We see depression being accompanied by various sub-qualities such as anger, hurt, helplessness, fear, grief, or sadness, but the root of the depression is the same. We see sub-qualities arising as our way of relating to depression or the apparent subject of depression.
It appears that depression occurs when we are drawn to our core fear that we are not capable of life and its complications. This arises from the sense of being a limited mind-self. I suspect that all depression is a function of how our identity, or feeling of being a separate emotional-mind, relates to life when we feel powerless to affect it as we desire, thus evoking a sense of being worthless.
Depression appears to arise only out of the sense of our exclusive inner qualities, that sense that we are privy to exclusive knowledge of our internal workings -- which are us, and which are known only by us. The sense of being separate and exclusive is the source of the depression. It arises as the reaction our identity has when felt as not powerful in its effects on the world. The "world" is seen as others or things, or a combination of situations and events.
Some conditions may indicate that this mind-self is not capable, not powerful in relationship to them, yet still may not produce depression. What does elicit depression are those events in which we feel incapable that have some meaning or significance to us. They "identify" us as not worthwhile. Of course this is a subjective interpretation, determined by what we think we must "be" to be worthy.
The very sense of exclusive-mind lends itself to be filled with assumptions that go largely unchallenged because of the isolated quality that arises from the demand of exclusivity. Our main assumption is that our assumptions (thoughts and feelings about how it is) are correct.
We see that depression lifts when we are sufficiently distracted from our mind-form assumptions, or the subject of depression, or when we are allowed, through the condition of things, to feel powerful. Other than this we wait until we forget.
Let's look at a possible explanation for one of the fiercest and most common subjects of depression, the loss of a passionate love affair. First, let us examine our assumptions about passionate love.
I would like to use a harsh but rather accurate analogy of our relationship to passionate love. We think it is good; not only good, but one of the greatest things in the world. Also, we assume its fulfillment has to do with a particular object, another human. We determine its "goodness" as a result of the fact that it makes us feel good. It produces very pleasurable sensations in our body-mind. Then again, so does heroin.
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Passionate love and a heroin fix have a lot in common. The so-called pleasures associated with their attainment are the result of a shift in sensations that allows the body-mind to feel okay with itself once being affected by the object of this fix.
These sensations are associated with various forms of feelings and perceptions. In the love affair, the pleasurable sensations often become associated with such things as a house, a song, a touch, a habit, a feeling, a sound, a shared communication, a concept of the way the world is. The concept of "reality" that is stimulated by or creates the heady aroma of love is one in which you are seen as worthy of "being" -- it holds a purpose for your existence. Of course, what it takes for you to feel worthy of being can be very complex and abstruse depending on the various ideas and "meanings" events and things have in relationship to you. Regardless of how you get there, the bottom line is that you obtain these good sensations once you get your "hit" on this thing, be it another person or heroin.
These sensations are eventually viewed as simply the "neutral state" and are noticed primarily at their loss or absence. So then life becomes a negative with the goal of obtaining or maintaining the thing that brings it out of the negative to simply a neutral, with the temporary added attraction of a rush of sensation that accompanies entrance into that state. Another quality that is true of both is a growing sense that one's survival or safety is threatened by their loss. This is an extremely strong motivating factor for the maintenance of the relationship, generating negativity and fear as a background to the relationship.
If we honestly examine the desire for the experience of passionate love, we must admit its motivation lies heavily in body-mind sensations that we obtain when in relation to the object of our passion and love. We might say with great airs that it is the "love" of that person, which is of course inviolate in our assumption and training. We say we are willing to die or kill for that "love" and it is good, right, and noble. Horseshit. We are willing to die for a heroin fix and are not so pretentious about it!
If we are ruthlessly honest, we notice that it is not really the "person" we seek -- it is the sensation that that person elicits when we are in their company, either as a presence, or a concept, a memory. This experience is what we are after. If it were generated by someone else, we would quickly shift to that other. It does not really matter who or what the object is. It must simply fulfill the requirement of that experience. So we call this passionate love and we call it good.
Rarity in our experience of objects that produce those sensations -- or that we allow to produce those sensations, or use as an excuse to produce them -- is the greatest supporter of the illusion that they actually pertain to the person of our experience.
Imagine if everyone and everything produced these sensations. Then our constant state would always be that, and we would not identify love of another as the cause. As long as we cannot produce that experience in ourselves without an object appearing as the cause, as long as we feel the need for the object to attain these deep sensations, then we cannot truly love the "being" of the object. Each "loved-one" becomes for us a "bag of heroin", and that need will always cloud the free relational communication between beings.
Love, arising from "being", will only be true when there is no con-fusion, or fusion with, any sort of need or dependency at all. So it is with passion. We must simply notice what things are. Passionate involvement with all manner of things on the level of enthusiasm, lovingness, lustiness, excitement, fullness in expression and feeling, seems to be a very functional part of being alive. However, we cannot do justice to this passion or to love if we do not distinguish what is what -- and so clarify the matter.
Allowing things to simply be things, without attaching all sorts of complications and meanings to them about our personal worth or capability, renders us free of them. We avoid depression since the sensations that come and go mean little about our perfection. We need not be swept away by the absence (or presence) of these sensations. Since sensations are noticed in contrast to their absence, we must understand and allow for them to be and not be. In the same moment, this is always true, whether a sensation is felt as arising or not arising.
When love is true, then the form changing will not alter this at all. It is not felt only in connection with or as the presence or appearance of an object that manifests the being of such felt love. Since this love is crested in experience, rather than produced at effect in cognition, it neither comes nor goes with any form.
This article was excerpted from the book:
A more recent title by this author:
Zen Body-Being: An Enlightened Approach to Physical Skill, Grace, and Power
by Peter Ralston and Laura Ralston
About The Author
Peter Ralston is a leading practitioner of martial arts, investigating and teaching aplications of psycholgical and spiritual growth. He directs training programs and workshops at Cheng Hsin, The Center for Ontological Research and Internal Martial Arts in Oakland California. The author also conducts staff training workshops for Lifespring, the Institute of Self Actualization, Robbins Research Institute (NLP) and other human potential organizations. Visit his website at www.chenghsin.com.