Alan Watts on depression? (A debatable question)

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From the following article we will get to know if Alan Watt had depression. We will also get to see some of his famous motivational quotes and ideas.

Who is Alan Watts?

Alan Wilson Watts (6 January 1915 – 16 November 1973) was a British writer and speaker known for interpreting and popularising Buddhism, Taoism, and Hinduism for a Western audience. He was born in Chislehurst, England. In 1938, he moved to the United States and began Zen training in New York. While being in NewYork he graduated in theology from the Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and became an Episcopal priest in 1945. In 1950, after leaving the ministry, he moved to California, where he joined as a faculty of the  American Academy of Asian Studies.

Watts gained a following while working as a volunteer programmer at the KPFA radio station in Berkeley. He wrote more than 25 books and articles on religion and philosophy, introducing the emerging hippie counterculture to The Way of Zen (1957), one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism. In Psychotherapy East and West (1961), he argued that Buddhism could be thought of as a form of psychotherapy. He considered Nature, Man and Woman (1958) to be, “from a literary point of view—the best book I have ever written”.[3] He also explored human consciousness and psychedelics in works such as “The New Alchemy” (1958) and The Joyous Cosmology (1962).

Is Alan Watts depressed?

There is no such evidence that Alan Watts was depressed. It has been argued that his philosophy of looking at life was quite divergent than what society accepts. 

He failed as a husband, marrying three times, and driving his third wife to the bottle with his philandering – he would pick up a different college girl after most talks (‘I don’t like to sleep alone’). He failed as a father to his seven children: ‘By all the standards of this society, I have been a terrible father’, although some of his children still remember him fondly as a kind man, a weaver of magic, who initiated each of his children into LSD on their 18th birthday. He was vain and boastful, ‘immoderately infatuated with the sound of my own voice’ – although, like Ram Dass, he wasn’t a hypocrite, and did try to constantly warn his young audience he wasn’t a saint – not that they listened.

By the end of his life, he was having to do several talks a week to make enough money to pay his alimony and child support. And he was drinking a bottle of vodka a day to be able to do that. He died, exhausted, at 58.

Truth is that the causes of depression were not fully elucidated, despite the efforts made. The current unanimous vision of the researchers and clinicians imposes a bio-psycho-social model in which, at the onset of depression, both biochemical disturbances in the brain contribute as well as psychological (fragile personalities) or social causes (daily stress, negative life events, the hostility of the environment etc.).

A few of his fans claim he died due to over consumption of alcohol. When Watts was once asked why he drank, he replied “It makes me feel less lonely”. Maybe this quote from The Dancing Wu Li Masters, intended for Albert Einstein was also true for Alan Watts. “The first man to see an illusion, by which men have flourished for centuries, surely stands in a lonely place.” – Gary Zukav. “A healer needs a healer too”- as we know no matter how much of an antidote you are to people, you need an antidote too. Maybe he was lonely trying to make people feel less lonely. 

Though why he consumed alcohol is still debatable. It could be because of too much negative stressors or out of mere enjoyment and his philosophy of “enjoying the present” . Some of his followers believed he was just enjoying life and died in peace. As he often narrates “go out with a bang”, his life neared its end with a bang too. His famous lines are quite relevant in this context. 

“…if you want life, don’t cling to it, let go. The problem is if I desire not to desire, is that not already desire? How can I desire not to desire? How can I surrender myself, when myself is precisely an urge to hold on? To cling. To cling to life. To continue to survive. I can see rationally, that by clinging to myself, I may strangle myself. I maybe like a person who has a bad habit, as a result of which he is committing suicide…and he knows that, but can’t give it up… because the means of death are so sweet”. – Alan Watts

One of his follower said, “I believe this is an unfortunate testament to the strength of the dark power that is alcohol. the word alcohol takes route from the Arabic term al-kuhl… meaning (in English): the ghoul or the evil spirit. this is because it is believed in muslin culture to remove the good spirit from an entity. likewise in alchemy the vapour which is released from a substance during an alchemical reaction is known as the spirit… thus it is the removal of the spirit through the application of alcohol. I believe that through excessive and continuous consumption of alcohol all spiritual regard obtained by Alan Watts along with his spirit itself was eventually removed leaving way for a darker energy to take control of his destiny. a very sad end for a very beautiful human being.”

