- Introduction: Broken connections lead to depression 1
- Chapter 1: Different perspectives on depression 2
- Chapter 2: Mapping depression energetically 10
- Chapter 3: Living with depression 12
- Conclusion 18
Broken connections lead to depression
I believe that a deep disconnection from our surroundings, experienced as isolation, leads to a depressed state of being.
I think there is a disconnection from the essential self, an inner split into multiple, fractured perspectives, that generates the belief to be seemingly not whole or incomplete, that leads to depression.
In my opinion, depression is an inner mechanism the individual needs, to engage with her will to reconnect with the self, community and surroundings on a deeper level.
With my knowledge of somatic psychotherapy and shamanism, and in connection to mainstream knowledge and methodology, I want to dive into what depression is and how to live with it.
In the Western world, the ancient Greeks, who thought it was caused by an imbalance of basic bodily fluids, called depression melancholia. In medieval times, melancholia was a concept much broader than depression is considered today, including a combination of sadness, dejection, anger, delusion, obsession, and fear. (Wikipedia 2018)
Today modern science labels depression as a mental illness, due to a chemical imbalance; from a psychiatric point of view, it’s a lack of serotonin and hormones. Today’s statistics show that depression is one of the most common mental disorders and can happen at any age, often starting with high levels of anxiety in childhood.
Researchers suggest depression is caused by a collection of various factors, such as genetics, biology, environment, and psychology. Common risk factors for depression are a family history of depression, major life changes, trauma, stress, physical illnesses and medication. (The National Institute of Mental Health, 2018)
There are no specific boundaries or lines between a depressed state and clinical depression. Depression can last months or even years. Common symptoms are a lack of energy, loss of appetite, and libido, a change in sleep patterns and inability to experience pleasure for longer than two weeks. These factors can be so strongly present, they impair the individual’s normal life, making them unable to perform at school, work, or enjoy social activities. (American Psychology Association, 2013) The Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition (DSM5) describes clinical depression as a single condition. It explains there is a variation in severity from major depression to depressed moods.
However, the relationship between the brain, the body, psychological trauma, soul, society and depression is not yet entirely known.
Let’s have a closer look at these aspects of depression.
Different perspectives on depression
The biology of depression
The amygdala, thalamus and hippocampus seem to play an important role in depression.
The amygdala is part of the limbic system and is activated when a person remembers intense emotional memories. The limbic system is associated with emotions such as anger, pleasure, sorrow, fear, and sexual arousal. There is a high level of activity in the amygdala when a person is sad or depressed. The thalamus interprets most sensory information transmitted to the brain, including auditory, tactile, and gustatory information. It directs it to the different parts of the lobes of the cortex, and enables speech, movement, thinking and learning.
The hippocampus is part of the limbic system and is associated with the functions of feeling and reacting. It has a key role in long-term memory processing. In some depressed people, the hippocampus is smaller. (Gregoire, Straaten-Huygen, Trompert, 2007) Researchers suggest that constant release of stress hormones inhibits the growth of nerve cells in this part of the brain.
Researchers are exploring if the activation of depressed moods is caused by an insufficient production of new neurones in the hippocampus. (Harvard Health Publishing, 2018)
Nerve cells communicate with each other via neurotransmitters. Usually groups of neurotransmitters are released from the axon into the synapse, the space in between two nerve cells. Receptors then may absorb the molecules and so pass along their chemical message. Excess cells are reprocessed. In severely depressed people, the subtle system that achieves this communication doesn’t work properly. Studies have suggested that combining psychotherapy and medication works best for treating people with severe depression. Commonly both psychologists and psychiatrists advise antidepressants as they are supposed to alter moods by affecting naturally occurring brain chemicals. (Harvard Health Publishing, 2018)
Experts have long wondered if depression was primarily the result of low levels of neurotransmitters (such as norepinephrine, dopamine or serotonin), then why didn’t people feel better as soon as the level of neurotransmitters increased? (Harvard Health Publishing, 2018) What is seldom addressed is why nerve cell communication circuits are interrupted and specific neurotransmitter levels in the brain become low in the first place.
Stress and loneliness
As a young neuroscience researcher, John Cacioppo (2009) played with the idea that we shouldn’t look at the brain as isolated island, but rather one connected by many surrounding bridges. He researched the question: Does it change your brain and your body when you are lonely and cut off? He ran various experiments and discovered that feeling lonely was as stressful to the body as a physical attack.
Sheldon Cohen (1991) also conducted experiments on how the environment interferes with our brain and body. In his study, he recorded how many healthy connections or friends each of his subjects had. Then he exposed them (with their knowledge) deliberately to a cold virus. Those with few social connections were three times more likely to get sick.
Another scientist Lisa Berkman (1985) followed groups of isolated and well-connected people over a 9-year period and discovered that lonely people were three times more likely to die.
Cacioppo (2009) suspected that being lonely makes people depressed. He described ‘loneliness’ not necessarily as the physical absence of people, but more the lack of opportunity to share something that matters to you with others.
In one study, he took 135 lonely subjects and divided them into Group A and B. Before the experiment, people were given an extensive personality test. The tests showed that lonely people tend to be pessimistic, anxious, have low self-esteem, and are afraid of others disliking them.
Group A was led under hypnosis to remember episodes of deep loneliness to trigger their loneliness and Group B was led to moments where they felt connected to another person or a group. Cacioppo’s idea was if loneliness makes people depressed, making people feel even lonelier should make them feel more depressed.
After hypnosis, participants were asked to fill in the personality test again. The results showed that the subjects prodded to connect to memories of loneliness felt extremely depressed, while those guided to memories of being socially connected were radically less depressed. Cacioppo concluded that loneliness is not a result of depression, it leads to depression.
“Despite all the persuasive evidence of our need for connection, and the clear demonstration of the influence of connection on our physiology, there is today a worldwide epidemic of disconnection…”. (Cacioppo, 2009, para 5)
But what makes us disconnected? If loneliness causes depression, what causes loneliness?
Bruce Lipton (2005) writes that every medical student learns about the placebo effect, in which people feel better because they believe they are getting better, although all they’ve taken is a sugar pill. He calls it the belief effect.
So how far can your belief influence your brain and body?
Lipton explains it is the nervous system’s job to monitor environmental signals and generate appropriate responses. When it detects threats, it communicates the arriving danger to the cell community.
Our bodies have two protection systems, one works against external threats, the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Axis). It coordinates the body’s fight-or-flight response and releases stress hormones to provide the body with power for its response. That means many other functions, such as digestion, absorption, excretion, and others that provide growth of the cells and generate the body’s energy reserve are restricted, as all the energy needs to go to the extremities that provide the fight-or-flight mechanism.
That means that the stress response inhibits growth, interfering with the body’s energy reserve.
The second, internal, protection system is the immune system. When the immune system is called into action, it consumes much of the body’s energy reserve. Which is why when the HPA Axes is active, it first represses the immune system to conserve energy. That’s why Segerstrom and Miller (2004) stated that every major illness people experience is linked to chronic stress.
So, what are our beliefs in everyday life? And what do they do to our body and mind?
Alberto Villoldo (2015) says we live in a time of hyper vigilant lifestyle.
It could be due to a daily overload of sensory input from the external world, or by a mindset of fear we carry in us. What has been discovered is that in Western society, our stressors are constantly present and the HPA Axis turned on. (Lipton, 2005)
What does that mean when it comes to depression?
The fact that the use of anti-depressants shows an effect just a few weeks into treatment challenges the theory that depression is caused by an imbalance of chemicals.
Studies have shown there is a lack of cell division in the hippocampus of individuals suffering from depression, and more researchers are pointing to an inhibition of neuronal growth caused by stress hormones released by the HPA Axis. (Harvard Health Journal, 2018)
So, there is a connection in between our belief, or how we perceive the world, and the internal physical response to it.
When we conceive of our surroundings as being hostile and unsafe, we are constantly activating our body’s protective mode, which leads to a change in our hormonal balance as described above. (Lipton, 2005) It causes a disconnection in the communication circuit on a neuronal level.
In other words, someone who thinks he is in danger will react in survival mode. Being stuck in chronic survival makes people lonely because it prevents them from engaging and connecting fully to their surroundings. Peter Levine (1997) describes it as narrowing of perception.
So being in survival mode makes lonely.
Levine (1997) also stated that if the survival energy that is built up isn’t discharged, it gets fixed or stuck in neuromuscular patterns of readiness. He thinks that’s the reason why individuals may stay in a state of arousal.
Bruce Lipton (2005, p.117) studies a single cell to understand how the multi cell complex, i.e. the whole human works. In his opinion, how one cell reacts mirrors how the whole complex, the human, reacts. Barbara Brennan (1987) talks about the theory of the Holographic universe, which says that every single particle of the universe contains the information of its entirety.
With the theories of Lipton and Brennan in mind, imagine each cell as a human, and the human cell complex as society. What would an activated HPA Axis mean on a societal level?
Lipton (2005, p.123) expressed that Western society is living in a state where members have shifted from a state of growth to a state of protection.
For example, if a connected community of individuals was suddenly threatened with war or terror, wouldn’t each individual then be automatically concerned with his own survival and consequently subtract his energy from the whole?
Wouldn’t there be a collective survival energy, powered by the survival energy of the individual? And what would happen to this energy when not discharged?
Following Levine’s (1997) theory, this undischarged energy generates chronic arousal; in this context, it means a society that remains in chronic arousal and hyper vigilance. Just as with neurotransmitters, chronic arousal affects the chemistry of communication in the multi cell complex (here society), inhibiting communication between individuals.
Inhibition in communication creates disconnection, disconnection generates loneliness, and loneliness creates depression.
Cacioppo (2009, para 4) stated, we are living in a time in which disconnection and loneliness are epidemic in our society.
Thus, I would conclude we are actually living in a depressed society.
Of course, now one could argue that not all societies are experiencing war or terror.
But most nations have a long history of it.
And many communities, such as families, have a history of adverse childhood experiences, in which abuse and neglect are the threats. (Felitti, 1999)
In the following paragraphs, I will explain how the history of feeling threatened can impact our life on both a personal and societal level.
DNA and generations
“Energy and matter are so deeply entangled, it is impossible to consider them as independent elements.” (Lipton, 2005, p.105)
If you understand that nothing is separate, then you also understand that nothing is divided by time.
In the last decade, it was discovered that the DNA blueprint passed down by generations is not fixed but can be modified by environmental influences. This is called epigenetics. This basically means our diet, environment, lifestyle and certain traumatic events can generate changes on a genetic level.
