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There is a lot of ignorance, assumptions and discrimination surrounding depression that results in a lot of unnecessary, additional harm to those suffering the disorder. For instance the myth that people with depression are self-absorbed. Research has shown the exact opposite. Those with depression have a greater degree of empathy for others. This is possibly due to the amount of pain that we have experienced in our lives. We become highly sensitive to the pain or potential pain in others and tend to be more prosocial in our behaviour toward others than neurotypicals.

Another great misunderstanding about depression is that it is just a state of being ‘sad’. Sadness is a natural emotional reaction to losses or temporary unfortunate events in a persons life and the experience is short lived. Depression on the other hand is often, but not always, the result of severe trauma, years of relentless abuse, bullying, neglect, and/ or social isolation that ingrains a negative pattern of thinking that is very hard to remove without help from a competent Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. Along with this cognitive aspect, physiological changes take place inside the brains of its victims. The exact mechanisms are complex and not fully understood as yet but they centre around a dramatic decrease in the brains ability to produce enough of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Sustained child abuse has also been shown through scans to cause damage to neurological structures themselves. This all makes the experience of depression very different to the occasional sadness that most people experience. The experience of depression is one of severe emotional pain that feels as real as any physical pain. This emotional pain can become so extreme that it results in suicide to escape this relentless experience of pain (to sink the boot in, those who attwmpt or commit suicide are labelled “cowards”).

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The reduction of serotonin in the motivational and pleasure centres of the brain means that it is almost impossible to feel happy about anything, and results in great difficulty engaging in everyday activity, hence the myth that we’re lazy. In extreme cases a sufferer cannot even bring themselves to look after their own well-being on a day to day basis. Assuming that this is because the sufferer of depression is just lazy is like assuming that a sufferer of paraplegia doesn’t walk because they’re just lazy. Just because you can’t see the cause of disablement, doesn’t mean it’s not there.

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Another assumption that people make comes as a result of Joe Pleb being unable to distinguish between a mood disorder and intellectual impairment. People seem to automatically treat those of us with depression as though depression makes us stupid. An unfair irony considering that they are the ignoramuses. Having an IQ of 170 I often feel like a I’m talking to monkeys who are hiding bananas behind their backs and thinking that they are much cleverer than I…even though I can plainly see the banana over their diminutive shoulders. But how do you explain that to a stupid monkey?

Then of course is the assumption that having a mental illness makes you dangerous. As they say, “You have to watch the quiet ones!” Being socially withdrawn and reserved as a result of feeling so much pain and no motivation to interact, obviously we are plotting the serial murder of everyone we know. In this case they are confusing what is referred to variously as psychopathy, sociopathy, or it’s proper psychiatric designation, anti-social personality disorder (APD). Soon you find yourself suspected of all the unsolved murders in the local area. Another unfair irony with this is that sociopaths are quite often charming and outgoing and the last person to be suspected of crime within a community. They are quite often considered pillars of the community in fact, and are very good at hiding their indiscretions.

I had the next assumption bluntly thrown in my face once from an acquaintance from my amateur ballet days. The individual in question was a principal dancer with the Queensland Ballet who had choreographed a pas de deux that I had performed in an amateur production. I was walking down the main street in West End in Brisbane and happened across he and his wife. He introduced me to her as, “Roger, the snob!” This is in fact a prime example of what is known in psychology as the Fundamental Attribution Error (FAE). A curse to anyone suffering, even temporarily, from mental dis-ease. Put simply, it is a phenomenon whereby a person’s behaviour is attributed to an internal trait as opposed to an external influence. So, to this principal dancer, the reason that I was quiet and withdrawn was not because I was suffering, as I have since childhood, major depression as a result of various abusive personalities and traumatic experiences. The reason, to his minds assumptions, was that I consciously chose not to be talkative and bubbly towards him because I saw myself as superior, ie a snob. Fundamental Attribution Error is essentially an act of cognitive laziness. It is a failure on the part of those who engage in it to reason more deeply as to the motivations and causes behind the behaviour of others. It is cognitively easier to attribute a behaviour as an internal, consistent trait of the individual rather than as a temporary state resulting from environmental circumstances. That would require the individual to use cognitive resources to conceive of possible environmental explanations.

One expects ignorant bigots, to have a complete deficit in empathy. The real hurter is family, and people you considered friends who show you absolutely no understanding or compassion. This lack of compassion causes so much extra unnecessary pain. That is why it is so important for sufferers to surround themselves with a social network that is understanding and supportive…if they can. I have to admit from personal experience, that understanding, empathic people are very hard to find, even among the clinical profession that is supposed to be there to help. Of course, having studied psychology and seen the plethora of privileged young people studying psychology who don’t appear to have any sense of suffering beyond missing an episode of their favourite tv program, I’m not surprised that they don’t show empathy with their clients. Don’t give up trying to find empathic people though, and don’t give up on seeking therapy either. A competent cognitive behaviour therapist will help you recover despite being a compassionless twit. It is the structured program of CBT that does the work. It would be nice to live in a world where those of us who suffer depression are not told, “Cheer up”,or even worse, “Harden Up”, as if that is the problem, it would make recovery from depression so much easier. The general attitude and lack of understanding of people towards those of us with depression however adds an extra layer of stress in our lives and a perceived need to keep our affliction to ourselves. We live in fear of the treatment we will receive from neurotypicals.

