Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
In recent times, I have been thinking about the role depression plays in the formation of thoughtful people. As a matter of fact, it seems that many people having gone through depression develop a particular inclination towards ruminating and engaging in long lasting dialogues with themselves.
There are many forms of depression, and some of them might rather result in the annihilation of thought. Still, for those forms of depression that imply thoughtful anxiety, existential crisis, excessive self-criticism and the like, there seems to be a tight connection between the experience of depression and “thinking a lot”.
It could be argued that depression can positively influence the depth of some people’s mind or even that depression could be a source of deep thinking. I disagree with a position of this kind: not only I think that depression plays only a negative role in the activity of thinking, by obstructing its development; I also think that depression is a bad teacher.
I consider the activity of thinking as a progressive process, whereas depression is a psychological state, detrimental of this process. Thinking in depression becomes harder, and could fall into a regress. From the outside, it might seem as if the thinker thinks more intensely: she is actually imprisoned and her thinking is not depressed because of its depressive content, or because it is “too much”. It is depressed because depression is like a disease, a distorting filter for our mental instruments of inquiry of the world outside.
Have you ever observed flies with damaged wings? They start rotating on themselves on the ground. The more they try to fly away, the faster they keep twirling, but without going any further. Depression is like a disease infecting our thinking activity in such a way that we start running in circles, like those unfortunate flies.
In a certain sense, depression increases thoughtfulness. But if ever there are progressive merits on the side of the depressed thinker, they belong to what remains of the healthy, non-depressed thoughts.
Thoughtfulness is often stigmatized in our societies as one symptom of depression. This stigma is undeserved, for healthy thoughtfulness is progressive. On the other hand, depression is not simply the excess of thoughtfulness. It is something that breaks the rhythm of thinking, and forces it in obsessive circularities.
Even if some philosophers desire to live in societies constituted only of deep thinkers, it could be the case that thoughtfulness is a matter of personality, rather than will. In my opinion, being a philosopher usually implies to follow those thoughts that are sometimes abandoned by others. Philosophy could be understood as the activity of adopting thoughts, rejoicing at the sight of their growth and fall.
Many philosophers teach us that we shouldn’t be scared to be thoughtful, if we have such an inclination. We shouldn’t neglect the inner children we keep inside, chasing fireflies in the night of what we don’t know yet. And if someone forgets one’s own inner child, it could always be the case that a philosopher passing by might raise it, as if it were her own.
It takes courage to chase thoughts. You never know the place they are leading you to. Sometimes, they force you to abandon the comfortable house of your strongest convictions. They also come with the price of loneliness. In exchange, they repay you with strength. A strength so great, you might even defeat depression.