Depression feels wrong. Depression makes you feel dead, emotionless, and tired.
However. Depression is necessary to make a change in your life. It creates a fork in the road in the road giving you the opportunity to decide who you want to be. To analyze what is wrong and create new memory traces in your mind to conquer your fears and become someone who dominates rather than loses; someone who has control of the chaos and order of this world. I explain in the following essays the psychology of fear and how the mind works to suggest that depression serves an evolutionary purpose that you can learn to begin to construct a new mindset.
Fear: central to our Survival and our Brain
There are 4 fundamental fears according to Harvard Medical Review (Kelley, et, al.):
- Fear of the unknown
- Fear of being judged
- Fear of losing control
- Fear of taking the first step
Fear is a state of mind that happens when you face stimuli that activates the amygdala and other components of your brain.
Here are the main components of the brain that are involved in fear (“Augmentation of Extinction…”):
- pariquaduotal gray
- inferior calliculus
- lateral septum
These are the parts of your brain that process the stimuli you receive that initiates the flight or fight response.
While these are adaptive responses to threatening situations, we can have severe psychiatric disorders associated with too much fear for a certain length of time. One of the biggest or most well-known mental disorders is depression. Depression is rooted in hierarchical structures from our animal kingdom like explained with lobsters in Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules of Life” and this can be manipulated with Prozac and other SRRI’s, etc. .
When you are depressed you are placed at the bottom of the hierarchy. You are essentially a loser…However…
Losers Can Become Winners
So why would nature make you feel bad too on top of being a loser? Why wouldn’t nature make you feel great so that you can get back into it? It’s because nature has a purpose in making you feel bad. If you didn’t feel bad you would go on your way to continue doing what made you a loser in the first place. However, with the logic of evolution selecting for only winners, we can suggest that perhaps if depression is still here, that means that you can be a winner. Evolution assumes that only the people that made it against the odds continued to pass on their genes. So…this means that losers have often (or often enough) times become winners in the long run…
More importantly, it seems that anyone can feel like a loser, and so much so that many of us can say depression was a pivotal part our lives. It doesn’t matter how low you are, nature and our history of humankind, has proven that you can rise from the ashes of your former self and become a winner. If you need proof just look at the stories of David Gogginsor James Baldwin. So, with this premise, we can begin to look at ourselves not as someone who is broken, but someone who is sick and in the process of healing. One study talks about this as the “sick role” where therapy is much more conducive to being successful when the patient takes responsibility in the action of recovering with a flow diagram of this issue featured in figure 1 of the scholars’ paper (Koekkoek et. al.).
What we can see is that the fundamental fears can be attributed to this “sick role” as well. I’ll explain what that might look like…
- Fear of the unknown: acknowledging that you are mentally sick feels overwhelming because you will need to embark on the journey to recovery. The end results are not always certain when trying to fix a mental problem. This uncertainty can persuade someone to fear the “sick role”.
- Fear of being judged: the fear of being judged for admitting that you are mentally in need of care is hard to admit. The fear originates from those that will think that you are incapable of being fixed. They might outcast you and you will no longer have friends. In our ancestors’ times, being outcasted would mean a high chance of death as humans fundamentally need each other to survive.
- Fear of losing control: when you embark on a journey as scary as mental illness, the fear of losing control is always there. Sometimes you won’t feel confident in yourself and you won’t feel like you can control your tendencies to act out or seek external means for fixing internal needs.
- Fear of taking the first step: the fear of taking the first step ties back to a feeling of inadequacy. A feeling like even if you are not afraid of the unknown, you’re not afraid of being judged, you’re not afraid of losing control…what if you don’t deserve to be healthy and successful? What if you might not really appreciate it all if you do attain it? This plays a part in drug addiction and homelessness. The devil you know is much easier to appreciate then the one you don’t. See my video on why the homeless stay homeless here.
What’s important to understand is that for many of our problems our answer should be empathy. When it comes to objective issues of negotiation or intimate issues with yourself. To that latter point, as Carl Jung once said:
"The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely."
