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Lost Connections by Johann Hari

Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions

2018, Bloomsbury Circus


If you have ever been down, or felt lost, this amazing book will change your life…Read it now. -Elton John


The above quote is from the front cover of Lost Connections by Johann Hari. There are also endorsements by Hillary Clinton, Emma Thompson, Bill Maher; and, recently a friend of my pal Becky said it has changed his life.

Hari questions why, if anti-depressants work, did he still feel poorly when using them for a good portion of his life? Also, why didn’t anyone investigate further to see if there were other reasons for his depression, instead of attributing it solely to a chemical imbalance in his brain? His questions led him to the conclusion, after conducting extensive research, that the main problem isn’t the chemicals in our brains, but the lost connections in our lives.


He explores and discusses modern day disconnections from: Meaningful work, other people, meaningful values, childhood trauma (including his own), status and respect, nature, a hopeful future; then, he looks at ways we can start to reconnect in these areas to make our lives better and happier.


I discovered and ordered this book online at the Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris; I planned to pick it up and hear the author speak at the same time but missed the meeting, and only stopped by for my book months later. After a false start, where I incorrectly feared the main message would be: “anti-depressants are completely useless, never take them”, I finally got on with it and finished the book. Then, I really regretted missing the meeting with author, who is very well-informed, thoughtful, and sincere. His book has a lot to offer, if only we could heed its advice.


No excerpt can replace reading this multi-faceted book, but here is one to ponder:


When I was a child, Margaret Thatcher said, "There's no such thing as society, only individuals and their families"...We believed it. In a world that thinks there’s no such thing as society, the idea that our depression and anxiety have social causes will seem incomprehensible…But…we are still living in a society, even if we pretend we aren’t. The longing for connection never goes away.

So instead of seeing your depression and anxiety as a form of madness, ...you need to see the sanity in this sadness…Depression and anxiety might, in one way, be the sanest reaction you have. It’s a signal, saying—you shouldn’t have to live this way, and if you aren’t helped to find a better path, you will be missing out on so much that is best about being human.


This reminds me of a book I’m reading right now about the French Acadians, who lived peacefully with their neighbors in a very connected society and who maybe could have spread or at least continued this way of life if it hadn’t been for imperialistic policies of conquest beyond their control. (A Great and Noble Scheme, post coming soon.)


At the end of Lost Connections, Hari acknowledges writers EM Forster, James Baldwin and Andrea Dworkin as crucial to his understanding of connection. Hari claims that Forster is misread on the topic, and recommends his biography, A New Life, by Wendy Moffatt.


And now, for your slightly-off-the-topic-but-still-connected reading pleasure, here’s the poem, hand-typed on an old typewriter at Shakespeare & Company, which was enclosed in my book order:


Poems connect. Meanwhile, in her mail order packages, French designer (and anti-AIDS supporter) agnès b. encloses free condoms...

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