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Aquila

I suffer from depression, but want to learn O'ism.

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I have been depressed for most of my life. I blame a number of things for my current state, most of which are failures on my part.

I am not physically fit, nor do I have many social skills to speak of. A great deal of my insecurity stems from how I believe other people perceive me. My depression affected my mental state, to the point where if if I encountered any kind of difficulty, be it academics or anything social, I would give up. I was so afraid to go to school that I faked sick. Towards the end of my school career, I picked the easiest courses possible. I received my High School diploma; big deal. A piece of paper is not an accomplishment.

My coping methods have been a detriment, and continue to be a detriment. I went from "recreational" drugs to living in the fantasy worlds of video games and daydreams. I gravitated from religion to religion with what I now realize as the intention of finding acceptance within a religious community. I now know that all the sympathy of all the people of the world can not salve my internal need for external approval.

Another of my coping mechanisms is to read things my peers are confused by, as something as an ego-boost. I clung to the illusion of a "tortured genious", something I now think of as extremely hilarious considering the fact that attempting to factor simple algebraic equations make me want to cry with frustration. It's not that the material is difficult, but that I find it so hard to concentrate with my mind so miserable, if that makes any sense.

I have read The Fountainhead and see a lot of myself in every evil metaphorical character within the book. I saw what Howard Roark had and decided I wanted that for myself, or at least to strive for it. Oh, what it would be like to never feel concern over what other people thought of me. To actually feel good. I drove out an hour to the mall to buy Atlas Shrugged, the book I had seen listed on a list of Ayn Rand's other work.

I started attending a community college last fall. I am not doing as well as I would like to. I don't get enough sleep because I am working full-time and going to school full-time, and I allocate great amounts of time to playing video games to comfort myself. So, I have made a decision: I am going to take one year away from school and just work. The word "work" here has three meanings: A paying job. To strive on self-improvement, to conquer my depression on my own. I also intend on studying my academics on my own to prepare myself for college.

Of Ayn Rand's non-fiction, what might be the best place for someone such as me to begin learning the Objectivist philosophy?

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I would suggest Ayn Rand's "Who needs philosophy?" and Nathaniel branden's "How to improve your self-esteem","The disowned self" and "How to live consciously".

That apart you could try counselling from a good psychotherapist.

Good luck.

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Goodness, if your quest is for truth arrived at using your own faculty of reason (in this case the truth about how to handle depression, not just about Objectivism), why would you avoid analyzing books not endorsed by whomever. Ayn Rand and Objectivism don't have a monopoly on truth, far less do they consist of tools of cognition or replacements for one's own thought processes.

I've not read anything by Branden not endorsed by Ayn Rand, but I've heard from many people that his "Six (or seven?) Pillars of Self-esteem" was quite good. Either way, use your own judgement. If you don't have the time and/or desire, based on your value hierarchy, to assess the truthfulness of a work, only then should you rely on experts. Even here you must go through some process for validating your confidence in labeling said expert an expert. But if you are faced with a problem of crucial importance to your life, a problem affected your highest of values in your hierarchy (your life and happiness), I'd say make the extra effort to judge for yourself. Do not presume right away, without thought, that Objectivism has the answer for you. Examine yourself, realize the causes of your emotions, chew them in your head, think inductively.

Edited by Felipe

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Aquila,

Congratulations being introspective enough to identify the problems in the first place, and now having the will to solve them.

Even though you know what needs to be done, it's going to take a lot of effort and self-discipline because you have mental and physical habits that will need to be changed. Your next reading could be "Philosophy: Who Needs It" by Ayn Rand.

It sounds as if you already have a very basic knowledge of Objectivism, but as you have correctly identified, you need to take these ideas and put them into practice in your own life, not just have them swimming in your head. I agree with Saraswathi in that there's nothing wrong with going to a psychotherapist or counselor. For a woman (your name indicates that you are female?), simply talking problems out, rather than having someone provide a solution to "patch" the problem, can do wonders. If you cannot afford this, do you have someone you can share these problems with? A trusted friend, co-worker, or family member who will just listen to you talk it out? Actually talking about it, and just having someone there to listen, can not only make you feel better, but can crystallize the solutions in your mind even further. YOU will be the one that provides the solution and the impetus to overcome this. Of course, the caveat is that this person should have respect for your ability to self-diagnose and not be telling you that you are fine, because you know that you are not.

I know you did not ask for advice beyond what you should read, but may I offer a few suggestions? Lack of physical activity and social isolation are a vicious cycle. You lack them, so you feel badly, which makes you even less likely to go out and be active physically or socially, which makes you feel worse, etc. Try to take a walk each day. Start with short ones and increase the amount of time spent in the walk each day until you are walking briskly at least 45 minutes each day.

