“You Better Drive. I Think There is Something Wrong With Me”
The quote above is from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter Thompson
Updated November 29, 2020
I’ve railed before against the self-righteous, self-help industry of profiteers who assert that we alone control how we feel, that we can be happy if we only want to. (internal link) Profiters like Werner Erhard and Tony Robbins, along with groups like Scientology, place blame on people who feel poorly, depressed, or lost.
Nobody wants to feel down or depressed or anxious or scared. These are all emotions deeply felt, not intellectual choices. To bring about a change using the intellect is at once at odds with how these problems arose. We don’t choose to lose our parents or suffer from nightmares or get bullied at school. Responding to these deeply anguishing moments by thinking them away is a completely nonsensical idea.
Friends often offer well-intentioned advice that misses the mark. “Snap out of it” or “Don’t think about it” or “Try to relax” are straightforward suggestions that don’t go to the heart of the matter. If we could only snap out of it. If we could only not think about it. If we could only relax. Lord, if we could only relax.
Let me go seemingly off-tangent here to comment on a problem with Zen Buddhism and the road to satori or enlightenment. The key tenet is to give up all desires. But that is a desire by itself. At some point, after study and contemplation and years, satori may happen, as a meteorite flashes across the night sky. Or, the sky may remain dark.
We get better over time or we don’t. If a situation continues, we might try talk therapy or medication or we might change our circumstances. Perhaps a new town with new friends if we are lucky to find any. Some situations are chronic like poor eyesight or diabetes. We cope without a cure and sometimes we get depressed about it. If it is true mental illness, no medicine is going to cure.
I’ve tried distraction, living mostly now for my hobbies and interests. I’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work and I try helping answer questions on the internet. I write quite a bit on rocks and minerals and hope some people can learn from what I know. This though, in the end, is really a minor dam against the flood that swept over me when my parents died.
I’m still drowning, still trying to keep my head above water. Still cursed with my nightmares and anxiety, I go about as every other sufferer of every other ailment, living the best I can under the circumstances. But don’t ever think our condition is something we can climb out of with your lesson plan or an appeal to the intellect for a triumph over gravely felt emotion. Sell that crap to somebody else.
Drawing from The Trial (Der Prozess) by Franz Kafka