“Joy descends gently upon us like the evening dew, and does not patter down like a hailstorm.” – Jean Paul
Years ago, I was bedridden with a bad case of depression. I could hardly move, as though moving would quicken the death I was certain would come. Yet death would have been welcomed considering the dark space I was in, if not for my fears that everything I was feeling at that moment would be intensified before death would embrace me into nothingness. The paradox I faced was that I was in so much pain that I was hoping to die, but in order for death to come I’d have to be in still greater pain.
All very morose, to be sure. But every day, millions of people go through the very same thoughts I went through that day. Stuck between the fear of existing and the fear of dying, many people are confined to a dull existence consisting of only passing the time. Even without physical death, they are dying on a spiritual level – struggling to control, fix and manage the scarcity they perceive in life, in a race against time, believing that if they didn’t succeed they’d be diminished to a tiny speck of insignificant, inconsequential thing.
The fear of dying a spiritual death– to be still alive yet not quite alive – is something that plagues us at various points in our lives. If we didn’t express our deepest yearnings and become who we have the potential of becoming, it can feel as though we are cheating ourselves and a big part of us is dying a slow death.
One day, it occurred to me that maybe I did have to die if I wanted my life to change. Not a physical death but the death of my old self. As I looked closer at what I was wanting to slip away from me, I found that it was my idea of who I was. I realised that I could renew my self-identity, just by deciding and choosing something new. The rest would follow as I began to live through this new identity of myself.
That simple decision gave me a few profound insights that turned my life around.
#1 Every disempowering situation contains an empowering counterpart.
In the depth of depression, it can be very difficult to find the strength to turn things around. When your energy is so low that doing anything is a big effort, it takes a great deal of mental energy to go against the downward spiral.
Like many who have suffered from depression, I’ve encountered situations where those who did not understand depression had said to me, “Just snap out of it… You’re just lazy… Pull yourself together…” This did not help me and only reinforced in me that I was isolated in my suffering.
What I did find helpful was instead to use the natural movement of depression. Here’s what I mean: Within the movement of slipping away, there’s a way to ‘ride’ that movement by allowing an old, worn-out part of us to be taken away. All we have to do is to let go of our grip to that old part of us.
There is power even within the energy of depression. So whenever you feel yourself slipping away – the mental fogginess coming on, the dull feeling setting in, the pre-occupation with what’s missing in your life intensifying – instead of trying to work against it, notice the opportunity to choose which part of you that you want to die.
Surrender this part of you to this force of dying. Perhaps it’s the part of you that keeps creating painful relationships, or the part of you that sabotages your successes, or the part of you that is needy for others’ approval. Imagine letting this part of you slip away with the force of dying.
Rest in the remnants of what’s left behind after your old self has been removed from you. You may sense a certain sparkle, the hint of something luminous, as you begin to awaken to life. Grab hold of this and nurture it.
#2 Your self-identity determines whether your world is lacking or abundant.
It astounded me to find that when I let go of my old identity, my perception of the world I lived in changed. In other words, it wasn’t lacking in things I thought I didn’t have but full of them.
When we see ourselves as small, limited and powerless, the whole world reflects to us this belief. So often, we try to change our world to be what we want it to be so that we can feel abundant and powerful. But unless we change the way we see ourselves, unless we become abundant and powerful within ourselves, our world will never change – at least not for very long.
I know it can be challenging to get into a positive state when your world shows evidence of scarcity. Here are a few ways that can help:
- Look for alternative sources of whatever you feel you lack. It is already there. When you look for something with an expectation of finding it, it will be shown to you.
- Decide to stop seeing yourself as a victim of circumstances. When you let go of this part of you, watch the illusion of scarcity go away.
- Open your heart to the spiritual qualities of what’s invisible. Sense the abundance around you in the absence of tangible forms. Feel the power in the core of your being, latent and waiting to be expressed.
#3 The gifts are usually not as you had expected, only better.
When you let go of your idea of who you were, you will get the opposite of what you’d feared. Often, when we’re in the throes of suffering, it’s difficult to imagine being in an expanded state as the outcome of making changes. We think, as long as I don’t suffer anymore, I’d be contented. But what I’ve seen is that people do go past neutral point and into the realm of aliveness, passion, inspiration as their new ‘default’.
You can enjoy a magic-filled world that fills you with awe and wonderment on a consistent basis. My recovery from depression has not only brought me back to an okay sort of existence but one where I can feel truly alive and delight in the many wondrous sources of inspiration. I still have moments of feeling low but my default is now one of joy and inspiration. This, I did not expect, but in allowing the gifts to unravel one layer at a time, the true opposite of what I had feared had been revealed.
What might be revealed to you when you let your old self die?
Photo by José Manuel Ríos Valiente