I’ve coined a new word, or rather, a new definition of a sort-of new word: “Tansphilic”. Meaning “loving of, having an affinity for, transformation” (from trans, “beyond,” and philic, “loving, affinity for”). My contention here is that depression itself is transphilic; it has a love and affinity for transformation. This may seem counterintuitive, maybe to say the least.
Here’s my reasoning. Depression itself functions as a circuit breaker, triggered when we are in (what our mind perceives) a danger that we don’t see or moreso, are not paying attention to. And the danger that depression tracks for is pursuits or attachments which are deemed “futile.” When we are not willing to let go of something in our life, facing up to whatever that means, when the consequences of that are deemed by our deeper mind to be dangerous, then we are susceptible to depression. It says, basically, “Well if you’re not going to act, I’m going to.” And it does, creating a complex of symptoms, from lethargy to self-recrimination, whose effect is to de-motivate you and keep you from hanging onto the specific pursuit/goal/desire/relationship, or at times, anything at all.
If we’re not minding the store, depression will. Either we are conscious or depression is, and to the degree that we take on that responsibility for monitoring reality, acknowledging, accepting, and often, grieving it, then we are less prone to depression. Its job is done in that case and it just doesn’t get turned on. For those with chronic depression, there simply isn’t a choice or negotiation to be had around being realistic and conscious about our lives: either we do it, or our unconscoius will.
So, depression as “transphilic.” Given this situation, in order to solve the “chronicity” of chronic, recurring depression, one has to become more conscious and surrendered to, or realistic about, one’s life. Instead of, say, refusing to accept that love does not have to be requited in this world, when the world really can function that way, we acknowledge and accept the reality, feel through the “suck” of that, and reach an equal embrace. Inasmuch as depression is turned on by persisting in futile pursuits (“I’m going to make them love me!”), we snip that wiring.
In other words, we have to become more awake; we have to uplevel our consciousness, both in terms of self-knowledge, and in terms of a technical competance (and willingness) to observe ourselves in action. Depression did not develop as a secret growth strategy, but neither do we get depressed in order to develop ourselves. But that does not mean the potential is not there, not in a Pollyanna way, but genuinely hidden in the “code” of the syndrome. Depression is transphilic not because, if pressed, it will say, “Yes, you caught me! I’m only here for your growth!” It actually says, “Look on me and despair,” because that’s its core function and purpose, not happiness, not growth, but safety, and it doesn’t care how roughly it has to go about that.
But unlike our primate ancestors, in whom a kind of proto-depression apparently developed, we have a complex forebrain, a rational, sophisticated context in which depression happens. It’s given that reality which allows depression to release its hidden transphilic core; our ability to not just be subject to depression, but to be in relationship to it, unlocks its value.
SO: because chronic depression does not, over time, resolve by being controlled, and because it is so painful to be only subject to, or only in combat with, we have to find a different relationship to it (which is allowed by our complex, multi-function brain) in order to uproot it. This relationship, if not one of control (control fails in time), is one of observation and acceptance (non-struggle, not non-action). To observe and accept depression is to become more skillful at noticing, and willing to take in and feel, reality as it is (not as we demand it be, all data to the contrary). Because depression will beat us, we have to learn “skillful surrender,” which uplevels our ability to observe objectively, and emotionally metabolize, and honestly relate to, reality, which means our consciousness has been developed. We’ve not just healed, we’ve grown and unfolded into something bigger and wider, in view and in ability to hold reality without shutting down.
Depression “has affinity for, loves” this kind of transformation in the sense that it draws for it. The pain of it pushes us to find a solution, and in the seeking we fail to control, and in the failing to control we are (usually kicking and screaming) forced to learn acceptance, and in that acceptance the depression turns off and we are left transformed. This is not dogmatic, or therapeutic wish-fulfillment, it’s actually, observably, what happens and it actually happens because of the very nature of the phenomenon of depression itself. Does it happen all the time? No. Is it a guarantee for all depressed peoples? No. But it is a very real potentiality, and with the right support and understanding, and willingness to surrender, in my experience, it is a transformative possibility that’s available to everyone.
A very strange mechanism, but an exquisite effect.