Darkness is so often thought of in negative terms, but there are different ways to think about the dark and the times when darkness settles in. It is a time of transition, a special time. An opportunity to find something new. A time where we can open ourselves to new information or new experiences that are otherwise impossible.
Instead of cursing the dark, we can light a candle. This shift of focus to the act of lighting a candle feels much different than the futile effort of wishing there was no night to interrupt the days. Have you noticed how far the light of a tiny candle can reach? In the long dark nights, the light from a single candle can serve as a guide for others far away. From this new perspective, new meaning and purpose can arise.
Pema Chodron in her book When Things Fall Apart calls the off-center, in-between state an ideal situation “in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.” She explains that things are always in transition, but we struggle to realize that. “Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about it.”
1. Thinking outside the box that depression has created.
Neuroscience has shown that anyone with an intense emotional interest in a subject loses the ability to observe it objectively. It is a systematic source of errors. When a problem is too close, we often lack perspective and selectively perceive events. We ignore data and facts that disagree with our main philosophy, whatever that philosophy may be. In this way, we can be stuck in our thinking and sabotage our own best intentions.
2. Depression viewed as a result of not expressing one’s self. Depression can make sense.
Alfred Adler, one of the founding fathers of psychology, said: “A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt as dangerous.” Similarly, in a social environment where the expression of one’s self is perceived as neither possible nor beneficial, we are tempted to repress, change, or hide who we are. If we are not expressing ourselves, or living our “truth”, depression is a natural outcome. It makes sense.
3. Depression viewed as a habit of thought.
Richard Carlson in his book, You Can Feel Good Again, suggests that our thought processes are often what hold unhappiness in place. Unhappiness can be a habit. Carlson suggests taking notice of your thoughts when you’re feeling down. You will probably find yourself removed from the present moment or “somewhere else”. Creating a new habit of bringing your attention back to the present moment can help you to feel less hurried. As you retrain yourself to be more open to options and opportunities in the present moment, you form a more peaceful and accepting state of mind.
Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, said “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” We can change ourselves in a variety of ways. One of these ways it to shift perspective. In shifting perspective, we let ourselves be open to the present and the options, opportunities, and lessons to be found in the here and now. This allows our attitude and thought patterns to shift from one focused on problems to one that is accepting of self and others. A present, peaceful state of mind and/or being. This is a shift that allows us to be open to change without losing sight of self or personal truth.
Tomorrow is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. As we head into the long night, reflect on your own darkness and light. How can you change yourself while still honoring who you are? Light a candle for yourself and let its light give you new purpose, meaning, and perspective.
The greatest discovery of our generation is that by changing your thinking, you can change your life. –William James