by Philip Ruddy, LMFT, Depth Psychotherapist
In Thomas Moore’s classic book, Care of the Soul, he devotes a chapter to the “Gifts of Depression.” If, as you read these words, you are grappling with depression yourself, your initial reaction might be skepticism. Or outrage. Or simply dismissal: “He’s wrong. There are no gifts in my depression. It’s robbed me of my life, stolen my joy, driven away people that I love, and blocked me from pursuing my goals.” And if you felt this way, you would certainly not be alone. According to the World Health Organization, over 300 million people suffer from depression globally, including 16.2 million in the United States, which equates to 6.7% of all adults. So what is Moore suggesting exactly? How might depression be a gift?
Moore discusses how in ancient times, melancholy was associated with the Roman God, Saturn, who represented the gifts of wisdom, age, experience, and self-reflection. Moore further describes how Saturn is also known as “the reaper, god of the harvest, patron of end-time.” For such reasons, those of us in the grips of depression may find ourselves wrestling at times with thoughts of our past, our mortality, and even Hamlet’s primal lament, “To be or not to be. That is the question.” Moore writes, “When we speak clinically of depression, we think of an emotional or behavioral condition, but when we imagine depression as a visitation by Saturn, then many qualities of his world come into view: the need for isolation, the coagulation of fantasy, the distilling of memory, and accommodation with death, to name only a few.” (p.146).
If we do not shrink from it, a saturnine encounter can also provide us with a rich opportunity to connect with our own inner creativity on a deeper level. Consider the image of depression as a hole, a tunnel, a cave, or a well. If we peer long enough into this darkness, and do our own work, we will eventually find a light in that darkness - a pathway out, but we must first gather our courage to explore it.
Rather than looking to banish or dispel Saturn from our consciousness, Moore invites us to actively imagine making space for Saturn in our lives - to encourage quiet reflection, stillness, and silence. If you’re thinking, “Ah - is there an app for that? Well, there probably is. But I would encourage you instead to put away your phone. To turn off music, television, computers, tablets, games and other rituals of distraction, and dive within yourself, instead. Observe what happens. What imagery, colors, words — what feelings of creative expression begin to emerge? It may help to use a tool — an enticement for the muse. Pick up a pencil, pen, paintbrush, crayon, paper or clay. Do so with intention, but without direction. Now allow whatever seeks to emerge, to come forth. In time, Saturn himself may speak - sometimes in words - but more often in the primal, universal form of imagery or symbol. Do not edit, but let him speak to you — and through you. Notice what happens, and with practice, how easily. It is through this communion - this engagement of body, heart and mind — that our soul’s intention may truly be heard, and the real healing can begin.
Special Notice: If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide or self-harm, please contact 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 in order to speak with a trained crisis worker. The lifeline is free, confidential and available 24/7 nationwide. The crisis worker will listen to you, understand how your problem is affecting you, provide support, and get you the help you need.
Moore, Thomas. Care of the Soul: A guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life. Harper Collins, 1992.
Philip Ruddy, MFT is a California licensed psychotherapist with offices in Los Angeles, Burbank and Montrose. He specializes in helping creative professionals (filmmakers, comedians, writers, performers) navigate anxiety, depression, and the emotional roller-coaster ride that is the entertainment industry, and learn new tools to positively impact their quality of life, relationships and career. Call (424) 354-3910 to schedule a free 20 minute phone consultation to discuss your personal goals today.
• Philip Ruddy, LMFT #107495, Depth Psychotherapist (424) 354-3910 tel •