Existentialism as a treatment for depression
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09-08-2016, 04:40 PM (This post was last modified: 10-08-2016 03:19 AM by SunnyD1.)
Existentialism as a treatment for depression
The aim of this post is just to give a simple introduction to philosophers and writers that have had a positive impact on my mental health. I don't claim to be an expert and there may be many faults, I'd appreciate an education where I am wrong Smile

I've had depression and anxiety for about 5-6 years now (anxiety on and off) and within that time I have massively improved on both fronts.

I still have a rain cloud following me around constantly although it never actually seems to rain anymore. And the thunder is but a distant memory.

So, I thought I'd make a thread that might introduce some philosophies and literature in to peoples lives that have suffered the same as me.

Now, I have tried beta blockers, citalopram, setraline etc and didn't like any (the betas are okay they prevent that pesky night time sound-sensitive anxiety) but I have found that nothing helps my depression quite like existentialism.

I'll start by listing some of the philosophers who's literature and philosophies have been key in this regard of my life. These consist of but are not limited to:
Albert Camus (Ladies woman, polygamist, God.)
Jean-Paul Sartre (Ugly, French.)
Emil Cioran (Fabulous, miserable old git)
Michel de Montaigne (French.)

These are my favourite four, for starters I'll just talk about Camus, then keep editing the post tomorrow or the day after as I have a few essays to finish.

I first started off with Camus when I was 17 as my librarian in high school noted my interest in philosophy and began ordering lots of books for me to take home. His book The Outsider tickled my emphatic senses, I felt like the protagonist, Meursault, was a fictional replica of myself, and the beginning line lit a flame in my heart, I felt a connection. It starts: "Today mother died. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know."

His character made me realise that I'm not the only person who feels the way I do about life. I don't know what it is that makes me feel good when I meet fictional characters that share my (I'd say misfortune, but without it I think I would not have stumbled across such works of art.) depression. Lack of enthusiasm. Impartiality. Characters who are outwardly-impartial yet inwardly-pensive. There is no debate about it, their lives fucking suck.

Camus philosophy can be said to centre around his concept of the Absurd. It is a branch of Nihilism that I find soothing to contemplate. I'm not particularly schooled in philosophy so I'll take a brief yet lacking shot at explaining the Absurd.

In basics, what is meant by Absurd is the absurdity that is human life. It is an underlining of the relationship between humans trying to find inherent meaning in their lives and their failure to do so, yet we will ALWAYS be doing this. Now, the joy I find in this philosophy is what comes next.

Camus says that we are left with 3 options, 2 of which are equally as absurd as the human condition. These options are suicide, a leap of faith, or recognition. The latter being the only viable option.

Henceforth, Camus proposes that by overcoming this absurdity we need to first realise that this process is itself absurd, although as we are humans we will always be afflicted by it. I think what Camus means next is that there is no inherent meaning in life, although no matter what we do it is in our nature to discover or find one. He says that we should give our lives our own meanings. Only then will we live a happy life, distracted from our impending journey to the void.

I said when I mentioned the main character Meursault that his life fucking sucked. It's true, it did. However, Camus has made me notice an absurdity in that comment. Life is not inherently good or bad, it is, as the cliche goes, as we make it. So live it how you want to live it, if that means living it like Meursault, a lonely 9 till 5 second rate citizen, or become a wealthy polygamist like Camus. Give your life your own meaning if that means loving as many people as possible or choosing to live in solitude. Your life may look like it sucks from other peoples standards, but that doesn't matter because in reality, it is every other person in the world who is an outsider, you're the only the who's not.

Sorry if there are any inconsistencies I've been writing all day and my vision is all blurry and it's almost midnight here I'm nackered! Please if you suffer anything such as depression give the works of Camus a try, they are a breath of fresh air. I will update this post daily with more and more philosophers.

Saints live in flames; wise men, next to them.
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09-08-2016, 06:10 PM
RE: Existentialism as a treatment for depression
I never new that The Stranger/The Outsider were the same book, just different translations. I saw you said about The Outsider and was thinking, no that's wrong, it's not that book but realized I have tiny copy of the Outsider here so looked at it and see you were right. It's just that I've only read it in the more seemingly still french fluid version being the Stranger.

It's been a notion philosophically that helped me and I greatly was mentally eased or pleased a bit with the notions of Camus's writing. Not only the novels or stories I've read but his essays such as the notions of the Myth of Sisyphus and his reasoning in contrast to suicide.

It in a way, almost similar in the tiniest bits how existential thought concepts can be to Zen ideas, that you will always lack things and desire things as your human condition. Well the absurdity of it is there, and just being cognizant of it as reality, not something to fear, hide from, deny, but to accept as a reality and move on with that realization.

I liked Sartre[hell my thingermagic/avatar pic that I've always had on this forum is a quote of his], Jaspers (to some extent) and Simon De Beauvoir's but it was more Camus's writers I read after that even more gave me an understanding of how a person can relate to as one could describe, a tragic world. Of course for Camus to have died in a car accident sums up perfectly the way the world can work out and how your life at any moment could go any random direction, potentially leading to your immediate death. It's truly wonderful.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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09-08-2016, 06:15 PM
RE: Existentialism as a treatment for depression
Too bad Camus and De Beauvoir had a falling out after she released The second sex.

I too studied the existentialists before I even heard the term, and that it had been a fad. Many youth go through this. Also read Nietzsche, Kafka, Kant, Kierkegaard etc. Nietzsche especially. Oh and surprisingly, Goethe.

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09-08-2016, 08:41 PM
RE: Existentialism as a treatment for depression

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10-08-2016, 01:58 AM
RE: Existentialism as a treatment for depression


Excellent OP. I have been down much the same road as you and have all the Camus works in 1st English editions. I particularly like his personal notebooks which have been published by Hamish Hamilton and Penguin Books over the years.

Don't often meet anyone who has read Cioran. I'll have a look on my shelves and see what else there is lurking.

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