_*_Radical Psychology_*_

Summer 1999, Vol. 1, Issue 1.

Anxiety and Depression: A Philosophical Investigation

Petra von Morstein

... It is death

That is ten thousand deaths and evil death..

Be tranquil in your wounds. It is good death

That puts an end to evil death and dies.

Be tranquil in your wounds. The placating star

Shall be gentler for the death you die

And the helpless philosophers say still helpful things.

--Wallace Stevens

These are only hints and guesses,

Hints followed by guesses; and the rest

Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action

--T.S. Eliot

I. The ground of psyche's suffering.

I believe that philosophy is an essential way of being human and that lived philosophy is prior to any of its methods and theories. Questions like "Who am I? What am I to do? What is real? What is being? What is truth? What is the origin and scope of knowledge?" arise originally from lived experience, often with intense urgency. Our own lives as well as writings of great philosophers -- e.g., Plato, Augustine, Descartes, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, -- make this patently evident. Human beings are creatures whose existence includes the question of being. We need to know. This need precedes any concern with the origin, methods, and scope of knowledge. After the mythical Fall from paradise, metaphor for the liberation of human consciousness, we can no longer rest in the primal order of existence, in unreflected unity with the world. We only can long for it, and we do. Regressively so; for in paradise human consciousness does not know itself; it exists seamlessly in the world incomplete unity if thus it can be said to exist at all. There is no I-it and no I-Thou. Adam and Eve just are, without direction toward anything. The world of paradise is their extension, as the mother is but extension to the baby prior to its ability to relate.

In innocence (= ignorance), we do not recognize the implications of human existence and have no sense of either self or other. As we exit paradise we are given freedom and condemned to it. The freedom of consciousness manifests itself in thought and action. We are, as we know, fallible in both, and the 'horrible truth' (which Hamlet a la Nietzsche recognizes so devastatingly that he is left with his overwhelming either-or question) is that thought can never fully reach action. The fall to sin is the fall to knowledge which must embrace uncertainty and in this embrace keep moving from question to question after every apparent answer, moving on its belly. Uncertainty leaves alternatives to any conclusion open and thus engenders freedom of choice -- responsibility in not knowing. It is here where confusion, awareness of guilt, anxiety and depression are ontologically grounded. Consciousness begins in confusion, guilt, and anxiety.

Consciousness is born through expulsion from paradise. Human freedom entails fallibility and choice. God's gift of freedom to consciousness comes with its shadow of cognitive and moral uncertainty, with, always, the possibility of falsehood and sin. Choices cannot be secured with guarantees of truth or goodness. This makes for primordial disorientation -- a dis-ease which cannot possibly be eradicated from human consciousness. -- The scope of human knowledge is confined by inherent human boundaries, basic human forms of experiencing. Kant thought of space and time as such forms, Jung of archetypes.

I see the history of philosophy -- not exclusively, but importantly -- as a diverse multitude of endeavors to find therapies for such primordial suffering. As this is constitutive of human existence and cognition, thus ontologically necessary, it cannot be cured. It can be integrated, considered as a cognitive source, to be lived with rather than under. Thus we are, as Nietzsche says, always convalescents.

Kant, perhaps the greatest revolutionary in the history of western philosophy, confined the scope of knowledge to human boundaries and tried to define these. Of course, he realized that they are undefinable. He acknowledged progress in both the empirical and pure sciences. Kant was to unite metaphysics with our lives and our (cognitive) limits. He was to put lived life into metaphysics, and metaphysics, concretely, into lived life. With Kant metaphysics became an integral part of our cognitive and moral development.

With the Kantian Copernican Revolution (space and time are in us, a priori forms of "intuition", rather than outside us -- a therapeutic move to salvage God, freedom and immortality from contradiction with Newtonian determinism) we encounter archetype and projection for the first time, though not in those words, and not with such diversity as we now understand them. I am not concerned to convince you of Kant's view that space and time are in us rather than external to consciousness. But I am inviting consideration of Kantian space and time as irreducible forms of human experience in physical reality. Kantian space and time are not themselves in space and time but timeless archetypal forms of experience which we can recognize only in their manifestations: in science and in individual as well as collective experience.

