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Despair or Depression?

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Picture from Linda Keagle

What exactly is the relationship between our spiritual health and our psychological health? Between despair and depression? I think most people would say that they are inter-related—what affects one affects the other.  But, even though they are inter-related, are the fundamental or core problems different? And thus, are the solutions not different?

Gordon Marino suggests in an article in the NY Times, Kierkegaard on the Couch, that today we have become “deaf to the ancient distinction between psychological and spiritual disorders, between depression and despair.”  Are not many happy and yet full of despair.  Quoting Kierkegaard, Marino says, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”

If despair is a spiritual problem, then perhaps the solution is also physical? Marino said that despair equaled intensified doubt for K? Quoting, from From K’s Sickness unto death, “A human being is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite, of the temporal and the eternal, of freedom and necessity.” For K, despair seems to occurs when there is an imbalance in this synthesis. Despair according to Kierkegaard is a lack of awareness of being a self or spirit, says Marino. Perhaps the dark feelings of depression and despair may look similar but come to be due to different causes.

So, if despair is related to a loss of hope or could we say a desperate longing for the transcendent, then a visit to a mental health professional alone will not bring the answer that is needed. A spiritual consultation may be what is needed, along with a visit to a mental health professional and to a medical doctor.  How do we provide care for depression and yet allow people to sense their despair at being disconnected from the Transcendent one?


Gordon Marino at NY Times on Oct 28, 2009

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