There is an illness all around me in modern society that seems to be spreading like the Black Plague once did in Europe so long ago. It’s called depression, have you heard of it? Has it affected you? The more I look, the more I see it in so many people in my life, including myself. Depression sucks. It’s a real drag, and I mean real drag. It is different from the feelings of unhappiness that all humans have to deal with in their lives. It is being in a solitary prison where you are the only one who can see the walls; you are the jailor, the guard, and the prisoner all rolled into one. Sounds like fun huh? Well, we better become more aware of it because there are certain aspects of contemporary life that are causing more and more souls to lock themselves up, some believing that they have no hope of ever finding the key out.
If you look up depression on the Internet through a Google search query you will find a lot of different ways and means to manage or treat the problem. There are Eastern and Western approaches, psychological and spiritual; today there are 15,400,000 links about the subject. It seems to be on everybody’s mind and yet we don’t give it the general social awareness that we do for other illnesses. This is probably because there are so many stigmas around faults with the human mind. Broken bones and cancer we can understand or at least think we do; but we touch on a soft spot when we find a problem with that infinitely complex, helpful, magical device we call the brain.
Recently I went to a public talk by a world famous Psychologist named Dorothy Rowe who was selling her new book, ‘Depression: The way out of your prison”. I’m not going to tell you that she has all the answers, but I did like the different approach that she took to the illness. She’s not against modern medication, but she feels that it can be only part of the solution. Of course there are types of intense clinical depression that need certain chemicals to rebalance the brain to a ‘normal’ working order, but for all depression she feels that the focus could be shifted from a management to a prevention paradigm.
Dr Rowe focuses on the assertion that depression comes when one’s structure of interpreting the world around you has been affected by some deeply negative occurrences (usually in one’s youth). Her theory suggests that if a certain event happens to one hundred people, they will all probably interpret the experience in an individual, different way; the perceived ‘reality’ having been a resulting construct from one’s life experiences. For example: Let’s say you get fired from your job. Just about everyone is going to feel a general unhappiness and grieve over the subsequent period. However, many people have built positive, optimistic ways of seeing life and will just go on and feel as though the layoff was another necessary step or a momentary setback on the way to their life’s goals and dreams. “Whatever doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” is a common sentiment from this type of personality.
However, a person who is prone to perceiving the world around them as threatening and dangerous (maybe their parents never gave them positive affirmations as a child, or even put them down emotionally) may believe that the loss of this job is a relative ‘destruction’ of their world, their safety, their confidence. This is where the illness of depression can dig its sharp teeth in. This is a pretty mellow analogy; in reality some people have gone through hellish childhoods filled with abuse, neglect and addiction. When this type of person then has to deal with the loss of a loved one or relationship break-up, you can imagine that they would be much more prone to perceiving the experience as deeply negative. Dr. Rowe believes that these constructed structures of perceiving what happens to you can be altered, thus giving rise to a new way of seeing reality. The main idea is based around the idea that we must learn to change the ways in which we see ourselves.
If we can learn to accept ourselves with all our faults and imperfections, and realize that if we are doing our best to be a loving and giving person everyday, then we can see ourselves as being worthy, and that all is well. Then if someone else treats us badly, ignores us, or says we aren’t good enough, we can know and acknowledge that they are the person with the problem and that we don’t necessarily need their affirmation or acceptance. We can then wait for positive people to come into our lives, as like attracts like. Soon enough we will find that there is a group of people that will stand by our side and support us when things get bad because we do the same for ourselves and for them.
One of the most powerful insights I had from this experience was the sheer number of people in the room for Dr. Rowe’s speech. Each and every one had been or known someone close who had been depressed at one time in their life, thinking that they were completely alone in the world. When you see a big group of people together whom have all felt alone, you might just see into the true paradox of reality? If everyone who got depressed realized that it is a common occurrence, and connected to others in similar cases, it definitely could be a step towards healing. Could the Internet take a leading role in this process?