When Christianity was strong in the West, the concept of God answered both the need for external physical protection and the interior need for something to account for that sense of the numinous most of us sense now and then. That is, God was, at the same time powerfully immanent in the cosmos and the comforting “God within our bosoms.” One could say that God was continuous across a boundary of objective outer and subjective inner life. People quite naturally felt a greater kinship with the world – or even the cosmos, if one included the crude conceptualization of the heavens extant at the time. Everything, including the human race was part of God’s Creation. The concept of the individual was not particularly well-developed.
God once provided both physical security and inner comfort. Now our needs are divided between the state and psychology. (Photo: public domain)
Depression is becoming a pandemic in the West. Perhaps surprisingly, hardship and want are not always – or even often – the source of our misery. The problem is more likely to stem from our comfortable standard of living and secure social safety net. Having it easy makes us passive and complacent – and that leaves us vulnerable to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Looking at some famous examples of the more chronic forms of depression will illuminate the modern experience.
Winston Churchill often battled depression calling the dark mood his “black dog.” (Photo: Wikimedia)
Depression often assailed Winston Churchill who referred to the wretched emotional state as his “black dog.” Like a loyal hound, depression has a habit of following the sufferer around. Rather than Churchill’s black dog, I use the image of a black pit when contemplating my own troubles with depression. To remain free of this gloomy curse requires constant clawing at the sloping lip of the abyss. Even a moment’s lapse in the desperate struggle results in a nasty tumble into despair, from whence it can be difficult to regain the precarious, yet greatly desired, perch on the edge. Depressive types live their whole lives in this manner. (Manic-depressives such as me get some respite during manic episodes.)