Posts Tagged depression
As you are well aware from all of your reading and experience with eastern teachings, we are not any thought. Rather, we are like light that shines on everything alike. However, this shining becomes obscured through its replacement by thoughts regarding our personal identity.
Thus, we are born as this light. However, shortly after birth, often in the very first days of our life, we experience a separation trauma. The effects of this trauma are extensively documented within modern anthropological observation and you can read about this documentation first-hand in Morris Berman’s outstanding book Wandering God (http://goo.gl/L89W).
While a very young baby cannot speak, he can feel and the feeling he will experience will be one with of intense, uncontrollable pain, as an inevitable result of his separation trauma. At first, the pain is incidental to the separation, but over time it becomes more constant and then generalized. With the development of language it assumes form as one of several different thoughts. They fall into such categories as I am inadequate/unlovable/insufficient. How we personally experience our inadequacy (unlovability, etc) becomes increasingly specific over time. So, it might take the form of “I am not good looking enough to be liked”, or “I am not smart enough” or “I am a slob” – it really can take any negative form – but the generalized underlying pain and suffering remains.
So the psychological self adapts to the pain by creating compensating selves. I call these selves “fear-selves” in my book, Liberation from the Lie. They are designed to negate the underlying identity. So, if you have the belief that I am ugly, you might becoming compulsively addicted to working out, cosmetics, etc. If the belief assume the form of stupidity or irrelevance, it will assume the form of becoming an expert/someone who needs to be heard. It often assumes the form of becoming “holy” and superior to those others who are consumed by the material (inferior) world. Because the main purpose of the Fear-Self is to obtain love and appreciation, it often takes the form of the persistent pleaser. It can take as many forms as there are underlying self-hating ideations.
Secondly, the underlying self-hating ideations mirror the very invalidation that we experienced so vividly in our primal separation trauma, as well as the countless experiences of hearing, first-hand how stupid and annoying we were from our otherwise, well intended parents. We learn that love is not a birth-right, instead it is earned. So we adopt behavioral modes craftily designed to obtain brownie points and the admiration of significant others. Most people live the whole of their lives this way. Often when we desperately seek to please those whose love we need the most, and when that love and appreciation is not returned in a way we want or expect, our love can turn to contempt and even hate.
Depression occurs anytime the over-lying fear-selves experience failure. Failure causes their facade to crumble and the moment that happens, we are pushed face-to-face with the fear-selves underlying construct, i.e., I am unlovable/inadequate/insufficient. I call this underlying “KING” belief, the Wound. The Wound is our principle governing principle operating in our psychological universe. So when a fear-self experiences its inevitable failure in the real world, we are thrust back into our primal world, in direct contact with our Wound. And this is extremely painful. This is the very source of suffering that drives all of our “positive” love seeking ambitions. It’s like a yo-yo where the Fear-Selves are like the spinning wheel, but the governing hand and arm are the Wound. We also realize that the Fear-Selves are inverse representations of their source Wound. In other words, it’s the self-negating belief that always wins in the long run. We have much more belief in our inadequacy that in any opposing and compensating form our psychological self may assume.
Only a fear-self would compulsively seek a “solution” to this dilemma. The search for a solution reifies the reality and truth of the underlying self-hating belief. So the search for a formula that will make it all better merely sustains the process. The ego hates hearing that, but such is life.
So the process I discuss and advocate in my book recommends that we explore an accomodation with the Wound. Instead of fleeing it in sophisticated and subtle ways via a Fear-Self, we take the brave act to just turn around and take a very careful look at the source of our suffering. I think it might be helpful to have a friend or therapist help with this part of the journey. We really need to get to know this King belief which enslaves the personality in all of its forms. We must re-visit the time and place where we first made sure agreement with our invalidators and gave birth to this vast pool of suffering which has directed our psychological lives ever since. By loving our Wound, we begin to Love our invalidated childhood self. We are acting to REVERSE the underlying process of invalidation. This is direct healing.
We also get to understand that the way we suffer as an individual, is the way everyone suffers, so we know that we are never alone with our suffering, although it might feel that way. This forms the basis for authentic compassion with everyone else and everything in our world. We begin to really appreciate this Wound and the desperate and compulsive life of fleeing it by doing ever more elaborate and sophisticated coping strategies can finally come to an end.
