Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Creating Optimism : A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression

Creating Optimism : A Proven, 7-Step Program for Overcoming Depression

by Bob Murray, Alicia Fortinberry


A revolutionary new approach to beating depression through lasting, supportive relationships

This breakthrough book describes a revolutionary new approach to overcoming depression that has proven far more effective (94 percent success rate based on follow-up questionnaires) than drugs,



A revolutionary new approach to beating depression through lasting, supportive relationships

This breakthrough book describes a revolutionary new approach to overcoming depression that has proven far more effective (94 percent success rate based on follow-up questionnaires) than drugs, psychotherapy, or both combined. Based on the authors' more than 20 years of research and practice, and sponsored by the University of South Florida, this unique, seven-step program challenges the conventional wisdom that healing occurs from the inside out. It shows that real change comes from building healthier relationships with other people, our own bodies, nature, and spirituality. The program can be used either without medications or in conjunction with them. Drawing upon the latest research in neurobiology, psychiatry, and evolutionary psychology, the authors lay bare common myths about depression—what it really is and what causes it. They arm readers with:

  • Proven techniques for identifying dysfunctional behavior and changing it
  • A step-by-step process for establishing and maintaining healthy relationships
  • Valuable charts, questionnaires, and self-tests
  • Powerful mind-body healing techniques and exercises that restructure neural pathways in the brain and allow for new, healthier ways of thinking

Product Details

McGraw-Hill Companies, The
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.28(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Part I: Mapping the Way

Chapter 1

Happiness Lost

Recent research has shown that the root causes of most people's depression are childhood trauma and abuse and the real or perceived fear of abandonment. We passionately believe that our society produces isolation, maltreatment, and disempowerment. In other words, the very way we live is abusive to ourselves and our children. In the words of two prominent researchers, the late Gerald L. Klerman and Myrna M. Weissman of Cornell University, "society itself has pathogenic effects." What's more, they say, the rate of depression has been doubling every twenty years since 1960, largely due to the increasing stresses and isolation imposed on the modern family.

In fact, according to a study headed by Jean M. Twenge of Case Western University, today's "normal" children report the same level of depression and anxiety as child psychiatric patients in the 1950s. Your social environment, on its own and filtered through the family you grew up in, is the fundamental cause of your depression.

It's not that depression and pessimism are new; far from it. They have always been around, but our Stone Age ancestors' society contained healing mechanisms, now lost, that ensured that depression, when it came, was temporary. Isolation, except in extreme circumstances, never happened. To illustrate what we mean, let's look at one family who were clients of ours. They are not untypical.

Denise, a forty-year-old mother of two, came to see Alicia regarding her increased anxiety that was interfering with her sleep. Since her husband, Jeff, had been laid off from his job as an engineer, she was the sole financial support of the family, which included fifteen-year-old Jason and ten-year-old Jessica. Her job as an advertising executive had its own stresses, including long hours and no control over her work schedule. Her major concerns, however, involved Jeff and the children, all of whom had problems of their own.

Denise felt that somehow as a working mother she was to blame for these problems: her husband's depression and anger, both of which had escalated since his layoff nine months ago; Jason's truancy, suspected drug use, and fights; and Jessica's withdrawal from friends and outside activities coupled with increasing weight gain, probably signaling depression. Jeff and Jason seemed to get into heated arguments whenever both were in the house, yelling at each other and, in one instance, breaking valuable dinnerware.

Denise's anxiety is one aspect of an underlying depression. This condition is also behind much of the family members' symptoms: overusing food, drugs, and alcohol; rage; and perhaps even the ADD/ADHD and violence Jason has displayed since early childhood. Alicia explained to Denise that her and her family's depression was the by-product of a society out of control. And so were her work stress, Jeff's unemployment, and their financial burden.

