We are thrust into this dream world. We pursue and avoid and manipulate in order to make the dream more comfortable or interesting. When we succeed we consider life to be good, meaningful, and important. Success keeps us immersed in the dream.
It is when things don’t go our way that we begin to wake up. We get an inkling that the life we’re living is meaningless because it’s just a continuous pursuit of temporary enjoyments, fraught with inevitable bouts of both mental and physical pain. Even when we succeed, the victory is short-lived, for we will tire of our gain and see something else we want, turning our satisfaction into desire once more.
Trying to reach a state of continual happiness via external gains is a futile endeavor because things do not always go our way, and even if we “win” every battle, the fact remains that we are always fighting battles, which makes it impossible to relax. Plus, eventually we will lose everything: our health, our wealth, our loved ones, and our very lives.
This perception can bring existential despair. We might see no point in existing at all because we are in a situation where we and everything/everyone we care about is doomed. This can take the wind out of our sails.
The emotional letdown caused by our insight is a predictable result of realizing that the dream is an absurd game that perhaps we would be better off not playing. People who have not yet begun to wake up consider this letdown to be a disease (“depression”) because they cannot understand how anyone can avoid being blindly immersed in the dream of social status, money, possessions, fashion, competition, and cheering for the local sports team. They do not realize that the “ill” person is aware of something that they aren’t, and that if they knew what s/he knows, their bubble would burst too.
Whether this life is “all there is” or a prelude to something greater, there is a lot of learning, growth, and enjoyment to be had in it. If we are not experiencing them, it is only because we have been searching for them in the wrong places. This is why the dream has not delivered what we want and we are depressed.
Depression, like all feelings, is caused by thoughts. The reason depression is so difficult to deal with, diagnose and treat is that while we feel the feeling, we are not aware that our thoughts cause it. Our erroneous thoughts have been swimming in our minds so often and for so long that either we don’t even notice them or we just accept them as true. They cause and perpetuate negative feelings such as depression, anger, resentment, and fear.
It is not merely the presence of thoughts that create feelings – it is the fact that we believe them. Thoughts are constantly appearing and disappearing in our active minds, so it would be extremely difficult to stop them, but we can realize how wrong some of those thoughts are so that when they appear they will have no power over us. For example, when the negative thought “Things will never improve for me” appears, we can question it. Do we know for a fact that things will never get better?
When they feel that the world has let them down because life itself has no meaning, some people turn to religion for a sense of meaning. They might consider this an inward process, similar to finding oneself, but it isn’t. It is just another form of searching outside oneself for validation or security. They pray to an external authority figure, perhaps reciting prayers or lighting candles or counting beads, in an attempt to get to a more enjoyable place or win the authority figure’s favor.
If life truly is meaningless, i.e., we have been thrust into a meaningless situation, then it is only the situation that is meaningless. It does not mean that we are somehow worthless, because it is not our fault if life has no meaning.
Perhaps we feel that life is meaningless because we are relying on externals for enjoyment or a sense of self-worth. Do we really need them? Can we not enjoy the awareness of our own existence? Do we have to own or do something worldly in order to enjoy being? Maybe we can simply rest in who we are and enjoy the bliss of self-awareness.