Here it is election time again and the rhetoric is flying. Everybody wants to change the fundamental direction of this country. There are spirited, even heated debates about how to get there. More taxes or less; a tighter money supply or looser fiscal policy; bigger government or smaller.
All these theories have sound research behind them and are argued convincingly by well educated and thoughtful people. Where is it exactly that we want to go anyway? Presumably to a society with more optimism and prosperity. Everybody can agree on that. Do you really think a Democrat or Republican can get us there? Register me skeptical. Society needs a medicine man, a healer for the masses.
Looking at society as a very large patient is useful. Mr. Society is exhibiting pretty classic symptoms. Asked about symptoms, Mr. S would have to admit to a feeling of general malaise. Complaints of lack of energy, difficulty focusing, and little enthusiasm for pastimes previously enjoyed. And don’t forget not sleeping well; that’s a big one. Mr. S is clearly depressed. It would be a no brainer diagnosis if Mr. S were a patient who walked into a doctor’s office.
What do we do for depression? Every one of us has been there at one time or another. We all have a bag of tricks that gets us through the bad days. Step one is usually go out and buy something. Treat yourself, buy a toaster or a car, a new shirt or a puppy. That usually helps, at least temporarily. And temporarily is often good enough because you get up the next day feeling better and perhaps a bit foolish about your purchase.
If it takes more than a thing to get you out of your funk, we usually reach out to a friend. We might be lucky enough to be married to one, or dating one. Friends are often pseudo-families. If not, a kindred spirit may be only a click away in this age of the web.
Or we pay someone to listen to us. We call this psychotherapy. The funny thing is it works. It might not be the fastest or least expensive cure, but it clearly works.
Of course, there is always chemical warfare against depression. Prozac and its numerous siblings have been around for 25 years. They weren’t the first effective treatment for depression, but they were much cleaner than any medication that preceded it. Cleaner in this case means most people didn’t feel tired or otherwise bad from the medication. They just feel less depressed. It was such a remarkable medication that a book was written about – “Listening to Prozac.”
Perhaps we can generalize this to society as well. Nations get depressed and can buy things to feel better, too. We bought a trip to the moon and we all felt pretty good. Before that we bought the New Deal, and freedom from dictators (World War I & II). Maybe we just need to buy into something really big, like an idea.
Psychotherapy for the Nation. Our political process seems to have a lot in common with psychotherapy. We tell politicians our problems and they listen (or something like that). Don’t you feel better now? Maybe that’s not the most effective therapy.
There are always antidepressants. Who do we give them to? Make Congress all start taking Prozac and see if things get a little better. Perhaps we include the whole government by using crop dusters to spray a Prozac solution over Washington or put it in the water? I’m jesting of course.
The question remains, is society depressed? Do we need leadership or optimism?