Is Our Society Manufacturing Depressed People?

An Epidemic of Depression

Our society is in the throes of a virtual epidemic of depression. The numbers are quite staggering. More than twenty percent of the American population will experience at least one episode of what we refer to as clinical depression. We need to look deeper into this phenomenon to understand it and overcome it. My contention is, firstly, that our cultural values and memes induce us to live in ways that are, indeed, depressing. Secondly, much of what we refer to as clinical depression is inaccurate. Most depression is situational. The symptoms of depression are often due to depressing circumstances, not disease. In other words, under certain circumstances, it makes sense to be depressed.

Have We Lost Our Way?

Many of us live dulled lives, somewhat robotic in nature and devoid of deeper meaning and purpose. Our lives, often become visionless and passionless. We live in an intensely competitive culture that rewards achievement and success. Our identity and esteem become reflections of these external markers of achievement. Our pursuit of happiness and well-being become terribly misdirected. The demands of our intensely and neurotically driven culture strain our emotional and psychological balance well beyond its comfortable balance. The cultural paradigm in which we live leaves us disconnected, disenchanted and isolated. When this occurs, we tend to honor and seek material acquisitions at the cost of devoting ourselves to intimate and loving relationships – with others and ourselves.

People that thrive in loving relationships don’t typically feel depressed. Depression is symptomatic of feeling isolated and cut off. In our drive to live the good life, we typically isolate ourselves from relationships that might nourish us. Intimate and loving relations have become somewhat marginalized and have lost value in our very hurried lives. Our frenetic pace of life sees one day blur into another, until life begins to lose its meaning. We don’t have time to nurture our loved ones or ourselves, and we lose our vision of a well-spent life. In fact, the problem is that we don’t know how to live well.

Are People Dysfunctional?

Our therapeutic community attaches labels such as dysfunctional to people and families. People are not dysfunctional; social systems are. People suffer and experience pain. We are human beings, not machines that dysfunction. Such terminology expresses contempt for the human spirit. A society that produces such staggering rates of depression is dysfunctional. Our culture has created this epidemic.

Part of the problem is that we become corralled into a consensus of belief that does not serve our higher purpose. The desire to fit in and conform induces us to lose our inner voice. We are products of a cultural belief system that ignores or devalues matters of the heart and then turns and points its accusatory finger at those who suffer. When we do so, we victimize the victim. If we began to look at the depression as symptomatic of living depressing lives, we’d begin to understand that the cure lies in addressing what our souls are longing for. When we suppress the voice of our soul, depression arises. Depression surfaces for a reason. The symptoms of depression are crying out for our attention. The epidemic of depression is simply indicative of lives lived errantly, without joy or purpose.

People who feel passion for their work and friends and love their families and partners don’t become depressed as often as the population at large. People who are in touch with their spirit and enjoy a sense of community don’t incline toward depression. People who maintain a sense of wonder and awe don’t become depressed. Depression isn’t the enemy. It’s simply a warning sign that we’re not on the right path. Our disconnection and folly pursuits of happiness may have much to do with this.

Before the advent of modern psychotherapy, and well before the pathologizing of the word “depression,” we would refer to such symptoms as melancholia. Life would bring certain periods and events in which one might feel some melancholy. Sadness is appropriate at times. When people experienced such sadness, friends and family may have supported them through the difficult times. But they weren’t told that there was something wrong with them. Loving support is the most powerful agent in the treatment of depression. When we lose our compassion and relegate depressed people to their diagnosis, we tend to dehumanize them.

Is Our Society Manufacturing Depressed People?

A dominant theme in our society is that you should be happy, and if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you. Life can be difficult at times. It is in the labeling of people as depressed that the greatest injustice is done. I’m not suggesting that there aren’t people who are indeed clinically depressed, but simply that the indiscriminate manner in which diagnoses are meted out to people without proper discrimination is grossly absurd.  When clinical diagnosis of depression is made in the astronomical numbers we witness in American culture, it speaks to something much larger: A society that has lost its way.

If we see depression as a signal that something is off, we might use the depression to catalyze positive change. Very often depression makes perfect sense. In my practice, I often treat individuals who are being abused, living in loveless relationships or suffering from loss. Depression in such instances seems quite appropriate. Rather than treat the depression, I prefer to assist these people in coming to terms with their life challenges.  It is essential to treat the person, not the depression. We must come to understand how the depressed person struggles contextually in their lives and to appreciate their particular struggles and challenges. We must, at all costs, refrain from reducing them to a clinical compilation of symptoms.

Situational Depression

In some instances, depression is situational. Loss of a loved one, illness or job loss creates circumstances that are painful. Working through the loss is more healing than medicating the pain. It is essential to address the underlying causes and not simply suppress the symptoms. The difficulty is that in our quick fix mentality, we believe that if we can suppress the symptoms then all is well. When we come to see depression not as the enemy but as an expression of struggle, the epidemic will likely subside as we come to honor the integrity of our human spirit. We do not ordinarily grow without engaging struggle. So the irony is that by medicating our symptoms with psychotropic medication, we ensure continued stagnation, for the struggle is never resolved toward a breakthrough; it is merely placated.

