Friedrich Nietzsche contemplated a lot on suffering in general and carefully examined the underlying causes and possible remedies. Therefore, it should not surprise us that a 19th century philosopher can provide us the wisdom and tools for dealing with a problem as grave as depression.
Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home. Medication is a part of the treatment, but one must understand that it is not only a biological condition but a psychological one as well. And it is the latter which requires constant communication, counselling, and maybe… a small dose of philosophy.
Nietzsche, who himself showed symptoms of clinical depression, wrote extensively on human suffering. Here are some of his thoughts which can help us deal with the problem.
- Don’t reject your suffering: To regard states of distress as an objection, as something that must be abolished, is the [supreme idiocy], in a general sense a real disaster in its consequences… almost as stupid as the will to abolish bad weather.
- There’s no quick heal: The worst sickness of men has originated in the way they have combated their sicknesses. What seemed a cure has in the long run produced something worse than what it was supposed to overcome. The means which worked immediately, anaesthetising and intoxicating, the so called consolations, were ignorantly supposed to be actual cures. The fact was not noticed… that these instantaneous alleviations often had to be paid for with a general and profound wondering of the complaint.
- Happiness is an emotion, not the only emotion: Happiness and unhappiness are sisters and even twins that either grow up together or remain small together. If you refuse to let your own suffering lie upon you even for an hour and if you constantly try to prevent and forestall all possible distress way ahead of time then you know very little of human happiness.
- Accept your dark side: The emotions of hatred, envy ,covetousness and lust for domination are life-conditioning emotions, which must fundamentally and essentially be present in the total economy of life.
- Like Greeks, do not cut out your adversities, instead cultivate them: All passions have a phase when they are merely disastrous, in which they draw their victims down by weight of stupidity – and a later, very much later one in which they marry the spirit, ‘spiritualise’ themselves.
- It is a phase, which will get over soon: The most savage forces beat a path, and are mainly destructive; but their work was nonetheless necessary, in order that later a gentler civilisation might raise its house. The frightful energies – those which are called evil – are the cyclopean architects and road-makers of humanity,