27 April 2012

Shadow Work and Depression

And first a disclaimer - I am not a psychiatrist, counselor, mental health professional, or even a terribly good listener.  This entry is about things I experience and ways that work for me to deal with them.  If you are seriously depressed I urge you to talk to someone who knows more about this stuff than me - find a good counselor, that’s what they’re there for.  And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Shadow work is a wonderful thing.  It’s enlightening, liberating, and satisfying once you’ve done it.  However, the process of going through it can be damned unpleasant.  Doing real shadow work brings up a lot of unpleasant memories and feelings.  If you’re doing things right you could be looking at a decently sized mountain of the worst moments of your life.  It’s daunting, really daunting.  If you’re not absolutely on top of things it’s easy to get sucked into the emotions that pile represents, making it very easy to slip into depression.  When this happens (‘cause it will) don’t panic – you’re not alone.

Depression is awful.  For me, depression usually take the form of extreme lethargy and hopelessness.  I look at myself dealing with the same shadows in slightly different forms over and over again and have to ask myself “what’s the point?”  It becomes impossible to move forward so I turn my back on my work and run to escapism.  Now, don’t get me wrong, a little escapism can be a very good thing.  It’s when escapism turns into avoiding what I really need to be doing that it becomes a problem.  There’s nothing worse that dredging up some old emotional horror and then running screaming for this hills because I just can’t take it, and knowing that I ran away just makes it all worse.  

Unfortunately, this seems to just be a part of the process.  If your shadows weren’t awful they wouldn’t be shadows.  If you weren’t afraid to deal with things they wouldn’t become shadows in the first place.  The fact that you’re willing to even try to look at them shows a lot of bravery.  Failure is part of the process.  

When you find yourself running away from shadow work the first step is to forgive yourself.  It sounds like psycho-babble, but it’s true.  Knowing that you’re not doing something that is important makes you feel like crap.  Forgive yourself for screwing up and get on with making it right.  The worse you feel, the more important it becomes to get up from whatever quagmire you’ve sunk into and get working again.  Of course, that’s more easily said than done.

When you’re in the middle of a deep depression the idea of getting out of bed can be daunting, let alone doing serious work.  Unfortunately, only you can figure out what you need in order to get yourself started again.  If you’re aware enough to realize that you’re stuck in depression (rather than life actually being completely worthless), then you can probably reason yourself into doing something to get momentum going again.  If not, try and show yourself a little love and forgive yourself for being stuck - and keep doing it until you believe it. 

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