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  • Lisa Blair, M.A.

Therapy Under Five: Connect with Your Essential Nature & Shift Your Mood

When clients come to me struggling with a general kind of mental malaise, a persistent low or down mood—also known as a mild chronic depression—or a general feeling of dissatisfaction with life, the "blahs" or even some mild anxiety, I often think, "I wonder if their essential nature is being nourished at the moment, and, if not, how can I support that part of them more?" [1]

Assuming, their mood is not more specific in nature such as a relationship issue, a body symptom or illness, or a result of societal or systemic oppression, and, assuming the mood is not due to underlying trauma or abuse or a more severe mental health condition, I might pursue this question of their essential nature with them.

I believe we each have a small handful of essential aspects to our nature that point us towards those experiences which make us feel most alive, passionate, happy, fulfilled, engrossed, and inspired.

These aspects of our nature are revealed to us through how we feel when they are elicited, nourished, and in full operation. I don't simply mean parts of our personalities that are descriptors such as being "sensitive," "direct," "resilient," or "courageous." What I'm referring to are the aspects of our core selves, that when in operation—when they are allowed to live and express themselves—we feel ourselves thriving. We feel an overall sense of profound wellness.

In short, when these essential parts of our nature are being utilized, we may find that quickly and almost miraculously, our low, down, unhappy, or anxious feelings lift. It's as if we were under a dark cloud and suddenly that cloud has passed and the sunshine is out.

And yet, we didn't "work on" the down experience, we didn't process the depressed feelings directly. This, of course, is one path to unfold the depressed atmosphere inside us—to go with it, rather than against it. To go down and explore what's underneath the depression that is meaningful and valuable. The gold in the garbage, so to speak. I'm all for that approach. It's very much in the wheelhouse of Process Work or Process-oriented Psychology—the modality I am trained in.

However, it's not the only way to approach these persistent low, down, or anxious states. For some people and/or for some moments, another approach gets better feedback from a client or, to say it another way, it resonates more with their process.

In these situations of persistent low, down, or anxious states, we are stuck in an identity of "the depressed one" or "the anxious one" and there seems to be no way out. We get hypnotized into this atmosphere inside and feel victimized by it. If we are able to effectively flip or shift into another identity—one that is not engrossed by the down or anxious feelings—then we may suddenly find that we're no longer depressed or anxious. Of course, the feelings may return. Remember, those identities are very gripping. However, it may ease up for a time—for an hour, for a day, for weeks, or for months—before it returns and we need to attempt to shift ourselves again.

This is where knowing fundamental or essential parts of our core nature come in to the equation. The idea is that sometimes when we're feeling down, generally unhappy, dissatisfied, or even anxious, it may mean that another identity of ours is not being lived. And when we nourish this alternate identity—the one that thrives, feels inspired, is engrossed in activities that stimulate its expression—this alleviates the down, dissatisfied, or anxious feelings simply by inhabiting another identity inside ourselves.

These essential aspects of our nature might be any of the following:

  • being a creator, turning ideas into reality (Maker)

  • performing in front of audiences, large and small (Performer)

  • sharing one's wisdom and knowledge through teaching others (Sage)

  • engaging in learning and growing for the sake of itself (Maven)

  • serving and nurturing others (Nurturer)

  • advocating for marginalized voices or groups (Advocate)

  • understanding how something works or solving problems (Scientist)

  • organizing or simplifying processes and systems (Essentialist)

  • leading groups, organizations, and communities (Warrior)

  • guiding individuals or groups in a more intimate way through a process (Advisor)

Jonathan Fields, author, speaker, and podcast host of "Good Life Project", refers to these aspects as your Sparketype or "the essential nature of the work you’re here to do." According to Fields, there are ten Sparketypes in all, listed above in parentheses (Maker, Performer, etc.). He explains that this work is what "sets us ablaze with purpose and, fully-expressed in a healthy way, becomes a mainline to meaning, a pathway to that transcendent state of flow, and a gateway to connection and joy." [2]

For the sake of this post and the video below, I'm expanding his definition to include not just the work we're each here to do but also any experience we have in life when we feel most alive, happy, fulfilled, and nourished whether that is in our work or elsewhere in our life.

For example, I would include in the list above these additional natures that I dreamed up:

  • relating in depths of emotional intimacy and authenticity with others (Intimate Authentic)

  • connecting with the divine, God, or the Universe (Spiritual Seeker)

  • engaging in competition if you are an athlete, for example, and thrive in an identity that seeks out the big win (Competitor)

  • bringing out your most playful and whimsical self alone or with the company of others (Child)

  • expressing your sensual or erotic nature with yourself or with others (Sensual Erotic)

  • connecting with the natural or animal world (Nature Lover)

  • exploring new experiences, places, and people (Adventurer)

  • day-dreaming, night-dreaming, and imagination seeker (Dreamer)

  • and more....

If you're able to learn which 1-3 core essential aspects/identities inside of you give you a feeling of aliveness, deep satisfaction, and wellbeing, then you can use this as an antidote to those days, weeks, or seasons when a kind of mild depression, unhappiness, or anxiety has taken over your inner world.

To try to uncover what these essentials aspects may be in you, you can begin by asking yourself:

  • What do I do in my work life and/or in my relationships and/or when I have ample free time to myself that makes me feel most alive?

  • When have I felt that I'm thriving?

  • When have I felt most inspired, turned on, and engrossed?

  • What was I doing—was I creating something, teaching, leading, organizing, discovering, performing, advocating, learning, advising, serving, engaging in deep relationship, praying or devoting myself to Spirit, or something else?

You can also take Jonathan Fields' free 10-minute Sparketype assessment to learn which is your primary Sparketype and your shadow Sparketype. To take the test, click here.

Once you discover the essential aspects of your nature and/or Sparketype(s) that allow you to feel like you're thriving in life, you can apply this learning to the next time you feel pulled into a down, anxious, or otherwise generally unhappy state of mind.

This would require you to do the following:

  • First, you need to become aware that you're indeed in one of those difficult states of mind or feeling;

  • Second, you need to remember the 1-3 essential aspects of your nature that allow you thrive; and

  • Third, you need to shift as quickly as possible to activities and behaviors that support that essential aspect of your nature.

For example, if being a creator or maker is a critical part of your essential nature, then as soon as possible, start creating something that is in your wheelhouse: a painting, a drawing, a collage, a sewing project, a blog post, a short story, and so forth. Just start doing it. Don't wait to be inspired. Don't wait to feel good about what you're doing. The good feeling will follow the activity as you get more absorbed in it.

Or, if you're a teacher at heart, start designing your next class or make a video and share in on social media.

Or, if you're a performer, start working on your next performance or perform in front of your loved ones or friends in person or via video conference or a social media.

Or, if you thrive when you serve or nurture others, check in on some folks who could use some extra care or offer to buy your neighbor groceries. Do anything that engages your service identity.

You get the picture. Whatever it is that engages the identity in you that thrives, that gets absorbed, that feels most alive, just start taking steps that support anything around that identity. As you shift your attention away from the down or anxious feelings and on to the behaviors that support the thriving identity, you begin making that critical internal shift out of the hypnotized, victimized state and start to forget about the difficult feelings. Soon, you just might miraculously find you're walking on sunshine again.

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[1] I am not a licensed mental health provider and cannot diagnose people. If you are experiencing depression or anxiety, please consult with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist to get the diagnosis and support you need. The ideas presented here are not intended to address more severe experiences of depression or anxiety. As always, if the ideas I present in this post resonate with you, that's great and please feel free to use them with yourself. If they don't, just drop them.


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