The essential lesson I’ve learned in life is to just be yourself. Treasure the magnificent being that you are, and recognize first and foremost, you’re not here as a human being only. You’re a spiritual being having a human experience.”
– Wayne Dyer, psychologist
“…I think, my spirit is depressed!”
Winona walked into my office, flushed in the face, and clearly upset. She had just come from her physician’s office. She had apparently booked both consults, back to back, because she knew something was wrong with her. She said she had anticipated what her doctor would tell her. So, she arranged the consultation with me for right after she met with him. Her doctor said, and here I quote her, because she quoted him, “Clearly, the antidepressant meds aren’t working, get some psychological help, right away!”
Winona was 30 years of age, short and petite. She told me she was an entrepreneur. She had build a small business in the real estate sector by buying older buildings, often historic ones, and refurbishing them, to rent or sell. It was a volatile area of the market subject to challenges from three areas: finding skilled trades people; the escalating price of building materials, and the unpredictable interest rates.
Winona was married to Wade, a pastor of a local Christian church. They had three children, Maria, Ben and Lucas, two in elementary school, one in day care. She said, they had a solid relationship in most areas, and were committed to their future together. Then, Winona told me she had been on antidepressants for two years, and things were just getting worse.
When I asked her what she thought was the source of her depressing behaviours, she replied, “Ken, I think, my spirit is depressed!”
I replied, “Winona, early December, in our culture, is a tough time to be spiritually depressed, with the Holidays coming at you so quickly! Please, tell me more about how your spirit is depressed?”
“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”
– Swami Vivekananda, clergyman
“…first, what is the purpose of any religion?”
She paused to compose her thoughts, then replied,“I was raised in a traditional Catholic family. We followed most of the rituals. As kids, I think, me and my three siblings, did it, for our parents. For me, it never really made a lot of sense, ….to believe things I couldn’t see any evidence of around me. But, I respected my parent’s right to believe it…it was, after all, how they were raised. And, we had wonderful grandparents!”
“So, you didn’t fully believe what your parents did, but you went along, out of respect for them….is that what you mean?”
“Exactly!” she continued, “So when Wade ask me to convert to his Church’s religion, it was no big deal, at the time. But, as we follow the rituals of his Church and the kids get older, it is getting be a bigger deal for me. I’m not sure I want to encourage them to believe the things Wade’s congregation do. It has been bugging me more and more, lately. It’s like, I need to resolve it. I think, unless I do, my stress levels will only increase, until I have some kind of health crisis.” she said, her eyes watering briefly.
“So, what exactly do you want to understand better so you can feel less stressed, Winona?”
“That’s a good question, Ken! I have always taken some measure of pride in being logical. It has served me well in my business, when I need to make decisions quickly, and effectively. I think my stress and confusion comes down to two things: first, what is the purpose of any religion? And, second, why am I depressing myself about it, now?”
“Each one of us has our own evolution of life…. But certain things are common. And, we do learn things from each other’s experience. On a spiritual journey, we all have the same destination.”
– A. R. Rahman, musician
“…a belief is a thinking strategy, created by humans, to prepare them for their future.”
“OK, let’s take them one at a time. First, the purpose of every religion, or if you prefer, any organized collection of beliefs, is to help its members learn, and so survive. Every religion, is intended, to prepare you, psychologically, to cope with challenge and change. So, a belief is a thinking strategy, created by humans, to prepare them for their future. So, for example, humans learned to believe fire would keep them warm, but would also burn them, if they touched it. These two beliefs have helped them survive, even to this day.”
“So, Ken, you’re saying beliefs help us live longer, by preparing us for our future in some important way?”
“That’s correct, Winona! As you probably noticed, today, most people move in, and out of, religious schools of thought, quite regularly. It is not because they disrespect the religion, or its’ members, rather it’s because they have learned, what they needed there for their future, and must move on to learn new things, from other sources.” I said.
“Are you saying religions are actually, temporary learning places, we visit, to prepare us for our future? And, are you also saying, we should expect to move in, and out of them, regularly throughout our life?”
“Winona, that’s an accurate way to view it. In the same way, we regularly move on to more efficient cars, we do the same thing in all areas of life, including our spirituality. We are learning organisms…we have no choice about it! It is our nature to learn, constantly, throughout life! Our spirituality is no exception, regardless of how hard we may try to do otherwise.”
“So, that means, as I learn more about life, I should expect my spirituality to evolve as well. So, just like when I traded in my 1999 Toyota, I should expect to trade in old spiritual beliefs for new ones which better prepare me for my future…is that it?”
“Yes, as we learn more about ourselves, and the natural systems in which we live, we ask tougher questions of our spiritual advisors. This represents one of the greatest challenges to every fixed belief system, and so, to every religion, today.”
