Adonis Diaries

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Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?

In this extract from his new book, Johann Hari, who took antidepressants for 13 years, calls for a new approach

Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade

 Johann Hari Q&A: ‘I was afraid to dismantle the story about depression and anxiety’ 

Seroxat tablets on a page of words associated with depression

In the 1970s, a truth was accidentally discovered about depression – one that was quickly swept aside, because its implications were too inconvenient, and too explosive. American psychiatrists had produced a book that would lay out, in detail, all the symptoms of different mental illnesses, so they could be identified and treated in the same way across the United States. It was called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. In the latest edition, they laid out nine symptoms that a patient has to show to be diagnosed with depression – like, for example, decreased interest in pleasure or persistent low mood. For a doctor to conclude you were depressed, you had to show five of these symptoms over several weeks.

The manual was sent out to doctors across the US and they began to use it to diagnose people. However, after a while they came back to the authors and pointed out something that was bothering them. If they followed this guide, they had to diagnose every grieving person who came to them as depressed and start giving them medical treatment. If you lose someone, it turns out that these symptoms will come to you automatically. So, the doctors wanted to know, are we supposed to start drugging all the bereaved people in America?

The authors conferred, and they decided that there would be a special clause added to the list of symptoms of depression. None of this applies, they said, if you have lost somebody you love in the past year. In that situation, all these symptoms are natural, and not a disorder. It was called “the grief exception”, and it seemed to resolve the problem.

Then, as the years and decades passed, doctors on the frontline started to come back with another question. All over the world, they were being encouraged to tell patients that depression is, in fact, just the result of a spontaneous chemical imbalance in your brain – it is produced by low serotonin, or a natural lack of some other chemical. It’s not caused by your life – it’s caused by your broken brain. Some of the doctors began to ask how this fitted with the grief exception. If you agree that the symptoms of depression are a logical and understandable response to one set of life circumstances – losing a loved one – might they not be an understandable response to other situations? What about if you lose your job? What if you are stuck in a job that you hate for the next 40 years? What about if you are alone and friendless?

The grief exception seemed to have blasted a hole in the claim that the causes of depression are sealed away in your skull. It suggested that there are causes out here, in the world, and they needed to be investigated and solved there. This was a debate that mainstream psychiatry (with some exceptions) did not want to have. So, they responded in a simple way – by whittling away the grief exception. With each new edition of the manual they reduced the period of grief that you were allowed before being labelled mentally ill – down to a few months and then, finally, to nothing at all. Now, if your baby dies at 10am, your doctor can diagnose you with a mental illness at 10.01am and start drugging you straight away.

Dr Joanne Cacciatore, of Arizona State University, became a leading expert on the grief exception after her own baby, Cheyenne, died during childbirth. She had seen many grieving people being told that they were mentally ill for showing distress. She told me this debate reveals a key problem with how we talk about depression, anxiety and other forms of suffering: we don’t, she said, “consider context”. We act like human distress can be assessed solely on a checklist that can be separated out from our lives, and labelled as brain diseases. If we started to take people’s actual lives into account when we treat depression and anxiety, Joanne explained, it would require “an entire system overhaul”. She told me that when “you have a person with extreme human distress, [we need to] stop treating the symptoms. The symptoms are a messenger of a deeper problem. Let’s get to the deeper problem.”


I was a teenager when I swallowed my first antidepressant. I was standing in the weak English sunshine, outside a pharmacy in a shopping centre in London. The tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss. That morning I had gone to see my doctor and I had told him – crouched, embarrassed – that pain was leaking out of me uncontrollably, like a bad smell, and I had felt this way for several years. In reply, he told me a story. There is a chemical called serotonin that makes people feel good, he said, and some people are naturally lacking it in their brains. You are clearly one of those people. There are now, thankfully, new drugs that will restore your serotonin level to that of a normal person. Take them, and you will be well. At last, I understood what had been happening to me, and why.

However, a few months into my drugging, something odd happened. The pain started to seep through again. Before long, I felt as bad as I had at the start. I went back to my doctor, and he told me that I was clearly on too low a dose. And so, 20 milligrams became 30 milligrams; the white pill became blue. I felt better for several months. And then the pain came back through once more. My dose kept being jacked up, until I was on 80mg, where it stayed for many years, with only a few short breaks. And still the pain broke back through.

I started to research my book, Lost Connections: Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions, because I was puzzled by two mysteries. Why was I still depressed when I was doing everything I had been told to do? I had identified the low serotonin in my brain, and I was boosting my serotonin levels – yet I still felt awful. But there was a deeper mystery still. Why were so many other people across the western world feeling like me? Around one in five US adults are taking at least one drug for a psychiatric problem. In Britain, antidepressant prescriptions have doubled in a decade, to the point where now one in 11 of us drug ourselves to deal with these feelings. What has been causing depression and its twin, anxiety, to spiral in this way? I began to ask myself: could it really be that in our separate heads, all of us had brain chemistries that were spontaneously malfunctioning at the same time?

To find the answers, I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways – from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise – alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.

Once I learned this, I was able to see that a very different set of solutions to my depression – and to our depression – had been waiting for me all along.

To understand this different way of thinking, though, I had to first investigate the old story, the one that had given me so much relief at first. Professor Irving Kirsch at Harvard University is the Sherlock Holmes of chemical antidepressants – the man who has scrutinised the evidence about giving drugs to depressed and anxious people most closely in the world. In the 1990s, he prescribed chemical antidepressants to his patients with confidence. He knew the published scientific evidence, and it was clear: it showed that 70% of people who took them got significantly better. He began to investigate this further, and put in a freedom of information request to get the data that the drug companies had been privately gathering into these drugs. He was confident that he would find all sorts of other positive effects – but then he bumped into something peculiar.

We all know that when you take selfies, you take 30 pictures, throw away the 29 where you look bleary-eyed or double-chinned, and pick out the best one to be your Tinder profile picture. It turned out that the drug companies – who fund almost all the research into these drugs – were taking this approach to studying chemical antidepressants. They would fund huge numbers of studies, throw away all the ones that suggested the drugs had very limited effects, and then only release the ones that showed success. To give one example: in one trial, the drug was given to 245 patients, but the drug company published the results for only 27 of them. Those 27 patients happened to be the ones the drug seemed to work for. Suddenly, Professor Kirsch realised that the 70% figure couldn’t be right.

It turns out that between 65 and 80% of people on antidepressants are depressed again within a year. I had thought that I was freakish for remaining depressed while on these drugs. In fact, Kirsch explained to me in Massachusetts, I was totally typical. These drugs are having a positive effect for some people – but they clearly can’t be the main solution for the majority of us, because we’re still depressed even when we take them. At the moment, we offer depressed people a menu with only one option on it. I certainly don’t want to take anything off the menu – but I realised, as I spent time with him, that we would have to expand the menu.

This led Professor Kirsch to ask a more basic question, one he was surprised to be asking. How do we know depression is even caused by low serotonin at all? When he began to dig, it turned out that the evidence was strikingly shaky. Professor Andrew Scull of Princeton, writing in the Lancet, explained that attributing depression to spontaneously low serotonin is “deeply misleading and unscientific”. Dr David Healy told me: “There was never any basis for it, ever. It was just marketing copy.”

I didn’t want to hear this. Once you settle into a story about your pain, you are extremely reluctant to challenge it. It was like a leash I had put on my distress to keep it under some control. I feared that if I messed with the story I had lived with for so long, the pain would run wild, like an unchained animal. Yet the scientific evidence was showing me something clear, and I couldn’t ignore it.


So, what is really going on? When I interviewed social scientists all over the world – from São Paulo to Sydney, from Los Angeles to London – I started to see an unexpected picture emerge. We all know that every human being has basic physical needs: for food, for water, for shelter, for clean air. It turns out that, in the same way, all humans have certain basic psychological needs. We need to feel we belong. We need to feel valued. We need to feel we’re good at something. We need to feel we have a secure future. And there is growing evidence that our culture isn’t meeting those psychological needs for many – perhaps most – people. I kept learning that, in very different ways, we have become disconnected from things we really need, and this deep disconnection is driving this epidemic of depression and anxiety all around us.

Let’s look at one of those causes, and one of the solutions we can begin to see if we understand it differently. There is strong evidence that human beings need to feel their lives are meaningful – that they are doing something with purpose that makes a difference. It’s a natural psychological need. But between 2011 and 2012, the polling company Gallup conducted the most detailed study ever carried out of how people feel about the thing we spend most of our waking lives doing – our paid work. They found that 13% of people say they are “engaged” in their work – they find it meaningful and look forward to it. Some 63% say they are “not engaged”, which is defined as “sleepwalking through their workday”. And 24% are “actively disengaged”: they hate it.

 Antidepressant prescriptions have doubled over the last decade.

Most of the depressed and anxious people I know, I realised, are in the 87% who don’t like their work. I started to dig around to see if there is any evidence that this might be related to depression. It turned out that a breakthrough had been made in answering this question in the 1970s, by an Australian scientist called Michael Marmot. He wanted to investigate what causes stress in the workplace and believed he’d found the perfect lab in which to discover the answer: the British civil service, based in Whitehall. This small army of bureaucrats was divided into 19 different layers, from the permanent secretary at the top, down to the typists. What he wanted to know, at first, was: who’s more likely to have a stress-related heart attack – the big boss at the top, or somebody below him?

