Often we forget that political and social consciousness carries with it a certain burden. Now, I don’t mean this in the pretentious with-great-intelligence-comes-great-responsibility way, no, because I believe that everybody does have the capacity for political and social consciousness. But the fact remains: some of us are more aware of the imminent problems the world faces than others. For those who delve into racial, socio-economic, geo-political, social justice and phycological problems almost every day, it can be a depressive journey of attempting to right the wrongs of the world, whilst also having to come face to face with mass ignorance.
I’ve realised that I feel most helpless when I ponder on the sheer magnitude of things that need changing, the tenacity of failed political systems and the unwillingness of individuals to commit themselves to social and cultural change. It’s like the beginning of a nightmare when you know what’s in store if you continue sleeping, but you simply cannot stop. It’s the same process for thinking about all the world’s ills and the uncontrollable effects it has on your mental state. I think if you are truly affected by the state of world affairs, you cannot help but feel emotionally, physically and mentally helpless. It can lead to some gruelling thoughts, of which have a certain stigma attached to them.
Depressive realists are those who make more realistic inferences than non-depressed individuals and tend to have negative automatic thoughts and unconventional world beliefs. They make selective abstractions which leads to them being more focused on single negative events and inclined towards catastrophic thinking. For example, a depressive realist might be largely concerned with the racial bias of institutions, but neglect the fact that there are some strides being made in racial equality. It’s kind of a we’re-forever-doomed that actually leads to chronic depression and at times, suicidal ideations.
Albert Camus writes about suicide as “an act prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art” and Friedrich Nietzsche went as far as to say that “the thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it gets one through many a dark night”. But, what is so consoling about the idea of not existing anymore? I’ll tell you. It’s the somewhat misplaced notion that electronic motor that is your brain will stop running and all the thoughts that you feel overwhelmed by will come to a close. More importantly, the seductiveness of not wanting to exist anymore comes from the desire to stop feeling burdened by all the world’s ills and deficiencies. I mean lets face it, consciousness weighs heavier for some than others.
Now you might be thinking about what others have to do with you yourself not wanting to exist anymore? Well, a lot of the times when I have felt like not existing, it has been caused by others. I don’t disgust myself to the point of depressive realism, the state of the world and others’ lack of consciousness does. Most people in my immediate surroundings are not even remotely interested in the things that I dedicate myself to. They can barely think outside of their city, let alone country. I’ve realised that I feel most helpless when I think of how different my thought patterns are to the majority of people and this is a lonely experience in itself. My brain literally never stops working, I can be in bed at 3am and my mind is running through notions of how to subvert the power of authoritarian governments, or It’s lunch time and i’m supposed to be taking a break from “thinking” and chilling with a group of friends and instead I’m postulating purpose of black holes in my head. Thinking differently takes its toll.
“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too” – Frida Kahlo
What does it mean to feel different from others in regards to the contents of your thoughts? It seems that we’re all looking for ways to be accepted or understood by others. There is an importance that lies in the comfort of being understood, it is not just that you are ‘weak’ for seeking the validation of others, but that through being understood, you feel more whole, you feel part of collective humanity, and not just as a lone thinker. If you really think about it, all the 70,000 thoughts you experience a day are present in your mind for a purpose, they serve a long-term goal and if you feel as though you are alone in your thinking, the purpose becomes narrowed as you realise there are less people around to ease your struggle. In being understood, we also feel loved. For those who do not feel understood by anyone, they find it subsequently harder to accept love from those around them.
I sense no shame in declaring that I have felt like not existing many a time. I have been seduced by non-existence, as we all have been. But, the difference for me was that these thoughts became recurrent and this was when I knew that something had to be done. I began a process of self-preservation and self-love that has since allowed me to care for myself while also caring about the world. There is a fine line between being dedicated to a cause, and allowing that cause to consume and swallow you whole, eventually spitting you out in fragmented unrecognisable pieces. What I find great comfort in whenever feeling like there is really no end in sight for our global problems, is to share these thoughts with others. It’s not revolutionary, I know. But, when I found out that most people feel like not existing a lot of the time and the they don’t share it because of the stigma attached to it, I felt as part of a whole. If we remove the stigma surrounding such natural thought processes, we can ease the exclusion and loneliness that some people feel in thinking differently to others.It took me a while, but I realised that it’s okay to feel like not existing sometimes, the state of the world is depressing, how can one be absolved from such an emotion? But, as long as I do not long for it- the desire for non-existence is very different from mere flirtation with it.
Being a depressive realist means seeing the world differently to others, it could mean that you care more about our global problems or that you’re even willing to go further than the ordinary person to try and individually fix them. But, what about the toll this takes on you? Have you ever stopped to consider the effects of all the times you’ve felt nihilistic and helpless? I know I didn’t stop to consider this, and it eventually led me down a very angry path where I didn’t view my methodology of dealing with the world as unique, but rather as a destructive and unwelcome part of me. Taking some time to configure what you want from the world can be the difference between sanity and insanity. I realised I was only giving to the world through my writing and ideas and taking back a sense of hopelessness mixed with subtle positivity in return. I will no longer neglect my own needs, as I cannot help anyone whilst I am still helpless. I want others who feel the heavy burden of political and social consciousness to know that they are not alone and that feeling like not existing is part and parcel of this responsibility that we’ve been lodged with. It’s okay to have unique and different thoughts and it’s okay that not everybody will understand them.
We have to love ourselves so much so that no amount of futility can penetrate us, no amount of nihilism can consume our being and no amount of ignorance can impede our causes and ideas.