Eva and Depression

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Eva and Depression

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Postby Sachi » Sat Apr 30, 2016 3:38 am

I sort of wanted to start a discussion about Eva in general and how it addresses depression. It's no secret that Anno used Eva as a creative vehicle to channel his own struggles, and as someone who also struggles with depression, I find it interesting how well he was able express it through his art. I've grown up with Eva since my early teens, yet as an adult I find that Eva relates to me on a much more profound level than it ever has before. Q happened to come out around a time in my life where I could relate to Shinji the most, and I still find myself in his position.

Depression is a funny thing. One's very own view of the world becomes distorted to an extent, fueled by crippling self-doubt and perpetuated by failure, to the point where their outlook becomes a fantasy. They begin to believe these terrible things about themselves, which lends to believing other crazy things. Eva presents to us a young man thrust into a world of his very own fantasy, the reality that his depression created for himself, wherein the challenges he faces are personified by gigantic monsters and Instrumentality is ultimately a metaphor for suicide. I won't get too much into the Freudian implications of the robot he pilots being his mother now, but perhaps that's something we can explore later.

Now don't get me wrong; I don't mean to suggest the theory that says the entirety of Eva happened in Shinji's head. However, the allegory is certainly present. Episode 03 is one obvious example: Shinji opened his entry plug to Kensuke and Toji and let them inside; subsequently they were able to see how he struggles in the Eva, and afterward the three became best friends. Only once Shinji opened up was he able to make any friends. Eva as a whole is an allegory for the challenges of being a human living in a world among other humans.

As the series progresses, Shinji's fantasy becomes darker as his depression becomes worse. He closes himself off by retreating into his room and shutting the world out with his headphones (similary, Asuka does the same with video games). Ultimately, it comes down to Instrumentality: does he go full fantasy, or does he find a way to cope with real life? EoE really hammers home how the prior option might as well be equivalent to suicide, yet it is also honest about the cruel nature of reality.

And basically that's what it comes down to for anybody struggling with depression. Can I accept that the world may be a shitty place and that I may be a shitty person, but even so there are still things worth living for, things I can do to change my position or my outlook, and so I had better learn how to live now while I have the chance; or do I choose the other path of retreating into my fantasy, creating a bubble of isolation around myself, and just waiting (or not waiting) to die?

Eva does a really good job at identifying with that struggle as well as giving some advice in properly addressing it. These aren't just things that Anno had to write to tell himself; they are things that can relate to everybody. I've personally benefited from repeating to myself some of the lessons prescribed by the show, and as I've grown into an adult, I find myself experiencing these struggles in different lights. Eva isn't just another robot show and it's existence is far more valuable than sheer entertainment.
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby jcmoorehead » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:20 am

I think that was really eloquently put and the idea of Eva being a vehicle for Anno's struggle is something I'll be addressing when I do my Eva panel in the future.

I think the connection with depression is something that people do overlook when it comes to Evangelion. A lot of the focus goes onto the symbolism and outside of the fandom I see little on people speaking about this aspect of it.

Yet when you look at it, especially something like End Of Evangelion in which we see Shinji reach his lowest point and make the decision whether or not to live or die it serves as a powerful message. As bleak as things might get there is always a potential for things to get better. Whilst the world might bring you pain, there is always the chance to find your happiness. It won't be easy and you might struggle and fall down at times but keep going because there is always hope.

I've been fortunate to not suffer with depression. My mothers side of the family does have a history with it though which I won't go into but I have seen what it can do to people. Personally though I can somewhat relate to the messages of keeping going when things look bleak. I've related to Shinji's feelings of being useless to others or wanting to give up.

When I left University I had my degree but I honestly had no idea of what to do next. I was terrified of applying for jobs, I had no experience and no clue what 'real life' was. I struggled to find work and eventually I got stuck with a retail job that I didn't like. I remember being told by a job centre advisor that 'No offense but no one in the games industry is going to look at someone like you.' Now my degree is in Games Programming so that was quite a horrific thing to hear. It also probably contributed to me feeling sick every time I had to go to that place.

As time went on I genuinely started to believe that. I've never really had much confidence in myself so being told that just seemed to reaffirm that I was actually useless. That I had no chance of doing what I wanted and that I should probably just settle for whatever I got. I should just give up, settle for a comfortable job and think myself fortunate. It isn't quite as dire as completely isolating myself off or retreating into a fantasy but it is along those same lines as just accepting a negative perception of myself and not even trying to move past that perception.

I decided however to not give up and kept going. Eventually I got a job in said industry. (At the exact same company I had applied for when above person told me I had no chance) and I've been there for two years now. The thing is though even in this position I still feel those feelings creep in from time to time. Even as I write this I'm looking back thinking 'Is this really suitable? Is what I've mentioned really serious enough for this discussion?'

