Dominic Fairfax Forum
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An Overview of Emotional Upheaval and Causes

Let's get to the Nitty-Gritty - The Heart of the Matter

Understanding Anxiety and Depression



There has been so much written about emotional ill-health and trying to establish its causes that we are apt to get bogged down and entangled with too much information. There is already more than sufficient evidence to conclude that the causes of non-organic emotional dissipation are abuse or neglect in childhood, negative language used against the developing child and actions observed by them. Emotional problems are also caused by poverty in its many guises. Depression and anxiety can be precipitated by unemployment, fear of unemployment, domestic confinement, domestic violence, debt, being stalked, school bullying, meaningless work, poor housing, continuous criticism, workplace bullying, nagging partners, betrayal, powerlessness, sexism, racism, lack of money or anything else that induces fear or undermines an individual's sense of worthiness, competence, security, personal control and self-confidence. Lack of self-confidence is the predominant feeling in depression and anxiety and all of the aforementioned factors can cause it. The psychologist, Paul Albee states:


Many emotional disorders result from the stresses associated with poverty; from the emotional, physical and sexual abuse of children; from child neglect, social isolation and exploitation; from the low self-esteem associated with non-voluntary unemployment; from low social statues; being female in a patriarchal society, being African is societies dominated and controlled by Caucasians, or being gay in a homophobic world. The key concept is that stress engendered by these experiences leads to behaviour that is socially labelled as 'mental illness'.


Anger, Anxiety, Depression and Coping Mechanisms

Numerous people have problems with anxiety, anger, social phobia and depression. Millions of people have problems regarding their self-image and self-esteem. Such concerns can manifest themselves by obsessive addiction to shopping, work, cosmetic surgery, hoarding, over-eating, excessive drinking, drug taking, smoking or gambling. Addictions or obsessive compulsive disorders serve to fill the void of whatever ails the individual at his core. They act as a transference. They help to 'keep the problem down.' They are coping mechanisms. They provide ‘comfort’ albeit in ways that may have negative consequences such as ill-health, disorientation and getting into debt. Taking comfort eating as an example; it is to do with minds rather than bodies but it manifests itself via the body.


Effects of  Control, Advertising and Celebrity Culture on Self-Confidence in Women


Females suffer with self-confidence issues more than males. This is hardly surprising since women are continuously pressured by the media to look good, be slim, big breasted, possess sex-appeal, please men, wear this, wear that, be a yummy mummy and be forever beautiful. Since most human beings are fairly ordinary looking and cannot keep up with celebrity fashions and fads even if they had the time or money it is obvious that many will feel inadequate if they cannot comply. Women are also expected to be adept at multi-tasking. The advertising industry thrives on appealing to women's insecurity about their appearances and guilt about keeping their homes and families in tip-top condition and 'germ free'.These inane preoccupations cause many conventional women to compete with each other in almost every conceivable area of their lives. As the childbearing sex, women are vulnerable to dependency and control. They are in far greater danger than men of being left holding the babies, often relying entirely on state support.


The Role of Social Class and Poverty in Depression and Anxiety 

Although depression and anxiety occur in all social classes they are much more prevalent among those from low-income groups. Deprived groups will be susceptible to many other stresses which exacerbate, and in many instances, cause the conditions. The psychologies of individuals do not form in a vacuum. Societies obsessed with consumerism and competitiveness are hardly conducive to emotional well being. The void can never be filled for long no matter what you buy. However, those unable to adjust to a given society's ideologies and values due to lack of resources, poverty, too many childhood traumas and the possible 'peculiar behaviours' resulting from such situations may be regarded as 'maladjusted'. It is a social evaluation. Society's values, ideologies and offshoots determine how you should cope within it. You have to try and retain your emotional balance within the unbalanced society of which you are a part, even against all odds.