Denise's family, like most of us, is cut off from nearly all of what makes them truly human--a network of supportive people; work that does not interfere with other aspects of their life and is pleasurable, empowering, and socially rewarding; frequent interaction with nature, including other animals; and a connection to the sublime. In his book The Human Zoo, Desmond Morris says that we are like animals living in an urban zoo, subject to psychological and physical stressors our minds and bodies were never meant to cope with.

In many ways Denise's family--and most if not all of us in some way--resembles laboratory rats in an overcrowded cage, deprived of the "natural" (genetically suitable) habitat, and subject to traumatic, bewildering, and unpredictable events over which they have no control. Such rats, as experiments have shown time and again, stop behaving like rats. They violently turn on each other, abuse or ignore their offspring, and become ill.

The Lost Tribe of Us

So what would we be like in our natural environment, in hunter-gatherer times? Humans are fairly adaptable and have survived in most climates and surroundings. Beside the basic requirement of edible plants and game, the most important aspect of our environment was a closely knit, mutually supportive "band."

Let's look for a moment at how a family of four, resembling Denise's family in age and gender, would have lived in an environment that was congruent with their nature. Anthropologists tell us that all hunter-gatherer societies had many similarities.4

Denise and her family would be part of a group of thirty to fifty people. They would rarely encounter other humans and would have little to fear from them if they did.5 In fact, they would be excited to share information and skills and to intermarry (a woman would join her husband's band--maybe that's why women are better communicators), thus ensuring genetic variation.

The nuclear family was not isolated or beset with stresses, as it is today. It would not have been the major economic unit, since every member of the band who could walk would have contributed to the economy of the group. Food was shared, and possessions, what few there were, were mostly communal. Forget territory disputes. When you are basically a dot on the landscape, whether you're nomadic (usually within a specific territory, like lions and our cousins the chimpanzees) or stationary, the idea of "owning" land is laughable.

Even natural disasters--storms, drought, floods, and so forth--would have been less stressful for the family. Modern research has shown that people who live in closely knit communities can survive such stresses much better than those in more developed but alienated societies. Therefore, Jeff and Denise's anxiety about providing for themselves and their children would have been unwarranted, except perhaps in times of drought or climactic change. Then the group would have moved on to more abundant pastures, unimpeded by borders, work permits, professional licenses, or moving vans. They would not have had to keep up with the bills, the mortgage payments, the car payments, the insurance premiums or the Joneses.

Food and shelter were in most cases easily available. We tend to look down on the lives of our remote ancestors as being, in the words of the seventeenth century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, "nasty, brutish, and short." But this is far from the truth. To start with, research has shown that hunter-gatherers lived surprisingly long lives. As Dr. Anthony Daniels, consultant psychiatrist, points out in the June 27, 1999, edition of Britain's Sunday Telegraph, when humans civilized themselves their health deteriorated drastically and their life expectancy at birth nearly halved. Not until the end of the nineteenth century did we start living as long as our hunter-gatherer forebears.

Scholar John Hayward has described hunter-gatherers as having "the first affluent society." Of the !Kung people of the Kalahari he writes, "They are able to provide all the basics of life for themselves by about two to three hours work a day, depending on the season. The rest of the time is spent on leisure, either gossiping and socializing, telling stories, playing games or resting. This compares very favorably with the modern affluent lifestyle in which commuting, shopping, cooking and household chores must be added to a forty-hour 'working week' before leisure can begin."

Work, therefore, would not be the all-encompassing safety issue it is for Jeff and Denise. Jeff would not have been laid off. (With very few people and no technology who could be unnecessary?) As a young man, Jeff would have hunted with his male friends, thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie and the rush of adrenalin and dopamine (the happiness, or reward, neurochemical) that accompanied this pursuit. They would have brought back their catch to the admiration and delight of the others. They would have cooked the game they'd caught while the women prepared the vegetables and roots for a feast. (Much like the modern barbecue, where the men tend to grill the meat and the women prepare the trimmings.)