Gary Greenberg, in Manufacturing Depression, suggests that depression as a clinical disease may indeed be manufactured. He references best selling psychiatrist Peter Kramer’s assertion in Against Depression that “depression magically skyrocketed after the drug industry introduced SSRIs and that diagnostic criteria can’t distinguish between depression and grief.”

My thesis is, therefore, twofold: Much of what we call depression is a typical life struggle around loss, fear and grave situational issues that have become clinicalized for profit. Yet, there also lies a deeper despair that accompanies living an incoherent life, as a stranger in a strange land. What I am strongly asserting is that depression, and anxiety for that matter, are the most likely outcomes of living in and with the unmerciful and misguided constraints of a tired and destructive worldview. Our constructed reality is for many people depressive and anxiety inducing. Feeling as such ironically suggests that many depressed people are merely mirroring the affects of a somewhat incongruous, if not insane way of living, fostered by the society itself. In effect, the way that we are living is producing tragic results.

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43 replies
  1. Les Potton
    Les Potton says:

    Mel, a very well observed article.

    I think you are absolutely right about society creating depression through unrealistic expectation. I am sure that those with simple values, as you say, around family and relationships, suffer less depression. However, maintaining those values in the competitive western world, is tough these days.

    I remember going on holiday to Tanzania and the tour guide showing us a local man sitting on the edge of a jetty fishing. He said “that guy has hardly any money, but he’s happy and wont die of a heart attack”.

    I think, similarly to you, that there are 2 types of depression. The intense version that you got when experiencing loss (berievement, redundancy etc). Where someone in this situation is completely dibilitated through the loss, I am sure it can be helped with medication, to kick start the person back into positive habits and behaviours, that then become the longer term cure, when the pills are put away.

    The other type, which is probably more deeply embedded in our culture is those people who, as you say, lead these fast paced, robotic but dull and pressurised lives. The worst type of work is that which is tough, pressured but not something you physically enjoy doing. Some pressure is positive, if you enjoy the job content and the expectations are realistic.

    I remember having a job like this and you dont realise how bad it was until you experience the weight released from your shoulders by a subsequent change. I think there are people ploughing through these daily routines, masking depression. They probably function, as I did, on a robotic level, not realising there is another world out there, with no-one, including the individual, really recognising there is a problem……. until something cracks.

    To maintain high spirits, you have got to be doing things that hit the right buttons for your personal values and motivation. For those who thrive on fast paced activity and material achievement, todays commercial world is probably very fulfilling. However, for those that dont, and a lot of people dont, I imagine it can be varying degrees of hell, made worse by the fear that they have to keep their living standards high or the world will think they are a failure.

    Perhaps everyone needs to think again about what high “living standards” really means to them as an individual (there own personal “fishing jetty”) , not what it appears to the outside world.

    Reply
  2. AA
    AA says:

    Mel…A well written article..Depression puts a dark, gloomy cloud over how we see ourselves, the world, and our future. This cloud cannot be willed away, nor can we ignore it and have it magically disappear.

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Agreed, but we can learn to think differently and therefore see and experience life differently. I’ve had considerable success helping people overcome anxiety and depression.

      Reply
  3. donna trainor
    donna trainor says:

    having suffered from clinical depression all my life(possibly from the age of 5 but first officially diagnosed at age 16 and now being 50)and having experienced all the emotions that go along with being human in a real life. i know the difference between sadness and clinical depression. society is manufacturing depression in 2 ways:1) in taking difficult emotions,crisis situations and particularly mental illness and wanting treat it all with a quick fix in the most compact and convient way(for everyone but the suffer) and quickly sweep it under the rug. 2)society has become lost on where its priorietes should lie. it should not be a priority to buy something. it should be a priority to help one another. it should not be a priority to have as much money as possible as to have meaning and purpose in your life. peace should sought more than war,violence or aggression.love should rein over hate. to name a few. i think also there is alot of confusion about what a real life is like is not what you see on tv or what is shown in reality shows or of celebrities,etc. it is also not what all the happiness gurus spout. you cannot just believe,affirm or create your own happy life that is a fairy tale-not life. life is like the ocean. it ebbs and flows. sometimes it sweeps gently onto shore,sometimes it crashes violently on the beach. life is full of moments of sadness and moments of joy,moments of hate and moments of love,moments of distress and moments of distress. all of these moments together make up a full life. “life is for growing souls” the negative of life teaches us lessons that allow us to better experience the positives of life. the quick fix is inadequate. no crisis,no difficult emotion and no mental illness can be healed if the individual involved is not seen in total-mind,body,heart and soul;physical(biological),psychological,social,environmental and in their unique individualism. having been living a real life,i know the difference between clinical depression and sadness. it is partly based on the degree of the”signs and symptoms”,partly due to the duration,and due to some particular attributes that are far more likely to be seen in the suffering of clinical depression than in the suffering of real life. the attributes that are particular to clinical depression and not to sadness are a feeling of impending doom,a sense of hopelessness to the extent that one if not actively suicidal is waiting to die by fate or by god’s mercy. there is nothing left in life that calls to them above the pain. there is an endless desire to escape. there is also the feeling that one merely exists,one does not live. real life is about living,attempting to deal with and overcome the pain and remaining in some way connected to others. clinical depression causes people to slowly withdraw till they end up really only talking to their psychiatrist and therapist if at all;with others they either hide or wear a facade. most likely they will eventually be unable to maintain the facade and withdraw. if we keep looking for quick fixes and looking for what we want rather than what is possible;if we keep setting our priorities in the wrong direction rather than what is essential to our lives and the existence of the earth there will be nothing but despair.

