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Home arrow Psychology arrow Subjective Darkness: Depression as a Loss of Connection, Narrative, Meaning, and the Capacity for Self-Representation


Over the course of writing this book, I have come to think of this thing we call depression as a form of subjective darkness. Woven into the literature and firsthand narrative accounts of depression is a common theme of darkness, and this darkness seems to pervade every aspect of existence. Styron referred to his depression as a form of darkness in his books Darkness Visible (1990) and Lie Down in Darkness (1951). Kristeva (1989) invokes the image of a black sun to symbolize the metaphorical experience of a complete absence of light in depressive states. Thompson, in describing her depression in The Beast (1995), said, “we still lack a distinctive and accurate name for this ancient shadow on the brain” (p. 9).

A person’s subjectivity encompasses perspectives, experiences and memories (both of which can be conscious or unconscious), understandings of relationships, schemas, attachment styles, perceptions of the world, selfimpressions, and many other facets that help to form the fabric of identity and reality. Thus, subjective darkness is not one thing in particular; it is everything, and yet because it is everything, it can also often feel like nothing specific. There may, of course, be specific circumstances, ideas, incidents, and feelings that a person may point to when trying to locate this darkness, but these tend to accumulate and culminate in an overarching, generalized sense of dejection. When darkness falls, it enshrouds all these aspects of subjective experience, like a slow-spreading poison that infests all areas of the body, mind, and spirit. They become tinged with darker hues and threaten to suffocate the previously thriving being within the depths of despair. Exquisite agony is felt within a void, an emptiness, a living breathing death. Subjective darkness is insidious, relentless, and malignant, and at its worst, depression can become simultaneously the representation and the cause of an intolerable existence.

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