Jordan Peterson provides some great insight on how to deal with depression in his youtube video Reality And The Sacred. I have transcribed the video here.
Important takeaways from his talk on how to deal with depression include:
* When you are dealing with a person who is really depressed have them try antidepressants. If they die you can’t help them. Some people are against them but don’t toss out any possible solutions because you might not have the luxury. My opinion is that I know it is a touchy subject but if you or someone you know is depressed it is worth talking to a professional about all your options. I have resources provided in the “Need Help?” tab of the website.
* Live in reality, grow up, and take responsibility. Just like how Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up some people don’t want to grow up. But what is Peter Pan King of? An imaginary world, so, nothing.
* Create order in your life. Wake up at the same time every day. Get a job. It gives you a reason to wake up at the same time every day. Not waking up at the same time every day throws your circadian rhythms alone is enough to make you depressed. A job gives you structure.
* Create a basic foundation to build up from. Get a job, even if it isn’t one you like. Make friends. Work towards an intimate relationship. Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Take care of your health. Get up every morning at the same time. Have a purpose. Don’t sacrifice your stability. These are foundational pillars to use to build your life on.
* Positive emotion is a consequence of seeing things working as you proceed towards a goal you value. This is in contrast to thinking that achieving a major goal will make you happy, when in fact it leaves you with “what do I do now?”. For example the people that think they will be happy for months after finally handing in their PHD Thesis. They end up feeling depressed because they don’t know what to do with themselves anymore.
“Almost all the positive emotion that any of you are likely to experience in your life will not be a consequence of attaining things, it will be a consequence of seeing that things are working as you proceed towards a goal you value.”
* Most of our positive emotion is goal pursuit emotion. The reason people enjoy drugs like cocaine or amphetamine is because they turn on the systems that help you pursue goals.
* You can’t force structure on yourself. Negotiate with yourself. Figure out your aims. Even if you are so depressed you feel like you don’t have any aims, pick the least objectionable aim. Act it out for a while if you have to and after enough time you will start to believe it.
Small accruing gains that repeat unbelievably powerful.
Ask yourself what you’re willing to do in order to have a good day. What would you need to do to have an interesting day and one where you didn’t feel guilty for not getting done things you said you were going to do? If you practice this for three or four days your brain will tell you.
For example it will tell you “Well you know there’s that piece of homework that haven’t done for like three weeks you should knock that sucker off because it would only take you ten minutes and you’ve been avoiding it and torturing yourself to death for like 72 hours straight.” And then once you have that done you can focus on other interesting things and not have the weight of the obligation hanging over you.
* Look at your life and you can see what isn’t right about it. Notice what you can fix and what you can’t. Focus on what you can in fact fix. People often try to fix what they can’t fix.
* The power of story of your environment.
“Here’s a classic experiment. You take two groups undergraduates, you bring them into your lab and you give one group a multiple-choice test that has a bunch of words in it that are associated with being old and you give the other group the same multiple-choice test except the words are associated with being young. This is independent of the content of the test. It’s just descriptions and then you time the undergraduates as they walk back to the elevators.
The ones who completed the multiple-choice test that had more words associated with aging walk slower back to the elevators and they don’t know that they are doing it. That study has been replicated in various forms many many times. You’re unbelievably sensitive to the story that your environment is telling you because your environment is not made out of objects, that’s just wrong.”
Life can be meaningful enough to justify its suffering. Some people will tell you what you can be happy, those people are idiots. There’s gonna be things that come along that flatten you so hard you won’t believe it, and you’re not happy then and so if life is to be happy well in those situations what are you doing. Why even live. But life isn’t to be happy. If you’re happy you’re fortunate and you should enjoy it you should because it’s the grace of God so to speak.
* You’re not meant to be happy all the time.
* Focus on meaningful things! You know when you are doing something meaningful, so why not do meaningful things all the time? The struggle is because people want you to do other things but everything is a struggle.
* YOU HAVE A CHOICE WHEN IT COMES TO MEANING
People have a choice. Choice number one, nothing you do means anything. Well that’s kind of a drag right. Meaninglessness of life and all that existential angst you know that’s kind of a pain but the upside of nothing that you do is meaningful so you don’t have to do anything. You’ve got no responsibility now. You have to suffer because things are meaningless but that’s a small price to pay for being able to be completely useless.
The alternative is everything you do matters. If you make a mistake, it’s a real mistake. If you betray someone you tilt the world a little more sharply towards evil rather than good. It matters what you do well. If you buy that then you can have a meaningful life but there’s no mucking around. It means responsibility, it means that the decisions you make are important, it means that when you do something wrong it’s wrong. Well do you want that?