There are some interesting findings in psychology which suggest that depressed people have a more realistic view of the world, than non-depressed people. I recently found an interesting paper by Taylor and Brown (1988) which covers some of this evidence. An extract:
Does there exist a group of individuals that is accepting of both the good and the bad aspects of themselves as many views of mental health maintain the normal person is? Suggestive evidence indicates that individuals who are low in self-esteem, moderately depressed, or both are more balanced in self-perceptions (see Coyne & Gotlieb, 1983 ; Ruehlman, West, & Pasahow, 1985 ; Watson & Clark, 1984 , for reviews). These individuals tend to (a) recall positive and negative self-relevant information with equal frequency (e.g., Kuiper &; Derry, 1982 ; Kuiper & MacDonald, 1982 ), (b) show greater even handedness in their attributions of responsibility for valenced outcomes (e.g., Campbell & Fairey, 1985 ; Kuiper, 1978 ; Rizley, 1978 ), (c) display greater congruence between self-evaluations and evaluations of others (e.g., Brown, 1986 ), and (d) offer self-appraisals that coincide more closely with appraisals by objective observers (e.g., Lewinsohn et al., 1980 ). In short, it appears to be not the well-adjusted individual but the individual who experiences subjective distress who is more likely to process self-relevant information in a relatively unbiased and balanced fashion. These findings are inconsistent with the notion that realistic and evenhanded perceptions of self are characteristic of mental health.
Simply put, depressed people have a more realistic view of themselves and others, than so-called 'normal' people. From Wikipedia:
illusion of control is the tendency for human beings to believe they can control or at least influence outcomes that they demonstrably have no influence over.
An example of this might be praying to a god to cure cancer. More from Taylor and Brown:
Is there any group in which this illusion of control appears to be absent? Mildly and severely depressed individuals appear to be less vulnerable to the illusion of control ( Abramson & Alloy, 1981 ; Golin, Terrell, & Johnson, 1977 ; Golin, Terrell, Weitz, & Drost, 1979 ; M. S. Greenberg & Alloy, in press ). When skill cues are introduced into a chance-related task or when outcomes occur as predicted, depressed individuals provide more accurate estimates of their degree of personal control than do nondepressed people. Similarly, relative to nondepressed people, those in whom a negative mood has been induced show more realistic perceptions of personal control ( Alloy, Abramson, & Viscusi, 1981 ; see also Shrauger & Terbovic, 1976 ). This is not to suggest that depressed people or those in whom a negative mood has been induced are always more accurate than nondepressed subjects in their estimates of personal control (e.g., Abramson, Alloy, & Rosoff, 1981 ; Benassi & Mahler, 1985 ) but that the preponderance of evidence lies in this direction. Realistic perceptions of personal control thus appear to be more characteristic of individuals in a depressed affective state than individuals in a nondepressed affective state.
So there is some good evidence that depressed people seem to have a much better grip on reality, than normal people. Being normal is to some extent characterised by ignoring the bad things in the world (or at least ignoring them in relation to the self). It is like a happy ostrich, with its head in the sand. Ignorance may be bliss, but it's also dangerous living in a dream world, especially when the real world is so hostile. Some final thoughts from Taylor and Brown on the optimism of normal people:
Is there any evidence, however, that such optimism is actually unrealistic? Although the future may well hold more subjectively positive events than negative ones for most individuals, as with excessively positive views of the self, evidence for the illusory nature of optimism comes from studies comparing judgments of self with judgments of others. The evidence indicates that although the warm and generous vision of the future that individuals entertain extends to all people, it is decidedly more in evidence for the self. People estimate the likelihood that they will experience a wide variety of pleasant events, such as liking their first job, getting a good salary, or having a gifted child, as higher than those of their peers (Weinstein, 1980). Conversely, when asked their chances of experiencing a wide variety of negative events, including having an automobile accident (Robertson, 1977), being a crime victim ( Perloff & Fetzer, 1986 ), having trouble finding a job ( Weinstein, 1980 ), or becoming ill ( Perloff & Fetzer, 1986) or depressed ( Kuiper, MacDonald, & Derry, 1983 ), most people believe that they are less likely than their peers to experience such negative events. In effect, most people seem to be saying, "The future will be great, especially for me." Because not everyone's future can be rosier than their peers', the extreme optimism that individuals display appears to be illusory.
Of the people who are diagnosed with cancer, or die, or have anything bad happen to them today, most probably didn't wake up expecting the bad thing to occur. The fact that the future is so unpredictable is one of the reasons that people need to believe in a god, a purpose, an order to the universe. They fear that godless atheists don't have a reason to get out of bed in the morning. But although reality and depression seem to be related, knowing that everything is pointless doesn't have to put a damper on things. Since it is all pointless and we find ourselves alive, conscious and able to do things (and much more than previous generations) I say we should make the best of the universe we find ourselves in. Don't live your life with your head in the sand, ignorant of reality, but use reality to achieve what you want and want whatever makes you happy.Go Top