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Hi Donna,
      Thanks so much for your clear distinction between clinical and situational or typical ebb flow, highs and lows.
      Your comments about society’s role in most insightful.

      Reply
    • Nancy
      Nancy says:

      I have also been clinically depressed and agree very profoundly with what you said. As well, at times that I have been recovering from a period of depression, it seems to me that part of the cause of my depression has been facing a very difficult situation that I had no resources, no support, and no professional support, although such was sought, for situations that my family was in. In other words, being aware that something very serious was wrong and believing that there was nothing I could do to change it or to cope with it, and seeming to find that everyone else thought that what was bothering me was a figment of my imagination.

      Reply
  4. Leah Shapiro
    Leah Shapiro says:

    Hi Mel,
    Great article!
    I agree, I think society manufacturers depressed people. It doesn’t encourage us to be the brilliant, diverse individuals that we are here to be.
    I think this impacts us in a few different ways. First- it teaches us to hide who we are, which feels awful. The discomfort of fitting in, following the rules, and conforming causes people to ignore their feelings and tune out. The sad part is that when you tune out the bad feelings you are also tuning out the good stuff!

    I also find that we are instilled with so many beliefs about who we’re “supposed” to be, we loose touch with who we are- and this causes a lot of inner conflict. We make ourselves wrong for wanting something different or not being able to live up to expectations.
    It’s not surprising that so many people are depressed. They are shutting down their feelings and surrender to the quiet desperation of not being able to be self-expressed.

    I think depression can also become a familiar energy. You tune out and ignore the part of you that is crying out for something more long enough it becomes your normal.

    I’d like to see a shift in society where people are encouraged to be who they are-in all there amazing diversity. I’d like to see people encouraged to be self-expressed and bring forward their own unique perspective. That is when things will get really interesting.

    I find the place to start is with self-acceptance. Giving yourself permission to be who you are, and giving other people permission to be who they are as well. It’s all good!

    Rock on!
    Leah

    Reply
  5. Bekelech(Becky)
    Bekelech(Becky) says:

    Mel, I am lucky to come across your link and be able to have access to your articles.
    IT’S A FOOD FOR MY SOUL.
    I am not in your field but I would like to comment based on my observation,
    Most of us become robot as a result of the competitive world we live in, also subconsciously some of us conditioned to value ourselves based on someone else’s benchmark. In addition to that Change is inevitable, if not now sometimes in the future we can face some sort of life challenges. As a result we go through different type of emotion time to time. The lack of knowledge and skills to manage those leads to depression.

    I think Depression suppose to be a short term . This is because what we need is to understand the cause of the problem and a tool to handle it. I believe we are work in progress; we develop and learn from our life experience. Unfortunately the current system is quick to give labels and put us some sort of box, as well as promoting medicine for it.

    I would have ended in this box if not for my mother that taught me the following principles at early age.

    – If you cannot change it get the best out of it
    – If it’s changeable ask your self how
    – Do not ask WHY when you are going any form of life challenges

    Reply
  6. KK
    KK says:

    Mel, another thought provoking article, interesting to hear your research on this topic.

    I attribute much of societies modern ills on cognitive dissonance.
    We are perpetually forced into conflicting conditions that challenge accepted views, and allow the contrary to be evident.
    We are perpetually manipulated, mostly by marketing of products or even by marketing of our politicians to some extent.
    This manipulation is well understood, and utilised very effectively, however I think it does cause these sort of depressions to arrive.

    We are kept in a constant state of questioning, even things such as politically correct terminology make it almost a crime (and in some cases an actual one) to merely say the wrong word even though the word may describe exactly a circumstance or situation or experience. Another example – the global warming paradox. My purpose is not to start a discussion on that topic but merely to say that it is virtually impossible for anyone in the general public to have a truly educated and knowledgeable opinion on this, because there is so much conflict of fact. If you think – pollution is bad therefore we should minimise all pollution, but we need energy to power all these things we are so attached to therefore power is not all that bad and global warming is something unavoidable but now we must stop it yet we don’t stop all this manufacturing and driving etc etc. I hope you can see my point there…

    Furthermore, its not just this dissonance, as you suggested poisoned world view plays a role. It’s also the disconnect we have from being kept in left brain constantly – we lack the synapse to find harmonious sollutions – the alchemical wedding of thought/emotion/action is divorced from us – largely I believe due to marketing and television forcing us into dominant brain situations. (ie left or right dominance) This causes actual – visible – brain dysfunction, visible on an MRI scan. The less dominant half of the brain will actually appear with virtually no activity in extremely affected individuals.

    Reply
      • KK
        KK says:

        Hard question to answer Mel.
        I like to think that I take eclectic sources, get as much information as I can and compile it to form my own ideology.

        I have done a lot of “research” (my own) into mystery traditions, and “occulted” knowledge.
        Mainly because I believe that there is now a great disconnect with ancient knowledge, and also this is just visible with how we treat our “elders” in society. It used to be we venerated them, put them in positions as chieftans, and village elders/wise men(and women) shamans etc.
        Now, we tuck them away in old folks homes and listen to none of their wisdom.
        I also did a lot of sociology at uni – and presented a paper on how the media controls sport in the field of funding for womens sports.
        Most womens sports (at least at the time of doing my paper) required the women to do things such as sporting calendar shoots, or change their uniforms to be more “sexy”. The same does not apply to men getting sport funding, why is this? I put it to you media control this, perhaps inadvertently, but regardless of their intent they do control it. We are now in an almost epidemic of young females with horribly skewed body images – did we have this problem before our modern media age? History would suggest not.

        Mel, I have –always- questioned these things, ever since I was a child I can remember driving my parents to annoyance because I would never accept responses such as “because I said so”. The media and government rely on us accepting authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority. Government (from the latin gubernare (meaning to control) and mente (meaning mind)…)think about that one deeply…

        Another issue which is associated with world view poisoning. Our language does in fact control us to some degree, and you could play this word association game with people on the street (in fact this has already been done as research).

        I show someone the word “occult” and ask for their perception on it.
        I guarantee 99% of people will say words like “evil” or many other similar associations, but the word occult simply means “hidden”.
        Think Occipital Lobe (to do with vision). Think Occulus, to do with vision. The latin word Occultare meaning to conceal or hide.
        But most people don’t realise this because (mainly attributed to media) occult ties to all the horror movies of the ages.
        Another fun one to do the game with is the word Anarchy, which simply means the abscence of an external ruler.
        This skewing of language is largely associated with media, and largely controls our perceptions – it is in fact a mild form of mind control, through controlling how the mind associates a skewed meaning to a word.

        An artist whom often sings about “political” topics once said “What you watch, what you read, what you perceive is to be truth. The Media have vested interests, so what you believe is up to you” (John Butler – from a song called “Media”)

        But this statement holds true. The media and others who would make an income from manipulation of truth know and understand how these mixed messages work in their favour, in fact they revel in it, and are awarded for finding new imaginative ways of associating their product with something else (comedy seeming to be the most popular currently). Politicians use this well, most of them will pose next to a successful sporting team, or perhaps entrepreneur so that you associate the success of the team to the politician also being successful. They rely on our naivety, and use it to manipulate.

        Reply
        • KK
          KK says:

          I meant to also mention about the “Alchemical Wedding” of which I spoke earlier in that response but got sidetracked attempting to explain things.

          This is referred to as (in many religions) the trinity.
          The Trine. The Celts symbolised it with a Triskelion. The egyptians with a pyramid, the christians with a “father/son/holy spirit” on and on and on in every religion this trinity exists. Also the archetype of the “divine child” is important.

          Let me simplify this. Using the christian example, although only because it will be familiar to most people.
          Thought – The father (left brain) (solar)
          Emotion – The Holy spirit (right brain) (lunar)
          Action – The son (divine child)
          The divine child, born from the father and holy spirit – (without intercourse)

          These three acting in unison are the divine human spirit (without attributing “divinity” to any theistic ideal)

          What do we say if someone acts without thinking, or without emotion? Acting without emotion would almost be a psychopathic trait, acting without thinking is an impulse, neither of them are seen as favorable ways of acting in society, and yet we are manipulated constantly to favor one or the other. I saw recently a stastic regarding how many people display psychopathic and or sociopathic traits in society, why is this number so high now?

          Reply
        • Mel Schwartz
          Mel Schwartz says:

          KK,
          I engage similarly around words and have done the same experiment around the word anarchy. I have been very influenced by the physicist David Bohm’s work with shared meaning and dialogue. I find that true dialogue –flow of meaning –becomes disrupted for lack of shared meaning and I work as a therapist and communicator to take the time to allow for shared meaning.

          Do you do any work in this area professionally?

          Reply
          • KK
            KK says:

            Mel, I do not work in this field at all no, this is something that prior studies led me towards and I think also to some degree, my own personal disposition. I have not read Bohm’s work, but now have one more to add to the list.

            I read in anothe rof your comments, something regarding potentiality, and as I can see you have a good grasp on physics I would like to also draw this parallel for you. Potential (energy) can only be transformed or activated once it becomes Kinetic (energy) (of relating to – or produced by-motion)

            For potential to be realised it must become kinetic, ie potential can never be realised without action. This relates to my earlier comments regarding trinity. Also notice the word Kinetic has the prefix Ki.

