Getting Medieval on Depression

From the file marked ‘fucking stupid ideas’ Theo Hobson has an idea for tackling depression and a whole bunch of other social ills:

Or rather we need to get back to the older idiom, the one based on the mythological battle of good and evil. And here is where the Muslim idea of spiritual jihad can show us the way, or remind us of it. We need to revive the idea that moral and psychological effort is normal, the basic plot of life. And I think this idea is reliant on the narrative, or myth, of the struggle of good against evil.

We ought to see depression in these terms. It is not an illness suffered by a minority, but something that every grown-up has to contend with from time to time. By pathologising it we imply that normal people are naturally happy, which adds to the problem: some young people feel incapable of this supposedly normal state of easy happiness, and despair. It would be healthier to teach young people that it’s normal to suffer bouts of gloom, and that the proper response is to toughen oneself against them, to fight back. And for this it helps to have a model of the self as a battleground between good and evil. Here we ought to learn from one of the masters of modern psychology, Martin Luther. When he felt gloomy he blamed Satan, who hates happiness just as he hates goodness and truth. For Luther, this is the essence of the spiritual life: resisting Satan’s assaults on one’s peace of mind.

As if there isn’t enough fucking woo to contend with already, Theo wants to chuck a bit more on the fire and pretend that its all the fault of his favourite anti-sky fairy – let’s not pathologise depression when we can mythologise it instead and send for the exorcist rather than the prozac.
Do I really need to explain why this is a seriously dumb idea?

4 thoughts on “Getting Medieval on Depression

  1. Well, get rid of the satan bits, and isn’t it just stating the obvious: there is a trend to over medicalize. I think this leads to depressed people taking a passive role as patients or victims rather than looking to adjust their behaviour in an active way. That can only make things worse.

    Obviously, there are extremes that will only every be helped by medicine, but in many cases real benefit can can be derived from personal attitudes and self help.

  2. Isn’t this chap, when he describes seeing yourself as a battleground with some other entity as already somesort of mental disorder, schizoprenia of some description?
    Cure your depression with another problem. Great!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.