Michael Burlingame remarks, in his book The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, that the death ofLincoln's mother was responsible for his life-long tendency to melancholy. It has also been stated that his depression stemmed from a series of childhood losses. These deficits may have included the deathof his newborn younger brother (Lincoln was only three years old at the time); the death of his mother, aunt, and uncle when he was only nine years old; and the passing away of his sister inchildbirth when he was eighteen years of age. According to psychologists, bereavement in childhood can be one of the most significant factors in the development of depressive illness in later life.
Lincolnhad a tremendous ability to cope with and compensate for whatever depression afflicted him. He became more adept at this later in life. He continued to use various means to overcome his depression;humor, fatalistic resignation, or even religious feelings. These approaches helped to fight off the possibility of "depression" or "melancholia" interfering with his work as President. Only his closestfriends had any insight concerning the extent of his condition. The remainder of the population was not aware of his situation, for he had an amazing ability to overcome the depressive aspect of hispersonality with a powerful inner strength and will. He was innovative in his use of humor and story-telling as a method of fighting depression, therefore creating a blinding veneer for those watchingfrom afar, and who were unfamiliar with his background and tribulations.
Lincoln's depressions have often been ascribed to heredity. He could very well have inherited his sadness and sensitivenessfrom his mother. It appears that his cousins also suffered from depression. A neighbor in Kentucky recalled that Lincoln's father often got the blues, and suffered from some strange sort of spells....
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