Individuals born into the higher social echelons tend to fare more favourably because they do not experience scrimp-scrape existences. Many are so affluent that they do not even need to work to support themselves. They are so much freer from stress. Affluent individuals have usually had more extensive education, more autonomy, more control over their lives, more choice of profession and more funds to steer their futures. Many are groomed for public office, high professions, banking and involvement with corporations even though they comprise a minority. It is they who determine the constructs and ideologies of the societies in which you have to struggle to retain your equilibrium. They have a choice in where they live. They possess sufficient  funds and the means to send their children to boarding schools or employ nannies if they so wish thus relieving a great deal of parental stress where they feel a need. Private clinics offering expert quality care for emotional upset will be more thorough and this is why the rich and famous attend them.


On the other hand, those at the lower end of the socio-economic system have little power or authority in the workplace. They have little control over the availability of menial jobs or their content and salary. In addition,  they have little say in the decisions that effect their access to health care, education and housing. Many will be unemployed due to supply and demand factors. Lack of autonomy and choice means that many people in low-income groups are more susceptible to depression and anxiety due to daily uncertainties. They can never relax. Insufficient information, lack of higher education and lack of control over their own lives renders people much more susceptible to alcohol addiction as they use it to try to obliterate feelings of hopelessness and the stress of their accumulating debt. As implausible as that may seem it is undoubtedly true. Unresolved childhood traumas and poverty precipitate most non-clinical emotional problems and to outsiders, seemingly irrational behaviour patterns. 


Some married couples genuinely love each other. They are best friends and soul-mates but others begin to feel that marriage is an economic unit and a means of social control after the romance and passion run thin. They may remain in a relationship simply 'for the sake of the children.' To quote the French political activist and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, "Marriage has always been the destiny traditionally offered to women by society. It is still true that most women are married, or have been, or plan to be, or suffer from not being." However, recent data [2012] reveals that most couples now live together rather than marry although the domestic unit remains the same.  The male is usually the main breadwinner. "The woman usually takes his name, or at least allows patriarchal lineage for the children. She will dress according to his whims and join his religion if he has one." Western women married to Asian men will often dress in the style of his culture. Women invariably adopt their spouse's class and his circle. "She joins his family, she becomes his 'half'. She follows wherever his work calls him and he determines the quality of their place of residence." Generally, her economic status is determined by his wages. If he is poor so is she. If he is wealthy so is she.  Once the spouse is taken out of the equation she realises that in most cases, she would never be able to manage on her own wage unless she has a proper profession. Much of the time, this is why she stays in abusive or unhappy relationships and feels as if she 'must oblige with sex.' Such situations will inevitably cause depression and low-self esteem.



Second or correlative with emotional damage in childhood, patriarchy is said to be the all-encompassing cause of women's oppression and depression as many of the above and following examples exemplify. Economic dependence for women with young children and the expectations of women within a marriage is a severe form of distress for many. An Irish women, who had more than seven children said:


Contraception was illegal in Ireland. I'd already had six children. I was so tired. I had long lost any romantic feelings towards my husband. He turned out not to be a kind or sensitive man. I didn't want anything to do with sex after the first child. I was afraid of him. I knew that if I disallowed sex, he would leave me to struggle in poverty with the children I already had. Even if contraception had been available, I still wouldn't have liked it. I had such an unhappy childhood. I thought marriage was the answer to all my prayers but it was only the beginning of more unhappiness.

I went to see the priest to tell him of my plight. He told me that it is my duty to please my husband in marriage. I was so confused.  I thought to myself, 'Who told the priest that it is a woman's duty - from where is he getting his ideas?'. I felt sick. I wondered how it could possibly be true, especially because he was always preaching about Our Lady's purity. I asked a solicitor once. He told me that withholding sex was tantamount to unreasonable behaviour in a marriage. Patriarchal attitudes seem to define women and how they should behave within marriage and even in society generally. Some women admit that they only oblige to get the children.

