Parvati Magazine spoke with Marianne Williamson about her new book, From Tears to Triumph. This is the first of a two-part interview.
Parvati Magazine: The book is very timely. At the same time, your teachings are very timeless. Was there a personal impetus for this book?
Marianne Williamson: Well, people go through difficult times in life, whether it is now or 1000 years ago. Heartbreak is not new. But what is new is that we have an odd conversation around it now. There is very little provision societally these days to the experience of grief. When I was growing up, it was understood that if you go through difficult things, it takes time. Just as how if you have bruises on your body, it will take time. If you have bruises on your spirit, it’s going to take time as well. But now, we have taken this cheap little smiley face and thrown it on everything. Everybody be happy! Be happy!
What has happened over the last few years, is that we have actually accepted a medical model for situations of normal human despair. I am talking about: a bitter divorce, financial loss, professional failure, loss of someone that you loved–all painful. We discuss deep human sadness, even depression like it’s a disease to be treated medically as opposed to a deep transformational crisis of the soul, a spiritual, emotional, psychological dis-ease that needs to be treated with the kind of principle that help us to be transformed.
The over-subscription of antidepressants in our country is at a crisis point. People are taking antidepressants for the normal sadnesses of life, and I am not talking about schizophrenia or bipolar—situations where there is clearly a legitimate conversation around the idea of psychotherapeutic drugs. If you don’t develop the skills with which to navigate the turbulent waters of life, then you never learn to deeply navigate life. If we don’t develop the capacity to really know how to show up for the crisis without using a pharmaceutical tool to help us through that, how are we going to show up where we need to show up for the world?
So yes, there is my personal experience, and there is the state of the world today. My understanding is that we have to forgive, we have to atone for our own mistakes, we have to rise to the occasion, that we have to seek impeccability in our own lives. I have learned from my own experience that that is the key to the transformation of my personal suffering. So you put all those things together, that’s what I felt like writing a book about. I felt something calls for a deeper inquiry here.
PMAG: In the book, you discuss collective or societal depression. Please tell us more about that.
MW: Buddha said, the things of this world can only bring temporary happiness. So we have been trained to think our job is figure out what would make us happy. Would that career make you happy? Would that amount of money make you happy? Would that house or living in that town make you happy? It’s like we’re always grasping, we’re always struggling to get that thing, which we’ve bought into the idea would make us happy. You can’t really be happy when you’re grasping. And if you don’t get that thing, then you’re still unhappy. And if you do get it, then you’re happy for about 10 minutes, because things of this world cannot ultimately provide deep happiness. Only the giving and receiving of love can. So that’s first and foremost.
Look how many of us are busy trying to get that which we think would make us happy, we’re ignoring the things that are right in front of us—your wife, your husband, your lover, your friends, your children. We’re peripheralizing love!
Then you add to that situations like economic inequality in America. It’s very difficult to be happy when you’re living in financial survival mode. Financial stress causes a host of other problems in families, in marriages. The fact that so many Americans are squeezed financially is a source.
If you are living on the planet today, going through all the things that are happening—the stresses of our culture, the anxieties of the entire world—and you’re not upset? This is a very disturbing moment and mentally healthy people are disturbed. This is not something that’s wrong with us, this is something that’s right with us.
If you use pharmaceuticals to numb, this is the most dysfunctional reaction because what it’s doing is numbing our pain instead of listening to our pain. Psychic pain is just like physical pain, it’s there for a reason and it conveys a message.
PMAG: What is your advice for young people today, especially where there is a problem with drugs, suicide and hopelessness?
MW: The 20s are hard—they were hard for me and anyone I have ever known. The 20s are the time when you’re having very adult challenges for the first time thrown at you, but you don’t have these layers and layers of experience whereby you learned through trial and error throughout your 30s and 40s. But you’ll get through it– it’s not a mental illness.
The FDA has warned that for people 25 years or younger, antidepressants only increase rather than decrease the risk of suicidal ideation. So it’s very sad for me to see how many young people are taking the pharmaceutical route. It’s undercutting, trying to short-circuit some of the trials and tribulations that turn out to be the most transformational and illuminating times in our lives. I write in the book about experiences that would be termed clinical depression, that I myself have been through, and how they ultimately informed me in deep and meaningful ways, as painful as they were. I learned not to take life as a joke because it is not. Not to take love for granted. I learned to be far more humble. I learned that other people’s feelings matter as much as mine. I learned to be a woman and not a girl, and to stop acting like a child. If I had not faced the experience at the level I needed to–if I had not sought to recognize where I made mistakes and atone for my mistakes, forgiven myself and forgiven others, then I simply couldn’t have ever gone past it. I would still be carrying a bitterness, a heaviness. You wouldn’t move on with your life.
Continues with Part 2
Marianne Williamson is an internationally acclaimed spiritual author and lecturer. Marianne has been a popular guest on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose & Bill Maher. Seven of her twelve published books have been New York Times bestsellers. Four of these have been #1. The mega bestseller A Return to Love is considered a must-read of The New Spirituality. A paragraph from that book, beginning “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…” is considered an anthem for a contemporary generation of seekers.