“Reading Anton Chekhov’s stories, one feels oneself in a melancholy day of late autumn. Everything is strange, lonely, motionless, helpless. The horizon, blue and empty, melts into the pale sky, and its breath is terribly cold upon the earth, which is covered with frozen mud. The author’s mind, like autumn sun, shows up in hard outline the monotonous roads, the crooked streets, the little squalid houses in which tiny, miserable people are stifled by boredom and laziness and fill the houses with an unintelligible, drowsy bustle.” Maxim Gorky
Oh, okay, Gorky didn’t like Chekhov much as we see above… And today my post is about the roots and the differences of melancholy and depression.
I know I have lots of depressed followers on the ‘line’ who are all ears. Let’s start!
Melancholia is a specific condition that commonly struck people out of the blue – and put them into the black hole. First described by Hippocrates, who actually stole the whole idea from Empedocles (Empedocles is the dude who invented 4-element theory).
Melancholy is a kind of ilness that is coming from WITHIN…in contrast – usual depression stemming in response to external stressor. Thats why when you are often using in your text the word “depression” I’m wondering: are you really? or maybe just sitting in the deep hole of the black melancholy? In any case – that shit is deep, and its actually kind of sickness which is probably will follow you to the rest of the days. At least one doctor from Switzerland think so.. but because we don’t like to be stalked for the rest of our days – we’ll pretend we never heard about it. Right? 😉
We don’t hear you, Doctor Hoefner! F-Off!
What did the ‘ancients’ think about melancholy? How to cure it? Let’s take a closer look at the views of Celsus, who wrote the most complete medical guide that has survived from Roman times. His recommendations for the treatment of depression, melancholia, and insanity are still of value. Gosh, did I say ‘insanity”? Don’t worry, nothing to do with you.
- The head have to be shaved, and then rubbed with water infused with “rose or verbene oil”. Oil can also be poured over the head and into the nostrils (lucky you!).
- Sometimes purgatives work. The patient can be given ‘hellebore’ and then be induced to vomit (easy to try!).
- Advices for treatment: starvation, physical restraints, and “flogging” (check pic below). The idea here was to shock the person’s body and mind and force him to take new mental directions. “It’s good to be suddenly terrified and completely scared, so is anything that powerfully excites the mind.” When the mind is suddenly “snapped out” of one state – then new possibilities open up. Terror, in other words, works well.
- Depressed people should also be made to exercise vigorously! (20 km a day or more?)
So what do you think? Are you ready?
What is the reason of the melancholy? Herophilos ( Alexandrian physician) said it’s Love (weird, isn’t it?). Inexhaustible, forgiving and all illuminating love of self. Selfishness. Egocentrism. Eternal “I – me – my.” And since human society does not intend to eliminate the ego…melancholy will devour more and more new souls until it finally will eat everything and everyone.
Mmmmm, not so bright future Let’s move to Freud…??
He’s much much kinder than Celsus and Herophilos!
Freud compares the phenomenon of mourning after the loss and death of a loved one to the phenomenon of melancholia /or depression. Because “absorbedness” of the ego, and the disinterest in the outside-world is evident in both => mourning and melancholia (equally!). There’s only 1 difference! Mourning is a normal and healthy process, but melancholia is an abnormal pathology, a dangerous illness due to its suicidal tendency. In melancholia there is no apparent “object-loss”. And even when the subject (aka You) can identify or create the “object-loss” he/she can’t identify what “about it” is so disturbing, bothersome, sad and so on.
The loss in melancholia is an unconscious one…
You lost something ( maybe real-self?).
You don’t know what is it, where is it and how to get it back.
And here comes the last piece, really difficult to absorb, but let’s try it. Freud elaborates on the self-criticism that the melancholic is faced with. It appears that THE ACCUSER (you=part of the your own ego!) is some kind of an external independent ‘agency’. This independent part of the ego is controlling and dictating to the rest of the ego (or to the rest of You!).
So the Main Ego is being dominated by a split off part of the ego which criticizes and dehumanizes the other part as a foreign/bad ego. This independent split ‘Agency’ called itself -> “ego ideal”. And it constantly watches over you, the rest of your ego and censors its decisions.
So “YOU” are divided and one part work against the other. The ego ideal works against the ordinary ego. What to do and how to fix it? I guess become ‘whole’ again…
And at the end this really interesting, beautiful quote…something I’m telling you, peeps, over and over:
“Melancholia is, I believe, a musical problem: a dissonance, a change in rhythm. While on the outside everything happens with the vertiginous rhythm of a cataract, on the inside is the exhausted adagio of drops of water falling from time to tired time. For this reason the outside, seen from the melancholic inside, appears absurd and unreal, and constitutes ‘the farce we all must play’. But for an instant – because of a wild music, or a drug, or the sexual act carried to its climax – the very slow rhythm of the melancholic soul does not only rise to that of the outside world: it overtakes it with an ineffably blissful exorbitance, and the soul then thrills animated by delirious new energies…” Alejandra Pizarnik