Struggling with depression, there is too often a downward spiral. There is the strong temptation to cut off contact, to hide away, to justify not going out, to feel more secure in solitude when the very thing necessary to break out of the gloom is to see people, to have conversations, to become part of the wider world.
Going two days without speaking to anyone, I stood ironing a backlog of shirts. There were seventeen to be done and I listened to a recording of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov as I worked through the pile,
There came lines from Father Zossima that seemed extraordinarily contemporary in their relevance. Dostoevsky seemed to possess a great degree of prescience, an anticipation of Twenty-First Century society:
Why, the isolation that prevails everywhere, above all in our age—it has not fully developed, it has not reached its limit yet. For every one strives to keep his individuality as apart as possible, wishes to secure the greatest possible fullness of life for himself; but meantime all his efforts result not in attaining fullness of life but self‐destruction, for instead of self‐realization he ends by arriving at complete solitude. All mankind in our age have split up into units, they all keep apart, each in his own groove; each one holds aloof, hides himself and hides what he has, from the rest, and he ends by being repelled by others and repelling them. He heaps up riches by himself and thinks, ‘How strong I am now and how secure,’ and in his madness he does not understand that the more he heaps up, the more he sinks into self‐destructive impotence. For he is accustomed to rely upon himself alone and to cut himself off from the whole; he has trained himself not to believe in the help of others, in men and in humanity, and only trembles for fear he should lose his money and the privileges that he has won for himself. Everywhere in these days men have, in their mockery, ceased to understand that the true security is to be found in social solidarity rather than in isolated individual effort. But this terrible individualism must inevitably have an end, and all will suddenly understand how unnaturally they are separated from one another.
Dostoevsky would have taken a dim view of a society where individualism and self-realization have become paramount.
Perhaps he would have had his own diagnosis of the roots of depression.