People come to therapists and psychiatrists for relief. They don’t go for a syndrome like depression but go for symptoms like fatigue, sadness, lack motivation or anxiousness. They have often tried many things on their own even before coming for help to cure or resolve their symptoms. Many people already self-treat trying to target no symptoms or NUMBness. The problem is that in running from symptoms or in burying them within syndromes and diagnoses you miss the information they contain. Symptoms are not there randomly but as the consequence of some internal or external environmental trigger. Humans like all other animals have been bred over the millennia to be able to live in feedback to their environment. Symptoms aren’t random they are in response to some stimuli and are giving you information about those stimuli. But in our culture our expectations throw us out of sync with our environment. We think we have a right not to suffer therefor we ignore , deny, or suppress our normal reactions to our environment until they shout so loud at us that we can no longer ignore them but by then they aren’t often still tied to the cause of origin.
For instance I have to this day never seen a “panic attack” person that their anxiety wasn’t trying to tell them they were out of sync in their life. A T -shirt said it the best: Panic occurs when your body wants to punch someone in the face but your mind says you can’t do that. Or as said in the first agreement of the book, The Four Agreements by Ruiz, “don’t agree to that to which you don’t agree to.” People in our culture always agree to that in which they do not agree thus create situations that are impossible and frustrating, out of sync with their intent and thus anxiety and panic inducing.
Depression as has been shown recently is often a function of over empathy. If you want everyone to be happy, feel compelled to jump in to help others sufferings, you not only inherit the other person’s problem but you also take on their wrath. You violate their right as a human to suffer thus learn and find meaning from their suffering. Essentially you infantilize them. This is a violation of their free will and no one appreciates it.
People will always frustrate and be oppositional to your good intentions.
Pain happens after an injury or trauma but any trauma can also coalesce all the shitty feelings from things that preexisted in one’s life and become a tangible explanation for why one is suffering and has always been suffering. Although not true the brain wants an explanation as it hates intangibles. Once this rationalization or explanation forms it is extremely hard to rid oneself of it and allow oneself to heal causing the pain to become chronic. It is now out of sync with the injury and the environment and can persist forever.
The human body is built to feel emotions especially with things like anxiety and pain. If you didn’t feel these things you would never remove yourself from bad and dangerous situations. For instance when a diabetic loses the sensation of pain from their feet due to neuropathies it often ends in the limbs being amputated.
You can’t forever and should never expect to suppress feeling to zero. In doing so studies has shown that after 6 years people are often worse off than before they ever took medications to treat their issues. Without pain and anxiety there is no motivation to move or change a situation that really does need to be changed.
Humans also have a psychological immune system. Our psychological immune system builds tolerance to emotions over time thus normally allow us to be able to live with them. But if we suppress feelings and suffering too much for too long we fuck up our psychological immune system so that we do not build tolerance to emotion and when things like fear, anxiety or pain return as inevitably they will, they return now perceived as worse than when they were originally there pretreatment. Feelings are normal and necessary you can’t suppress them forever. Alcohol and marijuana are the most common forms of suppression, followed by Xanax and antidepressants. None are effective in suppressing feelings forever.
Your pain, anxiety, fear, depression, are there for a reason. They can be telling you that your intent and the style or skills you are using to live your life are currently out of sync. Whether you are jumping in trying with good intent to make everyone else happy and reduce the suffering of the world, or whether you are avoiding situations, people, and the world completely the end is often the same. Neither works and things get worse as they are both out of sync with a realistic intent of balance and contentment.
Anxiety helps you with the fact that it is always easier not to go into a situation than to remove yourself once you are already in it. Anxiety is telling you not to agree in the first place or that you fucked up and agreed to something you don’t agree to. Suppressing the anxiety is not a good idea as these situations are doomed as soon as they start no matter how long they take to play themselves out. Treating the anxiety just allows things to plot along a lot longer before they crash but doesn’t prevent the inevitable.
The world is imperfect. Our brains are problem solving machines. Suffering comes from imperfection and problems but so does meaning. We are most happy when we are engaged and challenged. When we over medicate, over treat, indulge or enable, we stand in the way of another’s suffering thus block the ability for them to learn and find their own meaning to their lives.
All this of course has to be used with common sense and balance. Medications are often necessary to take emotion and pain down to a level where one can be engaged in their surrounding and their life. Over treatment or numbing isn’t useful in the spirit of doing too much causes others to do too little. Suffering is part of the normal course of our imperfect selves in our imperfect lives in our imperfect universe. Imperfection is what defines us as unique individuals and how we deal with our suffering defines the quality of our lives. It is our story. When we numb ourselves to suffering we can cease to exist as individuals.