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Listing some of his famous quotes which will show instances of his ability to motivate people : 

“Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun.”

“Your body does not eliminate poisons by knowing their names. To try to control fear or depression or boredom by calling them names is to resort to superstition of trust in curses and invocations. It is so easy to see why this does not work. Obviously, we try to know, name, and define fear in order to make it “objective,” that is, separate from “I.””

“This is the real secret of life – to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.”

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infinitesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present. Our consciousness is almost completely preoccupied with memory and expectation. We do not realize that there never was, is, nor will be any other experience than present experience. We are therefore out of touch with reality. We confuse the world as talked about, described, and measured with the world which actually is. We are sick with a fascination for the useful tools of names and numbers, of symbols, signs, conceptions and ideas.”

“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.”

My comments 

A man who healed so many people, provided them with strength, power, joy, care, love and direction also needs a source of strength too. Even though there is no such evidence about him ever being depressed but it isn’t anything not worth accepting. 

Our life is unpredictable and challenging. He, in the journey of making life easier for others, maybe forgot to ease himself to life. Though none of my statements have an evidential backup, I personally think he might have suffered from extreme negative stimuli too which probably could have made him alcoholic thus nearing his death. 

Conclusion

From the article “Alan Watts on depression”, we learned about who Alan Watts is and if he is depressed. We also looked at his motivational quotes and ideas. 

What we recommend for Depression

Professional counselling

If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.

FAQs : Alan Watts on depression?

At what age did Alan Watts die?

58 years (1915–1973)

Was Alan Watts a psychologist?

Alan Watts was one of the best-known interpreters of Eastern philosophies

Is Alan Watts dead?

Deceased (1915–1973)

What religion was Alan Watts?

Episcopalian

What kind of philosopher was Alan Watts?

Alan Watts, the philosopher whose writings influenced the beat and hippie generations and helped popularize Zen Buddhism in the United States, died today at the age of 58.

Does Alan Watts believe in God?

No he didn’t believe in God.

Why is life not a journey Alan Watts?

Philosopher Alan Watts explains that there is a danger in thinking life is a journey; some sort of a pilgrimage with a purpose at the end. Life is to be lived along the way, in the same way that music is to be enjoyed. 

What does it mean to hit rock bottom?

 It is not a place which can be redirected by google map. 
“Hitting rock bottom” is a phrase that almost everyone has heard when talking about the topic of addiction. Generally, rock bottom refers to a time or an event in life that causes an addict to reach the lowest possible point when he or she feels like things cannot get worse for them.
When depression drags you to rock bottom, you experience a dull feeling of blue. You are isolated from the world around you. You give up on the daily activities you did, maybe at times brushing, bathing, eating. You do not see any hope to carry yourself forward in life and may think of suicide too. It is very unfortunate that you did not seek any help until now. But now that you finally think of getting some help from the internet, a step by step self-help process can be provided to you for the time being. I hope this is helpful.

How do you get up after hitting rock bottom?

Let yourself feel. 
Take the time to reflect. 
Have faith.
Be self-compassionate. 
Engage in creative outlets. 
Spend time in nature. 
Listen to Music. 

Do you have to hit rock bottom before?

There is a myth that people need to “hit rock bottom” before getting sober.

How gratitude helps with depression?

Gratitude is the most powerful gift one can ever give to others and most importantly to their own self. 
Your journey from hitting rock bottom would end with the exchange of gratitude. You will have to start with basic contributions such as praising yourself for the littlest of things, encouraging yourself for being able to do away with your bad habits, paying gratitude to yourself for being courageous enough to get out of the dark phase of life and stand with your head held high.

References

https://www.quora.com/How-did-Alan-Watts-die

https://www.quora.com/Why-did-Alan-Watts-become-depressed

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