Some years ago, in a suicidal moment. I remember having this thought:  “If I want to die this much, there must also be an equal part of me that wants to live.”

If I hold a secret death-wish, I must also hold a secret life force.

The catch, however, was how to access this life force in my depressed state.

Whenever depression hit, it knocked me down like a bad flu. I had to just wait it out until it ran its course.  Sometimes it took weeks, other times months. I tried anti-depressants, but they made me feel worse.  

In my search for healing alternatives, I began working with a shaman, who introduced me to the idea of “creating relationship with the enemy.” 

The first step in creating relationship with something is to move toward it, rather than away from it. 

As I began moving toward and exploring my depression, I discovered its ingredients, which, for me, were feelings of helplessness, compounded with despair, that eventually caused such overwhelm in me I would check out and go numb.

With this understanding, I began to see the relationship between suppression and depression and that depression was the accumulation of suppressed feelings.   

I also began to see my depression as a form of disassociation. Rather than an outside force that took me over, I saw depression as a way I was leaving myself. I saw that whenever I left myself I entered into victim consciousness and become a victim to things outside myself.

In this way, depression has been a teacher for me about self responsibility.  

But back to my initial inquiry about the will in me to live…..

The human will to live is strongest in the physical body. It’s built in us.  It’s in our survival instincts. 

When I’m depressed, I can’t access this will through my emotions. But maybe it’s possible to access it through my body. This led led to another revelation: 

 Maybe depression had a purpose other than my misery. Maybe it was a signal from my spirit to summon my survival instincts and get me back into my body.    

I started brainstorming all the physical sensations I might feel if I had to run and fight for my life.

My breath would be faster.  My heart would pound. I would be shaking and sweating. My muscles would be tense. If I couldn’t run, I’d fight back.  I’d resist. I’d push. I’d punch. I’d kick. I’d scream.

So this is what I did in my moment of depression. Even though I didn’t feel like it.  Even if couldn’t feel anything positive, I could shake. I could make my breath faster than normal. After about thirty minutes of fast, deep breathing and shaking, I had so much energy running through my body, I felt like I was going to explode.  I felt my life force.  I felt my desire to LIVE.

I felt for the first time my way through depression.  

When I was sexually violated as a child, I never got to use my survival instincts. I suppressed them. I disassociated and disconnected from myself and my experience. Later, as a teenager, when I was raped by six of my classmates, I did the same thing. Instead of fighting back, I told myself, “This isn’t happening,” and floated up to the ceiling and out into the sky. I denied my feelings and the event so completely, I didn’t tell anyone about it until a decade later. Although disassociation is a a perfectly understandable response to trauma, this has been the hardest part of the forgiveness process for me – forgiving myself.

I see these moments of disassociation and self denial like little deaths, and depression as a way of revisiting these little deaths and resurrecting my Self from them.

Depression is a holy instigator for me to do what I couldn’t in the past – activate my survival instincts and my desire, my will to live, and reclaim my choice.

In universal law, opposites exist and function simultaneously. They attract and call to one another. They are equals and perfect mirrors for each other. And in right relationship, opposites support and strengthen one another.  

Denial calls to desire. The death wish calls to the life force.  

5 Body-centered practices that have helped pull me through depression

Below are 5 simple practices that have consistently helped pull me out of depression. Make a commitment to yourself (when you’re notdepressed) to do any combination of them the next time you’re in it. These practices are not meant to be a substitute for feeling the underlying emotions that make up depression. Rather they can help you to have more buoyancy and capacity to do your emotional work and feel empowered even in the middle of depression.  

Holotropic Breathing

Put on emotionally evocative music. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Close your eyes and breathe into your belly, faster than normal, in through your nose and out through your mouth.  Note:  When you flood your body with oxygen like this, feelings will come up. Instead of emoting, just keep breathing, allowing the emotional energy to release through your breath. You may also experience a condition called techne, where you’ll feel temporary constriction in your jaw or numbness in your hands and feet. Your fingers may curl in tight.  If this happens, don’t panic. Just shake your hands or tap your hands and feet firmly on the floor. Stretch, move your jaw muscles until the tension releases. This practice clears unconscious trauma and anxiety. To experience a breakthrough, breathe for at least twenty to thirty minutes.  


In a standing position, shake your body from head to toe. Keep your feet on the ground, except when shaking out your legs.  Let your head tilt slightly downward, relaxing your neck.  In addition to shaking, pat your body with your hands intermittently.  Pat different sections of your body, one at a time, then return to just shaking.  Pat your lower back, your middle back, your groin, pelvis, belly, chest and shoulders.  This practice clears trauma and activates energy in the body. Shake and pat your body for fifteen minutes. 


Get a punching bag and gloves and hit the bag. Or get a plastic baseball bat and pound the bed. If you don’t want to go out and buy something, pound a pillow with your fists or push up against a wall with your hands. Add screams or angry words.  Depression is imploded expression.  Anger can help release suppressed energy from the past and bring you into present moment clarity. Whatever you do, give it all you’ve got for ten minutes. 


Make vigorous propeller circles with your arms, alternating from backwards circles to forwards, doing a dozen or so one way, then switching direction. As you circle, inhale through your nose and exhale strongly through your mouth. This opens up energy in your chest and heart center. After circling, swing your arms from side to side, twisting in your torso.  Inhale through your nose down into your belly on the twist, and exhale strongly through your mouth when your arms are at your sides. Do a series of twists with your arms hanging down.  Then bend your elbows up at a 90 degree angle, working your lower and upper torso. Both practices bring feelings of lightness and freedom. 

Persona Play

Sit or stand in front of a mirror, look into your eyes and fully embody your   depressed self. Let your emotional and physical body guide you. Feel for subtle inner impulses and exaggerate them into expression. Contort your face into all kinds of ugly and grotesque expressions. Make disgusted, disgusting sounds. Give your despair and self loathing an opportunity to fully come out and be witnessed. The idea is to be so over the top you start to see the cartoon character of your depression, which may even make you laugh. This practice helps you to shift your identity from the depressed persona to the witnessing Self that you are.

In Summary: 

In a traumatic experience, your feelings and survival instincts can be suppressed.
A common response to trauma is disassociation, which is when you deny or disconnect from your experience and your Self.
Disassociation is like a little death. 
Your body is the storehouse of your subconscious, which is where you keep everything you’ve ever denied or suppressed. 
Depression is a condition of accumulated suppressed material. 
When you’re depressed, it’s usually because there’s material from the past that wants to be felt, expressed and released. 
Every force in the universe has an equal opposite.
Desire is the natural, evolutionary direction of energy. It is universal will and in you, it is the will to live. 
Denial is the opposing force of desire – the refusal or movement away from life.
When you’re depressed, it can be a reminder for you to reclaim your survival instincts and your desire.
Your survival instincts and your desire are strongest in your physical body.
Even if you can’t connect emotionally with your desire when you’re depressed, you can through your body, through conscious breath, movement and sound.  
By activating survival sensations in your body, you can shift from a denial state into a more life-affirming desire state.

For more ideas on how to work with your shadow and activate your natural emotional positivity and physical vitality :

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