination of their subtle differences can develop the inner capacity of taste more easily than the other subtle capacities, and more readily than individuals who are not so attuned to their taste buds. The same is true with smell and with touch. But this is not so in every case. Some people who are great connoisseurs of food and wine, for example, never develop the capacity for inner taste.

Depression is Not Always Differentiated from Deficient Emptiness

Each student encounters this depression in the process of working through the narcissistic sector of the personality. Discovering that one has been living the life of the empty shell brings up a deep hopelessness about living an essentially authentic life. This depression is not always differentiated from the emptiness. Furthermore, the depth and pervasiveness of this depression varies in different individuals when it finally becomes conscious.

Inner States are Influenced by Chemical Imbalances in the Body

One factor that is becoming increasingly appreciated in modern psychology is that inner states depend on the chemistry of the body. Many hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters are found to be central in regulating emotions, moods, and inner mental states. When the body suffers from some kind of biochemical imbalance, one’s inner state becomes disturbed. As a result, it has been found that many difficult inner conditions, such as some types of depression, anxiety and phobias, some forms of schizophrenia, etc., are due to such chemical imbalances, and that some pharmaceutical drugs can help alleviate these conditions by redressing the imbalance. It seems that the soul is not able to experience and develop all of her potential when such limitations are present. For example, it is not easy for the soul to feel light and optimistic when it is suffering from a chemical depression, regardless how much inner work she does. The manifestation of some of the soul’s potential inner states and capacities requires that the chemistry of the body be healthily functioning. This physical limitation can become a limitation in the experience of some essential aspects, even essence in general.

Narcissistic Depression Brings On Existential Hopelessness

The self-identity structure is a dynamic structure comprised not only of self-representations, but also of inner activity (Kohut’s tension arc). This "dynamic essence of the self" is an automatic, compulsive and incessant activity, which is mostly unconscious … the main components of this activity are rejection, hope and desire. Repeated experience of the stillness of black emptiness exposes this activity as mental agitation, which now intensifies and reaches feverish proportions, as an obsessive inner activity whose ultimate purpose is to perpetuate itself. It becomes increasingly obvious that the details of this activity, the content of what the self rejects and what it hopes for, are immaterial. What matters is the activity itself. The notion of giving up this inner activity appears to the self as defeat, a surrender to hopelessness. The mental activity intensifies in an effort to avoid deeper hopelessness and helplessness, despair and depression. These feelings are part of a narcissistic depression and deeper hopelessness that the student feels about being her real self. This heavy and painful state is characterized by inertia, dullness, and self-hate. One feels existential hopelessness and despair about the possibility of existing authentically, and about receiving support for one's authenticity.

Reactions to and Associations with Deficient Emptiness

The recognition of the need for support, specifically, the need to support our sense of self, will naturally precipitate the feeling of no support, as we saw in the cases above. If this feeling is not defended against, it will reveal an underlying emptiness characterized by a sense of deficiency of support. The emptiness may provoke many associated feelings and self-images, as we have seen, like feelings of helplessness and weakness, and images of smallness and lack of structure. This usually brings up from the unconscious deeply repressed, painful object relations and their associated emotional states of abandonment, betrayal, depression, terror, even fear of death and disintegration. These are reactions to and associations with the deficient emptiness. We must then clarify these reactions and associations in order to understand the genesis of the emptiness. This process requires awareness of, and disengagement from, judgments and superego attitudes about the deficiency.

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