Article by Kathleen Johnson
Depression is a word familiar to us all and is a mental health condition experienced by countless individuals in varying ways and degrees of severity. It is so widespread that it’s often referred to as the common cold of mental health. However, this metaphor fails to address the scope of depression; it is not limited to the mind but instead affects all aspects of one’s being and is indeed a holistic disorder.
From a mental health standpoint, traditional clinical depression is characterized by persistent feelings of deep sadness, despair, irritability, agitation, and frustration. These feelings may manifest in a myriad of symptoms: decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities, sleeping and eating disturbances, fatigue, low motivation, concentration and memory difficulties, unexplained physical pains and symptoms, and in some extreme cases, suicidal thoughts or attempts.
No one is immune from depression, yet women experience it two to three times more frequently than men. Medical research1 has revealed multiple causes of depression, some of which include genetics, hormonal imbalances, external situations, seasonal changes, and low self-worth. At present, there is no cure for depression, and current treatment modalities often include medication and various forms of psychotherapy, which can provide relief from symptoms for many people.
However, there is another largely unknown variety of depression and for which medication and traditional counseling methods are often ineffective. Existential depression can occur when the individual begins to question their very existence, and ponders weighty life issues such as, “Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who or what am I? Is there anything beyond this life? Does my life even matter?” In examining these existential questions, the individual may begin to feel that life is essentially meaningless, which can then lead to existential depression in some people.
Unlike traditional clinical depression, existential depression involves a hopelessness intimately related to the fact of one’s actual existence. Because of this, existential depression can be considered a manifestation of a spiritual emergence, or crisis.
Symptoms of existential depression can mimic those of clinical depression, but may also include:
- An intense desire to explore profound questions about purpose, meaning, life and death
- Losing interest in everyday life, because it seems meaningless
- Experiencing numbness or emptiness
- Intolerance for others’ behavior, impatient of others
- Frustration and anxiety about the world and society in general
- The feeling of being a misfit and misunderstood
- An increasing desire for solitude and isolation, and disconnecting from others
Although external events can trigger existential depression, it often appears to be uncaused, making it difficult for traditional therapies to be effective. As stated above, it is an indication of spiritual emergence, and as such, can herald a period of significant spiritual growth in the individual.
Existential depression is not well-researched but is receiving more attention these days, and it has been noted that certain types of individuals are more likely to experience, and suffer from, existential depression. 2 These individuals tend to be highly sensitive, intuitive, empathic, creative, and are acutely attuned to their inner and outer worlds.3 Unsurprisingly, Reiki practitioners, and healers in general, fall into this category and are therefore more susceptible to existential depression. They experience the world in a very personal way, often carrying others’ burdens (many times unwittingly), and easily absorbing their energies. These highly sensitive souls feel and sense the world in ways that others cannot, sometimes to their detriment. As one of these souls, and a Reiki practitioner, I can attest to the sometimes-painful sense of aloneness and being misunderstood, even as I search for meaning in a troubled world. I am also deeply and personally affected by national and global strife, the struggles of those marginalized by society, and, indeed, all the pain and suffering rampant in today’s world. If you are reading this, you likely resonate with these experiences.
Current theory2 postulates that existential depression often stems from disconnection to one’s true, or authentic self.3 Misalignment with one’s higher authentic self creates a type of cognitive dissonance; the sheer discomfort and anguish of this psychological dissonance can effectively “force” the individual to move toward alignment with the authentic self, thereby reducing, and ultimately resolving the conflict.
As the individual continues to grapple with the existential issues of life, death and the meaning of it all, it becomes possible to move toward a deeper understanding of who we truly are, and in so doing, grow as a spiritual being inhabiting a physical body. Although this process can be quite challenging to navigate alone, the presence of Reiki in our lives can be nothing short of miraculous (and sometimes lifesaving) as we make the journey back to ourselves.
Almost all of the Reiki practitioners I have encountered throughout the years share a similar story about how Reiki found them. Without exception, Reiki entered their consciousness and lives during moments of protracted and painful crisis – very likely an existential depression. My personal experience was much the same, but Reiki lifted me from the depths of despair, and transformed hopelessness into a measure of joy, as it helped to bring the light back into my life.4 Years later, I know without a doubt that Reiki finds us when we need it the most.
So, why does Reiki enter our lives during these times of existential angst?
Because, in its unerring wisdom, Reiki knows when we are ready for a way forward in the search for Self, for authenticity. Its timing is impeccable, its support eternal. It is there for us – to shepherd us through darkness, and return us to the knowledge that the darkness itself is an illusion, and that the Light from which we came is always shining brightly within ourselves.
Reiki is an unfailing antidote to existential depression as it patiently encourages and guides us to realize, accept, and embrace our innate divinity. In so doing, we become ever closer to the most profound truth of our existence – that each one of us is a Spark of the Divine, created by divine love. It is only up to us to allow it into our lives, to let it lead the way from despair and meaninglessness to hope and promise.
It is important to note that existential depression can commonly recur on our journey toward awakening and authenticity. However, as someone who has experienced existential depression multiple times, I take comfort in the knowledge that with Reiki by my side and in my soul, I am moving ever closer to realizing my authentic Self. This knowledge illuminates the way forward even during the darkest times.
My next article focuses on the role of Reiki in managing existential depression – and how we, as Reiki practitioners, can bring its power to bear as we navigate the journey to our authentic selves.
© 2020 Kathleen Johnson
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Kathleen Johnson is a Usui/Holy Fire III Reiki Master, a Kundalini Reiki Master, and a Certified Crystal Healer. As a Spiritual Teacher & Mentor, she assists others in discovering their unique path to wellness, wholeness, and authenticity. Kathleen is also a Certified Past-Life Soul Regression Therapist, and infuses Reiki into her work with clients’ past lives.
She is the Founder of UniverSoul Heart, LLC, a holistic healing and wellness practice based in Pennsylvania, USA. Kathleen enjoys teaching all levels of Reiki classes, from Level I through Master/Teacher, and is honored to assist others on the Reiki path. She also offers “Crystal Basics” and “Finding Your Life Mission” workshops for those wishing to deepen and enrich their self-knowledge at the soul level.
Kathleen was a co-host and presenter at the Reiki Rays Spring 2018 Summit, and also presented at the Winter 2018 and Spring 2019 Summits. She is passionate about raising awareness of the benefits of Reiki and holistic wellness and enjoys speaking to public and private groups.
As part of her commitment to raising awareness, Kathleen has been a featured guest in many radio interviews and is the host of "UniverSoul Heart Radio with Kathleen Johnson- Sensible Spirituality for Everyday Living", broadcast on Transformation Talk Radio.
Kathleen was selected as Top Reiki Master of the Year for 2019 by the International Association of Top Professionals (IAOTP) for her outstanding leadership, commitment, and dedication.
Writing is a passion for Kathleen, and her many articles about Reiki and Spirituality are published on Reiki Rays and in Reiki News Magazine. She is currently gathering information for a book and knows that Reiki will be with her every step of the way.
Kathleen’s website is www.universoulheart.net, and her email is email@example.com
You can find her on Facebook at UniverSoulHeartReiki, on Instagram @universoulheartreiki and on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/universoulheart/