An important aspect of epigenetics is the concept of inheritance, meaning that events in our life can influence the development of our children and even grandchildren—or that we might have been influenced by events our ancestors experienced. This means that what we experience and how we respond can alter our DNA, and these modifications are then passed down genetically.
This is made possible by the epigenome, the part of DNA that can modify the expression of the genes depending on the factors named above. (Lipton, 2005)
Rachel Yehuda (2013) researches the influence of traumatic experiences on the children of war veterans, survivors of the Holocaust, and from the September 11 attacks. She discovered that children born to Holocaust survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder were more likely to develop depression themselves, compared to other Jewish adults. What made them more reactive to stress probably were epigenetic markers they shared with their parents.
The concept of passing on traumatic experiences generationally on a psychological level originated in the decades after WW2 and is called transgenerational or intergenerational trauma. Various studies proved that the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors showed symptoms of trauma. The far-reaching effect of the original trauma suffered by the grandparents appeared in nightmares, or emotional and behavioural problems of their offspring.
Grief that is not confronted or dealt with impacts later generations. Unmanaged trauma alters DNA and unconsciously traps descendants in collective solidarity with the original trauma.
That means that the stressors depressed people experience didn’t necessarily originate in their own lives but may have been inherited.
That could mean for example, the original trauma passed on through DNA makes the individual inheriting it hyper vigilant, activates HPA, subjecting the nervous system to stress and priming it for fight-or-flight. Set on survival, the individual would be cut off from communal connections both in his environment and community, creating loneliness, which then leads to depression.
One could say the individual is wired for depression—the genetic markers simply need to be activated.
Wired for depression
Felitti (2008) conducted a huge study on Adverse Childhood Experiences also known as the ACE study. He revealed that one in three children have experienced significant ACEs (in the USA).
He discovered that child abuse has a big impact on the development of the individual. Often social and health problems originate from those experiences.
Already at elementary school, these children suffer an overload of stress hormones, and get stuck in chronic arousal to environmental and relational threats.
This state does not just make it hard to engage at school, but it makes it also very difficult to engage in contact and make friends.
Even earlier in development, when mothers experience high levels of stress and anxiety during pregnancy, the elevated cortisol level in their blood affects the wiring of the foetus brain. A predisposition for illness and emotional disorders, such as depression, is generated.
Due to stress, disruption in the connections towards the mother of the foetus or young child is very likely. This disruption may result in what Bowlby (1988) calls attachment deformation.
The most important idea of attachment theory is a child’s need to develop a relationship, a connection, with at least one primary caregiver so that its social and emotional development is possible, and it learns how to regulate its feelings. When this doesn’t happen, it negatively impacts the child. A child cannot leave an unsafe and unpredictable caregiving relationship, so it needs to find a way to survive in this environment. This way of “managing” is what Bowlby calls attachment deformation. He talks about three groups of deformation: ambivalent attachment, avoidant attachment or disorganized attachment.
In all dysfunctional types of attachment, the child’s needs and emotions are not regulated by its parents, resulting in an over arousal of the nervous system. This is a failure of, and a disconnection from the social regulation of the HPA Axis.
“Children who have not yet developed an internal image of a whole, good mother, safe from destructive or angry attacks, will be more likely to despair and feel overwhelmed…” (Bowlby, 1988, p.222) The brain functions of a child in an early stage of growth are influenced by this repeated arousal, and the pattern of the cortico-limbic circuits are altered.
Separation and deprivation in childhood have long lasting effects on the brain receptor sensitivity (Van de Kolk, 1987), as low cortisol levels have been measured in abused, neglected and deprived children. This imprint on the HPA system is probably the cause for a heightened risk of PTSD and depression in response to later trauma. This wiring can lead to depression in adulthood.
But it is proven that these altered patterns are not permanent, but transformable. (Felitti, 2008)
Psychologist Stanislav Grof (1989) calls mental disorder, like depression, itself a transformational state towards shifting into a new state of consciousness.
The shaman’s view
Paqo Juan Nunez told Joan Parisi Wilcox, “Our work as humans is to have a complete life, to have a real relationship with Pachamama (mother earth), to have a real relationship with everything in the world, with everything.”(1999, p.111)
The Paqos live with the knowledge of the deep entangled, inseparable universe, a universe inhabited by spirit.
The first time I came in contact with the Paqos or Peruvian Inca shamans was on my first long trip when I was 19 years old. After finishing school, I followed the calling I’d heard since I was 13 to discover South America. During that year of travelling, I felt the force of reconnection, though I couldn’t yet place what was happening to me.
But now I know that I was reconnecting to the Earth by experiencing the power of nature. I was reconnecting with my body by walking every day and using my hands to create. I was reconnecting with my previous lives by learning the language in a matter of weeks and feeling the smells and sounds present in me before I realized I was experiencing them. I reconnected with my life to come by feeling the field of possibilities. And I reconnected to the web of all there is, what I call god.
I made the deep mystical experience of understanding the being part of all there is. I had this understanding on a cellular level—that I was a part of all there is.
This is the starting point from which the Paqos of the Andes work.
