I’ve spoken with many people who have suffered with anxiety and depression and have come to the conclusion that actually, many of them don’t want to overcome it. I know this is a controversial thing to say but I also know that this phenomenon of not wanting to rid yourself of the pain or negativity in your life, despite the fact it’s the cause of most of your problems, is a recognised one in psychology. Eckhart Tolle speaks of this in The Power of Now:
“….you may encounter intense inner resistance to dis-identifying from your pain. This will be the case particularly if you have lived closely identified with your emotional pain….for most of your life and the whole or a large part of your sense of self is invested in it. What this means is that you have made an unhappy self out of your pain…. and believe that this mind-made fiction is who you are. In that case, unconscious fear of losing your identity will create strong resistance to any dis-identification.
In other words, you would rather be in pain……..than take a leap into the unknown and risk losing the familiar unhappy self. If this applies to you, observe the resistance within yourself. Observe the attachment to your pain. Be very alert. Observe the peculiar pleasure you derive from being unhappy. Observe the compulsion to talk or think about it. The resistance will cease if you make it conscious.”
For a time, this is exactly how I felt with anxiety. It had become who I was, it was a major part of my identity. To the point where I didn’t want to get rid of it (or at least, had given up TRYING to get rid of it). I was “OK” just coping. In fact, it was a story to tell. It was even as though I was BRAVE for having it. For managing life with it. I wasn’t letting anxiety stop ME – no way!!
But it also gave me a reason not to try to get rid of it. Not to face the underlying fears. Not to take responsibility for improving my life. I did actually derive some strange pleasure from being unhappy. This is something I see all the time on social media. People who love spending time wallowing in their depression, constantly moaning about how no one understands them and retweeting sad memes about what it feels like to have anxiety.
They feel comfort being around those who feel the same and I’m convinced that many don’t actually WANT people without anxiety to understand them because that would give them no cause for complaint. Nothing to vent about. No excuses.
“Once you have identified with some form of negativity, you do not want to let go, and on a deeply unconscious level, you do not want positive change. It would threaten your identity as a depressed, angry, or hard-done-by person. You will then ignore, deny or sabotage the positive in your life. This is a common phenomenon.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF
Please don’t confuse this with being open and talking about your health issue. This is fine and it’s something to be applauded. Hell, I’m doing that on this very blog, right (although I no longer have anxiety, so slightly different)?! But there comes a point where you have to ask yourself
“How much of my time is spent fixating on this?”
“Is it helping me?”
I’ve no doubt it does at first. To be able to vent, to not feel so alone, to unburden yourself of the pain or the secret you’ve been carrying is magnificent. But what then?
- Is that release gonna continue the rest of your life?
- Is mental illness now a part of who you are?
- Is the negativity around it your constant focus?
- Because it’s only gonna stand in your way of getting better. But do you even want to get better?
I recently read the book Big Magic and saw this quote:
“If my devil’s are to leave me, I’m afraid my angel’s may take flight as well.” – Rilke.
The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, had this to say:
“I’ve heard that line quoted countless times by creative people who were offering up the excuse as to why they won’t go to a therapist or why they won’t get treatment for their depression or anxiety…….because they don’t want to lose their suffering, which they have somehow conflated and confused with their creativity.”
Replace “creativity” with “identity” and you have a great many people who have anxiety or depression. Ask yourself if you are one of those people. But be honest in your answer. Be aware of what you are really thinking. Because true recovery starts with awareness.
I know I may sound harsh here but I’m not saying everyone with a mental health issue is like this. And to be fair, I am admitting I was like this myself – but not for long. I soon realised that this was no life. That I needed to do more to get myself out of the hole I was in. To take responsibility. Tolle continues:
“Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. Even their – usually unsuccessful – search for an answer, a solution, or for healing becomes part of it. What they fear and resist most is the end of their drama. As long as they are their mind, what they fear and resist most is their own awakening.”
“As there are no problems in the Now, there is no illness either. The belief in a label that
someone attaches to your condition keeps the condition in place, empowers it, and makes a
seemingly solid reality out of a temporary imbalance. It gives it not only reality and solidity
but also a continuity in time that it did not have before. By focusing on this instant and
refraining from labelling it mentally, illness is reduced to one or several of these factors:
physical pain, weakness, discomfort, or disability. That is what you surrender to – now. You
do not surrender to the idea of “illness.”
In the case of depression and anxiety, weakness or discomfort would be the experience you have in the present moment. Any physical pain is only a by-product of the mental issue. And you certainly aren’t disabled! But it is temporary and there are ways to dissolve it. The answers are out there, if you want to find them.
“Illness is not the problem. You are the problem – as long as the egoic mind is in control.
When you are ill or disabled, do not feel that you have failed in some way, do not feel guilty.
Do not blame life for treating you unfairly, but do not blame yourself either. All that is
resistance. If you have a major illness, use it for enlightenment. Anything “bad” that happens
in your life – use it for enlightenment. Withdraw time from the illness. Do not give it any
past or future. Let it force you into intense present-moment awareness – and see what
Are you seriously ill and feeling angry now about what I have just said? Then that is a
clear sign that the illness has become part of your sense of self and that you are now
protecting your identity – as well as protecting the illness. The condition that is labelled
“illness” has nothing to do with who you truly are.”PAIN
It’s certainly food for thought and is something almost everyone who is unhappy in life needs to think about objectively. Do we REALLY want to get rid of our pain? Or has it subconsciously become who we are? Don’t get angry at the suggestion. Be honest with yourself. It could end up changing your life for the better.