The Connection Between Depression, Attachment and Desire
Between birth and death we experience many desires. What are the first things a child needs? Love, nourishment and security. Does everyone get those needs met in a way that is strong, consistent, and uncomplicated? Do all children move into adulthood with a solid sense of well-being, self-awareness and compassion? Well, not quite. That’s why therapists will always have work!
Love, nourishment and security are natural desires and essential pieces of the puzzle that make us who we are. More often than not, even a reasonably healthy adult will act out some form of unmet needs as an undercurrent to how they are living their lives. Problems arise and show up as neuroses. Neurosis may sound terribly serious, but behavior based on fear, insecurity, anger and a whole host of unresolved emotions, are common and widespread among us. So many of these feelings are behind desire. How does desire lead to depression? We think we need certain things to happen, for people to behave as we want them to, and to achieve material gain and outward success. Attachments to these expectations form, and desire becomes the basis for what we think will make us happy. Instead of looking within for happiness, we look to the outside world and external things, which fail to satisfy us in deep, lasting ways. Depression is a natural result of this misguided disappointment.
When children don’t get enough love, nourishment and security from their parents, say in the case of being raised by two alcoholics, there can be an underlying depression that carries into adulthood. Other situations and dynamics in our past may be very painful, and depression is a way to shut down. It’s your mind saying, “I’ve had enough” and stomping off, wanting to quit the game and not participate any longer. Not getting your own way causes depression. When your desires aren’t fulfilled you get depressed. Alcoholics are depressed – they’re not living up to their own impossible-to-fill expectations and desires. They don’t want to be here, so they slip into depression.
You cannot truly satisfy a desire. You may think you have, but it will only go away for a moment, and then be back. The only way to stop suffering is to look at the ultimate truth of everything: You are not permanent.
The key to ward off depression
You won’t be here one hundred years from now. We get very attached to the present, along with our past, and what we want the future to bring. In fact, we become very attached to everything. The truth comes down to this – either you’re happy or you’re not. The key to ward off depression that is based on low self-esteem and unmet expectation is to look at what you’re attached to. It’s not an easy thing to do, but you can take small steps towards that goal. Attachment is happening all around us. When dealing with depression, it can help to stop and ask yourself about the patterns of thought that you are attached to.
- Do you have a script playing in your head about the way you think of yourself?
- Are you creating scenarios about what you think you must have to be happy?
- Do you have firm ideas about how others perceive you, what you can and cannot do and how life is treating you?
Think about not just the things and people you find yourself attached to, but what goes on in your mind. Can you begin to change your way of thinking? Is there a higher consciousness, which exists above attachment, that could free you from those limiting, preconceived ideas that have been formed in your psyche?
Everyone has a story to tell. We get very attached to that story, play it over and over in our mind, and believe it to be true. The story seems fixed, but, in reality, impermanence is the only truth. If you don’t see that, you’ll create more of those stories, and that’s where the attachment takes hold. You may very well ask yourself, “Why does shit keep happening to me?” Well, because somewhere in your personality is an element that attracts that disharmony, and the experiences that come with that. Attachment to experiences – both good and bad – will always cause suffering and will always cause confusion. If you understand that events are going to happen in your life and there is nothing you can do to stop them, you can begin to let go of attachment, and depression.
The physical world is based on cause and effect. Scientific studies reflect that fact. Any action that happens, results in a consequence. When an earthquake occurs in one location, it can upset the entire eco-system. When you participate in an action there has to be a payback for it. That’s just the way it is. We are seeing the results of greed on the planet right now, along with many more injustices being committed. But here’s the thing – we need to stop blaming “them.” We need to take responsibility for “cause and effect.” We could have acted to change these things, even in a small way. We could have voted and spoken up. And if defeated, we needed to keep trying.
Similarly, you need to take responsibility in your personal and emotional life. No matter by who, when or where you feel you got a “raw deal,” you need to detach from anger, resentment and despair. You may think you’ve already tried very hard to do that, with no measurable result. It’s time to see how you are attached to those feelings. They may feel familiar and safe. The depression could be keeping you in your own cozy, albeit unhappy, little cocoon. If you want to come out, and experience a joyful life, you have to detach from that depression when you are ready to do so.
Getting help to gain perspective can be the start. Attachment and desire will cause suffering, and suffering will cause confusion. When you’re in the middle of it you can’t see the light through the haze. That’s why you need to be able to talk to somebody. When you grasp onto things that you think your happiness is dependent on, it’s hard to change your way of thinking. That’s attachment.
DEPRESSION: WHAT’S THAT? offers a new way of thinking about depression and explains how you can positively address this often debilitating, widespread condition. For more insights on depression, including its connection to childhood, programs, anger, and addiction download: