In the United States we have a very war-centric mentality. We fight the “War on Drugs, War on Poverty, War on Obesity,” and wage war on anything we see as negative. We fight personal wars against ourselves. Mistakenly we think we need to cut out anything that is difficult or even slightly negative. We pop antidepressants, sleeping pills, and chug caffeine. We spend far too much fighting against the inevitability of aging.
We simply fail to see flowers need compost.
I was on antidepressants for a time before I discovered the benefits of Buddhist philosophy. I, too, thought I had to just cut out my “down” feelings. I thought these feelings were somehow wrong. For most of my teenage years and 20’s I sought to cut out things I was indoctrinated into believing were sins in God’s eyes. Yes, depression was considered a sin even if it wasn’t explicit. There is a lot of stigma surrounding things thought of as negative. I soon discovered that what I was trying to cut out was a part of myself, a part of my humanity.
People die in war. In American wars we seek to kill parts of ourselves just to be “normal.”
In the case of my depression I discovered it was just misplaced introspection. I focused on my skewed negative thinking and compared myself to impossible ideals. I saw the negative before the positive in an effort to “change.” When I went on antidepressants and sought to cut out the painful numbness I was seeking to cut out the core of myself. I am naturally introspective and reflective. I guess that is why some people call me wise for my age or an old soul. I just know I know nothing. Anyway, after much study I discovered I just needed to shift my natural introspection toward positive things and shift my views of the negative. Basically, I realized flowers can’t exist without compost; compost can’t exist without flowers.
Once I stopped trying to cut out my heart and realized the nature of suffering, I just stopped feeling depressed. Truthfully, I can’t really explain how it stopped. I just woke up one morning about 2 years ago and haven’t had a bout of depression since. Certainly I have feelings of sadness and other down feelings, but I know they are just old friends reminding me to appreciate the present moment. Meditation benefited me far more than pills ever did.
Just like America can’t win the War on Drugs and all the other wars we declare, we cannot win wars against ourselves. If we want to truly change we have to see ourselves as we really are. What we consider bad is just the result of misplaced energy and mistaken views. Everyone has flaws. It is okay to be flawed and in pain. That doesn’t mean we cut out the pain. Pain is a friend telling us we are doing something harmful. Pain just tells us to step back, look, and think about what we are doing that is making the friend visit. It is rather amazing how obvious solutions to problems are when we can finally step back and objectively look at them. Most problems just result from our own skewed thinking.
Reality is neutral. We assign labels to events and determine whether they are good or bad. When it comes to personal struggles, we do the same thing. A situation may be painful, but it can also be an opportunity to expand your compassion and learn more about yourself. How can you learn about a part of yourself when you immediately cut it off? Do you cut off your toe when you stub it on a chair? Certainly not. You just comfort your toe and learn to watch where you are going. So why do we cut off stubbed emotions?
Acceptance is the first step to comforting stubbed emotions. You accept your toe hurts. You don’t deny your toe-ache. It is okay to feel depressed, angry, hurt, sad, or happy. Again, they are friends trying to tell you something. Listen!
Find what your negative feelings are trying to teach. Depression is saying your view of reality is skewed. You need to look at everything from a broad perspective and step outside yourself. You need to get out, help, and car for other people with genuine compassion. Anger warns you to back off and slow down. He says your thoughts are too self-oriented, and you need to see the other person’s perspective. Hurt feelings teach communication. Sadness teaches perspective on how everything in life has an end and teaches you to live in the present with mindfulness.
Step outside yourself. Sometimes the worst thing is to be too concerned with your own problems. While you can use others to avoid dealing with your own problems, usually practicing compassion places problems into perspective.
The worst you can do is cut out a problem. Surgery is rarely a good solution. The root of our problems is how we think. No amount of emotional surgery can remove thoughts. They can be transformed through meditation, mindfulness, and compassion toward others, luckily.