Atheism/Depression/Meaning of Life/Nihilism

 Pages 1 2 3 4 NEXT
 

So, my girlfriend and I are both atheists, and we both have similar outlooks on life (i.e., there's no real 'purpose' to existence anymore than there is a purpose for a tree, beyond self-perpetuation and the survival of the gene). Whereas I view this in almost an absurdist and humored way, it's made her extremely nihilistic. She sees no reason to go on, and has become incredibly depressed without any purpose.

She has told me she doesn't feel anything but poorly (what I mean by that is that she feels numb, for the most part, or just 'bad'), and that without a modicum of control (her therapist has tried getting her to recognize that much of life is beyond her control; I agree, I told her a lot of life may involve planning, but that 'rolling with the punches' and HOW you react to a situation is what matters) she feels lost and worthless. She doesn't even know what makes her happy, anymore. She gets up in the morning only because she doesn't want to make anyone else suffer if she doesn't. It's killing me, because I care about her so much, but I have no idea what else I can offer her beyond her own happiness (she says nothing inertly makes her happy, beyond helping others-- and her psychologist apparently said she needs to figure out what makes her happy APART from that) and her life as it is.

This is further complicated by the fact that she refuses medication (in the past, it really screwed with her).

I offered her the quote by Dawkins that put my life a bit into perspective about the sand grains of Arabia, but even that hasn't affected her. I'm at a loss, and I'm hoping one of you can give me something that I might not be properly thinking of. Please.

Your situation seems dire, however I am afraid I can do nothing to help.
Good luck.

Life has no ultimate purpose, but your life has whatever meaning you give it. Mine is to be happy, tell her to find hers.

Well Gulliver's Travels had a pretty funny joke about nihilists. When Gulliver is on the final island with the Fascist Horse People (Hoynehym or something like that) all of the people on the island are barbaric. Think 'Planet of the Apes' and you get the idea, except the Horse people are delighted that Gulliver is sane and not an asshole.

Anyways, one of the Horse people comments that for some reason whenever a manling has too much time on its hands, it will sit down and start thinking a lot. Then it starts crying and pulling out its hair. The horse people would let this go on for a while until the other manlings started doing the same thing because they listened to the manling who was thinking too much. Then they'd have to go kick them around until they started working again, growing crops and taking care of themselves.

They usually cheered right back up as soon as they stopped thinking so much.

Easykill, I know that our lives have meaning in terms of what we give it. I know that, to me, life is beautiful. Again, to quote Dawkins:

"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here...After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?"

I feel like that. I feel ecstatic to look out at the world. To know that it's NOT as serious as it seems. To know that we're all, basically, just on a ride and that we can change it whenever we want. Or end the ride.

I'm worried about her 'ending the ride.' I can explain it to her logically, but we just don't see eye-to-eye about it. She doesn't KNOW the things that make her happy outside of helping others, and she sees no purpose. Telling her to find it without guidance or direction is pointless. I know that most change comes from within, but that's not what a good 'coach' does in this situation. I need to find a way to make her WANT to do that, or inspire her, or something.

Thanks, nonetheless, for the kind words.

Jeffries,

You do make a good point about overthinking things. I've tried getting her involved in more activities and the sort. Last weekend we saw a flick, went ice skating, went to the hirshhorn museum of art-- it was great. But she tends to overthink everything and worry often; her 'logic' is that ignoring the problem (by not thinking) is weak.

My personal view on the meaning of life is this, "It doesn't really matter"

Have her ask the question. "Why does it matter that my life has meaning or doesn't"

Now personally I have no problem with either atheist or religion group 'x' but it seems as people we need to have a meaning or a place in life. In my prospective we are all pieces of a puzzle and without that piece the puzzle looks incomplete and no matter how beautiful the entire piece looks, our eyes are drawn to the missing piece. We are social creatures and we are all connected. In the end our meaning isn't found within (only) ourselves but with those who are around us.

She says she finds happiness in helping others then she possibly could be unconsciously desiring to connect better with the people and the world around yourselves.

Personally I recomend religion (in the most humble way possible), but from your description of her it would seem that neither of you are interested in it.