Whatever we recognize as the forms of our experiences and lives -- space and time as forms of perception, categories of understanding, (Jungian) archetypes -- , we acknowledge that we project these onto reality and that we cannot take these projections back. Enquiry is confined within limits which cannot be defined. They are in us, rather than outside of us and constitute our basic universal standpoint for experience and knowledge. "The subject does not belong to the world; rather, it is a limit of the world." (Wittgenstein, 1961, par. 5.632; p. 117). Since we cannot separate the object of experience from the forms of experiencing which constitute the object, we cannot draw a boundary line between mirror image and mirror. The two are and must be inseparable. Hence knowledge of an object, objective knowledge, must have a speculative component, -- literally, a component of being mirrored. Etymology here helps us to sobriety; for speculum means mirror; indeed, the German word "Spiegel" is derived from it. Speculative thought thus must be realistic rather than lofty and fantastic; indeed it is indispensable for cognition. Through speculative thought we enable knowledge to hold uncertainty.

Uncertainty is built into human existence, into the nature of human consciousness. "A philosophical problem has the form: I don't know my way about." (Wittgenstein, 1967, par. 123; p. 49). Suffering through disorientation is inevitable. But the affirmation of uncertainty transforms our perspective upon relevant sufferings: It does no longer make sense to seek a cure, an elimination of such suffering, but ways of living with it resourcefully -- even joyously, if we were to go as far as Nietzsche.

It is part of my claim, that major sufferings of psyche, as anxiety and depression, have their origin in fundamental human disorientation and must be recognized as indispensable resources of human cognition and morality. Thus it is essential for the livelihood of human consciousness to acknowledge and recognize a variety of experiences as suffering, -- not just those which are intensely and undeniably felt, but also (and especially) those which one may not recognize as suffering; a conscious or unconscious denial of uncertainty may be tantamount to devastating self-deception. (Consider the person with, by any standards, a perfectly functioning life who commits suicide.) Human being, being human, therefore requires pathologizing. Pathologizing, recognition of suffering as such, is, I propose, the beginning of philosophical enquiry, along with wonder. We are in the vicinity of what James Hillman means by "pathologizing":

"I am introducing the term pathologizing to mean the psyche's autonomous ability to create illness, morbidity, disorder, abnormality and suffering in any aspect of its behavior and to experience and imagine life through this deformed and afflicted perspective." (Hillman, 1975, p. 57).

Pathology, in the present context, is understood as recognition and exploration of certain basic human experiences as inevitable suffering. They are the origin of and subject to philosophical enquiry. I am not here considering pathology as involved with diagnostic concepts.

II. Subject and object: anxiety and depression

We have seen the plausibility (at least) of the view that reality as we can know it is constituted by us, by our ways of perceiving. Thought, then, is applied to what appears to us by virtue of our inherent ways of perceiving; it cannot be applied to reality in-itself. The concepts of thought and what appears within the limits of human perception are dynamically intertwined. Given that we can know reality only by "projection" (by constituting reality), no account of anything real can preclude further questions, however carefully our conclusions may have been established. The "objects" of consciousness are never completely external to consciousness, but also always internal. Conscious states/occurrences and their objects are interdependent and inseparable. Hegel, who built his dialectical method on what he takes to be the dialectical nature of consciousness, speaks of the inseparability of consciousness and its objects (of "subject" and "object") as spirit (Hegel, 1807/1977). To eliminate spirit from experience would amount to a denial of reality. But to acknowledge spirit as integral to experience and knowledge is to embrace uncertainty and undertake the task of enquiry in the face of any conclusion, however impeccable it may seem. What dispassionate objective reason appears to close, spirit must keep open.

Since the middle ages philosophers have spoken of the intentionality of consciousness. They mean this: to be conscious is to be intentionally directed at an object, -- to intend an object. In short: There is no conscious event or state without an object; to be conscious is to be conscious of something; and what I am conscious of, is also always IN consciousness (what is "transcendent" is also always "immanent", in Husserl's terms). The intentionality of consciousness precludes a subject-object dichotomy. Subject and object are, really, inseparable, -- a duality in unity. It is because of this that objective knowledge entails uncertainty and that the dis-ease of disorientation is inevitable. With this view of consciousness in mind I shall explore anxiety and depression, two fundamental sufferings of psyche. Individual experiences of such sufferings generate philosophical enquiry and philosophical methods as therapies. ( cf. von Morstein, 1994).

