Depression and Spirituality

Depression and Spirituality

If Depression is more than a biochemical disturbance in the brain, which I believe it is, what other strategies can be undertaken to deal with it? But before this, we need to get a different and better perspective on it.

The holistic view is that the biochemical changes are not the cause of the depression, but the consequence of it. Most commonly implicated as the cause is serotonin deficiency.

Serotonin is called a neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger like a hormone in the brain. However others, such as noradrenaline, dopamine and acetylcholine, are increasingly being implicated.

What this implies is that the brain’s chemistry is more like an orchestra, and we may only know some of the players and certainly some of the music they are playing!

For example, stress has a huge impact on the brain and its chemistry, and depression is but one of its consequences. This is important; because chronic and unremitting stress is the undercurrent to the depression epidemic we are experiencing.

Because if the “cause” of depression is something like “serotonin deficiency” and we have the tools – antidepressants – to correct this imbalance, then why do we still have an epidemic?

The issues around serotonin deficiency, antidepressant medication and stress have been and will be further covered elsewhere within HHG. Here I would like to instead focus on the psychology and, beyond that, the spirituality of depression.

Psychologically the recommended treatment within the medical establishment is cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT. CBT is limited and questionable as an adequate treatment.

CBT is a symptomatic treatment based on corrected distorted thinking patterns and behaviour. It is cognitive, meaning that it is largely rational being “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”.

CBT may help negotiate a hurdle, but it usually does not get to the deeper roots of the problem and may simply delay dealing with it. But, combined with drugs, this is the treatment of choice, often because it is the most economical and political.

But depression is a mood disturbance. The cognitive changes are secondary, not primary. Moods are readily labelled, but poorly understood. They are also usually seen as inferior to our cognition, or mental operations. Sometimes, particularly in medicine, the word “affect” is used, and this gives a better access to moods.

Affect is what “affects” us, and has as its counterpart “effect”. Affect is the internal state of our emotional wellbeing that operates below our mental cognition, but influences it and its operations profoundly. In fact, emotions more energetic and can gain an intensity that will easily override our attempts to “control” them.

In many cultures, and in other disciplines, this state is the basis of our personality. The mood or feeling state connects us with our deeper sense of ourselves, our hopes and aspirations, and even our sense as spiritual human beings. In fact, this is where we are connected to the spiritual world.

So, taking away, obscuring, or obliterating our emotional and feeling state makes no sense from a holistic world-view. Instead, we need to understand these states more deeply, and for this a more psychospiritual and creative orientation is often the only way.

In fact, this what may be what a mood is drawing or directing us to. Often there is a pot of gold at the bottom of the depression rainbow.

This leads us into deep territory: the world of the artist, our creativity, and our relationship with ourselves, and our spirituality. There are many approaches to tackling mood problems from this perspective that don’t require either a script or a priestly disciplinarian.