The Paqos are wisdom keepers of an ancient lineage of animistic consciousness. Their tradition includes two categories of Paqos: Pampamesayoqs are the keepers of earth rituals while the Alto Mesayoqs work directly with natural energies, the spirit world and the cosmos. As masters of Living Energy, they practice heart-centred ways of life. This lifestyle is comprised of experiential knowledge and ancestral transmissions. The Paqos practice daily with the kawasay, which is the subtle life energy that interweaves all dimensions. The Paqos work on the level of collective consciousness and know that life has never been separate from source. This transpersonal realm involves experiences that transcend the boundaries of linear time, spatial separation and individual ego. Furthermore, it includes experiences of archetypal figures and identification with Cosmic Consciousness. (Jenkins, 2013; Wilcox, 1999)
Release of collective hucha
In conversation with the Paqos, I learned that they believe that what Western society calls depression might actually be a significant transformation in consciousness and a necessary stage on the path of human evolution.
Transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof (1989) says that transformations are characterized by a specific shift in consciousness associated with strong changes in perception, intense and often dramatic or unusual emotions, and alterations in the thought processes, similar to the symptoms of depression.
The hierarchy of Andean psycho-spiritual development describes a path of individual human and collective development. It is an evolution comprised of seven levels. Nunez del Prado described it, as the Andean hierarchy, in which the collective and individual work in parallel.
He sees most Western cultures as having attained or about to attain the fourth level. (Wilcox, 1999)
According to the Paqos, as a collective, humans are in the transformational state towards the Taripay Pacha, the wholesomeness of humanity. On this level, the individual emerges from the illusion of separation and is consciously reconnected.
Taripay Pacha is described by Wilcox (1999) as a net of interaction between human and non-human, physical and metaphysical, and natural and supernatural. The Taripay Pacha, the fourth dimension, is not so much about creating a new lifestyle, but more about reconnecting to the ancient lifestyle, when we moved with the pulse of the cosmos rather than our manmade, artificial rhythm.
To emerge both as singular and collective into the fourth dimension, a release of accumulated hucha is necessary. Hucha is the Quechua word for heavy and discordant energy. According to tradition, when energy (kausay) is heavy it is stagnated or blocked; as soon as it flows again, it becomes light (the tradition refers to this state as sami).
So I believe, that on a transpersonal level, depression could be the mechanism that forces the individual system to release stagnation, therefore helping this energy flow into the rebirth of a new existence, one of connectedness.
The Hatun Karpay is the rite of passage to the fourth level. It is a practice to transform identification with our biological mother and father towards identification with Inti Taita (Father Sun) and Pachamama Mother Earth (Jenkins, 2013). I see this this as the symbolic end of identification with our ancestor’s trauma and the end of transgenerational accumulated hucha.
The Hatun Karpay is a practice typical of indigenous traditions, in which death and rebirth are experienced on an individual level. But in the bigger picture, the Hartun Karpay of the individual, following the Andean prophecy, is the catalyst for a collective rebirth toward higher levels of consciousness. Shifting from one psycho spiritual level to the next is often seen as a sort of death.
The focus of Andean prophecy lies on harmonizing and aligning the natural forces whether individual or collective. The Paqos know that according to the cosmic laws of connection between the macro and micro cosmos, when rebirth occurs in one area, the potential exists to catalyse evolution in other areas simultaneously. (Jenkins, 2013; Wilcox, 1999)
Thus, with the shift into Taripay Pacha, humanity is developing toward higher levels of consciousness based on individual evolution, and depression might be a catalyst.
Also, Anodea Judith (2018, para 1) said, ”What if this is all part of humanity’s initiation? What if these issues …are all challenges in our rite of passage? Challenges that we are being asked to solve to get to the next level…The story is that we are on a journey to awaken and realize the Divine.”
Psychospiritual therapists know that connecting to the free movement of life force fuels the evolution of the client. As John Pierrakos observed, “The basic substance of a person is energy. The movement of energy is life. The freer the energy movement…the more intense the life.” (1998, p.36)
Life force is called by many names, such as, prana, chi, orgon; it is the basic energy that flows through our lives. It is a universal field that we can connect to for guidance and harmony. Judith (2017) calls this energy the charge, and states that a lack of it leads to depression.
She describes how children are fully charged but haven’t yet attained the knowledge needed to manage that energy. Sitting still in school is difficult for a charged body and too much charge is often criticised, shamed or even punished by parents. As a result, the natural energy flow gets inhibited. Children learn to overwrite their spontaneous impulses and the charge gets blocked in their muscles.
If one can relearn to connect to the charge and move it through the body, letting it nourish us, and also learn to dissolve blockages, live will become more intense.
Managing life energy appropriately is necessary for leading a successful life.
The word depression comes from the prefix de, which means from and the word press.
Judith says that the word reflects how the energy that naturally wants to rise up the chakras gets pressed down, the energy is stopped by a downward current that is more powerful than the upward current.
Alexander Lowen (1993) described anger, for example, as energy that goes straight up the back, creating a “backbone” that holds the body upright. When that energy is inhibited, it leads to collapse. In working with depressed clients, Lowen observed they make 50% fewer spontaneous movements then non-depressed people do.
In the human energy field, depression can appear in many ways.
Judith says: “All of the chakras manage energy and disperse it through the body and into the world. While the second chakra is more associated with emotions, any of the chakras can produce emotional feelings. Depression is when the energy is literally depressed or held down and prevented from expression and release.” If the charge cannot move outwards into action, this upward movement will likely hit a block and turn inwards against the self, creating a seeming lack of energy. Says Judith “…repressed charge fuses together disappointment with failure, victimisation and self-blame into a complex that spirals down into depression.” (2017, p.111)
Mapping depression energetically
Through client intakes, I have detected various signs of depression: intense feelings of emptiness and sadness, a preoccupation with death, fatigue and lack of energy, low libido, anxiousness, tension, a lack of hunger, and a weak immune system.
