2) Depression and the Post-Human: Daniel van Schaik

October 1, 2014

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Depression and the Post-human

— Thoughts are ours, the thing is us. Perception is in the eye of the beholder —

 

Our thoughts are not material manifestations of anything real. They are not built of matter, they cannot physically hurt or bind us in anyway and they exist as a product of our own experience; so how can they be so damaging for some and invigorating for others?

 

If we were to operate on the pure logic that we are an extremely small part of an even larger universe (that will inevitably continue to function with or without us), it is difficult to even drag your self out of bed. Motivation is the protagonist when it comes to depression and the above fact is a brick wall for many sufferers. It’s hard to get past this notion of inevitability and it can cause a tendency to continually question, “what’s the point?” The perception of the world for sufferers is dark, because underneath all the parties, people, awards, praise, fun and happiness, we can never truly understand the “point,” we can only exist.

 

The ability to think critically about our existence and question the why is a privilege, but it can also be damaging. It allows us to develop new technology, question our position as a human race and continue to evolve without physically evolving. We are slaves to time and as a species we even find nature slow and arduous when it comes to our own evolution, so we create tools to fill the gap. Time itself an example of one of these tools, this piece of human ingenuity motivates us to achieve, but also imprisons us in what we call a “rat race.”

 

Animals haven’t been granted the opportunity to think critically about their time on earth, but they also haven’t afforded themselves the joys of the ticking clock of predestined mortality. In most cases, they eat, sleep, wake up and get on with their day. Their “point” is to survive and they do so by creating tools that help them to create shelter, gather/trap food and care for their young. Depression is a byproduct of humans because we always need more.

 

Studies of animals who suffer “depression,” center on dogs that encounter high levels of anxiety when their human owner leaves them for the day.[1] Without going into the complex relationships between depression and anxiety, this rarely occurs on the same level in nature. In their natural environment animals (dogs especially) encounter and work with their kind everyday, they hunt in packs, live as families and grow up with a pre-disposition to survive; therefore having an illness that prevents them from completing tasks means they will die. Furthermore, nature doesn’t contain a locked laundry room for fauna to spend the majority of their waking day. We impart a dependence on ourselves, into our pets and change their perception of their world into one that centers around us.

 

When a human being sufferers from depression, they also encounter isolation but it is often worse because our analytical intelligence forces us to critically question why. Due to the fact that we cant read minds and we lack the capacity to switch off our negative thoughts and emotions, we often make assumptions about ourselves that are very self-deprecating. Writer Andrew Solomon once described depression as a perception of truth, not a removal of happiness.

 

“You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. It’s easier to help schizophrenics who perceive that there’s something foreign inside of them that needs to be exorcised, but it’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth.”[2]

 

This is what makes it so difficult to bring sufferers back from the brink. You can convince a child that the monster under their bed doesn’t exist, but you convince a depressed individual that their perception of the reality is wrong, because they believe they are seeing the truth. You can argue fiction, but not fact, and the fact is that as a race we don’t understand the “point.” Many of us continue just to exist and make the most of every situation; its human nature to avoid the exhaustive question of why and get on with life. To ignore the negative and our own mortality is a very human thing to do, it begs the question: Does being post-human mean we finally understand the “point?”

 

Notes:

[1] Edward C. Senay, “Toward an animal model of depression : A study of separation behavior in dogs.” Journal of Psychiatric Research, 4, 1 (July 1966): 65-71.

[2] “Andrew Solomon: Depression, the secret we share,” http://www.ted.com, Accessed 1 Oct, 2014.

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