Normal is not free. Freedom is not normal.
If you are normal, you probably sometimes wish for a little less conflict and a little more love—and maybe a little more excitement and now and then a little more peace and relaxation in your life. You get along O.K.—not really unhappy but not really as happy as you know you have been before. You may have this vague sense that if you could just get better at managing you would be better off.
You wonder about how happy people you know really are. Those who more or less desperately pretend they are happy and everything is O.K. don’t fool you. It seems like joy has something to do with freedom because the ones that do seem most happy don’t seem to worry so much about what others might think or how they are measuring up.
Kris Kristofferson said in one of his fine songs: “Freedom’s Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Lose.” There is a possibility, no, more like a high probability, that you’ve spent a number of years learning some things that are not entirely true—not to mention completely dysfunctional and misery making—but at a low level you kind of got used to it. Life is something you put up with and do the best you can.
You know there are some things that must be questioned. It’s been said that the unexamined life is not worth living. Yet the over-examined life is not worth living either. Probably the not so thoroughly examined life is not so thoroughly worth living either. You sometimes think, “Just what is the proper amount of examination for the best life? And just what needs to be examined?”
Is It Normal to Be Depressed at a Low Level Much of the Time?
That is a fine question, but before you launch out on a search for the answer, it helps to further question your questioner. “Who’s askin’?!” You may need to examine your examiner, spell check your spell checker, and fact check your fact checker. And you may not only need to re-judge your internal examiner, you may need to get somewhere deep down that life is not an exam, or an ongoing examination, and that your examiner may not be as important as you thought. It could be that getting it right is not ever as important as you think. And that’s good news! Because, as you know, you very seldom get it right anyway.
You probably often judge yourself and others according to standards you learned which you might not entirely understand or even agree with or in fact, even be conscious of. And you very likely are quite attached to these almost completely arbitrary, reactive and almost random networks of evaluation that are basically unconscious bullshit you are desperately afraid to let go of. Most of us would rather be certainly wrong than uncertain.
What if Uncertainty is a Boogie Man That Turns Out to be Casper the Friendly Ghost?
There are a few things that can help you be happier in your life and about your life, and they have very little to do with being right, certain or virtuous:
If you can learn the skills of distinguishing noticing from thinking, and how to adopt noticing as your primary mode of orientation, you could end a lot of the “steadily depressin’ low down mind messin’ workin’ at the carwash blues.”
You could help yourself a lot if you learn to notice and share what you notice honestly. This is a method of healing, getting over psychological suffering and building a future with a little help from your friends. That is what we teach each other at the Center for Radical Honesty. Honesty is the cure for low-level depression.
You can learn, through the practices we teach (meditation, contemplation, honest communication and co-creation) how to become simultaneously grounded in experience and in contact with other people. This leads to a pleasantly troubling form of excitement called “Living out loud and letting the chips fall where they may.”
Your life and the lives of your friends can and will be transformed through the different kind of thinking that grounding in experience and honest contact with each other allows.
Once you learn in your bones that beings, who relate as beings, one to another, can work out the problems that come from having minds and personalities you have a freedom to be alive in ways not formerly allowed by your judgmental mind. Your identity becomes the being you are, the context in which the mind occurs—and your mind, and almost all its judgments is much less important. You are no longer depressed. You fixed it. Now you are in despair. Now you’re getting somewhere.