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The Theory of Depressive Realism

Dante

SF Supporter
#1
The theory of Depressive Realism states that people who are depressed have been shown to make more realistic inferences with available data, and it is the normal people who are actually putting a positive bias on their interpretations of data. Basically, this suggests that depression gives you a more accurate world view which means life is ultimately pointless and we as a species need to pretend life is better and more meaningful than it is in order to convince ourselves that living is worth the effort, probably as an evolutionary survival mechanism, i.e. people are kidding themselves that their lives are worth it.

I bring this up because I am struggling to see the point lately. I live alone now, actually surprisingly isolated and a little overworked. I stand on the precipice of one of the biggest decisions of my life (trying to buy a home so I can afford to live within reasonable distance of my work) and I keep coming back to "killing yourself would be just so much... easier."

A quote from a not so great film, sums it up for me at the moment: "Its circular, you exist to continue your existence, what's the point?" Quite simply, that is me at the moment, I am living in order to keep living, and I'm not actually getting much of anything out of being alive, and I'm not achieving much either. I'm 30 years old and I have achieved nothing, about 35%-40% of my life is spent and I have achieved nothing, no enjoyment, no goals, and and the sum amount of my life that I have felt a sense of contentment was about 1 week. I am even less than I once was, I keep looking at myself and I see less worth than I do in my memories of me as a teenager, anything special I had back then seems to have dried up. My intelligence, my motivation, my ambition, my curiosity, all gone.

Im not suicidal, not yet anyway, I am recognising a certain murky darkness to some of my thoughts today which suggests my thinking may wander that way eventually, but at the moment, I am, as ever, simply tired. Tired of trying, tired of hoping, tired of putting that positive bias on the world, and constructing ever more desperate fantasies that I am in any way worth preserving. I don't even want any supportive messages to this, because I am tired of them too. I am just tired of the act. I cry for help, people dig deep and answer as best they can and I draw some courage from this and keep going, rinse repeat.

Fuck I want to get drunk, but if I do I'll just end up breaking down and hurting myself and crying about that too and that's all just another act I'm tired of which leaves me feeling more broken than before and leaves me more marks I have to hide until they eventually fade enough that people wont notice in a year or two.

This isn't even a self-pity-party, I'm just like a man who has been walking for way too long. My feet hurt, my legs are sluggish, and my breathing is laboured. I'm not thinking "oh woe is me", no one is making me walk, I'm doing this on my own, but I'm just hoping that at some point in my endless journey, I can find somewhere lie down, stop moving and rest.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#2
"Basically, this suggests that depression gives you a more accurate world view which means life is ultimately pointless and we as a species need to pretend life is better and more meaningful than it is in order to convince ourselves that living is worth the effort, probably as an evolutionary survival mechanism, i.e. people are kidding themselves that their lives are worth it."

I happen to have a bachelor degree in Psychology, and I think this is a false conclusion drawn from a controversial theory. I think saying depressed people (and usually in studies this is mild to moderate depression) may see certain things more accurately hardly proves that life is pointless. Plus these studies are correlational! A third factor may account for the results - and in my view that factor may be culture. Western culture itself may lead to unrealistic optimism whereas if you had eastern Buddhist monks as your subjects (who are some of the happiest people on the planet), I doubt you would see the same errors. Just a suspicion.

I think on a Suicide forum it's really dangerous to promote the idea that science has proven life is pointless. That is the absolute opposite of what most psychologists and scientists would want.
 
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Human Ex Machinae

Void Where Prohibited
#3
Why does life require 'a point'? What qualifies as 'a point' to existence? Does a rock need a point in order to exist? A tree, or the Larger Magellanic Cloud? This whole point business causes people so much needless grief. If there's such a thing as a point to existence, it's existence itself.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#4
Why does life require 'a point'? What qualifies as 'a point' to existence? Does a rock need a point in order to exist? A tree, or the Larger Magellanic Cloud? This whole point business causes people so much needless grief. If there's such a thing as a point to existence, it's existence itself.
This is a different, philosophical question. The assertion above was that depressive realism (demonstrated in limited correlational studies) proves life has no point and is meaningless.

Since humans are living, self-aware and reasoning beings our existence is different from a rock or a tree. However, I'm not sure human life needs a point either, but I think we MAKE a point and that's the beauty of humanity, when we create purpose and meaning in our lives. That can be something simple such as being kind and polite to others, or as complex as striving to write a novel or win the Nobel prize. Worthwhile goals.