Everybody told him: you’re wasting your time. Obviously, the boss is going to be more stressed because he’s got more responsibility. But when Marmot published his results, he revealed the truth to be the exact opposite. The lower an employee ranked in the hierarchy, the higher their stress levels and likelihood of having a heart attack. Now he wanted to know: why?

And that’s when, after two more years studying civil servants, he discovered the biggest factor. It turns out if you have no control over your work, you are far more likely to become stressed – and, crucially, depressed. Humans have an innate need to feel that what we are doing, day-to-day, is meaningful. When you are controlled, you can’t create meaning out of your work.

Suddenly, the depression of many of my friends, even those in fancy jobs – who spend most of their waking hours feeling controlled and unappreciated – started to look not like a problem with their brains, but a problem with their environments. There are, I discovered, many causes of depression like this. However, my journey was not simply about finding the reasons why we feel so bad. The core was about finding out how we can feel better – how we can find real and lasting antidepressants that work for most of us, beyond only the packs of pills we have been offered as often the sole item on the menu for the depressed and anxious. I kept thinking about what Dr Cacciatore had taught me – we have to deal with the deeper problems that are causing all this distress.

I found the beginnings of an answer to the epidemic of meaningless work – in Baltimore. Meredith Mitchell used to wake up every morning with her heart racing with anxiety. She dreaded her office job. So she took a bold step – one that lots of people thought was crazy. Her husband, Josh, and their friends had worked for years in a bike store, where they were ordered around and constantly felt insecure, Most of them were depressed. One day, they decided to set up their own bike store, but they wanted to run it differently. Instead of having one guy at the top giving orders, they would run it as a democratic co-operative. This meant they would make decisions collectively, they would share out the best and worst jobs and they would all, together, be the boss. It would be like a busy democratic tribe. When I went to their store – Baltimore Bicycle Works – the staff explained how, in this different environment, their persistent depression and anxiety had largely lifted.

It’s not that their individual tasks had changed much. They fixed bikes before; they fix bikes now. But they had dealt with the unmet psychological needs that were making them feel so bad – by giving themselves autonomy and control over their work. Josh had seen for himself that depressions are very often, as he put it, “rational reactions to the situation, not some kind of biological break”. He told me there is no need to run businesses anywhere in the old humiliating, depressing way – we could move together, as a culture, to workers controlling their own workplaces.


With each of the nine causes of depression and anxiety I learned about, I kept being taught startling facts and arguments like this that forced me to think differently. Professor John Cacioppo of Chicago University taught me that being acutely lonely is as stressful as being punched in the face by a stranger – and massively increases your risk of depression. Dr Vincent Felitti in San Diego showed me that surviving severe childhood trauma makes you 3,100% more likely to attempt suicide as an adult. Professor Michael Chandler in Vancouver explained to me that if a community feels it has no control over the big decisions affecting it, the suicide rate will shoot up.

This new evidence forces us to seek out a very different kind of solution to our despair crisis. One person in particular helped me to unlock how to think about this. In the early days of the 21st century, a South African psychiatrist named Derek Summerfeld went to Cambodia, at a time when antidepressants were first being introduced there. He began to explain the concept to the doctors he met. They listened patiently and then told him they didn’t need these new antidepressants, because they already had anti-depressants that work. He assumed they were talking about some kind of herbal remedy.

He asked them to explain, and they told him about a rice farmer they knew whose left leg was blown off by a landmine. He was fitted with a new limb, but he felt constantly anxious about the future, and was filled with despair. The doctors sat with him, and talked through his troubles. They realised that even with his new artificial limb, his old job—working in the rice paddies—was leaving him constantly stressed and in physical pain, and that was making him want to just stop living. So they had an idea. They believed that if he became a dairy farmer, he could live differently. So they bought him a cow. In the months and years that followed, his life changed. His depression—which had been profound—went away. “You see, doctor,” they told him, the cow was an “antidepressant”.

To them, finding an antidepressant didn’t mean finding a way to change your brain chemistry. It meant finding a way to solve the problem that was causing the depression in the first place. We can do the same. Some of these solutions are things we can do as individuals, in our private lives. Some require bigger social shifts, which we can only achieve together, as citizens. But all of them require us to change our understanding of what depression and anxiety really are.

This is radical, but it is not, I discovered, a maverick position. In its official statement for World Health Day in 2017, the United Nations reviewed the best evidence and concluded that “the dominant biomedical narrative of depression” is based on “biased and selective use of research outcomes” that “must be abandoned”. We need to move from “focusing on ‘chemical imbalances’”, they said, to focusing more on “power imbalances”.

After I learned all this, and what it means for us all, I started to long for the power to go back in time and speak to my teenage self on the day he was told a story about his depression that was going to send him off in the wrong direction for so many years. I wanted to tell him: “This pain you are feeling is not a pathology. It’s not crazy. It is a signal that your natural psychological needs are not being met. It is a form of grief – for yourself, and for the culture you live in going so wrong. I know how much it hurts. I know how deeply it cuts you. But you need to listen to this signal. We all need to listen to the people around us sending out this signal. It is telling you what is going wrong. It is telling you that you need to be connected in so many deep and stirring ways that you aren’t yet – but you can be, one day.”

If you are depressed and anxious, you are not a machine with malfunctioning parts. You are a human being with unmet needs. The only real way out of our epidemic of despair is for all of us, together, to begin to meet those human needs – for deep connection, to the things that really matter in life.

 This is an edited extract from Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Johann Hari, published by Bloomsbury on 11 January (£16.99). To order a copy for £14.44 go to or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99. It will be available in audio at

Depression: Not to be taken lightly

Depression; it’s one of those things that affects millions of people, for a million different reasons.

Mental illness should not be taken lightly, and we should take all the necessary steps to help those affected. If you’re currently suffering from it – please, talk to those who can help you and find avenues in which you can hopefully, make a bad situation just that little bit better.

For my Muslim brothers and sisters out there, a Sheikh once reminded us to always say a lot of zikr, including saying ‘ لا حول ولا قوة إلا بالله’ being one of the benefits of it being that it can cure depression, in sya’ Allah.

As an initial step, it is very important to talk to someone trustworthy to help you towards the road to recovery – this can include your family, friends and those whom you trust want the best for you.

Vincent Van Gogh’s talent was indisputable – he painted his life (the good and the bad), and as an artist, he’s one that I greatly admire and look back on when doing my own paintings.

Vincent’s life was brought short by his depression, and eventually, his suicide. I pray that whatever talent we have, we use it in ways that can benefit ourselves and others in this life, our barzakh and especially in the hereafter.

Amanda Leventhal posted:

We Cannot Continue to Overlook ‘High-Functioning’ Depression

I first saw a psychiatrist for my anxiety and depression as a junior in high school. During her evaluation, she asked about my classes and grades.

I told her that I had a 4.0 GPA and had filled my schedule with Pre-AP and AP classes. A puzzled look crossed her face.

She asked about my involvement in extracurricular activities. As I rattled off the long list of groups and organizations I was a part of, her frown creased further.

Finally, she set down her pen and looked at me, saying something along the lines of, “You seem to be pretty high-functioning, but your anxiety and depression seem pretty severe. Actually, it’s teens like you who scare me a lot.”

Now I was confused. What was scary about my condition?

From the outside, I was functioning like a perfectly “normal” teenager. In fact, I was somewhat of an overachiever.

I was working through my mental illnesses and succeeding, so what was the problem?

I left that appointment with a prescription for Lexapro and a question that I would continue to think about for years.

The answer didn’t hit me all at once; rather, it came to me every time I heard a suicide story on the news saying, “by all accounts, they were living the perfect life.”

It came to me as I crumbled under pressure over and over again, doing the bare minimum I could to still meet my definition of success. It came to me as I began to share my story and my illness with others, and I was met with reactions of “I had no idea” and “I never would have known.”

It’s easy to put depression into a box of symptoms, and though we as a society are constantly told mental illness comes in all shapes and sizes, we are stuck with a mental health stock image in our heads that many people don’t match.

When we see depression and anxiety in adolescents, we see teens struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives. We see grades dropping. We see involvement replaced by isolation. People slip through the cracks.

We don’t see the student with the 4.0 GPA. We don’t see the student who’s active in choir and theater or a member of the National Honor Society.

We don’t see the student who takes on leadership roles in a religious youth group.

No matter how many times we are reminded that mental illness doesn’t discriminate, we revert back to a narrow idea of how it should manifest, and that is dangerous.

Recognizing that danger is what helped me find the answer to my question.

Watching person after person, myself included, slip under the radar of the “depression detector” made me realize where that fear comes from.

My psychiatrist knew the list of symptoms, and she knew I didn’t necessarily fit them. She understood it was the reason that, though my struggles with mental illness began at age 12, I didn’t come to see her until I was 16. Four years is a long time to deal with mental illness alone, and secondary school is a dangerous time to deal with it.

If we keep allowing our perception of what mental illness looks like to dictate how we go about recognizing and treating it, we will continue to overlook those who don’t fit the mold.

We cannot keep forgetting that there are people out there who, though they may not be able to check off every symptom on the list, are heavily and negatively affected by their mental illness. If we forget, we allow their struggle to continue unnoticed, and that is pretty scary.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.


