Death can symbolise peace and liberation from suffering. At times of suffering we may inadvertantly energise archetypal self-destructive patterns collectively referred to here as the "death-wish". The death-wish is a self-sabotaging block to happiness and healing in people who have been through great suffering or loss...
Why Depressed People are Prone to Negativity, Self-sabotage & Self-destructive Behaviour
The early pioneer of modern psychology, Sigmund Freud, first used the term the "Death Wish" to describe the way that patients with features of depression are their own worst enemy. This theme has appeared again and again in the evolution of modern psychotherapeutic approaches - most recently in the "Rebirthing" movement. In the worst cases it can lead to the "career victim" experience in which unhealed past wounds or abusive relationships set us up for co-creating the same co-dependent victimhood experience again and again.
A Death-Wish Demon is a sub-personality [archetypal pattern of feeling, perceiving and behaving] that has become distorted by suffering into a self-sabotaging block to living fully. It is often encountered in people who have been through great [or persistent, or recurring] suffering, trauma, guilt, shame, toxic relationship or painful loss...
In great suffering, the "death as a way out" option becomes powerfully energised and this can linger self-sabotagingly in our energy field and be a source of "murderous" and "self-murderous" impulses which, if denied and repressed will be projected into paranoid perceptions ["Someone or something wants to kill me!"] of the people and situations around us. All of which leads to vicious cycles of low self-esteem and more victimhood. In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) vicious cycles and mood swings of depression and hyperarousal (hyperactivity, hypervigilance) can go on for years if not effectively treated.
This sub-conscious desire for self-destruction has to be brought into conscious awareness in order to disempower it. While denied and repressed it may periodically emerge into consciousness via demonic dreams and alarming psychic visions or be projected onto people and situations that appear more threatening than they really are. Such death-wish manifestations may unfortunately only intensify present suffering and thereby further feed energy into the death-wish "inner demon".
Suicide [and the "suicide bomber" phenomenon] is of course an extreme expression of an accumulated, over-developed self-destructive wish for "inner peace" in place of current suffering and struggling in a life perceived as hopeless or a world perceived as hostile. Less extreme manifestations are seen in the range of "self-harming" behaviors, from physical self-injury to self-destructive thoughts, feelings and perceptions. The "death wish" may also manifest in much more subtle ways such as an obsessional interest with death and "darkness" e.g. murder films, "Goth" type cultural expressions, "conspiracy theories" or self-defeating patterns of antisocial behaviour.
Self-destructive Behaviour can Express a Subconscious Wish for Peace & Liberation from Suffering...
Perceived to be only available by Escaping from Life, but actually available in Life via Healing the Past
What Can be Done About "Death Wish" Self-destructive Patterns?
"Inner Journey" work allows exploration, confrontation and a dynamic shifting of the vicious-cycle black imagery generated by the brain chemistry consequences of depressed thinking, feeling and perceptions (as in the legendary "Black dog" experiences of Winston Churchill and others). "Stuck" imagery can be freed-up via feeling and expressing the associated emotional charge and if necesary, bringing in the "Trauma Energetics" approach.
Like all innate impulses, once "fired up" by suffering, the "Death Wish" seeks to discharge (express) it's potent and potentially overwhelming energy. If this expression of the death wish can be "grounded" - i.e. expressed into the everyday world (rather than experienced via fantasy, nightmares or projection onto objects, people or feared situations) in a way that does not generate more suffering, then it becomes less of a driving force in the life and relationships of the sufferer. When the pent-up power of this "inner demon" is reduced via safe outlets that do not create vicious cycles, there is more possibility to begin exploring and transforming the root causes that originally activated the death wish. These roots are often either traumatic experiences or lack of skills and support for an effective and fulfilling lifestyle.
Mindfulness self-awareness training combined with cathartic release of "held-in" destructive impulses can do much to prepare the ground for effective "Point Healing" work.
Once the self-sabotaging power of the death-wish had been defused and personal helplessness transformed into self-empowerment, it is time to find and confront the unresolved/unhealed past experience(s) which launched or exacerbated the death-wish. Timeline Healing can be an excellent way of uncovering and healing the initiator(s) and subsequent builder(s) experiences of the death-wish's potency. The "healed" destination point [future goal] for the timeline work can be the subconsciously desired "death" itself i.e. a place of peace and liberation from the held-in memory of suffering and from the "dark shadow" fear of intolerable past suffering returning].
As the great pioneer of modern psychotherapy, Carl G. Jung, discovered in indigenous cultures, depression is usually treated via public "grounding" [physical release of the emotional/spiritual/mental energy] and group-ritualisation of the unconscious imagery, visions and impulses which depressed patients often have access to. In situations where the depression sufferer cannot access or manage their own unconscious dynamics effectively, the community shaman would carry out a "power animal" healing to enhance positivity/empowerment/resourcefulness of the sufferer - a non-pharmaceutical antidepressant treatment! In more serious or protracted cases the shamanic healer will undertake a Soul Retrieval healing. These shamanic healing practices are increasingly available today as part of the 21st century upsurge in shamanism.
Via shamanic healing practices, dreamwork and "Inner Journey" holistic healing work, it is often possible to image the "Death Wish" directly as a demonic human, animal or "alien" figure. It can be an initially terrifying object for the depressed person to confront, but with suitable support and facilitation the Death-Wish can be usefully confronted, de-mystified and disempowered via these approaches. In situations where a depressed client cannot emotionally cope with the confrontation, a shamanic practitioner can do the confronting indirectly via the Soul Retrieval approach.
The Native American tribal "Sweatlodge" purification ritual is a DEATH/REBIRTH experience that has traditionally served the purpose of confronting our personal balance between "Death Urge" and the "Life Urge". I recall one of my sweatlodge trainers saying to us [just as the heat and cramped conditions became totally unbearable!]; "Now would be a good time to die! - But why not choose to live?".
I have heard of another [coastal] Native tribal tradition wherein "depression victims" are thrown into the sea. If they manage to swim back to shore despite their affliction, they will be revitalised and recover - presumably by facing their death-wish inner demon and diverting his energy into a renewed appetite for life. If they drown they will have spared themself [and everyone around] a slow and lingering steady demise. I should add that I have so far held-back from incorporating this fairly alarming and legally dubious technique into my own healing practice, although I have on occasions - with some very obstinate "death wish" clients - been sorely tempted! (just kidding!)
One of the models (simplistic overviews) of depression that I find quite useful is that of DISCONNECTION from our life force or "earth spirit nature". In mild cases of depression, physical and social activities of many kinds can help us to "reconnect" to outer life and inner life-force and boost flagging self-esteem and painful lonely separateness however, in recurrent or clinical depression the individual "inner journey of transformation" is essential to recovery. In mild episodes of depression, a range of tribal practices can be useful especially participatory tribal-style drumming, dancing and chanting activities which act out self-empowering and life-affirming themes.
|"Demon" - A Poem by Margaret Harris
© Copyright 2014 Michael J. Meredith