Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

What Drives a Teenager to Depression? an Insider's Sociological Look into Its Causes Melissa Mejia

Academic journal article Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge

What Drives a Teenager to Depression? an Insider's Sociological Look into Its Causes Melissa Mejia

Article excerpt

One of the most important stages of our lives is adolescence. We go through so many changes, and not only does our body change but so does the way we think. At some point in our lives we become so obsessed with what others think of us that we live trying to please others. But the truth is that we can never fully please anybody because we cannot read minds. What we do is live and act according to our own perception of how others see us. With this "looking-glass self" (Cooley 26-30) we form images of oneself through what we consider to be someone else's perspective. In the end this is just an extension of how we see ourselves. We focus so much on pleasing others that we forget about our own desires and need. At this point we start feeling a void that can lead to depression.

This has happened to various teenagers not only in the U.S. but also around the world. I include myself in this group of teenagers. I suffered from depression when I was 14 years old. At that time I lived in my country of origin, which is the Dominican Republic. At that time I didn't know that I had suffered from depression until several years later. My family found out also several years later. Nobody in my family knew at that time. It all started when my mom had to come to the U.S. to work because we were in a tight financial situation. My dad had to take care of me and my brother, who is one year younger than I am. My dad also had to work so he didn't spend much time at home. Even though I had friends, we didn't see each other outside of school very often, and more often than not I felt lonely.

I did a lot of "emotion work" (Hochschild 51-56) in my adolescence. My intention was to change not only the way I displayed feelings but also the very core of that feeling. I'll mention one occasion in which I used emotion work: I went to a friend's birthday party and whoever saw me there would've thought that I was very happy, but my true feeling was sadness, because that exact day was the three month anniversary of my mom's departure to the U.S. I felt like crying but nobody knew that. And not only did I try to appear happy but I actually managed to feel happy for a moment because of my emotion work. Note that I was successful in changing my actual feeling to happiness, but this doesn't mean that the outcome is always successful. As Hochschild emphasizes, "note that 'emotion work' refers to the effort--the act of trying--and not the outcome, which may or may not be successful" (53).

Why did I think that I needed to be happy at this birthday party? Who said that I can't be sad when I feel like it? This display of an emotion that you do not feel is based on "feeling rules" (Hochschild 5156), which are the rules of what you are supposed to feel in a given place or situation. A good example is the birthday scene I gave above. And these rules "seem to govern how people try or try not to feel in ways 'appropriate to the situation'" (Hochschild 52). The fact that I appear to be happy at this birthday party when I'm not is not only caused by feeling rules but also by "sociological mindfulness" (Schwalbe 3-6). I showed happiness not only because I was supposed to, but also because I was being mindful of my friend's feelings; I thought, "wouldn't she worry if she saw me with a sad face?" Going back to emotion work, I think that my emotion work is related to how Will, of the movie Good Will Hunting, felt, because he used emotion work to hide his true feelings, and he did this so efficiently that he himself actually believed he felt that specific way, when he actually felt a totally different way. But as the movie reached its end, Will realized what his true emotions were.

I've always been a very good student, and my parents, specifically my father, have always been very proud. Since I always had good grades there came a point in time when my parents just expected those good grades from me, when those grades became something normal, something that just had to happen. …

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