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Films For Action: Happiness of Children, Depression, Anxiety

It is a mistake to expect children to be happy, worse still to insist on it.

Childhood is navigated via rage and disappointment as much as by joy and pleasure, often in quick succession.

Nevertheless, a five-year-old knows about as much as there is to know about happiness. In their love of the outdoors, their easy physicality and fascination with everyday objects, young children already understand the very things that adults struggle to learn.

It must register as a pretty damning indictment on Anglo-American society that ‘happiness’ is now something that has entered many school curricula.

Imagine a society where children have to be taught how to be happy. It sounds almost dystopian, yet just such an agenda has gathered momentum since the early 1990s.

The idea of teaching children ‘happiness’ on the basis of psychological science (as opposed to some broader ethical idea of what counts as a good life) starts with the Penn Resiliency Program, founded in 1990 by Martin Seligman, the leading light of positive psychology.

Within the Program, children between 9-14 years old receive tuition in cognitive-behavioural techniques and social problem-solving skills, which are deemed to be valuable for them in warding off depression and anxiety.

The positive psychology campaign, Action for Happiness, has explored possibilities for similar projects in the UK.

The idea has been advocated widely by Anthony Seldon, one of Action for Happiness’s founders and former Head Master of Wellington College, where he famously introduced ‘wellbeing’ classes into the curriculum.

Seldon was also involved in setting up a chain of academy schools, led by British Prime Minister David Cameron’s former advisor Lord James O’Shaughnessy, which builds directly on the research and education schemes of Seligman.

Lessons in ‘character’ are viewed as central to the restoration of children’s wellbeing.

‘Character’ itself has been a steadily growing concern amongst educators in the United States and Britain. Influenced especially by the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, schools have begun to focus on developing a ‘growth mindset’ and ‘grit’ amongst children, which encourages them to change their understanding of themselves so as to see obstacles as surmountable.

Then there is the movement to introduce mindfulness into the classroom, as advocated by the Mindfulness in Schools Project.

Meditation is believed to help children become more resilient in the face of depression and better able to concentrate in class.

The desired outcome of such techniques is often ambiguous.

Dr Sophie Sansom, who manages a school mindfulness project, argues that it is “the best way to help kids to flourish”. A teacher whose school has adopted it offers a somewhat different justification: “on occasions when we do have that wobbliness, after playtimes, after PE, after lunchtimes, we’re able to practice this mindfulness and it calms the whole situation down.” Hmmm.

Few would deny the evidence that mental health is an escalating problem for children, especially in the English-speaking world.

In 2007, UNICEF reported that children in the UK experienced the worst levels of ‘wellbeing’ of any European or North American nation, with the United States second worst.

Much of the interest in ‘character’, ‘resilience’ and mindfulness at school stems from the troubling evidence that depression and anxiety have risen rapidly amongst young people over the past decade, resulting in heightened rates of self-harm.

It seems obvious that teachers and health policy-makers would look around for therapies and training that might offset some of this damage.

A pragmatic defence of these programmes might be that the triggers of stress are randomly distributed, culturally endemic or beyond anyone’s control; hence it is only sensible to focus on the symptoms.

In the age of social media, ubiquitous advertising and a turbulent global economy, children cannot be protected from the sources of depression and anxiety. The only solution is to help them build more durable psychological defences.

This somewhat grim picture is open to debate, especially given what is known about the impact of class and inequality on children’s wellbeing.

But even leaving that evidence aside, it appears curiously blind to the manifold ways in which all schools are already integral to how human beings flourish (or don’t), both as children and as adults.

If we can park all the friendly-sounding rhetoric of ‘happiness’, ‘character’ and ‘mindfulness’ for a moment, it’s possible to see schools as spaces in which the possibilities for happiness might either grow or shrink.

And in the UK, government policy seems hell-bent on crushing the spirit and optimism that children are otherwise perfectly able to discover and develop.

Tonnie Ch shared this link of Films For Action

It’s a damning indictment of our culture that we now live in a society where children have to be taught how to be happy.

Depression and anxiety are rising rapidly among young people: what’s going on?|By William Davies

Since last year, thousands of children entering primary school in the UK for the first time (some as young as four) have been subject to a ‘Baseline Assessment’, introduced by the government to attain a standardised gauge of their progress leading up to their moving on to secondary school at the age of 11.

Funded by the Gates, Walton and other private foundations and encouraged by the Obama Administration, school ‘reformers’ in the United States have embarked on a similar programme of standardized testing and teacher evaluation.

Policy-makers claim that such interventions offer crucial ‘comparability’ between pupils so as to identify those that are falling behind—an argument straight out of the annals of new public management, though one that the UK government has since had to retract.

Teachers argue, on the contrary, that such testing interferes with the crucial period when a child is starting school for the first time, when everything should be about building a relationship with them and making them feel safe.

Some teachers have reported that the tests make children cry and damage their self-esteem. If, for example, a five-year-old has English as a second language, a technocratic evaluation of their linguistic ability may represent them very badly and show nothing of their longer-term possibilities.

Teachers believe that the negative impact of tests and exams on the mental health of children in English schools begins when they are as young as six, and gets worse from there.

The World Health Organisation found that 11 and 16-year-old pupils in England feel more pressured by their school work than is the case in the vast majority of other developed countries.

Childline reports that the number of children seeking counselling for exam-related stress doubled between 2012 and 2014.

In protest against this culture, a campaign entitled Let Our Kids Be Kids organised a ‘pupil strike’ across schools in the UK. In resistance to new tests for seven and eleven-year-olds to be taken later this month, thousands of children were kept out of school on May 3 2016.

Parents involved in the campaign have reported their children having nightmares about the impending tests.

Children are not the only victims here. A survey undertaken in 2015 discovered that nearly half of all teachers in the UK had visited a doctor for reasons to do with stress, with five per cent being hospitalised. The main reasons cited by teachers were workload, pay, school inspections and constant curriculum reform by central government.

The regime of audit, testing and ranking eats into the wellbeing of the teacher as much as that of the pupil. The news that some schools are making children sit mock exams within the first month of the autumn term (thereby potentially invading the psychology of the pupil on summer holiday) is a reflection of the pressure that schools are under to produce ‘results.’

Many teachers simply wish to get out of the profession altogether. How children are expected to learn ‘character’ from adults who would rather be elsewhere is anyone’s guess. But this is the paradoxical scenario that is arising, thanks to an ideology that welds together pre-modern ideas of ‘flourishing’ with an uber-modern obsession with metrics and performance ranking.

The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health.

One doesn’t have to subscribe to a belief in ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘individualism’ in order to understand the source of much that makes schoolchildren unhappy—one simply has to look at the relentless exam and inspection schedule they have to follow.

In fairness, some proponents of happiness education do speak out against excessive performance-testing.

Lord Layard, probably the most prominent advocate of happiness science and positive psychology in the UK, regularly denounces the consequences of ‘materialism’ and ‘inequality’ for mental wellbeing. Positive psychologists tell us we should avoid ‘comparing’ ourselves to others, which—one might presume—would include avoiding enforced comparisons between children who are only a couple of years out of their nappies.

But there remains a serious blind-spot. Economists assume that competition is something that occurs spontaneously in the market, a natural force that public policy can prepare us for but not alleviate or shape.

Positive psychologists reduce anxiety and depression to defects of behaviour or cognitive biases. But what if people are being socially compelled to compete, perform and prove themselves?

And what if that compulsion, far from being ‘natural’ or even a diffuse cultural effect of ‘late capitalism’ or ‘modernity’, is in fact deliberately designed by policy-makers who seek to bolster their power with more and more data?

What if it is really the anxieties and fears of those such as Nicky Morgan, an Education Secretary in the UK Government who knows nothing about teaching, or the Department of Education wonks who are wrestling to make the world conform to their numerical understandings, that are really responsible for placing more and more stress on children?

In other words, what if it’s those in love with control fantasies and the stupid rhetoric of a ‘global race’ against China who would benefit most from a touch of mindfulness—not the children who know perfectly well how to enjoy themselves before they ever walk through the gates of a school?

William Davies is a Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is Director of the Political Economy Research Centre. His weblog is at and his new book is The Happiness Industry: How the government & big business sold us wellbeing (published by Verso).

Secrets of Depression?

“I felt a funeral in my brain, and mourners to and fro kept treading, treading till I felt that sense was breaking through. And when they all were seated, a service, like a drum, kept beating, beating, till I felt my mind was going numb.

And then I heard them lift a box and creak across my soul with those same boots of lead again, then space began to toll, as if the heavens were a bell and being were an ear, and I, and silence, some strange race wrecked, solitary, here.

Just then, a plank in reason broke, and I fell down and down and hit a world at every plunge, and finished knowing then.”

We know depression through metaphors.

Emily Dickinson was able to convey it in language, Goya in an image.

Half the purpose of art is to describe such iconic states.

As for me, I had always thought myself tough, one of the people who could survive if I’d been sent to a concentration camp.

In 1991, I had a series of losses.

My mother died, a relationship I’d been in ended, I moved back to the United States from some years abroad, and I got through all of those experiences intact.

1:49 But in 1994, three years later, I found myself losing interest in almost everything.

I didn’t want to do any of the things I had previously wanted to do, and I didn’t know why.

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work.

I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends, I would think, “What a lot of people that is to have to call back.”

Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I’d have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross.