Addendum: I thought I should mention that I have finally found genuinely empathic therapists who have helped me immeasurably.

The Four Breathes of Danu

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Born to breathe | forth beauty

Into a world | of darkness

The Alfar | bring forth light

Unto the dull | unenlighted.

Wheel within | the wicker,

Turned by four | breathes of Danu,

Ignite the light | and the fire,

Consume the base | and forge the kind.

Her breathe with | beauty breathing,

Compassion, | that shining light

That caresses | the world and cures

Tortured minds | with kindness.

The second | susserates strength.

Cultivation | of will and wit

Over base drives | and emotion.

Virtue is | her second breath.

Soft breath of | stillness peace

brings the mind | calm awareness.

Danu’s third breath, | tranquillity.

keen, kindling and | beneficent.

Echt empiric | and empathic

Ascendant, | logical thoughts

Chase the dark | of ignorance

With the breath | of understanding.

An explanation of the Alternative verse form used in “The Four Breathes of Danu”

The poetic verse form I’ve used in “The Four Breathes of Danu” is based on the skaldic verse forms used in the Old Norse sagas such as “The Poetic Edda”. Rather than rhyme, skaldic poetry is structured around alliteration, syllablic accent and syllable count.

Of course despite originating from Old Norse, English is different to Old Norse in a number of ways. Thankfully though, it is similar enough to use this poetic form. An example of the difference is in the syllabic accent. Old Norse has predictable lexical stress as the accent is usually placed on syllables in the word stem and so the accent usually falls on the first syllable. Whereas, in English the lexical stress is less predictable and so it is regarded as having variable stress.

There are three forms of Old Norse skaldic verse, Fornyrythislag, Ljothahattr, and Malahattr. Each has a slightly different structure that I have described and illustrated below using my notes, notation and examples from “The Poetic Edda” translation by Henry Adams Belows.

Fornyrthislag – Old verse – four-four measure – normally entitled -kvitha (lay)

each line has a ceasural pause – 2 half-lines

each half-line has 2 accented syllables

each half-line has 2 (sometimes 3) unaccented syllables

the 2 half lines are bound together by alliteration

Fornyrthislag

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

[2′] [2-3] A [2′] [2-3]

Example from Belows:

Vreiþr vas Vingþórr, es vaknaþi

ol síns hamars of saknaþi;

skegg nam hrista, skǫr nam dýja,

réþ Jarþar burr umb at þreifask

Translation from Belows:

Wild was Vingthor when he awoke,

And when his mighty hammer he missed;

He shook his beard, his hair was bristling,

To groping set the son of Jorth.

Ljothahattr – Song measure – four-three measure – normally entitled -mol (ballad)

first and third line of each stanza are as for fornyrthislag

second and forth are shorter with no ceasural pause

– three accented syllables

– two initial- rhymed accented syllables

Ljothahattr

[2′] [2-3] | [2′] [2-3]

[1’R][2′] [3-4]

[2′] [2-3] | [2′] [2-3]

[1’R][2′] [3-4]

Example from Belows:

Ar skal rísa sás annars vill

eþa fjǫrhafa;

liggjandi ulfr sjaldan láer of getr

sofandi maþr sigr.

Translation from Belows:

He must early go forth who fain the blood

Or the goods of another would get;

The wolf that lies idle shall win little meat

Or the sleeping man success.

Malahattr – speech measure

each line of the four-line stanzas is divided into two half-lines by a ceasural pause

each half-line has two accented syllables

each half-line has three sometimes four unaccented syllables

Malahattr

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

[2′] [3-4] | [2′] [3-4]

Example from Belows:

Horsk vas húsfreyja, hugþi at mannviti,

lag hayrþi orþa, hvat á laun máeltu;

pá vas vant vitri, vildi þeim hjalþa:

skyldu of sáesigla, en sjǫlfkvamskat.

Translation from Belows:

Wise was the woman, she fain would use wisdom,

She saw well what meant all they said in secret;

From her heart it was hid how help she might render,

The sea they should sail, while herself she should go not.