I often see physical symptoms in how clients literally hold their bodies — such as holding their breath, contracting their pelvis, collapsing their shoulders or locking their jaw. On an emotional level, I can sense repressed pain, sadness, rage, anger, longing and shame.
Typically, depressed clients repress the energy flow through the field. Any chakra can be affected by depression. If the higher chakras – fifth, sixth and seventh – appear blocked, it cuts off the sense for pleasure and beauty, as well as the inflow of creativity and inspiration, and the sense of possibility. (Brennan, 1987) The lower chakras are also often closed or malfunctioning, bringing little or no grounding and energy into the system.
I have generally experienced that people with depression have a layer that is not connected and doesn’t flow. All our layers need to be in motion in order to be healthy.
The auric field is build up by structured and unstructured layers. It is necessary to let energy flow either along lines of light for structured levels, or a whole layer for unstructured levels (Brennan 1987). By layer I don’t just mean a layer of the auric field. It could be a layer in the client’s life. For example, someone can’t express their emotions, which leads to stagnation. Or they’re really musical but have never allowed themselves, or been allowed, to study and practice music and thus use their musical talents. It could be they have a longing they’ve never allowed themselves to really feel.
It usually feels as something contracted and tight. I sense it in the field as a heaviness and often, if related to the 2nd or 4th levels, it has a greyish colour. The client seems to be sitting under a dark cloud or mucous. That mucous in my experience is similar to what the paqos call hucha. Hucha is produced by conflicting emotions and feelings that impact our thoughts and actions. The Paqos say, an accumulation of it turns the energy body heavy.
Most of the times the chakra of the level corresponding to the stagnant layer is in a state of under functioning, though sometimes the chakra just below or above it will compensate by overworking.
On the 5th level, the blueprint, I have seen hanging, disconnected lines.
But in all this there is no hard rule.
Brennan (1993) describes the dimension of intentionality—the Hara—as the foundation for the Human Energy Field. When the Hara is healthy and in place, the individual effortlessly accomplishes her life purpose. I observe that for those experiencing depression, the Hara is often not connected to the ground, not connected with the id point and displaced or off centre.
As a result, these clients are not connected to their purpose.
The life pulse is another cosmic principle. The path work lectures by Eva Pierrakos (1978) describe how the life pulse has different states. It moves from expansion to contraction through a moment of stasis, and vice versa. Everything in nature follows this principle, trees, animals and the seasons.
I see with depression often, that the life pulse of the client, is at the end of a stasis, after a strong aversion against a contraction, and the introspection that goes along with it.
The aversion of introspection can be caused by trying to avoid facing fears and fear of death.
Christiane Beerlandt (2015) says that on the path to depression, the individual is constantly trying to fight against the natural flow of life.
During a contraction, I observed, depressed clients use their energy to press against the pulse’s natural force, attempting to create a forced expansion. This can lead to the feelings of having to carry life’s weight on one’s shoulders, feelings of helplessness, and thoughts like “It’s me against the world (or natural forces.)”
Beerlandt (2015) believes that a period of depression is meant to be an inward movement, which reconnects you with your deepest essence and therefore, to life itself.
If a contraction is consciously or subconsciously perceived as negative, or any occurrence you conceive as negative, you will most likely create an energetic posture of protection. The Paqos say that by creating this posture you close yourself off and turn your energy body into a jail, disconnecting from your surroundings. (Wilcox, 1999)
The energy jail often emphasises distortions already present in the clients’ relational and genetic cords. What I observe is that the cords often don’t connect properly; sometimes not to the left (the mother line) and sometimes not on the right (the father line), or sometimes not on both.
The cords are heavy, stiff and often appear polluted.
Brennan (2017) calls them TARs Traditional Ancestral Roots, which in essence are distorted genetic cords. Brennan says TARs are manipulated genetic cords, created to insure the next generation continues certain traditions.
For example, a father who didn’t accomplish his life’s mission and wants his child to do so would attach his genetic cords to his child’s chakra. Brennan says that in this way the offspring is controlled until his ancestral cords have been cleared all the way to the exact point where the shift from genetic cords towards ancestral cords occurred. Until this happens, the offspring will have an unhealthy relationship with and be disconnected from the concept of free will.
All together on an energetic level, to me, depression looks like a strong invitation to turn inwards and connect with the inner essence, to heal broken connections and engage with the body, surroundings, community and god.
Living with depression
Shamans believe in Animism, which means we are all connected to the living web of all there is.
As life therapists, we know that personal trauma creates a perceived fragmentation of who we are on many levels. On a collective level that means a perceived disruption of the field of all there is.
I believe that remembering that we are all connected is the key to healing.
Isolation is a state in which we cannot heal. But as a community, we can heal from the combined efforts of each of us. When our healing efforts turn to our wounds, knowing that what each of us heals in ourselves generates healing in others, we are engaged automatically with our direct community.
I believe the experience of isolation during depression, the splintering and disconnecting into multiple perspectives—both inside us, as well as in the collective— creates the will to reunite on a deeper level. Depression fuels the will to reconnect with the web of all there is.
How can we use this insight with the focus on living with depression?
