“Spiritual,” in a Positive Way

Yesterday, a woman friend with whom I am secretly and passionately in love (I guess the secret is out), suggested in a text message that I exhibit signs of “existential depression.” I had never heard the term before, so I looked it up. Here is one psychologist’s way of explaining it: “When one’s depression is brought on by questions about the meaning of life, life itself, or death, this is considered existential depression.” He (Dr. Gregory Estadt) then goes on to describe characteristics that may describe a person with clinical existential depression:

  • You can feel and see what most other people don’t.
  • You hold yourself and others to high expectations.
  • You are kept awake at night because of interpersonal ideas and conflicts.
  • You are very passionate about upholding justice and fairness.
  • You get obsessed with the things you love.
  • You are very curious.
  • You must always speak the truth and cannot stand hypocrisy.
  • You crave freedom and autonomy.
  • You have an independent mind.
  • You are strong-willed.
  • You do not like explanations that do not make sense.
  • You are bothered by the gap that exists between others and yourself in the wider world.

If you answered yes to many of the above, you may be a trailblazer. You have a deep capacity for connection and joy but may have over the years struggled with self-doubt, bouts of anxiety, inferiority complex, and existential despair.

That list does, indeed, describe many of my characteristics. The information about existential depression on his website is much more detailed and extensive. Simply identifying with those attributes/characteristics does not assure that a person has existential depression, but other contextual clues suggest with a high degree of likelihood that I suffer from that mental malady. My reading of the material caused me to self-diagnose, and so I agree with my friend. It’s sort of like reading through the symptoms of diseases on WebMD. “See, there, I knew it! I have rabies!” Whether I have allowed myself to slip from “moody” to “existentially depressed” is something for a competent clinician to verify, of course, but I’m betting on my friend’s assessment. Among other things, she can read minds and can extract from me memories I had forgotten I had. She is a psychologist; lacking the credentials, perhaps, but possessing fully the knowledge and skills.

Despite my flippant treatment of the subject, I really think she came on something important to me. Dr. Estadt’s comments on treatment/therapy are encouraging:

Treatment has to carry us down a path of soul-searching and self-discovery. Many people develop their very own auto therapy such as journaling, writing, creating music or art, and learning from others. This is a learning process that gets better over time as you learn how to nurture, comfort, or console yourself.

I think I’m well on the way. I just need to pay heed and nurture, comfort, and console myself.


Last night, after joining a Zoom meeting late, I heard one of the most moving accounts I have ever heard of the experience of an infantryman in World War II. The man who described his experiences did so in connection with his discussion of how he came to be involved in the Unitarian Universalist church. It was a tale describing the experience of a deeply introverted young man who had very limited “worldly” life experiences as he confronted the wider world. He faced horrors, the likes of which most of us, thankfully, have not and will never experience. His telling revealed how he matured both emotionally and intellectually when the demands placed on him were simply to “follow orders” in incredibly difficult situations. Though for a number of reasons I do not like to use the word “spiritual” as a descriptor, I have to say he seemed to have transformed his demanding and difficult life experiences into a spiritual journey on which he continues today, in his ninth decade. I hope the session was recorded so I can view and hear the quarter of an hour I missed; I believe the session will be available to view later this week. If it is, I will post a link to it on my blog. The entire hour or so is worth watching, regardless of who you are and what you have experienced.


I started the day today by picking up an order of groceries from Walmart. I’ve taken to ordering online like a fish takes to water. I’d rather order from Kroger, but Kroger’s online ordering system is archaic and almost impossible for me to maneuver compared to Walmart’s.  Unlike the in-store experience, online ordering is easy, fast, and generally pleasant. And, when I pick up my groceries, the person who delivers them and puts them in my car is cheerful, friendly, and seems pretty articulate, intelligent, and generally nicer than many of the staff inside the store.

I’ve begun my taxes. For the rest of this morning, I will spend time sorting through paperwork on which I will depend to complete the forms for the IRS and the State of Arkansas. But, first, I will participate in (or, at least, listen to and view) a Zoom session on writing, recommended by the would-have-been buyer of my Camry who also is a writer. Then, it will be back to the task at hand. And I will take another mental health break to eat and to write a little more, though not in my blog (you’re welcome).


Genetic flaws are not unique to Americans. Video evidence of ruptured DNA belonging to Canadians, Mexicans, Italians, Russians, Iraqis, Chinese, Swedes, Norwegians, and Peruvians, exists as well. An example of this video evidence includes a Canadian woman berating a teenaged grocery store clerk for asking the woman to wear a mask; the woman claims to have a “medical exemption,” bullies the girl, demands to see a manager, and otherwise acts like a world-class bitch. Another example shows a man in Italy (presumably an Italian) screaming at a driver for honking at him. Even after being told the driver honked to alert the man that his car was dragging a mangled bicycle from his rear bumper, the man did not cease his bizarre rant. Another video shows a woman with a camera-equipped smart-phone threatening to call the police on a young man who had chased her car and motioned her to pull over; a gas station hose dangling from the rear fuel filler of the demented screamer’s car told the story. Dozens of other such instances of dangerously flawed DNA exist in cell phone videos across the globe. It might be argued that the presence of cell phones is what causes these corrupt genes. I think not. But the one that hurt me the most was the Canadian woman; my romantic notion of Canadian intelligence and civility was badly damaged when I watched that video. Yet it’s not just my disappointment in the Canadian that has me feeling a little low. It’s the fact that human flaws are so pervasive. And it’s not just the mad rants and abusive treatment of their fellow creatures that bother me; it’s that “they” are “we.” We desire a world in which we’re all just one people who love one another, but in fact it seems we’re a global village of people who loathe one another.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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