Topic Twenty Seven
The Developmental depression
Adolescent depression is set up to answer the question: Will the hard times be met with resilience or with deepening hopelessness, and perhaps recurrent depression? This is all based upon the outcome of individuation: Who am I? Who am I going to be, given this challenge or loss? What am I really here for? How am I going to understand and engage the bumps in life? The more resources a teen has for resilience—and spirituality is a significant one—the better equipped she is to understand and engage those bumps.
The research data and our evolving understanding of spiritual development and adolescence call for a new, more flexible, variable, and nuanced model of adolescent depression. We need a more discerning understanding of depression that enables us to conceptualize a developmental depression in which transcendent opportunity has been blocked or foreclosed upon. The fact that spiritual awakening co-occurs with such a robust protective effect during a biologically timed window of onset for depression suggests that we are looking at a shared underlying process, essentially two sides of the same coin. We will see in the data in a moment that depression can be viewed as foundationally spiritual in nature, with a potential spiritual resolution. We know from Alcoholics Anonymous and research into spiritually engaged treatment approaches for substance abuse and eating disorders that the transcendent faculty can support healing and recovery.
Miller, Dr. Lisa. The Spiritual Child (p. 276). St. Martin's Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The developmental task of adolescence is the forging of one’s identity and figuring out where one belongs and will fit in the society one is a member of.
What are the major socializing influences in our modern society? Prior to the 1960s they were, in this order: family, church, school, peers, media. Now in 2020 it is family, media, peers, school, church. Some might say it is peers, media, family, school, church.
Church, and spiritual formation, has slipped to last place . Research has found that this is a problem. The inner compass has been supplanted by an external compass that is fickle and impermanent. The orientation to external compasses does not provide the proper guidance for mentally healthy individuation. Being other directed leads to increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance misuse, and other dysfunctional behaviors.
Research has found that spiritual formation is a basis for resilience which helps the teen weather the stresses and struggles not only of adolescence but of later life.
The primary question rarely discussed with adolescents today is “What is the good life? How should one live? What really matters? Parents and adults need not have the answers, but they are catalysts, facilitators to help the developing teen find meaningful answers for oneself.
Teens need to be challenged to go on their vision quest. The vision quest is a challenging situation where one finds out what one is made of. The vision quest is the transition from childhood to adulthood. Can religious institutions provide appropriate opportunities for the vision quest or will it be left to the teens peer group to provide this experience which often involves risky and destructive behaviors?
Was there a milestone event or activity which facilitated your growth from childhood to adulthood? What was it? How did it play out in your life? Did it make you more resilient or more vulnerable and fragile? What role might you play in creating a vision quest experience for your children and grandchildren?