Depressive realism, a new philosophical and psychological current

In the fantastic film of 'Melancholia' (Lars Von Trier, 2011) a stellar Kristen Dunst pushes his sister in fiction (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and his nephew to remain under "a magic cave" built by four branches. The Apocalypse will arrive imminently. This final film scene reveals a peculiar reason for being in the face of the tragedy of knowing that the world is ending: Dunst's character, unlike his sister, suffers from a strong neurosis With depressive dyes that has taken his family life to ruin. But it is precisely that death drive, that desire for everything to end at once, the one that wakes him up and grants some heroism at the end of the movieat least enough to save their family from themselves in the face of disaster.

Minutes before, the husband has hidden in the barn and takes a bottle of pills that make him lose consciousness instantly so he does not have to witness the end. He was the protagonist that carried the rational and vitalist role of the movie, reprimanding Dunst several times for Your erratic behavior. Thus, the world ends and it seems that everything acquires a much more distant perspective: dreams, aspirations and material wealth fade as the minutes pass, they no longer have any validity, because death establishes its devastating truth and absolute. For humans, life seems to have no meaningor: It's going to end.

In our world, psychology fills a void left by religion, serves to give explanations and hope for a better life

This attitude of Dunst who knew how to represent the director so well, also suffering from various mental ailments and depressive disorders, has taken shape in recent years to the point that some authors, philosophers and researchers, contemplate with not so bad eyes depressed condition, especially in opposition to the notion of happiness that has been constituted as total categorical taxation within the capitalist productive system.

A world full of smiles

Happiness as a feeling of personal affirmation that is allowed to shine in all existing social relationships: at work (nobody wants a depressed employee for fear of taking medical leave, or voluntary, or in any case that is not proactive), on the virtual level (most of the photos and content that are uploaded to platforms such as Facebook or Instagram they have the desire to demonstrate success and satisfaction, opulence and exclusivity) or on the relational or affective level (we live so within the chain that we cannot dedicate a single second to those people who seem to be detached from it).

These aspects are some of those reported in 'Happycracy', of Edgar Cabanas and Eva Illouz, who ensure that happiness is shown as a kind of individual decision by which, If you're not happy, it's because you don't want to. As if you have not got the job of your dreams (in this case because you have not tried hard enough) or you are sick (you have not taken care of yourself as much as you should).

But, What is depression How is it different from the common sadness we all feel at certain moments in our life? To know, we would have to resort to etymology. The word and its use emerged with the rise of psychoanalytic disciplines of the 19th century. Before, the term referring to this condition was "melancholia" (Interestingly, Von Trier's work is titled like this), and "depression," was just his symptom, when it seems to be the opposite today. Depending on the authors consulted, the reason for this semantic inversion is different.

Against psychiatry and its therapies

One of the most interesting is that of the British psychoanalyst Darian Leader, President of the College of Psychoanalysts, who collects the tradition of other thinkers as Michel Foucault, whereby the psychiatric clinic is nothing more than another device of biopolitical power that establishes A sense of domination. “Depression here is conceived as a biological problem, similar to a bacterial infection. Which requires a specific biological remedy. Patients must be returned to their previous states, productive and happy. In other words, the exploration of human interiority is being replaced with a fixed idea of mental hygiene We must eliminate the problem, rather than understand it, ”writes Leader in his book 'Black fashion: grief, melancholy and depression' (2012), in a fragment collected from a great article on the subject in 'Marginal Reflections'.

For Freud, his mission was to help patients accept and reflect on life's hell

Julie Reshe, philosopher and psychoanalyst of the University of Tyunmen in Siberia, collects a key idea in an academic study published in 'Aeon' that not only invites us to think, but somehow endorses the theory of psychiatry as a device for controlling bodies and misdirected human desires: “The roots of the modern tendency to positivity can be found in the religious past, which once provided people with certain guidelines for life and the notion of salvation, offering a solid image of the world with a happy ending. In our secular world, psychology fills a void left by religion, it serves to give explanations and hope in a better life, ”he writes, making clear his past as a patient of depression. In this sense, today it would be possible to compare the world of self-help literature with the old catechisms as clumsy ways to alleviate a desperation impossible to alleviate, as the philosopher would also think Kierkegaard.

Reshe does not speak from the cold objectivity, but also recognizes herself as a patient and victim of the psychiatric system, having fought with depressive symptoms throughout her life. Thus, for example, criticize the treatments to which patients are subjected, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as a kind of theatrical session in which you will listen to what you want to hear from a rigorous figure that exercises of the priest of the new times or spiritual guide: that is, a psychiatrist. He also quotes Freud, which after having structured a solid and firm thought about the human psyche, ended up recognizing that “neurosis is a lie" or what "psychoanalysis as a therapy has no value" In this sense, the philosopher states: “For Freud, his mission was to help patients accept and reflect on The hell that life meant. Not beyond, but here, on Earth. ”

The birth of "depressive realism"

A 'paper' entitled 'Sadder but wiser?' and published by American psychologists Lauren Alloy and Lyn Yvonne Abramson He delved into the psychological branch that focuses on the pessimistic philosophical tradition to expose certain "useful" aspects of depression, if something truly beneficial can be drawn. In this sense, the disease gives its patients the power to be more realistic, and therefore, wiser about the world around them.

Happy people are more likely to be guided by stereotypes, to go with the flow

Thus, in an experiment conducted on students, the researchers showed that the less melancholic were more likely to live under a false illusion of control over themselves based on self-deception in order to improve their self-esteem. This hypothesis of the depressed realist, Resche points out, “is still conflictive, because it questions the principles of CBT”, which means that it would not be tolerated in any way by the most orthodox psychiatry.

"Depressive Realism" it is, therefore, a current of thought on the way between philosophy and psychiatry, which disregards the precepts of both or originates from an intersection of them. There are more studies. Joseph Forgas, social psychologist, showed in an investigation that this pathological sadness fosters critical thinking in individuals: “It helps reduce prejudices, improve attention, increase perseverance and, in general, promote a more skeptical style of thinking. Definitely, "happy people are more likely to be guided by stereotypes, to go with the flow ”.

Another of the most striking paradoxes of this “Depressive realism"Is the possibility that it is an evolutionary mental mechanism. Like that sadness was similar to the fever that causes a biological infection in the body. From this metaphor, some thinkers assert that The cause of the disease is not fever at all, but one of the symptoms. Therefore, "the fever is not a product of biological malfunction, but a mechanism to fight infection, even if it is unpleasant." In the same way, “Depressive rumination could be a tool of analysis of problems that are expected to be resolved, ”concludes Reshe.

An ethic of care

Finally, Dunst's character in 'Melancholia', unable to lead what is said a conventional life, throw a bitter message to the prey souls of these accelerated times. The most important, after all, are the care we maintain between us, although in many cases they consist of a humble and fragile structure made of four wooden sticks to shelter from a hurricane that promises to take everything ahead. As the Spanish philosopher Marina Garcés said, this is the progress of a healthy and “happy” life with others, towards which we must point, The true revolution.