Kierkegaard and Cognitive Therapy

Lately, I find myself troubled about gifted and skilled friends who don’t effectively use their gifts because depression saps their energy and motivation.

I wonder if Sören Kierkegaard could help them.

He lived during the first half of the 19th century and studied philosophy at the University of Copenhagen. A fellow student was Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx’ collaborator.

Kierkegaard was plagued by melancholy. The condition interfered with his studies, confounded his friendships, and doomed his one great romance. But rather than allow melancholy to silence him, he wrote many books in pursuit of answers that might offer a cure.

Two years and a month ago, Pam left Zoë and me. Since then, both my daughter and I have proven both resilient and vulnerable. Sometimes she descends into melancholy. Sometimes, I do.

Enter Kierkegaard. A few months after Pam left, he became my mentor.

Part of my job as a writer is passing along wisdom I encounter. Now, I feel compelled because most readers shy away from Kierkegaard even though his insights have the power to shatter and rebuild our worlds. But his writing is dense and ponderous. It may only be accessible to patient readers in desperate need of answers and willing to devote their attention to his books for a long while.

Whether simpler expression of his thoughts can help lift anyone from the lethargy of depression, I don’t know. Still, I will try to clearly and accurately express some essential Kierkegaard themes, and to comment briefly upon their relevance.

I may soon tackle:

• the command to love without distinction;

• the perfidy of family values;

• the abolition of conscience;

• cleverness as a highway to hell.

As my mom used to say, we shall see.