It’s so ironic that out of all the people in the world Michael Phelps struggled with mental health issues. At the most difficult points in my life I could always count on my swimming to release those positive endorphins in the brain that elevate your mood and help maintain a balanced perspective. The calming routine of doing laps always feels like home to me, because I was kind of born into a swim team in the small town I grew up in North of Montreal.
What is my connection to mental health? At a later stage in my life I was diagnosed with a mild case of manic depression after losing two of my sisters in the same year. My beautiful sister Kaly committed suicide at the age of 23, so I am entirely familiar with that deep dark hole we all have inside.
When it hits you, at first you think you are the only person in the world suffering so profoundly. Yet once you start coming out of that cocoon of self-pity, you become aware that many other people are feeling the exact same way. Meeting with them and speaking with them is usually the best cure to this devastating feeling where you see no reason to get out of bed in the morning.
That is exactly what Michael Phelps discovered. That the best way to feel better was to meet with others and talk about these issues:
“The biggest thing is always communicating, that’s just something that’s so powerful,” he said. “It’s getting it out and it’s not sitting inside of you. Because it sits inside of you and it just eats at you. For me, I carried a lot of stuff along for 20-plus years, and I wish I didn’t.” Michael Phelps, Business Insider
According to WHO, while half of all mental illness begins at the age of 14, most remain undetected and untreated, with depression being the third leading cause. Suicide is the second cause of death among those between 15 and 29, with harmful use of alcohol and illicit drugs being a major issue.
When I was growing up this wasn’t such a big issue like it is today — why is that? Our evolution has brought us to a point where we want more in life than basic things like food and shelter. Over the last few decades our society has come up with endless ways for us to fill ourselves. All kinds of entertainment, so many variations of food, so many places in the world to see and events to enjoy.
But today, those things are simply no longer filling us. Why? Because we have two sides in us, one is revealed and the other is hidden. On the one hand, we have this egoistic, self-centered side of us where we are slaves to our ego. This narrow path would appear to offer all kinds of pleasures, but it’s actually just the opposite. This path, where we are never feel fully satisfied can be very stressful and frustrating — even more so for people who have everything.
How we advance on the egoistic path is a very public process. The fancy houses and cars, the fitness, beauty treatments and healthy gourmet food, best clothes money can buy, and the list goes on and on.
The other side of being human is hidden and far more important. This is where our spiritual life begins, where we come out of ourselves and focus on being concerned for and helping others. Why is it more important? Because at this level we feel connected to the entire human network and understand how much better life is when we are one.
This hidden place deep inside of us lies latent until something shifts in the world and we suddenly feel a need for change, but we really have no idea how to fulfill this new desire.
This is why young people, who are closer to and more affected by these processes, turn to things like drugs, food, sex, alcohol and partying to feel fulfilled. But with such high rates of youth suicide, depression and loneliness, clearly these “pleasures” are no longer doing the trick.
Anyone who begins to be sensitive to the winds of change overtaking our world will suddenly feel a shift inside at critical points in their life. For average people the shift can be expressed by some new milestone in life such as getting a new job or starting a new relationship. But for famous people the shift can be far more stressful. They need to have a system in place to deal with coming down from the high of performing in front of millions.
Why don’t they feel good afterwards?
Imagine working for years to excel at something, and anticipating how incredible it would feel to achieve that goal. But like anything in our life today, it feels incredible for about three seconds. And then we feel incredibly empty all over again, until the next “pleasure” comes along. So we think that next pleasure will surely make us feel fulfilled.
In a celebrity’s case it could be being featured on a talk show or some special appearance. Imagine the shock when that amazing feeling of self-satisfaction also only lasts for about three seconds. Imagine the level of frustration for someone who has achieved so much in their life. You would expect that person to be perfectly content. But today, the development of the human soul is demanding more.
My tough Daddy used to say this all the time. It’s really annoying but so true. Once you have survived being at your lowest point, the only place to go from there is up. And you really are stronger each time.
This is not the external kind of strength required to win gold medals at the Olympics, it’s an inner strength that a human builds very gradually throughout their life.
Here there are no cameras and standing ovations. This is where we need to invest our effort now more than ever because it takes super-human strength to overcome the human ego.
We are living in a time, where millions of people are suddenly feeling a need for something beyond what the eye can see. But they do not understand this feeling or know what to do about it.
I haven’t mentioned yet that Michael Phelps is a God in our home. My teen daughter literally worships the ground he walks on. He could have just been another athlete with a lot of gold medals. But because of everything he has gone through, he tapped into that deep place inside and now his real career is beginning. On this new path his goal is less about achieving personal goals and more about helping others.
The whole world needs to make this transition in the years to come, from the path of egoism to a better path where we all help each other advance. Right now we are in between these two states so there is a lot of confusion and uncertainty. It is always like this before any great change in our world.
