The thrill of getting a response from people

I absolutely love it when people write in and engage in debate.   A blog can be a lonely thing when nobody tells you what they’re thinking when they read.   When people don’t agree with you it’s an opportunity to reassess what you’ve said – or stand your ground.

I’ve been engaging in a debate with somebody about fear.  She believes (I hope I’m right here, and not misinterpreting her) that some fears are negative and should be dismissed.   For example, the fears that are disproportionate to the circumstances.  Her example is the type of racism and human rights violations that were the result of the fears people experienced after 9-11.

I think it’s true the behavior was neurotic (and I think fear underpins all racism), but I don’t think the problem lies in the fear, I think it lies in what people do with it.  They don’t process it, they just suppress it and act out neurotically.

It’s clear that she and I are not going to agree on this, but that’s fine.  We’re both allowed to have our opinion.  There’s plenty of space in the world for both of us.  We’re at least in agreement that the reaction is neurotic.

In yesterday’s blog I drew comparisons between a Catholic culture and a Jewish one with regard to how children are nurtured.   I’ve seen a few examples (from the outside) of Jewish families where children seemed loved and respected and promoted, and I made assumptions about the   Jewish culture, which amounted to nothing more than generalizations.  The problem with that is that it minimizes people’s experiences which don’t fit into the generalization.  That’s not good.  I don’t want to do that.  I didn’t realize it until somebody wrote in and said he came from a Jewish family, and had in effect the experience I’d been ascribing to Catholic culture.

I told you I was clumsy.  Alas I thought it was just with words, but it seems I was clumsy with my ideas as well.    I’ve had lots of experience with Catholicism so I believe I speak with a degree of authority, but even then it was still my personal experience, seen through my own filters.

I’m suitably sobered, but also excited that people are engaging.  I feel honored.  Anybody else want to jump in here, or at any time, feel free.  There’s a big welcome mat out for you!

If you want to read the debates – even to have your say – these are the two blogs:


Aspirational vs Survival

I wish I was more articulate.   My ideas can be very clear in my head, but putting them into clear, understandable English can be a real uphill battle – and I’m never sure  I really succeed.  Ideas are such a quick thing, so lithe.  Words are  clumsy.  Mine are, anyway.

Maybe that’s why playing the piano is such a pleasure.  No damn words!

I had such a great therapy session today.   Something I’ve been trying to get my head around my whole life clicked into place.   It’s the difference between aspiration and survival.

If you look at the Jewish family, its culture places massive value on aspiration, and the qualities of life that nurture it.  Protection, promotion, nurturing, back up and support from family and within the community, and the right to succeed without suffering are all an integral part of that culture.   Survival is presumed.

But look at the Catholic way of life.   Pain and suffering are elevated to the status of the only worthwhile human experience.   The most important person was the son of God, who ended up on a cross, being tortured to death out of love for us???  Plus, each person is born with a brand of sin on their soul (heck, that’s a bit rough), and if they get it wrong in life they end up in hell.  Sex is dirty.  Poverty, suffering and self-denial are saintly virtues.

Combine that deadly, asphyxiating, dessicating culture with a family culture driven by a mother whose needs are paramount, who will fake crises to maintain that status quo.   Add a dash of molestation and statutory rape to the mix and you end up with a somewhat minimized capacity to survive in the world let alone develop aspirations.

The family message on the surface is we love you, the one under the surface is drop dead.  We will help you if you’re in massive crisis – but just to survive, not go beyond that.  And even then we’ll control you and make you pay.  Otherwise we’ll stand on the sidelines and watch.

So I’ve got that one clear.   That’s what my hard-wiring is, and that’s what I’ve been changing in the past 6 years or so.   If I look back over my life, I had aspirations of what I wanted to do from a young age, but nowhere to go with them and there wasn’t even enough attention for me to ensure that I knew how to survive in the world.  And I didn’t.

I’ve spent my life wrestling with just survival, when all the time inside my heart and soul I’ve been longing to fly.  I tell you, it’s been a very unfortunate combination, Catholicism, my mother, and my spirit that longs to find its wings and fly.

Damn.  I should have been born in a Jewish family.  Trust my luck.

The aspirational side of me has always pushed at me from within.  But I’ve always been held up by my signal incapacity to go beyond survival.  If you don’t know how to do much more than just survive, you can forget about being able to develop your aspirations.  Maslow was right.    I’ve often felt like a wild animal thrashing against the bars of its cage.   The cage of my own beliefs.

Well, I reassure myself with the knowledge that you can work with what happened in the past to change your present and open your future, and that’s what I’m doing.  Building self-esteem, and emotional fluency, correcting misshapen beliefs and myths about life and who I am, increasing entitlement.  Building real survival skills.  Developing all my aspirational stuff at the same time.  What my family and my culture couldn’t do for me I’m learning to do for myself.  With a lot of help.

I reckon next time I’m born it’s going to be in one of those great Jewish families.   Lots of love, lots of nurturing, emotional fluency, lots of celebration of aspirations, great generosity of spirit.  A Steinway and a Stradivarius violin in the family waiting for me.  Violin and piano lessons as soon as I start wanting them!

Which would be cosmically stepping out of history I guess.

I’m fixated on earthly things and just fine with it

I read an article on somebody’s opinion about what causes stress the other day.   Insofar as I understood, the author believes that the problem doesn’t lie in situations or circumstances but in our need to try and control when we’re unsure of an outcome.   Up to that point I agreed.

But then he said that we need to let go of our fear and of our need to hold on to earthly things.

That’s where we diverge.   Why have we got fear if it’s no use to us?   Evolutionarily – good word there – when we don’t use something it disappears.   Well, we do our best – and have for ever and ever – to ignore or suppress our emotions but they don’t go away.   They get stronger and more impactful, more uncomfortable and increasingly difficult to ignore.

I’m more convinced than ever that emotions are symptoms of a need.   Just like the dashboard lights on a car.   When the gas light comes on you don’t try to meditate it away, or force the car to “let go”.  You recognize it’s a symptom, and you do whatever it tells you needs to be done.   If you don’t, the car grinds to a halt.

Same with emotions – fear, anger, sorrow, happiness.   They require something – expression and sometimes an action which is about giving yourself something or getting it from somebody else.  Accurate information, love, protection…    If you do that, the emotion goes away and you don’t have to deliberately “let go”.   It’s just natural.  Moreover your head clears, your heart and soul feel shiny and new and you have a whole lot of energy.

If I stick my finger in a flame it hurts.  The pain tells me get your finger out the flame and fast! I can’t meditate the pain away, I have to listen to it and take my finger out the flame.

Yes?   When something unexpected happens to me, I get scared that there won’t be a solution.    In fact I positively believe there won’t be one.

My fear tells me I need reassurance that I can access protection or whatever I need, that solution exists for me, that god hasn’t forgotten me, that I’m still loved by real people, that I’m not alone.   When I get enough of it – and from somebody I believe and trust – my fear goes away and I stop trying to control.   I let go.   And solution comes towards me.   Letting go of fear?  I think it’s a consequence, not a deliberate action.

I’ll put my head on a block on this.

I think we judge our emotions because we don’t know how to read them, don’t know what they really represent.   They’re scary and exceptionally uncomfortable.   But they don’t have to be.

My debate the other day about whether my current levels of stress are about slipping too far down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs  has cleared up.   The stress is about believing things aren’t going to change.

But some friends of mine gave me some warm clothing, and some wool fabric I can make a warm coat out of.  They also gave me some delicious food which has lasted me three days.   The experience turned my world around.

So it’s a mix.  I’m responsible for my ideas and what I believe, and for taking my fear to somebody who can reassure me.     But I’m also responsible for making sure I eat properly.    When I do both effectively my stress is relieved.

To go back to the author who believed we need to let go of our earthly fixations.   Why are we on earth if being earthly is a bad thing?   I like it.   I love my earthliness, my emotions, my trials and tribulations and my triumphs, my highs and my lows.   I’m not anywhere near ready to give them up.

Depression is not an illness!

Depression: the word is enough to make anybody run for the hills.  It’s one of the most uncomfortable, painful things to experience.  It makes a mockery of hope and faith, it obliterates the light, turns daily experiences into nightmares and normal challenges into massive undertakings.  It invades your mind and your soul, and drains your body of energy.  It turns dreams into dust and the idea of love into a cruelly unattainable concept.

It takes your power away, cripples you, depletes your will to seek solution.  It makes life seem horribly bleak, meaningless and not worth living.

The most awful thing about it is that temporarily destroys the ability to see solution – sometimes even to seek it.

11 million people in the world typed “Depression” into Google’s search in December 2009.  I doubt anybody was searching just out of curiosity, just for fun.

Yahoo shows 350 million results for the word, Google 65,9 million and Bing 51 million.

With so many people suffering, and actively searching, why don’t we have an answer?  Why hasn’t science and medicine come up with one for us?  One that works, that actually frees us without creating dependency on some chemical or making us crazy or close-minded in some way or another?

I’ve been one of the millions throughout the past 30 years looking for solution.  For so long, the word had a capital “D” for me, and I thought of it almost as some kind of alien monster that invaded humans and made them powerless.  Or else some kind of state that had no cause and therefore could never be understood.  Which is not, when you think about it, that different from what the medical profession tells us.  It’s a disease that they have no real explanation for.

Sure, they once thought you could zap somebody’s brain with electroshock therapy and bingo, the depression would disappear.  Then they realized it didn’t work, so they tried removing bits of brain.  That didn’t work either.  Then they made a huge discovery – the chemicals in your body are out of whack when you’re depressed.

They said “it’s a disease, it’s DNA, it’s caused by the chemical imbalance and there’s nothing we can do about it except try to control it more or less with drugs, live with it”.  Well that’s a great help, that really makes depression sufferers feel like there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  The medical profession has no answer for what causes the chemical imbalance – and this is where it all goes wrong.

Instead of being honest and saying “guys, we don’t know”, they pretend they do.  Some humans have got defective chemical systems.  The defect isn’t caused by anything controllable.  That’s it?  That’s there answer?

No wonder we’re so terrified of depression.  Not only is it the most awful of conditions to experience, but the people we look to for answers assure us it’s totally out of our control to fix.

And boy do the pharmaceutical companies like that one.  Psychiatrists, too.  After all, that’s how they make their money.  Pardon me for being cynical, but it’s no wonder depression has become such a monstrously difficult thing to overcome.  Look at who we rely on to find solution.  The companies and people who make money off our pain.

But who else can we turn to?

I don’t believe depression is an illness or disease or DNA screw-up.  Don’t don’t don’t.  I don’t believe it’s some chemical defect we’re born with.  Most of all, I don’t buy that we’re powerless like Medicine would have us believe.  Au contraire, I think depression is something that each of us can understand and correct.  Without drugs.  Who am I to take on Mighty Medicine?  Well somebody has to do it, might as well be me.  I fancy the role of David in the face of Goliath.

No, this isn’t another Secret-type hype magical thinking formula.  Depression can’t be cured in a day or with positive thinking, and “cures” that offer that kind of prospect are just exploiting our desperation. Like diets.

I had depression for 30 years and I don’t have it any more.  I didn’t take drugs, pills, hynoptherapy or any of the less invasive but hardly any more sustainably successful alternative “solutions”.  I remember the day I realized from experience that depression is the consequence of repressing emotion and not meeting my need.  I’d learned the theory of it, but it’s easy to not realise the theory applies to you!   This day I  remember being angry, and choosing not to express it, choosing to push it down.  Within a short while I was severely depressed.  It was amazing, like a science experiment.  I already knew that emotions generate huge energy that needs an outlet, and we all know the image of a pressure-cooker.  But that day was the beginning of my paying close attention to what happened to my body and my mind when I repressed emotion – I felt kind of sour, acid, heavy – oh my, could that be the dreaded chemical imbalance for which there is no scientific explanation?  I watched my body become enervated, my vision of life become cloudy, my faith and hope disappear.

As soon as I let myself express my emotion – the depression melted away and back came hope, faith, clear vision – and I had tons of energy.  From one moment to the next.  There’s quite a lot to learning how to do it – for me anyway, maybe other people wouldn’t be so slow, but now that I know, there’s no going back.  My days of being controlled by depression are over.  Forever.  Now that’s really Stepping out of history, wouldn’t you say?  I’d like to have a conversation with Dr. Oz about this.  I’m sure he’d get all excited, dear man.   Well he can read my book, I’ll even sign it for him.  When I finish it.  Groan.

