Scotland's Depression

Everyone has their own take on Scottish independence. Most people I've read, and understood, have had a very personal, often emotionally charged, perspective on independence, based on their own experiences. This is my attempt to relate the issues to my personal experiences of the past year.

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Everyone has their own take on Scottish independence. Most people I’ve read, and understood, have had a very personal, often emotionally charged, perspective on independence, based on their own experiences. This is my attempt to relate the issues to my personal experiences of the past year.

I think Scotland is suffering from a bout of “moderate to severe” depression.

Sometimes, when you’re depressed, it can seem like the way to fix it is to make big, sweeping changes. To have a completely new start, to get away from all the problems that have caused the depression.

In particular, if our partnership, and current environment, is going through a few problems, it can seem like separation – going it alone – is the way forward. Quit the job that seems to be causing the malaise, separate yourself from the family that’s getting you down. Isolate yourself from the rest of the world, so that you don’t have to deal with their problems on top of your own. It sounds like a great solution.

But it doesn’t work. You wind up losing the support of those relationships. Isolation is not a good thing. And these were strong, mutually supportive, relationships that we’ve built up over the years. Sure, they might have their problems, but overall they’re a net benefit.

And the main problem: these relationships are not the underlying problem, so making big changes around them isn’t going to fix the underlying depression. The effect of the change might be to cheer you up for a while – after all, you’ll have a new focus, something to do to keep you busy, something new and shiny that you’re enthusiastic about – but that’ll wear off pretty quickly. Once it does, the underlying depression will be back – with vengeance – and now there will be nobody else left to blame for all the problems.

People with depression have a habit of focusing on the negative, discounting the positive. This is a well recognised phenomenon in psychotherapy. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, it’s called ‘discounting the positive’, or a 'negative filter’. In Transactional Analysis, it’s known as a 'stroke filter’ (the 'stroke’ being the atomic unit of interaction between two entities).

It’s easy for us, in our depressed state, to see the negative effects of our relationship with England: the unfortunate conflicts we’ve been drawn into; the risky nuclear arsenal parked in our back yard; being democratically represented by a government whose leanings aren’t as socialist as we tend towards; and a bad attitude towards integrating with our European neighbours. But it’s much more difficult to see the positive aspects of our relationship: punching well above our weight internationally; great relationships with other international friends; a community that fosters innovation; still the best healthcare system in the world; and … I dunno, I’m as bad as anyone else at thinking of the positives.

In the end, after filtering out the aspects our depression automatically discounts, we’re left with a negative picture of what our relationship is. Change seems natural, and separation seems like the right thing to do.

But separation is devastating. It hurts the party who has been left behind, too. It causes suffering, and emotional turmoil for all the dependants – particularly the ones who don’t have a say in it, don’t have a choice, and don’t fully understand what’s going on. They might blame themselves for what’s happened? Why did you leave, Scotland? Are we not good enough? Did we do something wrong? We thought you loved us?

What Scotland really needs to do is to find the underlying cause of the depression. Perhaps something to redress the chemical imbalance would be a good idea (though I, personally, think that removing the nuclear 'medicine’ would go a long way to helping). Some country-wide Prozac? And maybe Scotland needs a good course of therapy; not just some CBT-based coping skills sticking plaster, but some good psychodynamic therapy that will get to the root cause of the malaise, to see if we can figure out what it is in our shared history that sparks these depressive episodes.

And I definitely think a dose of couple counselling/family therapy is in order. Getting Scotland and England talking together, with a neutral facilitator, to see if we can figure out our problems, and forge a way ahead. I’m sure there are issues on both sides, but I’m also sure that, with the right help, we can commit to working it out together, and building a stronger relationship. One that will not just survive the future bumps in the road, but will provide a mutually supportive environment for each country to thrive, both individually, and as a team.

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