Friday, July 24, 2015

An Innate Sense of Value

"...For most of his life, he (Winston Churchill) crumbled under the repeat blows of a depression so familiar, loud, and unshakable, that he called it his "Black Dog" - I suppose because it hounded him. It had its own life and demands, was uncompromisingly brutal, and became a monstrous family member to be reckoned with.

It seems to have been an affliction he shared with a number of his ancestors, including his father, who suffered from what was described as "melancholia". A small, feeble boy, bullied at school and neglected by his remote, glamorous, high-society parents, Churchill grew into a dynamo of a man packed with energy, assertiveness, bravery to the point of recklessness, a tough attitude, extreme ambition, plentiful ideas, willfulness, aggression alternating with compassion, artistic tastes, egomania, and a yen for daring adventures.

The deprivation he felt as a child may well have fueled his ambitions, but, having no innate sense of value, he was easy prey for the armies of depression that plagued him throughout his life.

..In psychiatrist Anthony Storr's fascinating character study of Churchill, he argues that in 1940, when all the odds were against Britain, it took a bold conviction for Churchill to rally the British people, but "it was because all his life, he had conducted a battle with his own despair that he could convey to others that despair can be overcome."

...For the last five years of his long life, Churchill sat in a chair staring at a fire, partly paralyzed by a stroke, wholly demoralized by depression. He stopped reading, he rarely spoke. The Black Dog finally caught up with him and pounced, flattening him under its rough weight.

But what a dynamo he had been, so inventive, so courageous, so resilient. A history-making, difficult life."

Page 183, 'A Slender Thread, Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis', Diane Ackerman

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