When people think of Jean Vanier, certain impressions come to mind: member of one of Canada’s most respected families, author, seasoned spiritual guide, founder of the L’Arche communities, which exist to serve mentally dysfunctional adults.
Vanier as psychologist may not immediately register. Yet psychological insight is what he demonstrates in this small, insightful volume on depression. Years ago, Vanier earned a doctorate and taught philosophy at the University of Toronto. He then moved to France, attempting to determine God’s purpose for his life. Eventually he settled in a small town north of Paris, where, during the early ’60s, he established the first L’Arche with occupants from a local mental institution. Today, more than 100 L’Arche communities operate in 30 countries around the world.
For the last four decades, Vanier has learned a lot about himself and others from the immediate experience of sharing life with depressed people. Seeing Beyond Depression is a helpful resource for those who suffer from depression themselves or who struggle with someone who does. He avoids technical language and complex explanations and helps the reader better understand the meaning of this illness.
"Depression has its origins in the wounds of our childhood that we have never wanted to own or to name," he writes. "We have pushed them away into the hidden recesses of our minds, the unconscious self, wanting to forget or even deny them." But these wounds can re-emerge into our consciousness, paralyzing us with feelings of sadness, guilt, and confusion.