..home...........JUNE....2010 ...previous update: MAY

  Indigenous Illusions  

For a concise and perceptive angle on several poignant topical issues, click here:

.. The Black Art of 'Master Illusions'




6th June Is This Why I’ve Never Suffered From Depression? top


It is true that there have been times when I’ve felt sad, gloomy, unhappy… but never have my circumstances been so bad that I’d have failed to laugh at some quip that touched my sense of humour. But then, crucially, I’ve never been in any kind of jail. I’ve never been stuck in a situation that I couldn’t escape from – except when on a boat, aircraft, or motorway…. none of which confine one for very long.

A massive detail that consistently evokes gloom though – and has over the aeons inspired many a futile search for a way out – is the inevitability of death. Of course, unless we attempt to fool ourselves with some kind of convoluted hogwash, one cannot deny that death is our ultimate fate. Not a happy thought, I confess, not now being past 60. Even so, the only solution is acceptance. We have to accept gravity, our dependence on a constant supply of air and almost constant water…. etc. so maybe we should regard the inevitability of death in the same way: as just another of the things we have to face.

And that’s important… because otherwise – like our non-acceptance of any unalterable fact – we’re asking for trouble: ie, depression. At least, this is so according to a book I recently acquired: ‘Depression’ (1983) by Dorothy Rowe, cost 1p (+£2.75 p&p).

Why depression had never caught-up with me has puzzled me for a decade or so - ever since I reached that age when one reluctantly begins to acknowledge the truth of one's eventual demise. When so many people suffer - according to the media, for I know no individual myself who suffers (I mean that weird kind-of 'clinical' depression that has no obvious cause) - how, I wondered, had I got away with it? After waking-up to the inevitability of my own death, and all around (so we are told) there is stress, despondency and depression... yet still I escape scot-free.

(Could it be that what the media tell us is propaganda? Might it all represent some kind of feel-good fabrication, a palliative, so that we cheerfully, unquestioningly, accept our luck at not suffering, and continue to slave our lives away in blissful ignorance? I'm sure the corporate elite would endorse such methods. But maybe I'm exceeding the limits of cynicism, and should assume, at least for the sake of this article, that there's some truth in the statistics we are told.)

So... when I heard of that well-seasoned book I decided for once to look into the great mystery of my 'escape'. The book's subtitle, apparently, says it all: ‘The Way Out of Your Prison’.

“Prison?” I thought, when I saw this, “What prison?” The only prison I’ve experienced was called school. And that was just a day-prison from where, if things got bad enough, one could easily abscond. Ah, but what about the prison in your head? Now this is a new concept for me – except in the philosophical sense: that we are stuck with our inheritance and experience, and in our minds have access to nothing else. But since we are all landed with this, to call it a prison strikes me as vaguely solipsistic.

(It should be noted, as an aside, that there are causes of depression that have no connection with experience or views or related mental processes whether conscious or otherwise; causes such as inherent levels of serotonin, congenital neurological anomalies, repercussions from exposure to drugs or chemicals... etc.)

In the book, a patient describes how it’s one thing to be trapped in this 'safe' prison, but quite another (and worse) to be forced to emerge and face the ‘dangers’ of reality. The dangers being, says the book, that the 'reality' in the victim's mind is different from the reality 'out there'. Which means the victim has to change their 'reality' because the reality ‘out there’ won’t or can’t change - it is what it is. But this creates uncertainty, continues the book, hence the ‘danger’. So to a depressed person, the best they can hope for is a totally predictable world solid with routine and ritual. Which is not only impossible but, I would imagine, excruciatingly unpleasant - or would be to me.

Further on, the book says that when we were children we created a personal myth ('reality') of our future life. This wasn’t just for a guiding map, but to bolster our pride (ego?) in response to the insults the world inflicted on our small person, and to give us courage for the journey ahead. Unfortunately (the book goes on), our map is not reality – which means accepting that we are in error, and need to make corrections.

I can relate to that for a whole multitude of minor instances... like when as a small kid I heard my mum asking for a postal order in the post office, and for years afterwards I wondered what a ‘post lorder’ was. “What’s a lorder?” I’d ask people, and they'd just look at me perplexed. Then one day I discovered my mistake and thought it a tremendous joke. In no way did it create any kind of internal conflict. There are hundred of examples... mostly trivial like the lorder, though a few are significant (see also).

Such errors happen every day. What I learned yesterday and formed an opinion on, today I find an alternative angle (perhaps spontaneously, perhaps from some other source) and am obliged to change my opinion. So it goes (as Kurt Vonnegut would have said), that’s normal – without it… well, I’d probably feel like this computer: full of digital shite because my hard-drive cannot be updated, only added to (which in the case of this computer is revealed as a kind of data-constipation, a reluctance to work at any kind of a sensible speed: click on an icon, make a cuppa tea, return, and with luck it might just be ready to go).

The book then declares: but to admit you are wrong, particularly you who get depressed, is something you find very hard to do. Given the choice (it says), you would prefer to be right and suffer than wrong and happy. (the book’s italics). Being wrong, it says, creates that dreaded uncertainty (my adjective).

So ‘uncertainty’ is the enemy. And yet, as we all know, uncertainty is the essence of the world and of life... adaptability, compromise, diversity, improvisation, imagination, creativity... Nothing, except maybe gravity and (unpredictable) CHANGE, is certain. Oh yeah, and death! I wonder if depressed people enjoy that particular certainty: death? Maybe they do? Though if so, where does that leave the ego?

But, I ask, why not have your cake AND eat it? That is: copy me and instead of the weird choice of being right and suffer or wrong and happy why not be right and happy like me? This is achieved very simply as follows: the instant you perceive that your right is in fact wrong, instead of turning away as you did in the past, you update it, making it a true right - or at least the rightest right you can find according to what you know (for it's impossible to know everything)... until what seems a more probable right appears, and so on throughout life: which is a constant process of learning, updating, of improved better-informed perception. No?

I’ve no idea how accurate this analysis is. Can it really be how depression arises, or is the above just one of a list of otherwise inexplicable causes - because it just strikes me as a bit simplistic, and so far I’ve only dipped into this 250-page tome? Either way, I'll stop there because the mystery looks to some extent solved now, or it is for me - at least, the explanation is plausible... and besides, I’m already snowed under with stuff that screams louder for my attention…. like, for instance, a 2004, 500-page paperback of Neal Cassady’s amazing letters, including the ones that inspired Kerouac’s groundbreaking 'spontaneous' style (which made its debut in ‘On The Road’)… and some short stories by John Gardner (1933-82) who taught Raymond Carver (among others) creative writing…. and trying to fathom the strange work of last year’s Nobel laureate Herta Müller - on which see this eye-opening clip

So I guess to recover from depression, the first line of attack - according to that Dorothy Rowe book - must be the ego: so get off ya high horse, and awaken to the fact that YOU are merely one of 6.8-billion on a planet of zillions in a galaxy of billions, and only a brief 13.7 billion years from the most recent 'BIG Bang'... ad infinitums... . So the HELL what?

-------------------- /FIN/ -------------------