Also, saying that life has no intrinsic "point" does not imply life is meaningless. Again I believe that we can have meaning in our lives no matter how depressed or anxious we feel. We can come on a forum like this and offer others empathy and to feel less alone. That is meaningful. Compassion starts with ourselves though, and one way we can have compassion for ourselves is to understand how amazing and complex human life is. Each of us is truly unique.
 

Dante

SF Supporter
#5
However, I'm not sure human life needs a point either...
I think human life needs a point, especially nowadays. Living is such a complex task nowadays, it takes so much effort and everything and everyone around you is trying to screw you, and every mechanism and contract and legal nonsense around you was designed using hundreds or thousands of man-hours to screw you in ways you cant escape and you have to navigate it all every damned day, if you don't have some point to put in the gruelling effort, then why do it? People generally take the path of least resistance unless they have a reason to take the harder path, and the path of least resistance in modern society is suicide, thats why there need to be a point to life, a reason to take the harder path. Lots of people say that suicide is the easy way out, and in many ways it is, thats the problem, without a point to taking the harder path, the easy path is just too inviting.

Life needs a point, and I dont see a point to mine at the moment. If I dig down deep it is only my survival instinct and some lingering faith and a stubborn resigned habit that keeps me moving a lot of the time, and it is tiring.
 

WolfGoddess

Well-Known Member
#6
I've been a fan (which may be a strange word in this context) of Existentialism for a long time. It's consistent with some of what's been said here which is that there is no universal meaning in life, but it also says that life can have meaning, it's just up to individuals to figure out their (our) own meaning. But also, saying that there is no universal meaning is different than saying that life is pointless.

For anyone who hasn't read this, I strongly suggest Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"!!!
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#7
I think human life needs a point, especially nowadays. Living is such a complex task nowadays, it takes so much effort and everything and everyone around you is trying to screw you, and every mechanism and contract and legal nonsense around you was designed using hundreds or thousands of man-hours to screw you in ways you cant escape and you have to navigate it all every damned day, if you don't have some point to put in the gruelling effort, then why do it? People generally take the path of least resistance unless they have a reason to take the harder path, and the path of least resistance in modern society is suicide, thats why there need to be a point to life, a reason to take the harder path. Lots of people say that suicide is the easy way out, and in many ways it is, thats the problem, without a point to taking the harder path, the easy path is just too inviting.

Life needs a point, and I dont see a point to mine at the moment. If I dig down deep it is only my survival instinct and some lingering faith and a stubborn resigned habit that keeps me moving a lot of the time, and it is tiring.
I'm curious what kind of point do you think life should have? Like, what kind of point or outcome would make you want to live?

I do think life is exhausting at times even for someone who believes their life has purpose and meaning.
 

Gonz

sick and tired of being sick and tired
#8
Why does life require 'a point'? What qualifies as 'a point' to existence? Does a rock need a point in order to exist? A tree, or the Larger Magellanic Cloud? This whole point business causes people so much needless grief. If there's such a thing as a point to existence, it's existence itself.
I'd say fairly similar. If a person needs a purpose to exist then "to bear witness to existence itself" seems enough of one to me.
 

Gonz

sick and tired of being sick and tired
#9
I've been a fan (which may be a strange word in this context) of Existentialism for a long time. It's consistent with some of what's been said here which is that there is no universal meaning in life, but it also says that life can have meaning, it's just up to individuals to figure out their (our) own meaning. But also, saying that there is no universal meaning is different than saying that life is pointless.

For anyone who hasn't read this, I strongly suggest Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning"!!!
Existentialists have this problem reputation of being, well, mopey and acting as though all is meaningless because all is temporary. In reality, I've found them to be among the most in favor of the individual finding or creating meaning.

Really, it seems like a very optimistic philosophy, when you think about it. Existence is absolutely stuffed with potential meaning, just waiting to be discovered or thought up.

Rather than the whole lot of them declaring existence meaningless, then going off to brood sexily, smoking in the corner of some lamplit Parisian café (not that that doesn't sound fun), they considered an inability to find some purpose in one's existence a sign of perhaps intellectual laziness.
 

