Writing is an antidote to a surfeit of self-consciousness, an important part of depression. A major symptom of depression is being paralyzingly self-critical. Nothing is ever good enough. Sometimes I am aware of every thought, emotion, and bodily sensation. Everything presents itself to consciousness as if I were totally transparent to myself. This overabundance of self-consciousness enables crippling self-criticism and creates endless opportunities to indulge raging self-doubt and self-disgust. Writing externalizes self-destructive thoughts and impulses. I am not overwhelmed. Strategizing and manipulation are possible. Writing is empowering: it creates agency.
In creating agency, writing creates an alter-ego. Writing generates an idealized self. This perfected self represents a direction and goal. It is tempting to deny reality to this ideal because it only exists introspectively. With the death of God, there is no longer an external principle arranging and prioritizing parts of the personality. One part is not any more or any less “real” than any other. Consequently, organization arises from the relative strengths and weaknesses of drives, emotions, and fears. There is often a lack awareness of the organizing part.
Writing also counters an excess of self-consciousness by directing attention away. Immersion in an activity creates a feeling of timelessness and even of eternity: the ego dissolves. Writing and thinking are no different. Attention to the details of writing leads to a sense of accomplishment. Focus on the mechanics of punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, etc. provides escape from the unrelenting immediacy of pain and anguish.
A question to ask: what’s wrong with excessive self-consciousness? There is nothing wrong per se with self-consciousness. The finds itself external to itself. The self contradicts itself. It is drawn apart and fragmented. Pain and anguish are not in themselves objections. Pain and anguish can be the cost of independence of mind, or of overcoming compulsive thoughts and feelings, or of some other freedom.
Self-consciousness is one manifestation of multiplicity of the self. In that respect self-consciousness is part of the economy of the soul. It is not always a symptom of mental disorder. Mental illness is incapacitation to some degree because of being stuck in a repetition of limited behaviors and thoughts. Mentally health means acting optimally in the present moment with respect to desires, drives, and interests. When compulsion is lacking, self-consciousness is not a symptom.