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Are you still there? [Feb. 17th, 2017|05:03 am]

Originally published at The Homepage of Michael John Bertrand. You can comment here or there.

Something to tell the depressives you love : I’m here for you even when you can’t feel me.

Because depression is disconnection.

The root cause of the disease is a kind of mental anesthetic that the mind normally produces at times of psychology trauma in order to keep us going so we can  heal.  Once the trauma has been healed, the anesthetic tapers off.

Depression occurs, then, when the trauma is too big,. too severe, for the mind to heal. Therefore, the signal “stop producing the anesthetic” never comes. The wound remains, and the depressive is caught in a situation where the mind can only treat the symptoms, not the whole disease.

And it doesn’t do a very good job of it. Especially if the trauma occurred early in life, and therefore distorted all psychological growth after it.

Mine happened when I was three. Maybe four.

And the thing about anesthetic is that it numbs you. Think of it as Novacaine for the brain. And that numbness makes it hard to feel things the patient vitally needs to feel in order to have a balanced and healthy psyche.

Things like love, a sense of connection with others, positive social feedback, and all the other things from that upper middle section of Maslow’s hierarchy.

The teal bit and the purple bit.

Note that the above is a hierarchy of needs. Not a hierarchy of wants. A human being needs these things in order to be happy and fulfilled.

And the purple and teal areas are the things that depression blocks. No wonder we’re so sad. We’re walled off.

So from the point of view of the depressive, those things in the “happiness zone” (HZ) do not exist. Not in any real, meaningful sense. They don’t exist because we can’t feel them.

And if you can’t feel a thing, it doesn’t exist. Feelings trump perception every time. [1]

That’s why reminding us of our blessings is worse than useless. Not only does it make us feel like you are invalidating our suffering, it only serves to remind us of how we should be happy… but are not.

And we hate that. We would rather think the world is against us and that we are genuinely the worst human being ever than face the bare fact that we are broken. That it’s not something wrong with the world. It’s not even something wrong with us, or at least, not in the way we think there’s something wrong with us.

Objectively speaking, we are nothing like we think we are. But the human mind interprets the lack of HZ input only one way : we are terrible people of negative worth, nobody loves us, our friends and loved ones hate us and resent us, nothing we have done in our lives matters, and the world would be better off without us.

Again, this is all extraordinarily contrary to the observable facts. But again, that doesn’t matter, because it’s how we feel, and feelings trump perception.

Note how these feelings map perfectly onto the HZ, especially the purple “esteem” zone. We are receiving none (or almost none) of the necessary inputs for self-esteem.

And we interpret that as meaning they are not there, when in reality, they are there, we are just not receiving them.

It’s not that there’s no signal. It’s just that our antenna is busted.

Therefore, ergo, and so on, to really attack the problem from a cognitive point of view, what is necessary is to construct a way for the depressive to believe in signals that they can not feel because of the disease.

Perhaps that is the true function of faith. Faith allows someone to, in essence, generated those HZ signals for themselves, no matter what happens in the world.

From that point of view, faith is brilliant. I wish I was capable of it.

Assuming faith is not a possibility, how else can a bridge to belief be built? Believe it or not, the answer might be reason and the rational mind.

But rationality used in a specific way. A rough, working definition of rationality is the ability to let observation and reason to change emotion.

In other words, to defy the usual pattern of emotion overriding observation and rationality, and letting observation and reality change emotion instead.

In order for this to happen, however, the patient must be able to truly believe in the products of their rational mind. To have faith in their own intellect, more or less. Such faith is a potential bridge to sanity for some depressives because it opens the door to modifying one’s emotions through reason.

The essential method is this : to fill one’s mind with all the evidence that the positive HZ inputs are out there – say, that your friends really do love you – and hold on to that knowledge despite the attempts your depression will make to negate this strange and foreign emotion that threatens its reign.

And this will not be easy. It will, in fact, be an intense defensive battle wherein the patient must fight off wave after wave of attacks from the forces of the “status quo” mindset, and the weapons they use will be both emotional and intellectual.

The emotional side will consist of a feeling of “wrongness” to the new emotion of self esteem and a desire, almost like a mental itch, which makes the individual want to reject the thought. You have activated the mind’s immune system and it is going to try to convince you to dump the positive input of reason in favour of giving up and thus releasing the mental tension.

Intellectually, it will come in the form of attempts of the mind to come up with reasons why the conclusions that have been drawn from the evidence is false. Call it a very personal form of motivated reasoning. This can be harder to resist because it comes bearing the marks of reason.

But if these negations are examined as they attack, their logical flimsiness will soon become evident, and countering arguments can be developed. Such as :

Depression : Those people who said nice things about you didn’t mean it.
Counter : What evidence do you have for that? Because you have way, way more evidence that they do mean it.

Depression : Everybody wishes you would just go away.
Counter : Really? Because that’s not what they say. What proof do you have that they are not being sincere with you?

Depression : I am the worst person ever.
Counter : Worse than Hitler? Stalin? Vlad the Impaler? Trump? Don’t confuse feeling bad with being bad.

And so forth and so on.

Now I realize that the above solution is not for everyone. It is, in fact, only suitable for those of us who walk a very rare and harsh road. Those of us who have faith in the truth and pursue it at all costs. Those of us whose reason can modify our emotions.

Those of us who conquered their childhood fear of the dark by repeating “there is nothing in the dark that was not there in the light” to ourselves.

So remember folks : the sun is always shining, even when you can’t feel its warmth.

I will talk to you nice people again tomorrow.






Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)</p>
  1.  Just look at the victims of Capgras Syndrome.