---

The funny thing is beyond the lesson I do actually credit Evangelion with helping me get my current job. When I discovered Evangelion many years ago I was encouraged to start writing for the first time, I delved into the world of fanfiction and discovered that I actually really enjoyed writing. Without doing that I would not have wrote games reviews or met the many people I have done which eventually led to where I am now.

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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby unitM » Sat Apr 30, 2016 9:49 am

Depression is, according to psychiatry(one of the pieces of literature Anno evidently read for the series) an over-inflated Adapted Child ego state. It's the ego state related to a higher power telling you what to do and you being compliant with it. The Adapted Child can turn into the Rebellious Child but not often. Shinji is the poster boy for someone who spends a lot of time in this state. From the beginning of NGE, Shinji is compliant with doing something he really doesn't want to do. Most of the characters around him reinforce this message about Shinji, from his dad to Ritsuko.

I think the whole series is a take on depression. Everything is cynical. Everyone is sneaking behind each other's backs, often behind closed doors. Depression is also characterized by a feeling of hopelessness. Days melding into one another, until everything becomes hearsay, he said, she said, isn't a very big theme in Eva, but a considerable theme is stuff happening without us noticing, which is sort of a spawn of the same feeling. This also adds into the sci-fi Ghost in the Shell complex that I read about on another thread.

I think Shinji is the only character in the series that's actually depressed. Most other characters show symptoms of depression but I find that to be people normally finding ways to ward off and cope with it.

In any event, I highly recommend reading the psychiatry manual, it explains a lot of the instances of Evangelion very clearly.

Also, I'm going to throw out a bit of a plug here: I'm still struggling with depression, but there is a therapeutical remedy available now, not in a pill form, and not even requiring you to leave your house(or wherever you're perched). Studies are being released and are repeatedly confirming it's productive effects as an anti-depressant. It's called cognitive behaviorial therapy and as someone who does it 3 times a week right now, it works amazingly. I highly recommend it.

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Postby Arcadia's legacy » Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:09 am

How would you guys say NTE approaches depression when compared to NGE?
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Postby BlueBasilisk » Sat Apr 30, 2016 12:37 pm

^Kaworu and Kaji give Shinji some excellent advice on coping. Dwelling on past tragedies or mistakes doesn't do anyone any good. It just traps you in a downward spiral of self-hatred and misery. You can try to fix it, make amends, or try to make peace with the past and yourself and try move on. Finding things that bring you happiness or peace and contentment is a very good way to combat this kind of self-defeating thinking and it's helped me deal with my own depression at times. It seems like such an obvious solution, but it's something that's very easy to forget when you're depressed, and it's easier said that done.
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby Sachi » Tue May 03, 2016 12:18 pm

View Original PostunitM wrote:Depression is, according to psychiatry(one of the pieces of literature Anno evidently read for the series) an over-inflated Adapted Child ego state. It's the ego state related to a higher power telling you what to do and you being compliant with it. The Adapted Child can turn into the Rebellious Child but not often. Shinji is the poster boy for someone who spends a lot of time in this state. From the beginning of NGE, Shinji is compliant with doing something he really doesn't want to do. Most of the characters around him reinforce this message about Shinji, from his dad to Ritsuko.

I think the whole series is a take on depression. Everything is cynical. Everyone is sneaking behind each other's backs, often behind closed doors. Depression is also characterized by a feeling of hopelessness. Days melding into one another, until everything becomes hearsay, he said, she said, isn't a very big theme in Eva, but a considerable theme is stuff happening without us noticing, which is sort of a spawn of the same feeling. This also adds into the sci-fi Ghost in the Shell complex that I read about on another thread.

I'd say that sums up much of the core of Shinji's character. He spends most of the series living the way others tell him to, and doesn't take the time to consider what he wants for himself. Ritsuko explains this as a survival mechanism in episode 03 when he's in combat training. This is also when the Hedgehog's Dilemma is brought up, which is used to understand why he acts this way; taking action and getting close to people hurts him, and so he feels it better to stay alone and do nothing instead. Later on, his own explanation for playing the cello displays his lack of agency in his life style. Just like with piloting Eva, he remains content in doing as others have told him to.

View Original PostArcadia's legacy wrote:How would you guys say NTE approaches depression when compared to NGE?