            I would also love to point you to a form of meditation known as Vipassana. This form is non-secular, but more importantly is supposed to aid in rebuilding/renewing synapse between left and right brain. I suggest reading about it first however, as it is not for everyone, at least not without preparation.

            All the best Mel, great article.

          • Mel Schwartz
            Mel Schwartz says:

            KK. IN quantum physics the pure state of potentiality is known as superposition. This is embedded in wave collapse theory. The wave represents the potentiality. When the wave is observed, it collapses and along with it the potential. I borrow from that theory metaphorically and suggest that in the moment before our next thought, we are in superposition. The difficulty is in not collapsing the same thoughts and thereby thwarting our potentiality. I’ve developed a process toward that end called, Emergent Thinking. http://blog.melschwartz.com/2011/09/28/collapsing-the-wave-creating-new-realities/#more-424
            http://blog.melschwartz.com/2008/05/12/what-is-emergent-thinking/
            I’ll be sure to look into Vipassana

  7. Loren
    Loren says:

    Great article, and I so agree with you… I have been working with my clients to see their situations from this perspective for a long time, and now I will send them to this article and your site to give them some validation for their experiences. People who feel depressed (or label themselves as depressed) do feel that they are the problem, and somehow, some way need to be “fixed”…
    In families, someone becomes the “identified patient” who needs to be fixed, changed, stopped in some way, etc… When the family can view the “sick person” as the one who has the courage to show feelings in a way that cannot be denied, then the family can work together as a loving unit rather than focusing energy on the “problem”… Life is about learning, growing and evolving, and this does not happen if we treat everything all the time simply by “medicating” the uncomfortable feelings away…
    Thank you for this post, and the work you do…

    Reply
  8. Barbara-Anne
    Barbara-Anne says:

    Hi Mel,

    For me, I need SSRI’s plus cognitive therapy because I have an imbalance that causes me to have low moods. Without the medication I had a lot of troubles before.

    Barbara-Anne

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Barbara-Anne, might the imbalance be due to the repetition of negative thought and feeling? The replication of anxious or negative thinking distorts the bio-chemistry of the brain, not the other way around as we would have been instructed.

      Reply
  9. Dianne Juhl
    Dianne Juhl says:

    A thought-provoking article, Mel!

    I think perhaps individual psyches are internalizing and embodying the collective psyche. If our society is manufacturing depression, I would call this story, “A Conflicted World and Its DisContents”.

    For example, I’m observing that around the world people are living with anxiety, worry, disatisfaction, personal and structural instability evoked by economic earthquakes, recessions, depressions. If I focus only on what’s happening on American society, I’m observing little happiness, a lot of suffering and, of course, meaning-making.

    Intense economic anxiety is shaking working families’ belief in the American dream of upward economic mobility. Ordinary working Americans are filled with distress, dread and even fear about their economic futures and ability to “get ahead”.

    The reality is that in the last decade alone, millions of Americans lost health insurance coverage, lost pensions or 401K savings accounts, became deeply mired in debt attempting to bridge gaps between income and living costs, and many can no longer afford to help their children with the cost of college. The median annual household income for working-age Americans actually fell about $2500 dollars.

    Incomes of men in their 30s, prime wage-earning and family-raising age, have remained relatively flat over the past four decades. If family incomes improved during this time, it was largely because of the wholesale entrance of women into the workforce (and I mean this literally and figuratively) and their recession-produced positions of “breadwinner”. See May 25, 2012 Time magazine cover story – which speaks to a shift in gender roles – http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20120326,00.html.

    Simultaneously, the promise of the “American Dream” has captured and colonizes the imagination of the developed world and developing nations alike. Urges to compare ourselves to other seekers of the “American Dream” occupies us. The envied and the enviers are bound in a terrific double bind.

    The “American Dream” doesn’t protect us from anxiety. Anxiety lurks persistently in our money complexes and insistently in the wounded spaces of our human relationships: between siblings, between genders, between nations; inwardly, between different parts of our personal and collective psyche. We personally and collectively suffer these feelings residing at the core of all class wounds at any place on the economic continuum from rich to poor. The pain residing at the essence of living the American dream is palpable.

    However, people are treating the anxiety symptoms, not befriending anxiety. Treating the depression by trying to get rid of it, run away from it.

    Problem-solving in a reactive (flight, fight, freeze) mode generates the despair you speak of in your article. Our individual and collective core delusion and false hopes are being revealed to us.

    Befriend depression means harnessing the internal tensions, conflicts, complexes from a place of empowerment. Allow the depression symptoms to point the way. Re-vision. Get clear about what you want from a values-based position so you can live into & thru the unknown w/o losing your way. Accept transitions – which can feel like hell on earth — as a rite of passage for your psyche; an invitation to explore new psychic geography. There’s no need to literalize the depression when you can embody the initiation & transformation.

