Why Do People Get Depressed?
Updated: Dec 30, 2019
Depression is more common this time of year than any other time. It could be that we are not getting enough Vitamin D3, the sunshine vitamin, due to the angle of the sun where we live. Or it could be that we are stuck inside and not moving around as much as we usually do in those carefree, playful summer months. It could be that all the holiday excitement and vacation time is over and we have nothing to look forward to. Or it could simply be that pile of work that we have been procrastinating about and now have to face. Maybe we are missing our dearly departed loved ones. Or maybe the mounds of winter snow have lost their charm. Perhaps we are depressed because of a strained relation or some debilitating disease. It could be because we are in a bad financial position or that our much beloved pet just passed away. Or maybe we are facing the ultimate betrayal of discovering our partner cheating on us. Maybe we are just feeling lonely and like no one understands us. The list goes on. There are really so many things that could cause a person to feel depressed.
But at the root, there is one common cause for all forms of depression. To be depressed we have to be in ignorance of who we really are. That is the prerequisite for our mind to slip into a depressed state. Because the secret is that if we know who we are, then there is no chance of becoming depressed. Have you ever stopped to take time to deliberate on that one? Who are you, really? Underneath it all, who are you? Underneath the name, titles, clothes, positions, possessions, and relations, which keep on changing, who are you, the unchanging witness of all the changes? You surely can’t be the body that you are living in because it keeps changing, year after year, day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, second after second. Our body is in a constant state of flux. That is why we don’t look like how we looked last year, or 10 years ago. If we were the changing body, then we would not be able to remember it. Something has to be unchanging in order to witness change. So what is that thing that is consistently with us from the second we were born until now? What is that thing that is not changing? What is that thing that is witnessing the changing body? We might guess that it is the brain, or the mind. But that is not the case because our mind is surely changing all the time, even more rapidly than our body, from happy to sad to angry to depressed; and from excited to bored in an instant. That unchanging entity, the one who is watching the body and the mind change - that one is actually who you are. And if we can realize this for our self, then we will not be able to fall into a depression.
We fall into depression because we actually think we are this body. So if our body or things related to our body change in a way that we don't like, then we feel depressed. If our body falls sick, or if our loved one’s body dies, we suffer. If we lose a relationship, job, house, or money, which are all related to the body, we suffer. Why? If we understand the nature of the material world, we know that things come and go. Money, friends, feelings, cars, houses, pets, lovers. They all have one thing in common. They are perishable. They are not eternal. So why do we feel depressed if we know that these things all must leave us some day? I don’t think we feel depressed when we have a bowel movement. That something inside of us was once so close to us, and now it has left us and is sitting in the toilet. We will never see it again. But we don’t grieve over that. We don't even think twice about it. We just flush it away and move on with our day. We also don’t feel depressed when we throw away extra food from the plate, or items into the dumpster. So why do we get so depressed when we lose something that is dear to us? It is because we are identifying with it as a source of our bodily, mental, or emotional enjoyment. When it leaves us, we don’t like that and we suffer.
But if we want to live a depression-free life, the trick is to connect with the part of ourself that is unchanging. Our eyes are anatomically facing outwards, so we can see all around us. Our eyes also enable us to see the endless possibilities of things to enjoy in life from the beautiful sunset to the beautiful girl to the beautiful cake to the beautiful house. But everything we enjoy ultimately ends in suffering. Anything which can give you pleasure has the potential to give you suffering. It is just that sometimes there is a very long gap from the time we enjoyed it to the time we got suffering from it. And sometimes maybe the gap is not too long, but we just don't make the connection that the very thing we enjoyed also caused our suffering. But it is undeniable, and a law of the universe. You can choose to believe it or not, but it does not change the fact that what we enjoy makes us suffer eventually.
To get out of this enjoyment-suffering loop, we have to cultivate a practice of using those same eyes that are looking outward, to look inside at our self. Can you find the part of you that is the witness? Settle in there. There is nothing to do now. Just relax. Observe and remain neutral. Not numb, not emotionless, but neutral. Experience whatever comes our way without attachment to it. When happiness or distress comes, sickness or health, kindness or criticism, wealth or poverty, life or death, we remain grounded within the unchanging part of our self. We see it for what it is, just a fluctuation in matter. We remain peaceful, and unflappable. It is not an easy practice to cultivate awareness of the unchanging part of ourself that is eternally peaceful. But what else should we do with this precious life? Tell me.