In the following pages, I will name a few different approaches I experienced as generating movement in a client experiencing states of depression.
For the following there is no hard rule regarding the order of use of these suggestions, as every client is different. But with all approaches I would suggest the therapist to hold a strong intention on connection.
While working with depressed clients I noticed that it felt to me as if parts of them, or their soul, were not present. Gaby Stroecke (1994) writes that our deepest lack in life is that we disconnected partly or entirely from our soul. From a shamanic perspective, on a soul level this splintered or broken connection of our being is called soul loss and seen as an important cause of illness. Sandra Ingerman (2006) says, “The basic premise is whenever we experience trauma, a part of our vital essence separates from us in order to survive the experience by escaping the full impact of the pain.” (1991, p.112) Common symptoms of soul loss are dissociation, immune disorders, PTSD and depression.
Ingerman (2006) uses like the Paqos the shamanic technique of soul retrieval to reconnect the broken pieces of the soul. In my experience working with the Paqos in Peru, soul retrieval always begins in the here and now. Starting from there, the Paqos shift into an extra temporal altered state of consciousness to enter non-ordinary reality. In this dimension, also called the spirit world, the lost soul pieces are found. By acknowledging the former pain, the soul is invited to re-enter the body. After that, the soul is connected to normal reality and the rediscovered part is blown by the Paqo into the client’s heart and head. Once the broken or splintered parts of soul are re-collected and integrated, the individual feels more safe and secure. This feeling of being safe is very important, especially considering our body’s and brain’s chain reaction to not feeling safe (remember the HPA Axis).
Connect to psychosomatic health
I experienced breathing meditation as a strong tool in training the physical body and brain to relax.
One part of our nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system. It is responsible for the fight or flight reaction and is one branch of the autonomic nervous system, which works unconsciously. The parasympathetic nervous system is the other main branch of the autonomic nervous system and is responsible for the ‘rest and digest’ action. (Gregoire, 2007)
Meditating encourages the client’s body to shift from the ‘fight or flight’ system to the ‘rest and digest’ system.
In a situation of danger, the sympathetic nervous system usually cedes control once the danger is past and moves into the parasympathetic nervous system. This state brings the body and mind back to healthy activities like digesting food, healing injuries, and processing memories and experiences.
But if we perceive our world as hostile, it automatically triggers a ‘fight or flight’ reaction and if this trigger remains on, we will stay in that hyper vigilant state.
How can we turn off or even reverse this effect?
If we use what Lipton (2005) calls the belief effect, it is possible to generate psychosomatic health. The vagus nerve is the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system in the human body. It controls with the parasympathetic command of the heart, lungs, and digestive tract and surveys a vast range of important functions. Furthermore, it communicates motor and sensory impulses to every organ in the body. The vagus nerve is also able to take suggestions from the body back to the brain. That means for example going into a meditative state by lowering your breathing rate and over time even your heart rate sends the message, via the vagus nerve, of calmness to the brain. (Creswell, 2016)
It communicates to the brain that the situation is safe and tells the body it is okay to relax. Most of the times, the brain will then switch control over the to the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the client to relax and rest. Once the parasympathetic nervous system has taken over and there is no more need to be caught up with acts of survival, the client is capable of calm and deep contemplation.
Ground yourself and connect with the Earth
To calm hyper vigilance and relax the HPA of a depressed client, it is necessary to find inner safety.
For finding inner safety and a sufficient energetic charge in the system, so that the therapist can guide the client to reconnect with stored old pain, grounding work is necessary.
As stated before, many people suffering from depression have very little energy moving through their system. Little energy manages to enter their system via the first chakra.
The first chakra represents our safe foundation and is connected to the element of earth. It is located at the end of the spine and includes the legs, which connect the Earth to the spine. Via this connection it is possible to ground one’s own energy into the Earth and in doing so, charge the body.
Harmonic induction can help ground ungrounded clients. This means that by grounding my own energy system as therapist, my client’s system resonates and grounds, too. (Brennan, 1993) Additionally, I ask my client to focus on their feet and legs to direct the energy flow downwards. I also see that touching, when agreed to, helps the client feel her body and facilitates grounding.
Breathing also helps to ground, relax and connect the client to her body, and brings her consciousness to the present moment.
In the view of Andean shamans, being ungrounded means being disconnected from the Earth.
Being grounded is a fundamental necessity to live in ayni, the Paqos’ most important principle. Ayni is the principle of reciprocity, which means staying in constant connection with others, nature, the Earth and cosmos. It stands for equal taking and giving. (Jenkins, 2013) And it means that when we are not grounded, we cannot experience the nurturing connection with our surroundings.
From a shamanic perspective, the Ayni Karpay, the first initiation towards an apprentice shaman, helps ground the individual. With this initiation, the Luminous Energy Body LEF (that is how the Paqos call the Human Energy Body or HEF by Brennan) is prepared to establish deeper contact with nature. The intention here is to erase the imprints of past traumas from the LEF and reduce the reactive mind of the individual. During this rite, archetypes are installed into each chakra. In the Andean tradition, these archetypes are the organizing principles of the Universe. These Energy beings are planted during the initiation as seeds of potentiality in each of the chakras. In the first Chakra the Great Serpent is placed, as deity of the river. The one who teaches to shed the personal past like she sheds her skin. Into the second Chakra the archetype of the Jaguar is planted. It stands for the archetypal connection to the life force of the jungle, stepping beyond violence, fear and death. Into the third chakra the archetype of the hummingbird is placed. It stands for the connection to the ancestors, that stepped out of life but sometimes slip through the veils into our presence. It embeds the possibility to have a life full of joy in the present moment. Planted into the forth Chakra is the Eagle or Condor. This archetype teaches to see with the eyes of the heart. Into the fifth chakra Huascar is seeded, the lord of life and death. He is the harmonizing principle of the lower world. Quetzelcoatl is embedded into the sixth chakra, he is the lord of the morning, organizing the relationship to the middle world. And Pachakuti is planted into the seventh chakra, he is the keeper of the possibilities, transcending into circular time out of linearity.
