Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • When we are feeling well in our minds, we hardly notice that we might be harbouring

  • in ourselves anything as formal or as dramatic-sounding as 'reasons to live.' We simply assume

  • that we like life itself and that it must be natural and inevitable to do so. And yet

  • a broad appetite for life is, on close inspection, never simply that; our apparently general

  • buoyancy must covertly rest on a range of specific elements that, while we may not bother

  • to itemise them, have their own and distinct identities nevertheless.

  • It's only when a crisis hits and our mood starts to drop that we may for the first time

  • start to feel, with acute sorrow, what these 'reasons to live' might have been all

  • along; it's as we lose our reasons that we understand them with uncommon clarity.

  • We realise why we have for years bothered to rise out of bed with energy and relative

  • good humour, put up with inconveniences, struggled to get ourselves across to others and looked

  • forward to tomorrow - and wonder in dismay how we will from now on ever have the will

  • and courage to continue.

  • Our engagement with life might have been bound up with, the enjoyment of work or of reputation,

  • the companionship of a child or of a friend, the agility of our bodies or the creativity

  • of our minds. Denied such advantages, we don't merely miss out on an aspect of life, the

  • whole of it loses its purpose. Secondary satisfactions - whether from a holiday or a book, a dinner

  • with old acquaintances or a hobby - cannot compensate. The hedonic scaffolding of our

  • lives disintegrates. We may not actively try to kill ourselves, but we can't count as

  • quite alive either. We are going through the motions; living corpses following a script

  • drained of meaning.

  • When we say that someone has fallen mentally ill, what we are frequently pointing to is

  • the loss of long-established reasons to remain alive. And so the task ahead is to make a

  • series of interventions, as what counts.

  • We may need

  • to forgive ourselves for a fearsome degree of idiocy, give up on a need to feel exceptional,

  • surrender worldly ambitions and cease once and for all to imagine that our minds could

  • be as logical or as reliable as we had hoped. We may continue to live simply because every

  • human deserves understanding - and because we are trying our best in the only way we

  • know how.

  • If there is any advantage to going through a mental crisis of the worst kind, it is that

  • - on the other side of it - we will have ended up choosing life rather than merely assuming

  • it to be the unremarkable norm. We, the ones who have crawled back from the darkness, may

  • be disadvantaged in a hundred ways, but at least we will have had to find, rather than

  • assumed or inherited, some reasons why we are here. Every day we continue will be a

  • day earned back from death and our satisfactions will be all the more more intense and our

  • gratitude more profound for having been consciously arrived at.

  • The challenge from the present sickness can be mapped out in its essential form: one day

  • to reach a small but robust and persuasive list of reasons to continue

  • to be.

When we are feeling well in our minds, we hardly notice that we might be harbouring

Subtitles and vocabulary

Click the word to look it up Click the word to find further inforamtion about it