There is more to it than this, but that’s why I wrote the book. I hope this was helpful. This is not a simple topic and I have summarized a lot of complexity into a handful of paragraphs. If you are dealing with persistent unhappiness or depression in your life, then I really urge to take a detailed look at my book. I think you will find a new way to deal with this often overwhelming challenge. I also hope that you don’t read these words as just crass marketing on my part. I make almost no income on my book. I wrote it out of love.
I wish you the very best.
Tomorrow I’m going to talk about a pretty subtle part of this problem. Stay tuned.
It should be a surprise to no one that Advaita nonduality developed in India. Few countries in the world have experienced the scale of human suffering than has India. People in India have suffered from famine, despotism (often in the form of organized religion through the cruel caste system), disease, urban poverty, and many other physical and cultural ills. It is the perfect place to create and nurture a philosophy that negates everything in this world as “mere appearance”.
In a world of incredible suffering and hopeless, a spiritual philosophy that claims that it is all just a dream, just a projection could take hold among people powerless to change the nature and quality of their lives. Instead of horrendous suffering, we now have, voila, perfection. And, perhaps the cruelest injunction of all is that if you don’t experience this perfection of being, then you are unawakened.
Contrast this with the life philosophy of the Navajo, a group I know well because I have worked with traditional healers there for quite a few years. It is, essentially, the exact opposite of Advaita. In the Navajo world, the earth is sacred. Everything we take from it, we must make amends and return in kind. We thank the plants and animals that make our lives possible. We acknowledge the beauty of rain and sun. We celebrate our children as sacred beings; unique and beautiful in their own, distinct way. This world is the only reality and we are fully connected through the web of its being. I have never heard a healer talk about the ground of being that negates phenomenon as just passing, incidental appearance. It is just the opposite, the world of appearance is everything and we are responsible for our actions that effect it.
The denial of life, as a direct consequence of human suffering, is found throughout history. Religion has served the needs of the hopeless to offer people a way out of their misery. So it often speaks of the unreal as our salvation. We can abandon this life, because Heaven awaits us. We can claim victory over our enemies, since they will be going to hell. Thus religion serves the desperate and powerless. Advaita is little different.
Today, with all of our wealth and technology, we are living at a time of unprecedented numbers of clinical depression, a rapid decline in the earth’s capacity to sustain environmental diversity, and we are seeing the enormous disruption of the earth’s atmosphere through global warming. We can escape the challenge of living in such a world through recently esoteric teachings such as advaita. That is the easy choice. It makes logical sense and anyone can do it in the glow and privacy of their own home computers.
The much more difficult choice is to organize with others and demand changes from our political and corporate leader and to make sacrifices in our life styles to reduce pollution. This is a lot more difficult than just believing it all away through denying its existence.
This life is a puzzle. Frankly, the Navajos do not have it figured out. Many of them believe that this life phase is soon coming to an end. To me, that sounds like another hope built on desperation. The most courageous step is finding your own voice. Finding out what is real. Being less concerned with bliss than finding out what is true without depending on any belief system. The best definition of a neurotic is a person who places their well being on good feelings. That is the shakiest of foundations. Feelings, like everything else change and we have little to no control over them. But we can be free to find out what is real and what is true to the best of our abilities. That, I suggest, is the challenge of this life
Anytime we experience psychological suffering in our lives, we are also experiencing a direct invitation for self-understanding. This is why grief, disappoint, frustration, and even hopelessness can be seen as gifts possessing great value for us.
I would like to present an example taken from my own life. After all, it is the life I know best.
My wife asked me why I become so upset and even militant when people disagree with me at social networking sites, such as Facebook. Often when someone posts, what seems to me to be a spiritual quip that is naive or doctrinaire, I become quite annoyed and without much delay, post a strongly worded rejoinder. She asked me, why do I seem to care so much what anyone says?
Why do I care what someone else thinks?
This was an invitation for exploration into a very real and immediate source of suffering.
Here is how it played using the Theory of Invalidation as it is proposed in Liberation from the Lie.
First we need to know that when we are experiencing suffering of this type, we need to know that this is psychological suffering. This means that the suffering is a direct reflection of who we believe we are, which is in conflict with how the world is presenting itself to this psychological being (me). We also need to know that this psychological suffering is an echo of a much older and self-sustaining pattern.