Try to explain to her that even if life seems meaningless there is no logical reason to give up. You can add meaning to life by finding something to enjoy and that by over-analyzing everything needlessly she is just making life seem more meaningless than it is. Try to get her into group activities or exploration, they tend to help a lot of people. My friend helped me get over depression that way, but my depression doesn't sound as bad as hers is. And I understand her refusal to take drugs, they messed up some people I know too.

She seems to be in a cycle of believing that her depressed thoughts are rational therefore she sees medication as a dumbing down of herself. It almost seems as if they takes pride in the way she observes things so getting her to take meds would be impossible until she admitted that she was indeed ill and wanted to change.

That being said, if she doesn't want to change you might just have to leave. Depression is a very selfish (not using the term in a loaded moralistic way) condition and you are in no position to "fix" her.

I was in a similar situation, and everytime I entered the room I felt anxiety over having to deal with this overwhelming situation of her depression. At first the thought of leaving her felt like abandoning her but then it occurred to me that she had abandoned me a long time ago.

Rankao,

The issue she would have with your question "why does it matter if your life has purpose?" would be that she would respond "why does it matter if I live?" The response, of course, would be the same as your question: "it doesn't."

The difference between her and I is that I say "well, why kill yourself?" and she asks "well, why not?" There are reasons to not, I'm sure, but they're not particularly convincing to her. I'll try recommending the connection with others aspect, but the odd part is that she's actually pretty introverted and almost (though not) agoraphobic. She has to be in one-on-one contact or withdrawn-- too much interaction wears her out, with lots of people.

And as far as religion goes, Sammy, the problem would be (even if she hypothetically could believe in a deity-- and she, unlike me, does believe in 'mysteries of the universe' as she puts it) the question would still be there: "my purpose is to serve a deity? WHY? What good does that do?" She is never content with not knowing-- so "it's beyond our understanding" or "you just need to have faith" would never satiate her.

Sounds like you need different ways of being atheist. She might need something that doesn't require her to look on life in "an absurdist and humored way." She might need to find purpose "beyond self-perpetuation and the survival of the gene" (which really aren't actual 'purposes' to begin with, but that's another discussion).

Has she ever considered that not allowing others to make *her* happy denies them purpose? It's something common in those who find value in giving: they confuse giving with sacrifice. Like George Carlin, I think, used to joke: if we're here to make other people happy, then why are the other people here?

Also, I wonder if she really wants control, or if she wants power, if she wants agency. People often misdiagnose their own fear of powerlessness as a need for security. The two--security and power--are not necessarily the same thing.

Maybe you should give her Daniel Quinn's _The Story of B_ or Joseph Campbell's _The Hero With A Thousand Faces_. Those are profoundly meaningful works that aren't religious but are not absurdest, either.

sammyfreak:
Personally I recomend religion (in the most humble way possible), but from your description of her it would seem that neither of you are interested in it.

I'd say that there's a difference between needing to believe in a metaphysical truth, and needing religion. All religions--in the sense of belief in a deity--are by definition offering a metaphysical truth, but not every metaphysical truth requires belief in a deity.

singularapathy:

The difference between her and I is that I say "well, why kill yourself?" and she asks "well, why not?" There are reasons to not, I'm sure, but they're not particularly convincing to her.

Not that a person should live solely for just another person but she doesn't seem to value your relationship with her.

I should have stated this initially... if you feel that she is a serious suicide risk and that the potential is real then you must contact her parents and her primary physician (you could also call the cops who will direct you in the proper direction) and get her admitted. Having delt with depression before (friends, family, etc) I know that it is too big of an issue to fix with a speach and an epiphany, it requires a support network of family and medical intervention.

yeah, i vote medication. and some time on a professional couch

Janus and BallPt,

Yeah, I understand the aspect of group-activities, but she gets annoyed with too many people for too long. She also thinks that by ignoring the problem, it's weak (i.e. by focusing on other things) which I've tried explaining to her isn't true, though I'm not sure I had very much in the way of convincing evidence other than the happiness part. In her mind 'an ugly truth is better than a pretty lie,' which I agree with, but that doesn't mean overanalysis.

She DOES admit that depression is an illness, and she DOES want to change. She's been exercising a lot, going to therapy, and doing everything the counselor says-- minus drugs. She got VERY suicidal last time they put her on those, like eight years ago, apparently. She has these on and off cycles with depression. I know depression is a selfish disease, and if I had no hope for the situation rectifying, then I wouldn't stay. I really would leave, because I don't want it to become too emotionally vampiric.

Thing is, I really do care about this girl a whole awful lot. She's intelligent, funny, charming, pretty, and we have a ton in common. Things used to be wonderful, before this hit. It's hard seeing her upset, but it's affecting our sex-life, our conversation, and her ability to feel anything for me. Tough to stay with someone who doesn't really FEEL like they care about you, no?

I'm sorry, BallPt, that you have to do that. I would feel like I was abandoning her, but the truth of the matter is (push comes to shove), I will do that if I have to. It's just not nearly my first choice.

Rankao:
My personal view on the meaning of life is this, "It doesn't really matter"

Have her ask the question. "Why does it matter that my life has meaning or doesn't"

Now personally I have no problem with either atheist or religion group 'x' but it seems as people we need to have a meaning or a place in life. In my prospective we are all pieces of a puzzle and without that piece the puzzle looks incomplete and no matter how beautiful the entire piece looks, our eyes are drawn to the missing piece. We are social creatures and we are all connected. In the end our meaning isn't found within (only) ourselves but with those who are around us.

She says she finds happiness in helping others then she possibly could be unconsciously desiring to connect better with the people and the world around yourselves.

The puzzle analogy gives meaning in terms of something which is outside the puzzle itself. In the absence of a viewer or a puzzle-solver, does the interconnectedness (or lack of same) of the pieces matter?

As someone whose worldview has always been couched in his ardent theism, I really have no advice to offer; I can merely wish you the best.

singularapathy:
And as far as religion goes, Sammy, the problem would be (even if she hypothetically could believe in a deity-- and she, unlike me, does believe in 'mysteries of the universe' as she puts it) the question would still be there: "my purpose is to serve a deity? WHY? What good does that do?" She is never content with not knowing-- so "it's beyond our understanding" or "you just need to have faith" would never satiate her.

Yes, unfortunately that is the view that most people; religious or not seem to have.

For me (you could describe me as a Baptist Christian) my meaning in life has more to do with something as vague as "being in a relationship with God". Service is sort of important, but just living with and of God is what matters to me.

Intelectually I admit that there is no obvious proof of God's existance and if she is unable to have faith in the unseen I fully understand why she doesn't believe in God.

Hedonism is your answer. Live for yourselves and enjoy every debauched moment.

singularapathy:
Rankao,

The issue she would have with your question "why does it matter if your life has purpose?" would be that she would respond "why does it matter if I live?" The response, of course, would be the same as your question: "it doesn't."

The difference between her and I is that I say "well, why kill yourself?" and she asks "well, why not?" There are reasons to not, I'm sure, but they're not particularly convincing to her. I'll try recommending the connection with others aspect, but the odd part is that she's actually pretty introverted and almost (though not) agoraphobic. She has to be in one-on-one contact or withdrawn-- too much interaction wears her out, with lots of people.

And as far as religion goes, Sammy, the problem would be (even if she hypothetically could believe in a deity-- and she, unlike me, does believe in 'mysteries of the universe' as she puts it) the question would still be there: "my purpose is to serve a deity? WHY? What good does that do?" She is never content with not knowing-- so "it's beyond our understanding" or "you just need to have faith" would never satiate her.

Well then. If she needs to know, then convince her to find out. Tell her that she should do what she can to learn about anything and everything that interests her. And if you see anything, ANYTHING, which gives a hint that she is interested don't let her give up easily. Maybe she would like to know why the Universe is the way it is, or how the body works or how to create something, I don't know. But you should help her find something which interests her, even a little. It could lead to something she loves.

And sammyfreak, just because you feel abandoned when someone gives into depression is no reason to give up on them, that's being more selfish than they were, it's better to keep trying to help than to cut and run.

singularapathy:
So, my girlfriend and I are both atheists, and we both have similar outlooks on life (i.e., there's no real 'purpose' to existence anymore than there is a purpose for a tree, beyond self-perpetuation and the survival of the gene). Whereas I view this in almost an absurdist and humored way, it's made her extremely nihilistic. She sees no reason to go on, and has become incredibly depressed without any purpose.

