by Rob York
Many things depress those who are prone to depression, including the knowledge that one is prone to depression.
Now before we elaborate, one must explain what we mean by “prone to depression”: It’s not the same as someone who gets depressed sometimes (also known as “the entire human race”). For some people it’s a natural inclination, where as others are inclined toward optimism (what I like to call “Type O's”), or anger (or “Type A's”).
A person who is prone to depression reacts differently than these people is certain situations, such as:
1) In getting a test grade that is not as high as one expected, this person reacts by:
O: Believing that a better grade can be achieved in the future by working harder or taking a different approach. Barring that, they believe there may be more constructive uses of their energies than this subject.
A: Pouring over the test answers and then lurking at the teacher’s lounge until they can, arms crossed, confront the instructor with their fervent belief that D) was just as suitable an answer to question 27 as B).
D: Spend at least a day thinking of all that might have resulted from getting the grade they had set their sights on, and acknowledging that they are failures for having done anything less.
2) When rejected by a member of the opposite gender, this person’s reaction is to:
O: Realize that this was probably not the best time to settle down and conclude that there are more figurative finned creatures in the metaphorical body of water.
A: Catalogue that person’s faults, assume a pseudonym and set about sharing them with society via the Web.
D: Compare your traits and/or achievements to someone who is having more success in their love life and deem yourself hopelessly unattractive by comparison.
3) A colleague gets promoted over you at work. This news causes a person to:
O: Congratulate them and resolve to learn from their successes.
A: Look for different job online and fantasize about thrusting their two-weeks’ notice in their supervisor’s face.
D: Stare at the computer screen the rest of the day, reading news about people more successful than you and wondering what the difference is.
4) Downsides of this personality type is:
O: There are very few negatives, but one is that unfailing optimism irritates Type As and Type Os immensely.
A: A greater set of risks, from cardiovascular disease to the possibility that one will end up confined to a room with concrete walls shared with other persons who can’t control their anger, only they’re bigger and have more tattoos.
D: One frequently comes up with what seem to them like sagacious metaphors for life (for example: “It’s a train everyone thinks they’re boarding, and only a few realize they’re standing on the tracks”) that make others want to keep them away from all sharp objects and rope.
5) Upsides to this personality include:
O: People rarely have to tell you to calm down or cheer up.
A: People eventually start giving you the biggest piece of cake at office functions just to avoid a scene.
D: One realizes earlier than most people that black goes with everything.
For those easily depressed, these things are true whether or not he believes he was allowed to bear these traits for reasons too complicated to understand by an all-powerful being he cannot see, or if he believes said mood is the random byproduct of scientific forces with no direction or purpose and under no one’s control.
But those who believe in certain types of deities – namely one that intervenes in His creations’ lives and tries to help them – have a challenge unique to them: Other believers of the other personality types who think that our personality type shouldn’t exist.
“It takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile!” they say, giving us something to store away from the next round of Trivial Pursuit, but very little help in dealing with a dead-end job.
“Keep your chin up and a smile on your face!” they instruct, as though one’s facial direction/decoration was why their job was eliminated in the latest round of budget cuts.
“God loves you, so be happy!” they offer, apparently never having wondered why, if happiness was of paramount importance to Him, He made some people inclined toward another emotion.
The Bible can help where other believers may not, though. Yes, it does command thankfulness at all times, but it also shows people who aren’t feeling so thankful. The man who wrote Psalm 22 was not a person to pretend to be something he wasn’t, he was instead a person who voiced feelings such as “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.” He didn’t give up there, though, and one that feeling had been expressed, he could get on with writing Psalm 23.
Furthermore, there’s evidence that He wrote this tendency into our DNA, so some of us would retreat into our work, seeking escape from the downers in the outside world while trying to do better and better things, so we can finally walk among the others with confidence.
While we’re working on that, all we’d like is a little understanding, not to be told to smile. That might not by itself cause the inversion of our negative facial expressions, but it could hurt.