Depression and spirituality: Toward a holistic formulation of depression

Laura Lynn Pauly, Marquette University

Abstract

Since antiquity, depression, commonly understood as a dysphoric mood and a loss of interest in usual activities, has been identified as one of humankind's most pervasive concerns. Psychological theory has extensively addressed the issue of depression from many viewpoints. The mostly widely-held theories of depression include loss, stress, biological, psychodynamic, existential, cognitive and behavioral. Historically, depression has been viewed as a unitive phenomenon. In recent years, there has been a call for a more integrative approach to depression which acknowledges its multi-determined etiology. The specifics of such a theory have heretofore remained undelineated. Furthermore, the spiritual aspects of depression have been neglected. The current work addresses the relationship between depression and spirituality. Spirituality has been defined as the experience of sacredness and unity in oneself and in one's world. The mystical tradition common to all great world religions has been offered as the quintessential example of spirituality. Depression may be understood as the psychological metaphor for the cosmic separation experience or the Fall that is portrayed extensively in myth and religion. Depression is also a normative experience of personal development and spiritual growth as previously identified aspects of self are relinquished. Depression becomes pathological when it signifies a resistance to growth and change. This level of depression occurs then when there is an over-identification with the personal identity and an under-identification with the individual's spirituality. Implications for light as the metaphor of spirituality and the actual scientific reality for the cure of depression are discussed. Additionally, the current work suggests that the spiritual perspective is based on a perspective of unity or wholeness. The basis of holistic theory is presented as the integrated view of the individual as mind, body, emotions, and spirit in socio-environmental context. Direction is pointed toward understanding depression within this holistic framework. Possible causal channels/interactions between mind, body, emotions, spirit, and socio-environmental context are suggested as transductions between the interchangeable realms of matter and energy. This work points toward a convergence of paradigms of religion and science and the necessity for a synthetic understanding of depression and reality as a whole. It is suggested that the treatment of depression focus on its multi-level nature and multi-determined causation. It is essential that issues of spirituality be addressed in this effort as well. The necessity for further research to substantiate the hypothesized channels of interaction between mind, body, emotions, spirit, and socio-environmental context is acknowledged. Future researchers would do well to continue to expound on the relationship between spirituality and depression in developing a comprehensive holistic framework for the diagnosis and treatment of depression.

Recommended Citation

Laura Lynn Pauly, "Depression and spirituality: Toward a holistic formulation of depression" (January 1, 1990). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI9107787.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI9107787

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