People have indelible tendencies, that is, inclinations from birth. Any parent (an honest one, anyway) would be able to quickly demonstrate through the behavior of his child that some things come built in. Another way of thinking about this is that we are all “prone to wander” in some way or another. (Original sin, anyone?) Our culture spends almost all of its energy to deny this couch-sitting elephant, but, eventually foolish tenacity yields to age and experience.
My tendency is to wander into the darker woods of life; I am apt to search a clear sky with a mind to finding the clouds. My parents and my colleagues would describe me and end the litany with, “You should smile more.” Tru, tru. Age and a growing faith in Christ make these sojourns shorter than they used to be; they exist nonetheless. I find great solace and encouragement in contemplating the vastness of the acts of God and His pursuit of His plan. It is exhilarating to know that I’m caught up in all of that in Jesus Christ!
My tendency leads me to articles and books of a certain stripe. Recently, I stumbled upon an article written about a psychotherapist, Irving Kirsch, in Newsweek magazine. It wasn’t biographical rather it was about his work with anti-depressants. Then, I followed my nimble-link-clicking-fingers to an article that Dr. Kirsch wrote based on his book. This inevitably led me to his book, The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Antidepressant Myth.
I had a friend once tell me that for every “kook” who railed against the current scientific opinion regarding the chemical basis of depression there were 1000 who DID believe in it. So, in heeding his advice, I tread carefully into areas like this. Still, you read as much as I do, sit with people through their dark sojourns as a I do and personally find release in the Savior Jesus Christ as I do, and you find books like this intriguing, even breathtaking.
For any who knows the name Thomas Kuhn, you might start thinking that paradigms are changing with books like this and research like his. And why not? For all who are inclined to depressive interpretations of life and even darker experiences of it, the thought of a lifetime of service to an antidepressant is not much relief. “I am a slave to my brain chemicals” is little hope, indeed. But what I (and others) believe to be true about life with God is hopeful. Strangely (perhaps), I find Dr. Kirsch’s book to soundly complement with science what is true from the Scriptures.
He is no doom and gloom prophet; he is one of them. That is to say, he doesn’t appear to be a turf warrior, clamoring against his psychiatrist competitor for the clientele. Maybe. As I read in Psalm 26:1, “Vindicate me, O LORD for I have walked in my integrity” I am reminded of these sentiments in reading his book; his aim simply appears to be to provide analysis on the effectiveness of antidepressants. Those results will likely surprise you as they did me. But, in the end I was left with the inescapable conclusion that biblical counseling is no mean alternative in the treatment of depression. It may be the best-in-class.