March 30, 2014

A Holistic Approach to Treating Depression. ~ Teagan Fea


The experience of depression is a pandemic in our society.

Although medication can relieve the symptoms, it is important that the underlying causes are addressed holistically, to allow a sense of wholeness to return.

Embodied Awareness

We live in a body, and our subconscious resides in the body. Unless energy, experiences, and suppressed emotions are discharged, they remain trapped in the body until they are acknowledged and released. We can discharge these energies through body work, sound, journaling, and expression.

It is important that we learn to become embodied, developing awareness about our feeling states, and how our thoughts create corresponding emotions. In reverse, our emotions may also create our thoughts. Many people who experience depression are disconnected from their embodied experience, and their awareness is focused in the mind, rather than where feelings and emotions are experienced physically. Learning to bring awareness to the unconscious mind through the body is a powerful and transformative process. It is a process that can assist us in integrating the unconscious with the conscious mind.

Restructuring the Mind

In addition to working with the unconscious mind through the body, it is also important that we enhance the quality of the mind, and our thinking patterns. Scientific research has proven, through the work of Candace Pert, an internationally recognized pharmacologist, that the brain is neurologically wired to support habitual thinking patterns.

Pert discovered that thinking generates chemicals that correspond to emotions. When a thought is generated, a corresponding chemical is released into the blood stream. This chemical seeks out cells that are programmed to receive it. It latches onto these cells, the cells vibrate, and an emotional response is experienced. She also discovered that these emotional responses generate thoughts, which strengthen neurological pathways in the brain.

This creates a feedback loop that is difficult to break. A daily therapeutic practice can assist in breaking this feedback loop by creating new neurological pathways that support new thinking patterns. Once these new pathways are firmly established, the old pathways become obsolete, because they are no longer being used.

Developing embodied awareness and learning to be present can break this feedback loop. Working with a daily practice, which may include yoga, meditation, breath work and visualization, can profoundly change the quality of the mind by developing new neurological pathways. This was the original intention of meditation as taught for hundreds of years. The Yoga Teacher gave the student a bhavana, an object or sound, to focus on in order to influence and change the mind.

Spiritual Integration

On a spiritual level, we can learn to connect with ourselves at a deeper level, and listen to our deep inner knowing and guidance. Working with dreams, meditation, and a daily practice can powerfully enhance our connection with ourselves.

We can also work with the non-integrated aspects of self by personifying them. The inner critic who admonishes and criticizes, as well as the part of us that angers easily, are examples of non-integrated aspects. We can personify these destructive aspects by creating a physical representation of them. We can create a small doll, or visualize these aspects as having their own personalities. When these parts of the self create suffering and unease, we can engage in dialogue to determine why they are present. We can also discover what they need from us in order to integrate back into the wholeness of the self.

This work is powerful in assisting us to integrate the mind, emotions, spirit, and body. The key, however, is the readiness to want to change one’s experience. It requires commitment and a strong desire to know oneself at a deeper level.

We can choose to go through the fires of transfiguration and come out the other side reborn, like the phoenix going through the flames. It is an exciting, challenging, and rewarding journey.


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Editorial Assistant: Chrissy Tustison / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: via Flickr

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