The Healthiness of Depression
It may seem absurd, but if we try to understand depression in-depth, we will find that Depression actually is a healthy phenomenon.
For any growth to occur, a proportionate amount of our “old self” must be given up. It is inevitable part of development. This process of giving up, to attain something which is higher/better than before is very painful, which causes depression.
In other words, depression is the feeling associated with giving up something loved- or at least something that is a part of ourselves and familiar. Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is normal and basically healthy phenomenon. It becomes abnormal or unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving-up process, with the result that the depression is prolonged and cannot be resolved by completion of the process.
Often, even the people suffering from depression are not able to understand this growth process. They seek help to get rid of the symptoms, rather than facilitate this process. They desire to be “the way they used to be”, but the very fact that they are depressed means the growth / giving up process has already begun and they can no longer be the way they used to be.
But the unconscious knows. It is precisely because the unconscious in its wisdom knows that “the way things used to be” is no longer tenable or constructive that the process of growing and giving up has begun on an unconscious level and depression is experienced.
Since, people suffering from depression are not yet consciously willing or ready to recognize that the “old self” and “the way things used to be” are outdated, they are not aware that their depression is signaling that major change is required for successful and evolutionary adaptation. The fact that the unconscious is one step ahead of the conscious may seem strange to lay readers; it is, however, a fact that applies not only in this specific instance but so generally that it is a basic principal of mental functioning.
We have been hearing of the “mid-life crisis”. Actually, this is but one of the many “crisis,” or critical stages of development in life. What makes crisis of these transition periods in the life cycle – that is, problematic and painful – is that in successfully working our way through them we must give up cherished notions and old ways of doing and looking at things. Many people are either unwilling or unable to suffer the pain of giving up the outgrown which needs to be forsaken. Consequently they cling, often forever, to their old patterns of thinking and behaving, thus failing to negotiate any crisis, to truly grow up, and to experience the joyful sense of rebirth that accompanies the successful transition into greater maturity.
- Excerpts taken from the book
'The Road Less Travelled' by Dr. M. Scott Peck