In my life I have been many things, some bad, hopefully mostly good.
But I have never been depressed. I’ve been sad, lonely, disappointed, hurt and mystified. You name it, I’ve felt it, and those that really know me understand my life wasn’t exactly white-bread middle-class, either.
Part of my dodging the depression bullet is genetics and health. I do not have a condition or chemical imbalance that causes this (clinical) condition.
I’m talking about the other card on the table: depression caused by an external factors colliding with internal philosophy. I see this all the time. So does everyone else.
What is my secret?
Empathy, certainly a little bit, but the root of my non-depression is I am a libertarian. Let’s talk about empathy first.
Empathy and Depression
True empathy is a learned trait. That is, in order for a person to use empathy in a holistic manner, someone must teach that person to do so
However, some people are born with the natural trait of empathy. Spend some time with young children and you can see some of them have an natural affiliation for others outside their sense of self. They have a natural predominant “nurture” (mostly girls) or “protect” (mostly boys) thought processes. Their nature is kindness.
I am one of these people, and also someone taught empathy. I am very thankful for the way I’m wired and what I have learned.
After a certain point, an empathetic person’s sense of self has a natural defense against depression because we have a natural barrier to destructive inward reflection and selfishness. It is difficult for someone to engage in self-destructive behavior if a person understands what causes that in others. It is difficult for that person to engage in selfish behavior, due to empathy for others, as many things cease to become a zero-sum game. To the empath, there are no winners and losers. One person’s success is not your failure.
False-critical reflection and selfishness will cause depression. That is not to say that a depressed person is self-destructive or selfish, but an empathetic person has a built-in defense against depression because they use empathy as a default behavior.
For me, this is part of my lack of depression. The major part of this is I am a libertarian both in words and deeds. People attribute libertarianism often as standing “against” something.
Opposition is symptomatic of an intrinsic philosophy.
Libertarian Philosophy and the Freedom from Depression
Libertarianism is the fundamental belief that all people are good unless a person proves otherwise. There are certain social aspects of this such as trust-verify relationships and game theory. For example, let’s say I’m good friends with Larry and I trust him because he has proven to me he is trustworthy. I tell Larry that I’m going to buy a used car from my neighbor Bob. Larry says whoa there Anthony. Bob is a total scum-bag and will try to cheat you, because he cheated me by selling me a used car, but then put different tires on it before delivery/swapping out other parts/whatever.
Wow, okay. Thanks Larry. I won’t deal with Bob!
That’s one example of the social nature of trust-verify.
Beyond the social aspects of trust-verify lies dealing with people one-on-one. How we deal with people is the core of libertarian philosophy, not what libertarianism is not (“leave me alone, I will leave you alone,” statism is evil, mind-your-own-business, etc.). A person’s relationship with others comes from individual behavior and never from a group.
This simplicity heads right over to the lack of coercion in all things libertarianism. When a person “gives up” the tribalism concept of control = survival, then that person experiences liberation in the true sense of the word. To summarize:
All people are good until proven otherwise –> relationships are always individual –> giving up forced coercion –> results in liberation of the mind.
Hold on, I’m going somewhere here, folks.
Free. Your. Mind.
When you give up trying to control others either through your actions (coercive force) or by proxy (politics), your relationship with other people shifts dramatically. You enter a zen-like state of immediacy that deals with reality as it is, not how you wish it to be. A libertarian mind rebels against collectivism and therefore all the depressing attributes associated with forceful coercion.
For example, Some people are cruel. It is not our nature to be cruel.
Let’s go over some common troupes:
|Racism||White men owned slaves, therefore white men are prone to slavery and must make reparations||I am not racist. Therefore, I am not guilty of racism. Also, many cultures practiced slavery|
|Sexism||Men rape. Therefore we must presume that there is a rape culture fostered by the male patriarchy||I am not a rapist. Therefore, I reject forcing me to pay for the sins of a felon because I did not commit the felony; I also reject the notion of a male patriarchy in today’s society|
|Discrimination||People discriminate, therefore we must pass laws to compensate for the innate discrimination present in society||I do not discriminate. Therefore, I judge people on his or hers each merit and reject any coercion to conform to that belief|
|Homosexuality||The Bible/Koran/other religious document says all homos are evil and have cooties||Sexual preference is a result of genetic and clinical attributes. Therefore, a homosexual is evil only if he or she display traits such as sociopathy or felonious, violent behavior, which is not specific to sexual orientation|
|Homosexuality||Discrimination against homosexuality occurs therefore we must compensate by teaching children about homosexuality||We must respect children’s sexuality and not force one on them|
|Drugs||Drugs are bad for you, therefore we must pass laws protecting people from drugs||Drugs don’t kill people. People kill people|
|Guns||Guns kill people, therefore we must ban guns||People kill bad people and people kill good people. The bad people killing good people with guns or other objects should be punished accordingly|
|Wealth||We must make sure we take care of poor people||I agree, but I do not believe in forcing people to give up their property for any cause|
|Divorce||In order to protect women, we must assume a divorce is “no fault” and have the state administer child support and alimony under the threat of confiscation or incarceration||I reject the notion that we should force men, or women, by the state to reallocate their resources when they are not at fault|
and so on and so forth.
For good or bad, when a person rejects the use of force in almost all things, that person frees his mind from actual guilt and self-destructive thinking. Depression caused by behaviors becomes rare and difficult. Improving the world becomes a matter of helping people around you through your direct actions, not by forcing other people to do as you say. If we control the things we can control and reject controlling the things that are not our purview, what is there to be depressed about?
Nothing. I reject the collectivist/elitist reality and substitute one of my own.
Libertarianism philosophy or lack there of, however, also relates directly to empathy in different ways than we discussed above. And yes, I’m going to go there.
Collectivism and Elitism is a Lack of Empathy and a Lack of Empathy can Cause Depression
Now we come full circle.
Forcing someone who is not guilty of a social ill or crime to pay for another person’s social ill or crime is collectivism. Often times it is also elitist behavior and indicative of a behavioral pathology. A libertarian asserts this is contrary to our natures (control = survival vs. empathy = survival). While it is easier to stick it to the man, figuratively and literally at the ballot box, talk-show or blog post, it’s quite another to do it face-to-face. Not only is this behavior passive-aggressive and therefore subversive and coercive, it is also an appalling lack of empathy. It is punishing the son for the sins of the father. It is, at the very core, an injustice and tyranny of the group unto the individual. It is wrong and morally bankrupt.
This is a lack of empathy. Our natures rebel against such negative behaviors. We become empty, sullen, resentful.
Reject the forces that urge harm by proxy and suffering for those sins ceases.
There is no cure for the human condition. Libertarianism is the embrace of positive social nature and is the triumph and celebration of the individual. What a wonderful, positive place for the mind to be!