Lessons from Light Shining Through Depression

Co-authored by Jan Jennings & Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

We are living in a civilization where it has become commonplace to pass pain around. We cannot forget that human sacrifice has occurred before in our earlier history. In “passing pain around and onto each other” anyone can be vulnerable as they struggle to live.

Give Your Best When You’re Feeling Your Worst.
Pem Chodron

The foundation of all mental illness is the avoidance of legitimate suffering.
Carl Gustav Jung

Words Go into the body. So they cause us to be well and hopeful and happy and high-energy and wonderous and funny and cheerful. Or they can cause us to be depressed. They get into the body and cause us to be sullen and sour and depressed and finally sick.
Maya Angelou

Matters of the heart are the most important matters, and the most difficult to decipher. The new science of emotion has expanded our self-­knowledge. We now know that emotion is profoundly integrated into the neural circuits of our brains, inseparable from our circuits for “rational” thought. We could live without the ability to reason, but we would be completely dysfunctional if we couldn’t feel. Emotion is a part of the mental machinery we share with all higher animals, but even more than rationality its role in our behavior is what sets us apart from them.
Leonard David Mlodinow

Chatter is the expression of clutter in a disquieted mind.
Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

The deeper the consciousness, the deeper the courage. The deeper the consciousness, the deeper the compassion.
Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

In the gift of life we are given a full continuum of experiences that range from turmoil to quietude. In quiet solace, reflecting on all experiences, we may learn about our true self, the healer within, our truly loving spirit.
Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

Depression is a sign that things are not healthy in the mind, but you cannot merely replace it by frantically by keeping busy or ignoring your mind affecting your body. You can look at all the illusions and misperceptions in the mind through meditation and contemplation and then let go of them to make new space for Light to re-place the spaces they used to occupy in your mind and body.
Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

Maturity is a series of shattered illusions.
Levar Burton

This sketch illustrates depression, a quiet fear. The fear is an unspoken, unconscious fear of Self. It is a time of paralysis where there is no emotion or any real movement or growth. It is a time of mind-numbing sameness, routine, and the stubborn refusal to face one’s Self. Depression is a refusal to turn around, face the light and begin the slow ascent up the stairs.

Today, we sacrifice each other in disguised form as people needlessly suffer when their economic well being is depressed and in the variety of ways, we justify making anyone a scapegoat in twisting the meaning of Darwin’s understanding of “survival of the fittest.” There is nothing fit or sane in those who generate helpless feelings as we witness bullying and disrespecting one another in our workplace, our schools, our neighbors, and our families. While terrorism may be the overt manifestation of the insanity of passing pain onto others, hidden terrorism continues in each of us when we use one another as containers for our pain and carelessly discard them. Everyone’s light is dimmed, and lessons are lost when we use our pain as the new weapon of mass destruction.

When we don’t deal with our own pain within, we more than likely pass it onto others. This, “passing of pain” creates a dampening of consciousness where waves of disempowerment and helplessness are learned.  It is not surprising that the consequences of using others as a container for our pain can be witnessed in the frequency of “depression” throughout our population.  While there are both biological tendencies and effects in depression, it is misleading to attribute the real origins of depression to these factors alone.  Any of us as human beings can easily slip into depression as we begin to feel helpless and trapped.  Often, unbeknownst to us we can become containers for massive clouds of disharmonious pain and despair that float unresolved and unprocessed that have been passed into the ethers.

None of us in our species can escape our lessons by passing what we do not wish to deal with in ourselves onto others.  In these desperate times of daily survival, the circular cycle of “passing around pain” has become vicious and most harmful to both the perpetrators and receivers.  Both participants enter darkened states of being in which the life lessons we came here to learn are squelched and postponed.  It has become commonplace for many to remain unconscious and automatic as they seek an externally defined prosperity that can exclude their own intrinsic sense of well-being.  This is a prelude to depression.  As we seek our sense of self in these ways, we give the appearance of living without living; we sacrifice our own peace of mind and disconnect from body and Spirit.