And one of the things that often gets lost in discussions of depression is that you know it’s ridiculous. You know it’s ridiculous while you’re experiencing it.

You know that most people manage to listen to their messages and eat lunch and organize themselves to take a shower and go out the front door and that it’s not a big deal, and yet you are nonetheless in its grip and you are unable to figure out any way around it.

And so I began to feel myself doing less and thinking less and feeling less. It was a kind of nullity.

3:21 And then the anxiety set in.

If you told me that I’d have to be depressed for the next month, I would say, “As long I know it’ll be over in November, I can do it.”

But if you said to me, “You have to have acute anxiety for the next month,” I would rather slit my wrist than go through it.

It was the feeling all the time like that feeling you have if you’re walking and you slip or trip and the ground is rushing up at you, but instead of lasting half a second, the way that does, it lasted for six months.

It’s a sensation of being afraid all the time but not even knowing what it is that you’re afraid of. And it was at that point that I began to think that it was just too painful to be alive, and that the only reason not to kill oneself was so as not to hurt other people.

4:08 And finally one day, I woke up and I thought perhaps I’d had a stroke, because I lay in bed completely frozen, looking at the telephone, thinking, “Something is wrong and I should call for help,” and I couldn’t reach out my arm and pick up the phone and dial.

And finally, after 4 full hours of my lying and staring at it, the phone rang, and somehow I managed to pick it up, and it was my father, and I said, “I’m in serious trouble. We need to do something.”

4:40 The next day I started with the medications and the therapy. And I also started reckoning with this terrible question: If I’m not the tough person who could have made it through a concentration camp, then who am I?

And if I have to take medication, is that medication making me more fully myself, or is it making me someone else? And how do I feel about it if it’s making me someone else?

I had two advantages as I went in to the fight.

The first is that I knew that, objectively speaking, I had a nice life, and that if I could only get well, there was something at the other end that was worth living for.

And the other was that I had access to good treatment.

5:25 But I nonetheless emerged and relapsed, and emerged and relapsed, and emerged and relapsed, and finally understood I would have to be on medication and in therapy forever.

And I thought, “But is it a chemical problem or a psychological problem? And does it need a chemical cure or a philosophical cure?” And I couldn’t figure out which it was.

And then I understood that actually, we aren’t advanced enough in either area for it to explain things fully. The chemical cure and the psychological cure both have a role to play, and I also figured out that depression was something that was braided so deep into us that there was no separating it from our character and personality.

6:12 I want to say that the treatments we have for depression are appalling. They’re not very effective. They’re extremely costly.

They come with innumerable side effects. They’re a disaster. But I am so grateful that I live now and not 50 years ago, when there would have been almost nothing to be done. I hope that 50 years hence, people will hear about my treatments and be appalled that anyone endured such primitive science.

6:41 Depression is the flaw in love. (Being able to love or feeling that you are Not loved?)

If you were married to someone and thought, “Well, if my wife dies, I’ll find another one,” it wouldn’t be love as we know it. There’s no such thing as love without the anticipation of loss, and that specter of despair can be the engine of intimacy.

7:07 There are 3 things people tend to confuse: depression, grief and sadness.

Grief is explicitly reactive. If you have a loss and you feel incredibly unhappy, and then, six months later, you are still deeply sad, but you’re functioning a little better, it’s probably grief, and it will probably ultimately resolve itself in some measure.

If you experience a catastrophic loss, and you feel terrible, and six months later you can barely function at all, then it’s probably a depression that was triggered by the catastrophic circumstances. The trajectory tells us a great deal.

People think of depression as being just sadness. It’s much, much too much sadness, much too much grief at far too slight a cause.

7:56 As I set out to understand depression, and to interview people who had experienced it, I found that there were people who seemed on the surface to have what sounded like relatively mild depression who were nonetheless utterly disabled by it.

And there were other people who had what sounded as they described it like terribly severe depression who nonetheless had good lives in the interstices between their depressive episodes.

And I set out to find out what it is that causes some people to be more resilient than other people.

What are the mechanisms that allow people to survive?

And I went out and I interviewed person after person who was suffering with depression.

8:37 One of the first people I interviewed described depression as a slower way of being dead, and that was a good thing for me to hear early on because it reminded me that that slow way of being dead can lead to actual deadness, that this is a serious business. It’s the leading disability worldwide, and people die of it every day.

9:00 One of the people I talked to when I was trying to understand this was a beloved friend who I had known for many years, and who had had a psychotic episode in her freshman year of college, and then plummeted into a horrific depression.

She had bipolar illness, or manic depression, as it was then known. And then she did very well for many years on lithium, and then eventually, she was taken off her lithium to see how she would do without it, and she had another psychosis, and then plunged into the worst depression that I had ever seen in which she sat in her parents’ apartment, more or less catatonic, essentially without moving, day after day after day.

And when I interviewed her about that experience some years later — she’s a poet and psychotherapist named Maggie Robbins — when I interviewed her, she said, “I was singing ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone’ over and over to occupy my mind. I was singing to blot out the things my mind was saying, which were, ‘You are nothing. You are nobody. You don’t even deserve to live.’ And that was when I really started thinking about killing myself.”

10:14 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.

10:42 But the truth lies. I became obsessed with that sentence: “But the truth lies.”

And I discovered, as I talked to depressive people, that they have many delusional perceptions. People will say, “No one loves me.” And you say, “I love you, your wife loves you, your mother loves you.”

You can answer that one pretty readily, at least for most people. But people who are depressed will also say, “No matter what we do, we’re all just going to die in the end.”

Or they’ll say, “There can be no true communion between two human beings. Each of us is trapped in his own body.”

To which you have to say, “That’s true, but I think we should focus right now on what to have for breakfast.” (Laughter) A lot of the time, what they are expressing is not illness, but insight, and one comes to think what’s really extraordinary is that most of us know about those existential questions and they don’t distract us very much.

There was a study I particularly liked in which a group of depressed and a group of non-depressed people were asked to play a video game for an hour, and at the end of the hour, they were asked how many little monsters they thought they had killed.

The depressive group was usually accurate to within about 10 percent, and the non-depressed people guessed between 15 and 20 times as many little monsters — (Laughter) — as they had actually killed.

A lot of people said, when I chose to write about my depression, that it must be very difficult to be out of that closet, to have people know.

They said, “Do people talk to you differently?” And I said, “Yes, people talk to me differently. They talk to me differently insofar as they start telling me about their experience, or their sister’s experience, or their friend’s experience. Things are different because now I know that depression is the family secret that everyone has.

12:34 I went a few years ago to a conference, and on Friday of the three-day conference, one of the participants took me aside, and she said, “I suffer from depression and I’m a little embarrassed about it, but I’ve been taking this medication, and I just wanted to ask you what you think?” And so I did my best to give her such advice as I could.

And then she said, “You know, my husband would never understand this. He’s really the kind of guy to whom this wouldn’t make any sense, so I just, you know, it’s just between us.” And I said, “Yes, that’s fine.”

On Sunday of the same conference, her husband took me aside, and he said, “My wife wouldn’t think that I was really much of a guy if she knew this, but I’ve been dealing with this depression and I’m taking some medication, and I wondered what you think?” They were hiding the same medication in two different places in the same bedroom.

And I said that I thought communication within the marriage might be triggering some of their problems. (Laughter) But I was also struck by the burdensome nature of such mutual secrecy.

Depression is so exhausting. It takes up so much of your time and energy, and silence about it, it really does make the depression worse.

13:56 And then I began thinking about all the ways people make themselves better. I’d started off as a medical conservative.

I thought there were a few kinds of therapy that worked, it was clear what they were — there was medication, there were certain psychotherapies, there was possibly electroconvulsive treatment, and that everything else was nonsense.

But then I discovered something. If you have brain cancer, and you say that standing on your head for 20 minutes every morning makes you feel better, it may make you feel better, but you still have brain cancer, and you’ll still probably die from it.

But if you say that you have depression, and standing on your head for 20 minutes every day makes you feel better, then it’s worked, because depression is an illness of how you feel, and if you feel better, then you are effectively not depressed anymore.

So I became much more tolerant of the vast world of alternative treatments.

14:46 And I get letters, I get hundreds of letters from people writing to tell me about what’s worked for them.

Someone was asking me backstage today about meditation. My favorite of the letters that I got was the one that came from a woman who wrote and said that she had tried therapy, she had tried medication, she had tried pretty much everything, and she had found a solution and hoped I would tell the world, and that was making little things from yarn. (Laughter) She sent me some of them. 

And I’m not wearing them right now. I suggested to her that she also should look up obsessive compulsive disorder in the DSM.

15:27 And yet, when I went to look at alternative treatments, I also gained perspective on other treatments.

I went through a tribal exorcism in Senegal that involved a great deal of ram’s blood and that I’m not going to detail right now, but a few years afterwards I was in Rwanda working on a different project, and I happened to describe my experience to someone, and he said, “Well, you know, that’s West Africa, and we’re in East Africa, and our rituals are in some ways very different, but we do have some rituals that have something in common with what you’re describing.” And I said, “Oh.” And he said, “Yes,” he said, “but we’ve had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers, especially the ones who came right after the genocide.”