And this is so true. It really is terrifying to accept yourself for all your faults and all your strengths. This acceptance is brought forth by a deep level of understanding the timeline of you and understanding how you came to be who you are today. When I say strengths I can expand on this in that sometimes we don’t want to accept what we are actually good at for a preconceived notion that we should be better at something else. These types of biases inputted into our psyche from birth are what makes us human. That’s what makes this human journey great. If you can handle the pain and fear of life, you can get something truly amazing out of it and not only getting, but also creating something of value. That may sound selfish in the former rather than latter of a sense but there is much internal gratification to be had out of helping your community and others in general. This goes along with philosophical ideas such as utilitarianism. So even if helping yourself is selfish in others’ eyes, you can still be helping others which will lead to a great amount of satisfaction in your eyes come the time your death comes and more importantly, that satisfaction will be realized by generations after you. To truly want the best for the world comes with the responsibility of knowing people will be suspicious of your intentions. We have been conditioned to not trust others until they have become part of our tribe so to speak-our accepted groups of persons. By accepting our new global uniform world, we can start to ensure we are leaving a confirmable mark on the world that says you were here, and not just another person in a small bubble. I personally think this is the ultimate motivator for any action, how will you want to be remembered once you die?
Death is the 2nd most absolute occurrence we can encounter other than birth when in the confines of our lives. Even though life itself is not certain or absolute, it persists, which is more than death can say for itself. Death is a prerogative of what we consider consciousness’s end note, the moments right before consciousness leaves, we simply slip away. The light leaves our eyes and we can know longer fear, or love, or protect, or defend. It is neither living nor dead, it is simply the state of not living much like darkness is just the absence of light. Is a galaxy dead just because it is not of the same level of consciousness as us humans? No. We are every bit as alive as the stars around us even in death. For ultimately, we are simply just star dust. Everything except that which ultimately defines what we can be is of no concern to that of a universal being.
"The Purpose of Life is Action"
- Hubert Humphrey. This life we live is characterized by hardship and grief, but more importantly, this life is desired for the energized goal pursuit we all strive for. We all have a goal to chase, and a dream we want. Whether you're depressed and just want to be happy or you're happy and want to be happier. We all have wants and needs, but if we focus our energy and willpower on our strengths rather than strengthening our weaknesses, our wants will more than likely become what we have.
Obstacles in Developing Your Core Values
Dr. Vic Strecher, Founder of self-improvement app JOOL, states "the concepts of core values, purpose in life, energy, and willpower are relevant to nearly all age groups and situations". We all have motive dispositions, which are "learned or acquired orientations toward certain natural incentives in the environment"(Atkinson, 1982). However further research found that social learning and operant conditioning led people to rely on certain types of positive experiences disproportionately more than others to regulate their mood (Atkinson, 1982; McClelland, 1985). Additionally, we are worse off if we choose stimulating and distracting activities over active efforts to fix reoccurring failures. Worse even, people react defensively when they are faced with dilemmas like these where their positive self-image is threatened. They will go so far as to avoid, dismiss, or discredit their opposition rather than attempt to solve their problems (Velez & Hanus). This is truer in eastern societies that are collectivistic rather than western ones that are more individualistic that prefer competence while collectivistic societies value relatedness to one another through group identity (Triandis, 1995).
The Three Basic Psychological Needs
If we choose to be more individualistic in our core values, we can begin to connect what we really want with what we really need. Our three basic psychological needs are:
Autonomy: freedom from external control or influence; independence.
Competence: the ability to do something successfully or efficiently.
Relatedness: allied by nature, origin, kinship, marriage, etc.
This is the triad of what balances our order and chaos. Our human negotiation in survival.
These needs became evolutionarily selected because these needs "correspond to the successful negotiation of important distinct categories of adaptive tasks." (Deci & Ryan, 2000). These are exhibited as producing something of a success, having close relationships or alliances, becoming more independent, and being able to self-regulate (Sheldon, Schüler, & King, 2011)
The Four Intrinsic Motivations
Motivations are what allow us to improve these three psychological needs. These motivations, if present, are what allow for behavioral change to begin:
Intrinsic Motivation: "because it is enjoyable" An energizing of behavior that comes from within an individual, out of will and interest for the activity at hand
Identified Motivation: "because I believe in it". Identified motivation is where a person knows that something needs doing but has not yet decided to do anything about it.
Introjected Motivation: "because I should do it" Similar to intrinsic motivation in that it is internalized. The distinctive aspect of this is that if it is not done, then the person feels the tension of guilt.
Extrinsic Motivation: "because I have to do it" Extrinsic motivation comes from outside us. We do it because we are impelled to, for example, because we are told to by someone who has power over us. Many employment motivation systems work on the principle of extrinsic reward, where people are 'bought' and then commanded. Whilst this is effective for simple activities, it is less useful when you want a person to be self-driven.
