Existential Depression is the doorway to Spiritual Awakening

-I did some serious time in the existential-depression penitentary.

-I spent a good twenty years of my life wallowing in the black depths of the dark night of the soul.

-I paid my rot time enlightenment dues. (Rot- school of waking down)

-And…I contracted a severe case of decades long zen sickness.

In other words, for a very long time … I was a miserable fuck.

Funny thing though- probably with the exception of my closest family, nobody had a clue I was going through this. How could this be? How did I function? How do I retain my sanity? How did I get beyond it? Have a seat my weary souled friend and I will share with you a few helpful secrets…

Let’s begin with nomenclature. It’s all in the name: Existential depression. I didn’t say just depression, or suffering, or psychological suffering, or unhappiness, or miserableness, or any other other descriptive term which would-or-could have imbued it with any personal overtone or meaning. Existential depression is what I called it during all those years. I denuded it. I striped it of all personal function.

I was not a victim and nor was I at fault. I was not damaged nor beyond repair. I was not suffering due to some past childhood issue or abuse. I was not suffering at the hands of some psychological or biological imbalance. I was not suffering from any of the myriad number of man-made, get in line, sell you pharmaceudicals, fictionalized, pseudo-scientific reasons that have risen in our hyper-materialistic and spiritually dead culture. I was was not suffering from any of these things. I was suffering existentially. Existential depression. Plain and simple.

To suffer existentially or to be existentially depressed implies that the over-arching mysterious conditions of existence have manifested or brought this condition into play.

To suffer existentially lands you smack dab in the middle- directly on the borderline-between victim and idiot. In other words- neither you nor the universe are to blame -and simultaneously – get this- YES: both you and the universe are to blame. Taking this position denudes it; it removes the fangs from the bite. Does this make sense? I called it existential. I owned it. I embraced it. I let it go. I do believe Buddhists call this the middle way.

I don’t want to make this sound too simple.  There is no simple or easy way through this terrain.  It’s dark.  It’s lonely.  It’s fucking depressing man!  It sucks.  BUT- I guarantee you- you will go through it if you are truly on the path of awakening.  There’s a great book by Michael Washburn called Ego and the Dynamic Ground.  In the book he coins the term: regression in the service of transcendence.   Fantastic.  This is exactly what I’m talking about.  You own it.  It does not own you.  Let this sink deep into the marrow of your bones.

In short, my advise:   Take the center position.  Hold neutral ground. Keep your head above water.  Gather you wits.  You can do this.  Yes, you can.  And eventually– you will weather the storm. Good luck…







DEPRESSION sucks. There is a cure, but you gotta have skin in the game….If humor, wisdom and a nuts & bolts approach to spiritual awakening appeal to you email  jstewart@attainingpie.com to schedule a FREE consultation and let’s see if we can get you to where you really want to be by getting you to embrace all the places you’ve been avoiding, fearing or running from.

Through self-inquiry exercises, nondoing relaxation methods, visualization techniques, eye contact & deep heart listening J. Stewart Dixon offers spiritual awakening facilitation, resonance & coaching services to guide you to glimpses of the awakened state & ultimately to your own awakening. J. Stewart studied for two decades & awakened under the guidance of numerous nondual, advaita & zen teachers.