Moreso in some ways and less in others. Shinji's attitude is much the same in the beginning. The difference is in 2.0 when he seemingly grows the balls to do something. The problem was that his action was spurred by spontaneous adolescent passion in a singular person, and it was at the expense of others. Forget the apocalyptic hyperbolization for moment, and look at the event like a cataclysmic social bomb; after things went bad with Asuka (Bardiel), he retreats again to his former self (running away), sees other girl in trouble and plays hero (Rei and Zeruel), and runs away into fantasy land with her for a while, ruining his relationship with everyone. Eventually he realizes the concept of Rei is a facade (Q), looks around and realizes his life is shell of its former self (Neo-Nerv), and in another dramatic act of passion he attempts to win over his old friends who have since moved on (Wille), ultimately making an even bigger ass of himself (4th Impact). These constant failures reflect his lack of aptitude in socializing with others, especially if Rei is to be read as a fantasy retreat and the Oedipus complex begins to show (is Rei internet porn?). He's selfish and self-centered, all while hating himself, which is a portrayal of the much darker side of depressive personalities, and worst of all he has outbursts, which only makes his situation worse for himself. He needs to change the way he looks at the world if he is to have any hope of brighter future.
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Postby Tetsuo » Tue May 03, 2016 3:18 pm

Well my favorite part of Eva is how it shows the different ways people deal with pain and loss. I lost my mother when I was 7 and I became sorta like Asuka. I was angry. I channeled all of my energy into being the best I could and beating everyone else. It was a hard time and that was how I coped. However I also think that I coped with it poorly. That is some of the beauty of Eva. No one copes in a good way. Shinji lost his mother and it's very clear that he hasn't gotten over his loss. Which in turn causes him to be very emotional and brash in judgment. The same goes for Asuka. However the odd exception to me is Gendo. Gendo instead of having some sort of reaction akin to sadness or anger he seems too of gone the route of creating clones of his dead wife. However it sti;;
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Postby Sachi » Tue May 03, 2016 3:51 pm

Gendo's grief is channeled through his obsessive determination. While he may be an asshole that uses others for his own gain, his confession about Shinji in EoE suggests that he's really a broken man incapable of handling others on a personal level, so he keeps everybody at a distance. His dealings with others is strictly business, which hints at the broken man underneath. He allowed the Akagis to use him sexually (at least in the case of Naoko, it was clear she was using him), but only because it served his own goals otherwise. Yui was the only person he felt could understand him, and consequently he focused his entire existence on her, even after her death.
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby xanderkh » Tue May 03, 2016 4:21 pm

If anything, it show's that Gendo is far worse off than ANY of the cast members of Evangelion on how they cope with their demons and losses. Shinji at least has some memorabilia to remember his mother by, which can be healthy if you don't let it consume you; nothing wrong with remembering your loved ones from time to time.

But Gendo, he takes his grief too far to the point of denial of the world and the facts of life, refusing to accept Yui's "death" to the point where he tries to become "God" to bring her back. That's not acceptance by any means, it's regression, deep regression. Despite his pragmatism and calm exterior, he's willing to put the entire world to hell and back bring back his long dead wife, just because she was NICE to him. It's pretty sad when you think about it.
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby Ray » Tue May 03, 2016 5:13 pm

I want to say something, but is there anything I can contribute that I haven't said on other threads?
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Postby NemZ » Wed May 04, 2016 5:46 am

It's been said that (mild) depression is actually just reality without the usual optimism filter the brain puts on life. I think that accurately sums up Shinji for most of the series... he's a bummer precisely because he doesn't pretend his life is a as cool as other people seem to think it should be. In a world literally teetering on the brink of apocalypse what the hell does anyone bring to the table that matters? Everyone is just either in some state of denial, chasing an audacious plan to salvage the situation at any cost, or quietly in acceptance of the shittiness of it all.

View Original Postxanderkh wrote:But Gendo, he takes his grief too far to the point of denial of the world and the facts of life, refusing to accept Yui's "death" to the point where he tries to become "God" to bring her back. That's not acceptance by any means, it's regression, deep regression. Despite his pragmatism and calm exterior, he's willing to put the entire world to hell and back bring back his long dead wife, just because she was NICE to him. It's pretty sad when you think about it.


Yes, but she isn't actually dead at all... she's right over there, trapped, and in EoTV he is justified in his actions because he does in fact succeed, making him basically the true misunderstood hero of the story. The DC revision kills this aspect entirely since now she's there willingly and he doesn't know it because Fuyu decided to be petty and kept it a secret, so he's just a sad lonely dupe who gets used in the end by everyone around him that he thought he was manipulating, and thus denied at the very edge of victory.
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Postby Sachi » Wed May 04, 2016 9:00 pm

How about everybody keeps their disagreements to themselves unless it's relevant to the discussion? Thanks.

View Original PostNemZ wrote:Yes, but she isn't actually dead at all...

Regardless of her actual status (dead, disembodied, trapped, whatever), his reaction is still the same. Rather than dealing with loss, he refuses to accept it and is willing to screw the world over in order to bring back the past. He neglects what's right in front of him in favor for an ideal/memory. He sees Yui as the only person that can understand him, and since he is incapable of reaching out to others, he desperately fixates on her rather than moving on and maybe finding someone else who might understand him and make him happy. Even if it is possible for him to reunite with her, he needs to bend the world in order to do so. The lengths he's willing to go shows us how broken and desperate for her that he is. An obsession that strong is not healthy. It is not uncommon for those with depression to anchor themselves to one thing that makes them feel good, to the neglect of most everything else, and removing it from them can be devastating.
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Postby NemZ » Thu May 05, 2016 4:45 am

I think you're putting too much blame on Gendo's depression and forgetting that some sort of impact was part of the plan from the start, regardless of Yui's status. The only thing that changed was his plan to hijack the process at the end rather than... whatever the original plan was.
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby Bagheera » Thu May 05, 2016 10:48 am

View Original PostNemZ wrote:It's been said that (mild) depression is actually just reality without the usual optimism filter the brain puts on life. I think that accurately sums up Shinji for most of the series... he's a bummer precisely because he doesn't pretend his life is a as cool as other people seem to think it should be. In a world literally teetering on the brink of apocalypse what the hell does anyone bring to the table that matters? Everyone is just either in some state of denial, chasing an audacious plan to salvage the situation at any cost, or quietly in acceptance of the shittiness of it all.


I think it's pretty obvious he's operating on a different wavelength than everyone else in the show (well, except his dad; depression is in part genetic, after all!). Depression is a physiological state, not just people dwelling on negative shit, so blowing it off as him just having a realistic view of things is somewhat missing the mark IMO.

Yes, but she isn't actually dead at all... she's right over there, trapped, and in EoTV he is justified in his actions because he does in fact succeed, making him basically the true misunderstood hero of the story. The DC revision kills this aspect entirely since now she's there willingly and he doesn't know it because Fuyu decided to be petty and kept it a secret, so he's just a sad lonely dupe who gets used in the end by everyone around him that he thought he was manipulating, and thus denied at the very edge of victory.


All of that's a matter of opinion, and not really on point IMO. I think it's quite fair to say that Gendo's reaction to his wife's disappearance and his treatment of Shinji as a result were both wildly inappropriate, and good examples of how depressed people tend to destroy their own lives due to inadequate coping mechanisms and an inability to accept their circumstances and move on. In the show this could be taken as an interesting critique of the mental health industry (or lack thereof) in Japan, same as the rather startling lack of support for the pilots throughout the show.
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Postby Arcadia's legacy » Thu May 05, 2016 11:09 am

View Original PostBagheera wrote:Gendo's reaction to his wife's disappearance and his reaction to it were wildly inappropriate

Redundantly being redundant aren't we?
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby Bagheera » Thu May 05, 2016 11:13 am

View Original PostArcadia's legacy wrote:Redundantly being redundant aren't we?


Heh. Fixed.
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Postby NemZ » Thu May 05, 2016 5:58 pm

I'm not just asspulling, it's an actual theory. Google "depressive realism".
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Re: Eva and Depression

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Postby Bagheera » Thu May 05, 2016 6:36 pm

View Original PostNemZ wrote:I'm not just asspulling, it's an actual theory. Google "depressive realism".


The fact that it's a theory doesn't make it valid, and nor does it mean it applies to every case of depression you care to name. Some (mildly) depressed folks are just aware of reality, while others are seriously fucked up. Guess which one best describes Shinji?
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Postby Sachi » Thu May 05, 2016 8:25 pm

View Original PostNemZ wrote:I'm not just asspulling, it's an actual theory. Google "depressive realism".

I think the difference with Shinji is that his outlook isn't simply a bleak version of reality. His outlook features giant monsters. His view of the world has become twisted to the point where his reality resembles a fantasy. Yes, I realize the monsters are literally there, and everybody else has to deal with them too, but for Shinji, his struggle with the Angels is compared to his struggle with other humans (Gendo the "enemy" in ep 16, Kaworu, Instrumentality); socializing and coexisting with people is like facing a giant monster.
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Postby xanderkh » Thu May 05, 2016 8:55 pm

^

Which makes me wonder why anyone hasn't written a "NORMAL-coming-of-age" Eva fic, where the Angels are instead the various problems growing up that Shinji has to face. Maybe it wouldn't be as WORLD-SHATTERING as Third Impact, but often times, mistakes that we make on ourselves and others have "world-shattering" consequences on our own perception of real life and the people around us.

Somebody GET ON THAT!!
"You're na�ve, Cecil. Even knowing betrayal and despair, you would depend on the whims of others?" - Golbez
---------------------------------------
Sephiroth: "Do you miss the Light?"
Golbez: "Hmph...I merely have duties to fulfill."
Sephiroth: "Too close to the brightness, and you may get scorched."
Golbz:.............
Golbez: Your loss can strengthen you.

"NGE Shinji is broken, Manga Shinji is an asshole, Rebuild Shinji is an idiot. Which is best? Uh, can I get some other options? All of these really suck." -Bagheera


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