The luxury of depression
When we think of luxury, we often think of the finer things in life, often things that we can conspicuously display as symbols and guarantees of our status. This can include expensive and prized possessions or receiving ostentatious personal care or privileged service.
But what if luxury had another side?
The human race has always faced two great struggles, the struggle to be free from and the struggle to be free to. We have been fortunate to have been born into a world that, despite its problems, has largely conquered our need to be free from – free from disease, hunger, and want. The modern breakfast may have coffee from Brazil, fruit from Asia, beef from South America or Australia, bread from wheat fields in North America or Russia. This simple, unpretentious breakfast would have been the luxurious meal of a king two hundred years ago.
What have we done with our inheritance of freedom?
The second great struggle is the struggle to be free to. This struggle can only be conquered from within. It is our freedom to act with self-agency, independence, and in ways that are unconstrained by external demands, ways that allow us to express our personal sense of value and to enjoy life in positive and healthy ways.
I know someone who has a habit of using many clever analogies to illustrate a point when talking to others. As we were talking one day, he mentioned that, in a world of abundance, people today have the luxury of depression. The luxury of depression, think about it.
We must examine how we are using our freedom to.
We have rolled back the demands of the world and created unprecedented freedom from need. This has created personal space and available time in a real sense in each day or week for leisure, since we have been relieved of many of the practical burdens of everyday life. Using this time to dwell in anxiety, complain, or sit in self-pity would have been an unheard-of luxury to our ancestors who faced daily challenges that would be shocking to us if we were to relive them. Their freedom to was restricted, forcing them to focus on more basic needs.
Having been blessed with the gift of being free from, we must ask ourselves if our personal growth has kept pace. It seems that we have not yet learned to fully appreciate and to use our freedom to act. We have not yet learned how to take advantage of being free to. We are like an employee who has been given a surprise afternoon off of work and is a loss of what to do with it. We must find a way to use our gift and create a new imperative of positive, purposeful, human action. Perhaps, if we look carefully within ourselves, we will find the guidance we are looking for.
James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor. He is interested in cross-cultural and applied psychology, whether at work, as a part of a team, in our personal lives and in our relationships with others, or when we face adversity in life – whether from stress, addiction, or exposure to crisis.
Books and blog, https://www.jamesmcginley.com.
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