While optimism tends to attract happier states of mind, we should avoid being judgmental toward those living through darker moods. It’s important to ask if a friend needs help or wants to talk about problems. Yet simply being there can be more beneficial than jumping in quickly to “fix” someone’s mild sadness and gloom.
In addition to being compassionate, we need to be able to give others space to process their own emotional states. There is a place and purpose for melancholy, heartache, and disenchantment.
Psychologist James Hillman claims that the “gravitas” accompanying mild depression may allow us to discover consciousness and the depths of the soul. “It brings refuge, limitation, focus, gravity, weight, and humble powerlessness.”
Rather than giving in to a dark mood or blaming someone else, a person undergoing the blues has an opportunity to listen to what the unconscious is trying to say.
For instance, someone who identifies with being action-oriented may ignore grief and loss. Those neglected feelings may gain energy in the form of a shadow that one day will burst to the surface as emotional outbursts or depression. Mild and temporary depression can be a wake up call to the sleepwalker within us, allowing us to take time to mull over our life’s journey.
If a friend’s melancholy goes on too long or becomes severe, however, it may be time to intensify concern about his or her inability to get out of the depressed state. Dark moods push people away and prolong isolation and solitude, which can perpetuate a cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to break. If depression is leading to atrophy and degeneration, it’s important to encourage the friend to get help or see a health care professional.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD