Spiritual  Enlightenment and Depression: Are they linked?

In this article we will discuss if there is a link between spiritual enlightenment and depression. 

We will also briefly discuss what you can do if you are experiencing spiritual enlightenment related depression. 

Spiritual  Enlightenment and Depression: Are they linked?

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Spiritual Enlightenment and depression are linked and there have been some reports by spiritual practitioners that they do experience depression-like symptoms after a spiritual awakening or enlightenment.  

Depression due to spiritual enlightenment  refers to the potential side effects that one experiences after a spiritual awakening, in this case, enlightenment. 

It is the sense of hopelessness and disillusionment that one experiences after an experience of spiritual awakening when they are unable to integrate their new awakened self to their reality.

This conflict causes one to find themselves displaced from their old life leading to a loss of belongingness and longing for another taste of spiritual awakening can lead an individual to lose ground in the present. 

This can lead to various behavioural and cognitive changes such as:

  • Inability to focus and concentrate
  • Loss of interest in things going on in their life
  • Hopelessness and despair
  • Low moods
  • Social withdrawal
  • Disinterested in maintaining and keeping up with responsibilities such as parenting, going to work, maintaining their relationships etc.

Enlightenment or awakening refers to a release of energy that many people refer to as a spiritual experience where individuals report physical sensations, such as warmth, or disorientation and is generally considered a positive experience. 

However, when one is not prepared for this experience, they do face negative side effects of spiritual awakening. 

According to Bruce Davis, a retreat leader at Silent Stay and a Contributor for Huffpost writes that the disparity between the real mundane world of the individual and the exquisite, almost supernatural experience of a spiritual awakening can lead to depression when one returns back to their real life. 

He writes that the main reason why depression occurs after a spiritual awakening is due to 

“…the inability to integrate how human we are and how divine we are can lead to a state of depression.”

He writes that it is after a person has experienced a spiritual awakening and then finds themselves back in their old life, with their old problems and they are unable to integrate their awakened self to their world, it causes a sense of disappointment and disillusionment can lead to depression. 

Davis also writes that 

“…The contrast between Heaven and Earth for those who have experienced both can be too much.” and that “the weight of this world and weightlessness of who we really are, can lead to depression.”

Along with these factors in play, it is often the case that after an awakening, people tend to question their own lives and their own priorities and this can lead to changes in goals, priorities, beliefs, world views etc which can profoundly turn life upside down.

Due to the vast distance between managing one’s own life and being in touch with their spiritual self, a person might choose to tend to their real life and let go of the idea of becoming spiritually awakened.

When this happens, there is no chance of inner peace or well being because an individual is unable to strike a balance between their spiritual life and that of their real life leading to Depression.

What is spiritual enlightenment?

Spiritual enlightenment or spiritual awakening refers to a release of energy that many people refer to as a spiritual experience where individuals report physical sensations, such as warmth, or disorientation and is generally considered a positive experience. 

The concept of spiritual awakening has been dated back centuries and has been recorded through history over a myriad of cultures and religious practices.

It generally refers to the human experience of a moment where a person becomes “awake” to their life and is present in their life with a new sense of being in this world.

It can lead to a sense of questioning of one’s identity in the world as well as the excitement of finding one’s self alive and connected with the world around us rather than just loving through life mindlessly. 

In the field of psychology. Spiritual enlightenment is described as a human process of connecting with one;s original self and rising to a higher state of consciousness that has always been a part of one’s existence as a human being. 

It refers to one’s transcendence from the issues of life and the challenges of the self, and a focus towards the outward world as well as personal internal world that is not self centred but rather grounded and connected to present experiences. 

A spiritual enlightenment can be triggered by anything- from the act of spiritual practice or life-changing events. It can also be spontaneous, as well as it can occur through deliberate practice. 

What to do if you are experiencing depression after spiritual enlightenment?

Here are a few things that you can do if you are experiencing a depression due to spiritual enlightenment:

Seek out advice

The first thing that you can do if you are experiencing depression is to seek out advice from your teacher or spiritual guide. 

It is likely that they have come across many of their students who have also faced this issue as you are currently facing and it is likely that they have helped them through it. 

So, seek them out and ask them for advice, be honest about what you feel, and ask them to help you through it. 

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with spiritual depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. 

By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

In most cases, a group that targets discussions and support related to spiritual depression will most likely be connected to your local religious bodies. 

Actively seek positive experiences

According to positive psychology research, positive feelings are an important aspect of well-being. 

For a person to engage in activities and other experiences that help them feel positive feelings such as love, belongingness, achievement, and a sense of hope is important.

This could be as simple as watching a movie, petting your cat, taking your dog for a walk, eating ice cream. Do what makes you happy without judging yourself for these choices.

Spend time with supporters

Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones. Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. 

You can connect with supportive spiritual guides or spiritual friends who can help you develop a sense of meaning and joy as well as help you develop a sense of self love and care for yourself. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling- let them know that you feel alone or lonely. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

Seek out therapeutic care

Engaging with a therapist who is informed in terms of spiritual counselling, being diligent with treatment, and making the lifestyle changes you need to make to get better will determine your prognosis.

You have the possibility of seeking out therapists who are aligned with your spiritual and religious beliefs, who are informed and educated of the same, for example- a theological counsellor- who can understand your spiritual and mental health needs. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Choose joy

Bruce Davis notes that one thing that you can do to deal with this form of depression is through the act of

“…choosing joy, daily joy, simple joy, yes fun, freedom — moment to moment receiving the beauty in life.”

Here he is referring to the active choice to be present and to choose joy above all else in one relationship, activities, work, and play to nourish the heart and the hearts of others.

Conclusion

In this article we discussed if there is a link between spiritual enlightenment and depression. 

We also briefly discussed what you can do if you are experiencing spiritual enlightenment related depression. 

FAQ related to Spiritual Enlightenment and Depression

Can spirituality make you depressed?

It is possible that weakened spirituality can lead to depression whereas depression can also lead to weakened spirituality. 

According to Dr. Jim Langley for Denver Catholic, there is a link between spiritual attacks and mental health conditions such as depression.

Langley writes that “demons enter in through our psychological and spiritual wounds’ ‘ and that spiritual attacks can lead to mental health conditions or mental health conditions can lead to further spiritual attacks when we over-spiritualise our personal problems. 

What is spiritual depression?

Spiritual depression refers to a loss of spiritual vitality and joy. While this can occur across different religions, in terms of Christianity, this can involve:

  • losing touch with your faith
  • Neglecting spiritual duty
  • Doubt
  • Fixated on past mistakes
  • a general sense of unhappiness

How does spirituality affect depression?

Research finds that spirituality does impact depression positively and servers as a protective factor in the life of individual who are spiritual. It is believed that spirituality can help people feel a sense of hope as well as unconditional love which can be a positive influence. 

References

Bruce Davis. The Challenge of Depression After a Spiritual Awakening. Huffpost. Retrieved on 11th April 2022.https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-challenge-of-depressi_b_9656658

Sarah Regan. 21 Signs You’re Going Through A Spiritual Awakening + How To Embrace It. Mind Body Green. Retrieved on 11th April 2022. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/spiritual-awakening

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