Human Ex Machinae

Void Where Prohibited
#10
@Lady Wolfshead @Dante @WolfGoddess @Gonz

Human beings believe things. We believe in stories. Every single aspect of human existence is based on a story. For example for most of human history, a story about pieces of certain metals being valuable dominated human affairs, then recently, some people got together and came up with a new story about value. That's one of the big, global stories. It's no less true in our individual lives. It's sort of like the cliche about the actor who's told by the director to walk into a room, and the actor asks, "What's my motivation?" We're expected to wake up every day, go to work, try hard, sacrifice for the benefit of others and society as a whole, and all of that stuff, day after day? Ok, fine, but give us a story first. And it better be a damned good one! Because we're going to have to believe it, in order to have our motivations in place for these roles we're expected to play in it. I think a lot of depression happens when the stories people have grown up with start to lose their power, and become less and less convincing. Until finally their story-meter is at it's lowest, and they get to the "What's the point?" stage. Then we start writing new stories for ourselves (because we have no choice, it's how are brains are put together). Sometimes they're positive and we find new motivation, but too often they're negative stories. I'm all for positive stories, religious, scientific, philosophical, romantic, whatever, as long as they make people feel good and motivate them to be good, or try to be at least. I just think that it is possible for people to let go of most of their old stories, and still get along just fine and even find a measure of contentment. But of course, that's just my story😉
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Don't fear mistakes. There are none." Miles Davis
#11
@Lady Wolfshead @Dante @WolfGoddess @Gonz

Human beings believe things. We believe in stories. Every single aspect of human existence is based on a story. For example for most of human history, a story about pieces of certain metals being valuable dominated human affairs, then recently, some people got together and came up with a new story about value. That's one of the big, global stories. It's no less true in our individual lives. It's sort of like the cliche about the actor who's told by the director to walk into a room, and the actor asks, "What's my motivation?" We're expected to wake up every day, go to work, try hard, sacrifice for the benefit of others and society as a whole, and all of that stuff, day after day? Ok, fine, but give us a story first. And it better be a damned good one! Because we're going to have to believe it, in order to have our motivations in place for these roles we're expected to play in it. I think a lot of depression happens when the stories people have grown up with start to lose their power, and become less and less convincing. Until finally their story-meter is at it's lowest, and they get to the "What's the point?" stage. Then we start writing new stories for ourselves (because we have no choice, it's how are brains are put together). Sometimes they're positive and we find new motivation, but too often they're negative stories. I'm all for positive stories, religious, scientific, philosophical, romantic, whatever, as long as they make people feel good and motivate them to be good, or try to be at least. I just think that it is possible for people to let go of most of their old stories, and still get along just fine and even find a measure of contentment. But of course, that's just my story😉
Well said. :)
 

Dante

SF Supporter
#12
@Lady Wolfshead @Dante @WolfGoddess @Gonz

Human beings believe things. We believe in stories. Every single aspect of human existence is based on a story. For example for most of human history, a story about pieces of certain metals being valuable dominated human affairs, then recently, some people got together and came up with a new story about value. That's one of the big, global stories. It's no less true in our individual lives. It's sort of like the cliche about the actor who's told by the director to walk into a room, and the actor asks, "What's my motivation?" We're expected to wake up every day, go to work, try hard, sacrifice for the benefit of others and society as a whole, and all of that stuff, day after day? Ok, fine, but give us a story first. And it better be a damned good one! Because we're going to have to believe it, in order to have our motivations in place for these roles we're expected to play in it. I think a lot of depression happens when the stories people have grown up with start to lose their power, and become less and less convincing. Until finally their story-meter is at it's lowest, and they get to the "What's the point?" stage. Then we start writing new stories for ourselves (because we have no choice, it's how are brains are put together). Sometimes they're positive and we find new motivation, but too often they're negative stories. I'm all for positive stories, religious, scientific, philosophical, romantic, whatever, as long as they make people feel good and motivate them to be good, or try to be at least. I just think that it is possible for people to let go of most of their old stories, and still get along just fine and even find a measure of contentment. But of course, that's just my story😉
I'm afraid we disagree fundamentally on what we believe causes depression, I believe depression is caused when a person experiences unacceptable stressors and employs coping mechanisms to block out those stressors i.e. mentally withdraw from the cause of the stressors, rely on comforting fantasies or distractions and try to bury their feelings to avoid the emotional pain the stressors are causing. These coping mechanisms work in the short term and can be very effective, acting as a strong buffer, but in the long term they cause a habit of withdrawing from problems rather than facing them, and numbing yourself, unfortunately, any strong habit is backed by strengthening neurological pathways which support the behaviour and letting others wither, causing the brain to eventually find it difficult to do anything else. This isolates the person emotionally from the world around them which only makes them rely on those coping mechanisms even more to cope with the isolation and they get stuck in a downward cycle they are no longer equipped to escape from as their brain slowly reorders itself to lock out all external stimuli worth a damn and trap you in a cold internal mental space of misery.

