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Taransaud, D. (2020). Depression is a Thirty-Ton Whale … and it Sings in the Wrong Key. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 14(1):107-114.

(2020). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 14(1):107-114

Depression is a Thirty-Ton Whale … and it Sings in the Wrong Key

David Taransaud

Since the late 1980s, marine biologists have been tracking a solitary whale who sings at a frequency that no other whale can hear. For over three decades it has roamed the North Pacific Ocean, calling out to no one. Soon after the popular press picked up the story, the plight of the loneliest whale in the world captured the heart of the public. Almost overnight it became a cultural icon and a cypher for the feelings of millions of people who feel alone and on a different wavelength from others. The World Health Organization confirms that loneliness is becoming a worldwide epidemic, and depression is now the leading cause of ill health and disability. At the time of writing it is affecting over 300 million people, and, like the lonely whale, most of them suffer in silence. Despite mass media campaigns attempting to increase emotional literacy, the general opinion is that depression is ugly and unsexy; it does not draw an audience. So, in a culture where vulnerability is all too often associated with weakness, it feels safer to hide beneath a fake smile, and insist nothing is wrong when really nothing is right. The fear of ridicule compels silence, and silence compounds social isolation.

This article argues that loneliness and darkness are what the lost soul needs in order to find its way back home. It invites us to think differently about depression, not as a shameful illness that must be damped down by pills, talked out of, or anaesthetised with alcohol, but as a doorway to self-realisation and deeper intrapersonal intimacy.

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