Although the men would have been silent during the actual hunt so as not to announce their presence to predators and prey, they would have spent the next days or weeks around a campfire happily talking about their prowess and the wooly mammoth (which no doubt got bigger with each telling) that got away.

In many bands, the men would not have married until they were in their forties, when they could be counted upon to be a stable mate and survive. Jeff would not have married when he was young and inexperienced and the monumental stress of having to care for his family without a wide support system wouldn't have existed. Without that stress he wouldn't have been triggered into raging at his family.

Denise would not be in anything like the position she's in. Confident in the protection of the men of the band, she and the other women would have looked after the children together. Gathering and hunting small game would have been an enjoyable opportunity to share news (i.e., gossip). Although she would probably have married at puberty and learned how to manage a family under the direction of older women, during her life she might have up to about four husbands. As she grew older and wiser her value as a wife would have risen.

Impact on Children

In this context, Jason and Jessica would have borne little resemblance to the unhappy youths we introduced you to. First of all, they would have been sheltered from the vicissitudes of their parents' stresses and relationship difficulties. From infancy, they would know only the loving arms and laps of women who had plenty of time for them. As the children got older, if their parents argued or were ill, they would have been welcomed at another campfire among people they knew well and trusted. Child raising really was a communal endeavor.

Children helped bring in and prepare food from an early age, often able to catch small game by reaching with tiny hands and slipping nimble bodies into places adults could not. In a society that spends so few hours a week on "work" we are not talking unfair child labor practices. Young children learned to take pride in their accomplishments through praise and to make decisions that impacted not only themselves but others. They picked up their skills by watching older members of the band (including older siblings), who also provided a wide range of role models. How different all this is from what happened to Jason and Jessica (and probably you and the children you know)!

Most modern children aren't given an economic role, which provides the primary source of recognized importance within our society. (In places where children do bring in income from a young age, this is usually a debilitating hardship.) With schoolwork taking up more and more time, even chores are becoming a thing of the past.

Jason and Jessica have been made to feel entitled to a certain standard of living, while being given no chance to contribute meaningfully to it. In terms of society, their only importance lies in their future contributions.

Young men like Jason hunted because they are neurobiologically primed to do so. The three elements of the hunt that trigger the release of the happiness chemical dopamine in the young male brain are the danger and uncertainty of it, the intense pleasure at a successful outcome, and the particular kind of companionship involved. In this sense it's not unlike a football match, which is as close as we come to male hunter-gatherer "work."

David Goldman of NYU School of Medicine and others have shown that achievement, danger, and uncertainty are very important for adolescent and young adult males. Jason is genetically programmed6 to go forth and kill the mighty mammoth and brave the saber-toothed tiger, yet he's still living at home under his parents' thumbs and either sitting in a classroom or bagging groceries for allowance money. Jason's physiology is primed for risk and danger, and the law says he has to wear a bicycle helmet and can only take his skateboard to designated areas.7

But Jason had problems long before adolescence. His diagnosed ADD/ADHD may have had a lot to do with being made to sit still at an early age in school8 and the stress of the household pre- and postnatally.9 (A mother's stress and anxiety can be passed on to her unborn infant via a sharing of stress hormones making the infant hyperactive from birth.) Plus, with few other role models around, Jason had taken on his father's rage as the only way he knew of coping with stress.

Jessica is also strongly affected by the family's tension and distress. Since her older brother got his attention through rebellion, she had to find another niche. She became the "goody-goody," mother's little helper in the kitchen, and the earnest pupil. In a family with very little time or affectionate attention to give (unlike the hunter-gatherer band), Jessica's strategy hasn't worked all that well. She's retreated further and further into depression to dull the pain of guilt and the fear of abandonment.

The guilt started when she was little and, like all young children, believed she was the center of the universe and the cause of everything. In her eyes, something was very wrong. Mommy was tired, strained, and unhappy; Daddy was mad all the time and they fought. What could it be if not her fault? No one ever pointed out to her the fallacy of this belief, which is now ingrained.

Plus, she's got to deal with her body (which, according to researcher Paul Kaplowitz of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and others, is developing much faster than that of a girl her age even a few decades decade ago). She has never looked like her Barbie doll or the girls and young women on TV or in the teen magazines. Her classmates are wearing makeup and talking about boys. She's afraid of boys because Jason has been cruel and abusive. (In a hunter-gatherer band, this abuse would have been detected and not tolerated.)

Denise's modern family lives in an inner suburb of a large city. Their world is that of highways, cement, and glass, rather than the sound of trees in the wind, the smell of wet or parched earth, the sight and calls of animals, and the feel of grass beneath their feet that would have enveloped their ancient counterparts.

The hunter-gatherer band would have been closely bound together by spiritual beliefs, storytelling, dance, song, and rituals both religious and other. Denise's family members barely speak to each other. Communal meals, which Denise tried to provide when the kids were young, have given way to busy schedules and fast food. The family enjoys no structured interaction with their neighbors and no joint worship. (Virtually all recent research has shown that the old adage "the family that prays together stays together" is true.) The family, like the nuclear unit itself, is a lone ship in the night, and it is sinking.

The Mismatch

How did the way of life that provided all we needed to thrive get lost? What happened to the "lost tribe of us?"

In the Bible, Genesis describes how humans were expelled from the Garden of Eden for partaking of the forbidden fruit or, to put it another way, for attempting to change from the way we were designed to be. To us, this has always been a marvelous analogy of what really happened to humans about ten thousand years ago, almost a folk memory written many thousand years closer to the event.

What is recalled, perhaps, is the time when our ancestors were forced to give up their ancient ways and become farmers and herders because of a Stone Age population explosion coupled with a change in the earth's climate. Prior to that, our evolutionary forebears had followed much the same hunter-gatherer lifestyle for some two-and-a-half million years.

During this vast period, we developed a whole string of genetic characteristics that helped us survive the dangers and exploit the opportunities we faced. Most of the attributes were social. Humans' social cooperation enabled us to survive and made up for our lack of other advantages, such as sharp teeth, long claws, size, and speed. Biologists declare that a creature who lives as long as we do takes about 50,000{-}100,000 years to evolve in any significant way. Genetically, we are still those hunter-gatherers.

Evolutionary psychologists and theorists of evolutionary medicine call this divergence between our species' inheritance and our modern lifestyle the "mismatch." This theory holds that we are genetically programmed to live in a certain way, that of traditional hunter-gatherers, and that any significant deviation from this way of life creates both mental and physical stress. The result, writes Robert Wright in Time magazine, is the "evolution of despair."

Once we began farming, we were forced to make many changes to our technology and economy, which negatively impacted our social and family life. Now "tied to the land," as the saying goes, we had to "wrest a living from the soil," suggesting a very different relationship to nature and subsequently to each other. We were forced to live in a way that we were not--and still are not--well adapted to.

The plight of the isolated and unsupported nuclear family has worsened over the years at an increasingly rapid pace. First, we lost the communal hunter-gatherer band to the extended family that worked its own patch or herded its own flock. The subsequent industrial society needed and produced a small and increasingly vulnerable economic unit supported by a wage earner who would work for very little in the factories. The information age hasn't been any better, forcing more uncertainty, relocation, and isolation on families.

These days, even a two-member nuclear family is an endangered species, with divorce and the rise in single- (or no-) parent households. In the following chart, we've outlined some of the basic aspects of the mismatch, most of which you saw at work with Denise's family and their imaginary precursors.

Clearly we are caught in a social system that does not meet our human needs and over which we have lost control. We are forced to work too much, change too fast, and socialize and chatter too little. Worse for the future, we spend less and less time caring for and teaching our own children. With each step away from the lifestyle to which we are evolutionarily adapted, we become more stressed, less happy, and more prone to depression.

