29 Oct

Love As an Act of Will (Part III)

In Part I and Part of II of this series, I have described how we can view love as the action which serves as the vehicle for nurturing and enhancing our emotional and psychological growth, and looked at that action actually within the context of one’s relationship with another.

In this article I provide a brief description of three basic types of relationships that define the relative state of health of that relationship. Read More

01 Mar

Relationship Anxiety

When asked why life is stressful, we often talk about the demands of work, the responsibilities of being a parent, paying our bills and so on.

Yet, as I discuss here, every time we interact with another person it introduces an element of uncertainty into our lives, and under certain conditions, can generate remarkable levels of stress. This article examines the fundamental basis for this stress response and how it  connects to conflict, anxiety, and depression.

At a general level, there are many similarities between people in how they experience their self, others, and the world. Without such commonalities we could not communicate, share ideas, work together towards goals, and so on.

But I don’t think we properly appreciate the remarkable quality or quantity of  the differences which exist between each and every one of us, in how we are experiencing this thing we call reality.

Neither do we properly appreciate how those differences impact on our relationships with others. Let me expand on this further.

From moment to moment, my experiences  of the “me in here”, the “you over there”, and the “world out there”, comprises my reality. That experience provides the basis for what I believe, and how I live my life. I must be able to trust this.

Trusting that my perceptions are accurate is as important for me as it is for you.  Yet surprisingly, none of us experiences or interprets “reality” the same way – ever.

Even at the same moment in time, and same physical location, someone standing next to you, looking at the same event will be having differing experiences from yours.

Indeed it is quite possible the two of you could be having experiences so dramatically different you would never even know you were in the same room.

Nonetheless, both of you will be experiencing your own personal reality; a reality which is true for each of you, but not the same for either.

Thus when two people start talking to each other, they are always expressing their personal version of reality to each other.

Every interaction I have with someone introduces me to a version of reality different from mine; sometimes similar, sometimes diametrically opposed – never the same.  Both of us will assume that our view of reality is true.

So what happens when one person’s perceptions and experiences of reality, their truth, comes up against another person’s perceptions and experiences, and those truths do not match?

Every time this happens, we experience some measure of anxiety; a response which is often so small it is unnoticed.  Sometimes however, this anxiety response triggers a large alarm.

The answer to the question as to when is the alarm small and when is it large is, “It depends”.

If we happen to be engaging in “small” talk, differences in our experiences may seem inconsequential such that the alarm bell will be essentially silent.

But if two people present each other with differing experiences of reality that have high personal importance where there is a need to be right about one’s perceptions,  the alarm bell will be loud, and each person will begin to experience strong emotional reactions. It is here that the possibility for conflict begins.

This can become painfully obvious when disagreements occur with those we are supposed to feel safe with, or to whom we are “close. Depending on a complex array of personal, relational, and situational dynamics, such disagreements may lead to aggressive argument or even conflict, or they may eventually be peacefully negotiated. Whether we like it or not, conflicted disagreements threaten the fundamental assumption of trust we work so hard to establish in our close relationships, which was one of the primary reasons for having that relationship in the first place.

What is fueling this conflict  is not simply the subjective differences in opinion.  Rather, the conflict is being energized by a challenge to each person’s perception of reality, which links directly to our fundamental need to know what is happening around us and to be able to trust those perceptions.

Interestingly, for some people, their fundamental sense of security concerning their own perceptions is strong and robust.  When their perceptions of reality are challenged by others their reactions are well controlled and relatively calm.

For others however,  their fundamental sense of security is weak and fragile.  Their reactions when their perceptions are challenged can be quite volatile and even aggressive.

Why some people are secure while others are insecure is complicated.  Why some issues in particular press “hot buttons” for some people and not for others is also complex and neither issue can be properly covered here.

What I do want to emphasise is that If threats to our beliefs about what is right, true, and fair are constantly occurring, then even the strongest amongst us will begin to more experience mounting anxiety.  And if this continues over an extended period of time we will begin to experience chronic stress with all of the associated symptoms.

If we have no solution to this chronic threat we will begin to burn out.  Eventually we will begin to experience depression.

Please read my next post, Relationship Anxiety (Conclusion), for my closing remarks.

22 Dec

Anxiety and Depression: A Fundamental Difference in Treatment

“Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change
The road you’re on
And it makes me wonder. ”  (Led Zeppelin – Stairway To Heaven)

Helping someone who is psychologically unhealthy become normal, is not the same as helping them become healthy. In this article I want to highlight this distinction and, in so doing, demonstrate the differences in the underlying assumptions, therapeutic efforts and expected outcomes between these two approaches.

While much of our suffering in this world arises from physical  pain, the overwhelming majority comes from emotional/psychological pain.  These experiences have numerous labels such as unhappiness, sadness, fear, anxiousness, loneliness, confusion, and so on.

We all have such experiences. In and of themselves they are well within the “normal” range of experiences and usually dissipate in a short amount of time.

But when they don’t go away, when we cannot get ourselves out of such states and they begin to adversely affect the quality of our life, or if we have have never been able to enjoy life because of them, it seems perfectly reasonable to try and do something about this.

In an effort to make the pain go away, or at least hide it, some people try using alcohol or drugs, some begin to work longer hours, look towards another relationship, start gambling, or any number of other possibilities. If those solutions ultimately do not work, and don’t destroy us, and we are willing to believe someone else can help us, then we might seek professional assistance.

So where are we likely to go for help, what kind of help will we get, and what will we be helped with?

In our society, the primary options recognized for mental health concerns are medical and psychotherapeutic.  Depending on which of these choices is made, there will be important differences in how your suffering is going to be viewed and treated.

Within the standard medical/disease/pain model of illness, such suffering is typically understood to either cause or be caused by an imbalance in our brain chemistry which adversely affects how we think, feel, and subsequently act. Given this level of understanding, it is not surprising that numerous types of drugs have been developed to address such imbalances.

If you go to your GP, family doctor, or a psychiatrist, for the most part they will suggest one of several medications designed to increase, or decrease, the amount of certain neurotransmitters in your brain depending on how your problem is diagnosed.

From the psychological model of illness, while these experiences may indeed have neurochemical correlates, the primary source of the problem is typically understood as flowing from disturbances in our thoughts and feelings.  Given this level of understanding it is not surprising that individual psychotherapy is mainly oriented towards modifying how we think about ourselves and our life, with the implicit understanding that this modification will also affect how we feel and act.

While there have been literally hundreds of therapeutic approaches developed over the years, the dominant therapy today is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  As you might surmise, it is designed primarily, to modify how you think.

While these description and explanations are highly simplified, it is nonetheless the case that both the standard medical and psychological approaches follow a similar line of reasoning that goes something like this: because you are suffering, there is something wrong which requires correction. This correction will be considered successful when you no longer report feeling depressed, anxious, stressed, and so on.  In other words, success is measured by the removal of your symptoms.

Certainly these approaches seem sensible. After all, suffering is difficult and painful, and when we hurt it is natural to want to get rid of this pain.

But given that we are seeking treatment from people designated as having expertise in the field of “mental health”, do these approaches actually help people become mentally and psychologically healthy?

If we view the function of mental health experts as offering services designed to help us think, feel and act “normal”, then providing assistance in removing symptoms defined as abnormal fits that definition.

But if one views mental health as referring to an ongoing process of psychological development and maturation, then they do not: removing symptoms or altering how we think offers no avenues or directions for learning – it encourages no growth.

I do not consider being normal as equivalent to being psychologically healthy.  In my experiences, most people seem primarily interested in trying to be comfortable and secure, even though few actually seem to achieve this.  Scratch just below the surface and most people become anxious and uneasy, being very careful about what they let out, and what they let in.

So much of what we are seems to flow from fear.  Directing our energies to protect our self from harm, whether real or imagined, ultimately leads to an orientation in which we avoid, rather than embrace life.  Shutting down rather than opening up is a natural consequence; no wonder we hurt

In keeping with this observation, I would argue that much of what we call “being normal”  is actually unhealthy; a general condition where the particular ways in which we think, feel, and act, actually impairs our growth, and in so doing creates suffering in our self, and unfortunately, also creates suffering for others.  To the extent that this is true, attempting to return people to normal offers a very limited solution to our suffering

The sad part here is that we do not see how much of our suffering is related to how we live and act in our normal lives.  Mainly, we do not seem to recognize the fear-based ways in which we view our self, others, and our world.  Since we seem to possess such a poor understanding of the role this plays in creating suffering, our responsibilities and capabilities for resolving this are also limited.

Unfortunately, rather than waking up to this condition and finding constructive solutions that could benefit our self and others in our world, we are encouraged to remove or ignore that pain, and almost every other experience we find to be difficult. This, I believe, is a serious conceptual mistake supported by the prevailing medical and psychological framework.  There is little chance we will find lasting solutions through such avenues.

Rather than simply getting rid of this pain, we need to learn from it. Our suffering needs to be re-conceptualized as providing us with a powerful source of motivation for learning about this suffering, and the harmful consequences of our normal ways of doing things.  With these experiences as our teachers,  it  can also provide us with the right motivation for learning how to properly nurture our growth and development.

Otherwise, it seems unfortunate that once we have gone for help, the very motivation which drove us to seek assistance in the first place cannot be put to more productive use than to remind us to take our pill or practice thinking differently.

27 May

Is Change Possible?

As I was walking through the park the other day I began a conversation with a man who eventually told me he was dying of cancer.  He had this cancer, he explained, because he was too stressed, too worried, too agitated.

He described being troubled by almost everything he saw around him and even though he knew it wasn’t good for him,  even though he believed there was nothing he could do to correct these concerns,  he said could not stop worrying and fretting.

I wondered about this for a long while after I left him.  Could it be true that there was nothing he could do to help himself?

This gentleman expressed many concerns to me as he complained non-stop about how our government was misspending taxpayer’s money, how misinformed our medical system was in providing proper treatments for people, and a seemingly endless list of other issues and complaints.

I don’t know if it was true as he believed, that he had cancer because of his agitated mind. But I  know he thought so.

So it was most interesting for me when I heard him say he felt he was powerless to stop complaining about these things even though he felt it was killing him.

Oddly, he didn’t seem particularly interested in his thought process as he joined one bothersome issue to another, each seeming to serve as fuel for the next. He reminded me in some ways of an alcoholic continuing to drink, knowing full well it was destroying him, and calmly saying there was nothing he could do about it.  And perhaps he was right.

I think for some people change is not possible, or at best it is a remote possibility.  It seems that there actually is nothing they can do to alter how they think, feel and act in the world, even though their life may be heading downhill.

But if they are powerless, why?  How can this be explained?

Some people can’t change because they are not interested. There are those who do nothing about stress in their life simply because they don’t seem to think about doing anything about it until it is too late.

Often these people seem to have a very limited awareness of themselves and others. Their life is hectic and non-stop almost as though they need to get to the next moment before they have arrived at this one.   They don’t seem to properly identify with, or appreciate, their problems, and even though others might be concerned about them, nothing will come of their efforts to help other than frustration for all concerned

Some people can’t change  because they don’t see the problems in their life as having anything to do with them. Instead, it is other people, the world “out there” causing their suffering and if only ‘it” or “they” would change, their problems would be over.  Not surprisingly such people often tend to be disruptive in the lives of others.

Some people can’t change because they have given up.  They have tried many, many, times with little success and much disappointment. They have lost hope trying to feel better when nothing they have done has made a difference.  Such people can often be deeply cynical about almost everything and everyone.  As long as they still care enough to look after and protect their existing reality as miserable as it may be,  they can survive.  But if they are then faced with an unexpected and significant life challenge they can crumble.  When they finally reach the stage that nothing matters this is often life-threatening.

Others are still willing to try but have no clear direction of how to actually do this and are going in circles.  The will is there, but the energy is wasted.

So in these examples, I think change for such individuals in not possible; at least not under the existing conditions. But that is not the same as saying nothing can help.

But if it is possible, how can this be accomplished? And for those who are willingly seeking to change how can this be accomplished?

There are many, many questions which need to be asked and answered when we talk about change, about who can change and how to to do it. What do we even mean by change? Is change actually possible or is it an illusion?

For me the answer to the question of whether or not change is possible is, “It depends”.

I don’t mean to sound elusive in this response but I think it is correct to state it this way.  There are many conditions which have to be met before change can occur and it is helpful at the outset to consider what some of those conditions might be.  In the next series of articles on Mindfulness I will look more closely at this.

