Depression and determinism: can we influence our moods, can we “change our mind”? We don’t know. There are many opinions but no answers.
Melancholy has been with us since the beginning and has been written about over many millennia. Hippocrates of Kos and Galen of Pergamon had much to say on the subject. Closer to our own time, Samuel Johnson wrote of the “Black Dog” in the 18th Century and Winston Churchill popularised the term in the 20th.
There is no better introduction to the science of animal behaviour than the lucid, entertaining and informative lectures of Dr Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neuroscience at Stanford University.
Sapolsky believes we do not have free will:
For me, the single most important question is how to construct a society that is just, safe, peaceful – all those good things – when people finally accept that there is no free will.
Many scientists, the recent and much loved Stephen Hawking included, believe that we live in a deterministic universe where all unravels in accordance with cause and effect (karma perhaps).
Is there no cure then? Can we not “change our minds”?
Much has been made of meditation and awareness in recent years as a coping mechanism – and indeed an awareness and acceptance of the condition are crucial.
Much has been written of the importance of diet and exercise.
Drugs companies have struggled for years to find chemicals that work effectively. The latest research has veered back towards hallucinogenic drugs found in the natural world such as psilocybin (magic mushrooms) and DMT ( ayahuasca ).
Those suffering from depression would be wise to avoid the question of determinism altogether: we do not know whether we can truly “change our minds”.
Perhaps a cure will eventually be found, but in the meantime a portfolio of remedies may perhaps alleviate the symptoms.