She has told me she doesn't feel anything but poorly (what I mean by that is that she feels numb, for the most part, or just 'bad'), and that without a modicum of control (her therapist has tried getting her to recognize that much of life is beyond her control; I agree, I told her a lot of life may involve planning, but that 'rolling with the punches' and HOW you react to a situation is what matters) she feels lost and worthless. She doesn't even know what makes her happy, anymore. She gets up in the morning only because she doesn't want to make anyone else suffer if she doesn't. It's killing me, because I care about her so much, but I have no idea what else I can offer her beyond her own happiness (she says nothing inertly makes her happy, beyond helping others-- and her psychologist apparently said she needs to figure out what makes her happy APART from that) and her life as it is.

This is further complicated by the fact that she refuses medication (in the past, it really screwed with her).

I offered her the quote by Dawkins that put my life a bit into perspective about the sand grains of Arabia, but even that hasn't affected her. I'm at a loss, and I'm hoping one of you can give me something that I might not be properly thinking of. Please.

Never offer a quote to explain something its dumb reasoning think for yourself.

Your shit out of luck.

gg god

well, she has a bad attack of the truth, yes our lives are insignificant and sometimes quite useless. however, that doesnt mean you can't set your own goals, its not about making an impact on the world, if you can do fun stuff and have a good life that's fine. don't set your standards too high. (that's my philosophy)

singularapathy:

I'm sorry, BallPt, that you have to do that. I would feel like I was abandoning her, but the truth of the matter is (push comes to shove), I will do that if I have to. It's just not nearly my first choice.

It's all right, she pulled herself together and we married a year later. It's going to be 8 years of marriage by this December.

Personally, I'm insanely moody and have delt with depression my whole life. I'm by no means manic or bipolar but I have had days where i don't want to exist. That being said, I find meaning and purpose in my goals. Since college I wanted to be a music video director... did it. Now I want to be a business owner.. doing it. The goal is actually pointless but it gives me a direction through which I can collect experiences.

There is no point for my existence, but I don't give a shit and I'll take everything I can (within ethical boundaries of civility) before I go. Many people are almost apologetic about their existence... "i want to be cremated", "i want a small funeral", "i just shouldn't exist". I often joke that when i die i want to be burried underneath a speed bump so that every car that passes will feel my existence until that road is destroyed.

Janus Vesta:

And sammyfreak, just because you feel abandoned when someone gives into depression is no reason to give up on them, that's being more selfish than they were, it's better to keep trying to help than to cut and run.

Excuse me? Most people don't like it when I try to force my religion down their throats so I try to be polite when confronting others about it. Or maybe you understood my post.

C-man101:
well, she has a bad attack of the truth, yes our lives are insignificant and sometimes quite useless. however, that doesnt mean you can't set your own goals, its not about making an impact on the world, if you can do fun stuff and have a good life that's fine. don't set your standards too high. (that's my philosophy)

Hell, even doing something which seems insignificant at the time can change the whole world later on. In truth most won't see the full effects of their lives because their actions will have reactions after they are one.

Try positive existentialism...

Life has no meaning except what you create for yourself. Because there is no inherent meaning your actions have all the more value. Go and create some good meaning.

sammyfreak:

Janus Vesta:

And sammyfreak, just because you feel abandoned when someone gives into depression is no reason to give up on them, that's being more selfish than they were, it's better to keep trying to help than to cut and run.

Excuse me? Most people don't like it when I try to force my religion down their throats so I try to be polite when confronting others about it. Or maybe you understood my post.

I didn't mean force your religion on them (those guys give you Christians a bad name) I meant giving up on the person getting over the depression. Sure it can take years but with enough time and effort anything is possible. And I did misread your post.

sammyfreak:

Janus Vesta:

And sammyfreak, just because you feel abandoned when someone gives into depression is no reason to give up on them, that's being more selfish than they were, it's better to keep trying to help than to cut and run.

Excuse me? Most people don't like it when I try to force my religion down their throats so I try to be polite when confronting others about it. Or maybe you understood my post.

How is that about religion?

singularapathy:
So, my girlfriend and I are both atheists, and we both have similar outlooks on life (i.e., there's no real 'purpose' to existence anymore than there is a purpose for a tree, beyond self-perpetuation and the survival of the gene). Whereas I view this in almost an absurdist and humored way, it's made her extremely nihilistic. She sees no reason to go on, and has become incredibly depressed without any purpose.

She has told me she doesn't feel anything but poorly (what I mean by that is that she feels numb, for the most part, or just 'bad'), and that without a modicum of control (her therapist has tried getting her to recognize that much of life is beyond her control; I agree, I told her a lot of life may involve planning, but that 'rolling with the punches' and HOW you react to a situation is what matters) she feels lost and worthless. She doesn't even know what makes her happy, anymore. She gets up in the morning only because she doesn't want to make anyone else suffer if she doesn't. It's killing me, because I care about her so much, but I have no idea what else I can offer her beyond her own happiness (she says nothing inertly makes her happy, beyond helping others-- and her psychologist apparently said she needs to figure out what makes her happy APART from that) and her life as it is.

This is further complicated by the fact that she refuses medication (in the past, it really screwed with her).

I offered her the quote by Dawkins that put my life a bit into perspective about the sand grains of Arabia, but even that hasn't affected her. I'm at a loss, and I'm hoping one of you can give me something that I might not be properly thinking of. Please.

Life has no great ultimate meaning, which is fine... But life has a purpose, and the purpose of life is to go on. To survive and reproduce. I'm not saying have a kid or any thing drastic, but life's purpose is to go on, to continue. And you should try to find happiness somewhere, anywhere.

Life can be sweet, if you choose it to be. That means different things for different people; what makes my life enjoyable for me in the absence of any theology could very well be intolerable for someone else. If it was merely a question of being a bit down or feeling lost, I'd just recommend having her talk with a counsellor (not even a pshrink, just someone who'll listen uncritically and maybe make a few suggestions) in the hopes that an outside perspective would unlock some new ideas for her.

What you're describing, though, sounds more like the clinical end and that's way beyond any competance I have in the field. I'd hazard a guess that she got meds that weren't right for her brain chemistry the first time, which would scare the heck out of anyone; medication isn't an exact science, especially for mood disorders, and because of different internal chemistries sometimes picking the right drug and dosage is a cut-and-try process.

You may want to talk to someone with far more expertise than I, yourself, to see if there are any options you can look at to help. Beyond that, though, I'm way out of my depth.

-- Steve

Janus Vesta:

And sammyfreak, just because you feel abandoned when someone gives into depression is no reason to give up on them, that's being more selfish than they were, it's better to keep trying to help than to cut and run.

I believe you are referring to me. I didn't feel abandoned, i felt needed and crucial but in reality i was neither. Nothing I could have done could have changed the way she felt. It's depression... it's bigger than most people understand and I didn't just leave when it got tough. She had a solid family network as a safety net that was far more capable of helping her than I was.

I also have no problems with honest selfishness. I am an atheist so the term doesn't have any moralistic attachement to me. I am not willing to cause somebody more harm just to say that I wasn't selfish. It's this same rationalization that keeps people in all kinds of toxic relationships from spousal abuse to drug addiction. I'm sorry but when the other person abandons your interests its time to take a look at the agenda and objectively determine the best course of action for everybody.

If she is negating every positive aspect of life you can find, perhaps she is not ready for help yet. You can take all the drugs, talk to all the people, do all the right things, but really, it's up to you when you want to start living your life again. And it will mean changes.

Besides, if life doesn't matter, it doesn't hurt to have fun during it.

this thread needs to be locked, the escapist holy war will find it and burn it at the stake!

Try a nice cup of tea and a relaxing night in.

Then consider a hobby.

Do you work by the way? If you have nothing to do all day but mope about considering how useless you are you won't feel motivated to do anything. This will make you feel even more useless, which will make it that much harder to try get busy on something. A trully vicious little circle you should try to get out of if you enter it.

I am a finite being in an infinte universe, and as such cannot comprehend any motives if there are any to the existence of life, therefore I shall enjoy myself however the hell i feel like and everything else be damned.
What this means to her - if she feels like commiting suicide, Go bungee jumping - or paraschuting if it means suicide or a life of unhappines otherwise, just drop everything, take a loan if you have to pay for it, just GO, the fear of death, and the visceral feeling of BEING ALIVE will help. (i'm not saying you neccesarily have to take the loan). Alternately, you could try getting something that will take up a lot of time, for instance, a puppy :) (although those things are a pain in the ASS, they are cute and some women don't mind cleaning up the shit smeared all over the floor)

 Pages 1 2 3 4 NEXT

Reply to Thread

This thread is locked