A colleague of mine published a blog today on “Surviving Depression” and encouraged his readers to keep looking for the light. He summarized depression as "… just one more broken opportunity to watch for the light around you and the light within you.” It’s hard to read the words “broken opportunity” because to me it reinforces the disconnect. With my therapeutic orientation being Gestalt, depression is explained as a hopelessness and collapse around getting our needs met from our environment - it is the absence of feeling connected in a meaningful or fulfilling way. Maybe I would say that depression is a way to feel the ground and search for the light from within and without you. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t bandage the wound too tightly, that is where the light gets out." The darkness helps us open our eyes differently and see the world in a new way. Just like nighttime and winter, it is a necessary rhythm of fallowness or mystery that allows us to appreciate the light and colors when they return to our awareness.
My friend also published a blog today on choosing discomfort. As a therapist I support my clients in going to the edge of uncomfortable, and coming back to comfortable--repeatedly.
Again, in Gestalt therapy theory, the goal is to increase or stretch the comfort zone and self-awareness of what is too much discomfort, not perpetuate or encourage existing in discomfort. Like stretching in Yoga, the goal is to go to the edge of the pain and breathe, not push farther than is comfortable. One of the first things I do with my clients is support them in finding and define what IS comfortable, and learning their body language and environmental needs that tell us both that they’ve found it. Only then can we venture into the world of curious discomfort.
A favorite quote from this second article was, "Let the freedom [choosing discomfort] brings open up new vistas, launch you on new journeys, expand your ability to love, revolutionize your capacity for seeing yourself and others with grace, send you in the direction of your passion, and turn your life into a series of uncomfortable firsts, which refuse to leave you the same, which insist upon making you humbler, more open to mystery, more certain you are in control of almost nothing, and more open to what is. Even if you end up starting a few fires along the way."
I recently stumbled across a TED talk on “How to make stress your friend"
that I had listened to several years ago. It is on the power and healthiness of stress and how believing that stress is an opportunity to grow (versus feeling like a victim to it) has a predictive value in mortality rates and overall health. Interestingly, the researcher found that stress on the heart physiologically leads to the longing for social connection and physical touch, and when this need is met, the heart becomes even stronger. This time, my colleague’s posts challenged me and I became aware of stress in our connection. Instead of turning away and being less interested to read them next time, I noticed the discomfort (and how much of that might be that I'm stressed and isolated more than usual while being in the thick of dissertation writing!) and decided to reach him and share my thoughts as a fellow human. Finding my own words and truth in the mirror of his posts and sending him my reflections brought me back to a sense of trust and gratitude for his courage in starting a few fires (in me) along the way. As Ram Das says, “we are all just walking each other home.”