Butterfly on a PinPredictably, a few weeks after I wrote my earlier post about being happy, I sank into a deep 2-week depression that was worse than normal. It broke, the way a fever does, a little over as week ago, and since then I've found myself at a loss for words. Part of me feels like I'm a fraud for writing this blog about how we need to accept what is and open to our emotions, even when they hurt, about happiness and dancing, when, in fact, I often feel no hope that I'll ever be able to reach any emotional stability in my life. At times like these, I can't imagine that anything I say would help anybody.
I was just re-reading an interview in the spring 2011 edition of Tricycle magazine with John Welwood, a Buddhist teacher, existential therapist, and author of several books, including Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships . He discussed the concept of "spiritual bypassing" - the phenomenon of spiritual practitioners using their spiritual practice, not as a way of becoming friends with themselves and of opening to all experience, but as a way to wall themselves off from unpleasant emotion, repress painful truths about themselves, or to beat themselves or others up about not being "good" (nonattached, generous, spiritual) enough.
My depression is invariably rooted in attachment issues. When I feel depressed, I feel a crushing loneliness, a desperate fear that I will never be loved the way I need, a primal need to connect with and bond with others, combined with a deep-seated disappointment in the fragility and fleetingness of the bonds that I do make, as well as a need to back away from those that I feel are too needy or desperate themselves, where I fear I will get lost in the swamp of their deep need. When I sink into depression, it's usually because I feel rejected or unseen, a sense of not being okay, of not being enough. At these times, the child in me cries out: "Why don't you love me??"
I get depressed when someone I care for treats me dismissively, lies to me, or withdraws from me, because to me, it feels like they're taking their love away, and I can't figure out why. Almost invariably, when this happens, even if it's only my perception of what's happened, I fall into darkness and have to let it run its course, like a bad cold or flu, before I can recover.
I love this metaphor of an unripe fruit. For years I've beaten myself up about needing my partners to love me in ways that they clearly could not. Words my exes have thrown at me about how needy, desperate, flawed, voracious, and unsatisfied I am still buzz in my ears. I've always believed them, even, at times, wondered if I'm simply too crazy to ever have a healthy relationship, because something deep inside is so broken that I will never be able to form a deep and true partnership. I still sometimes wonder this, but I can also see that my need for healthy and loving attachment to a partner doesn't mean I'm flawed or unenlightened. What it means, simply, is that I have not received what I need to grow past attachment, to let go of the branch.
That last part is always the kicker, right? For me, this means even being present in the moments of disappointment at myself for not being present, for not being okay with what's happening. I'm angry and hurt today because I was lied to. Is it okay to be angry and hurt? Is it okay to also doubt myself, to wonder if I'm overreacting, and to believe a friend's insistence that I'M in the wrong? Yes. This is what we don't want to face, this messiness and doubt. This is what some of us try to escape with spiritual practices. But I can't escape it. I'm like a butterfly on a pin, stuck here, and doing my best to accept it all - the stuckness and the fact that the pin doesn't actually exist.