I’m more than halfway through my second read of Lost Connections by Johann Hari. This is an engagingly written book about why so many of us are anxious and/or depressed. Johann (he uses first names as he shares about each of the researchers he talked to, which inspires me to do the same) combines research, interviews, stories, and personal history to explore the many disconnections we feel in today’s world. He persuasively argues that although Big Pharma pushes antidepressants and anxiolytics hard, the real source of anxiety and depression can be found less in brain chemistry, as we’ve been told, and more in disconnections from things that we need: meaningful work, other people, meaningful values, childhood trauma, status and respect, the natural world, and a hopeful or secure future. In the second half of the book, he talks about how to reconnect to these. Be warned, though: his answers are not all simple tweaks – many of them involve difficult choices and changes in national policy. (He goes out of his way to inspire hope that these changes are possible, however.) They are doable, but we have to listen internally to know which directions to move in.

Just this week, I talked with a client about how even difficult feelings are a source of information. This is at the heart of what Johann is sharing: although we want only to be free of them, we need our depression and our anxiety for the information they are trying to get across. They are important signals. We’ve become disconnected from ourselves and it is time to listen more deeply to understand what shifts need to be made in our lives instead.

I think that, even if I were not a therapist, I would have enjoyed the masterful skill in storytelling on display here. It is a personable, smart look at some of the deep issues in the world today. It is also relevant to nearly every human I know.

Lalah Manly, LAPC