The intention is that these archetypes generate a more neutral position of experiencing life and in consequence create space inside the individual to start their service to Mother Earth. (Jenkins2013)
Connect to charge
Most of the time with depressed clients, I notice, the necessity to create energy movement through the body. To remind and connect the energy body of the depressed client to the free flow of energy, different techniques of charge are applicable.
In the Andean tradition two practices are applied in which two energetic flows are created: one that ascends, consisting of subtle energy, and one that descends, composed of dense energy.
In the Saminchakuy practice, a descending flow of subtle energy (sami) from the cosmos is created, which goes through the energy body (poqpo) and removes the dense energy (hucha) from it. The hucha is directed towards the ground and given to Mother Earth (Pachamama) to digest.
Through the Saywachakuy practice, an ascending flow of energy is produced. It flows upwards from Pachamama, through the energetic body, and strengthens the LEF. (Villoldo2015;Wilcox1999)
This practice is similar to chelation that Life therapists use.
In a chelation, the energy field of the client is charged, cleared and balanced. This process generates a state of relaxation, grounding and connects the energy field of the client to the field of life force. (Brennan 1987)
But often working on the conscious relation of the client to his physical body brings great relief from a depressed state.
Connect to your body
The simple act of creating a daily walking routine, if possible in nature, helps. (Harvard Health Journal 2018) It does not just stimulate the parts of the body that are connected to the first chakra, (feet, legs) so that grounding and charge comes into the system, but in my opinion, movement also reminds the mind of its connection to the body. In my experience, coordinating physical movements draws mental energy into a physical experience and therefore reconnects mind and body. Also, the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters the brain experiences from physically training makes the client feel better. Endorphins are a type of neurotransmitter, or chemical messenger that helps relieve pain and stress. Physical activity also stimulates the release of chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, which all play an important part in regulating our moods. (Gregoire 2007)
How we feed our body is also important. Often clients refuse to eat during an episode of depression, which I think is an autonomous healing act of the physical body, reconnecting body and soul. Fasting has a long spiritual tradition and was commonly used to shift the energy system into a more transcendent state.
“Abstaining from food has a long history going back millennia, as a way to cleanse the body and mind in anticipation of spiritual experience. We fast to turn on the body’s repair mechanism and clear brain fog.” (Villoldo 2015, p.197)
I would say that by fasting, energy shifts temporarily into more subtle frequencies, as toxins are not taken in via food. Of course, fasting is not a state that can be sustained for long periods, but used consciously, it can be a good starting point to shift into new healthier ways of eating and create consciousness for what the client puts into their physical body.
We are living in a time in which our air and water are increasingly polluted. Genetically manipulated food is finding its way into our kitchens and influences our hormonal system. And the effects of sugar, milk and gluten also have negatively impacted our bodies and subtle energy system. (Villoldo 2015, p.180) But for example, phytonutrients can restore our neurochemical balance. These plants, according to Villoldo (2015) are full of genetic modifiers that switch on genes that create health and switch off the ones that create disease. This is just one example for clearing toxins from the body and creating new conscious habits. Particularly new eating routines can generate major relief from depression. Villoldo (2015) states one has to detox the body first. He calls it upgrading the hardware and then upgrading the brain.
Connect to routines
I already commented on creating a walking or movement routine, as well as new eating routines.
The brain makes neuronal connections based on what you do repeatedly in your life. Every time we act in the same way, a specific neuronal pattern is stimulated and becomes strengthened in our brain. Sarah Lazar (2005) explains how the brain’s neural circuitry is shaped only when focused attention is paid toward an incentive. With focused attention, stimulation can create new brain circuits and grow new lasting connections.
The Paqos taught me to suggest the client re-approach her direct surroundings in a ritualistic way, to create a new conscious relationship to it. They suggest taking a moment each day to talk to objects in one’s life or make offerings. Those objects could be the tree outside the house, or the house itself, something the client encounters each day. That might sound funny at first, but it is supposed to remind and train the brain that all objects are innately alive, and we can make real connection to them. Habits change our brain. The more the brain is trained to create relationships with its surroundings, the more connected the client feels. By gradually growing the pattern of animistic understanding in the brain of the client, the feeling of isolation diminishes.
Brennan (2017) as well observed that we develop our essential being in relationships. She also says that our relationships with others include all living beings, plants, mountains, animals, and other beings.
Connect with another person on a level that matters
I experience, that making connection with a client, in a way that she feels safe enough to share things that deeply matter to her, as truly healing for the client.
Bessel van der Kolk (2015) says that relationships to others help us recover. It needs to be a relationship that provides safety from being judged and creates support for the individual to accept the reality of what is. It needs to be with someone who is trusted enough to “…safeguard the wholeness of you while you explore the fragmented experience that you had to keep secret from yourself for so long”(van der Kolk 2015, p. 213) He says that much of our brain’s wiring was created to be in tune with others, so recovery involves reconnecting to other human beings.
