The challenge to restore ourselves and to become someone of substance, depth and soul.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression may go hand in hand, and sometimes it is difficult for us to know where to start our healing. In simple terms, think of anxiety as fear of the future, depression as regrets over the past.
Thomas Moore, a psychologist and theologian, has a wonderful term which resonates with me – he calls times of suffering “Dark Nights of the Soul”. I liken this to the night before the new moon, when the sky is so very dark that it is hard to believe the moon, or indeed any lightness, will imminently arrive.
Dark Nights of the Soul can last longer than one night, obviously, and these episodes often herald a significant shift in perspective. They usually turn up following a major life event that demands some change of us that we were unprepared for or unwilling to make.
The concept of Dark Nights of the Soul is a way of delineating, informally, the idea that angst and emotional pain is an inevitable part of life, as is joy and elation – emotional wellness is about contentment and learning to navigate the ups and downs of life is part of developing emotional resilience. Moore proposes the dark night is a challenge to “restore ourselves and to become someone of substance, depth and soul”.
Resilience work requires commitment to tolerate emotional discomfort with the understanding that living life on purpose involves the word “AND”: you can experience feelings of self-doubt AND continue to take that next positive step towards your valued life.
In this way you work towards achieving lasting fulfilment and contentment. I provide intensive mentoring to assist people to move more freely through stages of significant life disruption with a focus on practical strategies to develop emotional resilience and creativity.
Here are some resources to help you get started:
Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals by Thomas Moore. Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference. Our lives are filled with emotional tunnels: the loss of a loved one or end of a relationship, aging and illness, career disappointments or just an ongoing sense of dissatisfaction with life. Society tends to view these “dark nights” in clinical terms as obstacles to be overcome as quickly as possible. But Moore shows how honoring these periods of fragility as periods of incubation and positive opportunities to delve the soul’s deepest needs can provide healing and a new understanding of life’s meaning. Dark Nights of the Soul presents these metaphoric dark nights not as the enemy, but as times of transition, occasions to restore yourself, and transforming rites of passage, revealing an uplifting and inspiring new outlook …(Publisher’s summary).
Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. In our fast-paced society, we often overlook the needs of our inner selves. This best selling guide shows how to add depth, meaning, and spirituality to your life by nurturing the spirit. By teaching you how to sense the sacredness of everyday things, it will help you solve emotional problems, ease frustration, and gain new perspectives on what living means (Publisher’s summary).
Eckhart Tolle – spiritual teacher and author, educated at the Universities of London and Cambridge and colleagues offer inspiration through insightful discussion in videos, articles, and books.
Eckhart Tolle: The Dark Night of the Soul – (YouTube, about 14mins)
Aware by Dan Siegel. The guide to the groundbreaking meditation practice has used successfully with tens of thousands around the world. Summarised by the Wheel of Awareness Meditation Guide (with video and downloadable resources).
Clinical Anxiety / Depression
If you are experiencing thoughts of self-harm, harm toward others, or you are seriously worried about your mental well-being, please consult your treating health practitioner.
I am Anxiety – A step-by-step guide to anxiety recovery by David McLaughlin. An accessible book offering insights into the clinical condition of anxiety as experienced by the author. Includes reference to strategies supported by the empirical evidence.
For a clinical perspective of Anxiety / Depression: