Posts tagged ‘Soul’

Dark Nights of the Soul: Spiritual Transformation or Clinical Depression? Part 2 ll By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

Dark Nights of the Soul: Spiritual Transformation or Clinical Depression? Part 2
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

As I said in my last blog, dark nights of the soul result from the pressures building under the oceanic tectonic plates of our unconscious worldview, readying to propel a tsunami that will forever rearrange our surface lives.

But before we proceed further, more definitions are in order, including spiritual transformation, soul from a religious perspective, clinical depression or Major Depressive Disorder, and sadness.

In an earlier blog I discussed spiritual , and basically it’s what brings meaning to our lives, usually through our sacred practices, disciplines, and rituals. Dark nights of the soul occur when that meaning fails us.

Our psyche is pushing for an upgrade to our operating system

We then work harder at our sacred disciplines, blaming ourselves for the fact that what used to bring us a measure of peace doesn’t anymore. Advice from well-meaning people increases the pain: “You must not be mediating right or long enough. You need a retreat.” Or “Well, God doesn’t change, so it must be you. What are you doing wrong?” And more.

What’s happened is that we’ve outgrown our world picture, our worldview—it’s not working anymore. AND THAT’S OKAY. Our psyche is pushing for an upgrade, time to update that old operating system or maybe jettison it in its entirety. Crudely summarizing John of the Cross’ reasons for a dark night: we have incomplete and inadequate ideas about ourselves and/or God—however we define Ultimate Reality. The box we’ve put ourselves in can’t contain us anymore, and it’s not meant to.

This upgrade comes in the form of spiritual transformation, which will leave us with a greater sense of who we are and our purpose in this world. Perhaps our outdated meaning was passed onto us by our parents, our teachers, or our culture. We’ve never consciously made it our own, but unconsciously let it rule our lives. And when it’s time for these unconsciously appropriated beliefs to shift, along comes those dark nights.

It’s time to examine our motives and the foundation of our values, ideas, and belief systems. These drive our actions and determine what’s still serving us.

That’s what being an adult means. We take responsibility for our lives and the choices we make. We are not under the control of unexamined beliefs and values anymore. We may decide to return to those, but we will do so consciously. Our psyche refuses to stay an adolescent.

Linking soul with genuineness and one’s true nature

I defined soul in my last blog from a Jungian perspective. What follows are from major world religions. Keep in mind these are basic definitions—and subject to controversy by various schools of thought and accredited meaning inherent in each spiritual tradition.

• Hindu: Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul. In Hindu philosophy Ātman is the first principle, the true or real self or essence of an individual (Wikipedia).

Buddhism subscribes to an Anatta doctrine, translated variously: No-soul, No-self, egolessness, and soullessness. The Buddha regarded soul-speculation as useless and illusory (Wikipedia).

Judaism: From the Hebrew scriptures, Genesis 2:7: God did not make a body and put soul into it, like putting shoes in a box, but God formed the body from dust and then by breathing divine life into it (nepesh, or breath), the body of dust became alive, it became a living being. Nepesh refers to the principle of life in any living organism, just like any other living creature. A tree does tree things; an elephant does elephant things. A doctrine of an immortal soul in Judaism developed later through the interaction of the Greek philosophies of the separation of soul and body (1).

•The Christian scriptures use the Greek word (psūchê), or psyche, for soul, translating the Hebrew word nepesh for the Greek. It kept the original meaning, however, of nepesh, or breath, or of a living, breathing, conscious being, which initially did not have an intent of an immortal soul. Later, the Biblical Patristic writers would adopt the Greek interpretation for soul as a separate, immortal entity (2).

Islam uses the Arabic word which includes several definitions, one of which is a person’s essential, immortal self (Wikipedia).

And it’s not necessarily either/or

Clinical depression is the layman’s term for Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), its symptoms laid out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (see Note 3, with the symptoms included at the end of this blog under Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria). An MDD diagnosis for a mental health professional centers around determining for how long, and to what degree, these symptoms persist in an individual’s life and whether or not he/she still finds joy in everyday life. Can the sufferer still enjoy a good book? A good movie? A night out on the town with friends? Hiking in the woods? How is the individual functioning in life’s daily routine?

And it’s not either/or—we’re not limited to a dark night OR a MDD—but it’s often and/but. Sometimes life throws many stressors at us at one time—death of a loved one, a job change, a divorce, a cross-country move—and pharmacological interventions can help us get over the hump. These same events often then act as dark nights when they strike “you at the core of your existence. It’s not just a feeling, but a rupture at the core of your very being, and it may take a long while to get to the other end of it” (4).

Sadness or depression?

Sadness intertwines itself with depression. How to discern what’s going on? Sadness is a normal emotion, usually triggered by external life events, such as the passing of a pet, the moving away of a friend, or loss of a job. But one can still find pleasures and joy in everyday life. And with time, it will go away.

