Healing Our “Culture of Depression”

A few months back I came across a spiritual book I’ve been meaning to share with you. It’s Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Keys To Healing Anxiety and Depression, by Marianne Williamson. What grabbed me about this book was how it makes a connection between the emotional and spiritual suffering so prevalent among individuals in modern industrial society, and our collective spiritual malaise. This is something that I’ve been noticing for awhile now, as I see people out and about in the world.

Here are some quotes from the book.

“It is a radical commitment to try to remember who we are in a world that does all it can, every moment of every day, to persuade us that we are who we really aren’t and that we aren’t who we really are. The world as we know it is organized around the denial of spiritual sight, treating bodies as real and spirit as fantasy. It rests on the presupposition that only what happens externally matters. As such, our modern civilization is spiritually blind. It is ignorant of the deeper reality and meaning of life. It is asleep to the deeper dynamics and evolutionary imperatives of human existence, and in its sleep it has produced night mares for individuals and for the entire species.”

“A Culture of Depression

“There exists a spiritual vacuum at the heart of our society, the natural consequence of which is a low-level sadness. The very worldview that permeates our civilization is depressing. A mechanistic interpretation of the world teaches us to see people as machines, not as multidimensional beings—as bodies, but not as spirits. This mindset denies who and what we actually are. We live with endless, tiny repudiations of our true nature throughout our day every day of our lives. Simply living in today’s world is emotionally traumatic. But our emotional disconnection from each other, from ourselves, from nature, from God—indeed, from any sense of transcendent reality—is not one specific violent event. Rather, it is the consistent, rolling trauma of living in a world so disconnected from love. We are not just depressed about specific incidents, and we are not just depressed as individuals. We are depressed collectively.

“Collective issues run through our personal dramas:

“Someone is depressed over a breakup or divorce. The collective issue is, why do we commonly find relationships so hard to make work?

“Someone is depressed over the loss of a loved one. The collective issue is, why do we give ourselves so little permission to grieve?

“Someone is depressed over the loss of money or career. The collective question is, why have we acquiesced to the creation of an economy in which the majority of people are so financially squeezed?

“Someone is depressed over a child having died of a drug overdose. The collective issue is, what kind of society have we created that so many people are using drugs to begin with?

Someone is depressed over past trauma or abuse. The collective issue is, what is the spiritual vacuum at the heart of our society that so little attention, comfort, hope, and inspiration are available to those who suffer?

“Yes, we have an epidemic of depression in our society today. But truthfully, how could anyone today on some level not be sad? The gap between how beautiful life can be and the way it too often is is heartbreaking. Anyone who is not on some level grieving the state of the world is perhaps not looking very deeply.”

“We’re depressed because life today is off. We’re depressed because too often we have not sense of our place in the universe, our relationship to the source of our existence, a deeper sense of purpose in our relationships with other human beings, or any sense of reverence toward any aspect of life at all. Our entire civilization is ruled more by fear than by love.”

“The crisis of modern society is that human beings too often feel spiritually homeless within it. And how could it be otherwise? How could the soul feel at home on our planet, given the soullessness of our civilization?”

Good book. Highly recommend. Note, it’s not that we shouldn’t seek personal growth and healing by doing inner work. We should. (It’s not for nothing that a whole chapter of my book is titled “Get Your Mind In Order.”) But instead of thinking of ourselves as “broken” or “maladjusted,” and trying to “get our act together” and fit in with society, it makes more sense, and is more helpful in our progress, to recognize that our personal malaise is reflective of a society that has lost its way. A society that itself is topsy-turvy and will benefit from more of us calling BS on its distorted values, and insisting on practicing a kinder and saner set of values.

Further Reading:

Tears to Triumph: Spiritual Keys To Healing Anxiety and Depression, book by Marianne Williamson.

“Climate Change a Mental Health Crisis for Young Californians.” (Brian Contreras, Los Angeles Times Tribune News Service; published in Daytona Beach News-Journal.) “Such dire predictions can affect mental health, particularly among young people. Polls have found that climate change-related stress affects daily life for 47% of America’s young adults; over half of teenagers feel afraid and angry about climate change; and 72% of young adults are concerned that it will harm their community. Climate depression played a central role in teenage activist Greta Thunberg’s political awakening, and … it’s not uncommon … to meet kids who have contemplated suicide over the climate crisis. Surveys have found that young people often experience more fear, sadness and anger regarding climate change than their older counterparts, as well as an increased sense of helplessness or hopelessness … In particular, ‘areas that suffer direct, visible effects of climate change … have been observed to face acute impacts such as trauma, shock and PTSD.’ … To cope, many have become activists or taken steps to reduce their own effect on the planet. Some go vegetarian or vegan. Others have opted not to buy a car, even in car-centric Los Angeles, or are making plans to leave Los Angeles before the fires and droughts become unbearable.”