And I said, “What kind of trouble did you have?” And he said, “Well, they would do this bizarre thing. They didn’t take people out in the sunshine where you begin to feel better. They didn’t include drumming or music to get people’s blood going. They didn’t involve the whole community. They didn’t externalize the depression as an invasive spirit. Instead what they did was they took people one at a time into dingy little rooms and had them talk for an hour about bad things that had happened to them.” (Laughter)  He said, “We had to ask them to leave the country.” (Laughter)

16:41 Now at the other end of alternative treatments, let me tell you about Frank Russakoff.

Frank Russakoff had the worst depression perhaps that I’ve ever seen in a man. He was constantly depressed. He was, when I met him, at a point at which every month he would have electroshock treatment. Then he would feel sort of disoriented for a week. Then he would feel okay for a week. Then he would have a week of going downhill. And then he would have another electroshock treatment. And he said to me when I met him, “It’s unbearable to go through my weeks this way. I can’t go on this way, and I’ve figured out how I’m going to end it if I don’t get better.

But,” he said to me, “I heard about a protocol at Mass General for a procedure called a cingulotomy, which is a brain surgery, and I think I’m going to give that a try.”

And I remember being amazed at that point to think that someone who clearly had so many bad experiences with so many different treatments still had buried in him somewhere enough optimism to reach out for one more.

And he had the cingulotomy, and it was incredibly successful. He’s now a friend of mine. He has a lovely wife and two beautiful children. He wrote me a letter the Christmas after the surgery, and he said,

“My father sent me two presents this year, First, a motorized C.D. rack from The Sharper Image that I didn’t really need, but I knew he was giving it to me to celebrate the fact that I’m living on my own and have a job I seem to love. And the other present was a photo of my grandmother, who committed suicide.

As I unwrapped it, I began to cry, and my mother came over and said, ‘Are you crying because of the relatives you never knew?’ And I said, ‘She had the same disease I have.’

I’m crying now as I write to you. It’s not that I’m so sad, but I get overwhelmed, I think, because I could have killed myself, but my parents kept me going, and so did the doctors, and I had the surgery. I’m alive and grateful. We live in the right time, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.”

18:46 I was struck by the fact that depression is broadly perceived to be a modern, Western, middle-class thing, and I went to look at how it operated in a variety of other contexts, and one of the things I was most interested in was depression among the indigent.

And so I went out to try to look at what was being done for poor people with depression.

And what I discovered is that poor people are mostly not being treated for depression. Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability, which is presumably evenly distributed in the population, and triggering circumstances, which are likely to be more severe for people who are impoverished.

And yet it turns out that if you have a really lovely life but feel miserable all the time, you think, “Why do I feel like this? I must have depression.” And you set out to find treatment for it.

But if you have a perfectly awful life, and you feel miserable all the time, the way you feel is commensurate with your life, and it doesn’t occur to you to think, “Maybe this is treatable.”

And so we have an epidemic in this country of depression among impoverished people that’s not being picked up and that’s not being treated and that’s not being addressed, and it’s a tragedy of a grand order.

And so I found an academic who was doing a research project in slums outside of D.C., where she picked up women who had come in for other health problems and diagnosed them with depression, and then provided six months of the experimental protocol.

One of them, Lolly, came in, and this is what she said the day she came in. She said, and she was a woman, by the way, who had seven children. She said, I used to have a job but I had to give it up because I couldn’t go out of the house. I have nothing to say to my children. In the morning, I can’t wait for them to leave, and then I climb in bed and pull the covers over my head, and three o’clock when they come home, it just comes so fast.”

She said, “I’ve been taking a lot of Tylenol, anything I can take so that I can sleep more. My husband has been telling me I’m stupid, I’m ugly. I wish I could stop the pain.”

20:47 Well, she was brought into this experimental protocol, and when I interviewed her six months later, she had taken a job working in childcare for the U.S. Navy, she had left the abusive husband, and she said to me, “My kids are so much happier now.” She said, “There’s one room in my new place for the boys and one room for the girls, but at night, they’re just all up on my bed, and we’re doing homework all together and everything. One of them wants to be a preacher, one of them wants to be a firefighter, and one of the girls says she’s going to be a lawyer. They don’t cry like they used to, and they don’t fight like they did. That’s all I need now is my kids. Things keep on changing, the way I dress, the way I feel, the way I act. I can go outside not being afraid anymore, and I don’t think those bad feelings are coming back, and if it weren’t for Dr. Miranda and that, I would still be at home with the covers pulled over my head, if I were still alive at all. I asked the Lord to send me an angel, and he heard my prayers.”

22:00 I was really moved by these experiences, and I decided that I wanted to write about them not only in a book I was working on, but also in an article, and so I got a commission from The New York Times Magazine to write about depression among the indigent.

22:13 And I turned in my story, and my editor called me and said, “We really can’t publish this.”

22:18 And I said, “Why not?”

22:20 And she said, “It just is too far-fetched. These people who are sort of at the very bottom rung of society and then they get a few months of treatment and they’re virtually ready to run Morgan Stanley? It’s just too implausible.” She said, I’ve never even heard of anything like it.”

22:35 And I said, “The fact that you’ve never heard of it is an indication that it is news.” (Laughter) (Applause) “And you are a news magazine.”

22:50 So after a certain amount of negotiation, they agreed to it.

But I think a lot of what they said was connected in some strange way to this distaste that people still have for the idea of treatment, the notion that somehow if we went out and treated a lot of people in indigent communities, that would be an exploitative thing to do, because we would be changing them.

There is this false moral imperative that seems to be all around us that treatment of depression, the medications and so on, are an artifice, and that it’s not natural. And I think that’s very misguided. It would be natural for people’s teeth to fall out, but there is nobody militating against toothpaste, at least not in my circles.

23:32 And people then say, “Well, but isn’t depression part of what people are supposed to experience? Didn’t we evolve to have depression? Isn’t it part of your personality?” To which I would say, mood is adaptive.

Being able to have sadness and fear and joy and pleasure and all of the other moods that we have, that’s incredibly valuable. And major depression is something that happens when that system gets broken. It’s maladaptive.

23:59 People will come to me and say, “I think, though, if I just stick it out for another year, I think I can just get through this.”

24:05 And I always say to them, “You may get through it, but you’ll never be 37 again. Life is short, and that’s a whole year you’re talking about giving up. Think it through.”

24:16 It’s a strange poverty of the English language, and indeed of many other languages, that we use this same word, depression, to describe how a kid feels when it rains on his birthday, and to describe how somebody feels the minute before they commit suicide.

24:32 People say to me, “Well, is it continuous with normal sadness?” And I say, in a way it’s continuous with normal sadness.

There is a certain amount of continuity, but it’s the same way there’s continuity between having an iron fence outside your house that gets a little rust spot that you have to sand off and do a little repainting, and what happens if you leave the house for 100 years and it rusts through until it’s only a pile of orange dust. And it’s that orange dust spot, that orange dust problem, that’s the one we’re setting out to address.

25:02 So now people say, “You take these happy pills, and do you feel happy?” And I don’t.

But I don’t feel sad about having to eat lunch, and I don’t feel sad about my answering machine, and I don’t feel sad about taking a shower. I feel more, in fact, I think, because I can feel sadness without nullity.

I feel sad about professional disappointments, about damaged relationships, about global warming. Those are the things that I feel sad about now. And I said to myself, well, what is the conclusion?

How did those people who have better lives even with bigger depression manage to get through?

What is the mechanism of resilience?

And what I came up with over time was that the people who deny their experience, the ones who say, “I was depressed a long time ago and I never want to think about it again and I’m not going to look at it and I’m just going to get on with my life,” ironically, those are the people who are most enslaved by what they have.

Shutting out the depression strengthens it.

While you hide from it, it grows. And the people who do better are the ones who are able to tolerate the fact that they have this condition. Those who can tolerate their depression are the ones who achieve resilience.

26:19 So Frank Russakoff said to me, “If I had it again to do over, I suppose I wouldn’t do it this way, but in a strange way, I’m grateful for what I’ve experienced. I’m glad to have been in the hospital 40 times. It taught me so much about love, and my relationship with my parents and my doctors has been so precious to me, and will be always.”

26:41 And Maggie Robbins said, “I used to volunteer in an AIDS clinic, and I would just talk and talk and talk, and the people I was dealing with weren’t very responsive, and I thought, ‘That’s not very friendly or helpful of them.’ And then I realized, I realized that they weren’t going to do more than make those first few minutes of small talk. It was simply going to be an occasion where I didn’t have AIDS and I wasn’t dying, but could tolerate the fact that they did and they were. Our needs are our greatest assets. It turns out I’ve learned to give all the things I need.”

27:23 Valuing one’s depression does not prevent a relapse, but it may make the prospect of relapse and even relapse itself easier to tolerate.

The question is not so much of finding great meaning and deciding your depression has been very meaningful. It’s of seeking that meaning and thinking, when it comes again, This will be hellish, but I will learn something from it.”

I have learned in my own depression how big an emotion can be, how it can be more real than facts, and I have found that that experience has allowed me to experience positive emotion in a more intense and more focused way.

The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and these days, my life is vital, even on the days when I’m sad. I felt that funeral in my brain, and I sat next to the colossus at the edge of the world, and I have discovered something inside of myself that I would have to call a soul that I had never formulated until that day 20 years ago when hell came to pay me a surprise visit.

I think that while I hated being depressed and would hate to be depressed again, I’ve found a way to love my depression. I love it because it has forced me to find and cling to joy. I love it because each day I decide, sometimes gamely, and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to cleave to the reasons for living.