All psychological suffering is a consequence of invalidation. The expression of anger, frustration, depression – each is an expression of the invalidated self. So what is happening in this example?
I could see that this need to reply, this intensity, was really a need to be heard. I was the youngest of two brothers. In my family of origin, I was thought of as the lesser person. My voice was more one of annoyance than of integrity. Although well intended, my parents tended to ignore who I was and often made light of what I had to say. The attention that I needed (as well as the love) was roundly ignored and I was placated by occasional gifts.
In this way, among others, I was invalidated. What resulted was a psychological profile that I call the Fear-Based Expert. Because I needed to be heard, I needed to have the authority that lots of information would provide me. The Expert profile is one that believes it knows a lot and generally feels some superiority over those that are seen to know less.
In my own case, this Expert Profile is tempered by lots of compassion and love that I have for most people. If I weren’t expressing these ideas in this blog, few would guess that this is true for me. But it is.
This pattern of militant, strongly worded replies on Facebook reflected a deeper expression for a need to be heard, respected, admired, and even loved. It was a plea for serious attention, the one thing I lacked as a child.
But there is a lot more to this realization.
Frankly, my life has been fraught with failure in just those areas where I focused my expertise. I failed to complete two Ph.Ds on account of my controversial topics and occasionally anti-authoritarian attitude I had against well established academic protocols. My statistical work with various foundations ended because of their tendency not to be politically correct, and even the book I wrote about this process had received relatively little attention at amazon.com.
Thus, not only was I struggling for attention in much of my adult life, but I was continuing to fail in the very endeavor that has been most important to me.
It is for this reason, that I would sink into despair over a world that just didn’t appreciate me or what I had to say, no matter how diligent I was about the quality of the ideas and their contextualization with human experience as well as their academic rigor. I continue to fail and thus my tendency to melancholy and sadness are sustained. The child that needed attention was still alive and well in the 57 year old version of me.
Now part two – I also could see that people whose views I consider naive and, frankly, unoriginal received much more public accolade than my own. I resented these people and wanted to “set them straight” by showing them how uninformed they are. When we are invalidated and living through our Fear-Based selves (like 99.9% of the human population), we will also replicate, ironically, our primal invalidators, just when we are feeling the pain of our own invalidation. So, when I am resenting the admirers of people I generally don’t respect, I am replicating the behavior of my parents who invalidated me. I become the invalidator and the people I invalidate reflect my invalidated self! In this way, the whole invalidation process is repeatedly recreated. I am both victim and perpetrator!
We can also see how this process further informs my life. My quest for knowledge and understanding was made possible through this invalidation. It, literally, made me to be the person I am. When we see the manifestation of invalidation in our lives, it is clearly NOT a black and white situation. It is, nearly always, gray. If we look deeply enough, we will see that nearly every psychological element of our personality is explained by our core invalidation experience. The psychological self is the invalidated self.
The moment I can see the whole trajectory of the invalidation shadow in my life, I become one step removed from it. I am not, necessarily, healed from its effect, but I am, to some extent, liberated from its hidden effects.
The question becomes, “who am I without this invalidation behaviors?” This is the key question we need to ask ourselves as we explore the effect of invalidation in our lives. Only we can answer this question.
There is great poignancy to this exploration. When we feel our own sadness, we know what everyone else is going through. The investigation of invalidation becomes authentic compassion, not only for ourselves, but for all people. We see how fear-based psychological strategies, of which conventional nonduality is one, become our essential psychological self. They are all attempts to adapt the pain of invalidation.
It’s time to move on from what is simply false in Eastern philosophy (Buddhism, Advaita/nonduality, and some Taoism). Jesus said the truth will set you free and the whole purpose of this blog is to identify the false, so that the ineffable truth of being and life can shine forth.
1. The basic tenant of Eastern spiritual philosophy is that we are not our thoughts and feelings. We are, therefore, not who we “think” we are. So far, so good.
2. Our thoughts and feelings change, but, as these philosophies point out, there is a part of us that doesn’t change. This part is that presence that observes our passing thoughts and feelings. We are, they say, this changeless entity. Now we’re getting on some shaky ground, but let’s continue.
3. This presence, which is our true self is separate from the body/mind. It is neither born nor will it ever die. It is eternal consciousness. Here the philosophies collapse. I will try to show this below.
My experience shows that Point 1 is partly correct. Clearly, we are not our thoughts. Our thoughts, do, indeed, change. One day we “think” we love our wife/husband, then something happens and then we discover to our shame and disbelief that we now are not the one who loves this wife/husband. Life has changed completely. But we can also observe that some of our thoughts change constantly, other thoughts change only occasionally, and still others are nearly constant in our life. Within this array of change, we can detect patterns of thought and feeling. These patterns suggest an individuality that is, in fact, real. For example, I know that I love to explore issues, that with all my heart and soul I stand up for those who have been victims of unjustice, I love the music of Brahms and Mozart, etc.
Our Eastern Philosopher will say that my seemingly consistent thoughts/feelings are merely an outcome of my conditioning. They are “mere” appearances on the utterly changeless and characterless ground of being. They will further assert that this is not a theory, but the the outcome of direct experience, it is therefore not an issue of philosophy, but of direct experience. I can respond that the same is true for me. I am able to employ the power of presence, that power that is central to Eastern spiritual tradition (EST), to detect and identify these patterns. I can, therefore, make the same experiential claim. It is something I can directly observe.
But more importantly, I can also experience what is pointed to in EST and assert that the ESTer is drawing a decisive line of separation between “presence” and thought/feeling/experience, in which it is posited that one’s true identity is exclusively on one side of the experiential dimension. Our ESTer posits that Reality is the ground of experience and sensed experience (thoughts/feelings/observations) itself is mere appearance. All objects (thoughts/feelings/sensed objects) are passing and insubstantial. It is highly ironic that a philosophy that eschews separation so depends on this division, that this Maginot Line of separation is posited between one’s true identity and what is mere passing appearance. I can see the mere passing appearance of that tree just outside my window. I can look away and the tree is no longer in view (the tree ceases to exist!), but when I look back – what do I see??? – it’s remarkable, but it appears to be that same tree. Yes, the direction of sunlight might have changed a bit, but I am very sure that it’s the same true – perhaps five seconds older.
Now before moving on, let’s take a deep breath. What is the EST person really doing? Is it not possible that by labeling all sensed objects (thoughts/feelings) as mere passing appearance, he is negating his own role in this sensed life? Consider that possibility. Is this any different from the substance abuser who is also seeking to avoid the challenges of life through booze and drugs? Is this any different from the depressed person who lifts himself out of the anguish of his psychological being by adopting a zealous faith-based attitude on this life? Is this any different from the religious fanatic who believes that this life is just a preparation for the real life that begins at death and he can avoid all of the messiness and unpredictability of everyday life and dream of living an eternity in heaven?
I do not seek to judge the ESTer, but it is possible to detect a pattern in human history that revolves around the negation of everyday life – because life can be challenging, it can be complex, it calls on us to make tough decisions, it brings to light all of the empty faith-based beliefs we might cling to out of fear of the unknown. This is what life is. Wake up to its fantastic messiness. Life calls on us to be challenged. Anyone who has parented a little baby into adulthood knows this is true. Anyone in touch with their heart senses the vapid emptiness of EST.
Welcome to the challenge of your life. Make the best of it, for time is passing.
Everything needs cleaning – even the self.
But how do we clean the self?
It’s easy – and it’s not so easy.
When psychological discomfort arrives, as it surely will, just allow it to express itself fully. Don’t do anything to block it or ameliorate it. Don’t interpret it or try changing it in any way. Just let it be what it wants to be.
This is how nature cleanses the self. The pain will pass. Just go about your day, but the one thing you won’t do is try talking yourself out of it or analyzing it. Just let it be. There is nothing easier than allowing, but it may be tough to allow pain – but this is what we all need to do when pain arrives. It wants to be. It is like a storm – it arrives – it manifests – and it passes.
When it passes – ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. It’s like the bright and clear sunlight after a storm. The air is clear, everything is in order.
What is it I lack? That is the question you need to ask yourself. You need to find out if you really lack anything.
What is it you want? What do you want right now? What do you need now? What do you need in the larger perspective of your life? What do you want to be? What do you need to be? What do you need to achieve? What do you lack in your life? What is love? What is life? What???