Through anxiety consciousness is directed at the unknown.(Kierkegaard, 1849/1980). Anxiety is the emotion directed at no-thing (Heidegger).How are we to understand this? "In anxiety there is the selfish infinity of possibility, which does not tempt like a choice, but ensnaringly disquiets with its sweet anxiousness." (Kierkegaard, 1980, p. 61). Anxiety is, accordingly, a felt expression of freedom, but amorphous freedom; for no thing allows as yet for identification and classification. In extreme anxiety there is no thing, no possible action that I can recognize, let alone relate to. No thing makes sense; I cannot see meaning or significance in what is around me. From the point of view of anxiety, directed at the unknown, anything is possible, but I cannot define any possibility; thus I cannot imagine myself onto any future path of my life; my future does not present itself by way of alternative possibilities which I may or may not enact; there are no limits on my possibilities -- in extreme anxiety -- and yet I cannot choose. In anxiety I behold the undifferentiated open; I am inactivated, but not passive; I am face to face with myself as sheer potential; there is no thing to intend. "That which we have anxiety about is our potentiality for being in the world." (Heidegger, 1962, p. 235).

I am face to face with myself, immediately and deeply felt -- without relatedness, therefore without pronounceable identity. Anxiety is innocence, not knowing; but unlike the innocence of paradise it presupposes the Fall. Adam and Eve must have felt it when they stepped outside the walls of paradise. Descartes felt it when he realized that all his belief systems, his methods of orientation, had collapsed through the Scientific Revolution. Each of us feel it in extreme experiences (boundary experiences) which shatter our cognitive and moral fortresses. -- In short, anxiety is a way of knowing: In anxiety I am consciously directed at no thing and thus myself undefined in terms of relatedness in my world. Anxiety is thus a way of knowing myself which is irreplaceable by any other way. In anxiety I am full of myself and least familiar to myself. I am bare potential. I am free and cannot choose.

Every knowing includes a component of not-knowing and therefore a component of anxiety, -- of freedom. The immediate object of anxiety is no thing, sheer potential. From anxiety I may begin to envisage a direction and make a path; I may then come to act in the face of uncertainty and endeavor to find my way; I will not be able to guarantee avoidance of error and guilt. -- Alternatively I may be over whelmed by the great weight of sheer undifferentiated potential and fall into the dark of depression, unable to affirm and trust the self I have come face to face with: mirrored in the unknown.

Anxiety, as Heidegger shows, individualizes; but it does not particularize; it gives us neither boundaries nor relatedness. Rather, it is the fount of becoming who one is. Any exploration of anxiety and its object, viz. no thing = unbounded potential, must begin in the first person, I. Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, (Descartes, 1980), one of the great and most influential works of Western Philosophy, is such an exploration, -- sustained disciplined work from nothing ("naught") to reorientation: trust in self and in the clarity and distinctness of my perceptions and in my conscious being in the world. This work leads, not to infallibility, but a new integration of uncertainty.

Anxiety is, we have found, a primal state of consciousness. In anxiety I am at one with reality as sheer potential, not unconsciously so as in paradise, but consciously so: anticipating, if I am able, the task to integrate knowable and unknowable aspects of reality. In paradise I am not individualized. In anxiety I am. In both I am innocent = ignorant. In paradise I am not called to action; in anxiety I am, but fear of anxiety may, as we have seen, inactivate me or make me hide from myself. In anxiety we recognize both the resistance of reality to human ordering and the human need to know, to understand -- and control. This live paradox makes for the pain of anxiety. "Constantly we have to give birth to our thought out of pain." (Nietzsche, 1882/1974, p. 35). Anxiety, as much as wonder, is the origin of philosophy. But in wonder, however momentarily, we overcome the tension between our need to know and reality's resistance to being (fully) known.

"A philosopher -- is a human being who constantly experiences, sees, hears, suspects, hopes, and dreams extraordinary things; who is struck by his own thoughts as from outside, as from above and below, as by his type of experiences and lightning bolts; who is perhaps himself a storm pregnant with new lightnings; a fatal human being around whom there are constant rumblings and growlings, crevices, and uncanny doings. A philosopher -- alas, a being that often runs away from itself, often is afraid of itself -- but too inquisitive not to 'come to' again -- always back to himself." (Neitzsche in Kaufmann, 1968, p. 420).