    “Re-vision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction… is an act of survival. Until we understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. This drive to self-knowledge… is more than a search for identity: it’s our refusal of the self-destructiveness of society… as we find language and images for a consciousness we are just coming into…” ~ Adrienne Rich

    Abundant regards,

    ~ Dianne Juhl & The Feminine Face of Money

    Reply
  10. Dianne Juhl
    Dianne Juhl says:

    A thought-provoking article, Mel!

    I think perhaps individual psyches are internalizing and embodying the collective psyche. If our society is manufacturing depression, I would call this story, “A Conflicted World and Its Discontents”.

    For example, I’m observing that around the world people are living with anxiety, worry, dissatisfaction, personal and structural instability evoked by economic earthquakes, recessions, depressions. If I focus only on what’s happening on American society, I’m observing little happiness, a lot of suffering and, of course, meaning-making about our personal and collective relationship with money, finance, and economics.

    Intense economic anxiety is shaking working families’ belief in the American dream of upward economic mobility. Ordinary working Americans are filled with distress, dread and even fear about their economic futures and ability to “get ahead”.

    The reality is that in the last decade alone, millions of Americans lost health insurance coverage, lost pensions or 401K savings accounts, became deeply mired in debt attempting to bridge gaps between income and living costs, and many can no longer afford to help their children with the cost of college. The median annual household income for working-age Americans actually fell about $2500 dollars.

    Incomes of men in their 30s, prime wage-earning and family-raising age, have remained relatively flat over the past four decades. If family incomes improved during this time, it was largely because of the wholesale entrance of women into the workforce (and I mean this literally and figuratively) and their recession-produced positions of “breadwinner”. See May 25, 2012 Time magazine cover story – which speaks to a shift in gender roles – http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,20120326,00.html.

    Simultaneously, the promise of the “American Dream” has captured and colonizes the imagination of the developed world and developing nations alike. Urges to compare ourselves to other seekers of the “American Dream” occupies us. The envied and the enviers are bound in a terrific double bind.

    The “American Dream” doesn’t protect us from anxiety. Anxiety lurks persistently in our money complexes and insistently in the wounded spaces of our human relationships: between siblings, between genders, between nations; inwardly, between different parts of our personal and collective psyche. We personally and collectively suffer these feelings residing at the core of all class wounds at any place on the economic continuum from rich to poor. The pain residing at the essence of living the American dream is palpable.

    However, people are treating the anxiety symptoms, not befriending anxiety. Treating the depression by trying to get rid of it, run away from it.

    Problem-solving in a reactive (flight, fight, freeze) mode generates the despair you speak of in your article. Our individual and collective core delusion and false hopes are being revealed to us.

    Befriending depression means harnessing the internal tensions, conflicts, complexes from a place of empowerment. Allow the depression symptoms to point the way. Re-vision. Get clear about what you want from a values-based position so you can live into & thru the unknown w/o losing your way. Accept transitions – which can feel like hell on earth — as a rite of passage for your psyche; an invitation to explore new psychic geography. There’s no need to literalize the depression when you can embody the initiation & transformation.

    “Re-vision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction… is an act of survival. Until we understand the assumptions in which we are drenched we cannot know ourselves. This drive to self-knowledge… is more than a search for identity: it’s our refusal of the self-destructiveness of society… as we find language and images for a consciousness we are just coming into…” ~ Adrienne Rich

    Abundant regards,

    ~ Dianne Juhl & The Feminine Face of Money

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Hi Diane and thanks so much for sharing your powerful insights. I am a believe in Jung’s Unus Mundus –one world. My reading of quantum physics reveals that the universe is essentially as one, interpenetrating and inseparable. So my current belief is that individual mind impacts collective mind and the converse is of course true. As to the relationship between anxiety and depression, I find that if one succumbs to anxiety, remains bound by its confines then life typically becomes depressing. If one, however, embraces the discomfort of moving beyond the constraints of anxiety, depression is far less likely. The inertia has resolved and flow is engaged. Putting it differently depression is absence of flow. Every thought, feeling and experience see us mired in sameness. Flow presents opportunity and potentiality.

      Reply
      • Dianne Juhl
        Dianne Juhl says:

        Hi Mel,

        Did you see this Gallup Wellbeing study regarding American moms and depression. It gave me pause. Actually it arrested my attention.

        http://www.gallup.com/poll/154685/Stay-Home-Moms-Report-Depression-Sadness-Anger.aspx

        What do you think about the phenomenon, results, and conclusions re: the reported sadness, anger, psychological struggles, and depression in this population? Is this an aspect of manufactured depression? Does this further stigmatize and, thus, pathologize work-at-home moms and all mothers by association? Is this situational depression? Does this express how “lostness” is embodied by mothers?

        I have so many questions! So I’m passing along this article to hear what you, Mel, and other folks have to say. The wisdom of this article and your practice and the collective wisdom of the commenters leads me to think there’s a wealth of perspectives here. Looking forward to hearing from you.

        As for what I think… in my professional perspective (and personal) opinion, I believe it benefits our society’s well-being to ensure that all mothers, and work-at-home moms in particular, are in good emotional shape. Women’s wellbeing helps children and families.

        I also think an abiding and sustainable sense of confidence, satisfaction, happiness, and joy is critical to mother’s well-being. It affects her work-at home and work-outside the home career decisions, her financial wellbeing, her physical health, having love in her life at home, and being engaged with her community.

        Abundant regards,

        ~ Dianne Juhl & The Feminine Face of Money

        Reply
        • Mel Schwartz
          Mel Schwartz says:

          Dianne, I agree most wholeheartedly with your thought that there are a “wealth of perspectives” in this regard. Of course, situationally speaking a stay at home mom is inclined to be more isolated — particularly when they are low income. The upper income stay at home mom has options, babysitters, nannies, which permit her to get out of the house and have some diverse experience. So in a way, I’m hardly surprised by the results of the survey. That said, other factors to be considered are, what is the state of their marriage? Are they happily married? In most cases, regrettably, marriage falls into mediocrity. How does that effect the self-evaluation. Are they looking forward to their husband’s arrival at night, or dreading it?

          Reply
  11. Roberta Budvietas
    Roberta Budvietas says:

    Mel, one thing I have observed living in a country like New Zealand where rugby, racing and beer are the sense dullers, I notice that many people get depressed when life fails to work out as expected. I know in my brief bout of depression, it was because everything I tried seemed to get screwed up. It was a tough year when many things I believed were challenged on ALL levels. And for many people I see around me suffering anxiety and depression, it seems to result from expectations and plans going awry despite all their best endeavors.

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Roberta,
      And to add to your thoughts I find many people become depressed from a total lack of any expectations or vision. Not reaching your expectations should be disappointing and at worst temporarily depressing. Might that warrant a reconsideration of the expectations at times and at other times understanding why we let ourselves down?

      Reply
  12. Lawrence Klein
    Lawrence Klein says:

    I have been in the field of Psychophysiology for 38 years, and am surrounded by brilliant Clinicians. Here are their opinions, about treatment – “Don’t have it ‘Done to You’ – ‘Discover Yourself’!

    Neurofeedback Software Provides a Fast and Simple Assessment Method for ADHD in Adults and Children as Young as 5-Years Old

    The BFE has just released a new ADHD Assessment software suite for use with the ProComp Infiniti system. The suite was designed by a team of clinicians led by Dr. Vincent Monastra and Dr. Joel Lubar and is based on the hallmark study published by Monastra, Lubar et al. 1999.

    ADHD, neurofeedback
    “The software consists of age-appropriate assessment scripts, during which the client performs a reading, listening, drawing and/or working-memory task.”

    François Dupont, Ph.D., senior software developer and key member of the ADHD Suite design team noted, “The software consists of age-appropriate assessment scripts, during which the client performs a reading, listening, drawing and/or working-memory task. Statistics are monitored throughout the assessment from a single EEG-Z sensor and the results are arranged in an excel report. The excel report includes notes and norm values for easy comparison and interpretation.”

    Neurofeedback and ADHD
    Asked about the use of neurofeedback for ADHD, Northeast Regional Biofeedback Society president Cindy Perlin replied, “Recently a 7 year old boy was referred to me. He had been prescribed Concerta six months before for hyperactivity and explosive behavior. After starting Concerta, he began to express violent and suicidal ideation and behavior that are known side effects of stimulants. The response of the psychiatrist was to keep him on Concerta and also put him on Zoloft. Neurofeedback is a much safer, more effective and more permanent solution to treating ADHD than stimulant drugs, and should be much more widely used than it is now.”

    According to BFE President Dr. Erik Peper, “The evidence is overwhelming in meta analysis that the medication for ADHD has zero long term efficacy and inhibits growth. A superb description of the dangers and harms of medication is in the book Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, by Robert Whitaker.

    Supporting Research and Education in Neurofeedback
    Dr. François Dupont is a registered psychologist with competence in general, health, and rehabilitation psychology. In his private practice in Ottawa, Canada, he often combines bio/neurofeedback with techniques borrowed from cognitive-behavioural, dynamic-humanistic and experiential approaches. Involved with the BFE for more than a decade, he has developed a variety of neurofeedback software suites.

    When asked about different approaches to neurofeedback assessment and training for ADHD, Dr. Dupont commented “There are many different approaches supported by the BFE. At the core of the BFE-LFB program are a number of very dedicated and talented leaders in the field who have shared their expertise.” In addition to Dr. Monastra and Dr. Lubar’s ADHD Assessment, the BFE has published software on other methods including Setting Up for Clinical Success and Specialized Application Scripts by Drs. Michael and Lynda Thompson, Dr. Paul G. Swingle’s ClinicalQ and BrainDryvr, Peter Van Deusen`s The Learning Curve (TLC) and Dr. Dupont`s own Integrated Neurofeedback.

