We live in a world where we want to fix things. If its broke – fix it! If it ain’t broke – still, fix it! You could say we are fixated on fixing things. The same is true of depression. Depression must be fixed.
But, in a time of grief, depression is a natural response to loss. Indeed, when facing Existential Collapse – the ultimate loss – depression may be a vital part of the grieving process; a “must-see” stop off point on the grieving journey.
Yet, there is much fear around depression, sadness, and despair. This fear leads to a reluctance to talk about Existential Collapse. “Don’t talk about it. Don’t go there – you’ll only get depressed.”
Sounds like denial, doesn’t it? Depression – a necessary stage in the grief process – is to be denied.
The reluctance to recognise the possibility of depression takes on an even greater significance in a time of Existential Collapse. The ramifications of collapse will seriously impact younger generations and those yet to be born. Older generations (if they understand at all) may be reluctant to engage with younger people because they wish to protect their children and grandchildren from such thinking.
Yet, not talking about collapse hides a truth. An enormous truth! An unwillingness to enter into conversations around collapse is tantamount to lying. Such conversations may be difficult, they may be painful, they may even be depressive. But, have them we must – for this collapse has already begun, and will become worse – much worse.
Furthermore, younger generations cannot be protected and must not be lied to. Indeed, younger generations most likely know more about Existential Collapse than do older generations.
Notwithstanding the possibility of depression, we must find the courage to begin conversations about Existential Collapse – even if we do not know how or where to begin.
Let us not allow our fear of depression to hinder us from facing our fear of Existential Collapse.
Accepting Existential Collapse may seem to be a strange (even counter-intuitive) notion. How does one accept the possible extinction of the human race? Surely, that is an untenable idea. However, let me be clear: Acceptance is not synonymous with “being okay with.” Nor is acceptance a resigned, non-involved, withdrawal.
Tara Brach coined the term Radical Acceptance which is possibly a better term than the single word – Acceptance. She has said that Radical Acceptance is “…an inner process of accepting our actual, present-moment experience. It means feeling sorrow and pain without resisting… (It is) clearly recognizing what is happening inside us, and regarding what we see with an open, kind and loving heart.”1
Perhaps an analogy may help to distinguish between this form of acceptance, and a resigned withdrawal.
Imagine you are a member of a sports team (e.g., rugby, netball, Aussie rules, gridiron, basketball, league …) and the full-time whistle is about to blow within the next couple of minutes. Your team is trailing by thirty points or more – your team is going to lose. Do you, and the rest of your team-mates, give up, stop playing, walk dejectedly off the field? No! You keep playing, right up until the whistle, even though you know you are going to lose. Furthermore, you keep playing as part of the team. You don’t take on the burden of loss all to yourself. Nor do you hog the ball – you pass, you support your team-mates.
That is Acceptance.
Acceptance in a time of Existential Collapse also understands that the past is no longer relevant. Past behaviours and ideas cannot be returned to. They are unsustainable.
This understanding leads many in the Acceptance stage to conclude that the very basis of western-styled techno-industrial civilisation is at the core of the collapse. Business-As-Usual is not an option.
Although Acceptance understands the big picture, it also realises that there are no solutions. Existential Collapse is not a problem to be solved or fixed. It is a predicament which has an outcome, but does not have solutions. See the excellent blogsite (Problems, Predicaments, and Technology).
This would seem to suggest that the emotional response would be depression. It is not. True Acceptance, in fact, opens one up to a new appreciation of beauty, love, joy, and contentment.2
Next week this blog will look into what it means to Mourn in a time of grieving and Existential Collapse.
1. www.tarabrach.com (accessed 10 August 2021)
2. Transiting to a stage of Acceptance in a time of Existential Collapse will be the topic of a future blogpiece.