What Is Spiritual Depression And How Do You Recover From It

What Is Spiritual Depression

There is a further source of depression that I have frequently come across in my research, but which is not widely known. This is what I call spiritual depression.

Some people have a simplistic belief that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is usually ascribed to a low level of a neurotransmitter called serotonin, and depressed people are routinely prescribed medication which increases the level of serotonin in their brain. However, as I pointed out in a previous post, it is highly problematic to view depression in these terms.

Rather than seeing depression as a neurological condition, we should view it in terms of environmental and existential factors. Sometimes it is easy to highlight the source of a person’s depression. People get depressed because relationships end, loved ones die, or they lose their jobs. They get depressed because they are poor, live in deprived areas with a high crime rate, or because they are the target of prejudice and disrespect.

But as we all know, depression can also arise in a more subtle way, with sources that are difficult to pinpoint. Depression can be related to “hidden” psychological factors such as a person’s negative thinking style, or early life trauma which has been repressed but creates psychological discord. It could be due to a lack of sense of purpose and meaning, a lack of love, or even a lack of contact with nature. Giving a person antidepressants may not, in some cases, target the root problem.

Spiritual Depression

There is a further source of depression that I have frequently come across in my research, but which is not widely known. This is what I call spiritual depression.

This is when depression arises from an alienation from our own innate spirituality. In my research as a transpersonal psychologist, I have come across many people who had a powerful spiritual experience when they were younger but repressed it because they didn’t understand it.

In some cases, this was a near-death experience, when they suddenly found themselves out of their bodies, immersed in light and filled with a sense of euphoria and liberation, and an awareness of an all-pervading love. In other cases, it was a sudden spiritual experience in a time of intense stress or while playing sports or walking in the countryside.

Spirituality Does Not Come From Religion
What Is Spiritual Depression And How Do You Recover From It

Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the world around them became intensely real and beautiful, and they felt one with their surroundings, filled with a sense of meaning and harmony. But since they didn’t have a framework to make sense of the experiences, they found them confusing and threatening. After all, such experiences contradict the accepted worldview of our culture, in which all unusual states of consciousness are seen as pathological.

Spiritual depression may also occur in people who have a natural spiritual sensibility which they don’t understand or accept. A naturally spiritual person might feel a strong sense of connection to nature, feel a strong attraction to solitude and quietness, and feel intense empathy and compassion. But again, they might suppress this innate spirituality because it conflicts with our cultural norms.

If a person suppresses their innate spirituality, it creates a deep-rooted sense of discord, with a crippling sense of dissatisfaction and frustration. It’s analogous to a gay person who tries to repress their sexuality and live as a heterosexual.

Also read What To Do If You Are Depressed: A 15-Step Guide

I gave a few examples of spiritual depression in my book “The Leap“. For example, I told the story of the remarkable American peace activist who called herself Peace Pilgrim. Originally called Mildred Norman, Peace Pilgrim was brought up with typical American values of materialism and status-seeking.

She married at 25 and lived a comfortable middle-class life until her early 30s. She grew increasingly depressed and frustrated, feeling that her lifestyle was meaningless, until one night, at the peak of her desperation, the spiritual self that she had been repressing burst through.

Scroll to Top