Yesterday I had a drink with a university friend. He has thought of himself and society without being bound by anything, and cut his own way free of what others do. He has read thousands of books, but at the same time, he has never given up thinking by himself.
Drinking beer, we talked about a variety of things, serious and light. One of the interesting topics we talked about was a book on psychoanalysis, which says that when patients with depression are properly counseled and treated, the first emotion that comes out of their unconscious is anger (and the next is sorrow). In other words, it is repressed anger that leads to depression, or in the worst-case scenario, suicide. (A mutual friend of ours who had suffered from depression and had been hospitalized for months died this January. She was two years my senior and a good friend. I am not sure of the reason of her death, although I had exchanged letters with her while she had been in hospital.) The author of the book is an experienced psychiatrist, and the well-advised content is based on his clinical experience.
Although not so much as she did, I have suffered from depression or erratic mood swings for years. I told him that what the author says could be to the point because I had hardly ever got angry with others and always had difficulty putting my negative feelings into words except for “depression.”
He was surprised. “Why not? Isn't there anyone that annoys or disgusts you? As for me, there are lots of guys that drive me crazy. I sometimes quarrel with even my girlfriend. She tends to be a bit too emotional, though,” he said. “Well...ah...sometimes I’m annoyed with others, but I’m not sure if it’s anger.” “Haven’t you hit anyone?” “No. Ah...once, when I went to junior high. I had a fight with a friend over a trivial thing. But that’s it. Actually I have never raised my voice in anger. I don’t know how to get angry. Of course I did express anger in some situations in my life, but I always felt awkward because whenever I ‘got’ angry, I thought, ‘I “must” get angry because people are treating me badly, because that doesn’t make sense, because of common sense, or something like that. I have never let my anger explode.’”
According to Foucault, the great French structuralist philosopher, human beings internalize moral standards of the surrounding society. I might have internalized the values that had worked and been regarded as respectable at school. I can remember I would often be praised for my well-tempered character at elementary school.
In addition, since my junior high and high school were oriented towards preparation for university entrance examinations, I put a mountain of energy into getting high scores in school exams in my adolescence. By doing so, I was praised by friends and teachers, and without any consideration, I internalized the principle that it was good to do good at school. (My parents never told me to study.) Different from regular adolescents, I didn’t worry about my dreams or look forward to the future, still less did I train to think about them by myself.
When I entered university, I was in a quandary about what to do under totally different circumstances. I did know what it is like to study, or to memorize something, but never knew what it is like to learn something spontaneously.
When I started job hunting as other students around me did, I found that the values I had embraced at school were not useful at all when it came to landing a job. I tried to imagine what companies wanted me to say at interviews, and I managed to get a job at one of the biggest banks in Japan. You may not believe me, but I entered the bank mainly because I thought it was a big enough company that my school’s graduates were supposed to enter and partly because I had studied economics at university.
I did not imagine what I would be doing one year later, or what I really wanted to do in the future. I just thought, “Well, I don’t dislike studying economics, so it won’t be bad doing some investigative reports.” I was wrong. I was disenchanted with the monotonous office work, the absolute business hierarchy, and the corporate rat race of money, money, money. I was diagnosed as depression. I tried, but I couldn’t continue to work.
Is the angst I am ridden with due to smoldering anger existing in my inner self? If so, can I somehow let it go? And next, will sorrow come? The “I” in Haruki Murakami’s novels would open the door to “my” inner self with the keys of sex or bloody violence. But this world is different from his. This is the reality and the only world for me. Can I revive and reinvent myself, with such a narrow world view and limitedly-internalized principles?
Anyway, it was a lot of fun drinking with the friend. Thank you!!