**Warning: F-bombs below!
I can count the times I’ve been deeply depressed on three fingers.
The sensation of it is so distinct that mere sadness, loneliness or loss don’t even register on the scale.
In depression, I feel like a frail human trapped inside an iron cast of the world, where everything that touches me is impossibly heavy and immovable. I am wandering through a maze that leads only to emptiness and meaninglessness. It feels as though there is nothing I can do and no reason to do it. It’s paralyzing. So naturally, it’s scary for me when it happens.
I found myself in a bout of depression again recently. I moved to Scandinavia during the wintertime when there’s very little daylight, I ended a romantic relationship, and I cleared out some elements of my work in order to make room for a new direction to emerge. All of this happened at the same time, and I quickly developed seasonal depression on top of my grief and uncertainty over the changes I had called into my life. The depression was thick, heavy and intense. I felt utterly fucked up.
I want to talk about feeling fucked up, because in my line of work, I believe everything we feel is valuable. I believe that all of it is important and serves a purpose.
People come to coaches like me because they want to access their personal power, but very few recognize the role that emptiness, uncertainty and powerlessness actually play in cultivating true power.
As a society, we learn the value of being on a high, of being on top, of having success and being brilliant at what we do—but we don’t learn the value of our lows, even though they’re equally as valuable. We often hide when we are going into our depths and facing difficult, painful or uncertain times, only sharing the stories of our struggles after we have overcome them, if ever.
This phenomenon is especially clear in my industry: the industry of personal growth, which is full of teachers who lead from a stance of having “arrived.” They say, essentially, “I’ve figured it out, and now let me show you what I’ve learned.”
They separate the part of themselves that is teaching from the part of themselves that is still learning. They share material that they’ve already mastered and keep their challenges private until they’ve been solved.
And this fractured self is the example they set for their students.
In keeping their own process hidden, the message they send is that the parts of us that are figured out, mastered or healed have authority, but that there is shame in the messy process of figuring out, mastering and healing. In this way, teachers actually keep students from their own power. They keep them stuck.
I have done this too. When I started out, I thought being a leader meant I wasn’t supposed to share my process, because I was always supposed to be a beacon of certainty. I thought that’s what people needed.
And not only that, I did it to protect myself. There is an inherent vulnerability in being a teacher who lets their students know that they too still experience the painful and sometimes humiliating process of growing.
There are so many people hoping that they will find someone to figure it all out for them, and teachers become the subject of these people’s disappointment and disapproval when it turns out that no one has figured it all out—that we each have to do most of this work for ourselves. Many teachers want to be the ones with solutions, not the ones to bring their students the news that no one ever fully arrives, and that all of us will continue uncovering our own answers for the rest of our lives.
But when we become vulnerable as teachers, it pays off.
When you have cultivated personal power and people can feel it—and you’re also willing to share your messy, uncertain, volatile process of harnessing that power—it actually makes power accessible to everyone. In fact, I believe this is the best way for a teacher to truly facilitate access to power for their students.
This doesn’t just apply in student-teacher relationships. This applies in all of our relationships. As a people, we must share our lows just as often as our highs because we need to normalize what I call the down.
We must normalize the experiences of powerlessness, uncertainty and depression because all of these experiences are vitally important to the process of acquiring personal power. These things that are so often done in private and in secret—they’re the most powerful and important things we could know how to do consciously.
They’re the key to going where we are meant to go.
Here’s why: we are each like a house. Our upper rooms are inhabited, organized and livable, but there’s all this crap that we may not have looked at in years stored down in the basement (i.e. our subconscious).
When the events of our lives seem to be pulling us down, it’s always a call to for us to go down into the basement and do some clean-up. Whether it’s our looming fears, beliefs that aren’t serving us, resentments or suppressed truths that need cleaning up, we cannot be truly powerful with all of that stuff hiding out in the basement. If it’s trash, we need to get rid of it. If it’s an essential part of us that just wants to be brought into the light, we must integrate it.
Life pulls us down so we can do the necessary housework to gain power where we feel powerless. We go down so that we can let go of what’s no longer needed, and integrate important but hidden parts for use as resources in the next part of our journey.
See? Getting fucked up is necessary.
The trouble is that we have shame and fear about going down, so we tend to resist it instead of embracing it for the opportunity that it is. Most of us waste it.
I’m in the midst of a big shift which requires that in order to make room for the next iteration of my life and my work, I let go of stability and comfort and allow my life feel uncertain, scary and empty. It requires that I question everything I thought I knew and be willing to feel like a beginner again.
Getting fucked up looks different depending on the circumstance. Sometimes it’s depression. Sometimes it’s a loss of control. Other times it’s grief, loneliness or emptiness. Whatever the case, the important thing to remember is that it’s perfect, and the way I know this is that it must be perfect because it’s happening. I can’t argue with what is.
I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and that the way forward isn’t over it or around it, but rather, through it. So instead of cursing my fucked up state and hiding it shamefully, I ask it, “What do you want me to see?”—and I make room in myself to receive the answer whenever it’s ready to reveal itself. And I thank my fucked up feelings for guiding me through this part of my journey.
That’s really all there is to do. Even after years of conscious personal growth work, I’m often still surprised at how effortlessly I am able to move through the darkest moments of my life when I simply accept that they are necessary and embrace what they are trying to show me.
Author: Summer Engman
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina