Lost Connections #

Lost Connections is a book by Johann Hari that I read in July 2020.

Impressions #

This book resonated very strongly with me. I thought the description of anxiety and depression as resulting from a loss of certain important connections which are intrinsic to human nature was very compelling and fits with my experience. I got less out of the second half of the book where he describes potential ways to reconnect: I didn’t find a lot of things I felt particularly relevant to me, and also I feel like I am already fortunate enough to not need to worry about many of the categories.

The main takeaway for me is meditation, something I have felt for a while is a potential path for me to reducing anxiety. psychedelics were also interesting. It still terrifies me though and the section on “removal of ego” under their influence seemed to back up my intuitive feeling about them. Aside from this, how drastically am I able to change my life? Certainly more time outdoors would make me happier. A reduction in consumerism and materialism is possible but difficult with our current lifestyle. I am open to changing that. Community is difficult for me in this country.

Notes #

  • Medical studies proving the efficacy of anti-depressants are hard to come by.
  • Very hard to separate the effect from the placebo effect, particularly when you account for the fact that many people would have recovered naturally anyway.

    What if depression is, in fact, a form of grief—for our own lives not being as they should? What if it is a form of grief for the connections we have lost, yet still need?

  • The DSM definition of depression and anxiety originally provided “the grief exception”: if you were grieving a recently lost loved one, this gave you an exception from being diagnosed based on the list of symptoms. This obviously opens up a huge amount of questions about the nature of depression as a natural response to hardship and pain.
  • A natural reaction to this was to define two types of depression: endogenous (i.e. some sort of chemical malfunction in the brain) and reactive (i.e. some natural reaction to hardship in life).
  • Whitehall studies. Very interesting, groundbreaking studies of reactive depression specifically related to work in a very large and diverse cross-section of the British civil service.
  • Causes of depression and anxiety
    • Disconnection from meaningful work
    • Disconnection from other people
    • Disconnection from meaningful values. Mainly a criticism of consumer capitalism
    • Disconnection from childhood trauma. Obesity as escape
    • Disconnection from status and respect
      • Middle class constantly under threat of instability
      • inequality and social mobility
    • Disconnection from the natural world
    • Disconnection from a hopeful and secure future

      “And then she said something that stayed with me long after the election. She described what the area was like when her grandparents lived there, and you could work in a factory and have a middle-class life—and she made a verbal slip. She meant to say “when I was young.” What she actually said was “when I was alive.”

    • Physical factors: genes and changes in the brain
      • neuroplasticity. Crucial, don’t think I ever properly grokked this
      • genetic factors need an environmental trigger, a la weight gain
      • reasons we like the idea of brain chemistry being the main cause of depression. Women in 50s with everything they need feeling depressed we now understand this Was not all they need.