Our culture influences our feelings and how we express them. I used to think that the rates of depression are on the rise because suffering and unhappiness itself became medicalised, so people come to the doctor. Now, my culture-based theory has evolved*.
Some time after the Reagan/Thatcher ideas of absolute personal responsibility seeped through our economy, they also made their way into our psyche. The rise of positive thinking coincides with the advent of the neoliberal economy. If you think positively, good things will happen. Conversely, if good things didn’t happen, that’s because you didn’t believe in yourself enough, didn’t try hard enough, didn’t rise when you were knocked enough.
Byron and Keats wrote about their souls being dark and looked to nightingales as they indulged in their emotional pain. Even as late as the 1960s, T.S. Eliot got away with pretty dark musings and they were still considered art**. Radiohead may have gotten away with it with “Creep” in the 1990s. But who indulges in their sadness anymore?
What happens these days when you express negative emotions? Society says: you’re so negative. We can’t have these toxic attitudes in our lives. Goodbye. P.S. The matter is in your own hands – and you need to find where you went wrong, resulting in these terrible feelings. Now, fill yourself with some motivation and go out there again. Then we may talk to you once more.
To circumvent the problem of being left to deal with it all alone (impossible) or coming out and being called a loser, a complainer, to avoid being unfairly blamed, shamed and devalued, one reaches for the protections of a medical diagnosis. Humanity got backed into a corner, so it picked up the shield provided by the DSM***. Then one can talk about bad things that happened, the pain it caused and actually expect a bit of acceptance.
* There are many reasons why depression is on the rise – well described in the literature – and they are outside the scope of my little theory
** I would have liked to invoke Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain, but their art is inevitably seen through the prism of suicide – which is kind of prejudiced if you ask me.
*** The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders