Monday, March 20, 2017

On the Void

I’m sorry. 

I don’t do this on purpose. I’d like to write about nice things, positive things. I wish people could read my blog and come away happy, entertained, and enlightened.

But I can’t. 
Thank you DeviantArt
There’s a famous quote by Fredrick Nietzsche. In English it’s usually translated as: “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” 

I’m not sure it applies here. Maybe it does.

One of the more interesting things about depression is the way it changes how you think. Everything spirals back around to feeling bad. Because (in a non-existential sense), experiencing happiness is entirely dependent on the chemicals in your brain. If your brain can’t (or won’t) release the right chemicals, then no matter what happens, you won’t be happy.

This tends to manifest as a search for the grey lining of every silver cloud. It’s easier and more comfortable to feel bad about something concrete, than to focus on the void itself.

These days, there are lot of things to feel bad about. I wrote about this a bit in an earlier post, but there was something almost empowering by the widespread depression and anguish following Trump’s victory. But because when you spend your life expecting the worst thing to happen, even if you don’t like the thing, you’re ready for it. The crisis becomes manageable. You can make a plan and follow through

One of the main treatments for depression is cognitive behavioral therapy, which assumes that depression is as much a consequence of negative thought patterns as it is a physical condition. Which is very likely true, the brain is a powerful organ, as the placebo effect clearly demonstrates. By replacing negative thought patterns with positive ones, people can break out of the depressive spiral.
This comes up when you Google "depressive spiral". It's a little on the nose.
But a counterpoint, and this is going to sound like an unhealthy embrace of depressive thinking, but why? Not just “why bother?” but “why do this thing?”. I’ve talked about the optimism bias several times, but it bears repeating. “Normal” thoughts and thought patterns are consistently and provably wrong, people live their lives with a surplus of optimism, constantly biasing thoughts and behaviors to place themselves in the best possible light, and generally assuming things will all work out ok, even in bad situations.

Frankly, it makes me very frustrated. And maybe I’ve stared too long into the void, but I don’t want to be that way. If things are bad, I want to believe things are bad. The world doesn’t hinge on my beliefs, but as my Cassandra posts so distressingly explain, there are many reasons to feel pessimistic. The world just isn’t a happy place right now, and while I wish it were otherwise, I have to tell the truth.

Edit: An addendum. The author is not wallowing in a depressive spiral. This is meant as a partial defense of coping mechanisms and thought patterns wrought by depression, and should not be taken as an endorsement of depression. It is extraordinarily difficult to live life without some delusions of optimism, and it is extremely unwise to try. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression, you should know that they have fantastic chemicals that will really help. Please do what is necessary to acquire them. Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. I would prefer to think that Margaret Meade was right. But it does take an awful lot of optimism to wait for the pendulum to swing back from where our country is now.