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26 July 2010

More Helpful Advice from Graham Harman and a Slight Rant

I just wanted to share some more advice from Graham Harman on depression and graduate students, though, again I think the advice can be easily generalized to most people's lives. I've posted Harman's advice pieces here before, because I have rarely come across someone who offer such practical and helpful suggestions. I don't suffer from depression (not for a long time anyway), but his suggestion of building connections resonates with me. In fact, my experience this summer of coming out to NV, seeing a whole new landscape, and meeting a lot of wonderful people has basically confirmed it in my own life. I was getting fairly stagnant back in MD, and needed the fresh scene. Now I'm committed to going back to MD and doing as much as I can to build the same kind of relationships there.
As a side note, Harman mentions Alva Noë and the two things that seeing depression as a brain disease has done:

"What Noë was saying is that the current fashion to consider depression a brain disease accomplishes two things, only one of them bad: 1. It de-stigmatizes the depressed by no longer treating them as moral failures, which is obviously good. 2. It serves the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, which is dubious."

I want to add another one, based on my own experience with depression and anxiety viewing these issues primarily as brain disease also makes one feel powerless, helpless, and fated. I've heard it from other people too, "It's just part of my brain chemistry - I have to live with it." Then the only solution is to take drugs for the rest of your life - at least during those times you're having problems, but who knows when that could be.
I think it's maybe partially true that brain chemistry plays a role in depression and anxiety, but I don't think that this in any way fates one to a lifetime of neurosis or drug dependence. There are many ways to alter brain chemistry, long-term, without pharmaceuticals. That's not to say that pharmaceuticals can't play a role, but only as part of a long-term strategy to learn how to manage stress and overcome negative thought patterns.

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