Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The black hole of depression and the light beyond it.

Depression can be debilitating. It can drain our energy and take away our enthusiasm.  When it is severe, it can feel like it has taken away even our hopes and dreams. It can be hard to think about anything good, anything positive. Depression can be so destructive..... Then someone comes along and asks 'why don't you just pull yourself together?'.....

It seems to me that the feeling at this level of depression has similarities with a black hole. I'm thinking about how light cannot exist in a black hole - not does not exist but cannot. It can feel as though the depression has somehow destroyed anything good or the ability to be aware of anything good.

These two things are quite different though. It may feel that nothing good exists any more. Perhaps though, it is that what we have temporarily lost is our ability to be in touch with the good. Just as light exists beyond a black hole, so a sense of the good may exist beyond the 'black hole' of depression but we feel unable to get in touch with it.

This may however gives some hope though. Abilities can change. If we can visualise ourselves in a black hole, then perhaps we can think about the possibility of there being light beyond it. In this sense, depression can be like tunnel vision and in finding a way to be able to take a step back, we may be able to see the light again, even if at first it is just a glimpse. We have broadened our perspective or at least seen light at the end of the tunnel.

Woodland in the springI feel that mindfulness practice can help with this process of taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. When we focus in and get tangled up with negative thoughts and feelings, our view may be restricted or tainted, and we do not get the full picture. Perhaps this is one reason that depression and loss are so often associated. We lose sight of the good and lose heart. I want to say though that I believe that the good stuff is still there but out of our view. This can be something to hang on to, and to give hope.

This idea of a black hole seems to put the good outside of ourselves and it may well feel like that. However while it may feel like that, perhaps the good stuff is closer than it seems. I would suggest that it is still within us but somehow obscured.

If it is obscured by the black hole of negativity, then perhaps processing the negative or difficult stuff can clear the way to seeing the good again. We can come to realise that the good stuff, the positive feelings and thoughts were still there all along. It was just that we had our 'black hole glasses' on, and they were distorting our view.

In times when we feel in a black hole, it can seem that that is how it 'really' is. We can then have the thought that 'We were kidding ourselves that life could be okay'. What I want to say is that it is the black hole feeling that causes us to think that there is nothing beyond it. We can get drawn into this, and our negative thoughts and feelings reinforced. It cons us into a distorted sense of how things really are, limiting our view and blocking out the light.

However, we are not our thoughts or our feelings. These can come and go, and we can be affected by them, but they are not us. If we can see ourselves as observers of our thoughts and our feelings rather than being consumed by them, we have begun to take that step back. We also can begin to understand why it is that we may feel so bad at times.

In seeing that the black hole as just a limited, and so distorted perspective, we can begin to move beyond and glimpse the light again. Describing hope as a light at the end of the tunnel seems to me very apt.

Lin Travis Counselling Services