Isolation, Abuse, and Depression

When examining depression, the most salient and destructive aspects of our society are isolation and abuse. One dictionary's definition of abuse is "to change the inherent purpose or function of something or to use improperly." Our society constantly tries to make us into something we are not, with purposes and functions that are not congruent with out real selves. The way we are forced to live is abusive. (According to Dr. Scott Weich, of the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, even apartment living, with people raised above the ground and packed on top of each other is abusive to its occupants in the way that a cage is to a lion. The higher up you live, he says, the more depressed you are liable to become.)

Much has been written on the link between disempowerment and spousal and child abuse. According to prominent forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gary J. Maier, constant, pervasive stress creates abusive individuals. For example, Jeff--under the unremitting strain of conditions that go back to his childhood and the recent loss of the means to fulfill his role as a man as he understands it--rages at his son. Jason in turn strikes out at and seeks to dominate the one person at his mercy, his sister.

Childhood abuse is recognized by most researchers as the leading cause of adult depression and pessimism. Abuse literally changes brain chemistry and structure. But, according to researchers such as psychologist Kristi Williams of Ohio State University, we are not naturally an abusive species. The deliberate infliction of harm upon children is quite foreign to our nature. Child, sibling, and spousal abuse is not generally observed in present-day hunter-gatherer societies, so presumably it didn't occur that often in the distant past either. In his book The Forest People, Colin Turnbull states that the worst he observed in three years of living with hunter-gatherer pygmies was "a healthy sprinkle of spankings and slappings" when the children put themselves or other members of the group in danger.

If a young child is abused--hit, criticized, threatened with abandonment, sexually molested, and so forth--she will believe that she is bad. She won't blame the abuser, especially a family member, but rather herself. She will feel that because of her wickedness, she deserves punishment and that she may well be abandoned. (For a child in a hunter-gather band, ejection from the band meant death.)

This child will be dogged by anxiety, shame, and guilt throughout her life and will be vulnerable to depression and low self-esteem. In technical terms, she will feel that her status, or social attention holding power (SAHP), will go down. SAHP is largely subjective; our SAHP rating involves what we think other people think of us. Shame and guilt are associated with lower SAHP, as is depression.

In his book Human Nature and Suffering, Paul Raymond Gilbert says that SAHP is a measure of an individual's ability to hold attention and attract investment from other members of the group. In hunter-gatherer terms, a man with high SAHP will have more wives and more of his children will survive.

Every member of a hunter-gatherer band was vital to the group's prosperity. Because ongoing depression hampers a person's level of function, hunter-gatherers would rally around the depressed person and give her the emotional and physical resources that would enable her to recover. Her sense of isolation and fear of ostracism would diminish and she would get better. In our society, this mechanism doesn't exist, and the depressive reaction can enter a downward spiral of deepening helplessness and despair.

Work over Pleasure

Alarmed about the problem of karoshi (sudden death due to overwork), the government of Japan is trying to get its workforce to reduce the number of hours worked per year from 2,124 to 1,800 by 2005. Studies show that overwork leads to mental and physical illness, which lower productivity.

Contrast Japan's plight--or even the forty- to sixty-hour workweek of most Americans--to the fifteen or so a week that our minds and bodies are "built for" to allocate to food and shelter. Overwork is one of the main causes of stress and thus abuse and depression in our culture.

For hunter-gatherers, cooperation and social bonds were the primary focus and the prerequisites for survival. For women in traditional bands, gathering was largely an opportunity to socialize. Bob observed women gathering in modern hunter-gatherer societies in southern Africa, and he was struck by the singing, talking, and laughing that went on. It reminded him more of a mother's group than any workplace in the developed or developing world.