I have adapted the above forms after experimenting a little. In this form each line is separated by a ceasural pause creating two half-lines. Each line has three accented syllables. There may be one or two in either half-line but no more than three in the whole line. The accented syllables in the first line are alliterated. Finally, there may be three or four syllables in total within each half-line. Thus:

Wheel within | the wicker

1A (3) 2A               (3) 3A

Turned by four | breathes of Danu

1 (3)                           2            (4) 3

Ignite the light | and the fire

       1 (4)       2                 (3) 3

Consume the base | and forge the kind

1 (4)                   2                                (4) 3

An explanation of concepts within the poem:

On reading or viewing works of my creation some may inadvertently come to the conclusion that I believe in spiritualistic concepts. This is not so. I did once have firmly held spiritualistic beliefs in my childhood and young adulthood. However, I have made the long and sometimes difficult cognitive journey to the acknowledgement that my old beliefs were childish and fallacious. I am now what I term an “ethical atheist” who acknowledges what I once regarded as “spiritual” in regards to humanity, really pertains to human sentience. In studying psychology I have found that all the mysteries of humanity are found within the human mind and not within a simplistic notion of duality. This having been said, I do utilise spiritualistic concepts in my artwork and literature. This is purely for the purpose of symbolism. For instance, in regards to this poem, I do not actually believe that the Celtic mother goddess, Danu, is a real entity nor that her breath infuses us with the positive aspects of human psychology that the poem describes. For me, the goddess Danu and her children the Tuatha De Danaan symbolise the refined possibility for humanity. Likewise for the Norse Ljosalfar, elves. As this poem indicates in the first stanza, I tend to link the Celtic Children of Dana and Norse Alfar together in my literary ideas. This is not based on any academically identified link between the two mythological peoples. It is purely out of a symbolic link that I have in my own mind. I like to think of these deified peoples as akin to the Shaolin of China. Members of their respective cultures who spend their lives cultivating their minds and their skills, seeking to attain a higher state of being. This brings us to the next five stanzas that define four of the elements that I believe are necessary in becoming a good human being.

I’ve spent many long years contemplating what is truly good, (I use the term in the moral sense), in humanity and what is necessary to attain that good and evolve as a person. I have come to the conclusion that there are four things required for an optimum humanity. These are compassion, virtue, tranquillity and understanding. All of these are a product of human sentience, not spirituality. They originate in the synaptic firing of our brains neurons. The first line of the second stanza refers to the “Wheel within the wicker”. By this I mean our mind within our physical self. The second stanza is stating that each of us has been born with these inherited abilities to evolve psychologically and override our baser instincts that originate from the more primitive parts of our brain and nervous system. To evolve requires effort, breath. We need to actively exercise our minds in these four concepts in order to evolve into truly good human beings. The wheel must turn. As you will have noticed I also use the symbolism of breathe stoking a fire. A fire of pure thoughts and serenity overriding base instincts of self interest, bigotry, greed, lust and so on.

Compassion is the most important characteristic to nurture in oneself if you wish to become a good human being. Compassion is what separates us from sociopaths. The less compassion you have, the more sociopathic you are. Compassion requires the cognitive ability of empathy. Empathy is a skill that can be taught from early childhood through role-play and giving children practice at critical and ethical reasoning skills through classes such as P4C (Philosophy for Children). Unfortunately, there is little emphasis on these skills in most education systems. Compassion is a skill that requires intelligence but it doesn’t require genius. Thus every person is capable of this, the most profound of cognitive skills. Showing you can calculate advanced algebra in your head doesn’t make the world or yourself a better person. Showing that you can empathise and show compassion does.

Virtue is the term I use to cover aspects of self-control and a general regard and respect for the rights of others. It is about actively choosing to think, speak and act in a way that is courteous and abstemious of base drives.

I first discovered meditation when I joined the local Judo school in my youth. Unfortunately, this is another thing that people tend to mistakenly associate with spirituality and religion and thus is not regarded with any seriousness. At least not in the Western world. Fortunately, as part of my martial arts training, it was not burdened with any such associations for me and I discovered how valuable the act of seeking a calm state of mind is. It frees the mind from stress, lessens drives and emotions such as anger, and it clarifies thoughts. Thus tranquillity is an essential element to evolving as person.

Understanding as I refer to it encompasses the concept of “enlightenment” as defined by the western search for empirical understanding of the world that began again during the renaissance after the long hiatus of the dark ages. It also encompasses the eastern concept of “enlightenment” that has more to do with ones existence as a social and ethical entity. I would go into more detail, however, I have already made this a rather lengthy document for the subject. So I will leave it at this for the time being and hope that I have elucidated the poems structure and meaning somewhat, rather than make it more confusing.

Postscript:

If this encourages you to read the Poetic and Prose Edda or other pieces of Norse literature, please don’t read it blindly and become a Norse god sycophant. If you read them while thinking intelligently you will realise that the Norse gods are criminal in nature. They murder, rape, lie, steal, commit incest and other atrocities. There is nothing worth holding in high regard about the Norse gods. It’s rather disturbing that a whole culture once worshipped these base entities. They represent the antithesis of my poem.

Ether

An ambient slideshow of some of my photography. I produced soundtrack in Audacity using music and sounds provided by freesound.org artists.

You can find my artwork here on Redbubble, Deviantart, and Etsy:
http://toradellin-danaan.de…
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