Journeying Toward Wholeness

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How to Cope with Depression After a Divorce, 1

May 25th, 2014 · No Comments · how to cope with depression

Divorce may lead to great psychological change and growth, but a key challenge can be how to cope with depression during such an immense life transition.

how to cope with depression   In dealing with depression associated with divorce, it’s easy to move quickly to wanting to solve it, to get past it.  But it may be important for us to ask, “What’s the meaning behind this depression?  Could there possibly be anything it’s trying to teach me or show me?

Situational Depression and Divorce

This may seem like an outrageous idea!  But as Jung tells us,

All aspects of the psyche, even those which seem pathological or destructive, actually serve the function of furthering our psychological development. 

Is there anything in divorce-related depression that might actually further our journey towards wholeness?

The Meaning of Divorce-Related Depression

To discover how to cope with depression after a divorce, it’s essential that we first understand all that is going on in our inner life at such a time, and grasp its meaning. Jungian psychiatrist Erik Goodwyn tells us,

“Like ‘phantom limb pain’ a subject can continue to vividly experience a person even after they are gone. [The inner image of the person is] a compact symbolic expression of all the feelings, subtle environmental cues, affects, introjected qualities, unconscious perceptions, and self-biased memories of the person in the subject”.

This is true in death, but just as true when a relationship terminates, or a divorce occurs. The former partner is still very much a presence in our inner life, and in our unconscious mind. We will not exorcise that inner presence by a simple effort of will, no matter how strong our will may be. It is often only through a process of extended inner work that the restless “ghosts” are finally quieted, and enabled to go to a place of peace. Often this is connected with a process of acknowledgement of grief, and of self compassion and self acceptance. how to cope with depression

Grief and Loss

Those undergoing divorce or marital breakdown are reluctant to acknowledge grief. Anger, or, even hatred, can be so intense that acknowledging grief can seem like a self betrayal. Yet, even in those situations where the feeling towards the former partner is totally negative, there is almost always a sense of loss, tied to intense feelings of grief.

Those newly married are most often not hard boiled cynics. Most look forward to life with the new partner with hope, joy and often security. One of the hardest things about divorce can be the recognition of the death of hopes and dreams. Individuals can feel that the years and emotional and physical energy invested in a relationship have been wasted. It may be essential to confront these feelings, to enable the individual to ultimately be able to move forward with a sense of hope or trust in the future.

Depth psychotherapy or Jungian analysis may play a vital role in dealing with depression, and ultimately finding healing, in the experience of divorce. In How to Cope with Depression after a Divorce, Part 2, I’ll look at the presence of the Shadow in divorce-related depression, and look at divorce as an honouring of the Self.

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© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)