I have recently come across an interesting paper: How to Understand and then Escape from Depression. It’s written by Saul Youssef, a professor of physics at Boston University.
The central theme of the paper is that persistent or chronic depression is caused by “…an unconscious withdrawal of participation in a person’s own internal decision making processes.”
Here are some quotes:
“I have been depressed for most of my life, and, at various times, I have tried most of the recommended treatments for depression. I have tried Saint John’s Wort, exercise, Yoga, talk therapy, SSRIs, thyroid supplements and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In my case, I would say that thyroid supplements, exercise and Yoga helped the most and all of them helped at least a little bit. Unfortunately, none of these treatments helped dramatically. Then, however, in late 2013 and early 2014, I finally figured it out. I came to understand what was happening in my own head and why it was causing my own depression and I was able to figure out a way to escape. I don’t mean that I am now successfully managing my depression. I mean it’s gone. I am writing up what I think is going on and what I did to escape because I don’t think that my case is unusual. I think that exactly the same thing will work for many people.”
“A depressed person continues to live, but they do not continue to decide.”
“A depressed person is mainly on autopilot without realizing that they are mainly on autopilot. A depressed person will do what they always do, say what they always say, feel what they always feel and think what they always think.”
“If a depressed person actually has to do something, and they don’t decide anything, how do they do it? The answer is that they wait until an unconscious process forces them to do it. If a depressed person has to do their taxes, for instance, they will not decide at some moment to do their taxes. Instead, they will wait until the fear of the consequences of not doing their taxes forces them into doing their taxes. Depressed people will procrastinate about almost anything that they do not habitually do. The process of doing almost any necessary task is then necessarily emotional, stressful and unpleasant, because each necessity of life brings with it a rising tide of negative emotions, which only recede when the action is eventually forced.”
“It has often been observed that a depressed person will suffer from compulsive, selfdefeating negative thoughts and feelings…The major problem is that negative thoughts, beliefs and ‘depressogenic assumptions’ are, once again, only symptoms of the underlying problem.”
“I am not an expert on depression, but, after all, it is happening in my own head and who knows more about what’s happening in my own head than I do?”
Dr. Youssef goes on to describe some very simple techniques that helped him break the autopilot habit, take charge of his life, and resolve his long-standing depression.
Dr. Youssef’s concepts resonated with me for three reasons. Firstly, in both my personal and professional endeavors, I have always emphasized the need to take charge of one’s life vs. drifting along with the tide. Secondly, Dr. Youssef’s ideas are a form of self-help, and represent an excellent counterpoint to the inherently dependence-inducing medical model. Thirdly, psychiatry often confuses cause and effect. It is psychiatry’s position that extreme depression causes indecisiveness; Dr. Youssef’s contention is that extreme indecisiveness causes depression.
Anyway, please take a look. It’s a simple program with no costs, adverse effects, or downsides. I would be interested in any feedback.