Buy full-spectrum lights for your house or for the place where you spend most of your time inside: the coily fluorescent kind, NOT regular old incandescent bulbs. They are expensive but worth it. Winter is a depressing time because of the lack of daylight (I'm making an assumption that you live in the northern hemisphere). You need a FULL spectrum light on you when the sun is not out or when you are in a dark room. Although this is not the root of your problem, it can help you to feel a little better because it tricks your body into "thinking" it's getting more sunlight than it is.

Sorry if this all seemed bossy or motherly advice. I just genuinely want to help because being even a little depressed is terrible, I know. From your post, you sound like a very intelligent person who has already correctly identified the problems. What you need now is enough energy to take some action.

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Aquila, welcome to the forum. I think you might find "The Virtue of Selfishness" to be a worthwhile read.

As you may already be aware, in some cases depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Those problems can often be corrected with psychiatric medications. Have you sought the advice of a qualified professional yet?

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Aquila, I know exactly what your talking about alot of the things you said sounds exactly like me. I even went so far as to join the Marine Corps to try and feel a sense confidence and pride in who I am. But something inside me still would not let go of the depression. What I've learned is that it just can't be conquered with just achieving goals and reading material. I has to be a mindset, an attitude, you have to wake up in the morning and just refuse to let the depression beat you. You have to force yourself to believe you can be and do better. It's also good to remember life isn't always just "up's" there are down's as well and try not to beat yourself up so much when you are. Try your best to be optimistic. Everyone plays video games, you'd be surprise at how many marines are unfit and they're suppose to be the finest, and if all our lives were on the line to solve a math problem you don't want me anywhere near it.

Edited by KnockOut

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The universal evaluation of the feeling of depression (assuming that it isn't primarily caused by a serotonin imbalance, in which case medication is called for), is: hopelessness. That translates an emotion, which is automatic, to an evaluation, which need not be. You can then ask yourself: Why do I think that life, or some aspect of my life, is hopeless? Keep asking why and dig at the answers. Hopelessness means a sense that some, or all, of one's life has no future, that you will be unable to attain some or all of your values. That leads to many possible conscious, pro-active responses once you understand the specifics of that (helped by introspection.) For example: your judgement that it's impossible can be rationally mistaken. You might just have to work harder or smarter to get it. Or, it might be that the value you want, shouldn't be so important. Or it might be that the value you want is impossible for anyone to achieve currently (say, to live for 500 years), in which case it's foolish to be depressed about it.

On the other hand, if somebody is 25 with an expected 4 months to live from terminal cancer, that's a good reason to feel depressed, though they shouldn't spend that time just sitting around being unhappy. The vast majority of depressed people are not anywhere close to that kind of situation.

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This sounds remarkably like the first 18 years of my life, right down to taking a year off after a crappy first semester. I was confused and depressed all of the time, and other people were the object of my motivation. Obviously I was miserable as well.

Without a suitable understanding of the nature of reality and of the mind, you are basically doomed to being on autopilot. For some people who were raised well or who effectively raised themselves, this doesnt matter. Thinking is a skill, which is to say that it must be learned. Its also nessesary for living, and living happily. Trying to teach yourself to think is like a bird teaching itself to fly, when it needs flight to stay alive long enough to learn.

When you give up on learning, when you forgo thinking, when you accept defeat when it is you whove won by right, then youve put a knot in your brain. For most people, this happens a whole lot when they are younger. Some people break under a small ammount of pressure, others take more. These desisions and doubts dont fix themselves, they become very real and very stubborn elements of your character. The people around you? They have them too. There is a difference between you and them, though. You want a way out, they dont.

As for seeing yourself in the evil characters, question what makes them evil. What exactly are they doing? Are they naming facts, or avoiding them? Are they trying to break someone?

Life doesnt have to be like Peter Keatings, or any of the other characters. The reality is that it takes a lot of work to get yourself whole again. Your mind is a road map right now, but several of the cities are swaped, some dont exist. Locally the roads are fine, but any long distance travel between concepts gets you terribly lost. Zoom out, check out the big picture. Dont try to fix everything at once, you need to set up a system of rules with yourself and comb through your mind. When trying to change yourself, youll often find that a whole bunch of other things need to change as well, as in a ripple effect. There are going to be a lot of things that youll have to give up, things that you never really had to start with. If you want to get physically fit, you will need to make a ton of changes to your life style, eating habits, sleep schedual, among other things. If you want to feel serene in a croud of 10000 you need to be ruthlessly rational with the people in your life, including yourself. You cant have your cake and eat it too; you cant be awesome at life without doing the very things that make your character so strong. A is A.