    “An important question to ask is what kind of research supports a specific approach and how do you select the most qualified neurofeedback provider in your area? The BFE offers members of biofeedback and neurofeedback societies opportunities to affiliate with the BFE ADHD team to learn how to apply the proven methods developed by the best practitioners in the field.”

    http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/3/prweb9346907.htm

    Reply
  13. Charlie Garland (@innovationator)
    Charlie Garland (@innovationator) says:

    Mel – This is, as always, such a well-written posting. I have to say, however, that it seems uncharacteristically off-the-mark with regard to the core philosophies that I am used to reading from you (your and my perspectives tend to align fairly consistently, in my brief experience contemplating yours).

    I cannot and will not go so far as to say you’re wrong (on the contrary, I’m trying not to be judgmental here); however, I believe you are passing up the opportunity to highlight some truly relevant points that should be brought out in this topic. Let me elaborate.

    One of your commentors (Donna) mentioned the symptom of hopelessness. I am not a qualified psychologist, but it seems to me that this sense of hopelessness must be a very common attribute of clinically depressed individuals. Perhaps you could comment on whether there are data to support this. But from my perspective, this is a vital point that should be addressed, and that you seem to have omitted in this article.

    Consider the opposite(s) of hopelessness: a hopeful, confident, positive, optimistic sense of can-do, independence, enthusiasm, and so on. From my experience, folks who exhibit these complementary qualities are those who are strongly oriented in a sense of self-efficacy. They feel empowered to solve their own problems (not to mention pro-actively and responsibly avoid getting into many problems in the first place), rather than sitting around passively letting the world “happen to them” and live their lives in reactive mode.

    At some point in one’s life, we all need to assimilate a sense of personal responsibility and resilience. If individuals are more purpose-driven, and less situation-driven, they tend to be masters of their own fate. I don’t mean to undervalue what you’re saying about society here, but aren’t you somewhat allowing people to “blame” their depressed circumstances on “society”…and simply assume the role of “victim” in their lives?

    I’d be intrigued to hear more of your elaboration on this, and forgive me if I missed a point that you may have made in this regard. That said, I always do, and will, look forward to reading your perspectives in these excellent postings of ideas.

    Reply
    • Mel Schwartz
      Mel Schwartz says:

      Charlie,
      Good questions indeed. The last thing that I’d intend is to leave people feeling helpless. The intention of this post is to firstly illuminate why many people are in fact, not clinically depressed but more situational. Yet, many people who are clinically depressed are indeed that way because they are victims of an incoherent worldview in which their role in life is dis-empowered, without vision, meaning or purpose. The path for such people is to reclaim their identity and find meaning and vision. How does one do that?

      I find it most helpful to see reality operating differently. This is a mindshift in which we see our identity as evolving, not fixed. Furthermore, the emerging sciences depict a universe which is perpetually flowing and emerging, in which all is potential ready to be actualized.Why not jump into that worldview? To enable that shift, we must look at our beliefs that restrain us and our thoughts that keep us stuck in a groove..All achievable once we set the intention.

      Reply
      • Charlie Garland (@innovationator)
        Charlie Garland (@innovationator) says:

        Agreed, Mel. Those are very achievable, with the caveat, as you suggest, that the intention is set and the mindset can be shifted. This conjures up the research of Carol Dweck around growth (vs. fixed) mindset orientations. These seem to coincide with the construct you’ve described here. I also see this related to “innovativeness,” to the extent that an individual can obtain, and retain, a worldview that they can create new value (in their own lives, in virtually any context) at will…as opposed to those who have no consciousness of this ability, and thus do not see their ability and power to choose to do so as an available option.

        I’m wondering if you have had similar thoughts about the depression continuum being somewhat analogous to the innovation continuum. The dynamics of this, I see, exist within a common framework, one that I refer to as Value-Driven Thinking. If you have 15 minutes, you can view my description of this, accessible via my LinkedIn profile. Otherwise, I do agree with your current Rx.

        Reply
  14. jeff stahl
    jeff stahl says:

    Mel
    Great article! Just last week I had a “medical necessity” review which left me angry and frustrated having to deal with a medical model that has little room for anything but symptoms. It’s great to hear their are others out there who are giving an alternative perspective because changing people’s minds both individually and culturally is in the hands of behavioral health professionals.
    Thanks
    Jeff

    Reply
  15. Lawrence Klein
    Lawrence Klein says:

    On CBS Sunday Morning – March 18th – interesting – 10% of the US population – triple from 2 decades ago (27 million ) – This Study basically says that Placebo and Anti-Depressants are equally effective for mild and medium depression.

    NO ONE in the USA is talking about the 8 Billion dollars spent on DTC – Direct To Consumer – Advertising, illegal in the rest of the world, and ONLY legal in Americ…See More

    Antidepressant Drug Effects and Depression Severity, January 6, 2010, Fournier et al. 303 (1): 47 —
    jama.ama-assn.org
    Context Antidepressant medications represent the best established treatment for major depressive disorder, but there is little evidence that they have a specific pharmacological effect relative to pill placebo for patients with less severe depression.

    Reply

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