Friday, February 26, 2010

More thoughts about sadness

Fascinating article by Louis Menand in the New Yorker this week, discussing psychiatry and its place in science. After devouring the article I've come to a few conclusions:

1. I no longer believe in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy as a proper treatment for depression.
2. In the vast majority of people labeled as depressives, what they are feeling is not caused by neurological imbalance but just plain ol' life problems.
3. There must be something perverse in a culture that refuses to acknowledge the suffering inherent in the human condition, and instead labels it as some sort of social deviancy.

Big leaps for an amateur psychologist. Strange that I can still be so interested in psychology but completely disagree with talk therapy now. Maybe I'm just marred by my own disappointing experiences with talk therapy, but it seems to exaggerate the ego instead of actually concretely solving problems. Frankly I don't like talking about my problems. I think about them all day regardless; what's the point of rehashing them for a complete stranger with absolutely no knowledge of your thought processes, intelligence, experiences? How comfortable can we truly be with someone trained to diagnose you? It just doesn't work for me, personally, although I know it has for many others. Really I'd prefer to be cuddling with a best friend on the couch, cup of herbal tea in hand.

I've only had limited experience with this sort of thing, but enough to find it absurdly frustrating, especially when I have my own psychology-knowledge-based superiority complex ("I know what you're doing, I've been self-psycho-analyzing myself since age 15, thankyouverymuch."). I don't like talking ceaselessly, I like asking questions that, unfortunately, nobody can answer: What is the point of suffering? Why are most people never happy except for a short while? Why do we grow up thinking one day our emotional life will plateau into some kind of contentment, when this never happens in reality and life is nothing but constant turbulence? Can we ever, truly, be entirely open with another person? How does one fall out of love?

As the New Yorker article states in its concluding line, Questions like these are the reason we have literature and philosophy. No science will ever answer them. Appropriate, then, that I'll soon be a grad student in comparative literature instead of, say, psychology, which I mulled about in 11th grade. I don't really care much for biology when it's the human condition I'm after.

I've been thinking about this nonstop ever since I was surprised by the comment on my last entry, which may or may not have been written by Franz Wright (although it would be pretty grand if it was). Especially:

... the idea that there is something intrinsically appalling about anyone ever being sad is one of the most bizarre things I have ever heard. How might the eradication of sadness be accomplished on a planet of mortal beings? And have you given any consideration, when you look at your own life, to the more positive aspects of sadness.

How true. This is what I've suspected all along, even before reading Schopenhauer. In a world of mortal beings, sadness-- or, I guess, "depression"-- is an inevitable state of being, and has the potential for a pseudo-spiritual resurrection, which the article compares to the cleansing feeling after a period of mourning and grief. Art, too. Art is resurrection.

1 comment:

Frances said...

Yes to number 3. And yes, if you can isolate a cause of your depression (and if you'd be happy with that thing solved), you are not depressed.

Still, neurotransmitters/imbalances are not the definitive cause of depression. Otherwise, anti-depressants should work entirely, no?

Okay. Going to get off your blog.