And that, I think, is a highly privileged rapture.

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“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality
 and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment.”|By Andrew Solomon

Robin Williams, 63, passed away? If committed suicide, he had a lucid courage

The worst that can happen to you in life is to be surrounded with people who make you feel lonely and isolated

Viviane Ghoussoub's photo.
Patch Adams
Believe in the power of an #idea #RIPRobinWilliams

Believe in the power of an ‪#‎idea‬ ‪#‎RIPRobinWilliams‬

Robin Williams: ‘I was shameful, did stuff that caused disgust – that’s hard to recover from’

His new film, World’s Greatest Dad, is a glorious return to form. But a mournful Robin Williams would rather talk about his battle with drugs and alcohol – and recovering from heart surgery

In the normal order of things, an interview with a Hollywood actor observes the form of a transaction. The actor wants to promote their film, and ideally talk about little else – least of all anything of a personal nature. The newspaper is mildly interested in the new film, but hopes they can be tempted to talk about other matters – best of all their private life.

Sometimes the agreement is explicit, but most of the time it is mutually understood, and so the interview tends to proceed rather like a polite dance, with each party manoeuvring in its own interests. On this occasion, however, the convention appears to have been turned on its head.

  1. World’s Greatest Dad
  2. Production year: 2009
  3. Country: USA
  4. Cert (UK): 15
  5. Runtime: 99 mins
  6. Directors: Bobcat Goldthwait
  7. Cast: Alexie Gilmore, Daryl Sabana, Daryl Sabara, Evan Martin, Geoff Pierson, Henry Simmons, Jermaine Williams, Mitzi McCall, Robin Williams
  8. More on this film

Robin Williams‘s new film, World’s Greatest Dad, is brilliant. Having starred in a lot of unspeakably sentimental dross in recent years, here he is at last in something clever and thoughtful; a dark, slightly weird comedy that touches on all sorts of interesting themes that I’m hoping he’ll talk about. Williams, however, has other plans.

It is almost impossible to get anything coherent out of him about the film, or any of the issues it raises.  What Williams really wants to talk about, it turns out, is his relapse into alcoholism, his rehab and his open-heart surgery.

Unfortunately, it takes me some time to cotton on to this, so I keep asking questions about World’s Greatest Dad. Williams plays Lance, a failed writer, failed teacher and single father of perhaps the most irredeemably dislikable teenager ever to appear on screen. His son Kyle is addicted to hardcore internet pornography and is almost universally loathed – until he accidentally dies. His father fakes a suicide note, and when it is leaked, the school magazine reprints the letter, its poignancy prompting a posthumous revision of everyone’s former low opinion of the boy. Soon a juggernaut of confected grief is roaring out of control.

Unable to resist the allure of his new popularity, Lance proceeds to fake a whole journal, passing it off as his son’s and fuelling the insatiable hunger for loss. A bidding war breaks out between publishing houses, the journal becomes a bestselling book, and Lance winds up on a daytime TV show, like a pseudo celebrity, peddling his mythical son’s tragedy to the nation.

The film is a devastatingly funny indictment of the modern grief industry, but when I ask Williams if he thinks it’s getting worse, he says mildly, “Well, I think people want it. In a weird way, it’s trying to keep hope alive.” So does he not share the film’s judgment on mawkish sentimentality? “Well, you just try and keep it in perspective; you have to remember the best and the worst.” It seems as if he’s about to engage with the question – “In America they really do mythologise people when they die,” he agrees – but then he veers off at a tangent, putting on Ronald Reagan’s voice but talking about the ex-president in the third person: “Maybe he was kind of lovable, but you realised half way through his administration he really didn’t know where he was.”

I wonder if Williams had experienced a little bit of the film’s theme himself, when his great friend Christopher Reeve died. Was it hard, I ask, to see fans mourning Superman, when to Williams he was a real person, a real friend?

“He was a friend,” Williams says solemnly. “And also knowing him, especially after the accident and everything he went through – it was a weird thing.” What was it like, I try again, to grieve privately for a public figure?

“Well, it’s a whole different game,” he says, but then starts talking about the death of Reeve’s wife a year later. “It happens all the time, I know, but I know their kids, they’re amazing, and to see them go through so much loss in one year – that’s tough.”

I ask about the media’s role in the manufacturing of grief, but instead he recalls a talkshow he saw where a man confessed to adultery before a female studio audience. “Idiot. Why don’t you just go bobbing for piranha? These women are screaming ‘You bastard!’, but the idea of being on TV overrode everything.” He adopts a southern redneck accent: “‘Ah’m on TV, y’all.’ You’re a schmuck, why would you do that?” Then the accent again: “Ah’m on tee-vee, ah’m gonna be fay-mous.’ Yeah, for all of five minutes, big time.”

We’re not making much headway on the grief industry, so I try internet porn. Williams’s three children have grown up through the internet age, so I’m curious about his views on its impact on adolescents. “It’s just like – there’s everything you could ever think about online.”

But what does Williams actually think about it; is it liberating and a good thing, or corrupting and a bad thing? “It’s an old thing,” he shrugs. “Look at the walls of Pompeii. That’s what got the internet started.” Then he starts talking rather boringly about iPhones, and how it’s now possible to do video-conference calls on a mobile.

My worry beforehand had been that Williams would be too wildly manic to make much sense. When he appeared on the Jonathan Ross show earlier this summer, he’d been vintage Williams – hyperactive to the point of deranged, ricocheting between voices, riffing off his internal dialogues.

Off-camera, however, he is a different kettle of fish. His bearing is intensely Zen and almost mournful, and when he’s not putting on voices he speaks in a low, tremulous baritone – as if on the verge of tears – that would work very well if he were delivering a funeral eulogy. He seems gentle and kind – even tender – but the overwhelming impression is one of sadness.

Even the detours into dialogue feel more like a reflex than irrepressible comic passion, and the freakish articulacy showcased in Good Morning Vietnam has gone. Quite often when he opens his mouth a slur of unrelated words come out, like a dozen different false starts tangled together, from which an actual sentence eventually finds its way out. For example, “So/Now/And then/Well/It/I – Sometimes I used to work just to work.” It’s like trying to tune into a long-wave radio station.

I find myself wondering if alcohol abuse might have something to do with it. Williams used to be a big-drinking cocaine addict, but quit both before the birth of his eldest son in 1983, and stayed sober for 20 years. On location in Alaska in 2003, however, he started drinking again. He brings this up himself, and the minute he does he becomes more engaged.

“I was in a small town where it’s not the edge of the world, but you can see it from there, and then I thought: drinking. I just thought, hey, maybe drinking will help. Because I felt alone and afraid. It was that thing of working so much, and going fuck, maybe that will help. And it was the worst thing in the world.” What did he feel like when he had his first drink? “You feel warm and kind of wonderful. And then the next thing you know, it’s a problem, and you’re isolated.”

Some have suggested it was Reeve’s death that turned him back to drink. “No,” he says quietly, “it’s more selfish than that. It’s just literally being afraid. And you think, oh, this will ease the fear. And it doesn’t.” What was he afraid of? “Everything. It’s just a general all-round arggghhh. It’s fearfulness and anxiety.”

He didn’t take up cocaine again, because “I knew that would kill me”. I’d have thought it would be a case of in for a penny – “In for a gram?” he smiles. “No. Cocaine – paranoid and impotent, what fun. There was no bit of me thinking, ooh, let’s go back to that. Useless conversations until midnight, waking up at dawn feeling like a vampire on a day pass. No.”

It only took a week of drinking before he knew he was in trouble, though. “For that first week you lie to yourself, and tell yourself you can stop, and then your body kicks back and says, no, stop later. And then it took about three years, and finally you do stop.”

It wasn’t, he says, fun while it lasted, but three years sounds like a long time not to be having fun. “That’s right. Most of the time you just realise you’ve started to do embarrassing things.” He recalls drinking at a charity auction hosted by Sharon Stone at Cannes: “And I realised I was pretty baked, and I look out and I see all of a sudden a wall of paparazzi. And I go, ‘Oh well, I guess it’s out now’.”

In the end it was a family intervention that put him into residential rehab. I wonder if he was “Robin Williams” in rehab, and he agrees. “Yeah, you start off initially riffing, and kind of being real funny. But the weird thing is, how can you do a comic turn without betraying the precepts of group therapy? Eventually you shed it.”

Williams still attends AA meetings at least once a week – “Have to. It’s good to go” – and I suspect this accounts for a fair bit of his Zen solemnity. At times it verges on sentimental: he asks if I have children, and when I tell him I have a baby son he nods gravely, as if I’ve just shared. “Congrats. Good luck. It’s a pretty wonderful thing.” But it may well be down to the open-heart surgery he underwent early last year, when surgeons replaced his aortic valve with one from a pig.

“Oh, God, you find yourself getting emotional. It breaks through your barrier, you’ve literally cracked the armour. And you’ve got no choice, it literally breaks you open. And you feel really mortal.” Does the intimation of mortality live with him still? “Totally.” Is it a blessing? “Totally.”

He takes everything, he says, more slowly now. His second marriage, to a film producer, ended in 2008 – largely because of his drinking, even though by then he was sober. “You know, I was shameful, and you do stuff that causes disgust, and that’s hard to recover from. You can say, ‘I forgive you’ and all that stuff, but it’s not the same as recovering from it. It’s not coming back.”