   The Lone Parent


If her marriage breaks down she is in the most appalling situation if she was fairly poor prior to the separation.To be left without a bread winner with two or three young children, especially if she has no emotional support and no family, is stressful beyond endurance. The stress of unaffordable childcare, dealings with Social Security, nursing children through chicken pox, tonsillitis, diarrhoea, vomiting; threats of eviction, poverty, debt, leaking plumbing, no car, broken washing machines with no money to replace them and the prospect of a life in an area from which neither she nor her children can possibly escape can play havoc with her emotional well-being. Imagine yourself in that scenario in addition to having had an inconsistent, traumatized, motherless, fatherless, lonely and bereaved childhood. Men can also end up in that situation but not anywhere near as many as women.  Single parents will be harassed to return to work as soon as possible but women living off men receive no such harassment. This is to save tax-payer's money because the state acts as a sort of 'husband' under such circumstances.To add to his or her life of disrespect and lovelessness s/he now has to suffer the humiliation of realising that neither the state nor the deserting spouse wants to support him or her. S/he therefore becomes the 'piggy in the middle.' Female single parents invariably end up exploited in low-paid jobs which men would never take on. Women will take jobs well below their intellectual potential in order to sustain their children and are much more likely to forsake their careers than men. Train fares, bus fares and child-minding fees often leave the parent worse off. Many feel that that they would rather look after their own very young children than pay another woman to oblige since the mother/father/child bond is a very important psychological stage of development and can never be recaptured. Dichotomies such as these precipitate unbelievable degrees of stress and depression for both male and female lone parents, especially if they had traumatic childhoods and currently reside in relative poverty.




Some women do not mind continuous domesticity but for others, confinement is not conducive to their happiness although many try to deny this for the sake of their economic survival. Denial causes internal conflict. Many women convey that they have found a degree of  contentment 'working from home' in the form of an entrepreneurial endeavour of their own, but often, working from home is related to their spouse's business and does not genuinely bring them any joy. This is mainly because of isolation. Numerous women  find  domesticity and confinement to houses and apartments incredibly lonely. Generally, human beings need social and intellectual interaction. A young woman told our support group:


I always follow current affairs and I'm interested in astronomy and wildlife. When I meet up with other mums at the school gate, I try to talk about foreign affairs, the situation in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. I sometimes mention a David Attenborough or Brian Cox documentary.  They are never in the slightest bit interested. All they ever talk about are their children, domestic acquisitions and their spouses's plans for their new kitchen or extension. They occasionally stop to stare at a woman coming in the school gate and start criticising her clothes, her hair, her children. That's about it really. They think I'm odd. I feel so depressed and lonely as I go back home or take a detour to the  town centre with my toddler. I know more about the local shops' stocks than their staff.

Want of Stimulation, Pressure to start a Family & Menstrual Cycles


Enormous numbers of women dislike being financially dependent on a spouse. They feel that nothing they possess is truly theirs. After the initial excitement of setting up house wears off, women can find themselves becoming increasingly depressed due to monotony and want of stimulation. Young people from distressed and loveless backgrounds often imagine that family life is the answer to their problems only to find it is the beginning. Many feel disillusioned, confined and lonely. One young woman conveyed that she cries into the washing-up. Some feel that social pressure to start a family before their 'biological clock runs out' means that thousands of women feel as if they have to put aside securing their own careers and financial futures. The disparity between the need to use their creativity and intellect and the humdrum actuality of their lives can cause acute anxiety and depression. Since the late 1950s there have been countless books written on this very subject, especially within sociological spheres. It is certainly surprising that several decades later the majority of women, especially working class women, are not even aware of them let alone find the time to read them. Monthly cycles can cause depression, anxiety, tiredness and irritability particularly prior to menstruation and these feelings always seem worse for girls and women with current discontent and unresolved emotional conflicts. Such intensity of depression is much more likely to be due to the discontentment and unresolved emotional upheavals than the hormonal changes themselves but there is no doubt that hormonal cycles exacerbate them. For many women, the same is true of the menopause.