29 Sep

Mindfulness: Freedom From the Known

The answer to the question as to “who, or what am I?”  is a complicated one.  But it is primarily complicated by a confused, though perfectly normal way of perceiving reality that is almost  impossible to see for oneself . This article aims to clarify one source of this confusion.

I think it is easy enough to accept that what we are today, how we experience our self, others, and the world we live in, is very much the product of an amazing and vast number of experiences we could generally refer to as “our life so far”.

Given this inextricable bond to our past, then everything we do “now”, every thought we have, every belief we hold and action we take, is rooted in and flows from our history.  This connection to where we have been before has both advantages and disadvantages.

The advantage is we don’t have to continually relearn how to live in this world. It is absolutely critical to our survival that we possess the ability to learn from and utilize past experiences and apply those lessons to daily living.   Without such learning the world would appear as a chaotic buzz of confusion to which we would have no idea how to respond.  Within a matter of days or at best weeks, without outside support and care, we would die.

But here is the disadvantage.

Most people seem to want to change, get rid of bad habits, improve their relationships.

For many, the search for these answer seems to point in the direction of  thinking long and hard about our life, perhaps making those tough choices we could never follow through on, not allowing ourselves to act like we have before, and so on.

Yet if our intention is to become healthier and create a better life for our self then by definition we have to learn to act differently than we have up to this point.   But how can we make new and different choices to move in healthy directions if we are using the same “mind” that got us into difficulty in the first place?

Think about this for a moment.  If our previous way of being in the world wasn’t working for us before, how can we rely on that to guide us now?

As motivated as we may be to live our life differently, or to end or minimize our suffering, the inescapable truth seems to be that we have to find a way that offers more than our existing methods of looking at our self and our world.

If we are going to find a way that actually promotes our psychological growth and development, we have to find a fundamentally new means of  understanding our self, our relationships, and our world.

To do this we have to free our self from the normal approaches we take to finding answers to our life: we have to “free ourselves from the known”.

The article entitled “What Is Mindfulness (Part I)”  begins the exploration of the approach I have developed and utilized over the last 25 years utilize in my practice.

29 Aug

Identity: Who Did You Say You Were?

Have you ever stopped to consider how little people really know each other? I don’t mean casual acquaintances or even friends.  I mean people who say they love and deeply care for each other; people who are willing to commit their lives to each other.

I am not referring to whether or not they are interested in (or at least talk about) what we might call each others objective reality (how was work today, how were the kids, what did you think of that restaurant last night etc.).  Rather, I am pointing to what seems to be a remarkable lack of interest in, and exploration of, each others subjective reality;  their thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, fears, fantasies and so on.

I would argue that it is precisely those experiences, the ones we might identify as our “interior” self, which make each of us truly unique and remarkable.  These are the deeper, more personal, immediate, and alive aspects of our being.  They are the ones that matter most to us and the ones that define our essential and vital self.

And I am suggesting that the failure of people in relationships to learn more about and respect such qualities in each other leads to a whole host of potential problems and difficulties that may never get resolved until they are understood.  And for many people, they may never get understood.

All in all this lack of interest and exploration of each other with each other creates a rather strange and confusing situation for us humans.

For example, we think we understand and know our loved one, when in fact we do not.  We think the other understands us, when in fact they don’t. What we have done instead is identify with the “exterior” of the other, and confused that with who they are.

The truly odd thing about this is that we each expect, and sometimes demand, that the other be what we have imagined them to be as a result of what we have learned about their external apearances.  But we are all so much more complex than our outside presentation.

And soon enough and sure enough, we will present to the other in a way that does not match with our exterior as they have come to know us.  But it will fit with our interior and seem perfectly natural and acceptable to us.

And when that happens the other can feel surprised, shocked, dismayed, disappointed, angry, and a whole range of other negative experiences.  At these moments the reaction generally tends to be; “Hey, what’s wrong with you, get back to being the person I know and stay there.”

When they present their self to us in an odd or unexpected way, we will ask the same of them.

If we are each reasonably healthy we will stand up for ourselves  and ask to be known and accepted more deeply and clearly.  If we are not so healthy, we will step backwards towards the image the other expects of us and we will stay there.

But we will suffer.  And often, we will make the other suffer in a variety of obvious and not so obvious ways, for not being willing to accept the truer, deeper, and more meaningful aspects of our being.

