How Do I Balance Depressing Literature?



hi everyone welcome to better than for book reviews i'm your host cliff Sargent hope you're doing well a fan of the show recently asked me how I cope with reading dark and depressing books says hey cliff big fan here in your video interview favorite authors death books video I did a while back this interview you mentioned going through a dark period of your life and reading literature during it and you also go on mentioning reading books that push you to your psychological limit I eat it in grade six and then continuing this throughout your life what what he's referring to is in the sixth grade I read it by Stephen King so I wanted to ask how do you balance reading dark or depressing literature it's an excellent question many of the books I review on this channel could be considered dark depressing or both so I thought about it for a while and I'd like to suggest three things to keep in mind while reading this type of literature this is all for informational purposes only I'm in no way a medical or health professional of any kind so how do you manage a balance there's a big difference in having the courage to confront the dark parts of life and your own mind and buying into the pessimistic feedback loop which is just a product of your own fear resistance insecurities whatever you'd like to call it the idea that you need to balance is obvious but the practice maybe not so much how do we stare at the abyss without falling into it here's a comparison I'm on the ketogenic diet and if any of you have tried this thing you know you have to have a very specific balance of macronutrients somewhere around 75 percent fat 20% protein and 5% carb very low carb so if you have a dietary imbalance too many carbs or too much protein you'll get kicked out of ketosis you won't be burning your body fat for fuel anymore which is the entire point of the diet burning your body fat instead of glucose for fuel in addition you have to supplement with calcium potassium magnesium you have to make sure you're getting enough sodium otherwise you have to deal with leg cramps or any number of irritating side effects I wouldn't call it easy nor would I call it intuitive however when you achieve that balance the energy quality is phenomenal you have to balance your intake in order to achieve optimal results you see where I'm going with us you have to experiment as your body is unique give it enough time measure properly and make formed decisions it's the same concept book dark and depressing literature for me instead of your your body it's your mind but as you all know reading takes a long time you may not have the time to read positive books when you're reading depressing ones you have a full-time job and a family and a dog and you're a student you're busy you got a life so what do you do do you have to swear off depressing literature forever no no of course not tip number one develop critical thinking skills motivational YouTube videos podcasts short self-help material or positive philosophy yes some of that probably seems uncool totally uncool to talk about or even admit to we may want to be the person who is able to consume the darkest stuff imaginable the most depressing morbid nihilistic literature ever written who comes out on the other side totally unscathed because they possess enough self-knowledge to never need anyone's advice input suggestions or tools in a word they don't need anyone's help they don't need to learn anything well that's not me they never will be what these motivational YouTube videos provide our tools for critical thinking and they vary I mean you can choose speakers that you want I think you know where to look for these things and you will need to think critically when reading something like journey it's at the end of the night you'll need to have a solid mental fortitude to ingest bleak novels which presents seductive negative or cynical viewpoints this doesn't mean that the viewpoints are novels don't have value just because they're negative that they're not well thought out or in many cases true or partially true or sometimes true now it gets kind of tricky when you read stuff like Michelle Welbeck which is my favorite kind of novelist to read when I'm in a dark place it's biting in cynical black comedy and it allows you to feel that way and experience those situations without actually doing damage to anyone his worldview may be a depressing one but sometimes you have so much fun spending time with certain depressing authors you just can't help it and I think he actually talked about that I think well back actually talked about that you know when you when you really love a writer it means you want to spend time with them it's you you you enjoy spending time with them like that but it does mean that you're entering into a viewpoint that may be too easy to automatically accept because it's clever smart or charming because it makes you feel cool or powerful be very careful here because the beauty of literature is that you lose yourself in it and that's also the danger and make no mistake books are dangerous you can start a book one way by the time you go through come out on the other side you're a totally different person they can your up dude ask any great author ask anyone who loves to read books will change you they have the power it's a beautiful thing but be careful so if you haven't done a lot of self work then try to have a balance where you're getting tools to be stronger while simultaneously exploring dark or challenging literature don't be so agreeable or quick to accept the worldview of an author particularly when you know you're getting into something morose morbid a transgressive it can be fascinating and insightful inspire ideas but try to determine the intention of the person behind the page I'm not suggesting you'd be an intellectual coward that you just run from ideas that can flick with your own on the contrary I suggest you read it all if you have the time but to the degree that you can know yourself and know what you're getting into number two don't read depressing books to try and validate negative behavior I read Thomas legate as the conspiracy against the human race when I was taking care of my dad who was passing away from Stage four lung cancer living with him it did not go well it did not help my psychic condition it did fuel my cynicism and depression you don't want to do that that's the wrong direction why because it leads to pain for you and others in your life people who don't deserve to be hurt just because you don't have your together I allowed that having someone around a challenge your viewpoint is incredibly valuable whether we're there it's a friend or a loved one indispensable crucial if everyone you're hanging out with agrees with everything you say that's a big red flag you remember that Jim Rome saying you are the average of the five people you most associate with that applies to authors too if you have a good handle on your emotions and mental states I'd say just apply common sense but sometimes it's not obvious if reading a certain book is the right decision reading depressing literature when you're depressed because you want confirmation of your shitty worldview is like shooting heroin yeah sure feels great as your body corrodes as your muscles atrophy and your brain starts just like look you're making yourself weaker and you start to depend on that kind of viewpoint start to need that that validation that everything is you start to seek out people who need the same start hanging out with depressing literature junkies it's true you hang out through these miserable Oh God that was one of them I'm not heroin I never never touch that but one of the major drawers of reading depressing literature is it validates a certain morose viewpoint that you yourself may possess you're seeing the world through colored glasses because something bad has happened to you or because you've convinced yourself that there's no meaning to life or you have personal tragedy or you lost your job or you're fat or all of the above and if so I'm very sorry and then you become convinced that you're the only person this has ever happened to ever period and you're special and you may even start thinking hey man I know more about how the real world is than other people this is all meaningless life is a farce and no matter how much positive change we enact it's all going to still fundamentally suck then you're in trouble I'm not saying life isn't painful of course it is it's incredibly painful I mean no Sherlock but as depressing literature really going to save you through imparting some obscure information that will allow you to realize the truth that it really does suck I mean get out of here quit being dumb do we really need to be convinced that life's a bitch more than we have been by simply living it nah we're good so now we need something to build our intellectual muscles something to turn soft comfort seeking passivity into hardened ability something to make us not happier stronger the happiness will come from the satisfaction the strength allows for don't worry about that now is there no place whatsoever for depressing literature of course there is there should be and you should always try and maintain some sort of balance it's like sad music if you're depressed sad music is gonna be wonderful if you're an alcoholic who feels down and out in the winter in your chain smoking and drinking every night Tom Waits is never gonna have sounded better so how do we deal with this change your habits learn from others who are in better shape than you don't validate your own number three don't disregard the value of confronting evil and darkness in yourself and others that whole Jungian shadow thing that Peterson's always talking about I think that applies here you need to be familiar with the dark side of other people and the world so you can protect yourself and the ones you love and you need to know the dark side of yourself in order to control it this will also create empathy with others who are going through rough periods that you yourself may have been through I should also note that depressing literature can be a little bit relative there is some variation in people's threshold or tolerance so to speak I suspect this is based on their personalities and experience absalom absalom may be considered depressing to many people but that book is like the most beautiful glorious thing I've read for ages Mishima stoner bat-time canals guard all the things that review could probably be considered depressing at least in part but all of those things have moments of joy inside them which is why I love them and I'd argue that the moments of joy therein wouldn't be nearly as strong without those moments of melancholy or sadness you could even use something like the 80/20 rule to minimize the amount of depressing material you're engaged with at any given time and there's different types of depressing literature some books make you depressed but they can teach you maybe there is something to the idea that depression in some ways can be good or it can be a good educator a good teacher temporary not the type of depression where everything's great in your life and you should be happy but you're just depressed anyways and it's like a chemical thing know that but maybe depression occasionally allows for meditation on what's actually important kind of like like the meditation on death or like a memento mori meditating on what has happened what we know to be true and meaningful what we know causes suffering and what we know we want to try and stay away from that all not only culturally speaking but also on an individual level in ourselves chances are you've probably seen sides of yourself versions of your personality that you really don't care for maybe you've had the experience of looking in the mirror and trying to find yourself but couldn't you may not know exactly how you got to those places but you know to some degree what you're capable of what is absolutely worth avoiding and what you know you should move away from you may have also found yourself willingly putting yourself in states of misery and depression through the kind of art you're consuming saying that depressing literature or music has nothing to do with your melancholy emotional state is like saying you're fat because of genetics and not because you just eat pizza and beer you may think you're able to handle it but it's just like anything else man the older I get the more I realize how much I don't know about myself so I'm trying not to pretend I do experimenting is good but if you're just mindlessly inundating yourself with depressing forms of art then confuse that why you're sad all the time or your relationships aren't going so well or you're not motivated to help yourself or you're out of shape or whatever take a good hard look at yourself and what you're doing sometimes it's obvious speaking from experience I've I'm no better than anyone else I've made this mistake plenty of times still make it most great literature in my experience is in part depressing or melancholy or tragic in part utilizing those elements to create a full spectrum of the human experience in literature is extremely effective we don't want to read an entirely happy book about entirely happy people because there's no conflict that's not life we know it's but the flipside is less obvious because it happens all the time it seems a depressing book about depressed people for some reason this gets more of a pass as the way things are or its revered as the truth more often than the former maybe there are far more people suffering than there are those who are happy or grateful or positively engaged with life that very well may be true but you need both to tell the truth about what it means to be human sure at some points in your life you may need depressing literature as a means of coping with a particularly tragic or difficult situation as then you need to know you're not the only one who feels that way and that can be a very enriching and Pathak experience I get that there's nothing wrong with that at all it's important to know these things but if you're just wallowing in it your own morose me against the world victimhood narrative when you aren't even making a concerted effort to be better than you actually are when you can't even get to the damn gym it's pathetic why would somebody do this you ask because it's way way easier than actually trying to make your life better saying nothing matters lets your ass off the hook thinking your actions don't define you is a perfect way to place the blame on society god nature your parents whomever anyone anyone but you and that is so damn cliche it's boring so just be careful who you read and who you listen to be careful when listening to me I mean challenge my viewpoints I mean really come at me bro be careful who you read and who you listen to way these things I want to hear your input comments-section let's go come on it's what it's for now most of y'all who read heavily probably don't have a large circle of real life friends and you're perfectly suited to spending a lot of time alone in introspection this is all well and good but I'd be sure to schedule in time where you get out of the house out of your routine routines are awesome I'm a type-a don't get me wrong I love them but sometimes you got to break that cycle that can weaken you can stagnate instead of strengthening right keep that in mind too that's all I got for today thank you very much my anonymous fan for the great question always remember die reading it's maybe a slogan please subscribe if you haven't already a like on Facebook would be awesome I'm also on Twitter Instagram if you'd like to get in on the book and coffee lottery where they send off a hard copy of the book with a bag of coffee roasted by yours truly for every book review that I do then you can head over to patreon comm forward slash books are better than food and donate five dollars or more per video if you donate one dollar or more per video you can get access to patron only reviews and extra special content and yeah there's a bunch of stuff on there check it out if you like also mugs for sale description box below I really appreciate you taking the time to watch let me know what you thought if you have any suggestions for balancing depressing literature yourself you know what do you think what do you think about the stuff I said what do you think what are your techniques yeah do you have any tips or advice for any especially younger readers or you know people who are interested in trying to trying to get the most out of the books they're reading but don't want to get like you know don't want to fall too much into the abyss plenty of you are much smarter and experienced than I so it would be greatly appreciated if you would pass on your wisdom so thank you very much for watching everyone take care of yourselves have a great night talk to you soon ciao

33 thoughts on “How Do I Balance Depressing Literature?

  1. These are useful tips but I think it's important to realize that they are treatments for the symptoms of reading pessimistic literature badly. They don't treat the cause of the symptoms.

    The ultimate and only solution for balancing depressing literature with a productive/positive lifestyle, is to read it well in the first place i.e. read them as the great works of art they are, allow them to affect you emotionally and THEN intellectualize the way they make you feel.

    If you jump straight in to a novel by Celine or Mishima and you go looking directly for truth, paragraph by paragraph, then you'll probably miss the point completely and get mired in the pessimism of the narrative, which almost certainly isn't what they intended.

    These guys were first rate talents (if not geniuses) and geniuses don't tend to waste their time just wallowing on the page (or at least, they don't tend to publish it if they do).

    The key is to assume they are trying to touch upon some more profound truths, that their depressing narrative or prose style is a means of expressing these truths, rather than the truth itself, and then the process of reading them not only isn't depressing, but it becomes uplifting because the deeper meanings we intuit add to our understanding of life and ourselves – which is intrinsically rewarding.

    And then you can read all the depressing books you like!!

  2. Just found your channel and I feel so fucking happy now. You should be a life coach or write your own book. You inspire me to widen my perspective on life and the books I read. You have such knowledge and amazing insight and I feel I can learn so much from watching you! Thank you for doing what you do. You are helping more than you think you are!

  3. "Don't read depressing books to try and validate negative behavior"

    Thank you for this. I needed to hear that.

  4. What are some of the most depressing books people have read? Im loooking to indulge in sad stories, more on the side of individual depression rather than some tragic event of war or something like that (if that makes sense). Just read Osamu Dazai, no longer human…and lvoed that….any other recomendations would be much appreciated…more on the well kown older titles rather than contemporary 21st century stuff

  5. Motivational youtube videos? Now you've got me seriously depressed. Thanks pal. I remember your Logotti review lol. Actually I find guys like Schopenhauer and Logitti, Bukowski, etc. consoling. I was and am always less depressed after reading so called depressing literature. I didn't feel so alone because everyone I knew and know was/is pretending life was/is much better than it actually is and I don't care for fakery of that kind. Depression is meditation on what is important as you so aptly said. What I have to minimize is actual accounts of the horrific things that humans actually physically and emotionally do to each other. That makes me suicidal.

    Having been a dog trainer before retirement I have dogs that put most of humanity to shame. They keep me cheered as much as one can in this hell hole. That's my number one tactic for dealing with depression and along with that goes isolating from most of humanity and taking long lonely hikes in the mountains around my home with my dogs off leash for at least two hours daily. Without that I'd be looking for a cliff or sturdy tree branch. Cheers!

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  7. Wow! So many things you said are highly relatable. The "me-against-the-world victimhood," "nothings matters" and the heroin analogy. Months ago, during the final semester of my masters in English literature, I completely developed this stuff in my mind. Now that I am doing MPhil in this I feel it even more. My question is how should I balance reading Sartre, Kafka and Schopenhauer when it is a part of my study? Existentialism and Nihilism are Postmodern. I even find it depressing to read classics like Shakespeare, Sophocles and Aeschylus. Normal people enjoy Classics. Moreover I don't have a friend to share a single poem with. This makes it twice hard to contain your destructive thoughts in your head. I am both addicted to reading and I have to do it for my studies as well. Kindly suggest something. This is the first time I comment on a Youtube video. Thanks.

