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Depression: Causes and How to Overcome It

Depression: Causes and How to Overcome It

“Depression is a kind of agony. If you have become agony and not ecstasy, it is because a large part of your life energy is happening compulsively, not consciously.”

—Sadhguru

Why You Get Depressed

Sadhguru: We need to understand what depression is. What happens within you when you feel low? Fundamentally, you expected something to happen and it did not happen. You expected someone or something to be your way, or the world or destiny to be your way, and it did not happen. In other words, you are simply against what is happening; that is all. Maybe you are against a person, a situation, or maybe you are against life itself. Accordingly, the depression will run deeper and deeper.

Why are you against something? Only because things did not go your way. Why should the whole world go your way? Please know, the world does not go your way. Either you have no faith in the Creator or you have no acceptance, or both, and you have a hyper-sensitive ego. That is why you get depressed.

What Happens When You Are Depressed

Depression makes you cynical and is deeply self-damaging. Depressed people only hurt themselves more. Killing need not necessarily mean physical killing. For a man who goes out with the sword and kills someone, his ego is not as sensitive – it does not need as much nurturing as a depressed man’s ego. The violent man can be very easily settled. Have you seen this on the streets? When people get into a fight, if there is one man with a little wisdom who just handles them right, those people, who are trying to kill each other one moment, will drop it and become friends and go off the next moment. But this is not so with the depressed person. He will carry this for life. Whether they do it consciously or not, these people go on sharpening their knife and cutting their own heart. Why will a person go on hurting himself? Generally it is to get sympathy. For a very depressed person, normal sympathy is not sufficient; someone should bleed with him.

Now what is there in you that can get hurt? If I beat your body with a stick, the body will get hurt; that is different. Otherwise, what is it that gets hurt within you? The mind and the inner nature cannot get hurt. It is only the ego that gets hurt. If you say “I want to grow,” it means trampling your ego and going ahead beyond this.

Using Depression to Grow

One can make any emotion into a creative force in their life. If your sadness reminds you that you are incomplete, it is good; make use of your sadness to grow. Do you want to make this sadness into anger or into love and compassion? It is very easy when you are sad, to become compassionate. It is already a dissolving kind of energy; you can use it for further dissolution which leads you to your ultimate wellbeing. But, when you get sad, if you are going to get irritable and angry, and think the whole world is wrong, you are a fool.

The unfortunate reality with people right now is that their humanity will function only when they are mauled by life. For most people, maturity will not happen without knowing sadness and pain. Otherwise they never understand what is happening with them and with anyone else around them.

In Yoga, depression is handled at the level of the body, mind and the energies. If the necessary balance and exuberance is brought about in the physical, mental and energy bodies, being blissful is very natural. In a blissful being, depression can never exist. 

Q: Sadhguru, you say that being blissful is natural, but isn’t depression also a natural emotion within a human being?

Sadhguru: Once you declare that depression is a natural process, there is no way out. When you were a child, being joyful was natural to you, not being depressed. Do not declare that depression is natural. Depression means you are unable to maintain the exuberance of life in you. It happens even in your body. If you are depressed, even the physical body flops. Life within you is not exuberant – it has just gone down and lost its exuberance because you are not doing the right thing with it. You are imposing too much outside nonsense upon the inside. You have not done anything to keep your life energies high.

The Source of Depression

Depression is a kind of agony. If you have become agony and not ecstasy, it is because a large part of your life energy is happening compulsively, not consciously. It is happening as a reaction to external situations. Once you are happening compulsively, becoming depressed is very normal, because external situations are never a hundred percent in your control. There are so many things happening in the world; if you react compulsively, getting lost and becoming miserable is natural. The more exposed you are to life, the more miserable you will become.

People can cause depression in their mood in so many ways. If you take away what they think is precious, they become depressed. The tragedy with a lot of people, especially in affluent societies, is that they have everything and yet they have nothing. Depression means that somewhere, a certain hopelessness has set in. If you go to some very poor village in India, they are really impoverished, but you will see joyful faces because they have hope that it is going to be better tomorrow. In affluent societies, that hope is gone. Depression has set in because everything that can be used externally has been fixed.

A poor man may think, “Tomorrow, if I get a new pair of footwear, everything will be fine.” If he gets a new pair of footwear, he will walk like a king with great joy on his face because he has hope; the outside is not yet fixed. In affluent societies, the outside is fixed, but the inside is not fixed, so there is hopelessness and depression. There is food, there is housing, there is clothing, there is everything, but still there is something wrong. They just do not know what.

As we work on the outside, we must also fix the inside. Then the world would be beautiful. What we call as a spiritual process is just this – not just fixing the objective aspect of your life but taking care of the subjectivity of who you are.

Depression Seeks Attention

If you do not have very strong emotions or very intense thoughts about something, you cannot get depressed. It is just that you are generating thoughts and emotions that work against you, not for you. So you are strong enough to cause depression to yourself. I am saying this, not without any concern for one’s illness, or due to lack of compassion, but because this is the nature of what is happening to a person.

Most of the depressions are self-created. A few people are pathologically ill; they cannot help it. But almost everyone else can be driven to madness, because the line between sanity and insanity is quite thin. People keep pushing it. When you get angry, you are pushing the line. You are pushing the boundaries of sanity and moving into insanity for a certain period of time and coming back.

You have incentives in your life to become ill. Right from your childhood, you got the maximum attention only when you fell ill. When you were happy, the adults screamed at you. When you squealed in joy, they screamed back at you. When you were down, then they did “boo-boo, boo-boo". When you were a child, physical illness was good because you would get attention from your mother, father and everyone around you. You did not have to go to school on that day. So you learned the art of falling physically ill. But once you get married, you learned the art of getting mentally ill!  If you want to get attention, you can go sit in a corner and act depressed. People will pay attention to you. So, if you keep playing this game, one day you will not be able to cross the line back. That day, you are clinically ill.

How to Overcome Depression?

Physical activity is a very important part of maintaining the chemical balance in the system. Over the last few generations, our physical activity has decreased substantially. Therefore, maintaining the chemical balance in the system becomes difficult. Depression is just one manifestation of that. Some sit in a corner and sulk. Others, who are bipolar, can get violent. The common approach is to tranquilize them with chemicals, tablets or injections. This destroys the potential of the individual.

One of the simplest and best ways of establishing balance is lots of physical activity in a natural environment – ideally from an early age. Another aspect is being consciously in touch with the five elements of nature – earth, water, air, sunlight or fire, and space. One more factor is the type of food you eat – over-processed food should be avoided. Yet another factor is the lack of emotional security that modern generations are suffering. They cannot really invest their emotions in anyone, because no one will be around for too long.

To sum it up, the rise of depression is mainly due to changing lifestyles. Too much eating, not enough activity, no exposure to nature, no contact with the five elements, no emotional security – these are the main reasons why depression has become so widespread in the world today. If we take care of these aspects, we can considerably reduce the incidence and prevalence of depression and other mental disorders.

Editor's Note: Depressed? It’s time for Yoga! Inner Engineering Online is offered at 50% off for all (free for COVID Warriors) as a support during these challenging times.

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