Understanding Collapse Depression

David Trammel's picture

Maybe its just that as someone who has read Greer for so long, I'm not depressed about the Future. I've had time to understand how things are changing, will change and just what my personal limits are to mitigating those changes. Maybe Greer has helped me see the Long Descent as a process (or predicament) to live through, without a solution.

I do see more and more articles today, about how for some, the realization that we are facing a harsh future causes depression and anxiety.


Its a long read.

"The critics are right about two things: Chris and I are sick, and we need treatment. But they’re missing a critical perspective. If we are sick because our society is sick, shouldn’t society be treated alongside the patient? Ultimately, a lot of the disagreement over climate-induced mental illness boils down to vocabulary. We have words to describe the flu, or depression, or the common cold. We know the contours and symptoms of these illnesses. But when it comes to climate grief, the experience can be hard to define, and thus harder to understand and demonstrate. If climate sickness exists in the overlap of the physical and the emotional, we need words for those feelings, a dictionary of sorts that allows us to see patterns in the experiences of individual people. Fortunately, that’s exactly what a group of motley philosophers, artists, and doctors are currently working to devise."


"Around the time of the protest, I told Chris about the bureau’s dictionary for the Anthropocene and asked what word he would add. Chris teaches philosophy of language, and I knew he’d be into it. But he got even more excited than I’d expected, rattling off a long list of possibilities. Ultimately, he settled on one to describe both others and himself. He called it ignore-ance, or “returning from a state of consciousness to a willed state of not knowing.” That’s where he was now, he said, and where so many people insist on being. He was surviving, but he didn’t admire himself. “You do it by pretending,” he said, as if teaching me how. “You pretend that this life is OK, that college football is fun, that driving is normal. You pretend to justify living a lie.”

Chris feels daily that he’s not doing enough. In reality, he is accomplishing more than almost anyone I know. But he’s had to make certain concessions in order to stay alive. He’s happier now that he’s not sleeping in the hills outside of Davis, subsisting on boiled wheat and self-loathing, but that also means he spends more time in a place of willed not-knowing. In the language of Bruce Levine, the dissident psychologist, Chris is sick not because he is inherently anxious or depressed, but because he lives in a sick society in which both his belonging and survival depend on inaction.

Maybe the word we need is not one for a sickness. Maybe we need a word for a difficult truth: that when the world is ending, our health depends on closing ourselves off to awareness of this fact. Where you choose to draw your boundaries is arbitrary, not rational. If you draw them wide—if you include trees and refugees and animals and whole nations—you will be sick from overwhelm and will be seen as crazy. But if you draw them narrowly, you’ll suppress more and admire yourself less—which is its own sort of sickness."


I don't want to appear like I'm minimizing the anxiety that people like the writer has. I realize its real for them.

I'm asking two things: First, has anyone here come across this in their circle of friends, or have you yourself felt this, Second, how do you think Green Wizards should discuss this?

By looking at ways to survive in a Collapsing World are we practicing "willing not-knowing"?

I read a LOT of history.
Things are always bad; it depends on who you are and where. Other places, things are going well. It just depends.
I think the despair cited above is a confluence of a lot of factors.
Knowing too much about terrible things in far-away places that will never impinge on your life at all. That makes you helpless and crazy.
Not having a tight family structure, tight neighbors, tight faith group; all the the things we as humans evolved to need: a small, tight group where your daily routine was largely dictated by the seasons.
We've been poisoning ourselves for hundreds of years now. Lead, plastics, every kind of drug in our drinking water imaginable, an immense array of the man-made electromagnetic spectrum that has nothing to do with what nature does.
Everything's too big.

But underlying so much of this despair is not having the tight social circle that we need.
Also, it's easy to wallow in despair when you have the time. The busier I am, the less time I have to sink into the slough of despond.

Teresa from Hershey

How shall we discuss this? My first impulse is to be flippant and say, “Why, the same way we discuss anything else: with our big happy mouths and brisk, key-pecking fingers, of course!”

But I think I do not rightly understand your question.

Discuss what? Mental illness? Social madness?

Because if anyone wishes to lather themselves into a state of froth-mouthed unhinged fury, I can supply them with a double dozen of fresh, hand-picked topics, guaranteed to rub lasting sore spots into any sensitive soul: starting with the unelected antics of the Federal Reserve and ending with a juicy description of the millions of children dying from starvation in a world jam-packed with cruelty-garnered meat and surplus grain.

If, however, the hypothetical Wizard in question wishes to stay sane on the plane where we remain, I recommend cultivating the ability to change the contents of their mind at least as easily as changing the contents of their cupboards. Not to promote ignorance of the outside world, but a little awareness goes a long way. Too much thought devoted to social ills leaves that much less room in the brain to harbor new garden layouts, plans for a toolshed addition, wondering how to make better soap, and gloating over the success of your latest herbal tincture experiment. To cure social ills, first apply home remedies. Where your heart is, there will be your treasure also.

People whose cognitive fixity approximates obsessive-compulsive levels or whose tendency to fall into depressive states is constitutional may need therapy or drugs or spiritual guidance to help them manage their painful moods, recurrent thoughts and unhealthful impulses. But one thing that will help a great many who suffer in these ways is regular, routine action that connects them to the Earth: gardening, walking in natural settings, growing potted plants, working with livestock, timbering, woodworking, or any number of other handicrafts.

Also prayer routines and sleep routines that keep them in tune with others in a community. Even people who suffer schizophrenic breaks are healthier in Indian villages where they have a job to hold down and people know they sometimes go off the rails. They still have the breaks, but fewer and briefer episodes. And they experience total remission of the condition more than people with the same disorder living lonely and isolated in urban industrial locales.

I doubt that anyone’s depression is *caused* by climate issues. The depression may certainly be *triggered* by brooding on problematic cultural habits. It could be triggered by brooding on anything. Best to get the habit of changing one’s own habits. Because changing cultures is a dog of a different dump. A nasty, mean, barking, biting dog is he.