Friday, October 11, 2013

Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults

Some food for thought for all those that have felt like "abandoned aliens" most of their lives. (I know I have...)
When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily "fall apart," experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression. Their ordeal highlights for them the transient nature of life and the lack of control that we have over so many events, and it raises questions about the meaning of our lives and our behaviors. For other people, the experience of existential depression seemingly arises spontaneously; it stems from their own perception of life, their thoughts about the world and their place in it, as well as the meaning of their life. While not universal, the experience of existential depression can challenge an individual’s very survival and represents both a great challenge and at the same time an opportunity—an opportunity to seize control over one's life and turn the experience into a positive life lesson—an experience leading to personality growth. 
It has been my experience that gifted and talented persons are more likely than those who are less gifted to experience spontaneous existential depression as an outgrowth of their mental and emotional abilities and interactions with others. People who are bright are usually more intense, sensitive, and idealistic, and they can see the inconsistencies and absurdities in the values and behaviors of others (Webb, Gore, Amend, & DeVries, 2007). This kind of sensitive awareness and idealism makes them more likely to ask themselves difficult questions about the nature and purpose of their lives and the lives of those around them. They become keenly aware of their smallness in the larger picture of existence, and they feel helpless to fix the many problems that trouble them. As a result, they become depressed. Full Article.  
Some thoughts:

I think there is definitely something to many of the premises put forward in this essay, although it contains many specific details that seem unhelpful toward establishing that point, such as this reoccurring idea of "higher levels" that individuals may establish through "integration."

Stepping past a great deal of uncertainty in such vague terminology, "higher" or "lower" relative to what? (See also: spatial metaphors.)

It's also neither here nor there, but the example provided of Polonius' speech in Hamlet, "to thine own self be true," completely misses the context and literary intention of that section of the play. But toward the greater point, that's nitpicking.

There are some much larger issues regarding depression, will, and neurology I want to explore here but that is going to take considerable thought, research, and writing. I will run it as soon as it's finished.

So... What do you think?

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