It is this over-strengthening of certain neurological pathways which I believe causes depression to have that Pandora's box effect, that once you have had it, you are so SO much more susceptible to it because it takes a long time for those pathways to weaken once strengthened to such a degree, the only hope for it is to continuously avoid falling into the same patterns and instead form new ones and strengthen those instead (See CBT).

I do agree with your idea of meaning being derived largely from the stories we tell ourselves, I hadnt considered this type of meaning, though I would suggest that life also has meaning depending on the parts others portray you as in their stories, and to me at least, maybe more so than your own story. The problem with this idea is that there is so little in my life at the moment that fits any story I want to be a part of. I have stories I want to be part of, and not silly ones like "I want to be rich" or "I want to be famous" or "I want to be the best in the world at blah blah blah...." but I am as far from living those stories as I was 10 years ago, and I cant help noticing those 10 years having passed, and even more worrying, I cant help noticing how few years I have left to before those stories are lost to me.
 

Human Ex Machinae

Void Where Prohibited
#13
I'm afraid we disagree fundamentally on what we believe causes depression, I believe depression is caused when a person experiences unacceptable stressors and employs coping mechanisms to block out those stressors i.e. mentally withdraw from the cause of the stressors, rely on comforting fantasies or distractions and try to bury their feelings to avoid the emotional pain the stressors are causing. These coping mechanisms work in the short term and can be very effective, acting as a strong buffer, but in the long term they cause a habit of withdrawing from problems rather than facing them, and numbing yourself, unfortunately, any strong habit is backed by strengthening neurological pathways which support the behaviour and letting others wither, causing the brain to eventually find it difficult to do anything else. This isolates the person emotionally from the world around them which only makes them rely on those coping mechanisms even more to cope with the isolation and they get stuck in a downward cycle they are no longer equipped to escape from as their brain slowly reorders itself to lock out all external stimuli worth a damn and trap you in a cold internal mental space of misery.

It is this over-strengthening of certain neurological pathways which I believe causes depression to have that Pandora's box effect, that once you have had it, you are so SO much more susceptible to it because it takes a long time for those pathways to weaken once strengthened to such a degree, the only hope for it is to continuously avoid falling into the same patterns and instead form new ones and strengthen those instead (See CBT).
This is the mechanistic, physical, 'nuts and bolts', hardware component of depression and there's no disputing any of it, I fully agree. But what I've talked about here is the human operating system, not the hardware. Both are equally important, and each powerfully impacts the other. Our OS can change our hardware, carve out new neural pathways, new ways of thinking and behaving. The way it can do that is by adopting different belief systems and stories. By 'belief systems', I'm not talking about religions, or just religions. 'Belief systems' encompasses every single aspect of human existence and how we experience what we call reality. And yes, that includes science. 99.9% of the information currently in my head consists of stuff that I've been told, stories, that I choose to believe are true. And of course stories that I've told myself. Even my own past is no less of a story than my imaginary future. The only concrete, objective fact in my head is that my butt is on a couch at this moment, but, if you put some philosophers together in a room, you could probably get a heated argument going even about that.
I do agree with your idea of meaning being derived largely from the stories we tell ourselves, I hadnt considered this type of meaning, though I would suggest that life also has meaning depending on the parts others portray you as in their stories, and to me at least, maybe more so than your own story. The problem with this idea is that there is so little in my life at the moment that fits any story I want to be a part of. I have stories I want to be part of, and not silly ones like "I want to be rich" or "I want to be famous" or "I want to be the best in the world at blah blah blah...." but I am as far from living those stories as I was 10 years ago, and I cant help noticing those 10 years having passed, and even more worrying, I cant help noticing how few years I have left to before those stories are lost to me.
I think maybe what you're going through is what people experience when they continually think about their lives in their entirety. Putting all your 30 years of past, together with all of your imagined future, and then rendering a verdict. What's lost in there is the present moment, which is the sole thing that anyone ever really has. Instead of writing a story for yourself that's about your entire lifetime, write one just for today. One day is one very important and necessary stage in a long, long journey.
 

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