What are the tools we need to make this transition? Michael Phelps already discovered most of them: Speaking, connecting and sharing. And the big one — putting the needs of others before your own egoistic needs, requires a new super-human kind of strength that humanity is about to discover. The bottom line is putting a system in place that can overpower the strength of the human ego, which is a destructive force until we learn how to use it properly.
Nowadays any human can learn how to live in our modern world, and at the same time develop god-like attributes that open up a completely new dimension of life.
There’s a deeper reason that drives humanity’s exponentially spreading depression, and it has to do with the inner workings of human nature and how it evolves. In the words of the world’s foremost Kabbalist, Michael Laitman:
Behind the scenes of human experience is the evolution of human desires. It’s the driving force behind everything we go through as individuals and as a species. Our desire is constantly evolving beneath the surface, shaping human experience. It evolves from bodily-animalistic desires like food, sex, and shelter to human-social desires such as money, honor, power, and knowledge. At every stage of development, the dominant desires organize our lives, form our societies and shape the spirit of the time.
In the 20th century, our desires mostly drove us to seek a comfortable and prosperous material life. We set our sights on things like developing a career, building a family, buying a house, having some savings, travelling the world, acquiring material possessions, enjoying culture and so forth. Human beings saw the above as sources of joy and pleasure in their pursuit of happiness.
But something happened around the 1970–80s. The evolution of human desire entered a new level, and people began to form a demand for a qualitatively different kind of fulfillment: finding the meaning of life itself and our purpose as human beings.
However, that does not mean that most people can put their finger on this desire and understand the fulfillment it craves. What they feel is simply a devastating sense of emptiness that grays out everything else, a void that sucks everything else into it. Thus, all the pleasures they are familiar with lose their appeal, and no longer inspire hope for happiness. This is the underlying mechanism for the global trend of depression.
Seeing the global depression phenomenon as a symptom of human evolution explains why it appears in people from all classes, cultures, and nations. Whether they are rich or poor, businesspeople or housewives, young or old, across the globe.
Depression, as its names implies, is a lack we don’t know how to fulfill, because when it comes to the meaning and purpose of life, humanity doesn’t have tangible answers. This is why none of the treatments we offer are actually designed to fill the void — they only mute the pain, temporarily.
Pharmaceutical companies make people dependent on “anti-depressants” which are no more than sophisticated pain-relievers. Depression therapists provide temporary relief by training people to shift their focus away from the emptiness. In parallel, religions and belief systems teach people to have faith instead of expecting tangible fulfillment.
But as the desire for life’s meaning and purpose continues to awaken in masses of people, it ushers in the next phase of human evolution. Sooner or later, we will have to stop distracting ourselves from it and learn how to develop and fulfill it in practice.
The global depression epidemic essentially tells us that the current level of human experience is beginning to feel tasteless and pointless, and we have to rise to a whole new level of experience.
The newly developing and unfamiliar desire directs us to find connection with the source of life. This is a force that is beyond our individual selves, and the way to establish contact with it is through a deeper level of connection between us. In other words, human connection is the key, or the entrance, to a new dimension of human experience, where we feel connected to each other through the natural life source that connects and binds all of nature.
It is not by chance that in the last few decades, many fields of research find that human beings are naturally wired for human connection, and when they activate this natural mechanism they become healthier and happier.
However, I’m saying that it doesn’t end there. If we go deeper into our inherent wiring, where we begin to sense our innate connection as a human species, we begin to find resonance with a deeper force of connection in nature, and the connection with that natural binding force gives the sense of meaning and purpose in life. Metaphorically, think of what a cell in your body would feel on its own versus its sense of meaning and purpose when it gains connection with the whole body.
This isn’t mysticism or some intangible theory. The fact is that every child starts asking about the meaning of life around the age of 5, and every human is a social creature, nourished and shaped by connection with others. What we fail to see is that by a deeper connection between us we find contact with our life’s source and that gives us the sense of meaning, purpose, and happiness we crave. It’s that simple.
Since ancient times, there were individuals who felt the desire for life’s meaning before the rest of humanity. Rather than being distracted by their phones or TVs, they studied that desire, learned how it evolves and how to fulfill it through the practice of deep human connections. The authentic methodology they have developed was later called “Kabbalah,” and it had nothing to do with red strings, holy waters or similar misconceptions you may have heard of.
As someone who started as a scientist, and being engaged in this wisdom for over 40 years, I don’t intend to offer any temporary relief to the depression epidemic. In fact, I’m saying openly and honestly that it won’t go away. We will see more and more countries looking for solutions on a nationwide scale. It will continue until we understand our evolution as humans, and see that it’s not “the cancer of the soul” — but rather the labor pains of the soul.
However, you don’t need to be overtaken by depression in order to explore the meaning and purpose of life. If you feel this desire within you, you’re welcome to experience what happens when you develop it.
This is in honor of World Mental Health Day 2018, Wednesday, 10 October, dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and changing attitudes. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) aim for 2018 World Mental Health Day is to focus on young people and those in the early years of adulthood.
Originally published at medium.com