Is it possible for a country to lose its mind? Go insane? Crazy? Mad?
Following the bizarre shenanigans to the south, I can’t help but think that if this was a movie, it would be either outrageous comedy or political-horror-disaster all wrapped up in one. No one would believe it.
No wonder several of my muses on the blogosphere are taking the day off, shutting down their computers, and trying to recharge. The economy is depressing them.
I won’t even mention their pathetic Republican Vice-Presidential candidate, who mangles the English language so masterfully the media don’t really know what to do with her. As far as I’m concerned, they’re all too kind.
It’s this business of becoming depressed over the economy.
Several weeks ago, in the venerable New York Times, an opinion piece by Ronald Pies, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts and the State of New York Upstate Medical Centre, suggested that normal sadness should be considered “clinical” depression and medicated.
That “normal sadness” – like grieving the death of a spouse – needs an injection of some chemical concoction to juice up the serotonin levels of the brain’s neurotransmitters to cheer people up. Sadness? Depression? Let’s just smooth them all out so everybody feels “numb and up.”
I’ll never forget what David Kendall told me once. He’s a brilliant journalist and a damn fine writer. We worked together for years at The Toronto Sun. “The best writing comes out of sadness,” he use to say. I would venture to guess the best art comes from extreme emotion. Anger, rage, misery, despondency.
How would Van Gogh would have fared on Zoloft or Paxil. Would we still have “Starry Night” or just some lovely little landscape. Hemmingway may not have shot himself, but would he have written his tough, spare, piercing prose?
Years ago, before all these drugs had conquered psychiatry and quashed the fine art of psychotherapy, I went to a psychiatrist named Jack Birnbaum. He did group therapy. Dr. Birnbaum, who died two years ago, started out as a family doctor in the days when GPs made house calls.
When he found he was spending so much time sitting at kitchen tables listening to the emotional and psychological woes of his patients, he went back to school to become a psychiatrist.
He wrote many books, including “Cry Anger” and one of his philosophical underpinnings was that sadness was anger turned inward. We sweated it out in his group sessions hitting pillows with tennis rackets. The pillows usually represented people we were angry at but made us feel sad. It felt great whacking the hell out of them. Maybe it was the exercise that hiked our serotonin levels, but I think not. We were exercising our anger, something our society rarely gives us an opportunity to do – outside of a gym. We have to control our anger. So we get sad instead of mad. Not healthy. That was his contention, anyway.
Emotions are healthy. They make us human. Without them, we turn into robots. We die inside.
Understanding our emotions. Learning to live with them. Managing them is all part of being responsible human beings. I don’t want to lose my rages and my temper and my passion. Emotions are passion. Without passion, where is creativity?
It’s a question of cause. What comes first? The chicken or the egg? The depression or the Depression?
This week, Philip Dawdy introduced an amazing new blog – chemicalimbalance.org – on his blog Furious Seasons. Created by Jonathan Leo, an osteopath and dean at Lincoln Memorial University, and Jeffrey Lacasse, a psychologist at Arizona State University, “the pair are responsible for defangling the chemical imbalance theory of depression in a seminal paper in PLoS in 2005 and of another paper in which they document the media's reliance on incorrect or overstated (take your pick) chemical imbalance theories. The two are a bit of a SWAT team,” Philip wrote.
The tag line of their blog is “Science, Mental Health, and the Media.”
Take note and start considering not believing everything you read in the press about the chemical imbalance business. These two are collecting lots of solid evidence to prove otherwise.
As for the mood of our American brothers and sisters, I suggest they have good reason for feeling down and there isn’t a pharmaceutical on the planet that’s going to lift their moods.
It’s depressing. And it's healthy.