19 Responses to Existential Depression is the doorway to Spiritual Awakening

  • Hey there,
    I read your article and it really has made me feel a little better. Im 30 now and
    I have suffered on and off from some kind of depression followed by periods of panic and anxiety (I call it resisting life). The first few times I experienced it, I tried to fill the whole with chirstianity.
    More recently I have taken a wider spiritual perspective and even a completely nihilist view more recently, which has brought me to this period of despair. Recently it has become so strong though, that I have had feelings of not wanting to go on with life and thoughts of suicide. I tell myself though if I just hang in a little longer, it will be worth it.
    I have done some silly things this last year, and unintentionally harmed my relationship with a girl I want to marry. Experienced some deaths of people around me(at work) and worked a stressful job but rewarding job with people that have disbilities.
    I had to stop working a couple weeks ago, because I have been felling detached at work(depersonalized). So I really dont know what to do with myself during the day when my girlfriend isnt around.
    I am sowing vegetables and riding my bike alot in the sunshine. I have not been able to feel much pleasure and comfort from any of these activities but I just do them to keep going.
    I constanly question reality and ask myself how I ever was so comfortable or ever found it so familiar. I really want to feel cosy and loved and feel connection again.
    I know it is all an illusion and we are all really connected but I am having trouble feeling it or anything apart from grief and I dont know why. Everything seems alien like my soul has been seperated from god’s love. Last week I was so weak and ill I could barely get out of bed nor eat. I have been having to force myself and force myself to exercise and rest in the sun, also trying to live in the present. But experiencing the present is unsatisfying because I rarely appreciate it, I just want to appreciate things again.
    How do I get out?
    My doctor has prescribed paxil antideppresant for me at a low dose, and I might start it to avoid having the suicidal thoughts. I know ultimately it is all my choice but I dont ever want to lose control one day and hurt so many people around me, but at the same time I feel like it is all meaningless anyway.

  • Hi there,
    I recently started college, and have been bombarded with feelings that I never even imagined I would experience in my life. I have been calling it “existential depression”.
    I have felt a serious emptiness and lack of connection with everybody and everything in the university. The whole institutional setup feels so empty to me, but it goes deeper than that. I am starting to question what the “point” of everything is, and feel that there is no meaning in anything. Everybody seems to live on the surface and I yearn to go deeper. Instead I feel lost, empty, and fail to experience pleasure in any activities. I keep trying to fix this by partaking in different activities,meeting and conversing with new people, but so far the feelings haven’t improved. I just wish I could feel normal again, feel like I have a direction in life and feel a real connection to the world around me. I almost feel like I have been enlightened beyond repair.
    I also feel like I don’t connect with my past identity (the one I had before I came to college). I was the most positive, personable person and everybody believed I was destined for success. Now I feel aimless and depressed. I would love for an email back with advice or thoughts! Thankyou!

  • Hey there,
    I’ve never been great with words, so attempting to describe what I have been going through for the last decade has been difficult for me. Everytime I’ve tried others have just put words in my mouth that never felt quite right. You sir, have accomplished what years of mental strain have left me unable to do.
    A few years ago I went through a full blown existential crisis. I was lost; no goals, no motivation, no prospects, and no desire nor ability to connect to anyone or anything. i quit everything and ran away from what everyone around me thought was going to be a wonderful, successful life. I had forsaken everything that I grew up around in search of meaning in my own life. I told my family repeatedly that I was on a journey of self discovery. I lived a simple, humble and all together lonely and relatively meaningless life for two years. I met some interesting people and we had some even more interesting discussions. I read everything I could get my hands on, well, as long as it was religious or spiritual, philosophic or a classic. Eventually, after searching high and low with no results I gave up my ‘journey’ just as lost as I was the day I left everything behind. I’d hit what could be considered my personal rock bottom. My forced hiatus from life to find meaning in simple everyday things was a complete failure. I was possessed yet again, to attempt a ‘normal’ life.
    Since then I’ve been putting my life back together, all be it slowly. However, I still haven’t been able to make connections with anyone around me. After two years of rebuilding ‘normal’ I am still as lost as ever. I was literally just going to give up, or at least attempt to, on trying to find meaning in anything. Then I came to this page. Knowing that others have gone through the darkness of the path I have chosen and come out in the light has given me hope. This site will forever be bookmarked, as a constant reminder, that it can and will get better.
    Honestly, I don’t expect a reply. I just felt that sharing a brief history of my experience would make my thanks seem that much more genuine. Lastly, Thank You.

    • HI Nate
      I replied via email. Hope you got it. I like to respond to this post privately.

