After my mother died last year, my siblings and I decided to donate her books (boxes of them) to charity. But in one of the boxes, I found one book that caught my eye: Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. When I glanced at the table of contents, the title of chapter 7 caught my eye: "Gifts of Depression." I decided to keep this book for myself.
Moore believes that the dark moods are parts of our being, to be accepted and learned from rather than suppressed. "Some feelings and thoughts seem to emerge only in a dark mood. Suppress the mood, and you will suppress those ideas and reflections.... Melancholy gives the soul an opportunity to express a side of its nature that is as valid as any other, but is hidden out of our distaste for its darkness and bitterness."
Not so long ago, Moore says, "melancholy was identified with the Roman god Saturn. To be depressed was to be 'in Saturn,' and a person chronically disposed to melancholy was known as a 'child of Saturn.'" Moore suggests that if we returned to those older expressions, we might accept, even embrace, our dark moods:
What if "depression" were simply a state of being, neither good nor bad, something the soul does in its own good time for its own good reasons? What if it were simply one of the planets that circle the sun? One advantage of using the traditional image of Saturn, in place of the clinical term depression, is that then we might see melancholy more as a valid way of being rather than as a problem that needs to be eradicated.
Moore has many interesting things to say about what the dark moods can teach us. But for those of us who have been through the darkness, it may be more interesting to reflect on what we ourselves have learned or how we have grown as a result.