“The goal of spiritual practice is full recovery, and the only thing you need to recover from is a fractured sense of self.”
– Marianne Williamson, author
“… guilt and depression are common partners in important life learning events.”
“Ken, let me summarize what I have learned so far. A religion is a set of beliefs which serve us for a time, until we move on to other beliefs, which will also, serve us. So, our spirituality grows, in the same way, other things, we learn, grow. That means every belief keeps evolving all the time, whether it is a spiritual one, or which is the best car to drive. Am I getting this?”
“I would say you got it perfectly, Winona! Now, let’s deal with your second question about why you depressing yourself, about your spirituality. Depressing is a very useful behaviour. It serves us in many ways which we often don’t notice. For example, depressing gives us time to think, evaluate and plan. Depressing helps us become more clear about our purpose and values. Depressing attracts others to help us, so we feel more valued. And, depressing motivates us to act decisively for our future. With me so far, Winona?” I asked.
“Are you saying depressing is a good behaviour, Ken?”
“Winona, I’m saying depressing is a good behaviour and a bad behaviour, equally…just like every human behaviour, it has two sides, a positive benefit and a negative cost. I suspect, you haven’t been noticing the benefits to your depressing…which is what brought you here…correct?”
“All I notice is the stress I’m feeling from my confusion, and even my guilt at times…what is that about?” she asked, confusion covering her face.
“Guilt is usually about not following our purpose and values. Guilt is nature’s reminder, to first be true to ourselves! It looks like you have been beating yourself up, for not honouring your own spiritual values, in relation to your children? Guilt and depression are common partners in important life learning events. Does that make sense to you, Winona?”
“Actually…it does! I feel caught between Wade’s religious beliefs and my children’s well being. I know he wants the best for them, but my values suggest a broader perspective on spirituality than what is available in his Church. I don’t know what to do, and I have been guilting myself over it for some time, which has been draining my energy, and depressing my Spirit. Does that make sense, Ken?”
“That is the real spiritual awakening, when something emerges from within you that is deeper than who you thought you were. So, the person is still there, but one could almost say that something more powerful shines through the person.”
– Eckhart Tolle, author
“I was being reminded, or perhaps directed… to honour who I am, with my family!”
“It certainly does, Winona! But, in every crisis, there is an opportunity! Or, if you prefer, in every depression, there is a learning opportunity for your future? So, where is your learning opportunity here?”
“Well, one thing is, I have learned to appreciate my depressing behaviours much more than before. But, the other thing that occurs to me is, I need to be more true to myself, and my values, with Wade and the kids. I haven’t been doing that enough.” she added.
“But, why you, and why now, at this point in your life?” I asked to get her to a higher level of awareness.
“That’s an interesting question, which has occurred to me, too! As I have thought about it, what keeps surfacing in my mind…as a teenager, and even later when visiting my parents, I would sit in their Church, upset at myself for not standing up for what I believed, for not being my own person…for not respecting my own Spirit.”
“So, depressing is tied to you not being true to Winona, in important areas of your life, with very specific people…is that what has been going on, Winona?”
“Yes…that’s it exactly! I was being reminded, or perhaps directed, by some part of me, to honour who I am, with my family!” she said.
“I suspect, the part of you, which you noticed, was your own Spirit! If so, then, perhaps your Spirit initiated your depressing behaviour, which motivated you, to honour your her?”
“Makes sense to me now, Ken! Which tells me, I have some work to do with my family, if I am going to be OK with myself, eh?” she replied with a half smile.
“I think you are ready for that work now, Winona. What do you think?” I said.
“Yes, I’m ready now! I think, I already know how I’ll approach it. Having this discussion has also alerted me to other areas of my life where I need to be my own person. This has been very helpful, Ken. Thank you!” she said with a soft smile.
“My privilege, Winona! I’d say you have already evolved your Spirit, and your Spirituality…congratulations!”
Winona, came back for a few more sessions to brainstorm how she was going to deal with her parents, and also, a related issue at work. She resolved each of them to her satisfaction. She also commented on how her depressing behaviours occurred less often now, because, she said, “I just go search for, and find, the benefits for me to depressing, at that moment. They are always there, and since I know they are there, I just keep searching…until I find them!”
“Science and education are the enemies of every fixed thought system!”
– King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
Now you know your spirituality is an evolving dimension of you. Now you know, schools of thought, like all schools, are temporary residences of learning, which you must move through, to be truly an evolving person. So, check out your own spirituality, and bring it up to date, with your life learnings, otherwise you may waste valuable time, depressing or guilting yourself. You have other important things to do!
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Our next seminar, “A Transformation Day!” will focus on relationships. It will be on Saturday, February 27th, 2016 at our offices. Details are available at ww.kenpiercepsychologist.com
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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