  • Hey. Let me just start off with saying that my mind is absolutely blown. I am 17 and finishing off my junior year. In second grade I was diagnosed with anxiety and in fifth grade I became very depressed. I felt so detatched from everyone and everything. I saw counselor after therapist after physiatrist. Nothing helped. I was questioning everything. I felt like life had no point and no one understood me. I even was hospitalized for suicide attempt in February. I was always told I would be very successful in life and I was known for my sweet, outgoing, persevering personality. But as time passed I felt everything warp. I wasn’t who I thought I was and I definitely wasn’t who others thought I was. So I began questioning who I was too. Tonight I discoverered existential depression. I didn’t know such a thing existed, but I 100% relate and I don’t feel so alone anymore. I’m pretty excited to tell my physiatrist and therapist that I’ve figured things out, but they just might think I’m crazy.

    • Hi Jenni
      Glad this article helped. Viewing or understanding depression from a broader existential or spiritual point of view helped me tremendously. I hope this helps you and you are able to find true peace and happiness in your life.
      Stay in touch,

  • I really like your article. It hits home with me because I have always sensed that my “depression” was nothing more than myself seeking for more out of life spiritually. When I say spiritually I guess I really mean the joy and love in life that comes from transformation of self. I have been in and out of my spiritual awakenings and each time they seem to come about at the least expected moment. I experienced 4 months of pure bliss (coming from a depressed persons conscience) and I thought I was never going to leave the state of being but one sad day I knew inside of me that my depression was coming back in. I can’t begin to describe the psychotic ways I endured coming off a 4 month bliss-high. The more I experience this stuff I desire it above and beyond life itself. I love your post though because I was eventually persuaded by family and doctors that I MUST TAKE MEDS. I took em and felt content but CONTENT is it. The joy, peace, beauty and understanding you can’t get from a pill. I suggest you take meds if you need em nonetheless I PERSONALLY have a spiritual voice that tells me “Just suffer this depression out” or it may be my faith in God that drives me through it all. I love this article. If you (the writer of this article) ever want to talk or share anything please email me. 🙂 -Bryan

  • I’m so depressed and I’m 17 with existential depression but I am scared of death and don’t want to die I just want to he normal and happy but everything I do leaves me empty I hate it because you don’t get a second chance at life and it’s not as easy as tell yourself to try when you just don’t feel.

    • Hi Simon. Thank you for your honest note. I will email you. Let’s explore your depression and see if there is some part of it that is an invitation to something greater.

  • I can relate to this article all to well! And I have begun to see that an awakening might be what I am going through. However, I am still feeling detached from everything and feel no connection whatsoever. Do you have any further advice to move through this existential depression(hell)?

    • when you decide that awakening is DEFINITELY what you are going through as opposed to might be…when you make the declaration to stop suffering, being depressed, being separate and fiercely positively, radically DEMAND that you wake up…then the universe steps in and provides assistance. Until then…being on the fence…being 1/2 hearted…you’ll continue to suffer. This is my lions roar way of saying that what really helps is crazy ass committment and courage.

  • Hi Josh,
    Your testimony helped me too… thanks.

    I’ve been having suicidal thoughts for the last few weeks, it’s not emotional all the time , sometimes I’m just fanaticising about how I’d do it, planning it…in a way.

    I just feel so in between worlds , I feel like the Universe has abandoned me and the world has nothing to offer, people just seem to be Zombies at best and horrible at worst, not all of course, sometimes someone smiles back at me and it brings a tear to my eyes as it’s so rare

    I get exasperated with the attitude of people, I don’t have any spiritual friends or any friends at all , so I can’t talk to anyone about my life , hah well I guess I’ll just keep on going, I like to do dangerous things in the chance I might get to go I fly a lot also and I sometimes think I wouldn’t mind if it crashed. Sounds like a “pity party” now hearing my words, but it actually helps writing(Sharing) it

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