If we use self-concordant goal motivation (feeling more independent than controlled in the pursuit of your goals) then there is a higher likelihood that you will achieve your goal in the long run, which increases your need-satisfaction and feeling of well-being (Sheldon, Schüler, & King, 2011). The main emphasis in finding your life purpose is that it is over the course of your life, it's not a short-term goal and it shouldn't be expected as such. This is called the transtheoretical model (TTM) which is when we can recognize that there are many stages of change and we should focus on making small adaptations over a long period of time rather than a large adaptation over a short period of time.
The 6 stages of TTM:
- precontemplation – “no”
- contemplation – “maybe”
- preparation – “prepare/plan”
- action – “do”
- maintenance – “keep going”
- termination – “stopped wanted behavior”
The skipping of these steps for behavioral change is more akin to a traumatic event than that of a positive lifestyle change (See Kurbo Program).
Finding Your Life Purpose
By tying this all together, we can begin to see how these three psychological needs and four motivations can impact our lives. Our core values are the basis of this change. We must analyze our thoughts. By using Theory U, (Click here to learn about Theory U) we can start the process of change management and changing our behavior. We have to start focusing on the value of our competence (education), relatedness (relationships), and autonomy (independence). Once we begin to get closer to achieving higher levels of these needs, we can begin to understand our motivations better.
The system of improvement is a positive feedback loop, the more you put into it, the more you get out.
Now it won't be easy, in fact, it will be painful. However, this pain is much better than the alternative which is to live a life void of purpose or joy. We as humans need this energized goal pursuit in life to feel whole and complete. We need others to feel safe and connected. Don't think you'll be able to do more alone either. This will take time. The thing about finding your life purpose is that it's not a one size fits all solution that I can pass on to you. It is a categorical and systematic process of constantly being aware of your situation and making minor changes over a long period of time. We might have to put down our devices. Click here for a great youtube video by Thomas Frank on how to curb your social media addiction. We might have to avoid the activities that help us forget about our pain.
Boredom and being uncomfortable
Let’s first start off with some differences between boredom and depression (Bargdill):
Willful (but futile) determination
Shame (associated with self-harm)
Guilt (not associated with self-harm)
Bargdill also states that while a common complaint of depressed patients is boredom, the “differences between boredom and depression are ‘superficial’”. Boredom should not always be considered depression, but it does take some consideration to the 4 fundamental fears to figure out why you are feeling shame or identity confusion.
The Problem with Therapy (prior to getting into therapy)
The current issue with therapy, despite its great results, is insurance. Not everyone in America is covered for every therapist by their insurance. This can be problematic for those with mental disorders to seek help even if they have undertaken all the above information. If they can’t get the sessions covered by insurance, charges can be as much as $100 per session. Even though this might seem like a trivial problem for those that are used to attacking challenges with a confident perspective, those that were never taught these mental tools are more discouraged.
I asked over 200 redditors on the /r/getdisciplined subreddit what problems they had with mental health care today. The overwhelming response was that even if they found a therapist they liked, there’s a good chance they weren’t covered under the person’s healthcare plan.
The solution I propose is a mental health care option that is a lower cost monthly subscription provided by a company with quality counselors and therapists on staff. A brand that incorporates the resources of a company to meet its customers’ needs.
- Augmentation of Extinction and Inhibitory Learning in Anxiety and Trauma-Related Disorders. (2019). 15(1), 257-284.
- Bargdill, R. (2019). Habitual Boredom and Depression: Some Qualitative Differences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 59(2), 294-312.
- Kelley, Tom, & Kelley, David. (2012). Reclaim your creative confidence. Harvard Business Review, 90(12), 115-135.
- Koekkoek, B., Hutschemaekers, Van Meijel, and Schene. "How Do Patients Come to Be Seen as ‘difficult’?: A Mixed-methods Study in Community Mental Health Care." Social Science & Medicine 72.4 (2011): 504-12. Web.
- Peterson, J. B., Doidge, N., & Van, S. E. (2018). 12 rules for life: An antidote to chaos.
- Davis, R. (2016). Tenacity. American Journal Of Health Promotion, 30(8), 652-653.
- Sheldon, K., Schüler, J., & King, Laura. (2011). Wanting, Having, and Needing: Integrating Motive Disposition Theory and Self-Determination Theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(5), 1106-1123.
- Velez, J., & Hanus, M. (2016). Self-Affirmation Theory and Performance Feedback: When Scoring High Makes You Feel Low. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 19(12), 721-726.