Think about the things that you love to see or do. Anything that arouses any kind of enjoyment, think about memories that make you happy, and analyze their cause. Make it your goal, if you dont do it automatically. Become what you love.

Dont make it a duty to change, do it because it makes sense to do. Odds are your approach to the problem is wrong, which is why it is frustrating and seemingly impossible. Check your premises. Take solice in the fact that contradictions dont exist, and they dont have to in your mind.

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I would suggest Ayn Rand's "Who needs philosophy?" and Nathaniel branden's "How to improve your self-esteem","The disowned self" and "How to live consciously".

That apart you could try counselling from a good psychotherapist.

Good luck.

I'd steer clear of anything written by Mr. Branden that wasn't specifically endorsed by Ayn Rand.

I will order Who needs philosophy from Amazon right away, and look at How To Improve Your Self-Esteem's reviews and consider it. Thank you.

Goodness, if your quest is for truth arrived at using your own faculty of reason (in this case the truth about how to handle depression, not just about Objectivism), why would you avoid analyzing books not endorsed by whomever. Ayn Rand and Objectivism don't have a monopoly on truth, far less do they consist of tools of cognition or replacements for one's own thought processes.

I've not read anything by Branden not endorsed by Ayn Rand, but I've heard from many people that his "Six (or seven?) Pillars of Self-esteem" was quite good. Either way, use your own judgement. If you don't have the time and/or desire, based on your value hierarchy, to assess the truthfulness of a work, only then should you rely on experts. Even here you must go through some process for validating your confidence in labeling said expert an expert. But if you are faced with a problem of crucial importance to your life, a problem affected your highest of values in your hierarchy (your life and happiness), I'd say make the extra effort to judge for yourself. Do not presume right away, without thought, that Objectivism has the answer for you.

I am not under the delusion that learning and applying Objectivist philosophy will instantly make everything in the world good and right, that all of my problems will disappear. Indeed, it is my goal to enter the medical field, so Objectivism would only make me raise the proverbial difficulty bar higher, so to speak.

But what is more difficult for a person? To work hard and be proud of who and what you are, or hating yourself every moment of every day, and wishing your life to end? Objectivism will give me a mindset so that I will obtain all of my goals, or feel damn good in the attempt. In some ways, it already has helped me.

Aquila,

Congratulations being introspective enough to identify the problems in the first place, and now having the will to solve them.

Even though you know what needs to be done, it's going to take a lot of effort and self-discipline because you have mental and physical habits that will need to be changed. Your next reading could be "Philosophy: Who Needs It" by Ayn Rand.

It sounds as if you already have a very basic knowledge of Objectivism, but as you have correctly identified, you need to take these ideas and put them into practice in your own life, not just have them swimming in your head. I agree with Saraswathi in that there's nothing wrong with going to a psychotherapist or counselor. For a woman (your name indicates that you are female?), simply talking problems out, rather than having someone provide a solution to "patch" the problem, can do wonders. If you cannot afford this, do you have someone you can share these problems with? A trusted friend, co-worker, or family member who will just listen to you talk it out? Actually talking about it, and just having someone there to listen, can not only make you feel better, but can crystallize the solutions in your mind even further. YOU will be the one that provides the solution and the impetus to overcome this. Of course, the caveat is that this person should have respect for your ability to self-diagnose and not be telling you that you are fine, because you know that you are not.

I know you did not ask for advice beyond what you should read, but may I offer a few suggestions? Lack of physical activity and social isolation are a vicious cycle. You lack them, so you feel badly, which makes you even less likely to go out and be active physically or socially, which makes you feel worse, etc. Try to take a walk each day. Start with short ones and increase the amount of time spent in the walk each day until you are walking briskly at least 45 minutes each day.

Buy full-spectrum lights for your house or for the place where you spend most of your time inside: the coily fluorescent kind, NOT regular old incandescent bulbs. They are expensive but worth it. Winter is a depressing time because of the lack of daylight (I'm making an assumption that you live in the northern hemisphere). You need a FULL spectrum light on you when the sun is not out or when you are in a dark room. Although this is not the root of your problem, it can help you to feel a little better because it tricks your body into "thinking" it's getting more sunlight than it is.

Sorry if this all seemed bossy or motherly advice. I just genuinely want to help because being even a little depressed is terrible, I know. From your post, you sound like a very intelligent person who has already correctly identified the problems. What you need now is enough energy to take some action.

