The cause of depression is not just chemistry, traumatic events, genetic predisposition, a bad childhood etc., that is why nothing truly works against it, and depression is galloping. I have a totally different take on it. Excuse me the long text, I normally prefer small, simple explanations, however it is important to understand and explore this crucial plague on humanity and our quality of life comprehensively.
Depression and associated mental conditions are so important that the World Health Organization, the world’s foremost authority on human health, has declared a state of emergency and a call to arms to all the Health ministries and all scientists to combat an epidemic that they project will overcome heart disease as the number one killer, the number one cost to societies and economies and the number one detriment to human quality of life and wellbeing by 2025. This epidemic is depression and associated mental illness, and they openly declare that they have no idea as to why it is expanding so fast or what to do about it. Why is it spreading at such a phenomenal rate, becoming humanity’s greatest health risk?
Since the emergence of modern psychiatry, psychology, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy just 120 years ago, the practices have conquered the world and formed a multibillion dollar industry in conjunction with the enormous pharmaceutical industry for mental health drugs where many, such as Prozac and Valium have become household names. Millions of people live lives where their shrink and prescription medication forms parts of their routine, and the proliferation of therapists is not restricted to the richest countries, Buenos Ayres in Argentina being the city with the most psychotherapists per capita by a huge margin. In addition to conventional therapy there is an ever more popular alternative healing industry with workshops and retreats replacing traditional holidays for an ever growing audience. Why is it getting worse rather than better since the world is putting more and more resources and effort into resolving it? Why doesn’t anything work, why has it become, as many scientists call it, “The silent epidemic”? More and more syndromes emerge, such as PTSD and ADD, and in many countries people get disability benefits for depression, often for a lifetime. How come all these efforts actually accelerate the epidemic of depression, rather than decrease it?
Previous epidemics such as the plague or smallpox preyed mostly on the poor and the underprivileged, those with no access to clean water, health care, the ones with limited resources. But the depression epidemic spares nobody, to the contrary, often the rich, the beautiful and the powerful tend to suffer from it more than the underprivileged, as exemplified by the suicides, the detox clinics and the mental issues among the successful and admired elites of Hollywood and Beverly Hills. According to World Health Organization figures, the UK has the same suicide rate as Swaziland, double that of Ghana. Germany, Kyrgyzstan, Switzerland and Ecuador share the same suicide rates at 50% higher. In the United States where the therapy, healing and pharmaceutical industries are part of the culture, suicide rates are even higher and in wealthy countries like Sweden with the best social care people kill themselves even more! Why?
Why, when according to every single United Nations statistic, we as humanity have never had it so good? Despite standards and poverty lines rising continuously, poverty rates are dropping below 10% worldwide for the first time in human history, some kind of compulsory and free education for children exists in even the poorest countries as well as some kind of universal health care system, pension and social care systems. These concepts didn’t even exist just a century or two ago anywhere on earth, but we are constantly enraged at their inadequacies! More people live today in democratic regimes than in authoritarian regimes than any time in human history, basic human rights are acknowledged and respected in more countries than ever before, less people are homeless than ever before and there are less people involved in wars in the last fifty years than any other time in history. Slavery is less than ever with even the most fanciful estimates by anti-slavery movements claiming it to be less than 0,7% of the population, including all types of indenture or forced labor in totalitarian regimes. Just a century and a half ago the number was 13% in the United states, two centuries ago it was 25% and two and a half thousand years ago in enlightened ancient Athens, the inventor of democracy, slaves comprised over 85% of the population. Slavery was legal in most of the world a couple of hundred years ago, and women not only had no rights to vote but it was debated whether they even had souls! Life expectancy has risen worldwide by over 70% in the last century alone and many health issues that were lethal are now treated easily by the advances of medical sciences in a routine fashion, including things as exotic as organ transplants! The internet provides all the world’s knowledge to everybody, whereas before it was only the privileged few who had access to it.
Why then, is there so much dissatisfaction and misery about the world and humanity, why do most people suffer from a constant fear and sense of foreboding, anxiety, anger and depression? Why are we so judgmental of human civilization and ourselves despite our extraordinary progress from violent hunters, scavengers and cavemen struggling to survive on a daily basis just a few thousand years ago? And if we are so concerned and doing so much and dedicating so many resources to our mental health, why are we so miserably failing?
I propose that the reasons lie in what every kind of healing and therapy, whether conventional or alternative focus on: Trauma. Discovering trauma, uncovering trauma, comforting trauma, accepting trauma, alleviating trauma. But we have evidence that they are all barking up the wrong tree. How can one heal an illness if its causes are misunderstood? Actually, by putting the emphasis on trauma, we are creating a pervasive victim mentality and culture, feeding the problem. Many people with no obvious trauma are encouraged by psychologists to discover something, often feeling the need to invent or aggrandize trauma in order to understand why they feel so bad when nothing seems wrong with their lives!
I am proposing a completely different cause for depression, based on two recognized scientific principles in order to understand depression and combat this epidemic that is becoming the number one threat to humanity.
The first one is Social psychologist Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory, lying largely undisputed for the last 60 years and taught at practically every psychology and psychiatry course in the world. In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. In short, internal contradiction, paradox, causes distress.
The second scientific principle, even more universally known and accepted is the defining influence of beliefs on our thoughts, emotions, automatic reactions and physical bodies. The placebo effect is recognized by all, and no drug can gain approval by the authorities unless it passes extensive placebo trials. Most drugs that have gone through years of animal, clinical and human trials fail at the placebo trials, and the power of propaganda, indoctrination, induced fanaticism, brain washing and advertising has been acknowledged since the beginning of human civilization. Everybody knows what a good pep talk can achieve, and in every sports movie there is a moment when an inspiring speech or an insight turns losing teams into winners. People walk on fire unhurt, and perform amazing feats aided by their beliefs, while others fall ill because of them. In the last few decades scientists have been experimenting and focusing on the determining effect of our belief systems over our thoughts, emotions and bodies, and many, like biologist Bruce Lipton who through many books and especially “The Biology of Belief”, go so far as to propose that our beliefs not only determine our thoughts, emotions, chemistry and physiology but can even alter our DNA.
Every computer or automated machine is governed by an operating system, a core set of instructions that determine how it will perceive, act and react. In all living beings, including humans of course, the operating system is comprised of instructions engraved either through instinct and genetics, life experiences and learning from parents and other similar life forms, or through mimicking behaviors that appear to be successful. Every life form’s operating system, the instructions that determine what it will feel, think or how it will react, are simply conscious or instinctual, unconscious beliefs about what most serves each being’s survival and wellbeing. All other creatures however, do not experience shame, guilt, remorse, social angst, lack of self-worth, depression. This is because the belief systems of all other beings are not paradoxical, they hold little or no contradiction.
But human belief systems are incredibly paradoxical; all biologists agree that reproduction is essential for life to exist, and so is a sense of self, for the purposes of self-preservation, in order for each life form to have as a priority their needs to eat, drink, avoid danger etc., but at the same time every single human belief system, every religion, every culture vilifies sexuality, declares it a sin, something base, vile, immoral, dirty and every belief system vilifies equally the sense of self, the ego. Selflessness is the biggest virtue and self-sacrifice the most admirable act, while selfishness is the most horrible accusation. As for sexuality again, our greatest sin and shame, it can be permitted only under a multitude of rules, if it is discreet and if nobody enjoys it inordinately, lest they be called dirty, promiscuous or sluts. Is it a paradox if functions and characteristics intrinsic to life and inherent in every human being and every other life form are considered bad? What about paradoxes such as “make yourself proud, make your family proud, make your country proud” and at the same time “pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and humility is the greatest virtue”? So make yourself proud but be humble!
What about “it is too good to be true” meaning nothing good can be true, or “it is too simple to be true”, meaning truth is only something complicated that you can never comprehend? How paradoxical is that? The list is endless.
I propose that depression and associated mental illnesses do not happen because of trauma, as everybody believes, but because of collective cognitive dissonance of massive proportions that rises violently to the surface the more our basic survival issues are resolved. Depression, anxiety, lack of self-worth, victimhood, anger and despair keep getting worse despite our advances because the culprit is not trauma, it is paradoxical belief systems that pervade human civilization as a whole.
Is it possible to not feel guilty and ashamed if everything we naturally feel and experience needs to be disguised and hidden lest we face social condemnation and ostracism? And even if we successfully hide our inherent and essential selfishness and sexuality from others, how can we hide it from ourselves? Is it possible to not feel blind anger and anxiety if nothing makes sense and everything in our belief systems, our operating systems is paradoxical?
Years of research into the paradoxes, where they stem from, and their purpose has led to Choice OS, an open source fully customizable operating system for humans designed for happiness as the default condition rather than distress, misery, fear, shame, guilt, anger and desperation through the elimination of internal contradictions and conflicts. You can learn more about this effort at The path to Homo Delectus
The great philosopher Aristotle, 2300 years ago proclaimed that happiness is the only possible purpose and aim of life because it is the only goal that is an end by itself. Everything else we aim for, money, success, power, recognition, love, relationship, achievement we want in order to be happy, but happiness is its own end.
What about an operating system designed specifically to be paradox free for the purpose of happiness?
Isn’t it time somebody tried something different than prescription medication and years of counselling and therapy?