What is the root of depression? There are many things that contribute to becoming depressed but what is at the root of it?
There are few, if any, people on earth who don’t struggle with depression in varying degrees. Many are able to overcome it easily and for some it is a greater struggle. For some it can require medical intervention.
Perhaps by understanding the root of depression we can develop better tools to deal with it and overcome it.
We just celebrated our most joyous festival. The holiday of sukkot is called our festival of Joy and following this weeklong celebration we celebrated Simchat Torah which means rejoicing with the Torah.
Depression is the exact opposite of joy. It is very difficult if not impossible to be joyful when you are depressed.
To add to the mix there is actually a mitzvah (commandment) to always be happy and joyful. Not only that but it is referred to as a great mitzvah.
Depression is therefore something we really need to conquer to be able to fulfill this great mitzvah. But how?
Let’s get to the root. At the root of depression is a feeling of insignificance and lack of importance. Which is why depression is mainly a human issue. Deep in our psyche we have a gnawing feeling that we are really just a big nothing. A big zero that does not matter. And as we go through life we try very hard to shake that feeling and sometimes we are successful and at other times we are not.
Our parents telling us we are the best does not really solve the problem. It may even make it worse. When we go out into the world and discover that we are really not the best, it was just our parents telling us that we were the best, can make us feel even more worthless.
In order to combat this feeling we have something called productivity and accomplishments. If you are productive or accomplished than you have something to make you feel important, significant etc. So we have grades, awards, degrees, careers, jobs, family, love, status, wealth, possessions, talents, fame, popularity you name it, to try to give us a sense of worth.
But many of these are temporary and don’t work under all circumstances and even as they work they can at times not even fully convince us and still leave us with a touch of insignificance.
Just think about the person who last year was on the Forbes 400 list and this year got bumped off due to some small economic shift. Many times the very things that make us feel important set us up for disappointment. For example the more money you have, the more you tend to expect things to go your way. Or the better your standard of living, the more you come to expect out of life. And the same goes for all areas of life. The better we get at relationships, the more we expect out of them.
Which could be why the greatest struggle with depression in the world is right here in the USA, since we have such abundance our expectations of life are higher and the disappointment can be greater.
When we get disappointed it triggers our deep feeling of insignificance to rise to the top and even take over our entire being.
Our personal financial situation is a big contributor to our sense of significance or lack thereof and especially today all the economic turmoil has certainly contributed to an overall depressing mood in this country.
This is especially acute for people who are aging and becoming less productive. The sense of being insignificant can be overwhelming. Add to that the loss of independence and/or illness and you now have the perfect recipe for a deep depression.
Now that we have discovered the root to depression we have also discovered the root to happiness and joy. The root to happiness and joy is exactly the opposite of depression. So if the root of depression is insignificance than the root to happiness is significance and importance.
Now we need to discover the secret to true happiness. Something that can give us a deep sense of significance and importance that works in all times and under all circumstances regardless of our age, level of productivity, income or anything else.
The secret to being able to be happy every day.
To be continued…
Rabbi Zalman Marcus