As humans we need love, we crave connection and empathy more than anything else. We need it more than food or sustenance. This is not an exaggeration on my part; we literally die without connection. Children especially are vulnerable in this aspect. Our neurology — the way we’re wired — makes it that way. At the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, infants suffering from the disease were consciously neglected by nurses ignorantly fearful that they would somehow become infected. Many of these children died quickly. One woman, noticing that those children who were coddled thrived, created a foundling hospital where the workers made it their business to caress, hold, embrace, and emotionally nurture these little angels.
We literally die without connection.
So today, this is about the journey back home, or rather, how I came home to healing and wholeness. I think I mentioned that my own “recovery” included psychological, physical, and spiritual components.
A physical manifestation arises from our feelings. How we feel and connect directly shapes brain structure, for example. Let me repeat that because it begs reinforcement. How we relate and connect with one another changes the very structure of your brain. Hugging, caressing, physical expressions of affection literally help make crucial neuronal connections and shape who we are and how we perceive the world and relate to it. We don’t know that much about the genesis of depression (or “mood disorders”), but we do know that brain function is altered. Clinically depressed individuals suffer from neurochemical imbalances. For some this imbalance progresses to the point where the ability of carrying on even the mundane tasks of daily living is severely hampered. Another example comes from those suffering from addiction, the reward center — how we experience pleasure and pain — is altered (and there is some preliminary evidence that it’s altered permanently).
No amount of willpower will change this.
Medication is necessary for many suffering from depression and there is nothing wrong with that. However, because of pressure from insurance companies and incentives from drug companies, the medical establishment has come to depend too much on pills as a way out of depression. This is dangerous and unethical, in my opinion. We don’t even know the long-term effects of these drugs and we certainly know very little about balancing the brain’s chemical makeup However, an ideal approach to depression would combine drugs with psychotherapy along with a support component.
Psychologically, there is a cognitive component to depression. And this is where therapy would come in handy. In my work, I always run into what I call faulty belief systems and thought constellations. Many of us (and not just those who are depressed) actually buy into beliefs that have no foundation in reality. A good therapeutic approach would challenge these belief systems and the accompanying thoughts that arise from the beliefs. The belief/ thought, which begins with “I have always been ____,” is often based on a myth. Believe me, you weren’t always anything, no one is that good. No one, not even you, can be that fucked up all the time. However, the belief that you were/ are dumb, inadequate, depressed, addicted, ugly, fat, skinny, stupid is a powerful force serving as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Contrary to what you have been told or believe, you’re all right just as you are this moment. At the bottom of the garbage can of your faulty beliefs is a luminous beautiful luminous life-force — a human being. Dig it out, dust it off, clean it up, and you’ll experience its glow. We can’t keep blaming our childhood and parents, folks.
The word spirituality comes from the Latin root meaning “to breathe.” It’s the one common aspect we all share as humans, we all breathe in the same air — we all share the same air supply on this small green little tuft of soil we call earth. And in that way we are all connected. Therefore, I define spirituality broadly. I see spirituality as the web of connection that binds us all to one another and to our ecology. It’s that simple. No burning bushes, no commandments, no having to accept Jesus or anybody else as your savior before you are saved, born again, experience redemption, etc. — none of that.
Faith? Very important, but not there are many different forms of faith — not just the blind faith often associated with extreme forms of religiosity. When I speak of faith, I am referring to the state of trusting in the experience of our lives. We use faith all the time and maybe the second step toward wholeness is to take that one leap of faith that we can realize genuine happiness in this very life.
You might ask me if I believe in God, or in an afterlife, or heaven and hell and my answer to you would be: what the fuck does any of that have to do with the price of potatoes in the big city?!!
If there is a God it’s love. Period.
That’s it in a nutshell, a holistic approach that’s psycho-spiritual in orientation — that’s my path. I won’t go into details about my chosen spiritual path because I refuse to be a public relations man for a specific spirituality. I think it’s important to connect, to bond with others and with your environment, sharing our pain as well as our joys, not so we can co-sign each other’s bullshit, but to lovingly and firmly challenge one another to own up to our shared humanity. We have a physiology that is made for connection and when we lose sight of that connection, we become ill. Therefore, recovery, or healing, is about taking steps to re-connect, to celebrate our humanity and our innate essential goodness.