Archive for the ‘Happiness’ Tag

Understanding Depression   4 comments

I awoke yesterday feeling depressed, before I had done or thought anything.  It was the misery into which I opened my eyes and over which I had no control, as tangible as the rumpled sheets under my body.  I still meditated on my morning verse and wrote down my thoughts about God’s deep grace, but unlike the several days before, it was academic and cold.  The ideas were true, I knew they were true, but they did not warm my heart.  Life continued to feel like a heavy burden that I longed to cast off.  A tasty breakfast was no better than cold oatmeal.  Simple tasks, like paying bills, felt insurmountable, so I put them off for another day.

This morning I awoke with a sense of contentment.  The sun was shining and fresh snow coated the trees on which a cardinal perched.  It is my day off, so I lay back on the reclining loveseat drowsing–naps always feel good… if I could just figure out a way to make it through life comatose, I believe I could be happy.  Just now I read over my Scripture reflections of yesterday, and they uplifted my heart.

Let me say here very plainly that the sun and snow did not change my feelings.  Rather, my feelings were in a better place and so I could appreciate the beauty of the day.  If I had awakened with the same misery as yesterday, the snow would have looked like so much shoveling and scraping to do.  And though I feel better right now, I know that depression is just under the surface ready to push up through the thin crust covering it.

If you do not know depression first hand, let me dispel a common and damaging presumption: “happiness is a choice.”  A depressive cannot “count your many blessings” into a better place.  Negative thinking is not the source of our misery, so positive thinking cannot resolve our misery.  Positive thoughts may cure grumpiness or self pity or minor losses, but it cannot fix depression any more than a screw driver can fix a tree through the roof of your house, and to suggest that it can feels heartless to the one suffering.

Please listen to this next sentence very carefully and thoughtfully, because it is the key to understanding us.  Depression does not come from negative thinking; negative thinking (and feeling) comes from depression.  Depression springs from genetics or biology or PTSD or some other deep source, and putting it on a diet of positive thoughts will not cure it anymore than dumping a gallon of clorox in a river daily will un-pollute it.  In fact, it can make things much worse, since it suggests (even unconsciously) that the one who is depressed is somehow at fault for it or has the power by sheer will to overcome it.

For the most part, I do not know what makes some days (or hours) better than others.  I cannot predict it or control it since I don’t have direct access to my subconscious mind.  I know the general sources from which it originally springs in my genetics and childhood, and I work deliberately to remedy those root causes, but it is a very long journey and likely will not be resolved this side of the grave.  Like a missing arm, it is a condition which affects everything, and I must find a way to live optimally within those limits.  The patience and understanding and empathy of friends goes a long way in helping me cope.

Posted March 12, 2017 by janathangrace in Personal

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Living Life Fully   Leave a comment

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is simple: the purpose of humans is to live fully as humans, pain and pleasure direct us towards life or death, and we must choose life.  I find myself agreeing with her.  “Choose life!” God tells Israel repeatedly through Moses.  Surely life lived to the fullest is God’s design for us, and misery or joy seem to be fairly reliable indicators of what benefits or harms us.  But some caution niggles in the back of our brains: if we avoid pain and pursue pleasure, are we not hedonists?

Rand decries hedonism: “When… the gratification of any and all desires is taken as an ethical goal… men have no choice but to hate, fear and fight one another, because their desires and their interests will necessarily clash.  If  ‘desire’ is the ethical standard, then one man’s desire to produce and another man’s desire to rob him have equal ethical validity….  If so, then man’s only choice is to rob or be robbed, to destroy or be destroyed, to sacrifice others to any desire of his own or to sacrifice himself to any desire of others; then man’s only ethical alternative is to be a sadist or a masochist.  The moral cannibalism  of all hedonist and altruist doctrines lies in the premise that the happiness of one man necessitates the injury of another.”  Hedonism and altruism are alike in this: one person’s well-being must be sacrificed for the sake of another’s.

Rand Is a Rationalist

“The Objectivist ethics,” Rand explains, “holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone.  It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash.”   She sees a benevolent world in which every person can find genuine, full happiness regardless of the actions of others.  I’m not sure how an atheist such as Rand can be so optimistic, but if the God of all grace rules the world, hope is an inescapable, logical conclusion.  A theist might read her statement “the spiritual or life-giving interests of men do not clash.”  If God is committed to what is best for me, then I fulfill his will by living out this truth.  God must see to it that the choices I make  in pursuing what is best for me do not undermine what is best for another.

 

*Rand is an individualist, so we must still refine her thoughts with the Biblical truths of community and interdependence.

Posted September 19, 2012 by janathangrace in Reading, thoughts

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