Monday, 25 September 2017 17:37

In existential depression nothing in this world makes sense to one

Written by 



Ozodi Thomas Osuji


I am really not interested in the things of this world; the world does not make sense to me; the world bores me. If I could escape from this world with alcohol and drugs I probably would have done so.


I do not like alcohol and have never tried drugs. Thus, I cannot find escape in alcohol or drugs. One cigarette and I faint so I cannot smoke, either.  So what does a guy do to escape from boredom, what entertains me? Going to symphonies and listening to classical music cheers me up.


At one point in my life I had a TV channel that showed pornography. I would turn it on but in less than ten minutes the folks having sex on the TV screen bored me to death and I would turn the channel off. That is, not even sex and or pornography excites me!


I have, however, given the subject of pornography some thought. I wanted to know why people are addicted to it. Given that actual sexual intercourse is filthy and ridiculous why are people interested in sex and pornography?


I believe that it is because watching pornographic movies makes people forget their troubles; pornography is a means of escaping from painful thinking, much as alcohol and drugs are; watching porn puts people in a daze just as drugs do; porn, alcohol, drugs and overeating are means of escaping from our painful reality (and they are addictive).


Men's interest in watching women's vagina is probably due to their curiosity to find out where they came from. I say this because at one point I was interested in looking into the vagina. I think that it was due to my interest in finding out where human beings came from. It was part of my general interest in ontological matters.


Anyway, escape to pornography is not the answer to finding most of life meaningless.




In my youth I used idealism to avert my existential depression. I would see things and I imagined how to improve them, and this included natural things, such as when I would imagine how to improve animals and trees.


To me the world and the things in it are ugly so I used my mind to improve them, to make them seem perfect hence tolerable.


Wishing and dreaming about how to improve people, social institutions and the world, that is, being idealistic, kept me going throughout my youth.


However, latter on, I realized that no amount of wishing for people and the world to change and become better would make them become better.


Anything in flesh will die hence by definition cannot be permanently improved.  You can run, as I do, and have good muscles, as I do, but, ultimately, your body would die and rot and be eaten by worms so your body is nothing.




When it became clear to me that the world is by definition nothing and meaningless, I turned to spirituality. Spiritual idealism, such as proposed by A course in miracles, kept me going for a while.


However, in time I realized that you cannot realize what A course in miracles teaches in this world; for example, you cannot forgive murderers and expect to have a well-organized society. You must remove criminals from society.  What the book teaches are impossible of accomplishment in our four dimensional world.


May be in a five or six dimensional universe you can have a totally forgiving and loving people but not in our world. Thus, I gave up the illusion that spirituality can improve our world and make people perfect.




I learned a lesson from my various illusions. It is that illusions keep people going. Therefore, one must not try to get people to give up their illusions for if they do so they would see life as meaningless, become depressed and perhaps commit suicide. Leave people to live their illusory lives.


For example, Nigerians give themselves all kinds of titles, such as Chief, Eze, Alhaji, Professor, Doctor; they pursue those titles for in getting them they make their lives seem important and meaningful. Deep down they feel like they have no worth and without their compensatory titles they would be depressed. So, leave them to seek their titles although their behavior seems childish!


Normal persons are kept going by the illusion that they enjoy their bodies in food, sex and wealth. Normal folks are in deep sleep and take their dream world as important and take it seriously.


Bright neurotics see that the world is nothing and use their minds to try coming up with a better world, better illusions, as I did.  I tried to use the illusion of idealism to replace the illusion of realism.


You cannot use one illusion to replace another illusion. The ideal world you imagine is an illusion and if you use it to replace the illusion that life in body is important you are wasting your time; the ideal world is imaginary and is not going to come into being.




In the meantime, you give yourself tremendous psychological pain trying to use your mind to recreate the world and make it a better world. The world is not going to become a better world.




I have learned one lesson and learned it well: to live in the ego, to pursue ego goals is to give yourself psychological pain.


I do not want to give me psychological pain. Therefore, I am no longer interested in ego illusions. Ego gives me pain. I resolve to live egolessly and live in the peace and joy of egoless living.




When I was at school, only a few subjects taught by my teachers made sense to me; therefore, I was not interested in most of the subjects taught to me by my teachers at school.  Because I was not interested in them I did not take them seriously and did not do well at them.