Each what is a psychological traffic light. When it happens you believe you will be happy. If it doesn’t happen you believe you will fail to be happy. In fact, depending upon the want, you might think of yourself as a failure in general. Is that true for you?
So each want is a traffic light that either happens or it doesn’t. What are YOUR traffic lights?
Each what points to WHAT you Lack. This word – LACK – is the keystone of depression and anxiety. We start from the identification with Lack and pin our hopes to fill that vast chasm with achievements, with love, with connection, with stuff, with time, with attention, with experience, with ______ (fill in the blank).
WHAT does this tells us? Let’s be perfectly clear about this. Does it not tell us that we are starting off from a position of lack, of need, of absence, of deficiency, of inadequacy, of unlovability, and of worthlessness (each depending on the particular what).
If we were content in life, we wouldn’t be consumed by this collection of ceaseless WHATS.
I need to be a successful writer, I need to be in love, I need to be cared for, I need to love another, I need respect, I need to be trusted, I need life to be fair, I need to be enlightened and on and on it goes.
Let’s look at these needs a little deeper. Each I is deficient. As long as it lacks what it believes it needs to be happy, it is stuck with its feeling sense of inadequacy. Isn’t this the driving force of your life? It can’t be content. This “I” is the very unhappiness we dread! We are exactly the person we don’t want to be. Because we always start the hunt from some WHAT, we are condemned to a life of ceaseless seeking. Yikes! Could this be true. Remember, the truth will set you free.
This sad I is a hunter. This sad I hunts in the world for what it lacks. This sad I always returns to itself-its sad self. It goes to the bookstore looking for direction, it goes to bars looking for solace, it goes and it goes. As we start in life, so will we end. Since we are always starting from a position of lack, we start in deficiency and end in deficiency.
Is this what you want?
We cling to this I with all our might – it’s all we got. Together let’s get really sad about this “I”. Feel the sadness in the middle of your chest and in your stomach. Take full measure of its pain and its many, many hopes.
This is the WHAT of depression and anxiety. It is the cluster of needs we project we must possess to be happy – fulfilled.
I’m going to end this post before moving into the WHY section, which will arrive tomorrow. Unless we know WHY we need, we will never be able to get past this special station in life.
But before leaving you today, I ask you to do one more thing. Get a tangible sense of this “I” with all of its needs. Get a sense of it as a hunter of things – of love – of trust – of respect – of fairness. See it move through the world walking – running on thin ice, for it must always be on the move. If it is just with itself that ice might break and we will fall into the abyss of our own desolation. How will it ever find what it needs. Get a sense of this person. Feel it in every fiber of your body and mind. See it. See it as a child growing into adulthood. See the full trajectory of need in your life. Where did it start? Where did the hunt begin? Where is it headed? That is a key question. Where are you going with this hunter of feelings?
The next five posts on this blog will deliver to all who choose to listen a cure for anxiety and depression. So stay tuned!
This will be the What-Why-Who-How-Wow of healing. These processes will work for you.
This won’t be a touchy-feely approach. It won’t be intellectual either. It will be a hard look at what is true and what is false. The Truth Will Set You Free and when we can see the false as false and the true as true, you are free. I assure you of that.
You too will believe this to be true. There is only one ground rule that I ask you to take seriously. You need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself. Right now you are in LOVE with a lie (hence the Lie in the title of my book Liberation from the Lie). All you will need to do is fall out of love with this lie.
Here is the first truth: If you’re persistently depressed or anxious – then you are believing in ideas and identities that have absolutely no basis in truth. You are living in darkness and, to make matters appear worse, you are living in a trance.
The purpose of these posts will be to awaken you of the falseness which you now assume are true. In these posts you are asked to suspend belief in what you believe is true. Unless you’re willing to do this, the healing power of these posts cannot work for you.
So be brave – learn how to become your own healer.
Later today (May 7,2009), the first post WHAT will be posted. If you have any questions about its content, you need to contact me. Ask questions, demand the truth.
One last proviso. Know that no one can heal you but you. There are no therapists, counselors, partners, or gurus who can make us see the truth. Only we can do that. So the responsibility for our own healing lies in our own hearts and minds. Let this power delight you.