There is a tiny coffee shop I adore in a quirky not-so-safe area I’m in love with. This hole in the wall homes a gravely deep barista slash typographer slash scriptwriter whom I enjoy mostly for his ability to disagree. I sat down in a corner with my new crochet stitch and a perplexed expression as we mused on the merits of the melancholy state and how it contributes to the artists life and death. How it is conducive to productivity up to a point until it results in inevitably in unromantic unproductive depression.
The same day my psychologist-aunt arrived at my home from a course on trauma management and solved my problem with falling asleep on Saturday nights, which I struggle to do as a result of being either anxious about work the following day, or anxious about not getting enough sleep before having to get up just after 4am. I listened eagerly as she told me about Viktor Frankl’s Paradoxical Intention.
We’ve all been posed the following problem: Don’t think about a pink elephant, which results in flashing images of pink elephants. In my case the elephant even has a backstory and a particular liking for sunbathing and strawberries which accounts for it’s peculiar colour…but don’t think about it.
She suggested that I try to stay awake instead, perhaps counting the seconds on an analog clock to see how far I could get before I pass out. Intending to stay awake. Long story short, I slept very well that night. Viktor Frankl was right. So I wondered about all the other things he said.
At the psychological level, he believed that feelings of inadequacy stem from undertaking tasks beyond our abilities. At the physiological level, he recognized a “vital low”, which he defined as a “diminishment of physical energy”. Finally, Frankl believed that at the spiritual level, the depressed man faces tension between who he actually is in relation to what he should be. Frankl refers to this as the gaping abyss. Finally Frankl suggests that if goals seem unreachable, an individual loses a sense of future and thus meaning resulting in depression.
Don’t think about how I come home feeling tired all the time. How I feel like my job is (unsuccessfully) killing fires. How I feel like I don’t look/ act the way other Christian girls do/ I’m supposed to. By intentionally trying not to be depressed, trying not to eat too much, trying not to stay awake too late, not to be someone I don’t like, have I become exactly what my anxiousness has dictated me to be?
In my ministry-related job I have started feeling like I didn’t know what I was doing anymore. Working for a church wasn’t the check-off box for living a life with meaning. Not in the way I expected.
The bigger problem is: Do I want to be better? Is it really my intention? Isn’t there a masochistic part of me that enjoys this sense of being a wasted person.
When I was little, I dreamed of playing with my oldest brother, he was the smartest most successful person I knew and I wanted to be in his world. One day he came up with a game for us to build a sand castle. It was basically a big pile a dirt with tunnels going through it. Think Tatooine. We were supposed to dig the tunnels with our hands without cracking the surface. Predictably, I failed. My bother jumped up, gasping, kicking over the mound because it had now been ruined. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t often have that approach to imperfection or failure. Perhaps if my life doesn’t resemble the ideal image in my head I fail at fighting the urge to auto-destruct.
Perhaps it links me to a person I wish I was. What if I think there is a weird beauty in feeling desolate and unfound. What if I deliberately try to be depressed and find that instead of hiding I actually become completely lost. What if I’m the player in Kavka’s toxin puzzle and my intentions are immeasurable and the pay-off is a hoax?
Now think about depression. blank.
Image above belongs to artist Ted Mallory and was sourced from his blog. Please visit by clicking here