On Nihilism and Depression

On Nihilism and Depression

This post is a little different from the usual topics I write about on this site but it’s been on my mind recently and I wanted to lay out my thoughts on paper so to speak. Maybe you will gain something from my ramblings, maybe you’ve felt the same way so if this helps even one person it will have been worth the effort.

Firstly, I’m lumping these two seemingly disparate outlooks together because they have similar effects on a person’s actions. Being a nihilist can also lead to being depressed so they’re not completely unrelated.

Let’s start with depression since it’s far more common. There are a million and one reasons to be depressed, legitimate and otherwise. If something tragic happens in your life you should feel depressed. Sadness is part of the human condition. It’s the irrational depression that I’m talking about from here on.

Being depressed feels… interesting. It’s a strange place to be in. You feel numb, alone, isolated, unappreciated. There are a lot of words that could describe the feeling.

But at the same time, there is a sense of specialness that comes with depression. The very sensation of being alone and misunderstood is almost a source of pride.

You think thoughts like “No one knows what it’s like,” and “I’m alone,” and it puts you in a unique place in the world. I feel that’s a big reason why depression can be so persistent.

Paradoxically, as humans we want to feel special and feeling like you’re the only person ever to feel such despair fulfills that desire, at least a little bit.

The trouble with depression is that it’s like falling into a smooth pit, once you’re really into it it becomes very difficult to get out of. Sometimes you see no reason to continue moving forward with things, and this is where we’ll segue into nihilism.

I’ve personally spent many years as a nihilist although I didn’t know it at the time. Being a nihilist means always asking “but what’s the point of it all?” and is a very dark way of perceiving the world and your place in it. Back in my high school Philosophy class I was asked the question:

“Would you rather know, and be unhappy, or not know, and live ignorant of the truth but happy?”

I knew immediately my answer was to know and be unhappy. I didn’t fully realize the implications of that at the time. Over ten years later I would still choose to know over being blissfully ignorant but I would temper that by also having a positive outlook.

I feel it’s very easy to learn about the world and become quickly disillusioned and pessimistic, which is exactly what happened to me. The more I discovered and learned, the darker my world view. Without even realizing it I was becoming jaded and nihilistic.

If you’re feeling this way now I sympathize greatly with you. It sucks. You look around and ask yourself the existential question “why?” all the time.

The economy sucks.

There is violence and brutality all around the planet.

Poverty, starvation, anger.

An uncertain future.

As a nihilist, the “why?” can quickly become “why bother?”. I’m sure you can see why these thoughts can easily spiral into depression.

And this is what I wanted to convey so much with this post.

As long as you’re alive there is a chance to make things better. The philosophical position of nihilism and depression is basically that you should give up because there is nothing to hope for.

Which is pretty absurd when you think about it.

With a wider perspective on the absolutely mind-boggling potential of the human race (you included), how can every possible future be bad? The answer is that it can’t. There is always something to strive for that’s worthwhile, that can make life better.

Basically, never give up.

I put off starting this site and much of anything else really for a long time because I was caught in the throes of the philosophical equivalent of a dead end. And I guess this is where the topic kind of relates to running and building a game store.

Building a business is a massive undertaking and it shouldn’t be approached lightly but don’t let your dreams die on the vine because of a irrationally negative view of the future. There are a lot of good reasons to not build a game store but being an extreme pessimist shouldn’t be one of them. Don’t let nihilism or depression stop you from achieving your potential.

The question shouldn’t be “why?”, it should be “why not?”

Essentially you can’t be an entrepreneur and a nihilist at the same time, and the world needs more entrepreneurs right now.

 

That feels like a good place to close. I hope some of that made sense to you since it came out stream of consciousness style.

I stepped away from Manaverse Saga and the podcast a few weeks ago to spend more time with my family and recharge my batteries but I’m feeling inspired again. Being a new father can be very fulfilling and fun but it’s physically draining at the same time. I think it’s almost been a full year since I’ve gotten more than 5 hours of consecutive sleep but it’s a new year. 2016 is the year of making things happen.

With that in mind have you ever felt nihilistic or depressed and how did you dig yourself out of that sinkhole? Let me know in the comments! I would love to hear from you.

Stay strong,

Tom

  • Ribs Donuts Beer

    Tom, I really miss your podcasts! Please just put one foot forward and have a leap of faith. I have been in your shoes and fully understand. Take time to enjoy the small details of life.

  • Thanks Mr. Ribs Donuts and Beer! You might be surprised how much a comment like that means to me. The good news is more podcasts are in the works and on the way. As a matter of interest, what episodes/topics did you like the most? I personally enjoyed the ones that kind of go off topic or touched on something philosophical in nature but that’s probably obvious. Thanks again!

  • Ruby

    I’m calling you out on your shit dude. You seem pretty optimistic which begs the question, “How did you ‘beat’ nihilism?” Also, you described the feeling of depression as “interesting.” That makes me think that you have never actually experienced it. The term “interesting” means only that of the word itself. It’s a bland, non-descriptive overly used adjective. Depression is NOTHING like “interesting.” In addition, as you stated at the beginning of many of your thoughts, “I feel” that once you get a grip on realizing your nihilism, it’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE to ‘not realize’ it anymore. Once you’re in you’re in and there is little success at getting out, though though even I admit this is tricky since your mind and physical being change following another school of thought. That’s why I am curious as to how exactly you got out of that mindset.

  • Tomtraplin

    Hey Ruby, I appreciate the push back. Maybe you’re right. I can only speak for my subjective experience when it comes to depression, maybe what I felt was not the same as what you or someone with “true” depression may have felt. Real depression may be like drowning in a dark abyssal well and I may have just been wading through a shallow pool, the trouble is I can only comment on what I’ve felt and the only word we have to cover the subject is depression. The word interesting here only applies to the irrational depression I was describing and only in the sense that it was a notably different condition from the rest of my lived experience. However, I agree with you. Interesting as a word is not very interesting and doesn’t add much to a conversation.

    As for beating nihilism, becoming a father, getting more sleep, and setting goals were the biggest things contributing to that. Having a child has given my life more meaning than it had before. More sleep makes everything better. And actually working towards something concrete and measurable gives you a sense of progress and accomplishment. Looking back on what you have achieved helps a lot. Ultimately, I think nihilism is an irrational position as well.

    A completely reasonable answer to the question “why?” is “why not?”. For me, being an optimist has been a choice that I try to make everyday.

    I hope that helps or at least makes sense.

  • Ruby

    Whoa you are actually pretty introspective and dialectical. Ty 4 responding. Much respect

  • Tomtraplin

    No problem Ruby. Thanks for the conversation 🙂

  • Chris Petersen

    One thing that helps is a theory that the suffering of nihilism is irrational, therefore nihilism most likely isn’t true. It’s an argument that revolves around the idea that a truly Nihilistic universe would not beget creatures who want meaning.

    Also remember that our lack of ability to prove an objective meaning doesn’t mean one does not exist, and don’t let the faithful Nihilists force you to accept their ground as the “starting point”- there are bases in reasoning (such as accepting the data our senses brings us as truth) that are “known” without ever first being proven. You cannot convince someone like this, but you certainly aren’t being irrational (as long as there is a plausible theory of your eternalism)