This is not an account of the academic philosopher to be sure, but of any human being as philosopher. Descartes allows this primordial anxiety to arise in a secure holding space, a temenos, as it were, the temenos of his own study.

"Several years have now passed since I first realized how many were the false opinions that in my youth I took to be true, and thus how doubtful were all the things that I subsequently built on these opinions. From the time I became aware of this, I realized that for once I had to raze everything in my life, down to the very bottom, so as to begin again from the first foundations, if I wanted to establish anything firm and lasting in the sciences." (Descartes, 1641/1980, p. 27).

"Bottoming out" then, far from clinically alarming, can be therapeutic. It is a state deliberately and methodically induced by Descartes for the purpose of attaining true insight into the scope and limits of human knowledge, and, if possible, a secure body of knowledge.

Descartes, the "father of modern philosophy", was probably not the first and certainly not the last philosopher methodically to "bottom out". Descartes stripped "I", the thinking something (res cogitans) of all beliefs, including belief in its own thingly status. He made it possible methodically to behold the "I" in its immediate existential presence. The I in "Sum res cogitans" is undetermined. Some mental activity, thinking in the widest sense of the word, is going on, and I exist, undetermined: This is all I can know, on the rock bottom of being. Immediately given, the (Cartesian) I is not an individual particular; it is "naught", no-thing. At the beginning of the Second Meditation Descartes sounds like Nietzsche:

" . . . as if I had suddenly fallen into a deep whirlpool, I am so disturbed that I can neither touch my foot to the bottom, nor swim up to the top. Nevertheless I will work my way up . . . " (Descartes, 1641/1980, p. 61).

In anxiety consciousness is going on and I exist, undetermined. "To become what one is, one must not have the faintest idea what one is." (Nietzsche, 1908/1989, p. 254). Anxiety fulfills this initial condition if we take its offer of the open. But this is much easier said than done.

A philosophical problem has the form: I do not know my way about. Anxiety has the form: I can intend no thing. What is the form of depression? I cannot accept myself. I am neither grounded nor centered in reality. Depressed people often say something like: "I know that my life is good, I have no reason to complain. Yet I am so depressed, so unhappy." Something is missing, but I don't know what it is. Things don't have significance for me. In so-called ordinary circumstances we live, experience, and act under concepts within the bounds of sense, we live under descriptions, guided by theories and principles. For better or for worse we tend to be satisfied or think we ought to be -- as long as nothing goes wrong. We are comfortable (a much overrated value) and allow ourselves the illusion that the interpreted world is all there is to reality. Alternatively we feel that something is amiss and are depressed: Such depression is closer to truth-to-reality than comfort. It points to something lost in the dark. It urges us to explore, but it also inactivates. We need help to enliven the urge for exploration.

By contrast with depression in apparent comfort I may be catapulted into depression through a boundary experience (Jaspers: Grenzsituation), an experience which suddenly takes me outside the boundaries of my interpreted world; it explodes my identity and turns my world into a place for which I have no map. The feeling component of boundary situations cannot possibly be brought under concepts. It is of such overwhelming intensive magnitude that we cannot overlook it as we overlook the intensive component of more ordinary everyday experiences. Depression, whether endogenous or from narcissistic wounds, may jump in with a sense of loneliness of being cut-off from one's world before anxiety can enter and the unknown can be explored. Depression sets limits around a dark space and closes me to the world in which I am. The over whelming sense of being lonely and cut-off, in the dark, requires a look at the undeniable uniqueness of the intensive, immediately felt, component of my experiences, especially of my boundary experiences. Thus it requires acknowledgment of underlying anxiety. Boundary situations amount to intense awareness of my uniqueness, of that aspect of my being in which I am strictly ungeneralizable. As a discrete particular I am generalizable, objectifiable; as a strictly unique individual I am not. Whatever can be said about me as a discrete particular cannot capture this unique aspect of my being. In this respect I cannot compare myself; I cannot imitate anyone, or follow a leader. I can be neither better nor worse than anyone. In respect of my individual uniqueness I cannot be "graded", rank-ordered. Unique individuality precludes hierarchy. There can be no expert to guide me in my decisions from boundary situations; you may think of decisions regarding abortion, euthanasia, (assisted) suicide. I am on my own. Depression translates uniqueness into a sense of terrible isolation. Anxiety is an encounter with that undefinable uniqueness.

