Reflections on Depression in Johann Hari’s “Lost Connections”

Reflections on depression in Johann Hari’s “Lost Connections” expands thinking about our mental health, hope, and holistic well-being in this world.

This is the life we get to create for ourselves.

Lost Connections

Johann Hari is a special writer, a great researcher, and a great wordsmith, writes TourĂ©. This look at depression has changed the way I think about it–a thinking expansion leading to a paradigm shift.

I was eighteen years old when I swallowed my first anti-depressant … the tablet was white and small, and as I swallowed, it felt like a chemical kiss.

That morning I had gone to see my doctor. I struggled, I explained to him, to remember a day when I hadn’t felt a long crying jag judder its way out of me. Ever since I was a small child–at school, at college, at home, with friends–I would often have to absent myself, shut myself away, and cry … sob. And even when the tears didn’t come, I had an almost constant anxious monologue thrumming through my mind. Then I would chide myself: It’s all in your head. Get over it. Stop being so weak.

Lost Connections

Unhappy and depressed are very different things

Yet, from depression and anxiety, there is an inevitable continuum to unhappiness. Further, we consider that the primary cause of all depression and anxiety is in the world, and the way we are living in it.

The pain seemed unmanageable and I wanted to excuse myself from the world ..

… and then I experienced one of the very few epiphanies of my life– “I am depressed! It’s not all in my head! I’m not unhappy, I’m not weak–I’m depressed!”

Lost Connections
So, there are questions to ask deepening our understanding of how depression happens:
  • What’s happening in your life?
  • Is there anything hurting you that we might want to change?
  • and …
What are the life fundamentals leading to dwindling self-confidence and low self-esteem, feeding a strong desire to relieve anxiety and stress?

These factors drive us toward compulsive habits and behaviours that we use as a coping mechanism to deal with the uncertainties of life. These behaviours provide us with a sense of control, while at the same time redirecting our attention away from our problems.

The intertwining of addictions and depression

Additions are behaviours that we become somewhat dependent upon that helps us alter our emotional state-of-mind and satisfy our inner desires and drives.

It’s a behaviour that gives us a sense of security and control. However, this control is an illusion that actually threatens our emotional well-being.

Addictions arise from unexpected social, emotional or environmental pressures

We are addicted to our thoughts. We cannot change anything if we cannot change our thinking.

–Santosh Kalwar

Hari, as did I, begins as a true believer in purely organic causes of depression. Then, he explores a more expansive view that takes in a psychodynamic origin as well …

The causes of depression in “Lost Connections” are the disconnections from …

  1. meaningful work
  2. other people
  3. meaningful values
  4. childhood trauma
  5. status and respect
  6. the natural world
  7. a hopeful or secure future

and the role of …

  • genes
  • brain changes
  • and anti-depressants

Begs the questions

  • How could I still be depressed when I was taking anti-depressants? I was doing everything right, and yet something was still wrong.
  • Why?

“An exquisitely lucid treatise on why no person is, has been, or ever should be an island. This book is the most exciting thing I’ve read this year. From slightly seedy to suicidal–however you are feeling–read this book and it will honestly help you to understand which roads we must walk if we want to see true, lasting change.”

–Emma Thompson

Considering these solutions …

… in Johann Hari’s book, “Lost Connections” …

  1. reconnecting to:
    1. other people
    2. social prescribing
    3. meaningful work
    4. sympathetic joy
  2. overcoming addictions to thinking, behaviours, emotions
  3. acknowledge and overcome childhood trauma
  4. restore the future

Acceptance, acknowledgement, and action

The first step to overcoming an addiction requires acknowledging that you are struggling with an addiction. With “Lost Connection” our addiction is to holding a victim mindset.

Yet, addictions hold power over you when you simply have nothing else to use as a substitute. The necessary shift is to no longer think like a victim. Rather, we embrace a solution-oriented perspective.

As in a physical poisoning … you need your nausea. It is a message. It will tell us what is wrong with our selves … the journey into what really causes depression and anxiety–and how we can find our way back.

–Lost Connections

This isn’t an easy journey to recovery…

As you will read, in Johann Hari’s book, “Lost Connections,” Hari initially clung to his old story about why his depression was caused by his brain being “broken.” He tells the story of a major shift in paradigms.

The primary cause of all this rising depression and anxiety is not in our heads. It is, I discovered, largely in the world, and the way we are living in it. I learned there are at least nine proven causes of depression and anxiety … and many of them are rising all around us–causing us to feel radically worse.

When I finally understood what was happening–to me, and to so many people like me–I learned there are real antidepressants waiting for us. They don’t look like the chemical anti-depressants that have worked so poorly for many of us. They aren’t something you buy, or swallow. But they might hold the beginning of a true path out of our pain.

By ‘reconnecting’ with our “Lost Connections“, we can more aptly press on through the journey. And, with this, we have the opportunity to expand our realizations of what is on the other side of being consumed by depression: the awakenings with the real solutions.

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