1. Repent for thinking it was all right to live the way we have been living. It wasn’t, and we should have known it.
2. Don’t look away from the hard reality because it is depressing. Whatever it takes, work though the depression.
Today I have to write about the need to work through depression. I started this post yesterday but was in no shape to write about depression. I was in perhaps the worst personal depression I have been in this year. I lay in bed most of the day, crying.
This happens to people who care about other people and get involved in the messy edges of life. And it always takes me by surprise. I am better today, so have this to offer on situations like I found myself in yesterday, as well as some suggestions for the larger question about depression resulting from a close look at our world.
Depression from hard personal relations:
1. Believe in yourself. Believe in your own goodness and good intentions.
2. Understand and acknowledge that you probably were wrong in saying what you said, writing what you wrote, or doing what you did.
3. Wait and listen for opportunities for reconciliation and renewed engagement in the messy, important issues of life. (This I am particularly bad at.)
But there are other larger issues of depression that I had in mind with my five-year plan
Depression from a pessimistic analysis of our world’s situation
I have heard it said “If you’re depressed, thank God, you’re normal. If you ‘re not depressed you’re not paying attention.”
I believe this. So the answer is not to look for the cause of depression. We know that – the world is going to hell, and at a pretty fast pace. The goal for us is to work through depression: to not let our beliefs about the world debilitate us, render us inactive, or affect our personal demeanor to such an extent that it affects how we treat those clo
sest to us.
Some helpful suggestions
1. Avoid linear thinking. Most projections of doom are expressed in linear thinking. Remember all of those charts in the Al Gore movie that suddenly shot up when projected into the future? Whether it be peak oil, population growth, glacier melting, or global warming, the usual way the material is presented is in the form of a graph of past trends followed by the projection into the future, using the assumption that conditions will remain unchanged.
People who counter predictions of doom with the promise of technological innovations use the same kind of linear thinking – if the problem is grave enough, the solution will attract enough attention that the solution will be found. So far, that has always happened.
Tom Wessel’s book “The Myth of Progrsss” was liberating for me. He talks about complex systems – formerly know as chaos theory. He talks about positive and negative feedback in dynamic systems that make it impossible to predict specific consequences from past patterns. But that is not to say that we can’t learn from the past. We do not know what the temperature will be the fist week of February of this year, but we have a pretty good idea that it will be colder than the fist week of July.
So we need to do our analysis and form our belief, but not look for fulfilment of our predictions to support the urgency of our actions
2. Find colleagues who will support you in your work.
3. Find the kind of activity that energizes you and feeds you. I hate standing on street corners holding signs that may or may not be understood by people passing by that I do not know. But I love to give popular education style workshops. In any organization I join, I always gravitate toward education.
In looking at my three year evaluation of my attempt to work through depression I can see that I have made some progress:
In dealing with my “retirement” identity.
I have resolved some of the issues of relating to my church community
Although I do not have as many opportunities to lead popular education style workshops, I have done considerable writing: a collection of 29 stories from my life, two children’s stories, and now I have a blog where I can express my ideas, so personally I am in belter shape than three years ago: which gives me confidence in recommending my path to you.
So these are my thoughts about working through depression in order to keep doing what you know needs to be done.
And eat chocolate if it helps.