Saturday, 11 March 2017 22:09

Idealism and mental disorders is an attempt to escape from existential depression

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The conditions of my living is depressing; I inherited a mitochondria disorder, Cytochrome C Oxidase Deficiency, Spondylolysis and Mitral Valve Prolapse that made my life, from birth a miserable one. I felt weak all my life and was almost always in low grade pain.

People enjoy food but eating food made me feel miserable and I have to go lie down to recoup some energy; people play sports but sports gave my body so much pain that I had to avoid them.

All said the condition of my living is depressing and not something to look forward to.  Thus, I reacted with depression, if you like, with low grade depression. I call it existential depression because it emanated from the conditions of being. I have been existentially depressed all my life.

No one likes to be depressed. If you are depressed you try to escape from it. The way I tried to escape from my low grade depression is through wishing for ideal body, ideal self and ideal society and ideal everything.

My desire for ideals was an attempt to escape from depression. That desire for ideals made me very ambitious (and gave me fear of failure). The idea was that if only I have good education, good job etc. I would no longer be depressed.

The only vice I picked up is drinking coffee; I do not smoke or drink alcohol or do drugs.  Upon reflection I now understand that I drank coffee (which I have given up) to stimulate my body. In stimulating my body I escape from the awareness of my biological problems. Coffee (and for those who do drugs, drugs) is an attempt to escape from my (your) existential depression.

Addictions, be they to nicotine, caffeine, drugs, over eating, sex are attempts to escape from human existential depression. Addictions do not make human existential depression to disappear; folks have to deal with the fact that life in body is depressing and figure out rational ways to cope with it.

Understanding, as I do, helps but even that does not change the depressing condition of being. Good education, social position etc. did not alter my biological givens so despite idealism I did not escape from my underlying existential depression.


I went to a regular elementary school (Ladi Lak) ran by the city of Lagos, Nigeria.  It was actually as good as any elementary school at Lagos.  However, there was a private elementary school where the rich sent their children. That school was not too far from my house (at Apapa GRA). One of my friends went to that prestigious elementary school. I used to envy him. When we were in our last year in elementary school we took what was then called common entrance examination to go to secondary school. I chose King's College, Lagos, our local Eton. Apparently, I did not do well enough to be admitted. My friend was admitted. I felt humiliated.

Thereafter, I remember been at a boys' holidays' party and told the other boys that I attended King's College. That is, I told a lie.

That lie has stayed in my mind and I tried to understand why I told it. I told it because attending a prestigious secondary school fitted my ego's wish to be ideal and prestigious whereas attending a religious (Anglican) school was not good enough for my ego.

The point here is that kids who reject their real selves and want to become idealized selves often tell lies to suit their desired ideal selves (what Alfred Adler and Karen Horney call neurotic selves).

I could have gone to a Nigerian University since my secondary school grades were excellent but I chose to go to the USA.

The rejection of one's real-self and desire for ideal self dispose some black folks to marry white folks for in their minds white folks represent ideal persons (that is, civilized persons whereas black folks symbolize uncivilized persons). They, sooner or later, recognize that white folks are just human beings like black folks; they are disabused of the illusion that white folks are superior to black folks.

For now, the relevant point is that the pursuit of ideals disposes kids to tell lies; telling lies is a sign that a kid does not like who he is; if you catch a kid telling lies it is time to do something about his self-esteem. Accept him in what Carl Rogers called unconditionally positive manner so that he accepts that who he is is good. God does not make junk; he is not junk.


From my experience I understand people who posit grandiose self concepts and images and identify with them and now believe that they are those big selves. I am talking about deluded, paranoid persons who believe that they are very important persons. They behave as if they are the important selves of their wishes but of course they are not. Manic persons and schizophrenics are also pursuing big selves to mask their underlying depressed self views.

Even the most normal person has some wish to be more important than he is; that is, even normal persons have some depression that they are trying to escape from.

Human beings wish to be more important than they are; that wish is attempt to escape from their underlying existential depression. Their existential depression originated from their awareness that they are nothing significant in nature for nature destroys them at will; they live and die and their bodies rot and that makes them feel like they have no existential worth and value. Human worth is make belief and self-conferred, not given by nature.


What I said above would seem to make me a victim. I do not like the idea that I am a victim or that human beings are victims of their existence. I like to believe that we are free agents who choose our fate. In that light I chose to be born in my crummy body and to have my crummy existence. I chose to be depressed by my crummy body and situation. I chose to seek idealism as my initial response to my crummy body.

From my reaction to my crummy body with quest for ideals I came to understand why human beings feel that their lives are crummy and react with quest for big selves hence desire grandiose selves and the result is their mental disorders.

I believe that the mentally ill chose their mental disorders.  We as a whole choose to study and understand their mental disorders.

Having understood the nature of mental disorders we choose to improve our mental processes.  I see our human situation as an opportunity we gave to ourselves to have problems and study our problems with science and devise technologies to solve them.

I do not see us as victims. I do not see God doing anything good or bad to me or to people. We, human beings, did whatever happens to us to us and have the capacity to solve our problems without looking to an external agent called God to solve our problems for us.


My understanding that I have an underlying existential depression due to my biological issues helps me to give up my hitherto desire for ideal self and ideal world.

I give up the quest for ideals and have no mental wishes to be anything other than I am.  I am just who I am; in being myself I know peace, as much peace as is possible while one lives in a crummy human body.

Ozodi Thomas Osuji

March 11, 2017

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176