I'm not asking if philosophy in general can cure depression. I'm asking if the right philosophy (Objectivism) can cure it. Can it? I've been trying to live by what I learned from Ayn Rand, but I don't feel any different.
Can philosophy cure depression?
Some depression may purely or predominantly physiologically caused -- curing such depression requires some kind of physiological intervention, either a diet change, or drugs, or an exercise regimen, or all three.
But assuming the depression is a result of psychology, that means that the depression is a result of the ideas you hold.
A proper philosophy gives you the tools to work on your ideas. These tools are general principles about how to integrate your ideas and root out contradictions. A poor philosophy will tell you that there's no need to root out your contradictions.
A proper philosophy will give you the right reason to work on your ideas: to be happy on earth. A poor philosophy will instead give you an unworkable goal, such as happiness only after death.
Yes, philosophy can cure depression -- indirectly, and long term. Do not expect to become depression free after only a year or even five years of becoming familiar with Objectivism. Even once you become convinced of the truth of Objectivism, that only means you consciously hold it to be true. Working on your subconscious, which amounts to checking implicit premises over and over until you root out the false ones, is a life-long process.
It's also true that some depression is fully rational. For instance, if your beloved wife of 10 years dies suddenly in car accident, there will be depression. If there isn't, then there probably wasn't love. But such depression should not last forever -- if it does, then there's an error in one's ideas -- ideas such as "I'll never be happy without her" or "I'll never find someone like her (and I need someone exactly like her)."
Depression, fundamentally speaking, stems from one idea: "I can't be happy." or "There's nothing worth wanting." Depression is existential discouragement. It's a form of learned helplessness with respect to pursuing values.
Some depressed people make the mistake of doing nothing other than sitting and thinking about why they don't value anything. Such navel-gazing can be fatal.
In my experience, the solution to depression is action which might discover new values. One must work hard to find one's fun. For a depressed person, this can be hard, because nothing is fun. But the pursuit must continue because the alternative could very well be death.
New experiences mean new information to consider in thinking about one's depression. "Why didn't I enjoy doing that? Did I think it was silly? Was I never given permission to enjoy such things?"
New information about life is the lifeline of the depressed. Good philosophy helps you process it right.
If your depression is psychological in origin, the short answer is no, Objectivism will not cure your depression. Only you can do that. Objectivism can't do it for you. Objectivism can provide some powerful tools, but the best tools in the world are useless unless man actually uses them.
(If your depression is fundamentally physiological in origin, Objectivism still won't cure it. You'll most likely need a physiological solution, not a philosophical one, although a psychological approach can sometimes compensate for a physiological problem. The remainder of this answer pertains to the psychological approach.)
Objectivism often says, "Check your premises." That is very good advice, but only you can do the checking. Objectivism can't do it for you.
One premise to check is why you feel depressed. If, for example, you are worried that you may never reach the top levels of fame and fortune compared to others, and that you will be seen by many, including Objectivists, as a total failure in life if you don't, then you should check those premises. Objectivism does not say that everyone has to become rich and famous; far from it. Objectivism says only that one's own life is best served by one's own effort to rise as far in life as one is able and willing, however grand or modest that may be. If others are saying that one is a failure in life if one doesn't become rich and famous, then again that premise should be checked. Who is saying it? Why do they think so? What do you really think and want? What do you realistically believe you can accomplish in your own life, given your own context of knowledge and ability?
Do you want to be a serious cinematic artist, for instance? What themes and metaphysical values do you want to concretize? Do you understand that the content of the art makes all the difference between a rambunctious teenager merely "hamming it up" and a serious artist?
Another premise to check is whether or not you are still as depressed as you may have been when you first started posting on this website. I've certainly seen "signs of life" in many of your postings, and you may actually find that you really have changed in some ways during your time here. It's like being cold and needing a coat. After putting a coat on, you may still find that you are cold and need a warmer coat. But you will probably also be at least a little warmer than when you had no coat at all.
You are probably still very dependent on your parents for your financial support, including all the equipment you've used to make the videos you've shared on this website so far. What steps are you taking to become more financially independent, even if it means working in a less-than-ideal job for awhile as you develop your own financial and artistic resources?
Have you read Ayn Rand's short story, "The Simplest Thing in the World"? (You can find it in her book, The Romantic Manifesto.) Think about all the premises influencing the writer in that story as you continue to check your own premises. In his case, however, he aleady knew his own answer to the question, "What is it that I want to express?" An artist needs to reach that stage before he can consider the question of whether or not others will like his work. Lesser artists may simply struggle to give others whatever they want, regardless of how the artist himself really feels about it. That can certainly be depressing for the artist.
answered May 23 '12 at 23:27
Ideas for Life ♦