1st Edition

Depressive Realism
Interdisciplinary perspectives

ISBN 9781138823549
Published September 20, 2016 by Routledge
206 Pages

USD $190.00

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Book Description

Depressive Realism argues that people with mild-to-moderate depression have a more accurate perception of reality than non-depressives. Depressive realism is a worldview of human existence that is essentially negative, and which challenges assumptions about the value of life and the institutions claiming to answer life’s problems. Drawing from central observations from various disciplines, this book argues that a radical honesty about human suffering might initiate wholly new ways of thinking, in everyday life and in clinical practice for mental health, as well as in academia.

Divided into sections that reflect depressive realism as a worldview spanning all academic disciplines, chapters provide examples from psychology, psychotherapy, philosophy and more to suggest ways in which depressive realism can critique each discipline and academia overall. This book challenges the tacit hegemony of contemporary positive thinking, as well as the standard assumption in cognitive behavioural therapy that depressed individuals must have cognitive distortions. It also appeals to the utility of depressive realism for its insights, its pursuit of truth, as well its emphasis on the importance of learning from negativity and failure. Arguments against depressive realism are also explored.

This book makes an important contribution to our understanding of depressive realism within an interdisciplinary context. It will be of key interest to academics, researchers and postgraduates in the fields of psychology, mental health, psychotherapy, history and philosophy. It will also be of great interest to psychologists, psychotherapists and counsellors.

Table of Contents


1. Big History, Anthropathology and Depressive Realism

2. Religion, Spirituality and Depressive Realism

3. Philosophy and Depressive Realism

4. Literature, Film and Depressive Realism

5. Psychology and Depressive Realism

6. Psychotherapy and Depressive Realism

7. The Socio-Political Domain and Depressive Realism

8. Science, Technology, The Future and Depressive Realism

9. The Lifespan, Everyday Life and Depressive Realism

10. Arguments Against Depressive Realism

11. Lessons and Possibilities for Individuals and Society

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Colin Feltham is Emeritus Professor of Critical Counselling Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He is also External Associate Professor of Humanistic Psychology at the University of Southern Denmark


‘Colin Feltham’s wide-ranging and thoughtful book, Depressive Realism, is written in his characteristically engaging and accessible style. This makes for an easy read on a topic that many people find difficult to contemplate.’
David Benatar, Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town, South Africa

‘Life is to a first approximation depressing and without meaning. In his latest book, Colin Feltham takes the reader on an interdisciplinary journey through this dark worldview of ‘Depressive Realism.’ Feltham’s conversational prose is engaging and encouraging, shepherding the reader gently but confidently through a masterful tour of the reaches of Depressive Realism. Feltham patiently guides the reader through historical and current applications of Depressive Realism to the realms of religion, philosophy, literature, film, psychology, psychotherapy, politics, and science and technology. Feltham’s latest offering is the best one-stop review of this worldview and its applications and implications. Learning about the depressive meaninglessness of life has never before been so entertaining and enjoyable.’ 

Todd K. Shackelford, Distinguished Professor and Chair, Co-Director, Evolutionary Psychology Lab, Oakland University, United States of America

‘Depressive Realism is a welcome antidote to the happiness industry.  Through deep and rich investigation Colin Feltham explores how Depressive Realism is threaded through psychology and philosophy, and in art and in science, in poetry and in politics, in history and in health.  Feltham’s book will be a revelation for anyone interested in the redressing of this imbalance, in realising how the negative is a critical component of our existence.’

Jacky Bowring, Professor of Landscape Architecture, Lincoln University, New Zealand.

‘A brave and challenging examination of the human condition that refuses to take refuge in a false optimism about our prospects. Probing into areas of our experience that most of us are reluctant to acknowledge openly, Feltham boldly recasts depression as both an unavoidable, and a necessary, part of social existence. A book to make you reconsider your worldview.’

Stuart Sim, author of A Philosophy of Pessimism.