Sadness in depression, however, needs no external trigger. But it isn’t just the degree of sadness, but the combination of factors in a MDD as noted above: how long, and to what degree, these symptoms persist in an individual’s life, whether or not he/she still finds joy in everyday life, and is the individual able to function in life’s daily routine (see Note 5 for a link for more details on sadness).

As oceanic tectonic plate shifts wound the ocean skin with its tearing apart, dark nights of our soul do the same. Author Jean Houston writes, “The wounding becomes sacred when we are willing to release our old stories and to become the vehicles through which the new story may emerge into time.”

More on this in my next blog. Meanwhile, honor your psyche by paying attention to the energies moving in your soul. Watch for when your true essence buried within you is seeking a passage  out to the light of day!

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Notes & Sources:

  1. 1. Atkinson, David. The Message of Genesis 1-11. Inter-Varsity Press. 1990. Pages 55-59.
  2. 2. Vine, W.E. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Volume IX, page 55. Fleming H. Revell Company. 1966.
  3. 3. American Psychiatric Association. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is the 2013 update to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). See also: https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/
  4. 4. The best resource I have found on determining if it’s a dark night of the soul or a clinical depression requiring the attention of a mental health professional is Thomas Moore’s book, Dark Nights of the Soul, A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals. Penguin Random House. 2004.
  5. 5. https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/

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Depression DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria: The DSM-5 outlines the following criterion to make a diagnosis of depression. The individual must be experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the symptoms should be either (1) depressed mood or (2) loss of interest or pleasure.

a. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.

b. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.

c. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

d. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).

e. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

f. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.

g. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

h. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The symptoms must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition. For more details, see https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/

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About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

Always Hungry ll By Erin Amundson

Always Hungry
Erin Amundson, MA, LPC

As we approach the end of year and once again settle into the darkness of night, I’m encouraged to share a poem I wrote several years back.  The essence of the poem rings true for me again today, in the way that cyclical aspects of our core growth journey always do.  I’ll let you take in the poetry first, and then invite you in for more to consider.  Enjoy.  The poem is called Always Hungry

Dark stillness calls; For you I lose sleep

At the worry and the wonder

Of where I might find you next.

We had such a promising love affair once

My cold and starved curiosity

Exploring the depths you hid from me

Child-like, the two of us.  Child-like and afraid.

Then the world pounced, rushed me from behind,

and flung me, face-first, into the sunlight on the concrete.

Yes, the world took a cheap shot; And I quickly forgot you

To save the pain of remembering; All the others.

Yes I forgot, I forgot 

But still you didn’t leave me

You’ve held me all these years

You’ve held me so long I no longer know

How badly I want to go.

and nothing has changed, nothing has changed but me.  I’ve aged.

Aged and not grown, not moved, not known.  A life lived in circles, so perfect,

so hurtful.  Disturbing and peaceful. 

I practice Jungian Psychotherapy professionally.  I like to refer to it more often as Depth Psychotherapy, because while Jung is one of my heroes in passing, not everyone associates his name with what he actually taught.

In addition to spreading this knowledge and these practices to my clients, I have a thriving practice of my own, in my own home.  I have no memory of writing this poem, but my writing is a part of my practice.  In reviewing it, it’s clear to my ego mind that the poem was a message from my psyche (or soul, or God, or the universe) about the subtle presence of a recurring relationship pattern that’s self-destructive for me. Something I can surely interrupt in favor of what my soul truly wants to experience in this life. Powerful.  Simple. Profound.

As I reflect on the message of this poem, I recognize that I’ve had self-destructive relationships with all kinds of people and substances and behaviors throughout my life. 

I feel like I am at the beginning of the end of engaging this self-sabotage in favor a life really lived.  And as this poem from the past showed itself to me again today, I wonder how many people in the world might relate to the urge to let go of outdated self-sabotage in favor of a fresh start. 

While we are all unique in what we’re called to, it occurred to me this week that some of you out there might benefit from my sharing of this work, in the hope of inspiring you toward a practice that works for you.

I will first say that your psyche (or soul, or God) communicates with you regularly, whether you’re picking up what it’s laying down or not. 

If you start the interaction, your psyche will gladly engage you and give you your own form of soul communication. 

This communication comes in the form of intuition, dreams, interactions with others, repeating themes (numbers, pictures, words) in the world, and perhaps most importantly, creativity.

Your psyche tells you a story – often like a cliff hanger television series – one episode at a time.  If you tune in regularly, you get the larger themes and deeper meaning of the story.  However, if you’re missing several episodes, it’s easy to get lost in the mundane territory of our ego thoughts, fears and desires.  

One of the most powerful ways I have found to tune into the psyche is through a creativity practice. 

