In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the topic of Depression is now front and center of the national consciousness. Like everyone else, I have lived with depression at times, both my own and that of loved ones. We are hearing a lot of languaging that depression is a physical disease. But is it?
Are we biological creatures first, and conscious critters second, as an epiphenomenon of those primary biological functions?
We are conscious critters first, which then have a biological reaction. I know that when I have been depressed, it was because I felt trapped and believed there was no possible escape. This is a worldview problem – what we call in the philosophy biz a metaphysical problem, specifically an ontological and epistemic crisis.
That is why I proposed “Epistemic Responsibility” in my doctoral thesis, and continue research and writing on the topic. And that is also why meds often fail. It isn’t just a matter of brewing up the right brain chemistry, although that can be very helpful at times with the right compounds to get the call rolling.
In short, I define Epistemic Responsibility as taking responsibility for the consequences of your belief system. This is an important element of living in Subjective Reality. Certain types of beliefs have predictable outcomes. (Dweck, Carol and Leggett, Ellen “A Social-Cognitive Approach to Motivation and Personality.” Psychological Review, Vol. 95, No. 2 1988)
For example: If you believe you are trapped with no hope of escape except death, you will become suicidal. If you lack self-knowledge, you can be reactionary, easily manipulated and tend to favor authoritarian-style leaders. (Campbell, Jennifer “Self-Esteem and Clarity of Self-Concept” in Baumeister 1999)
Now this is not to say that bad things don’t happen – people get hurt and die. As Buddha said, “Suffering Exists.” But he also said “There is a way out of suffering.” For Buddha, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are the method. Now, I am not a Buddhist, but I share the same goal – Awakening.
A Little Aside: I once came up with my own updating of the Four Noble Truths in A Nutshell.
1. Shit Happens.
2. Get Over It.
3. Don’t Be a Dick.
4. Hang Out With People Who Agree With #1, 2 & 3.”
sMy own struggles with depression have been a great teacher. Every single time, what lifted me out of the dark cesspool of my own emotional gunk was a shift in consciousness. Every single time I came out of it was through the realization that I am not the ego self, not a physical body, stuck in circumstances beyond my control.
Depression is a response to perceived helplessness. When we believe we are powerless to improve our lot in life, it is easy to feel that life is futile. A Google search of the terms Depression and Helplessness yields over 2,550,000 hits.
The ancients believed that most physical ailments were actually caused by psycho-spiritual causes. The cure for things like depression and even many physical diseases was philosophy, not manipulating the body. I explore this more fully in my Epicurean Manifesto.
Nowadays, we see lots of stuff in the media about this, such as miraculous spontaneous cures and remissions, research on the placebo effect, epigenetics, energetic healing, Law of Attraction, etc. But the consensus reality still reduces things to their lowest common denominator – physicality.
If we are just our bodies, then we are indeed in deep shit.
We are always surrounded by the physical-only worldview in the media and mainstream consciousness, we are constantly fed the message that the vastness of our being is confined to these small identities, attached to these furry hominid bodies. Further, we are invited to judge and feel badly about ourselves because we do not live up to some artificial ideal or expectation.
If we buy into this worldview, then a number of consequences are predictable, such as learned helplessness and depression.
Much of Conspiracy Theory these days revolves around this very idea. It is pretty obvious to anyone who is paying attention that some nastiness is being readied offstage and in the wings. Whilst it is great fun to conjecture who is hatching what evil schemes and when, average folks really have no way to verify a lot of the suspicions aroused by the increased militarization of local police, NSA spying, and claims of long-term conspiracies to enslave and/or depopulate humanity. But depression and fear are often the result of looking at the increasingly Orwellian world we now occupy.
If you strip away the gleeful wallowing in scary shit, there are essentially two responses to a serious inquiry into the state of the world today - and these are mutually exclusive:
1) Armor up and hunker down – this view still buys into the consensus reality that we are primarily physical beings that might happen to have consciousness, and the priority becomes securing one’s physical well-being.
2) Awake and Transcend – recognize that what we call consensus reality is all made up, a hologram, an illusion, as the Buddha said so long ago. I am definitely in the second camp.
In the Awake and Transcend worldview, I am not helpless or depressed. Indeed, I have infinite power – if I am aware and brave enough to assert it.
The Ultimate Conspiracy is to keep me small and afraid to explore my power. That’s why things that depress us are so sticky and hard to let go of – the plot of this story is the Transcendence of Consciousness. Of course you need a worthy opponent. If it was easy to overcome, the story would be boring.
So, in Subjective Reality, I-in-the-cosmic-sense (NOT the ego-sense) am the author, director and actors of the dystopian sci-fi 4D adventure movie of Early Twenty-first Century Earth.
The trick is to maintain this awareness of your intimate connection to All-That-Is, when all the messages you receive tell you how isolated, puny and weak you are.
And there are lots of tricks to stay in Subjective Reality…
but that’s another blog post.
Province Of The Mind
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