I am writing this post today to honor my dear friend Sara who has committed herself to bringing more awareness to mental illnesses and the stigma associated with them. Both Sara and myself, like so many others, have intimate, first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to experience depression, as well as the experience of losing someone to the disease. Both my friend Tiffany Zurcher and Sara’s cousin Ami Breese took their own lives in the midst of their depression, and so I write this to honor their memories as well.
In an earlier post, Sara explained how the stigma of mental illness can often lead those experiencing these feelings to deny them publicly and privately, leading to an intensification of the feelings. I want to expand on that point and provide an opportunity for anyone experiencing feelings of depression to honor the message in the emotion, and provide them with some tools to move forward.
First, we must acknowledge the wisdom of own bodies. This is often a difficult first step, particularly for women, who have been taught to wage war against a body that is never perfect enough. But you are, and you always have been. Remember this.
What We Resist, Persists
Once we acknowledge the wisdom of our bodies, we begin to notice the near constant messages our bodies are sending us. Not to be confused with the near constant chatter from our brains, the messages our bodies send us come in the form of sensations, feelings and emotions. When feelings of depression first arise, this is our bodies sending us a message. If we attempt to resist or deny these feelings, we don’t receive the message our body is sending us. We can’t move forward and the feelings intensify until we are forced to do something with the information. For those suffering from depression, this often means physical illness, and can lead to suicidal urges. Often, depression itself is an intensification of other “outlawed” emotions such as anger, fear, or sadness that were resisted earlier on.
The Message Behind The Emotion
The alternative to this is to honor ourselves and our experience by allowing ourselves to fully embrace our emotions as they arise. This is not always easy and rarely comfortable. It might be messy and it might be hard. But it is always beautiful. It is what Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery would refer to a BRUTIFUL. Keep in mind that if the message was easy to accept, your body would never have to resort to such measures to get you to listen. It’s hard, but you can do hard things.
Once you receive the message behind the emotion, you are given the gift of freedom to explore what that might mean to you. Linda Kohanov, in her book The Power of The Herd, published the Emotional Message Chart. Below is an excerpt for the emotion of Depression.
MESSAGE: “Ingenious Stagnation”, “Stop sign of the soul”
QUESTIONS: What activities or relationships drain my energy most? What new direction gives me energy?
INTENSIFICATION: Loss of self, Loss of life’s purpose, Suicidal urge, Physical illness
The Stop Sign of the Soul
Depression is often viewed as resignation, abandonment, and loss of all energy. To those suffering from it, it feels this way too. But if we can view it more as the “stop sign of the soul”, we can begin to see the tremendous amount of untapped energy this emotion actually contains. It is a calling for you to return to your authentic life. While some cases of depression are caused by a chemical imbalance or hormonal changes and may require adjustments to your diet or even medications to return your body to a baseline state, depression can also be caused by a deeply rooted, almost sub-conscious, objection to a major life decision. It is not sub-conscious of course, it has just been pushed away for so long, it may feel this way.
Accessing The Wisdom of the Body
I keep a copy of the full Emotional Message Chart in the barn. It is used it here, more than anywhere else. This is because being in the presence of the horses makes it easier for our thinking minds to access and acknowledge the wisdom of our feeling bodies. Horses live as acoustic beings, constantly assimilating energetic information from their own bodies, those of their herd members, and their environment. This allows them to be fully present and offer us this deep, non-judgmental presence as we share their energetic space. It is this shared energy that creates the sacred space we need to explore our own emotions and discover our own truth. As I allow my horses to hold space for my clients, we as a seamless team, are able to support our client’s journey into the unfolding of their own truth. It is a sometimes brutiful, but always beautiful, process of hope and healing.
But you don’t need to be on such sacred territory to access the depth of wisdom that lies within you! To learn more about welcoming emotions as messengers of the soul, join us on a FREE 5 week eCourse as we uncover the truth about emotions and discover new ways of seeing them as our wisest guides rather than our worst enemy. Feeling Your Way to the Light: Accessing Our Body’s Wisdom to Illuminate our True Path