It is possible to view, and to feel, desire as an expression of life force: the desire of each alive being to have its own life – the desire to grow, to express one’s being, and to procreate – the desire of life to create more life. In early spring the desire for the return of the light arises strongly in me and others – for the return of the life that light brings. When the light is returning, there is a huge energy for life seen and felt all around.
In my life I have experienced several bouts of lengthy depression – some deeper and longer than others. In that place, desire disappears. I have never arrived at the point of reaching a true desire for death, but I certainly know the lack of desire for anything at all. There has always been something that keeps me going – but it never feels like desire. Eventually, I have learned that depression does not last. The last time it arose, I saw it and knew it quite quickly – and knew I just had to wait it out. That was an awareness that took the darkness and fear out of depression – but not the lack of desire, energy, motivation and joy in life.
Over 30 years ago, in my Jungian readings, I came across the metaphor of a mythological journey of descent for depression – and saw that I could view it as my psyche needing time in the underworld. I couldn’t follow it there – my body was left empty in the land of the living. I had to wait for re-emergence, and the time needed has varied from a few weeks to many months. But learning about, and resonating with, the mythological journey to the underworld or Earth’s seasonal cycles, is one thing. It took more years and further descents for the realisation of this to become embodied and part of my deep knowing. Discovering the metaphor was a seed of understanding, not the lived understanding itself, which required repeated journeys into depression. These kinds of insights keep deepening with lived experience.
As shown in the poem below, there can be a kind of longing in depression – but it is not desire.
I have wanted to lie down in a muddy field –
to have rain dissolve my bones and my flesh –
to become earth again.
I have wanted my body to be carried by a river
out onto the sea – shifted like driftwood –
above the deep wet.
I have wanted to stretch and thin out –
the wind to blow through me – my cell walls to open
like wings to the air.
Fleeing like Daphne, this longing to shapeshift –
turn away from the fire – has never endured.
I return to desire.