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Depression Is Not Sadness
Why Sad is Not Bad
Depression is a well covered subject in the media. There is an abundance of information about the nature of Depression in its basic form, However there are some misconceptions around human emotions and their link to Depression that we will highlight here.
Our society has an uncomfortable relationship with sadness, while at the same having an unrealistic expectation with happiness. It is a common notion that happiness is the only appropriate emotion and that other states of emotion and feeling are suspect and their presence may indicate some form of underlying mental health issue such as Depression.
Our society confuses happiness and pleasure. Happiness is basically an abiding feeling or state that self generates inside one-self, and which requires minimal outside stimulation or environments to activate. Pleasure on the other hand tends to be a sensory stimulation experience which lasts as long as one applies whatever stimulating or triggering substance, stimulation or experience onto the person for whom pleasure is generated.
In our society we are now in an “experience economy” where businesses strive to architect and create positive experiences for consumers to absorb, which then opens them up for a purchasing decision. This container of pleasurable experience is what assaults a person everywhere they go, and which by normalisation of that experience can lead a person to think their pleasurable experience is happiness.
In the same way we find that unless you are happy or in pleasure you may find that you get labelled as possibly being depressed. The urban myth of emotions is that a sad person is somehow possibly sick or has a mental health issue.
If you have ever been sad you may find others approach you with the line “don’t be sad!!”. This statement is more about how your sadness triggers them to feel uncomfortable with your display of that emotion for which they have a poor relationship with themselves. If they were comfortable with sadness then they would be comfortable with you manifesting sadness.
Sadness can be a Normal Part of Life
In 2019, the College of Clinical Psychologists at the Australian Psychological Society, whom has coverage of 24,000 psychologist members, has warned via a governmental enquiry that the community needs to realise that “worry, sadness and frustration are a normal part of life”.
Evidence shows that increasingly there is a trend to medicate and see such normal states of feeling and emotion as a mental health issue, such as an indicator of Anxiety or Depression, and to treat it with anti-depressants or some form of drug. Wrong self-diagnosis is part of the problem, but some GP’s are reported as accepting reported states of mental and emotional life as a valid reason to intervene with a prescription.
The confusion in the community was in part also tied to some of the biggest “brands” in the Mental Health space as getting it wrong in this regards, according to the College of Clinical Psychologists, who challenged leading mental health provider Beyond Blue as pathologizing normal anxiety and sadness, and so reinforcing the trend towards the community losing its understanding and resilience at being able to cope with life’s disappointments, frustrations, and sad moments.
Beyond Blue found the accusation offensive and “wrong in fact”, and asked that it be withdrawn. Sections of the community appear to agree with the idea and popular vernacular has now coined the term “snowflake” to label those who appear to manifest a fragility of emotional containment without it being a crisis moment.
This has created the “snowflake” backlash where sections of the community question the basic mental and personality toughness of those who cannot tolerate and manage their emotional states with a degree of resilience and accommodation, without positioning it as some sort of crisis.
What is true is that life is suffering with moments and times of happiness interwoven through that reality. The degree of happiness that a person attains in life often has its roots in their realised state of consciousness and mind, their family systems and environments that shaped them, and the attainment of basic survival needs such as security, safety, food, water, shelter, and tribal belonging.
The Influence of Social Media and Digital Content
The resilience of mental health in the community is waning according to various statistical measures, and that fact may be a combination of real pressures, and in part a wrongful set of expectations about what one should expect to feel in life as part of reality and normality. Part of the problem of the digital asbestos nature of social media and digital images that consume and inform many in the community, is the sanitised, false, posed, photoshopped portrayals of life and people as perfect, beautiful, happy, “living the life”, affluent, sexy, and to be envied.
The ever-present lie of digital content slowly re-shapes expectations and beliefs of all who behold such images, and unconsciously people cannot but be influenced in their beliefs and ideas about life and themselves, when they live vicariously through social media and digital connectedness. For 95% of people in the community, they feel they do not meet the standard or expectations being curated and created, and story-told out of the various forms of digital media, social media and images being streamed online.
People then feel sad or bad about themselves, and then when from the same set of expectations, they then feel bad or sad for feeling bad or sad, in a world where happiness is part of a big contrived lie, then the community is heading headlong into a mental health crisis, due to false expectations of reality. The facts are we are in a National Mental Health Crisis with reported rising rates of anxiety, low self esteem, depression and suicide.
Medicare report that one in ten Australians are now accessing mental health practitioners for these related mental health concerns. Part of the problem is that the big public awareness campaigns on mental health, and Depression in particular, have not delivered clarity on what really is Depression or abnormal Anxiety.
Every one of us is destined to feel sadness, frustration, anger, low mood, and unhappiness at various times in our life, as life contains suffering. As Buddha once famously said “We cannot escape our in-built natural spectrum of emotional and feeling states, nor should we try to”. Medicating and numbing out our feelings and emotions in order to cope is often a symptom of an emerging real mental health issue, and should never be part of any long term strategy to deal with one’s own mental health.
Until as a community we can have a better informed debate about what role feelings and emotions have in the natural life of the human condition, we are doomed to rely on the bright shining lie of digital life to be the arbitrator of our normality and normal expectation of many things, including happiness. In philosophical discussions on what is hell, one definition is a person living in paradise yet convinced they are living in hell, and so are unable to receive or enjoy the benefits of being in paradise.
I believe many in our community live in a subtle form of personal hell in this way.