Friday, March 12, 2010

M. Scott Peck M.D. on Grief and Depression

“Since mentally healthy human beings must grow, and since giving up or loss of the old self is an integral part of the process of mental and spiritual growth, depression is a normal and basically healthy phenomenon. It becomes abnormal or unhealthy only when something interferes with the giving-up process, with the result that the depression is prolonged and cannot be resolved by completion of the process.”

~M. Scott Peck M.D., Wisdom from The Road Less Traveled, 2001.

Enter the world of the anti-depressant—the pharmaceutical therapy that “fixes” many who’ve undergone just the sort of latter depression Peck talks about... It doesn’t happen overnight but it can often happen especially if the following is considered likewise.

According to Peck, life for all of us involves the process of giving part of ourselves up continually. It’s a condition necessary to life lived with ‘good effect.’

This is personal change management as we encounter the varying nuances of life including our reaction to them. Change in this way is inevitable unless we bow out of life—which is not really an option for 99 percent of us!

Life is hence all about balancing. It counteracts the things about ourselves we are giving up; it reduces the pain—the discipline of balancing or maintaining life balance.

And Peck nails the crux of the issues of grief and depression here. “The loss of balance is ultimately more painful than the giving up required to maintain balance.” (Italics added.) Most people don’t have the self-discipline to maintain life balance, but life would be far easier if they did have it.

And this is such a pity because what costs less actually delivers more joy and less pain; but we’re duped in not wanting to let go of those things or attributes or habits or relationships—those “bits” of ourselves—that hold us back.

Perhaps this ‘giving up’ process is not too dissimilar to the ‘Let go, let God’ mantra of many recovery programs like AA. It is death to things that constrain us that provides our lives with more meaning. According to Peck this is the secret central to all religion.

Both grief and depression involve a lot of giving up. At some ends both grief and depression are maladjusted forms of giving up—they don’t want to or simply can’t give up those things holding the person back; not “yet” anyway. And surely the very idea that recovery is slow, and the fact we must be patient, should ease the burden.

Grieving and depression are inevitable life phases for us—almost none of us will be exempt.

And then again, surely the wisdom needed firmly in mind is that having the spiritual courage to give up things about ourselves, surrendering them, is the key to warding off symptoms of depression and resolving grief in the first place.

Sometimes it just takes a little time that’s all.

Notwithstanding, the motivation to ‘give up,’ with good effect, should presumably be what we should be aiming for—to maintain balance through effective application of self-discipline.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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