Anxiety and Depression: The Masks of the Ego
Anxiety and depression are the masks of the ego that believes it is separate from All That Is. Remembering who you are allows you take off those masks.
Depression means that you have forsworn God--A Course in Miracles
In my teenage years and when I was a young man I suffered from anxiety and depression. Of course very few teenagers escape the depths of melancholy, especially, those like me, who are more introverted in their nature. And often I would have fantasies of suicide to escape the heaviness that seem to cover me. I would often go up in the hills when things got really bad (in other words, events did not go the way that I wanted them to), and look up to the heavens and ask to be taken home. I didn't want to be here anymore.
But I did not escape the suffering I was experiencing here, so I tried to escape through alcohol, drugs, music and the pursuit of sex. But no matter what I did, anxiety about the future persisted and moods of depression were always lurking around the corner seeking to take my energy away.
When I was beginning my service in the Peace Corps, they warned us that many volunteers would suffer some depression around six months into their assignment. Sure enough. I was at my post in Cameroon and I was not where I wanted to be posted in that country; I was in a strange land and culture; and I just heard from my fiancée that she was marrying her old boy friend. I plummeted. I slept and slept, and I began to become disoriented in time. Dreams were becoming more real than this reality. I drank a lot and withdrew from my counterparts. I became obsessed with the idea of seeing at least a snake, for here I was in Africa and I was seeing no wild animals, as everything was food.
Then one day in my funk I was traveling with my counterparts and we saw a cobra slithering across the dirt road, and the driver went out of his way and ran over it. I lost it and jumped out of the car. I grabbed the snake, its guts wiggling free, and cussed at my co-workers. They just laughed and called me a crazy white man.
But my depression grew stronger, for I felt responsible for the death of the cobra. I had asked to see one and I did, but to its detriment. Then, a few days later, while I was out working in a village, I and a host of villagers were walking on the trail, I in the front. When suddenly a large green snake came out of the bush. The villagers behind me started screaming to get the snake. However, I blocked the narrow path until the snake escaped. And so did my depression. I had saved a snake!
That was my last large attack of depression. I soon began to practice meditation and when I had my awakening into who I really am those thoughts of anxiety had no lasting power over me.
What are the cures for anxiety and depression?
In Truth it is very simple: Be yourself. Your true Self, not who you think you are. Anxiety is a condition of the mind that is not focused in the Present, in the Here and Now. Salvation or freedom from suffering is only found in the Present. It will never happen some other time. You can spend a lifetime looking for causes in therapy for why you are afraid of this or that; or you can make all sorts of plans, and exercise as much control and power to attempt to make these plans to come true. Yet the past and future are only in your mind.
Depression from my point of view is too much me-ness, too much ego. Depression is a focus on me and what I lack. The world is not giving me what I deserve. No body cares. It is a black hole of energy that sucks away all the life force. But there is a way out of depression besides drugs, going on shopping sprees and self-indulgence. There is always somebody worse off than you. There is always somebody to help. Just like my helping the snake to escape lifted my depression, so too does helping others shift the energy away from yourself and out to the greater you. Instead of contraction you expand. You begin to feel that you belong to the whole and not confined to a body.
There are studies out now that even in the bio-chemical realm there is a greater sense of pleasure in the brain when one is altruistic. It feels good to help the other, because there is an inherent truth in the act, that there is no separation between anyone, but only in our minds.
I am not a body
It is the denial of the spark that brings depression, for whenever you see your brothers without it, you are denying God.--A Course in Miracles
The roots of anxiety and depression from a spiritual perspective is in the one idea that you are a body. You were born and you will die. And that's all she wrote. Of course you are going to feel anxious about what tomorrow might bring, and with such a bleak future, of course you will feel depressed. What is the purpose of life with such an outlook? Maybe a little more pleasure than pain, of which to attain that pleasure you must control the situation with as much money and power as you can get your hands on. But despite what you have attained you know it will never be enough to ward off death, and your oblivion.
A higher step is to come to the belief that you are in your body, that you are a soul. This is much freer than the former thought system, yet there is still a sense of being trapped in a body while others are in theirs. There is still separation and the mind still holds sway with the notion that there exists past and future. You were born into a body and you will go somewhere else, perhaps to a heavenly state or a hellish place when death comes.
The final step is to come to the awareness that you are never touched by the body, that the body and all bodies dwell within you. That all minds are connected. That you are the single I AM that dwells in all beings. We all have that original name, I AM, before the accretions of the many names that family and society place upon us. This is the step where no anxiety and depression can ever exist for there is nothing out there in time or space that can affect you. You are limitless. Free.
And what you believe about yourself is what you believe about everyone else. When you see, or at least ask to see the spark of divinity, the Christ, in your brother, then you will see it in yourself. If you bind your brother in the chains of wrongdoings by seeing his imperfections in time, then you will be denying your freedom as you turn away from the Infinite, the place of salvation.
As the Course says, "Depression is isolation." Bodies are isolated. Spirit is united with All That Is.
Guilt because there is anxiety and depression?
If God knows His children to be wholly joyous, it is blashephemous to feel depressed.
Okay, you are not perfect, or so it seems. You have anxiety and/or depression, or you know people who suffer from those afflicted states of mind. Are you, or those others, a failure for experiencing the mind spin around with anxious thoughts, or from feeling so heavy and depressed? Of course not. Judgment and its byproduct guilt have no place in the Truth of who you are. The one who wants you to suffer with anxiety and depression is slinging shame at you. It is the ego, that thought that you are not perfect as you are, that you were born a sinner or imperfect.
Judgment, shame, guilt are perfect allies for anxiety and depression. Who is not going to be anxious about the future when you are deemed guilty, to be caught eventually by God the Judge and punished accordingly. If that shame of being forever guilty is not depressing I do not know what is.
When such moments come, when anxious thoughts fly about you or you feel down in the dumps, they are simply passing moments. Say to yourself: "This too shall pass. I am forever perfect in God. I AM." Breathe deeply. And repeat that affirmation to counter what the ego says. You can also practice self meditation to keep you focused on the Present.
Remember that guilt, shame, judgment, anxiety and depression have nothing to do with who you really are, only to who you think you are.
What can you do to help your anxiety or depression?
For me what has helped are some of the following:
Exercise--Get that energy moving. Great for the mind and the body. Walking, jogging, going to the gym. Do exercise that are meditation in movement, thus killing two birds with one stone.
Walking in nature--Walking is great for exercise and getting the energy moving, yet walking in nature adds the bonus of achieving serenity. The beauty and quiet of nature is very healing.
Healthy eating and in moderation--If I eat real heavy food I feel weighed down. Sugar can provide an immediate high but there is a cost to pay later as it saps the energy. What goes up must come down.
Avoid alcohol and drugs--They are the same as sugar; they can provide an immediate boost to one's mood but there will be the come down. When I drank and suffered from depression I was one moody drunk. Not a good combination.
Community service or helping out others--Not only is it good for developing a sense of well-being, but studies show that it is good for your bodily health as well. As you give so your receive.
Good company to feel inspired--Hang out with positive people. Keep good boundaries from those who would sap your energy with their perpetual neediness and negative outlook. Also spend time reading inspirational writings and watching inspirational movies.
Counsel--Find someone to talk to who can really lesson. A friend, clergy, a therapist. Women usually do not have a problem with sharing; however, men tend to keep their issues inside, which is not healthy.
Work with the mind--Reprogram and simplify your mind. Train it as dog with such things as meditation, affirmations, guided imagery, and all such things you can discover on this site.
Remember--you are an amazing being and can do anything you put your mind to.
And with all advice on this site, if you are going through medical treatments, physical or mental, consult your care provider before changing your regimens.
And if you are feeling suicidal, please call a suicide hotline. You are very important and you have a life to live and to share with others. You are truly loved, no matter what the voices inside your head may be saying. You are Love, in fact. There is nowhere to run. You are here and can never get there.
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