But this does not mean that I am isolated. For it is just in terms of my individual uniqueness (not to be confused with my discrete particularity) that I am inseparably and mutually interconnected with other selves. We cannot draw objective boundaries between aspects of ourselves which cannot possibly be objectified. Where we are most uniquely individual there we are most immediately interconnected. We experience this vividly and concretely, for instance, when we talk to a person who has been diagnosed with cancer, or has had a severe accident, a great loss, or a nervous break-down; or, for that matter, an epiphany, an experience of overwhelming clarity and joy. I cannot know propositionally how this person feels; or how I would feel if something comparable (comparable?) happened to me. The feeling component of boundary situations cannot possibly be brought under a concept. Yet I can know you and your experience by recognition and empathy. For it mirrors my own possibilities. If I let myself be reflected in you and you can behold yourself mirrored in me, our connection as selves is manifest, and the work can begin.

My knowledge, if possible, of an other's experience must be participatory, and cannot be objective. It follows that your boundary situation cannot be "your problem", but must be ours. And it is not a "problem" which can be solved through calculation and management. In boundary situations it is patently evident that the self is not (merely) a thing. We meet at the boundary, so to speak. Argument won't do to persuade a depressed person of her real connectedness precisely because reasoning cannot address the intense magnitude of a catastrophic experience.

Anxiety and depression in the extreme show the deep connection between philosophy and psychology: Suffering is the prime source of medical, therapeutic and philosophical enquiry and insight. It is well known that the major source of Socrates' work consists in the sufferings (from uncertainty and disorientation) of his interlocutors, their disorientations which they require the philosopher's dialogical help to explore. Socrates and his interlocutors pathologize in the course of their philosophical enquiries. Plato's dialogues present us with first person philosophers in communion of suffering. And Socrates matures in the knowledge that he knows nothing.

III. Anxiety and depression: perceptions and intentions.

Depression can be a -- very painful -- holiday from anxiety. From anxiety we fall into darkness of depression to be protected from the open. There appears to be no sense in stepping out from darkness. Anxiety points toward becoming; depression toward immobility. In anxiety we see no sense; but anxiety enlivens the need to make sense. This need wanes in depression. Anxiety paired with depression paralyses. Anxiety by itself enlivens.

We have seen that depression can be a direct inversion of anxiety: entrapment in fear of anxiety; fear of being mirrored in the open. Of course, depression occurs by no means only in the open (which boundary experiences may catapult us into), but very much also in the enclosure of home: I may say that everything is fine, nothing to be complained about: and yet I feel cut-off from what is around me: my garden and house, my loved ones, my books, music and paintings, my social activities, my professional work. I don't see the point in any of this, but I don't know why. Everything that comes to consciousness is darkened, meaningless. Consequently the circle of world in which I am centre becomes tighter and tighter until my sense of centeredness diminishes and I cease to be able to constitute the reality of my world. In extreme depression self is lost. This is the state when suicide seems compelling.

At home, depressed consciousness has familiar and functioning intentional objects, including very ordinary ones, described and explicable. But I cannot trust myself as mirrored in them, I cannot trust myself in constituting them nor in speculating about their otherness. I shall not here pursue the likely source of narcissistic wounding for such depression in which I do not know, do not even feel myself. Self is unknown, and yet anxiety may well be not felt, because unknown self is effectively not acknowledged, not let be, not loved. The grounding question "Who am I?" needs to be asked. The enquiry begins as an exploration of what is hidden in darkness.

Here the philosopher has a basic therapeutic task, and the therapist a basic philosophical one. It begins with unprejudiced attention to the dark of depression. Anxiety then becomes inevitable once the depressed person begins to face self. Dialogue is essential. This requires temenos, holding- space, may it be ancient Athens's market place or a counselor's office. (One client called my counseling room a safety deposit box).

In depression intentionality is darkened. A depressed person may be cut-off from what he 'intends' -- and thereby from himself. Depression may have to be transformed into anxiety for him to be able to come face to face with himself, with self. Anxiety individualizes, as we have seen, and is a beginning of becoming who one is. Here is an example of a sudden transformation of depression into anxiety: Margaret feels so cut-off from even her everyday life and its mundane requirements that by now she can be only minimally active; nonetheless she forces herself again and again to step out from immobility and darkened inwardness, from the sense of pointlessness. So one day she goes to the pet store to buy cat food. She has often said that everything, mundane or "important", is ambivalent: Yes, she could go to work, visit a friend, write a letter, ... but there is really no point to any of this; she falters after the first move in the direction of such activities. Yet she did go to the pet store -- because, well, you must feed the cat. There is no question, no ambivalence about that. Getting ready for this short excursion was nonetheless a slow great effort. Waiting at the counter to pay for her bag of cat food she heard the saleswoman speak into the telephone: "He may still be clinging to something. But if he doesn't move, he must be dead. . . . Yeah, you could try [opening his mouth] with a credit card, but I don't think, that will do anything . . .Even though he clings he is probably dead, -- I'm sure. . . . I don't know. All you can do is detach him and throw him in the garbage."[Margaret looked at her in horror. The sales woman looked back and said into the telephone:] . . . I know that's not pleasant. But there's nothing else you can do. He's dead." Margaret said in our session that she was overwhelmed by a sense of dehumanization, the automization of death, and visions of people in her life dead, of her cat dead. She asked, breathless: "What are you talking about?" "Oh, a lady was calling about her pet lizard" the saleswoman said. This relieved Margaret a little, not much; but in our subsequent session she could come face to face with her lack of grounding trust in human interaction, in living and dying. Anxiety offered itself as ground and beginning. The saleswoman's utterances were distorted in Margaret's hearing, enlarged beyond proportion (by what standards: stereotypical ones?). It is depression's way of perceiving, made conscious which brought her back to herself -- to a beginning, in anxiety, of movement and becoming. It is through anxiety that isolation and self-alienation in depression may begin to be healed. A move from depression to anxiety is like a move from prison to the open . A client who described this move as one from a rock to a hard place made a philosophical error.

We have seen earlier that depression may develop from a well functioning, "objectively" flawless life: successful career, social status, a healthy family, intelligent, capable children . . . -- and yet something strongly felt but undetermined seems to be missing. In such a life a person is seen, by herself and others, as an independent, self-reliant individual, in control of her life, in autonomous pursuit of her purposes: A manifestation, one might say, of an individualist ideology which, as John Bentley Mays in his memoir of depression (Mays, 1995, p. 110) points out, "discourages our belonging anywhere." (p. 110) Mays continues: "[The language of individualist ideology] also encourages the enmity to rootedness at the heart of depressive malignancy and the aversion to our only true human right: to be knit into the general communion of suffering, emerging and disappearing human presence." Depression "intends" (is directed at) such communion, often unbeknownst to the depressed person. To become conscious of depression's intention he has to overcome and expand those boundaries which determine his objective identity. Once I recognize depression's intention and get ready for communion, I am no longer isolated, cut-off. I am ready to go with depression, not against it; I no longer treat it as a malignant enemy , but as potential for interconnectedness, for "I-Thou" in Buber's term. Thus depression may be transformed -- without thereby being cured . Given depression's intention, cure indeed might be inappropriate. -- It is unlikely that anxiety can be circumvented in such a transformational process.

In the thick of depression I feel cut-off: What presents itself to my consciousness seems pointless; nothing matters, one way or the other. To this I may respond in one of at least two extreme ways. I may respond suicidally. Or I may focus all my remaining energy on a quest for unequivocal truth, for perfection (such a quest is to be distinguished from a longing for paradise). However, this quest cannot be a healing one. For, as we have seen, within the bounds of human sense and understanding we must embrace uncertainty in order to be (become) ourselves. Ambivalence is to be overcome only by choosing oneself, by union with reality -- not in separation from it. But ambivalence can be overcome only in moments, not "for good".

Nonetheless, rather than live with uncertainty, I may embark on a quest for one, unchangeable, unequivocal truth, on a search for my own most identity. I may be determined to reach this goal. Such a quest and such determination are bound to aggravate the separation from myself and my world. Mrs. Conway, a woman in her seventies, frail but fierce and passionate, beautiful, extremely intelligent and articulate, began in her late middle age to study metaphysics and theology on her own and discovered what she thinks of as indubitable divine (unchangeable) truth. Quest and study arose from a life of dejection. Mrs. Conway believes she has never been loved, that she has been rejected and abused from childhood on, and that she has never grieved her losses. She emphatically denies any self worth except for this: if she succeeds in writing and publishing the book of her indubitable unchangeable truth, then she will thereby contribute to the healing of humankind from evil. She admits human weakness and ambivalence in everyday life and evil on a global scale, but believes that we can be saved from weakness and evil and that she must do what she can to aid such redemption. This is what she lives for. In sessions she presents the sufferings of her life from which the quest arose in hardly any detail, but summarily as "pathetic", "garbage" and any attention to it as "self-indulgence". She furiously rejects even the possibility of being comforted. -- Pascal said that we human beings are both wretched and great. For Mrs. Conway it is: either wretched or great; and wretchedness has to be negated, eliminated for the sake of greatness. Hegel recognized the pattern of such an attitude as "unhappy consciousness" -- the internalized master/slave relation -- in his view a necessary phase in the development of consciousness. In his famous analysis of master/slave relations Hegel convinced us that the master cannot live as self; for he consistently that, in order to be a self, we must be inseparably interconnected as selves in mutual recognition and acknowledgment of each other as selves. Such interconnection is severed if the master uses his slaves only as means to his purposes and not at all as ends in themselves. The turn from depression to grandiosity, as exemplified, is tantamount to a duplication of self-consciousness within itself.

"The Unhappy Consciousness is the consciousness of itself as a dual-natured, merely contradictory being . . . It takes the two, the Changeable and the Unchangeable to be, not the same, but opposites, one of them, viz. the simple Unchangeable, it takes to be the essential Being; but the other, the protean Changeable, it takes to be the unessential." (Hegel, 1977, pp. 126-127).

In consequence, this way out (out?) of depression may be the death of both, the inner master and the inner slave, if development halts here. If only (but not only) for ontological reasons Mrs. Conway needs to listen to her wretchedness, -- if only (but not only) for the sake of her greatness. She has to learn to love her wretchedness, herself, in order to be able to give her love to other human beings -- which she longingly wants to do. But we cannot love by greatness alone.

"Ich liebe meines Wesens Dunkelstunden,

in welchen meine Sinne sich vertiefen;

in ihnen habe ich, wie in alten Briefen,

mein täglich Leben schon gelebt gefunden

und wie Legende weit und überwunden.

Aus ihnen kommt mir Wissen, dass ich Raum

zu einem zweiten zeitlos breiten Leben habe.

Und manchmal bin ich wie der Baum,

der, reif und rauschend, über einem Grabe

den Traum erfüllt, den der vergangne Knabe

(um den sich seine warmen Wurzeln drängen)

verlor in Traurigkeiten und Gesängen."

Rilke (1962, p. 10).

IV. Conclusion

In conclusion I propose that anxiety and depression are ontologically necessary factors of human consciousness. They are ways of experiencing oneself in reality which are indispensable for the development of individual human consciousness in truth to reality. Philosophy and psychology are deeply connected in reflecting the task of developing through anxiety and depression rather than against them. Philosophical methods if worth their salt are therapies to get us unstuck from the horrors of suffering in anxiety and depression -- as well as from such "truths" as are supposed to eliminate uncertainty. Philosophy is too deeply human to be just an intellectual discipline among others. "It is living the life of Socrates, true to yourself through insults, blandishments and death". Philosophical dialogue, from within lived experience, must lead to love as, famously, Plato's Symposium does.


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von Morstein, P. (1994). Wittgenstein on philosophical methods as therapies. Zeitschrift für Philosophische Praxis 2/94.

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Biographical sketch: Petra von Morstein, Professor Emerita of Philosophy and Philosophical Counsellor in Private Practice, was educated at universities in Germany and England. She taught Philosophy at universities in England, Germany, Brazil, Iceland and - much longer than anywhere else - at the University of Calgary, Canada. Last year she took early retirement from the University of Calgary in order to expand her work as a practitioner of philosophy in the community and in private practice. In 1987 she formed the Apeiron Society for the Practice of Philosophy, a public forum for the exploration of philosophical questions and ideas in the context of actual life issues, and in 1988 she began work as a Philosophical Counselor in Private Practice. She published articles on philosophy, literature and art , a book: Understanding Works of Art (Mellen Press, 1989), poetry (in German) and translations.

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