Gaby Stroecke (1994) talks about the necessity of being in contact with a person that is able to ‘contain’, meaning a person who can help us carry intolerable feelings, making them manageable and tolerable. I remember a client experiencing states of depression, opening up with a story she had never told before about being sexually abused as child. By speaking, the intensity of her charge, which had been blocked for years and years by this traumatic experience, got activated. There was a strong energetic movement in her system. For her to safely allow this energy to flow again through her body, my containment was necessary. My ability to be present with her in that moment, hold her hand (on agreement) and make her feel she wasn’t alone, was crucial to help embed and start integrating her trauma.
Stroecke (2014) adds that we temporarily need this other in order to come back to ourselves.
Face the shame and connect to the true self
I often experienced clients feeling ashamed of their depression, often due to perceived judgements by our society. I believe in our current society we are conditioned to believe that feeling pain is a bad thing and means that we have failed. We feel ashamed of feeling bad. This leads to the idea that we must escape pain, but that just causes us to resist it and thus feel it even more. So a crucial step for a client is to understand where she is now. If she does not have a clear understanding of where she is, she cannot create a roadmap for where she wants to go. We need to accept the now.
Radical acceptance is about accepting life how it is right now without resisting what cannot be changed, although it might be painful! Brene Brown writes the following about shame: “When we are in shame, we don’t see the big picture; we don’t accurately think about our strengths and limitations. We just feel alone, exposed and deeply flawed.” (2008, p. 78) Shame loves isolation, but Brown (2008) states that if we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.
I remember how difficult it was for one of my clients to tell me straight: I feel bad, I am sad. There was this deep-rooted block and disconnection from this aspect of her, that wouldn’t allow her to accept to feel that way. She and others have learned in their early upbringing, that (for example) states of anger, sorrow, sadness, or even extreme joy and enthusiasm were not acceptable in their surroundings. Debbie Ford (2002) describes how these states might have been disturbing or too challenging for their caregivers. As humans are social beings and want to belong, many people adapt in order to survive by disconnecting (repressing) from these aspects of themselves. This adapting Stroecke (1994) calls disconnecting from the true self. But these aspects of the self which are not expressed, which don’t get the chance to be seen in the light, do not disappear. They end up in the shadow, in the subconscious of our being, and continue to evolve there. It is essential for the client to dive into this shadow aspect, befriend it, and connect again. Stroecke calls it the realising of the false self, so that the true self can be released.
The process of recognition moves through ‘talking about it” into ‘feeling it’ to finally ‘mourning it’.
”You can’t be fully yourself if you have things that are hiding. The only way to invite them out of the shadow is to bring them to the light and the light is a new perspective in which we see that everything that’s happening to us is happening to help us develop our souls.”(Ford 2013,para1)
Connect to desire and understand purpose
As clients start to reconnect with their true selves, a life therapist offers support in helping them understand and express their inherent desires and needs. I feel in its pure form, desire is an act of connecting to life experience itself. Desiring, from the true self, is a tool that facilitates self-awareness, self-realization and expansion.
A Hara healing can promote the client’s connection to desire and help to integrate the higher self’s purpose or soul mission into her life. During a Hara Healing, the Hara is aligned from the Id point to the soul seat and connected to the tan tien and anchored into the earth in a straight centred line.
Brennan (1993) writes that aligning the Hara line straight through all these points connects the client to her creative purpose and emphasises the intensity of energies descending from the Divine into the client’s system.
Purpose and direction in life help to restructure even difficult crises like a depression, and see it as opportunities for growth. A sense of purpose and meaning can be regained by getting in touch with inner guidance. Meditation is a strong tool for connecting with inner guidance.
“Guidance is an integral part of the unfoldment of your life. It is the key to the development of your hearts desire and your life task, no matter what it is.”(Brennan 1993, p.264)
Just by having faith into guidance the auric field is balanced and charged. I experienced that guidance leads the client to a state of surrender to her true vulnerability and shows the client at the same time her true power. Meditating for guidance connects the small ego part of the client, to her greater self, her inner god and reminds the client of how she is woven into the web of all there is.
There is a deep interrelation between body, soul and mind in the experience of depression.
This connection is often overlooked by mainstream modes of dealing with depression.
Broken connection, on an internal and societal level lead to depression.
Our society regards depression as mostly negative due to its painful appearance.
However, if the client connects to depression as a way of clearing (trans generational) trauma,
and as an invitation—as an engine for transformation towards deeper connection with the true self and her direct surroundings—she is on track for creating holistic health and generating a life lived aligned with her authentic essence.
As a person experiences what isolation or disconnection in form of depression feels like,
it ultimately generates the urge and readiness to experience deep connectedness.
Life therapy and shamanism, in combination with a mainstream approach, can create a foundation for the depressed client to reunite body, soul and mind in health.
I believe as a community, we can heal from the combined efforts of each of us. When our healing efforts turn to our wounds, knowing that what each of us heals in ourselves generates healing in others, we are engaged with our community.
The shamanic belief is that when we create a new narrative—a story of healing—and can inspire others with that story, we connect with the intention of collective healing.
So depression is the invitation for personal healing and inner connection, catalysing collective healing and collective connection.
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