Your advice is not at all bossy, and I am not offended at all at motherly advice. Usually, depending on the mother, it is the best kind. :D

If I can afford some flurescent bulbs, perhaps I will give it a try if I can afford them. My negative attitude seems to have grown worse as winter came in, and perhaps this will help. I plan on doing all of my exercising in my room. Even if it isn't much help, the placebo effect alone might come into play.

Oh, and I am male by the way. B) Aquila is latin for eagle. Thank you for your advice

Aquila, welcome to the forum. I think you might find "The Virtue of Selfishness" to be a worthwhile read.

As you may already be aware, in some cases depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Those problems can often be corrected with psychiatric medications. Have you sought the advice of a qualified professional yet?

I'll order tVoS too.

Depression is abundent in my family, but I am of the opinion that although genetics can make it more likely, that depression is mainly psychological. I am not omnipotent, however, and maybe it's counter-productive pride that makes me believe that, so I will not rule it out completely. The last time I visited a professional was years ago. She seemed like a pre-programmed robot with pre-programmed "answers" to my problems. The only real benefit I obtained from attending was having someone to talk to who would actually listen. My mother isn't the best listener, as she has problems of her own. I'll seek one again if I feel I need it.

Aquila, I know exactly what your talking about alot of the things you said sounds exactly like me. I even went so far as to join the Marine Corps to try and feel a sense confidence and pride in who I am. But something inside me still would not let go of the depression. What I've learned is that it just can't be conquered with just achieving goals and reading material. I has to be a mindset, an attitude, you have to wake up in the morning and just refuse to let the depression beat you. You have to force yourself to believe you can be and do better. It's also good to remember life isn't always just "up's" there are down's as well and try not to beat yourself up so much when you are. Try your best to be optimistic. Everyone plays video games, you'd be surprise at how many marines are unfit and they're suppose to be the finest, and if all our lives were on the line to solve a math problem you don't want me anywhere near it.

Nietzsche was right when he said that Nihilism leads to defeatism. Ever since reading Rand's book, I have been feeling much better, and now that I have a plan the stress is for the most part gone. For the first time in my life, I am feeling good. There's another emotion in my head too, and the best way I can think of to describe it would be to use the mental picture of a man "squaring his shoulders for the task ahead".

Time to kick ass. :P

Thanks to everyone for your recommendations. The books are in the mail now, via One-day shipping.

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I am not under the delusion that learning and applying Objectivist philosophy will instantly make everything in the world good and right, that all of my problems will disappear. Indeed, it is my goal to enter the medical field, so Objectivism would only make me raise the proverbial difficulty bar higher, so to speak.

But what is more difficult for a person? To work hard and be proud of who and what you are, or hating yourself every moment of every day, and wishing your life to end? Objectivism will give me a mindset so that I will obtain all of my goals, or feel damn good in the attempt. In some ways, it already has helped me.

I was not expressing any preconceived notions regarding any delusions on your part. I was merely recommending a proper method of thought for your programme. What I was recommending is that you not dive into Objectivism thinking, a priori, that it has all the answers and is completely right. You need to do this for yourself with your own thought.

Good luck, and remember to arrive at all your conclusions on your own, systematically based on a conceptual hierarchy grounded in reality, grounded in the evidence provided to you by your senses.

Edited by Felipe

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I was not expressing any preconceived notions regarding any delusions on your part. I was merely recommending a proper method of thought for your programme. What I was recommending is that you not dive into Objectivism thinking, a priori, that it has all the answers and is completely right. You need to do this for yourself with your own thought.

Good luck, and remember to arrive at all your conclusions on your own, systematically based on a conceptual hierarchy grounded in reality, grounded in the evidence provided to you by your senses.

Ah, I apologize for the confusion. Thank you :P

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I am not under the delusion that learning and applying Objectivist philosophy will instantly make everything in the world good and right, that all of my problems will disappear. Indeed, it is my goal to enter the medical field, so Objectivism would only make me raise the proverbial difficulty bar higher, so to speak...

Time to kick ass. :P

Thanks to everyone for your recommendations. The books are in the mail now, via One-day shipping.

Sounds like you have a realistic and healthy attitude. Hard to believe you're depressed. (not that I don't) If you can keep up like this, you should be going places. :D (watch out for that Branden, though, he's a tricksy one. But keep your eyes open and you should be fine)

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I would throw in the following suggestions;

"Loving Life" by Craig Biddle (which I haven't read yet, but have heard good stuff about it and it is topically relevant).

