A negative gap + a positive feedback loop = Depression. 

“ There are many systems of interaction between brain, body and social world that can get caught in positive feedback loops. Depressed people, for example, can start feeling useless and burdensome, as well as grief-stricken and pained. This makes them withdraw from contact with friends and family. Then the withdrawal makes them more lonesome and isolated, and more likely to feel useless and burdensome. Then they withdraw more. In this manner, depression spirals and amplifies. “

Quote from “12 rules for life”, by Jordan B. Peterson

This makes me realize that I am not the first person that figures out what Depression is. However, the book “12 rules for life” didn’t explain how to cure it.

What is depression? It has two simple components and that’s it.

  1. A gap in your mindset, or the resistance to reality in your head. 
  2. A positive feedback loop. 

The gap could be anything, if you’re self-driven, it could be you want to be the best of the best, but you’re not and you may never be, the key is that it’s clear to you too. It could be a failed surgery, you expect yourself as healthy as before but the surgery ruined it. It could be a person you love who recently died, and you don’t want to accept the reality. It could be a past-peak singer that realizes he or she could never write a new song that is as good as the best one he wrote years ago. 

The positive feedback loop is simple to understand too. If you have ever heard the ear-piercing howling sound when you move a microphone close to a speaker, you have witnessed a typical positive feedback loop. A small-signal picked up by the microphone will be amplified by the speaker and the new signal gets picked up by the microphone again and re-amplified further, in no time, the noise will come out. That’s how a pretty capable, talented, warm-hearted person suddenly found themselves in the darkest stage they can ever reach. 

Biologists know these loops well. A negative feedback loop is more seen in the biological system because it can maintain the homeostasis of a system. On the other hand, a positive feedback loop is like a switch, quickly change the system from one stage to another and it’s hard to reverse the progress. For example, from the normal stage to the depression stage. 

What made me want to start writing this book was because I suffered. I suffered a lot. When I am typing down this first word of this book – I have very mixed feelings. It felt like God directed me in this direction by giving me such a pain that almost killed me (tears in my eyes now), but kindly enough give me shallow hints, small steps, and a lot of friends to guide me through that darkest time in my whole life. 

I read and read a lot, trying to understand what depression is and why I’ll have to experience hopelessness, uselessness, and darkness. No answer was found, only all kinds of conflicting information. I was trying to find a cure and a solution, there are many offered:

  1. Antidepressant – depression is all about the chemical imbalance (like the imbalance word) in your brain and these antidepressants can help you bring the balance back;
  2. CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) – depression is your wrong way to interpret the world, you blame yourself too much, and changing how you think will bring you back to the surface, arguably will fix your problem even better than the medicine. Once you learn the right way to think, you’re somewhat immune from depression. However, no book dares to claim that CBT will guarantee depression-free.
  3. Sports – sport increase the level of endorphins and that’ll be helpful with your depression.
  4. Religion – believe in God can help you out of the dark side and stay positive.
  5. Light, fish oil, and on and on.

I was disappointed because I can easily prove that they all have critical flaws in their theory: 

  1. Anti-depressant. The whole therapy was based on some assumptions we even don’t know whether they’re right or not. Many experiments have proved that the brain in a depressed person is different from happy people. There are chemical fluctuations in the brain for sure, which might be correlated with depression but I don’t see any evidence that this imbalance is not just an outcome of depression instead of a cause, even worse, it could be some changes that just happen to occur with depression together. Any statistician knows the difference between causal vs correlation. There are research studies that showed that an anti-depressant does no better than a placebo.
  2. CBT. I, myself, suddenly become depressed just because I got a promotion in 2018. How to use CBT to explain that? I didn’t change my way to view this world and yes I gave myself some hard time but I have done that before too. Why this time I’m depressed and even have considered suicide? Why not last time?
  3. Sports are easy to challenge: there are a lot of elite athletes are suffering from depression today. Talking about sport duration and tense, I think not many people can compete with them. If sports are so effective, then this group should be depression-free. However, alcohol, nicotine, gambling, and many other activities including social media give you endorphins.
  4. Religion – no evidence that Christians suffer less than the non-religious group in terms of depression, no more and no less. It seems what you believe doesn’t affect depression at all.
  5. Light irritation, fish oil and so on – when you are desperate, any idea that could make you believe that it works could help with depression. But obviously, I can easily argue the people who live near-equatorial should have less depression or who eat a lot of more deep-sea fish. Unfortunately, it’s not true.

Then why? Jonathan Rottenberg tried to explain depression in his book “The Depths” from a biology evolution perspective and called out that it’s just a natural self-protection mechanism for the human being. Oh yeah, as a biologist, I liked that idea. And yes depression is not necessarily a bad thing, otherwise, it should be extinct already. But that still doesn’t answer the question of why some people are more susceptible to depression than others, why more talented people suffer from it than a regular person. 

Here I’ll try to explain all the questions for you and if you get my ideas by thinking it through. You’ll more likely be depression-free. But take an anti-depressant, go to a therapist and keep exercising when you feel necessary. None of these are doing bad to you either. You just need the click and see depression clearly. Once you know what is, I guarantee that your pain will immediately be relieved to a level that is totally acceptable, with a couple of months, you should back to function. 

Philippe Petit showed a perfect example of what depression is. He is a French high-wire artist who has walked between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the twin towers of World Trade Center in New York City, US. One critical piece of equipment for a high-wire walk is the custom-made 8-meter (30-foot) long, 25-kilogram (55-pound) balancing pole. If Philippe didn’t have this balancing pole for this first high-wire walk, he had no way to survive. So the balance is the key. Even with the pole, imagine what will happen if the pole is unbalanced in any way if one side is heavier than another and started lean over, unless if Philippe can quickly correct that, the process will go faster and faster until the whole pole dropping to one side. That’s exactly the same process of depression forming. What’s the outcome? Philippe is dragged down with the pole together – tragedy happens. In depression, the imbalance is reflected in brain chemistry, but rooted deeper in a person’s mindset. Luckily as long as the person doesn’t give up, there are always ways to get the balance back. Especially when they figure out what is causing these unrealistic and distorted visions of themselves. 

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