Feb. 25th, 2008

heron61: (Default)
In the comments to a recent post of mine, I was discussing my emotional reactions and made the following statement:

I simply don't hold onto any negative feelings. This extends well beyond feelings of guilt - if someone I truly care about does something I don't like (or even that makes me very angry), as long as the emotional balance I mentioned in my previous response remains strongly in their favor, I forgive them easily and rapidly, at least for singular incidents. A long term pattern of actions that annoy me start impacting my overall view of the relationship and certainly needs changing. However, I will forgive and completely cease being angry about almost any single incident that is not utterly horrible very rapidly indeed, at least with someone who I like and enjoy being around.

Without continued strong external provocation, emotions like anger, regret, and frustration all fade far more rapidly in me than in most people I've met. My guess is that this is also the reason I that I have absolutely no tendency to become depressed, and in fact in the absence of truly horrid external circumstances, depression is essentially impossible for me, I suspect that the reasons for all this are at the level where individual psychology and idiosyncratic neurochemistry intersect, but whatever the reason, I'm very happy for my own neurochemical makeup.


I'd been meaning to write more about this comment, because the more I thought about it, the more significant that I realized that this particular idiosyncrasy of mine is. Many of the people I'm close to, including [livejournal.com profile] teaotter, [livejournal.com profile] amberite, and Aaron all have a tendency towards depression, and in talking about the above observation with Becca, she definitely agreed that when she's having more problems with her depression, one of the biggest problems she has is not bouncing back from/being able to let go of negative feeling well after the experience that created them is over.

Then, I was reading my f-list, and someone I know mentioned (in a locked post, so I won't discuss what was said in any bit the most general terms) that they had recently started taking anti-depressants, and had noticed that after having an especially frustrating day, that they felt upset and frustrated while the events were occurring, but afterwards, this frustration rapidly faded away.

It took me many years of being close to several people with a tendency to depression to understand that this was (at least for all such people I've known well) one of the key issues involved in their depression. It took me a long time to understand this, because I've literally never felt that way. I feel as upset, scared, angry, or annoyed as anyone else during an upsetting, frightening, or annoying situation, but once it has actually been resolved, within some time that is between a few minutes to (at absolute most) an hour, I've gotten over almost every event that does not have significant lasting consequences. Situations where my life has chanced noticeably for the worst (such as the death of a pet, or the end of a friendship) naturally linger somewhat longer, but after a night's sleep I still feel significantly better. The only time I don't feel significantly better is if there is some active and on-going long-term problem, such as the money problems I've had at various times in the past. Then, I feel unhappy and upset when ever I am confronted with the problem, and my overall mood is somewhat negatively affected. However, as soon as the problem was resolved, I very rapidly felt better.

Another issue with depression that Becca has mentioned several times, and that I've also observed in several other people I've known with a tendency to depression, is that depression seems to make is considerably more difficult for someone to make an effort to fix problems that are wrong in their lives. Now that I think about it, this tendency makes sense to me – if fixing a problem either does not resolve the emotional issues that this problem is causing or if the emotional issues take several days or even several weeks to improve once the problem is fixed, then that person is simply not going to have the same emotional drive to solve the problem. In vivid contrast, I know with absolute certainty that once I fix a specific problem in my life, I'll rapidly feel better.

In any case, in addition to being exceptionally thankful for that particular quirk of my neurochemistry, I'm also very pleased that there are now a variety of anti-depressants that I have seen make a major difference in the lives of several people I know. Thinking about this issue also makes me even more certain that providing free and high quality social services should be the duty of every nation, since I've seen several studies that show that sources of physical and emotional stress that are sufficiently serious and long-lasting have long-term affects on people's moods and mental states, especially if these stresses occur at a young age. From various articles I've read, one of the most common impacts of such stress is a highly increased likelihood of depression. I've heard various reactionaries claim that various sorts of stress, especially when someone is young "makes people tough", when the reality of the situation seems much the opposite.

It's also rather humbling to understand how much of my optimism and generally positive attitude is due purely to circumstances that have nothing to do with my own actions. I've always been puzzled (and occasionally annoyed) by people who talk about "taking responsibility for their actions"" or ""taking charge of their lives"" when so much of who and what we are is the result of various circumstances which we have literally no control over. Yes, there is a great deal that each of us can do with and about our individual circumstances, but all of us also owe a great deal of who we are to chance and circumstance, which is why I fully agree with political philosopher John Rawls that "You can tell the justice of a society by how it treats its least well-off members,".
heron61: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] teaotter took up knitting almost 5 months ago, and as with everything else she becomes interested in, she excels at it. Today, she finished a hat she was knitting for Aaron, for his upcoming birthday. She knitted it from alpaca wool, both because Aaron is allergic to ordinary wool, and because it makes a soft and comfortable hat. Having finished knitting it an hour before, she washed it, both to help block and shape it, and because she'd read that alpaca wood typically smelled when wet, and that washing it a few times took care of the smell.

Then, Becca sat the hat in the bedroom to dry, while we sat in there and talked. Soon, the hat made its presence vividly obvious, as the rather pungent scent of wet camel made its way throughout the room. My own sense of smell is rather limited, and shortly after Becca mentioned being able to smell the hat, despite it sitting across the room from us both, I could also definitely smell it. Something is odoriferous indeed if I can smell it 5 or 6 feet away. Becca is currently looking up information about how to better de-scent alpaca, since it rains a lot in Portland, and she decided that giving Aaron a present that would suddenly radiate a musky stench whenever it got wet would be unkind. Regardless of what she does, the hat will rest somewhere outside of our bedroom tonight.

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