Understanding Depression: A Letter to a Friend

Melancholy (1891) by Edward Munch

As you are well aware from all of your reading and experience with eastern teachings, we are not any thought. Rather, we are like light that shines on everything alike. However, this shining becomes obscured through its replacement by thoughts regarding our personal identity.

Thus, we are born as this light. However, shortly after birth, often in the very first days of our life, we experience a separation trauma. The effects of this trauma are extensively documented within modern anthropological observation and you can read about this documentation first-hand in Morris Berman’s outstanding book Wandering God (http://goo.gl/L89W).

While a very young baby cannot speak, he can feel and the feeling he will experience will be one with of intense, uncontrollable pain, as an inevitable result of his separation trauma. At first, the pain is incidental to the separation, but over time it becomes more constant and then generalized. With the development of language it assumes form as one of several different thoughts. They fall into such categories as I am inadequate/unlovable/insufficient. How we personally experience our inadequacy (unlovability, etc) becomes increasingly specific over time. So, it might take the form of “I am not good looking enough to be liked”, or “I am not smart enough” or “I am a slob” – it really can take any negative form – but the generalized underlying pain and suffering remains.

So the psychological self adapts to the pain by creating compensating selves. I call these selves “fear-selves” in my book, Liberation from the Lie. They are designed to negate the underlying identity. So, if you have the belief that I am ugly, you might becoming compulsively addicted to working out, cosmetics, etc. If the belief assume the form of stupidity or irrelevance, it will assume the form of becoming an expert/someone who needs to be heard. It often assumes the form of becoming “holy” and superior to those others who are consumed by the material (inferior) world. Because the main purpose of the Fear-Self is to obtain love and appreciation, it often takes the form of the persistent pleaser. It can take as many forms as there are underlying self-hating ideations.

Secondly, the underlying self-hating ideations mirror the very invalidation that we experienced so vividly in our primal separation trauma, as well as the countless experiences of hearing, first-hand how stupid and annoying we were from our otherwise, well intended parents. We learn that love is not a birth-right, instead it is earned. So we adopt behavioral modes craftily designed to obtain brownie points and the admiration of significant others. Most people live the whole of their lives this way. Often when we desperately seek to please those whose love we need the most, and when that love and appreciation is not returned in a way we want or expect, our love can turn to contempt and even hate.

Depression occurs anytime the over-lying fear-selves experience failure. Failure causes their facade to crumble and the moment that happens, we are pushed face-to-face with the fear-selves underlying construct, i.e., I am unlovable/inadequate/insufficient. I call this underlying “KING” belief, the Wound. The Wound is our principle governing principle operating in our psychological universe. So when a fear-self experiences its inevitable failure in the real world, we are thrust back into our primal world, in direct contact with our Wound. And this is extremely painful. This is the very source of suffering that drives all of our “positive” love seeking ambitions. It’s like a yo-yo where the Fear-Selves are like the spinning wheel, but the governing hand and arm are the Wound. We also realize that the Fear-Selves are inverse representations of their source Wound. In other words, it’s the self-negating belief that always wins in the long run. We have much more belief in our inadequacy that in any opposing and compensating form our psychological self may assume.

Only a fear-self would compulsively seek a “solution” to this dilemma. The search for a solution reifies the reality and truth of the underlying self-hating belief. So the search for a formula that will make it all better merely sustains the process. The ego hates hearing that, but such is life.

So the process I discuss and advocate in my book recommends that we explore an accomodation with the Wound. Instead of fleeing it in sophisticated and subtle ways via a Fear-Self, we take the brave act to just turn around and take a very careful look at the source of our suffering. I think it might be helpful to have a friend or therapist help with this part of the journey. We really need to get to know this King belief which enslaves the personality in all of its forms. We must re-visit the time and place where we first made sure agreement with our invalidators and gave birth to this vast pool of suffering which has directed our psychological lives ever since. By loving our Wound, we begin to Love our invalidated childhood self. We are acting to REVERSE the underlying process of invalidation. This is direct healing.

We also get to understand that the way we suffer as an individual, is the way everyone suffers, so we know that we are never alone with our suffering, although it might feel that way. This forms the basis for authentic compassion with everyone else and everything in our world. We begin to really appreciate this Wound and the desperate and compulsive life of fleeing it by doing ever more elaborate and sophisticated coping strategies can finally come to an end.

There is more to it than this, but that’s why I wrote the book. I hope this was helpful. This is not a simple topic and I have summarized a lot of complexity into a handful of paragraphs. If you are dealing with persistent unhappiness or depression in your life, then I really urge to take a detailed look at my book. I think you will find a new way to deal with this often overwhelming challenge. I also hope that you don’t read these words as just crass marketing on my part. I make almost no income on my book. I wrote it out of love.

I wish you the very best.


Tomorrow I’m going to talk about a pretty subtle part of this problem. Stay tuned.


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  1. Healing Depression: Discovering the Subtle Healing Energy of the Wound « Liberation from the Lie

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