Spiritual Depression – Religion, Spirituality & Depression

Spiritual depression

Spiritual depression

There is not a single cause of depression, there are many causes of depression. Religion or spirituality can cause spiritual depression, but spirituality can also help heal depression and can be used as a form of therapy. In a holistic approach towards healing depression, it makes sense to consider the body, the mind and the spirit aspect of our being. The book Quest for a depression-free life offers a holistic view and addresses also the spiritual aspects of depression. We live in a materialistic world, yet many religions talk about the non-material, about the soul, about God. Spirituality and religion is part of our belief systems, upbringing, cultures and it influences us, our life, our decisions. There are conflicting beliefs about many topics, including religious and spiritual topics, and these conflicts are disrupting the mental health of many.

What is spiritual depression? One definition of spiritual depression is depression (suffering, out of balance) experienced while and due to going through the process of spiritual awakening.

What is spiritual awakening? Awakening to becoming fully consciously aware of the Spirit in body-mind-spirit of our being. Transcending identification with the body-mind and fully realizing (zero doubts) the existence of spirit while having a physical body-mind experience of duality. At higher states of consciousness even transcending duality into unity (unity consciousness).

This process of awakening often involves different forms of purification of the body and mind, becoming aware of old patterns of behavior, becoming aware of various fears and insecurities and of certain limiting beliefs, bringing up unpleasant suppressed memories and having to look at them. This can be very hard to deal with. There is a term often used to describe spiritual depression also as “dark night of the soul”.

People who start to do a lot of yoga and start to meditate; they often find that their life improves. However, at some point, when they start to get in touch with deeper aspects of themselves, they enter new phases of introspection, which as mentioned above leads the person to enter a process of deep inner purification, which can get overwhelming especially if the process is too fast and the person has not enough understanding and tools how to deal with it. Thus, the path of spiritual awakening in most cases involves some type of spiritual depression/suffering, because the suppressed negativity and certain beliefs has to be looked at, transformed and released.

When dealing with the body and mind, there are experts for it such as doctors and psychologists and therapists. When dealing with matters of consciousness, and how to get and stay balanced, grounded, calm, content, peaceful it would be highly beneficial to also make use of the help of experts in that area – spiritual masters, or people who have experience with navigating through the different phases of the flowering of consciousness.

Often times, one accompanying phenomenon during the process of a spiritual awakening is experiencing the awakening of Kundalini. Getting familiar with the various kundalini awakening symptoms can be beneficial to help discern, whether a person might be dealing with Kundalini and is inside of the process of spiritual awakening. Many people don’t know about the existence of kundalini. What needs to be said is, that the approach for addressing kundalini symptoms and helping with depression symptoms, which are triggered due to a spiritual awakening and the awakening of kundalini is different compared to the traditional approaches for other types of depression. It is advised to consult with people who went through a kundalini awakening process themselves and who have many years of experience in guiding others through their awakening. Yes, such people exist. You can find a few recommendations also in the book “Quest for a depression-free life”, which is also available free to download as a pdf file.

Spiritual effects of depression

In his book The Leap, transpersonal psychologist and senior lecturer in psychology Steve Taylor talks about the real-life repression of spirituality in people owing to societal norms and the environment they were brought up in, which in turn led to feelings of depression and meaninglessness of life. Individuals who have an innate sense of spirituality, such as belief in God or feeling there is so much more to life than seeking materialistic goals for oneself, but caring for others, the community, the environment, and nature with compassion, may have to suppress these thoughts due to conventional and competitive self-glory and status-seeking. This was the case for the American peace activist Peace Pilgrim written about in the book. She grew up with strong materialistic values, to reach great heights in status for a comfortable life. However, in her 30s she felt depressed at how meaningless her life was. Her spiritual depression led her to dedicate her life to service, finally unveiling her repressed spiritual self.

Can spirituality help depression?

Spirituality may have beneficial effects on depressed patients when other modes of treatment like psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are not enough. Having religious faith that things will be better and that God is watching over one can help individuals maintain hope when things are tough. This single belief was found to help people cope with stress better, while religious communities can play a supportive role for depressed patients. Practicing spirituality, such as being there for others, taking care of the environment and animals, discovering and accepting yourself, and being self-aware of where you need to heal, can leave one feeling purposeful. The meaning gained out of such spiritual practices may help one in their journey of depression, telling them that they are enough and have a purpose in this world.

Spiritual therapy

Spiritual therapy is a kind of modern counseling that can be helpful for those who believe in a higher power such as God. It can also be useful for those with other spiritual beliefs such as an awareness of the world in its entirety; being something more than just oneself. These individuals may seek spiritual therapy to gain meaning in life and to explore spiritual challenges such as moral conflict leading to depression. A spiritual therapy session is conducted by a mental health professional and includes techniques such as meditation and hypnosis to help clients gain psychological well-being through exploration of their spiritual beliefs.

Religion causes depression

Research has found that in some individuals, the high moral standards of religion may lead to the guilt of not being able to reach them, potentially leading to depression. Growing up in a religious environment while not being able to fully comprehend faith or even having conflicting beliefs, may lead to cognitive dissonance, which may be a root of depression and suicidal thoughts, especially if one’s family is adamant they believe in something they don’t believe in. Such family and societal pressures can be overwhelming and stressful, which are known risk factors for depression.

Final word

Life is a blend of pain and pleasure, happiness and sorrow, positivity and negativity. People during their life experience a wide spectrum of emotions. This is all natural and it promotes growth and development. Unfortunately, sometimes people can get stuck for various reasons in the negative side of experiencing life – suffering, and some people are exposed to much more suffering than others. It doesn’t mean that the positive is gone forever, but it is often hard to get out from a downward spiraling cycle of negative thoughts and state of being on your own.

“You get what you concentrate upon”, we amplify and reinforce that what we focus our attention and mind on.

To break certain cycles and habits we often either need a big life-changing event/interference or help from the outside from someone who is reaching out to us from a place, where there are solutions, which to the person who suffers seem to be long non-existent or out of reach.

Depression is a term used to label certain forms of long-term suffering. To end certain types and causes of suffering, we need information about what we need to change and do. This is highly individual, as the causes of suffering are various and individual. One good advice is to reach out to a professional, who has knowledge and experience in this field.

When dealing with spiritual depression, dark night of the soul, especially common among people going through a so called spiritual awakening, it is advised to connect also and especially with spiritual counselors who are aware of the spiritual aspects and dimensions, who have a better understanding of the various levels of consciousness not just from spiritual books, but from first-hand experience (some experienced yoga teachers belong to this category of more spiritually aware people).