We are all interconnected.   Our entire species needlessly suffers whether we are the perpetrator passing pain on to everyone else or whether we are receptacle for that same pain.  Every one of us has been both the perpetrator and receiver of pain.  What has become a common defense against pain is to keep moving quickly, dodging our own and escaping everyone else who may be trying to pass his or her pain around.  When we live quickly without reflection, we avoid consciousness of what we are really doing to ourselves and to each other.  In haste we choose paths that lead nowhere as we postpone our understanding through over-stimulating activity, our jobs, and endless chatter in our minds.  All this is part of the ego using our left-brain’s defensive style to keep us running from our real feelings and finding out whom we really are.

Our society not only gives permission to all these avoidance and escapism behaviors but rewards them as well.  It is labeled, “being productive” and when this excludes our sense of well-being, it is destructive.  The loss of harmony can become so intense that we can attempt to disconnect from our right brain and our feeling brain (limbic brain) that offer balancing perspectives in their style of knowing who we are wordlessly, quietly, and internally.  Our mental and physical health suffers.  We begin to lose whole brain awareness and we forget what we intrinsically know:  we are spiritual beings here to learn from one another as we have this sometimes intense, mind/body experience.

Depression replaced by Meditation.

Being a workaholic and being depressed are the same manifestations of the egos contriving to avoid facing pain.  They are both interactively inverted attempts by the mind, controlled by ego, to flee from the cascades of painful emotions we all may have in response to daily living.  Here the ego engages the left-brain defensive style.  The workaholic defense uses the left-brain’s natural proclivity towards tasks, actions and stimulation and orients itself by oscillating between past and future outcomes.  It focuses on the past learning as it continually attempts to predict the future, so there can be no perception of things ever changing, moment-to-moment.  There is nothing new to discover from life’s lessons in this kind of orientation and because of this, further down the road, depression is lurking.  In this ego-led, left-brain dominated perception, contentment is perceived as coming only from routine repetitive tasks.  All energy goes to a maladaptive keeping everything in life constant.  The workaholic defensive style does this in its attempt to maintain control when things are perceived as going out of control, and these days, there is much to perceive around us as going out of control.

Since emotions may be understood and observed, but not controlled, the left-brain under the influence of the ego, has no use for them and defends against and suppresses them.  In the workaholic style of defense, the full expression of the range of emotions are ignored by filling life up with vigorous task-oriented actions and daily over-stimulation.  The balance of focusing on present moments is lost as very linear thinking dominates thought processes.  Thinking focuses narrowly on recalling past outcomes to predict future ones in an attempt to create the illusions of constancy and control.  Holistic multi-dimensional views are lost, as the left-brain attempts to suppress them from right brain and limbic (emotional) brain processes, by fervently attending to external accomplishments and acceptance by outside world.  Pain is easily passed onto others in this “I’m so very busy” disintegrated state of mind where endless accomplishing of tasks become more important than feelings or simply being. This whole process is the prelude to the pending approach of depression.

Depression is the other side of the ego passing pain around.  It is a new level of defense that often follows from the workaholic defense failing.  It is a transverse process that “passes the pain around” within but without ever really processing it.  Therefore, depression is not “a feeling;” depression is: “not feeling.”  As the misguided workaholic external expression of imbalanced yang behavior begins inverting on itself, meaningful outer action is immobilized and turned inward in negative thought processes towards oneself and reflecting on the outside world.  Imbalanced yang previously expressed outwardly in workaholic behaviors and passing pain around now congests in a uncompassionate self-torture rather than other-torture. This deeply clouds consciousness just as being a workaholic does.  In the Light of understanding, being a workaholic and being depressed are the same, topsy-turvy inversions of each other.

Depression as a new line of defense, similarly, engages the left-brain’s natural proclivity towards ignoring the right brain’s sense of body, internal sense of self, and intrinsic understandings of life offered in the present moment.  It dwells upon past negative experiences and predicts the same about the future ones.  Depression is a trapped state of mind where we are snagged by focusing narrowly on the negativity of the past, and pseudo-predicting that we will not escape the negativity in the future.  This repetitive oscillation in thought between the past and future allows for depression to be maintained (continued). This stops any healing thoughts or sense of well-being and eventually immobilizes any healing activity in the body and mind. The numbing of expressions of feelings dampens the immune system, the body’s healthy natural defense.  All healthy action and mobility is also numbed.  The left-brain led by the ego in relentless defense vetoes all feelings that are trying to surface clouding them and keeping them from consciousness.  Much energy is expended and exhausted as all processing of emotions are pushed down-under (down deeply) in our limbic emotional brain.  Here they congest into a confused conflagration that the left-brain quickly concludes is hopelessly unmanageable.

Even in this depressed state, healthier states of mind and body periodically make their attempt to release all the squelched and suppressed feelings.  When such moments occur, we are at juncture of whether we decide for good mental health or depression.  Because many of the emotions have been suppressed for some time (days, months, years, decades) the first ones to surface may be perceived as distasteful, crude and out of control.  This is an impasse moment.  We can embrace these feelings if we allow them to again flow with courage, compassion, and whole brain understanding (with fuller) that includes fuller right and limbic brain consciousness.  We can compassionately recognize our left brain‘s defensively so fixed as it tries to block the cacophony of what it erroneously views-brain as crass unnecessary feelings beginning to emerge.  If we ignore the opportunity to allow the feelings to surface and heal, we again “pass, on our pain” in processing them.  We remain depressed.

Jan Jennings, artist

The feelings that are pushing to the surface, despite depression attempt to squash them, are sacred impasse moments.  They may be judged by our left-brain as quite ugly.  The feelings themselves may be unprocessed rage, despair, helplessness, fear, grievous sorrow etc.  If we don’t pause in moments of embracing and healing each of them, the opportunity to have expression of the full range of the complements of these feelings, confidence, hope, courage, internal sense of self-worth and empowerment, joy etc. is also lost.  When we don’t stay with each of the feelings, the processing of our underlying pain is once again postponed.  We go unconscious again and continue hurting ourselves inside and those outside around us, as they may suffer in seeing us suffer.  Those around us may also suffer by learning again to ignore our suffering and their own.  We are connected to one another collectively no matter how hard we try to ignore this.

Once again, the vicious cycle of “passing the pain around” perpetrated by the ego is repeated using all the left-brain defenses, taxing the health of mind/body and ignoring Spirit.  Many in desperation may look for a very linear quick fix to the whole process.  These are readily available by simply having an anti-depressant without therapy.  They return then to the illusion of “functioning” as a workaholic.  Society is quick to reward us for being a well-controlled productive automaton.  In this uncaring space we can (continue to)be earning a living without living.

For those of us who follow our Spirit’s lead in true evolution and understanding of who we are, another path is taken.  This path breaks the workaholic/depression cycle and leads to an understanding that there are no negative feelings because every feeling has its (transformational) lessons as well as its rich complement.  When we experience and understand fear, we can experience and understand courage.  As we process our rage and feelings of helplessness, our confidence and strength also emerges.  When we embrace and understand grievous sadness, we can embrace and understand the fullness of joy.  In connection to our Spirit, we can understand that the feelings, which have been put on hold the longest, will express themselves first as the cellular and systemic wisdom of our limbic emotional brain prioritizes its sequence of release of feelings for healing.   We can compassionately observe our process of release, rather than control it.  This may shift our understanding of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” to “survival of the sanests.”  Sanity is literally defined  by Webster’s dictionary as “able to anticipate and appraise the effects of one’s actions leading to sound mind and health in the body.” We may accept the courage that our Creator offers our Spirit as our Spirit supports our minds and bodies in the healthy release of emotions.  When we embrace a so called “negative feeling” long enough, transformation does take place and its compliment emerges.   Since not all of us are trapped by negative thoughts and feelings at once, those freer from the habit can encourage us as well in making the needed changes.  We can know the entrapping patterns that are recapitulated when our family and friends, fellow workers, and society tolerate only a narrow band of the full spectrum of feelings that are part of all of us. We can recognize that tolerating only a limited range of feelings reflects inter-generational patterns that were once expressed in blatant human sacrifice.  We can dissolve terrorism from within, when we process our own pain and cease passing it around to others.

With the healing guidance of our Spirits and courage and we can seek those among us who offer enlightened support for the release of our collective cascades of our unprocessed human emotion.  We do not need to remain depressed or regress to the pseudo function of a workaholic state.  As we stay with the unprocessed emotion and embrace the feelings long enough, they do transform and dissolve into the deepest understanding and compassion that would not be possible without them. As we recognize and observe that we can shift out of the clouds and darkness of such depressed states, we learn so much about light, compassion, and healing in ourselves that we may then extend that to others.

