Philosophy on Depression & Addiction
William James was a beloved academic thinker and philosopher—one of the fathers of Pragmatism. He wrote a paper, originally intended as a speech, called “Is Life Worth Living?” It investigates the value of faith in a way that seems relevant to addiction recovery.
Many alcoholics struggle with depression and suicidal ideologies. They may ask themselves, “is life worth living?” While James was writing into a different time in history, his paper still validates this question and genuinely attempts to answer it. He considers the suicidal ideology and makes a case for living.
A key element of the 12-step program, which many rehab curriculums are based off of, is a higher power. James doesn’t argue for necessary faith in God, per say, but argues for faith itself—for believing. More so than God, James is interested in the greater world and universe that each individual is a part of. This too can be a higher power, though, a power and force greater than the self.
Healing from Addiction—Possibilities Are Reality
This is a quote near the end of the paper:
The deepest thing in our nature is this Binenleben (as a German doctor lately has called it), this dumb region of the heart in which we dwell alone with our willingness and unwillingness, our faiths and fears…Here is our deepest organ of communication with the nature of things; and compared with these concrete movements of our soul, all abstract statements and scientific arguments…sound to us like mere chatterings of the teeth. For here, possibilities, not furnished facts, are the realities with which we have actively to deal; and to quote my friend William Salter, of the Philadelphia Ethical Society, “as the essence of courage is to stake one’s life on a possibility, so the essence of faith is to believe that the possibility exists.
When he says, “concrete movements of the soul,” he means those deep and personal moments of feeling that we all have—of ultimate hope, faith, and fear. While these notions are intimately true to us, fear and faith are based on possibility and not actual fact. In this sense, as he says, “possibilities are the realities with which we have actively to deal.”
In active addiction, it is easy to believe that you are alone and that there is no hope for a better life. Of course, this is a possibility, but there is also a possibility that you are not alone and there is hope. What you decide to believe, that is what becomes true to you.
Believe in Recovery
If you believe that you are not alone and that there is hope, you are by far more likely to discover community and recovery. If it is in fact possibility with which we must deal, why not believe in the possibility that would be best for you to believe in?
James thinks that it does you, and the world, more good than bad to believe that life is worth living. If you live in this way, your life itself will create truth in the notion.
Maybe your higher power is God and maybe it is just the universe. Whatever it is, find your faith in it— trust that there is goodness in it, that it is worthwhile to push forward.
If you are searching for community and support, call (877)670-8451. There truly are people out there who want to help you get past addiction so that you can always feel like life is worth living.
As James says: “Be not afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. The ‘scientific proof’ that you are right may not be clear before the day of judgement (or some stage of being which that expression may serve to symbolize) is reached.”