Monday, January 23, 2006

Random Thoughts on Depression

A variety of recent readings and thoughts led to today’s post. Lately, I have been giving a lot of thought to depression. Many of my family and friends are on medication for the condition, and I have had frequent bouts of depression throughout my adult life. Of course, a feeling of isolation is a common symptom of depression; so when I saw this quote about our isolation as human beings, I jotted it down.

Naked and alone we come into exile. In her dark womb, we did not know our mother’s face. From the prison of her flesh have we come into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this world. Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into his father’s heart? ….which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?”

-- Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe

and this one:

“This stupid world where … we go on talking much about much but remain alone – alive, but alone. Belonging where? Unattached as tumbleweed.” -- Age of Anxiety by W. H. Audin

Today, as I was sorting though old books trying get rid of things and begin packing for a move within the next few months, I picked up an old paperback I had never actually read. Being Up in a Down World by James Kilgore had been through several moves with us. As I glanced through this book, trying to decide whether to pack or toss it, a quote by Sam Jones leaped out at me.

How do I know what I am thinking until I see what I have said?

I began to thumb through the book. In the chapter introduced by this quotation, Kingore says that people generally need to express their thoughts in order to develop and understand their ideas well enough to act upon them. Other psychologists seem to agree that self-knowledge and self-expression are essential steps to productive action and that productive action is a beginning step out of depression. Two of the steps that Kilgore lists for beginning to overcome depression are: (1) taking productive action and (2) reaching out to other people.

So, if we want to make positive change in our lives, the first necessity is self-understanding; and the first step to self-understanding for many of us is self-expression.

I began thinking about this relationship between self-knowledge, self-expression, and productive action; how that sequence can lead to emotional healing; and what this whole process might have to do with my current fascination with blogging. Is it possible that blogging can be the beginning of the process that leads to productive action? What starts out inside ourselves takes the form of words - our way of giving life to our ideas, our way of reaching out to others, perhaps even our way of taking action. The more we express our thoughts, the better others know us; and the better others know us, the less isolated we become.

Once our thoughts are clarified through expression, we become free to act on our beliefs. If, indeed, the essense of emotionally healthy living is ACTING upon our beliefs and involving others in our lives, writing and responding to the writing of others can contribute to emotionally healthy living.

I have always liked the following quotation and believe that it fits here in the context of taking productive action.

A Psalm of Life
Henry W. Longfellow

Trust no futures, how e’re pleasant!
Let the dead past bury its dead;
Act, act in the living present;
Hearts within, and God o’er head;

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us

Footprints on the sands of time.

I am interested in reading whatever thoughts you might have to add to these. Please feel free to comment.

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