We do not have to continue in the common dis-ease of previous Millennia, the habitual avoidance of exploring and understanding the full range of human feelings and destructive passing on of pain to one another.  In this arena we may learn from Chinese Medicine.  We need both yin and yang in balance for balanced living.  When our left brains run wild with excessive imbalanced yang, which is really weak yang, we lose the accompaniment of our yin.  Yin is expressed in the balanced harmony that comes from our right brain style of silent knowing and the full spectrum of color added by the full range our limbic brain emotions.  Yin’s necessary balance suffers, as does Yang’s as the life we are living continues out of balance.  Imbalanced excessive yang transverses (inverts) and goes topsy turvy as expressed in excessive workaholic actions and excessive inaction, depression. We need all of our yang and its expression through our left-brain and all of our yin and its expression through our right and limbic brain for balanced living.  In Chinese Medicine you do not balance weak out of control yang by adding more yang but by strengthening yin and then yang returns to more balance and strength.  Simply stated, whether being a workaholic or being depressed traps us, we need to strengthen yin through right brain and emotional process.  We do this by compassionately embracing ourselves and shifting our focus back to continually balanced present moments in our body, mind and spirit.

In a struggling and growing global community, we cannot make one culture in our species superior and suppress or inhibit any other culture in their style of evolution.  This leads cultures into helplessness and depression.  Diversity is our strength and when we attempt to annihilate it, we continue with the remnants of human sacrifice left over in our history. When we sacrifice our own or anyone else’s humanity, we are passing pain and our whole species suffers.

As we climb the stairs in our evolution of both individual and collective consciousness, we must do so with balance.  We all will have times when we are caught in negative thought processes.  Others can remind us in their moments of being free from such thoughts that we can again be free from what has become habit in our species.  We each are responsible for balancing our own steps in our evolution as much as we can and have hands reaching out to each other as we mutually balance one another in our journey.  We can remember that every one of us is in the stairwell, taking our own steps in the evolutionary climb of our species.

As Super String Theory suggests overlaps of dimensions within dimensions, so to there are steps within the steps throughout our stairwell strings.  The appearance of higher-level flights of stairs is only an optical delusion.  When those who think they have greater vision competitively look down on those below them on the stairs, this too is a deceptive delusion and perversion that leads to unnecessary pain and depression for both.  We are all in this expansive evolutionary outgrowth together.  The invitation to return to the Light from the deepest darkness is always there.  Even if we have been imprisoned by numbing states of workaholic or depressed consciousness for a while, we can also know that we become sensitized in these dark states so that we can clearly see the pinpoints of Light in the distance, the distance we have created for ourselves.  Light and compassion are the same, both inside and outside us.

When we start to feel superior to others in doing the talk, not the walk in consciousness, we can remind ourselves that those who may appear to us to be at the bottom steps, as well as those resting on the many landings are all held with the balancing love of our Creator as much as those claiming better vision by their mere juxtaposition on the upper stairs.  We are to assist each other, balancing one another on the steps during our evolutionary climb.  True compassionate vision anywhere on the stairs as we look at “one” “another” requires the greatest humility, courage and virtue offered by the Creator.  As we accept the invitation within, then we may participate in a sane wellness in our service to both others and ourselves.  They are the same.   In these wordless understandings, we are all to be instruments bringing Divine illumination throughout the entire stair well.

Thoughts are energy and attention sends energy to aid the body’s healing process. So too is that true with psychological pain. When we can get past the immediate impulse to deny it, to run away, blame someone, or sugarcoat it with positive platitudes, then we can allow ourselves to feel the pain which is actually healing. The mere act of feeling the pain is sending energy for healing. We can then open ourselves to the inner lessons, so passion, and understanding that come from deep within our self; to see the big picture from an elevated perspective. If you deny what is happening, if you run away from it, it festers and becomes infected. It grows in the dark and controls us in ways we don’t realize because we don’t want to look at it.
Jan Jennings

“Why Knot”, a satiric play by Jan Jennings, artist

Negative thinking narrows thoughts that can manifest in habitual self-destructive behaviors. This may be thought of as “karma”, that we pattern within our daily lives and occurs when we simply do not realize what we are doing to ourselves.
Dr. Darryl Luke Pokea

Jan Jennings, artist

Listen to “Think Fit: The Power of Your Mind”:

Additional Reading:

“The Surprising Science of How Feelings Help You Think”

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