Students that find the world meaningful generally take their studies seriously and are better students and do well at school. Since they also find the world meaningful they go out and obtain jobs and find their jobs meaningful and do well at them.


What the world calls successful people are people who find the world, as it is, meaningful.




In general, white folks find the world of space, time and matter meaningful; they value the material world hence dedicate their lives to studying it and making scientific contributions.


To me, if all life is matter I do not want it. The philosophy of materialism does not make sense to me.  If all we are is part of nature, live and die why bother with anything in the world. I could not get myself interested in the here and now world, in any subject that talks about the material world (science); and in any profession long enough to succeed in it.


I had a difficult time settling on a profession even though I know more about some professions than those who spent their entire lives in them.


You have to find the professions and the world interesting to settle in them.




Those who do not do well at school and at work are those who do not find the world meaningful; it is not because they lack intelligence to do well at school and in the world but because the world does not make sense to them.


I have superior intelligence (I waltzed through school rather effortlessly and had the doctorate degree early in life) but look what good it did to me! It did not do me any good because I did not find anything in the world meaningful and therefore could not commit to doing anything in the world.


Those who, as the world sees it, are failures are those who do not find the world meaningful. I fall into the category of those who did not find the world meaningful hence did not succeed in it.




The honest answer to the question, what causes existential depression is that I do not know. I do not think that any one knows, either.


What is self-evident is that from childhood some people do not see this world as good enough, as worth valuing and are depressed. Their depression is not what psychiatrists call clinical and or major depression. In major depression the individual lose interests in the activities of daily living, such as going to school, playing, engaging in sports, going to work, socializing, having friends, grooming;  the clinically depressed person lose interest in living and have suicidal ideation.


The contemporary view is that clinical depression is caused by low level of the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin in the brain. Most of the medications employed for treating depression, such as Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Wellbutrin are meant to boost the level of serotonin in the brain. These medications appear useful in the short run but not in the long run.


If you have major depression please go to your doctor and get medications for it. However, if your issue is existential depression medication is not called for.  Medications will not change your pessimistic and gloomy view of life, will not make you feel that life is such a great thing when everything in you tells you that life is a pointless exercise.


I do not know what causes existential depression. In my case I suspect that it has to do with the fact that I inherited serious disorders of the mitochondria, spine and heart. I was born with cytochrome c oxidase deficiency, spondylolysis and mitral valve prolapse.


These medical issues in themselves do not cause existential depression; it is what they produce in the individual's psycho-social functioning. They made me feel physically weak. I could not participate in vigorous and contact sports; I could not handle all kinds of food.  Cumulatively, I felt weak and inadequate.


More importantly, I felt that life in body is not worth living and used my mind and imagination to come up with a better life in body,  a better  body and the result is my always wishing for situations to be better than they are hence idealism.


The exigencies of my biological life contributed to my morose view of life. I do not, however, feel that it is only those biological issues that caused my depressed view of life.


The fact is that life itself is depressing. We are born, eat food, grow old and die.  We die and do not know whether there is life after we die. Objectively speaking, our bodies are food being cooked for worms to eat. This is depressing.


Existence is depressing and some people are more aware of this fact than others. From about age six I concluded that life in body is depressing.


Whatever is the cause of existential depression what concerns me here is the reality of not finding joy in life, not worrying about what caused it.


I do not think that there is a simple causal factor in existential depression. I know that we live in an age where psychiatrists are trying to pretend that they are physical scientists and thus reduce complex existential issues to biological causation and give the peasants they treat medications.


The fact is that human beings are more than their bodies. Consider the issue of consciousness, where did it come from? Is it the product of brain activities?


Listen, I can teach you biophysics and that knowledge will not help you one bit to understand how a bunch of neurons, really electrons, come up with consciousness in the human brain.


The truth is that we have not understood how we think and why some people are acutely aware of the pointlessness of being a human being.




The solution to existential depression and despair is to find an aspect of life that makes sense to one, go study and do it. If one must live in body and on earth obviously one must be doing something to kill time. It is boring having nothing to do.


For me thinking and writing about existential depression and existential psychotherapy gives me some sort of meaning.


In addition to doing what makes sense to one, one must try to be as egoless as is humanly possible for the ego gives one pain.


Above all, despite people's absurd behaviors one must love them all. Love all people and love you and life becomes tolerable to you despite its intrinsic meaninglessness.


Ozodi Thomas Osuji


September 23, 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