Consumerism, insatiable greed for waste
Depression like so many other (so called) psychomental (my word) troubles (ADHD, Autism, etc.) is a product of our modern lifestyle; created by the physical and perceptional “base-line “for “normal“ behavior.
The physical world we have created and within which the incidence of psychomental troubles is most rapidly rising is the densely populated city. It is a totally unnatural environment made of concrete, steel, glass and asphalt. It compels us to breathe hydrocarbon polluted air, eat nutritionally harmful or vacuous food (check any fast food menu or supermarket tomato or strawberry for details), and drink plasticized bottled water. I will not go into the subject of the plethora of chemicals we plaster onto our bodies in the name of beauty?
We have created no less than 900 new-to-nature chemicals, thought of as hormone interrupters; I leave you to imagine the effect that that has on our poorly equipped bodies and minds.
Generally, nature is absent from our daily life. We and nature are strangers, distant relatives, and therefore we have become estranged from an important and deep aspect of our own natures. We do not, in a personal sense, understand nature as Thoreau came to, when he was at Walden Pond (recommended reading: Life in the woods by Henry Thoreau but please do not label me a modern Transcendentalist – an American aberration)
We are ignorant to the slowly changing rhythms of nature, through the seasons, and year after year. We can only see time passing in the faces of our loved ones, or the mirror, but we do not experience the naturalness of the passage of time via a changing, slowly morphing landscape around us. We have lost the mirroring experience which the natural world provides us around the experience of time, the naturalness of it, as we might experience, if we lived connected to nature. And so we are left with an experiential void which is filled by a tremendous existential aloneness and anxiety about the strangeness of death, which seems quite disconnected from our lives, and therefore fails to inform our lives with meaning and value. We are no longer chaperoned through the stages of our lives by nature. And so we cling to youth, attempting to freeze time.
In the purely physical universe, where there is no inherent meaning, and no dialogue with nature, we seek solace in the physical. We buy what we don't need, because it is supposed to make us feel or look good or safer. In the process, we become alienated from our families and from ourselves.
Furthermore, as a culture, western society has lost its center, and has become disoriented, and without a higher purpose. The capitalistic ethos seems to have replaced a constitutional, higher purpose or imperative. Value and values have dissolved into a sludge of wherewithal, celebrity and virtual reality.
Social and cultural destruction is very real, yet we, as individuals, as political parties, as families and, communities, are willingly unconscious of the clear evidence that our current approach to human existence is failing.
The definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result) can certainly be applied to Western civilization.
And so, to come back to the point at hand - if one is living in a fundamentally imbalanced and insane culture, is it surprising that greater and greater numbers of individuals are presenting with psychomental troubles?
It seems that on a collective level, higher numbers of psychomentals and non-functioning individuals are already causing a negative feedback loop to the growth of the culture, via excessive health care costs, comorbid conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, and reduced viability of the individual, the family unit and therefore the community - all known sequelae of psychomental troubles.
If we can learn about and understand the links between the brain and the immune system, and between diet and mood, must we not wonder about the links between the culture and individual behavior, between the stresses of Western psychology and the craving for something to satisfy the inner emptiness? Is there not then a link between this craving, and the purchase of material goods (and the attendant stresses of paying for them), just as there is between the intake of sweets and the subsequent inflammatory response?
Ultimately, reduction of the incidence and prevalence of psychomental troubles on the public health scale will not come from pharmacology, individual psychotherapy, or from snake oil. It will come from a re-connection of the individual with the larger whole of the family, the community, a purposeful culture, and a dialogue with nature and meaning. This will require a rebalancing of the male-dominated, individualistic, domination oriented culture (in which reason and logic are the only way of knowing) with the feminine, wholistic, interactive and participatory approach to life. We, as human beings need a balance of both to thrive. Socioeconomic and political efforts to incorporate such an integrated view of ourselves, the world and our futures are the therapy which this culture requires, if we are to stem the rising tide of psychomental troubles.
In the many older cultures (e.g., Chinese, Indian), the collective community is responsible for the well-being and good behavior of the individual. So too, must the larger Western society and culture be held accountable for its role in the mental health and wellbeing of individuals.