This can take so many forms – some of which include art, music, writing, cooking, or even quieting your mind and taking in the creative works of another. This time of year is perfect timing to tune in and go deeper.  Soon enough, we’ll be encouraged once again by the longer days to be out in the world.  For now, allow the natural rhythm to invite you in. 

This holiday season, I would encourage you to engage with your creative self and bring the intention of opening a dialogue with your psyche to your practice. You don’t have to try hard, in fact it’s best if you don’t try at all, but rather, simply show up to the process of creativity with an intention and an open mind.  I would bet your psyche has been waiting to spend more quality time in deep conversation with you.  And when you break through into awareness, life becomes so much more rich, colorful and meaningful.  Mmmmm.  It’s goooood stuff.


 

Erin Amundson loves helping people reconnect to their natural technology by decoding the language of dreams.  She is a healer, a depth psychologist and an entrepreneur who specializes in teaching people how to identify and remove barriers to success and make friends with their subconscious mind.  As the creator and founder of Natural Dream Technology, Erin knows that hidden beneath the surface of your conscious mind is a uniquely talented visionary, and she wants the world to benefit from your contribution. 

After several fights with her own subconscious mind (and a re-occurring nightmare about skipping classes and failing), Erin finally surrendered and followed the wisdom of her natural technology to get a second graduate degree in Counseling at Regis University.  A life-long follower of dreams, Erin now began to learn the language of the subconscious as she slept.  Just as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg all experienced, Erin began to recognize in her dreams that her best work is to help you reclaim your connection to your own natural technology through dreams and the subconscious.  She has been teaching, facilitating and engaging in dream work with ambitious professionals ever since. 

Erin currently practices as a depth psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado and via the internet around the world.  In addition to her dream work, Erin is a certified past life regressionist, an intuitive astrologer and a lover of travel, snowboarding, deep conversations and cooking delicious food, all of which she enjoys practicing while she sleeps.

Drawing Strength from the Goddess Archetype: Part 1 of 2 – Monica Myers

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International Women’s Day, which has been celebrated around the world since the early 1900s, was this past Sunday. In honor of the occasion, I dedicate this reflection to the Goddess archetype and/or the divine feminine, which has provided hope, strength, identity, and inspiration to me personally on my journey.

Many would agree with me in arguing that our patriarchal culture in the west has relegated conscious femininity to a subservient position at best, and further limits it to the realm of women.

But, the divine feminine resides in all of us. To deny her is analogous to cutting off a limb.

Let me explain.

It is a myth that only females suffer under a patriarchy.  Suffering happens at a cultural level as well as an individual level for both women and men.  Our western culture’s over-identification with the masculine has led to a neurotic drive for power.  We see obvious manifestations of this today in civil and international wars and we also see it in a culture that emphasizes competition and materialism over family nurturing and community connection.  We see it in our dominance over other life forms and in the systematic destruction of the environment that sustains us.

Loss of community is pervasive today.  Marion Woodman, a Jungian analyst, relates the feminine to a loss of soul and consequently to a diminishing capacity for connection. According to Woodman, individuals who lack a concept and understanding of conscious femininity are “cut off from their connection to their own soul values…where the heart is no longer recognized.” 

Without a connection to soul, we can’t have meaningful connection to one another or compassion for the human condition and this “reverberates right through our culture.” 

Now, if I’ve thoroughly depressed you in considering this historical moment, you are not alone. I have depressed myself. I have struggled with the question: how do we deflect the nightmare of self-destruction and find hope today when the larger state of affairs often feels overwhelming and hopeless? For me, this is precisely where the image of the Goddess enters and works her healing magic. She helps me to dream life forward with love.

It’s no secret that images have enormous and often unconscious influence on us, as evidenced by the mass of visual media and advertising in our culture. Marion Woodman reminds us, “Through a physical image, metaphor reveals a spiritual truth or condition…” In this sense, the image of the Great Goddess has enormous power to heal and free our psyches.

Above all, the Goddess symbol embodies the remembrance and possibility of a beneficent universe and a reawakening of our hearts.  She helps me to imagine a universe full of abundance, the possibility of living in harmony with one another as brothers and sisters and in an intimate relationship with our life-sustaining planet. She has given me a dream, grounded in my long ago ancestors, of the opportunity to realize a deep communication with all of creation.

As Michael Meade states, “The real problem is a loss of faith in the dream of life and the immediacy of the spirit that animates the world.”

 

Stay tuned for part two of this blog, in which the specific qualities of the Goddess archetype are explored in greater detail.

 

Monica Myers, MPH, MA, LPCC is a teacher and therapist currently accepting new clients. She has offices in Boulder, Denver, and Golden. She invites your comments, questions, and responses at monimyers69@gmail.com or 720-378-6603.

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth