August 22, 2021•1,813 words
When I read nonfiction, I tend to summarize each chapter to help remember what I've learned. Lost Connections by Johann Hari is all about depression and anxiety; what causes it, and how to work through it. With mental health issues and addiction on the rise, there's no better time than now to read up on it. Whether you suffer from depression and anxiety or not, it will at the very least help you understand those who do. Purchase a copy yourself at https://thelostconnections.com/
Part I: Nine Causes of Depression and Anxiety
Cause One: Disconnection from Meaningful Work.
Those with what we'd identify as difficult, "stressful" jobs actually are the least "stressed" due to creative control. An "easier" job usually means monotonous and inconsequential; there's no reason, or perhaps no way, to "excel" at your work. You simply follow instructions that anyone else could do, with no say on how to do anything. A sense of hopelessness & futility arises.
Cause Two: Disconnection from Other People.
We are a tribal species. To be alone means you're not with your crew, which is dangerous. Loneliness is your body telling you that things are wrong; get back to your crew. In today's society, you can be at home and feel "homesick," as our neighborhoods and nuclear families dissolve into solitude. "Only you can help yourself" is utter BS and exacerbates this toxic "Lone Wolf" idealism.
Cause Three: Disconnection from Meaningful Values.
Society bombards us with advertisements (in all media, not just literal ads) that is designed to reveal our "flaws" and offer a material solution. This focus on extrinsic values (I am running around my neighborhood not for fun but because I will be so fucking happy once my body reaches capitalism's- I mean society's beauty ideals) instead of intrinsic values (I am running around my neighborhood because I realized that I actually feel pretty damn good when my heart is racing. holy shit I understand rollercoasters now). We all understand that intrinsic values are more important, according to polls, but it's hard to put that into action when you're literally told to work hard at school to get into a gooder school to get a good degree to get a good job to get a good car/house to get a good family to get a good message written on your tombstone after you're long forgotten by your family & society due to ageism and gradual dissolution of familial bonds.
Cause Four: Disconnection from Childhood Trauma.
In classic capitalist fashion, extremely obese ladies were sent to a no-holds-barred weight-loss program in a last-ditch effort to ease the financial strain obesity has on the healthcare industry. A guy literally starves them, while they took supplements for essential nutrients, and they did indeed lose hundreds of pounds. When most of them regained their weight upon exiting the program, the guy has the novel idea of asking them about their lives. More than half of the ladies were sexually abused, and nearly all of them had a traumatic childhood. Weight was a protective measure to escape the eyes of men. You physically feel less vulnerable. And society's expectations of you are lowered. Obesity, depression, anxiety, etc can be seen as reasonable responses to deeply-seated psychological stress.
Cause Five: Disconnection from Status and Respect.
There is a huge gap in status in modern society. If you perceive yourself to be a loser, then lo' and behold, you will feel like one too. And everyone is a loser here. Bosses get paid 500 times more than their employees. Social media shows how better everyone else is. Depression is the natural "submission response." We lower our heads and concede defeat to our superiors and the world. Our stress hormone is released when our status is low (I am nobody, walk over me) and when our status is threatened (Am I doing alright at work? Is my social media game strong?) which is happening constantly.
Cause Six: Disconnection from the Natural World.
Prisoners who can see nature outside their window are hella less depressed than those who only see concrete structures outside their window. Animals exhibit freak behavior when entrapped in exhibits. We feel more embodied when we are before Mother Nature. You're much less likely to be stuck in your head when you've got an enormous mountain or forest looking down at your puny little sack of water of a body.
Cause Seven: Disconnection from a Hopeful or Secure Future.
You can't plan for the future while depressed. You can't plan for the future when you're not sure how many hours of work you'll get next week, or when you can't keep a job for very long. If you have no control of where your life is going, then you are at the mercy of the market. If you're feeling bad now, it is hard to cope with when you're not sure if things will be better in the future.
Causes Eight and Nine: The Real Role of Genes and Brain Changes.
Your brain is a lot different when you're depressed compared to when you're not. But the same goes for literally anything you do; your brain changes constantly, kind of like a muscle. The stress induced by the disconnections mentioned in these past chapters will shape your brain, and you will be more frantic and distrusting. But reconnecting those disconnects will shape it too, for the better. Depression is also genetic, but not in a hopeless way. The genes associated with depression only activate in certain distressing scenarios. Lastly, it's not good that we think of depression as an illness/disease. It's not only a chemical imbalance; it's a social imbalance. Situational imbalance. There are biological AND psychological AND social causes to all of this. So please, don't tell a depressed dude that they're lazy and just need to get a grip, and instead give them a hug and ask how their day's going, and maybe invite them to an event sometime.
Part II: Reconnection. Or, a Different Kind of Antidepressant
An older man was injured, to the point that his work was too much for him. He was severely depressed. Instead of a drug prescription, however, he was given a cow. Instead of plowing fields which was slowly killing him, he'd take care of cows, and he felt capable again.
We Built This City:
An old lady put a sign on her window that she was going to kill herself right before her date of eviction. People began to visit her, and before you knew it, they staged a protest to keep rent low. The neighborhood would take turns blockading a main street, and they began to get to know each other. Conservative muslims were hanging out with liberal gays. A homeless man was given shelter by a fellow protestor. Homeless man was arrested & sent back to the mental hospital, but then was released after all the neighbors protested the hospital for a few days, because he was obviously going to do much better in the care of his friends.
Reconnection One: To Other People
Tbh I have this one mixed up with the Social Prescribing chapter. I think it talked about how we no longer revolve our lives around the Church, which forced a community with shared morals/ideals. People used to consider their neighborhood as "home." Then "home" became just your family. Even familial bonds are breaking. Thusly, it's common to be at home and yet feel strangely homesick.
Reconnection Two: Social Prescribing
There's a hospital that helps solve the social issues their patients have, not just their physical/mental issues. With one project, a group of patients were told to take care of a rough plot of land in the urban city twice a week. They began to learn about agriculture with each other. They call this sort of treatment "social prescribing," and it succeeds in helping people bond with others.
Reconnection Three: To Meaningful Work:
A pretty radical democratization of the workplace helps bring meaning into what we spend the majority of our time doing. The author gave an example of workers at a bike repair shop starting their own shop when the owner refused to improve working conditions. Each worker at the new shop had a say in everything; if two people agreed on an idea, they'd then vote on whether they'd implement it. Unsurprisingly, the bike shop did amazingly well financially since they had 10+ heads tackling problems instead of just one. Unions have a bad rep, but it's the best solution we have for now to regain better work environments & more control. Unfettered capitalism is the world's most virulent pyramid scheme.
Reconnection Four: To Meaningful Values:
It's possible to undo the materialism ingrained in our worldview. Kids and adults alike were essentially told to think about how they felt at different stages of acquiring a perceived want. They found that most of the joy was found in the anticipation of it, and not when it was obtained. A few stubborn adults refused to admit this, but that just shows how ingrained this mentality is. The heart wants what adverts flaunt.
Reconnection Five: Sympathetic Joy, and Overcoming Addiction to the Self
He goes into loving-kindness meditation and how it helped his envious friend "fake it until she makes it," and became more empathetic just by imagining good things happening to people she loves/dislikes/hates and feeling happy for them about it. Meditation masters exhibit the same subjective experiences as those who undertake large doses of hallucinogens, "losing" their self and reconnecting with life. Should be noted that these drugs should be taken with the utmost care in a safe environment, because our ego-self is what gets us through life, and it can be very scary to lose it for a little while.
Reconnection Six: Acknowledging and Overcoming Childhood Trauma
There was a research study whereby patients would fill out whether they suffered certain traumatic events as a kid. Then, their doctors would casually bring up the trauma, tell them that should never have happened to them, then ask if they'd like to talk about it. A few declined, but most obliged and talked about their experience. Those who talked about their traumatic event were much less likely to be seen in the doctor's office again; not due to shame, but because simply talking about their trauma helped them dramatically.
Reconnection Seven: Restoring the Future
Universal Basic Income was shown to improve both the physical & mental health of the Canadian citizens in the four-year UBI project by a drastic amount. It's also worth noting that social changes are happening rapidly, and so even if it seems like a far-fetched idea, it's totally plausible for it be pulled off once conditions are drastic enough. Hopefully sooner.