Additionally, you might find useful information by listening to some of the audio broadcasts of Dr. Ellen Kenner's show "The Rational Basis of Hapiness".

Mr. Biddle and Dr. Kenner are both Objectivists.

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Aquila,

I’ve been through a lot of the same hell that you are talking about. Depression can be a vicious cycle with the coping behavior feeding back to make it worse. For me it always comes done to taking charge and breaking out; this is very difficult when you don’t even want to get out of bed in the morning.

The habit of daydreaming has been my biggest crutch; I can remember doing it since I was around five years old. It was a coping mechanism that helped me get through this world, but in the long run it just causes more trouble. Rand presented the evil of individual who refuse to think as a way of avoiding reality. Well I could never kill the thoughts, but I could prevent the actions by going into a world of daydreaming. It takes a great deal of self discipline to get over this, and only recently I have a truly abandoned this behavior.

I can also relate to your obsession with video games, although my drug was programming. It is wonderful to be able to submerge yourself in a rational world with causality and standards; a world where hours of obsessive effort and rational thought can result in an absolute state of success. But as with the daydreaming, it is just an escape and can only make things worse as you withdraw from reality. Again I know how difficult it can be to get over these escapes, and I my self still battle these demons, but the reward is worth the fight.

Reality is worth it.

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Additionally, you might find useful information by listening to some of the audio broadcasts of Dr. Ellen Kenner's show "The Rational Basis of Hapiness".

RC makes a great recommendation here. I also recommend narrowing your situation down to a couple questions you can ask Dr. Kenner. Friends of mine have called her show before, and they say she is just wonderful to talk to.

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... now that I have a plan the stress is for the most part gone. For the first time in my life, I am feeling good. ...
Good to hear that. From what you say, that plan is what you need more than all those books right now. Not that books aren't good, but the way you describe your recent past, your immediate need is for some simple "common-sensical" philosophy. Indeed -- at the risk of adding another book to your list -- a more general "goal-setting" workbook might be useful. (I know Objectivist Prof. Ed Locke has written a book on the subject, but I have not read it.) Fortunately, it seems you're already working on your plan.

My advice would be to make your plan address all the key areas that you think need work. The ones you've listed are:

  • Physical fitness
  • Social skills
  • Academics, leading to a medical-related career

Once you have a plan, give yourself some pretty short term goals (i.e. clear targets you seek to achieve) in each of these area. So, for each of these, if you look out three months from now, what would you have achieved?

Write the goals down and check them with a critical eye, asking yourself if they're unambiguous and difficult to "cheat" on. Also, check that they're not so ambitious that you'll end up throwing your hands up and saying they're impossible. When you're starting, even err of the side of setting less ambitious goals; you can always beat them. Just don't give yourself the excuse that the goals were too tough. Review your goals every weekly or every two-weeks, to ensure that you're on track.

Your post also mentioned two other things:

  • Low self-confidence / Trying to be likable to others
  • Wasting time

Hopefully, these will start being solved as corollary to the others. Once you are achieving real things in your life, self-esteem tends to follow. If you're spending a good amount of your time achieving things, then you're not wasting it (even if you play some computer games).

That's it for now I guess. You've already got the motherly advice, so I'll characterize mine as the fatherly post. Good luck. :)

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Goodness, if your quest is for truth arrived at using your own faculty of reason (in this case the truth about how to handle depression, not just about Objectivism), why would you avoid analyzing books not endorsed by whomever. Ayn Rand and Objectivism don't have a monopoly on truth, far less do they consist of tools of cognition or replacements for one's own thought processes.

I'm afraid you've misinterpreted the intent of my advice.

The reason I warned against the more recent Branden works because the poster's intent is to learn about Objectivism. Branden was initially a student of Ayn Rand's, but later in life abandoned Objectivism and engaged in many fraudulent personal attacks against Ayn Rand, as well as attempts to defame Objectivism and confuse people about the truth. He is an unsavory character that likes to hide poisionous ideas behind a veil of "Objectivist-like" ideas.

I think that his deceptions would be most damaging to someone who is unfamiliar with Objectivism and thus doesn't have the proper context to identify his lies for what they are. Furthermore, I don't think it would be a good thing to help that man in any way by buying his books.

That is why I said not to pursue analyzing his books, not because I think that Ayn Rand is a "replacement for one's own thought process."

And frankly, I am amazed that I'm the only one to have made that point. Isn't Branden even worse than David Kelly, SOLO, and TOC? Is that not a well-known fact here? :) I mean, to suggest to a person who is just learning Objectivism to take advice from Branden is a bit like telling them to read Kant or Marx.

Edited by Inspector

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