I’m not finishing it tonight, that’s for sure.  Goodnight world.

When someone holds out their hand

3rd blog of the day. 

I just re-read Anonymous’s comment, and realize didn’t even read it properly the first time. I think my paranoia kicked in.  Scary.

First of all, Anonymous said I know it helps to analyse… so the criticism is all in my head.  What’s new. 

Secondly, thanks again, Anonymous, for your kind words.  I want to tell you, though, it’s true that when I’m experiencing deep emotion, I don’t ever believe I’ll be happy again, but I always come out of it when I’ve done whatever I need to do.  I don’t remain in that dark place the way I used to.  Only until I’ve moved the energy and met the need, whatever it is.  Sometimes it’s to figure things out in my head, sometimes it’s to know I’m not alone, sometimes I have to reach out….  I never let myself stay there for very long any more.  Doesn’t mean that my emotion when I’m in the dark place isn’t very powerful.  It is.  In fact it’s more powerful now than it’s ever been before – but that is exactly what prompts me to move the energy and meet my need, and return to a good space.  Well-being.  I don’t think I want to do away with that, I just want to get better and better at hearing my emotion, letting the energy out, and meeting my needs.  That way I can stay present and conscious of everything that’s happening in my world.  And return more and more frequently to well-being.  That’s where I am at the moment.

I’ll tell you something, though, Anonymous.  Next time I’m blogging and finding my way out of the dark place, I’ll remember that you took the time to say something kind and helpful, and it’ll make a difference, it’ll make it a little bit easier to find the light.  It’s a big stroke for me, knowing that somebody cares. 

It’s a big deal when somebody holds out their hand.  I hope to hear from you again.

Too much analyzing?

I got a comment from an Anonymous someone, suggesting I stop analyzing so much as perhaps it’s counterproductive.  They suggested I try diversionary tactics.  Well, I love the fact that I got a response, so for that, thanks.

But – aren’t eating disorders and alcohol and substance abuse about diversionary tactics?  What’s the point of diverting yourself from the reality of what’s happening inside you?  If it worked, great, but it never seems to for any length of time.  If it did, nobody would have eating disorders.  There wouldn’t be war or crime or rape or child molestation or abuse.  We’d all just be happy.

The only thing that seems to work is dealing with the reality and truth.  Let me get off my pulpit and say that that’s what I believe.

I think diversions just push emotions further down, which creates more tension and depression and requires more diversion, which becomes exponentially less effective until BAM!  You’re in crisis again.  This time it’s a worse crisis, because you didn’t deal with whatever came up earlier.  I’ve watched so many people try to divert themselves from their “troubles” and end up having to face them further down the line.  I’ve tried it myself.

But I’ll grant that eternal analyzing isn’t the answer either.  Is that what this blog reads like?  I guess I use my blog to figure things out.  I started out learning about life from Catholicism, so this new way that I see things is pretty exciting, and I don’t want to be diverted from either understanding or emotions, frankly, because that’s a direct route to depression for me.  Immediate, do not pass go.  Have emotion, divert, get depressed, develop compensatory, neurotic behaviors or fall back on ones I’ve already learned.

The only thing I have to go on that what I’m doing works for me is that my life is improving.  That’s all I’ve got, but it’s pretty substantial.  Used to be inarticulate, massively depressed, emotionally unfluent, to not know I had any creativity or intelligence.  Used to not be able to learn on the piano.  Etc.  All those things have changed, fairly significantly.

I’m just letting it all hang out.  And learning that life doesn’t stop, it doesn’t come to an end just because something is difficult to deal with.  I’m learning there’s solution.  Always.  Letting myself be real from day to day.

Once I thought that when my life was sorted out I wouldn’t have highs and lows, and wouldn’t experience life as challenging.  Now I realize that the more emotionally fluent and aware I become, the more life impacts on me: I don’t feel less, I feel more!  The difference is that it doesn’t flatten and disable me the way it used to.  Maybe going up and down like a yo-yo is about being alive.