Denial and Depression: An Informal Survey and Analysis

I belong to a group that discusses human overshoot.

I recently conducted an informal survey of members to see if anything could be learned from the relationship between denial of reality and depression.

I present here a summary of the survey and my analysis.

The survey consisted of 6 statements and participants were asked to check each statement they agreed with:

  1. Humans are in overshoot.
  2. There is no “happy” solution to overshoot.
  3. There is no life after death.
  4. I had above average depression in youth.
  5. I had above average depression before learning of overshoot.
  6. I had above average depression after learning of overshoot.

The first 3 statements were used to estimate the level of denial of reality as follows:

  • If someone disagrees with each of statements 1-3 then they fully deny reality.
  • If someone agrees with each of statements 1-3 then they do not deny reality.
  • If someone agrees with 1 or 2 of the first 3 statements then they partially deny reality.

An analysis of the data showed:

  • 3% of members deny reality.
  • 42% of members partially deny reality.
  • 55% of members do not deny reality.
  • About 95% of members believe that humans are in overshoot and that no happy solution is possible.
  • 55% of members are currently depressed.
  • 15% of members have been depressed throughout life.
  • 33% of members were depressed before believing in overshoot.
  • 27% of members were not depressed until they believed in overshoot.
  • 36% of members are not and have never been depressed, and 50% of these believe in life after death.

To put this data into context:

  • Google says that 8-10% of all citizens are depressed.
  • My observations suggest at least 99% of all citizens are partially or fully in denial.

I drew the following conclusions from this informal survey:

  • Being depressed significantly increases your chance of accepting reality.
  • Accepting reality significantly increases your chance of being depressed.
  • You can significantly reduce your chance of being depressed by believing in life after death.
  • To maximize your chance of happiness you should fully deny reality.

A larger sample size, more and better designed questions, and a better survey method would be required to draw definitive conclusions, but I see evidence here that supports Varki’s theory.

5 thoughts on “Denial and Depression: An Informal Survey and Analysis”

  1. “My observations suggest at least 99% of all citizens are partially or fully in denial.”

    Hi Rob, I feel the same with my observations.

    Even my own family I’ve tried talking with about the situation we as a species face right now & it’s “deer in the headlights”or “I’m sure there’s scientists working on it” come backs.

    Where does one go from there? How does one react to those sorts of comments coming from your own kin?
    They can’t see that this culture is a death culture & it only knows one thing & that’s growth until the end.

    The indoctrination goes so deep & is so very thorough………………….

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    1. I’ve had the same experience as you with family and friends. The power of denial is amazing. I found Varki’s book helped me cope because it provides a plausible explanation for denial in otherwise intelligent humans.

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      1. I’ve just had a read of what you posted about Varki’s book & I’ll certainly be looking into that. It looks brilliant!!!

        I wrote a book that was published late last year of short stories & poetry, all nature based.
        I gave plenty of hints about resource limits & what this industrial culture is doing yet it all falls on deaf ears.

        I have other things I could write to make another book which wouldn’t be so watered down but I know it will be met with the cold stone of silence………………………..
        I can’t even give a link to my own website/blog to my family or “friends” as the title alone would alienate their sense of happiness & contentment & again I’d be met with the cold stone wall…………………………..

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  2. I think it definitely helps to understand that hope/optimism/denial are, for the overwhelming majority, built into human DNA. As a survival strategy it has made our species transcendent but is also, of course, our Achille’s heel which is leading towards of self-destruction. At least knowing how indelible these traits are enables some version of forgiveness and lessens the frantic urge to enlighten the stubborn intransigence of the determined deniers.

    I would like to see a follow-up survey on how people came to understand that we are in overshoot. It’s an interesting topic, thanks for putting this questionnaire together and tabulating the results.

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    1. Thanks Gail. It definitely helped me to understand that denial is not a defect in individuals. Denial is an inherited human behavior that enabled a brain so powerful that it can understand its own mortality.

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