  8. Crap writing is the only thing that depresses me. That and a congenital mood disorder.

  9. Love your videos man. An author i recently first heard of described as making Kafka seem like a jolly fellow – Hermann Ungar, it would be interesting if you did a review for him. Thanks for the topic on this video, exactly why you're my favorite book reviewer on youtube. 👍

  10. The birth of tragedy. Balance is both – Depression and Blissfulness

  11. As for Italian literature, try Giacomo Leopardi – the most pessimistic in Italian history!

  12. Hi there Cliff Sargent! Thank you for the ideas that you put forward in this video. I would love to sit down and chat about this because, as I kept listening to you, a swirl of ideas just came rushing in. I would like to say a couple of things.

    Talking about this kind of balance is a very subtle thing because how one knows what amount is enough for one's well-being? Engaging with literature as you have very well said posits a great risk and if we fall short of it maybe we run the risk not coming to terms with it, of not meeting its real challenge. I believe it's more like a matter of reading well than of balance and that requires a little bit attention, patience and education.

    Critical thinking is very important and in my personal life I usually can't stress that enough, and for that one has to educate the mind, which surely takes its time. And I think that this is not the strong of most depressive literature junkies as you named them, and it really makes them bad readers. I mean not people who have been through major depressive states but just people who use pessimistic literature with the purpose to support their views and use it as a vantage point to shock everyone else's sensibilities and beliefs. I know a bunch of haters who use pessimistic literature as a mask of positive assertions of themselves, which is oxymoronic. Honestly if one reads Cioran or something like the Conspiracy Against the Human Race this should give you pause and not the comfort that suddenly one acquires some hidden truth about life. It is supposed to challenge the reader, not to create a league of narcissistic haters, which would be something these authors would surely disprove of.

    I would like to recommend an interview with E. M. Cioran published in Salmagundi magazine in 1994 which is pretty revealing of the man behind the most unrelentless pessimistic writtings in the 20th Century. At the end I was moved for the compassion and understanding he shown of people in pain that often sought him. The link's below.

    https://coronzon.com/pdf/cioran/Wakefulness_and_Obsession_An_Interview_with_E-M-Cioran.pdf

  13. Damn. I needed this. Subscribed. And I've lurked for a while, especially on the Houellebecq reviews, but yo. You've got it down.

  14. Wow…just came across your channel. So glad I did! You have great content! Looking forward to watching through your book reviews!!

  15. Always thought I could handle reading everything. Picked up the conspiracy against the human race and it broke me.

  16. I am diagnosed with clinical depression and 80% of my books are depressing. I feel like I go and search for such books on purpose.

  17. Right on, man. A lot of good stuff here. I'd like to watch it once or twice more to really absorb, filter, and respond to everything you're saying, but this is a great video.

  18. Not me, but the piano has been drinking, doing all the smoking; and I like to read books (that are mostly depressing) more difficult than Chinese algebra.

  19. haha love the comment about most of us who read dont have many friends. i like my booktube and bookstagram friends 🙂

  20. It's scary how often you hit the nail on the head on these things. The "depressing litterature junkie" moniker you just invented made me think about a group of people I associate with in a whole different way. Great stuff man!

  21. My life seems to have become a struggle against myself, against the part of myself that is autonomous and separate from the rest of my being. I read Jordan Peterson and strongly believe that there is objective meaning out there. I also have dreams and goals. And yet, I lack something and I no longer know what it is even though I think I once did or thought I did. I eat terribly despite a desire to become fit and well tuned, I don't read as often as I should. The last book I read (East of Eden) despite having a profound impact on me took about two weeks for me to finish. I have a good idea of what sort of stuff I should be eating yet I have to really fight myself to get out of the house and go to the store. I got a job, got sick (warehouse job, night shift, terrible hours), quit the job, and now I have no drive to get another one even though I know I should and actually want to. my point is that self sabotage is a very powerful and mysterious thing and that a book is the most destructive thing and therefor also the most beautiful and so should treated with respect similar to the way you would treat a firearm. In fact, I think it may have been East of Eden that has me in my current lethargy. I'll have to look into that.

  22. “Because there’s no conflict, we know it’s bullshit” Considering Kusamakura?..

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