Psychology is Endlessly Circular and The Problem with Desire


Many people will toy with the emotions of others in order to 'test them out' or bolster their own egos. It is a cruel thing to do since it is likely to cause further damage to someone who is already exceedingly fragile. It is difficult enough for teenagers to navigate their way through young adulthood even when they have had a loving background; consider then, how confused they must feel if they have been perpetually traumatised.That  is why it is important to gain as much information and understanding of the way the emotions work as possible. Such information provides insight and self-understanding thus enabling the afflicted to navigate their ships and help prevent the cycle. Psychology is endlessly circular. It is a very fuzzy area due to the multitude of combinations of experiences, thought processes, conditioning and different perceptions accrued by individual consciousnesses - people's own private take on things. There is school of thought which advocates that reading classic literature rather than psychology can provide better insight into the emotions and there is undoubtedly a great deal of truth in that. Ideally, partners need get to know one another thoroughly before deciding whether they could manage with children but desire is undoubtedly the human aspect that clouds rational; not just sexual desire but the desire to give and receive love; the desire to be wanted and acknowledged, the desire to have a place called home and the desire to be secure.



Financial Dependency & Domestic Violence


Many women lacking in self-esteem gravitate towards men with other emotional problems. Often, he is very similar to her father. The women remain trapped in abusive relationships and this is ten times worse if they reside in ghetto environments. Financial dependency is the major dependency which gives rise to other forms such as emotional and psychological dependency from which they find it exceedingly difficult to escape, either literally or psychologically. There is a wealth of information and support for women in this situation out there. It is imperative to remember that 40% of men are also the victims of domestic violence. Men worry that they will not be taken seriously if they report such violence so it is very much hidden amongst them. Children are seriously affected by witnessing the physical or emotional abuse of their mothers or fathers. Male children may perpetuate domestic violence as adults due to emulating abusive fathers. Female children may themselves become the victims of domestic violence in adulthood. Although marriage is held by society as the ideal, it really does cause us to question that assumption considering the sheer amount of abuse, discontent and spitefulness that takes place within it. Women may also suffer from depression due to their susceptibility to exploitation and pittance wages in the sphere of part-time employment. Working mothers suffer less domestic violence.


Licences to Have Children


There seems to be a growing interest in the idea of obtaining a licence to have children in order to prevent damaged and aggressive people from perpetuating the cycle. But it is vehemently argued against for a variety of reasons. The world of eugenics is considered unethical and dangerous although of course, it is always bubbling away under the surface and has a very large following. Opponents argue that the idea of licences is an unworkable premise. Who would be the deciders of granting them for one thing? The deciders might be secret perverts or abusers themselves. They could be megalomaniacs or incredibly insensitive and narcissistic. What would happen to all the babies born without the parent obtaining a licence? Would the children of the  'chosen ones' turn out to be nicer and more balanced than the random? After all, we all know of situations where children have been lavished with affection, comfortable life-styles and first-class eduction but as adults they sometimes develop all sorts of deviant behaviour and pathological problems. But we can certainly understand where the proponents of licencing are coming from. There is of course a wider a socio-economic reason why licensing is unlikely to come into effect. Eugenics would cut populations down considerably causing enormous ramifications for the economy which governments and corporations would not like. Nations want stratified societies to ensure occupational layers. They want excesses of rudimentary or undereducated people to ensure that there are always sufficient numbers available to do the mundane jobs for meagre wages without regard for their physical or emotional health. Many argue that the idea of licensing is less cruel than leaving things as they are. For most however, the problem of what to do about the perpetuation of  intergenerational emotional damage remains a quandary.


Making Money out of the Stressed and Depressed


Many psychologists, sociologists and laymen claim that the plight of such disadvantaged individuals is deplorable. In addition, it is 'even more deplorable for the non-poor to be making livings off their backs.' Professionals and governments must be aware that economic and intellectual poverty over long periods of time will cause physical and mental deterioration. Stress renders some people unable to care for their children. Relationships are tense and often abusive. Abandoned, dependent women with young children, fearful of poverty will seek out new partners, sometimes several times, leaving children bewildered and lost.  Ivan Illich, believes that,'... if Western style deprivation and stratification did not exist, neither would the need for so much medical and psychiatric intervention.'  It is inevitable that there will be high levels of boredom and depression in deprived areas. ‘There would have to be something wrong with them if they were not depressed.’ The solution is not to fill people full of pills. The all-encompassing factor is stratification. This is not to imply that all affluent or ‘comfortably off’ people are more capable of rearing children or immune from emotional problems since they also, often have unresolved emotional conflicts which are unwittingly revisited on the children. But it is undoubtedly the case that that poverty and oppression exacerbate the situation.



 ...these ills of society are responsible for a great deal of the illnesses experienced by its members. In claiming to diagnose these ills via the biomedical model, doctors can do more harm than good…..such treatment is but a device to convince those who are disenpowered and sick and tired of society that it is they who are ill, maladapted and in need of repair. By claiming exclusive rights to the diagnosis of illness, doctors and psychiatrists obscure its real source.[ Ivan Illich]


 Professionals Patronising and Blaming Victims. They 'Must Know Better'


The sociologist, John Kincaid, claims that many professionals are apt to patronise and attribute poverty and emotional problems to ‘…..a defective personality, an inability to relate to others, and an impaired capacity to make realistic judgements of self and others’. Such attitudes:


place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the disadvantaged individual. By claiming expert knowledge to diagnose individual ‘deficiencies’, welfare professionals, whatever their good intentions, help to retain ruling class power by reinforcing the myth that poverty with all its psychological ramifications is due to personal inadequacy rather than the nature of society.


Furthermore, unless they deliberately choose selective perception, the wealthy and people within the professions must be aware that for a variety of reasons, not everybody is equipped to play the competitive market game due to inequality of condition. "It is therefore, devious to pretend that if groups of people are not facilitated to play that game they must be maladjusted or inundated with personality defects." It is certainly unlikely that they would like their own children to endure it. It is obvious that poverty, unresolved emotional conflicts of parents [perhaps going back several generations], relationship breakdowns, patriarchy, continuous criticism and stratification will continue to perpetuate problems. It has long reached the stage where more public funding is spent on providing social workers than is spent on victims. It is such a dichotomy because in most instances, people can only perpetuate what they know. There is no point in paying thousands of researchers out of taxpayer's money just to keep gathering information on the same thing. Who exactly are they gathering the information for? Psychologies do not form in a vacuum. Society is already well aware of the causes of emotional dissipation and its ramifications. Paul Albee et al  stipulate that socio-psychologists need to focus the bulk of their attention on supporting groups that seek to eradicate the perpetuation of human misery, and that includes poverty in its many guises.


As for perpetual sufferers in the interim, the best course of action is to seek help from the many appropriate avenues open to you. Try not to dwell on the past. Action is always better than ruminating over things you cannot change. Read a lot. Education is imperative. Take evening classes in art or whatever interests you. Sport is good. DIY and gardening are good. Activity makes you sleep more soundly. Develop a good sense of humour because laughter is a great tonic. Listen to happy music; songs to lift your spirits and make you want to dance rather than dark or sad, slow songs that reinforce feelings of loss and depression. At other times listen to music that brings you in touch with your spiritual side and helps you relax. Whenever a negative thought comes into your mind, try to replace it with a positive one. This many seem hard initially but becomes easier as your mind is retrained. Always work whenever possible so that you have a routine and continuous interaction with other people. Preoccupy yourself with hobbies. The bigger the hurt, the more you need to counter it. Always have good, positive friends and think of other people. Isolation is not a good. Socialising is a natural human activity and discussing worries and experiences can provide insight and a clearer perspective. The 'self ' always needs to be curtailed by the perspectives of others in order to retain equilibrium because otherwise we are apt to get carried away and become self-absorbed. Use your experiences to help others. Be determined. You have to want to triumph. Remember that other people have endured worse or similar experiences. If they can triumph over negativity and horrible experiences, so can you.

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