In the modern workplace--where socializing is discouraged--much of the intrinsic pleasure of work (along with its neurochemical rewards) is removed. Women are also separated from their children, relationships are rigidly hierarchical, and tasks tend to be repetitive and disconnected from their outcome. Yet, we feel defined by work and so are forced by social pressure, threat of isolation, and economic factors to do too much of it. These aspects of modern life lead directly to depression.

Change Versus Stasis

As humans, we are creatures of stasis. Rapid change is stressful and a depressant. For millions of years, we followed essentially the same lifestyle. Change came slowly, giving us a chance to integrate it. The more rapid the shifts to which we are subjected, the more stressed we become.

Of course, hunter-gatherers were constantly on the move, going from one foraging area to another or moving with the seasons. Their peripatetic lifestyle has been used as an argument by those who say that change is natural to humans and that therefore they ought to be able to cope with rapid technological, organizational, and employment change. This school of thought also holds that the education system should prepare pupils for a life of constant change.

However, if you look closely at the life of hunter-gatherers, you will find that the changes they faced were within the context of stable technological, economic, and social circumstances. The whole band moved together and relationships were stable, providing emotional security. (More profound shifts were unusual, the results of climate change or population growth.) It is abusive to force rapid change on a stasis-loving creature.

Decision-Making and Disempowerment

One of the greatest differences between today's society and that of our ancestors lies in the individual's right to make decisions concerning her life. That right ensures our autonomy and control over our environment. Without the capacity and opportunity to make decisions, disempowerment and depression are inevitable.

In the small hunter-gatherer band, every adult had a say in vital decisions. Everything was cooperative, even justice. Colin Turnbull, who studied the pygmies of central Africa in the 1950s, noted that all their decisions required unanimity. For example, when the band had to choose where to go next, the adults discussed the various options until they reached an agreement. Responsibility was a communal matter. In other hunter-gatherer societies, like those of the Australian aborigines, major decisions were left to the elders, but again, a final decision required unanimity. The only prerequisite for joining the council of elders was to reach the age of about thirty-five.

In our society, most of us have a minuscule--if any--say in what happens to us. Jeff didn't choose to lose his job; his wife didn't choose her colleagues, boss, clients, or work hours. There are just too many of us for a pygmy-style process of consensus in many companies or in politics. By the age of about twelve, a hunter-gatherer youth was regarded as an adult. Yet today, because of rising housing costs and increasing job shortages for young people, ours are staying home longer and longer. Some are kept in a state of childish dependence until their midtwenties or even later. The lack of significant control over one's life is a major factor in low self-esteem and low rank. Those who perceive their rank to be low tend to seek to impose their will on others.

Loss of Roles

The devaluation of traditional roles is another significant source of stress and depression in the modern era.

In the hunter-gatherer world, both economic and social roles were clear. From a young age, men hunted and protected the band and women gathered and helped take care of the children. In modern western society, the man experiences enormous psychological pressure to ensure that the family is safe and provided for. Yet, job security is lower than it has ever been. Many men still feel threatened by women who are finding their stride and successfully competing for jobs, even though the workplace is often not conducive to optimal functioning.

In our clinical experience, and this is substantiated by research by Prof. Richard Price of Michigan University and others, the fact or fear of not being able to adequately provide for one's family is one of the causal factors in adult-onset depression in men. The distortion of a man's role from carefree hunter and sage to encumbered householder was bad enough. Society then made the role of provider more difficult and insecure, with longer work hours, the threat of job loss and lower pay relative to purchasing power. (According to economists it takes two salaries to maintain the same standard of living as one did in the 1950s.)

While roles are changing, studies show that at the moment men and women still get their self-esteem differently. Men, more so than women, tend to fall into depressive episodes when their self-perceived status declines. Major depression triggers for men include losing a job (among men suicide is highest among the unemployed) or car, feeling snubbed by other men, and losing a mate to another man.