The couple had been together for 19 years, and have a son and a daughter, both now grown up; he has another son from his first marriage to an actress in the late 70s.

Williams is now with a graphic designer, whom he met shortly before his heart surgery, and they live together in San Francisco. “But we’re taking it slow. I don’t know, maybe some day we’ll marry, but there’s no rush. I just want to take it easy now. This is good news. It’s the whole thing of taking it slow. And it’s so much better.”

Williams thinks he used to be a fairly classic workaholic, but at 59 is now taking it slow professionally too. “In one two-year period I made 8 movies. At one point the joke was that there’s a movie out without you in it. You have this idea that you’d better keep working otherwise people will forget. And that was dangerous. And then you realise, no, actually if you take a break people might be more interested in you. Now, after the heart surgery, I’ll take it slow.”

Williams has been nothing if not prolific. After first finding fame in the late 70s as a kooky space alien in the sitcom Mork and Mindy, he became better known as a standup comedian, but his astonishing performance in Good Morning Vietnam earned him an Oscar nomination in 1988, with two more in the following five years, for Dead Poets’ Society and The Fisher King. Mrs Doubtfire, in which he dragged up to play a nanny, brought wider mainstream success, and in 1998 Good Will Hunting finally won him an Oscar. In recent years, however, he has made an awful lot of what would politely be described as less critically acclaimed films.

Some of them have been downright awful; schmaltzy family comedies drenched in maudlin sentiment, such as the unwatchably saccharinePatch Adams or, even worse, Old Dogs.

When I ask why he made them, he says: “Well, I’ve had a lot of people tell me they watched Old Dogs with their kids and had a good time.” It didn’t offend his sense of integrity? “No, it paid the bills. Sometimes you have to make a movie to make money.” He didn’t mistake them, he adds, for intelligent scripts: “You know what you’re getting into, totally. You know they’re going to make it goofy. And that’s OK.”

Like many people, I had always been confused by Williams’s film choices. The sharpness of his early standup just seemed so incompatible with the sentimentality of his worst movies, and if, as Williams claims, Old Dogs simply paid the bills, he must have one very high-maintenance lifestyle.

When I watched World’s Greatest Dad I just assumed it echoed his own sensibility more accurately than all the other rubbish he has made. But actually, having met him, I’m not sure it does. I don’t know whether it was rehab or heart surgery, but he seems to have arrived at a place where sentimentality can sit quite easily.

I ask if he feels happier now, and he says softly, “I think so. And not afraid to be unhappy. That’s OK too. And then you can be like, all is good. And that is the thing, that is the gift.”

World’s Greatest Dad is released on 24 September

Je suis vraiment touchée de prendre connaissance du décès de l'acteur Robin Williams. </p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Quand des personnes comme M. Williams s’enlèvent la vie, on s’étonne toujours, car ils étaient pour nous de véritables rayons de soleil. C’était certainement son cas. D’ailleurs, on dit qu’il s’est suicidé, mais j’ai plutôt l’impression qu’il s’est sauvé la vie pendant 63 ans en combattant la dépression avec son humour et sa douce folie. Je devine qu’il était doté d’un courage immense, et, bien que j’aurais évidemment souhaité une issue différente, il a tout mon respect et mon admiration.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Dans un autre ordre d’idées, quand comprendrons-nous enfin, une fois pour toutes, que rien de ce qui est «supposé» nous rendre heureux n’a ce pouvoir? Nous voyons constamment des personnes très populaires et très prospères s’autodétruire – que ce soit en menant une vie d’addiction et de superficialité, ou en s’enlevant la vie… Et même quand on ne voit pas ce qui se passe derrière la scène, on peut souvent percevoir une infinie tristesse dans leur regard, malgré leurs sourires brillants. Or, nous continuons malgré tout de cultiver l’illusion que l’argent ou la reconnaissance remplira le petit vide dans notre cœur. Oh, pour eux, ce n’est peut-être pas suffisant, mais pour nous, ce sera différent. Et en attendant cette solution magique, on passe à côté de la seule vraie magique possible. Celle de l’instant. Exactement tel qu’il est maintenant.</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Ainsi, sans bien sûr se refuser l’abondance et l’expansion que nous désirons, apprenons de l’expérience des autres – de l’expérience de Robin Williams, et de tous ceux que le «succès» (mais qu’est-ce que le succès?) n’a pas guéris ou remplis ou sauvés. Cessons de croire à ces voix dans notre tête qui nous vendent l’idée que le bonheur sera enfin possible dans telle ou telle condition, et apprenons à devenir immédiatement cette source de paix et d’amour que nous attendons. (Et évidemment, si on est cliniquement dépressif, comme M. Williams semblait l’être, allons chercher de l’aide le plus vite possible.)</p><br /><br /><br />
<p>Bises magique à vous. xx
Matin Magique posted on FB

Je suis vraiment touchée de prendre connaissance du décès de l’acteur Robin Williams.

Quand des personnes comme M. Williams s’enlèvent la vie, on s’étonne toujours, car ils étaient pour nous de véritables rayons de soleil. C’était certainement son cas.

D’ailleurs, on dit qu’il s’est suicidé, mais j’ai plutôt l’impression qu’il s’est sauvé la vie pendant 63 ans en combattant la dépression avec son humour et sa douce folie.

Je devine qu’il était doté d’un courage immense, et, bien que j’aurais évidemment souhaité une issue différente, il a tout mon respect et mon admiration.

Dans un autre ordre d’idées, quand comprendrons-nous enfin, une fois pour toutes, que rien de ce qui est «supposé» nous rendre heureux n’a ce pouvoir?

Nous voyons constamment des personnes très populaires et très prospères s’autodétruire – que ce soit en menant une vie d’addiction et de superficialité, ou en s’enlevant la vie…

Et même quand on ne voit pas ce qui se passe derrière la scène, on peut souvent percevoir une infinie tristesse dans leur regard, malgré leurs sourires brillants.

Or, nous continuons malgré tout de cultiver l’illusion que l’argent ou la reconnaissance remplira le petit vide dans notre cœur.

Oh, pour eux, ce n’est peut-être pas suffisant, mais pour nous, ce sera différent. Et en attendant cette solution magique, on passe à côté de la seule vraie magique possible. Celle de l’instant. Exactement tel qu’il est maintenant.

Ainsi, sans bien sûr se refuser l’abondance et l’expansion que nous désirons, apprenons de l’expérience des autres – de l’expérience de Robin Williams, et de tous ceux que le «succès» (mais qu’est-ce que le succès?) n’a pas guéris ou remplis ou sauvés.

Cessons de croire à ces voix dans notre tête qui nous vendent l’idée que le bonheur sera enfin possible dans telle ou telle condition, et apprenons à devenir immédiatement cette source de paix et d’amour que nous attendons.

Et évidemment, si on est cliniquement dépressif, comme M. Williams semblait l’être, allons chercher de l’aide le plus vite possible.

Bises magique à vous. xx

Worst Nightmare: “How am I to spend the next 24 years?’

A friend confided in me. We talked for an hour. I re-structured his haphazard story to make sense. He said:

“My father is 89 and my mother is 86. My father health has been deteriorating fast since last year.

In this winter season, he barely uses the walker for his morning shit. By noon, he rather not get up from bed, on the ground that he feels too weak and too cold to step out of his cozy bed.

Mother is in a worse case in matter of aches and pains, but she is functional and make sure that she washes father in the morning and bring him food in bed. Not to mention changing the bed sheets every morning and all dad’s wet cloths.

The problem for mother is that father insists on not leaving his bed after 1 pm on account that he feels too cold and out of power to walk to close-by toilet for his frequent pissing sessions.

Mother has this daunting task of changing father every morning and doing at least 2 washes for the wet bed and father’s cloths, every morning, and she suffers from back pain, arthritis, and you name it. And dad plays the child game for constant attention and waking up mother at night for no valid reasons.

Mother considers that putting in 8 straight hours of work in the morning, without any break to rest, her daily job. And everyone in the household must share with her non-stop chores. Even when she feels sick and unable to work, until she faints and drop.

Occasionally, mother sleeps in the sitting room because father makes it a point to wake her up frequently, just out of boredom and restlessness.  Eventually, she returns to sleep in dad’s (obviously separate beds) room, out of compassion and duty.

Father has had no jobs for the last 40 years. What he did when he could drive was give ride to his 6 grandchildren to school and bring them back home, and doing a few gardening…

And he was a heavy smoker since he was 14 of age, mainly smoking in the sitting room, and polluting this room, while enjoying a few glasses of whisky.

Until he started to fall down after finishing drinking. He quit drinking every day, but resumed smoking, out of total boredom and dense worries from the fast dwindling of pecuniary resources.

No government facilities to rescue the elderly people, not even in health insurance, or a small remittance every month... The elderly people are in the care of the children, relatives… supposedly in the care of the community that no longer exists.

Dad has plenty of time now to dream of the time he was still able, but I guess he can focus on how to stay alive: He keeps touching the Saint icons.  For a soft departure or for exhausting mother to death?

Do you think his deep wish is to see mother passing away before he does? A senile revenge of people who revert to childhood?

