The REAL cure for affluence-related depression (maybe).

Rebekah recently ghost-wrote a post on the Connected Families blog.  The main thrust was this: in America, kids from families of wealth/luxury/affluence are three times as likely as the average child to experience anxiety or depression. That’s even more than families in poverty!

My best interpretation of this:

  • We’re miserable because:
    • We lack mission, vision, or a sense of purpose because our suburban bubble-world is already thoroughly comfortable and safe, so all we have to do is “enjoy”.
    • When our primary earthly mission is to “enjoy life”, then any time we’re unhappy, we think:
      • our unhappiness is a violation of our highest purpose and birthright,
      • it can only be explained as a failure by us, our family, or God,
      • and we should try to feel happy again by any means we feel necessary.

My sense is that ultimately, the best way for wealthy people to make their lives better is for them to stop focusing on making their lives better, and to look instead (or predominately) to the needs of the world.

  • We’d be happier/better off that way because:
    • Looking compassionately and fairly at our hurting, unjust, and jeopardized world is a limitless source of mission and purpose, of things to do that really, really matter.
    • When our primary earthly mission is “to live out (God’s) compassion and justice in a (beloved,) broken and beautiful world”, then any time we’re unhappy, we can recognize that:
      • our unhappiness is a natural occurrence in a broken world,
      • it connects us to hurting people everywhere,
      • and it reminds us to continue to live in ways that address human sorrow in general.

In the face of the anxiety, depression, and self-harm issues plaguing wealthy children and families, we might say “see, we’re just as needy as anyone in the world”, and invest more resources into meeting our own needs — say, through counseling or more after-school activities.

  • But this misses the point, because it follows the assumption that:
    • Money and service follow pity and misfortune. When I pity a poor person, I send them some money. But when I pity me, I spend more money on me. Whoever “has it good” should help whoever “has it bad”.
  • A truer assumption is:
    • We all live together in a world that has every kind of need and resource, pain and beauty, scattered everywhere and in diverse ways. We can work together across lines of difference to make our world better, and it will make each of us better in the process.

Buying therapies for the symptoms of idyllic luxury might work somewhat, but this is surely less effective than taking the sorts of actions that more powerfully undermine our (and our children’s) sense that everything should be perfect for us. To be more deeply healed, we must bring our bubble-dwelling families, churches, and communities to be involved in the messiness, pain, beauty, and need of the world — the REAL cure for affluence-related depression.

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One thought on “The REAL cure for affluence-related depression (maybe).

  1. Makes a lot of sense, Daniel!  Also, that is a pretty shocking statistic.  I guess it adds a little extra umph behind the idea of “blessed are the poor”…
     
    Liberation theology talks a lot about how oppressive systems actually hurt both the oppressor and the oppressed, and this would be an excellent example of the former.  It’s not just the poor who have reason to want more equality and mutuality!

    Like

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