Recent research seems to indicate that to a woman, the loss or devaluation of her traditional roles is of more importance than loss of employment. A woman is five times more likely to have a depressive episode following a crisis involving children, housing (including household finances), and reproduction. Since hunter-gatherer times, these areas have been part of her domain. Unfortunately, over the last few millennia the importance that society attaches to these roles has been downgraded to the point that they are not seen as "work" and therefore not valued.

If you look at a woman's role in a hunter-gatherer band, you'll see that these domestic roles were combined with her economic role. Her work in this sense was equally important to that of a man, if not more so. She was the provider of about 70 percent of the food (including protein from small animals), she made most of the clothes, and she looked after and reared the children.

With the development of agriculture, all that changed. The increased emphasis on physical strength and other more masculine traits, such as single-mindedness needed to defend territory, led to a demeaning of women's roles. This process of social disadvantagedness increased as the centuries rolled by.

The more women as a whole became lower in rank, the more their SAHP fell, and the more they tended to behave as if they were of lower status. Increasingly, they became the more depressed and isolated gender.

Men retained their traditional groupings. The hunting band became the military unit, sports club, or office. Women on the other hand became increasingly cloistered and confined to the home. This isolation was reinforced by the idealization of the "traditional mother" whose job was to run the home, bring up the kids, and "stand by her man." This absurdly limited view of women's roles was heaped with praise and declared, at least by conservatives and religious scholars, to be beneficial to society at large.

Yet increasingly, the only escape for women has been into a male-dominated and male-structured workforce. In the corporate world, the need for the social company of other women and the exchange of personal information that usually characterizes women's conversations can be a drawback. Women are largely denied the opportunity to work in their way, to fulfill both their economic and child-rearing roles in a manner that makes them happy.

Thanks to the mismatch, depression among our elderly is one of the fastest-growing problems in the developing world. Most are stripped of their role at retirement, deprived of a community that values them, and often cast into a nursing home. Each one of these losses is a depression trigger.

According to recent research by Lynanne McGuire and others of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, those older people who are institutionalized show greater depressive symptoms and a lower immune system when compared to those who remain in the community. Although it evolves, a hunter-gatherer never loses her role. Elders' knowledge of past conditions, skills, and lore were vital for the band's survival. This may be one of the reasons that humans are one of the very few species (along with whales and elephants) to care for their elderly and infirm.10

Depression need not automatically accompany old age. Researchers have found that when older people feel that they do have a significant role within a supportive community their incidence of depression is much less than in the general population of elderly.

Guilt Like so much else about ourselves, guilt worked when we lived in small hunter-gatherer bands with clear, consistent, and unquestioned rules and taboos. It was a powerful deterrent to acting against the best interest of the group. In our modern world, with its jumble of cultures and the breakdown of institutions such as churches and schools offering shared moral values, guilt is increasingly losing its effectiveness as an inhibitor to wrongdoing. In fact, more often than not, it serves only to promote suffering and depression in the wake of events over which we have no control, but for which we continue to punish ourselves.

Lack of decision-making, disempowerment, isolation, overwork, abuse, and guilt are but a few examples of how the mismatch has deprived us of the happiness that is our genetic inheritance and driven us to anxiety and depression. We've lost the tribe that was us. Of course we can't go back to the days when our distant ancestors roamed the planet; there are too many of us now and the herds we followed have gone.

However, solutions exist, even for Denise's family. We worked with the whole family and individual members until a cohesive unit formed that offered mutual respect and support. Slowly, a chaotic and heartbreaking situation came under control, and the individual members began his and her long road to healing.

The first step of their journey was for each family member to understand that the predicament was not his or her fault. This came as a great surprise to Denise and to Jeff, who was also racked with guilt over his "failure to provide for my family as a man should."

We can use the lessons of the past to help us cure the depression of the present. We can all form a supportive "tribe" around us that can mitigate and even undo the effects of our abusive society. Together, we will explore just how this can be done as we go on.

However, first, let's look at happiness. What is it? What can you do to reclaim this birthright?

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews