I’ve been expanding on specific aspects of the seven stages of depression, as originally dreamed up by James S. Gordon in his book Unstuck…
Thus far, we’ve covered:
Stage 1 - The Call
Stage 2 - Guides on the Journey
Stage 3 - Surrendering
Now, I want to talk about the 4th and 5th stages, where the deep dark work of moving through the sludge and staring into the groove really happens. Working through these steps clears the path so that we can find our way out.
DEALING WITH DEMONS
This stage is easy to sidestep, as it requires significant labor. It’s important to understand that, although we’ve come to associate the word demon with negativity or evil, it’s actually not so. A demon is a significant learning tool — a guide. It arises from the Greek word daimon, which is more about activity than demonology. Daimon refers to a force that can drive humans forward or act against them.
The above is definition is actually quite hopeful. When we take the negative charge out of what we perceive to be "bad" qualities, emotions, or actions — we start to see that it’s all simply energy — and it’s not innately for us or against us. It’s a learning tool. Easier said than done, I know.
Creating a dialogue with the symptom or problem can be incredibly revealing and helpful. This is reminiscent of some of the shadow work I’m doing in Lacy Phillips’ UNBLOCKED class, which has been wonderful and intense. James Gordon recommends a simple dialogue with a symptom or problem. Perhaps begin with the question “What are you doing here?” And see how the conversation unfolds from there.
THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
You’ve likely heard this term before. I know it's a classic, but the phrase itself sort of irritates me, so I am working on coming up with new language for this phenomenon. But for now, let's go with it. This dark night can refer to a hopelessness, deep depression, a feeling of despair and an I'm-at-the-end-of-my-rope fraying. It’s not an end, though. It can be harnessed as a super powerful turning point. Oftentimes, we emerge from a dark night (which can last a day, a week, a month, years…) with a lightness, a newness, and a power. Any shift in consciousness can bring this new sort of awareness. I want to emphasize that we can go through any number of dark nights in a lifetime. Those who know me, know that I have epilepsy and have had many grand mal seizures, wherein I lose consciousness completely. I liken the consciousness shift that a dark night brings to waking up from a seizure. The lights go on in my brain suddenly. I’m quite wobbly. And perhaps afraid. But, I see things anew. It’s a reset. A kind of gift. So, how to actually make it through a dark night?
Feel the feels! Don’t run. Action is sometimes very important to breaking patterns. However, it’s equally imperative to allow the darkness to seep in, to confront it, to move through it fully. I have found that this isn’t necessarily a time for analysis or critical thinking. That can come afterwards, after you’ve emerged. I’ll give a concrete example. A few months ago, I went through a very dark time. Have you ever seen the movie Melancholia? It was like a Kirsten Dunst vibe — like I was moving through sludge and gravity was pulling me way down. There wasn’t a clear “reason” for the sadness, and there does not have to be. I spent the first few days not only feeling terrible, but also feeling terrible because I wasn’t being productive, wasn’t acting the way that are told we should act in the world. Then, I stopped beating myself up and just allowed myself to be in the sadness, the sludge. I emerged a few weeks later with a new energy, the idea for Plain Alchemy, and a lightness and determination. This isn’t to say that I won’t have any more dark times. These cycles happen. And I really believe that even though it might not feel like we are doing work during these dark nights — the work is working us. We are trudging up data from deep inside that needs to surface — creating a kind of template for the people we need to become. A groundwork.
An apt album for this work, and kind of a classic, in my opinion.
NEXT UP: SPIRITUALITY + THE RETURN
(Image: film still from Melancholia)