Funny, every now and then father creates a tantrum to remind mother that he is the head of the family and that what he wishes must be obeyed, and bangs his walker to confirm his statement: “I want you to wrap me up now (7afdineh) for the remainder of the day and night” and this tragic bout of energy surges at the time mother is taking a short nap from a back ache.

And when mother tells him: “I am tired. wait till I rest…” father responds: “You do it now or I’ll piss in bed...”  These kinds of reactions…

He goes: “Ya wallao? are you sleeping? Get up now…”

He does not exhibit all his pent up anger and desperation when I am around: He knows that my reactions can be worse than his, and we do have the same bad genes

At least father managed to construct a building of 3 floors, one for each one of his children who all graduated from universities and are married with children. Except one child: I never married and have no children that I know of. And I now live with my elderly parents for the last 14 years.

I don’t recall ever having a chat with dad, and now he is almost deaf and he refuses to babble. And mother’s chatting are of the most boring and regurgitation of the same worries that I cannot help with and suggestions that are too late to reverse and act upon.

Mother never cared to handle money in her life and never wrote a check. Currently, she has to handle the few cash that she receives every now and then from her children and relative and make sure that she can buy her medicine, father’s couches, the gas canisters for cooking, bread and biscuits for dad… Nothing fancy at all.

And she declines invitations because she will have to bring a gift as custom demands, and she has to cook a few sweet dishes for the occasions… and keeps cleaning the house in the event anyone remembers suddenly to pay her visit…

I wish the visits are not set in advance by “appointment”: Mother will start cleaning and cooking a week in advance of the visit, and ends up working overtime.

I aid mother in most of her chores: assistant cook, washing dishes, vacuuming, lifting “heavy” stuff that she can no longer perform, changing bed sheets, gardening, gathering vegetables and fruits, tending to the few chickens, going on errands…

I find time to read, write, post articles on my blog, watch documentaries and non-violent good movies on cables after every one in the household is supposed to be sleeping…

Tell me. Am I talking abstract so far?

My worst nightmare is “How am I to spend the next 24 years, if no haphazard calamity suddenly ends my life?”

I have no job, have no money, receives no stipend from anyone, no government, no syndicate ( I failed to pay the yearly dues for lack of money), no health insurance, no car (could no longer afford the maintenance, the gas and endless taxes on a rickety car), no public transportation…

I receives no monthly or weekly of any little financial aid from anyone. Actually, the community, relatives and close parents who can afford it, are expressly punishing me from Not Working for Pay after I reached 62.

It is not that I don’t care to work for pay on a job that I like… I am not employable for doing anything. My CV has so many gaps to fill (the time schedule) that my imagination would run out of ideas. And I am more knowledgeable (higher education and continuing education) than any employer and was exposed to far more trades and small jobs than any fat employer.

And I have no talent for any hobby to kill the time and express any kinds of passions…

Tell me: “How can I survive my next 24 years, as I become as old as my dad?”

I keep myself fit, do exercise, walk a lot, garden, eat moderately, drink a little on “free” occasions… have not a pound of fat and I cut down to half a pat of cigarette a day, with filter added to reduce the level of tar in my lungs…

Am I talking abstract?

I don’t care to live much longer, what for?

I wrote what I had to say, published my autobiography, I am helping when I can.

I wish an institution will accept me to die of thirst: Hunger takes much longer to do the job.

I saw this on a friends timeline yesterday and just had to share :)</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>It's rather beautiful
I kind of systematically cornered myself in a tight spot: Even with a surge of energy to get out of this prison, I have denied myself much room to navigate away.
I must have had many “second chances” to survive that long. Though, I don’t feel that I ever had a second chance. I think that I learned from my mistakes.
Currently, what I can do is update my Day Dreaming Projects and create other projects that will enable “cornered people” to fly away.
As long as I’m healthy and functional, I cannot loose hope that Providence will come to the rescue and set me free.
It doesn’t pay to feel negative and drop hope for a better situation.

Note: What is irritating in feeling desperate is its evidence, its documentation, its accurate reporting.

Hope expresses its generosity in the false sense of optimism, its refusal of facing the situation, an aberration, a fiction.

It is in the aberration of feeling hope that resides life, this fiction that feeds on it.

The French text of Cioran:

Ce qui irrite dans le désespoir, c’est son bien-fondé, son évidence, sa “documentation” : c’est du reportage.

Examinez, au contraire, l’espoir, sa générosité dans le faux, sa manie d’affabuler, son refus de l’événement : une aberration, une fiction.

Et c’est dans cette aberration que réside la vie, et de cette fiction qu’elle s’alimente. » Cioran

Do you think you suffer from depression? Do you know someone who might? Here are the signs #TEDxLAUSalon #OnMentalHealth

“Feeling good: The new Mood therapy”? by David Burns, M.D

The book is mainly targeting these people who experience vast mood swing, like frequent depression periods or frequent bout of anger… This is a version of a section in the book concerning “why we feel that way (angry) relative to other people…”, meaning that it is good to read the original section and compare what differ in style and nuances and counterpoint…

We are under this supposed truth that all our current emotions are consequent to our relationship with other people. We are adamant that it is people around us who are rendering us the way we feel, all these overwhelming negative emotions of anger, displeasure, depressive mood…

People are actually the catalyst who generate sets of emotions in us at every moment, but they are far from being the cause of the particular emotions we feel toward them or their actions at the time.

Our emotions are an interpreted version, a schema of the priming image and predisposition we are ready to heap on a certain individual, regardless of the facts or his objective nature…

What kinds of distortions that our negative emotions catalogue?

1. Labeling is the greatest offenders among the distorted emotions. We say “you are a jerk, a bum, a piece of shit…” and you are cataloguing in your mind all the negative attributes attached to these labels, and the person is defined as such…

Labeling is unfair to the person and to yourself first of all: Everyone of us a complex mix of positive, negative and neutral attributes, varying in degrees as we grow up and mature.

Labeling distorts the thinking process and lead us into this laziness of the mind that relies instead on ready-made versions that we save in our memory, particularly people we feel indignant with…

2. Mind reading distortions. We have this fantastic ability to judge people within fractions of a second from facial expressions and gestures and body language…and we are adamant that we liked or accepted the person from these quick first impressions. We say: “he has a mean streak, stupid-looking, bad-kid demeanor…”

What if in the first encounter the individual was upset or in a foul mood before he met you, and his facial expressions were not meant to be displayed to you?  We might be able to settle on an impression quickly, but how easily can we let go of a bad mood that distorts our facial expressions?

In many cases, first encounter mind-reading feelings are off track, and represent the mood you are actually crumbling under at the moment, kind of projecting your mood situation on people you are meeting…

3. Magnification of emotions.  We tend to exaggerate the negative attributes and dwell on them for longer than is necessary, and forget to attach enough emphasis on the positive characteristics and how they may counter balance the other kinds of emotions and attributes…

4. Inappropriate “Should” and “Shouldn’t” statements. As if you’re the ideal person to judge what another individual should be, do, feel or like…

The sense of loss, disappointment, or inconvenience may lead to this feeling that the action was unjust or unfair, as if the world is bound to behave and run the way our current state of mind wants it to function…

You think that you are entitled to instant gratification at all times, as if you are an absolute monarch or a despot…

5. The perception of unfairness and injustice is the ultimate cause of our anger and negative emotions: We want the world to behave in a one-way traffic, the way we want events to occur and people to behave, in timely manner, as logically as we assimilate the meaning of logic to mean to us…

As long as we believe there should be an “absolute” moral system that governs our lives, we are in great trouble with our negative emotions most of the time.

Fairness and justice are relative concepts, depending on the idiosyncratic of cultural legacy and traditional heritage. Social rules and moral strictures that are supposedly “accepted” in a particular community, are more likely a consensus process that was dominated by the majority and forced upon the varied minorities…

Moral statements about fairness are stipulations, not grounded on objective facts most of the time.

No amount of general acceptance can make a moral system “Absolute” or ultimately valid for everyone and under all circumstances. For example, no one ever asked the thousand of aborigines tribes and smaller States what is their opinions or input on a fair absolute system of moral priorities.

For example, if you are working as accountant under the US laws and rules, most accountants in other parts of the world would consider your job as flat-out a big lie, siding with the privileged class at the expense of the little people…It is not a matter of aligning numbers, and doing harmful simple math exercises…but being engaged in a dirty job, consciously and willfully…

6. Much everyday anger results from confusing our personal wants and desires with general moral codes. Acting within a set of standards and a frame of reference that are different from yours…

Actually, it is how you primed the other person attributes that is your guiding rod in your judgment, and not the actual acts and behavior of the other person…

The pragmatic question would seem: “Where will I draw the line as I am confronted with negative emotions…?”

Does this statement suggest that we have to objectively undertake a cost/benefit analysis for the outcome before every outburst of emotions? Not feasible, not natural, not possible…

At least, if we occasionally manage to take a deep breath before the coming outburst, we invariably bring forth our power of reflection to intervene, now and then, and we become better persons.

We could apply two guidelines as we learn to reflect before an outburst of emotion:

1. Is my anger directed because I think the other person acted knowingly, willfully, and intentionally in a hurtful manner? (feeling of contempt is one of these kinds of emotions)

2. Does my anger helps achieve a desired objective? Like sincerely wanting to get rid of the presence of a person in my life because he is a sure obstacle to my well-being, sanity… for one reason or another?




February 2023

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