Why Existentialist Are More Prone to Depression

Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it. ~André Gide

Unexpected events happened everyday, be it good or bad. Sometimes there is no such thing as “good” or “bad”, it just depends on where we are standing and our subjective perspective of the events happening. If we scrutinise our daily activity in the last two weeks and wonder to ourselves, how many unexpected has happened so far? More importantly, how has the event(s) gave impact to our life right now or in the future? Most of the time we found that our daily activity as a routine was quite dull, involving work at the office, got home in tired condition then prepare for the next day. However, there are special days that excite us like a kid on Christmas and depressing day that lead us to think about the choices we have made as time goes by.

The idea of life without limit and pursuing teenage dream doesn’t excite us anymore because we have been let down so many times trying. There is one thing for sure though, if we stopped trying we will not get it, on the other hand if we keep trying there is no promise or guarantee that we will eventually got what we want. Before we dwelled with the possibility of living the life itself, there is one basic question that is crucial in attaining such life. Do we know what we want? I mean how do you imagine yourself living the “ideal” life? The rule of thumb is to be as specific as you can, what level of income would satisfy your lifestyle, what would you do daily, where would you live if you had the chance, with whom, and various questions we should have asked ourselves in the past.

Recently I have got mostly either ordinary or slightly depressing day instead of exciting one. It leads me to reflect more deeply into my wave of thoughts and found a way to improve the situation, but sometimes I was so tired going around the same thoughts and thinking path again and again that I finally fall asleep at night. In the morning I would drag myself to the routines I have to do and try to resolve yesterday’s thought, or last week thoughts, it doesn’t matter when the thoughts came to me but I need to resolve the thought I currently have in my mind. Until recently I came to the conclusion from most of the thoughts I had daily, it was coming from the difference of life I expected myself to live in and the life I actually live in today. It was a simple “gap” issue between expectation and reality. I think this is why people gone crazy (literally, like schizophrenia) or become narcissist (the wish that people would adore or pay attention to him/her) when they couldn’t bear their situation anymore.

I think I was in the edge of this cliff, I was tiptoeing on the edge of the cliff while looking at the depth of the cleft between the rocky landscape, thinking of what would happened if I just jump. The jump, I think would be quite easy, however the way back to the top if I ever want to get back to sanity would be pulling teeth, if not impossible at all. The fights in our mental life may be more cruel than the bodily needs, which could be satisfied by decent shelter, clothes and food.

Enduring such fierce fight isn’t easy for people who don’t know why or how they are constantly revisited by depression or volatility in moods, the answer lies in the mixture and concentration of neurotransmitter in our brain. Happiness is simply an elevated serotonin level in our blood that flows to the brain; fear and stress is an increase in adrenaline and oxytocin in the bloodstream; sadness caused by the problem in GABA re-uptake. That is the beauty of medicine, today we understand why and how to “fix” various mental condition using the neurotransmitter that could be stimulated by medical treatment. Had I not understand the complex process of thinking, I might succumb to depression already by thinking that something is wrong with myself instead of the mixture inside my bloodstream.

Luckily, not everyone in the world is so prone to this mental issue. Existentialist is the most vulnerable population to fall in depression, for thousand of years human have been wondering about life itself, a group of cell trying to understand itself (or not). Why do we live, where does our soul reside, what’s happening after death, those are questions with vague answer and could hardly resolved with technological advancement. Human have not produced satisfying answer regarding such questions and therefore, existentialist feel as if life itself is not worth living. What is the point in reproducing a next generation whose main purpose is to reproduce the next generation until we don’t know when. Even if we have explore beyond Earth and to other galaxy, what is the point other than knowing that there is such place?

Why should I wake up in the morning? Why should I work? Why should I earn money to make a good living? On a single person it leads to the basic question of why do I (want to) live? Would the world stopped if  I hadn’t live? I doubt so, I don’t even think that he world could be defined as “better” or “worse” without me. It is simply what it is. There are no universal agreement on the answer, so far I found that it depends on own’s religious, party, and other beliefs (hedonist, stoicism, etc.).

Instead of wasting my time trying to find common beliefs on why we live or why we want to live, I’m trying to circumvent the issue by thinking that now I am alive, how should I live to make it meaningful? Meaningful to myself and the next generation, in the small hope that eventually there will be a generation that could answer the basic question. Remember about the gap between expectation and reality I talked about earlier? I think that is one way to make living more reasonable for existentialist and possibly hedonist, while doing things that will benefit next generation. It might have been confusing to you already, but hold with me on the last rhetorical question I will propose. Why would you want to live as your expectation?

Without any offence or arrogance to anyone, I truly think it is better for people to do their routine everyday and enjoying the time they have with people they care about rather than thinking about philosophical question that leads nowhere, like what an existentialist does almost everyday.



About Journeyman

A global macro analyst with over four years experience in the financial market, the author began his career as an equity analyst before transitioning to macro research focusing on Emerging Markets at a well-known independent research firm. He read voraciously, spending most of his free time following The Economist magazine and reading topics on finance and self-improvement. When off duty, he works part-time for Getty Images, taking pictures from all over the globe. To date, he has over 1200 pictures over 35 countries being sold through the company.
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