Mental Illness and the internal narrative

Most mental illness can be traced to narcissism.

Previously I said that mental illness is when the self society demands of an individual is something the individual cannot attain to. The conflict between the real self of the individual and the self society glorifies being mental illness.

Now this still holds but it doesn’t go deep enough.

Most people spend their whole lifes as if they are on stage; as if they are playing a role in a drama. Of course this role is the central role.

Just listen to the internal dialogue you have when you are feeling depressed, anxious or whatever.

“Poor me, why are they looking at me, what did I do to deserve this, why is this happening to me, they aren’t showing me enough appreciation…”

The problem with perceiving yourself in this way is that in any drama (or even comedy) there has to be suffering, conflict, and unattained desires.

Happy people have a different dialogue.

“My life is so good, everyone loves me, I’m so happy…”

Very happy and content people have no dialogue.

In a sense we construct a narrative about ourselves and then we project ourselves into that narrative. The problem here is that society doesn’t applaud positive narratives about the self.

Try telling people you think you are a genius and try telling people you think you are shit. Compare the results. I bet that you will be called names and put down if you declare a positive narrative concerning yourself but people will rally around you if you declare a negative narrative. Just look at Russell Brand and Kanye West.

What this essentially does is positively reinforce a negative opinion of yourself that few people are able to overcome or even realize as the cause of their suffering. Few people have access to a realm of knowledge that transcends the opinions of others.

No matter how much they may affirm that all because everyone says something is so doesn’t mean it is so they still cannot let go of popular opinion. They cannot let go of that crutch and learn to walk on their own.

There is a way out though but it is slow and gradual. There are no on and off switches, you are not a computer; you are a plant and plants grow slowly.

The way out is to recondition your mind to shut-up. Don’t try to replace the negative narrative with a positive narrative. Just practice shutting that voice in your nut up. This is the power of mindfulness and meditation.

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Advice I gave to a Beautiful woman on how to Deal with Period Pains.

My advice to you is to lay in bed and focus on the pain.

If you’ve read my things on meditation you should get this.

Meditation is basically where you pay attention to something. When you realize that your attention has wandered; you just bring it back to what you have chosen to pay attention to.

Pain is awesome for this because it is such an intense feeling that it is easy to keep your attention on it.

At first the pain may intensify when you look at it. That is your ego throwing a tantrum because it uses pain as one of the ways to make you think that you are it.

You say things like “this is my pain” and thus the ego affirms itself as you.

You are the silent witness; like the screen onto which images are projected isn’t affected by those images but remains unchanged.

Pain is just one of those images.

Ask yourself the question:

What makes pain different to any other experience?”

“Because it hurts!” Is not an answer; it’s a tautology; hurt and pain are synonyms.

What makes pain different to other experiences is that you don’t like it.

Set a timer for 20 minutes and during that time pay attention to the pain and whenever your attention wanders and you realize it has wandered bring it back.

That’s what meditation is.

It isn’t not thinking; it’s just choosing to pay attention to something other than thought.

If you do this for 20 minutes you will have moments when you experience the pain as something happening outside of you.

You will see it has interesting qualities.

Maybe you’ll get a brief experience of enlightenment where all there will be is the pain; but there’ll be no-one there experiencing the pain to not like it.

The pain will become like a dance you are watching.

It’s one of whatever-it-is-that-controls-this-whole-shabang’s little tricks it plays to get you to realize your true nature: the silent witness.

The ego has tricked us into thinking that it’s the important thing. Once you realize you are not your ego then you can have fun with the ego.

You can play around by putting on different egos.

The ego is necessary to interact with other people; but the ego should not be in control.

It has tricked people into thinking it’s in control and this has caused the suffering which you’ll realize is an illusion once you realize you are not your ego but that the ego is your tool.

There is no You!

So the other day I was talking about identity and how it isn’t a fixed thing. I think I was really talking about the ego, super-ego and id triad. The nature of which is protean.

The Id doesn’t always want the same thing. So the Ego has to constantly change its interactions with the super-ego. Out of this process arises the protean identity; which is the triads projection into the world.

The real you is just a passive awareness through which experience passes. You experience trees, roads, cars, shame, guilt, sadness, choices and so on. If you watch carefully you will see that there is no “I” experiencing any of this stuff; there is just the experience.

I’ve been suffering hiccups recently so I’ll use them as an analogy. A hiccup seems to pop up out of no-where. You don’t strive to hiccup it just happens. Watch your thoughts and you will see the same thing. You don’t strive to think a thought it just pops into your mind.

Watch your internal experiences and you will see they have the same character. Sure you may feel sad when someone dies. You see the death as the cause of the sadness; but there was no “you” there who acted as an agent to feel sad in response to death. It just happened.

In fact we are never aware of an “I” that is perceiving. Rather we just see stuff.

This “I” is an illusion created by language because language requires a subject to act upon an object.

Comparison between the individual session of meditation and the road one walks in the life of practice.

I’ve noticed similarities between the individual act/session of meditation (micro) and the way in which mindfulness – combined with meditation – effects me in my day to day life (macro).

So during a session of meditation I’ve found it goes through phases. When I first sit down, close my eyes and start paying attention to my anchor there’s a tug of war between activity and non-activity. There will be a sensation of boredom which manifests itself as a restlessness and inability to maintain contact with the anchor for extended periods of time. During this phase I have to have faith that the process – the method – will cause this to subside.

A similar thing occurs when one first begins to practice mindfulness. It seems a bit silly. The mind is so used to nattering on all the time, to trying to solve your problems. You’re so used to avoiding pain and seeking pleasure and a deep almost subconscious part of you believes that the mental activity you have engaged in in pursuit of contentment is the only way to that end. So you need to have faith in the method of mindfulness at first. You have to give it a go so to speak.

After an indefinite period of time in meditation you find that your mind calms down. A thought will pop up, you’ll be “hooked” by it into diverting your gaze and after a period you will realize you’ve been hooked and just pay attention to your anchor again. The time you spend paying attention to your anchor will increase the calmer you get. The longer you stay in this place the calmer you become. But I noticed that this period would last for a time and then the mind would start getting busier again. And it goes round in cycles.

The same with mindfulness. In my life there are periods of time – sometimes weeks sometimes days – where i’m in a constant state of peace. It’s almost as if i’m not doing anything; it’s all happening by itself. But then I’ll get interested in stuff again and as a result I become slower at realizing I’m not being mindful which makes me less peaceful.

Meditation, Enlightenment and Letting Go

 

There are many things that meditation is good for. Calming the mind, dis-empowering the internal dialogue, and allowing oneself to see matters clearly without the baggage of emotions. One of the most beneficial effects of meditation is the ability to let go. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that the practice of meditation is the practice of letting go.

 

 

 

So as we all know in meditation – at least the meditation I practice – all that is done is that the attention is placed onto an object and whenever it is realized that the attention has wandered it is brought back to the object.

 

 

 

So where is the letting go? I hear you ask. Well when your attention has wandered it always clings to something. The more distracted you are the more your mind is clinging to something. That is why it is easier to bring your attention back to the anchor if it has only wandered onto something relatively boring like trying to remember what you ate yesterday. When it has wandered to a more appetizing realm like sex, food or how miserable you are then it is harder to bring back.

 

 

 

Often you can tell how much your mind is clinging to something by how long it takes you to realize it has been distracted (though this can also be caused by being full or eating sugary foods I have found).

 

 

 

What you call “difficulty” is really nothing other than the battle that takes place within you between two wants. On the one hand you want to do the practice but on the other hand you want to continue fondling those imaginary boobies. By bringing your attention back to anchor you are letting go of that desire.

 

 

 

Enlightenment can be seen as the complete letting go of everything. This doesn’t mean that nothing happens or that you no longer exist. It just means that you are totally passive in the face of everything. Whatever arises is fine.

 

 

 

See I believe that enlightenment is incredibly easy to grasp on an intellectual level. It is the cessation of suffering. That sentence is no harder to comprehend than the sentence “Peas are green”. The difficulty comes when we try to envisage what it would “feel” like to be enlightened. This is because we always place ourselves as we are into that picture and if we are suffering then suffering is so seemingly intrinsic to us that we cannot imagine it away. A blind person could understand on an intellectual level the sentence about peas but they couldn’t know what it felt like to see green peas.

 

 

 

Suffering is caused by clinging which is another way of saying wanting. The fundamental thing we cling to is our wants. We always hold out for our desires no matter how miserable not having them makes us or how unlikely it is that we we will get what we want. Even when we do get what we want and are satisfied for a bit but eventually return to Dukkha (suffering) we still hold out for that one want that when satiated will satisfy.

Growing with Mindfulness and Meditation

I’ve noticed that the development I’ve been undergoing under the tutelage of meditation and mindfulness has been cyclical. Rather it has been spiralcal but I don’t think that’s a word…

 

I’ll use anxiety as an example. When I began my practice anxiety was a big thing for me. I wanted it gone because I thought it was inhibiting me from living. Well to be more precise I thought that it was inhibiting me from attracting a life partner because whenever I was faced with a member of the opposite sex I would turn into a stuttering wreck. You know someone you’d have thought was in the special class at school. I’d get it when interacting with members of the same sex too – especially authority figures – but that never bothered me as much.

 

 

 

 

I found that within a short while of practicing meditation and mindfulness I had a week where there was no anxiety! It just vanished! Everything I said seemed to come from this place of peace. I loved it.

 

 

 

But then that stopped and the anxiety came back. So I’d spend all my time out and about trying to be mindful of anything but the anxiety or the thoughts I thought were causing it. I’d watch my breath, the feeling of my feet slapping the floor and so on. Until one day the idea came into my mind to watch the anxiety! Crazy I know but I’d been trying everything to distract myself and that didn’t work because the second I had to have a social encounter boom! There it would be.

 

 

 

So I watched it and it blossomed. It turned into a kind of euphoria that was comparable to sensations I’ve experienced on narcotics and then it just calmed down. Since then I’ve had times of anxiety and times of no anxiety but the anxiety doesn’t bother me anymore it’s just something that arises and then vanishes.

 

 

 

I think a key thing to bear in mind with mindfulness and meditation is that it’s like gardening. It’s not like playing a computer game where everything is done immediately. You’ve got to plant it, water it, and feed it (do the practice) and then leave it alone and let it do its thing. 

Mindfulness, Meditation and Life Enhancement

Since I’ve been practicing mindfulness and meditation I have noticed a definite change in behavior and general life. There are certain things I am doing now that I wouldn’t of dreamed I would be doing last year. Sure to a lot of people they would seem insignificant but to me they are anything but.

 

 

One of those things is keeping up a writing practice. I’d always meant to in the past but when it came to putting pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – I’d just hit that blank wall and give up. Or I’d write a bit and think “I’ll finish that!” And never finish it because I didn’t have a clue what a finish would look like.

 

 

 

Also there was the whole perfection thing… Now that was a right bugger! It’s because of that – and pretty much just because of that… well that and social anxiety – that I never finished college. I would get so hecked up about doing the course-work just right that I’d never do it! I was a right silly billy. The funny thing is I was quite good at exams. I would have been better if I’d revised. That was another thing – I never tried revising because I wasn’t quite sure what it was… I mean remember stuff… OK so I had this herculean task of rote memorization in my head – that was the ideal I thought was worthwhile – and because of that I didn’t do it! Stupid I know.

 

 

 

But mindfulness and meditation has changed that. Now I’m OK with imperfection. I’m going to be posting this on my blog! In the past I would have maybe posted a few things that I thought were decent, tried to write some more decent things (whatever decent is :S), failed, got frustrated and given up. Now I’m cool with it.

 

 

 

My mind – the tricksy beast – yammers on at me saying things like “Start writing a novel, essays, start fasting, quit this, start that! Go on you’ll be an ubermensch”. It’s a little sod because it knows that if I start trying to do all those different things at once I’ll fail and become frustrated and miserable… which is what it wants because then it can come in and be like “See I’m always here for you! Here have this pleasurable fantasy about being able to go back in time! Isn’t that nice!”

 

 

 

The cool thing about mindfulness and meditation is that they’ve enabled me to give these things a go. Now I’ve got this core practice of 2 sessions of meditation a day when I fail or give in to that urge to be lazy I find that the meditation allows me to be lazy for a bit but then it picks me up again. Instead of giving into laziness for a bit, becoming despondent and depressed, and as a result becoming more lazy now I find that I’ll give into laziness for a bit, get fed up then start doing stuff again. That’s not to say I’m a “super-human” for maintaining meditation… I’m just lucky that I enjoy it.

How I Meditate

I currently use two methods of meditation.

 

The first one and the one that I do twice a day (Morning and evening) is what I will call the focus method. At it’s most basic level it is just focusing on something and whenever you realize that your attention has wandered you refocus it on whatever it is that you are focusing on.

 

 

I focus on the feeling of my hands in my lap. I initially began by focusing on the breath but I found that rhythmic noises in my surroundings distracted me. I also found that I kept trying to control the breath or rather I couldn’t let the breath relax. I find that the hands are perfect because they are stiller than the breath and because of this I find that I go into a deeper stillness.

 

 

The second method I use is to just let my attention do what it wants but try and maintain mindfulness. So in this method I’ll just sit down in the same position (position doesn’t really matter IMO), ground myself in the feeling of my hands in my lap and once I’m present I let my attention wander over the sounds in my environment, feelings in my body and thoughts that I am having. Whenever I realize that’s I’ve lost presence – that is become lost in my thoughts. You know carried away by the mind – I bring my attention back to the hands and then let it wander again.

 

 

The second method I do after I’ve been out for a run. It’s pleasant to watch the body cool down. It’s almost like being in a car after you’ve been for a long drive and you can hear the clicks and noises it makes as it cools.

 

 

Sometimes I find that my mind is constantly distracted and I can’t maintain focus for very long at all. That is fine. Even feelings of frustration are fine; they are things that you can watch.

 

 

It’s not about being able to keep a clear mind for the full span of time. And it’s not about maintaining focus for the whole span of time. What it is about is bringing your attention back to your anchor – the thing you are focusing on – whenever you realize it has wandered. That it crux of the discipline. When you realize you have drifted off and you are faced with that choice: to continue in the appealing and pleasant fantasy or to come back to the feeling in the hands. What you do then is the practice. Not how long you can keep focused.

Meditation, Mindfulness, and that Voice in your Head that says “You’re shit!”

Often I’ll sit to write my blog for the day and there’ll be nothing in my mind to write about. This is exacerbated by the fact that I sit to write it after my 2nd meditation of the day. A clear mind though pleasant isn’t always conducive to profound expositions.

 

That’s not really true. I’ve found that after meditation it is easier to write. The flow comes more easily. I think this is because the process of meditation shuts the inner police-man up. You know that voice in your head that says “You’re shit! No-one will want to read what you write! You shouldn’t even bother!”

 

In fact I think it’s in its ability to stop your self-deprecating that the strength of meditation lies. This voice – or being… I don’t know if demons exist but that voice or feeling that we have that tells us we are worthless, that we are rubbish at things and that we shouldn’t even try certainly seems to be an independent existence inhabiting our skulls. This voice is the main impedance to our living the life that we want.

 

It’s because of this voice that we don’t even try.

 

 

I’ve found that since practicing mindfulness and meditation my life has been flowering. I’ve been much happier and have been trying new things, learning new skills. This is because the practice of meditation and mindfulness is basically just recognizing when that voice is speaking and realizing that it isn’t you and then shutting it up. It’s amazing how much of an effect just getting your head-space clear can have.

 

 

I think another reason why meditation and mindfulness are so effective is that thoughts are a doing. They are a doing that has become so habitual to most people that they have forgotten that they are a doing. They think that a chattering mind is the restful state. Like all doing thoughts require energy. So when you’re not thinking so much you have extra energy at your disposal which for me manifests as motivation.

The Meditative Tool-box

Meditation becomes like a tool-kit. We encounter different situations in life and for every one of those situations meditation has something to offer.

Of course there are circumstances that involve concentrated thought about a variety of things and whilst you are engaged in such activities you cannot be meditating at the same time. Meditation can be a thing to use when you take a break from them to get your brain back into that state where ideas and creativity flow.

In exercise meditation is particularly effective. I run about 3 miles a day. Some days I find it a breeze; I’ve got plenty of energy and I feel like super-man. Other days it feels like a real grind. On the days when it’s easy I find that a diffuse focus, watching the world around me as I run and just being universally mindful is a beautiful thing to do. On the days when it’s a grind I’ve found that if I meditate on the feeling of my feet slapping the ground then I can put myself into a trance and it becomes agreeable.

I think the same thing is happening when you listen to music and run. The music gives your mind something to focus on and that puts you into a trance. I stopped listening to music when I run though. Not because I think it’s immoral or anything like that but because I don’t want to be dependent on things. Also because I had the thought the other day that if a zombie apocalypse were to happen I’d be sorted in terms of cardio. But if you have to listen to music in order to run long distance that would be useless in a zombie scenario.

In social interactions I’ve found that focusing on the other person – aka meditating on the other person – to be highly effective. (If you feel anxious in social interactions try to do that and watch your anxiety at the same time. Have faith that your anxiety is not based on reality.) I look them in the eye and listen without internal comment to what they say. Often responses I give surprise me but they always seem to be appropriate. Whereas before when I’d spend time thinking about what I would say I would stammer and there was always a contrived nature to my utterances.