Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy Holiday Depression to You, Too

In the dying days of a hard year, those who are feeling low can take heart. Their reaction may be a sign of good mental health.

Anyone who isn’t depressed may just not understand what’s happening. The young may be excused for not knowing how much better American life has been and could be again. The despair of the old can be disregarded because they have so little time left to hope for real change, but what about everybody else?

In the wake of a holy day of hope and charitable feeling, made more poignant by close encounters with seldom-seen relatives, a long-standing suspicion returns that the world is divided into those who feel the pangs of reality and those who feast on life with little empathy for others.

If this sounds self-righteous or simple-mindedly leftish, it is more a characterological than political distinction. There is a difference between people who are satisfied simply to eat the world smugly and those whose empathy for others induces at least mild depression in a time when there is so little regard for so many who are in real pain.

Despite pharmaceutical TV commercials, depression doesn’t have to mean despair or helpless torpor. Turning inner rage outward to try to change the world can relieve the symptoms. (It’s worked for me over a long lifetime. Once I hired a President's daughter and put my magazine on the front pages and Evening News out of frustration with a clueless Board of Directors.)

For example, an angry response could be used to turn on a Congress that is about to kill unemployment benefits for a million Americans to score ideological points with the hopelessly selfish or to encourage serious discussion of a single-payer system for health care instead of continued point-scoring over the deficiencies of Obamacare while people go untreated by insurance-company greed.

At the very least, such efforts would help them feel alive rather than numbed by happy pills.

Two cheers for productive depression.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for you, Robert Stein.
I hope the new year brings love, peace and relief to all who need it.