Lost Connections

In his book “Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression—and the Unexpected Solutions,” Johann Hari explores the scientific literature regarding depression and pharmaceutical “cures.” He describes how studies paid for by the pharmaceutical companies are not necessarily correct, and consequently turns the “story” of his depression upside down.

Feel depressed? Pop a pill, right? Not so fast. Hari, a best-selling author, suffered from depression starting in his teens until his thirties, when he began to explore the scientific literature on depression. First, depression and anxiety are intertwined. Same music, played by different bands. Second, pills don’t work. His therapist pointed out again and again that despite all the meds, Hari still didn’t seem any better.

Once the pill solution is discarded, what’s left? Hari met with social scientists around the world and discovered the basis of depression wasn’t a chemical imbalance in the brain (except for a small minority of patients), but disconnection. Hari’s ideas make for compelling reading. More importantly, he offers options for change. We are disconnected from meaningful work, fulfilling relationships, and the sense of a secure future. We use problems in the brain, or in the genes, as a way of telling folks to “get a grip,” or get over it.” Depression and anxiety are incurable.

If it’s not your brain, your genes, or your fault, then what? Hari shifts from hard science to the social sciences for answers. He went to places where organizations are bringing people together, with the resulting sense of connection. But, as he notes, if you’re wiped out from work, how do you find the energy to connect? How do you make work meaningful when you have no control over your time, the assigned projects, making your efforts count?

What about money? What do you spend your money on? What do you really value? In a society that uses sophisticated tactics to entice us into spending more than we ought, is it any surprise that we’re told personal value is based upon the best clothes or cars? “Show me your checkbook, and I’ll tell you your values” is also true of our credit statements. We say we want to be happy, but stuff seems to make us miserable.

Hari himself makes it clear he doesn’t have all the answers, but his research and questions make for compelling reading. He also says he’s happier now than ever before.

What do you value?

Do you have satisfying relationships in your life?

If you don’t feel you can quit your job, do you have other activities that satisfy your soul?

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