Does this scenario have real world implications for individuals in those relationships?  I am certain it does.

Can this help us understand why so many relationships struggle and eventually break-up? Can it help explain why so many people get depressed, turn to drugs and alcohol, have extra-marital affairs and a whole host of other relationship disturbance?

I think it does explain much of this and I think it is all so tragic.

Why tragic?  Because I don’t believe people do this intentionally to each other.  I don’t think they are trying to hurt each other.  I just think they don’t know any better and don’t even see the problem being created.

So what does it mean to say  “I love you”,  if at precisely the same time I don’t really know you or even want to know you?  And what does it mean if you won’t or can’t tell me who you are even if I ask?

Exactly who is this “you” I love?

16 Jun

For Crying Out Loud

Several years ago I was seeing a young woman in my practice who was struggling with depression following the recent death of her mother. In spite of how sad and distressed she looked, she seemed to be struggling to let herself cry.

When I commented that she seemed to be having difficulties accepting her feelings, she responded that this was not actually the problem for her.  Rather, she was concerned that if she truly expressed what she was feeling, other people in the building would hear her and wonder if something was wrong, if perhaps she was being attacked.

She didn’t want to just cry softly.  She wanted to yell and scream and protest that her mother died too young and her loss was too painful to bare.  She wasn’t able to do this in the privacy of her apartment building, and she was also worried about doing it here. She was afraid that if she released this in my office someone might alert security or call the police and she didn’t want that to happen.

I sat in my chair for a while watching her closely and thinking about what she had said.  I could understand she was holding a lot inside and if she let it out it would probably burst like a damn and flood the room.  I was pretty sure I could listen to all of this, but I could imagine that people out side might indeed wonder what was going on and be worried.

I began to think where this woman could go and yell as loudly and as long as she wanted without worrying how others would respond. The more I thought about this the more I realized her concerns were quite valid.

It seems to be remarkably hard in our society to simply and freely express what is in our minds and in our hearts.  Even with loved ones in the privacy of our own homes there always seems to be a limit to what we can say.

Sometimes we just need to let things out.  Sometimes we just need to know that someone cares enough for us to listen to what we have to say, however we say it and whatever it sounds like. Not because we want them to fix it; we just don’t want to hold onto it any longer.

It is not just having a place to express oneself  that is important, but also learning how to do it in such a way that we can truly listen to ourselves. When we cannot experience we cannot learn. As we learn to trust rather than fear ourselves, we experience the freedom to explore further, and so we learn and grow.

When we are afraid to let others hear us it adds one more level of complexity to the already difficult struggle of finding out who we truly are.  The fear that we cannot let ourselves out anywhere to anyone is a disturbing and distressing reality.

If there is any fundamental action I try to encourage in the people I see in my practice, it is for them to find a way to express what could not be expressed before. Most people have not allowed themselves to do this since they were a child.  As adults, most people cannot do it now even if they are given the chance. And they don’t even realize it.

Without this growth there will always be pain and suffering in your life.  Although, even with growth, there will be pain.  But the pointless of it all will end. And when we activate our own compassion and acceptance for that suffering, we will  discover some of the most important lessons life has to offer.

28 Oct

Depression and Anxiety: All Roads Lead to Rome, Don’t They?

Over the course of twenty plus years I have worked with thousands of individuals, a good number who either report as being depressed, or anxious. The really odd thing is, that other than having somewhat similar symptoms, these people were so remarkably different from each other I wonder if we (those who label and treat others) might often be guilty of a fundamental perceptual error.  Let me explain. Read More

19 Jan

Being Here: Depression, Anxiety, Stress and All (Part I)

The only reality we have is this living moment. The only possibility we ever have to make a different choice, to alter a course of action, or to change our mind, resides in “this” moment. Yes, we can plan on doing something tomorrow, but both that decision to wait and the action itself when it occurs will be choices made in present tense, “now” moments.

Oddly, it seems to me for most people the significance of “this” moment, pales in comparison to how important we consider our past and future to be, and our absorption in the “world out there”.  This certainly seems to be true given how much time we spend in reviewing yesterday, planning for tomorrow, and looking at screens in front of us. Indeed for most people, the very notion of “being aware of this” moment seems to have almost no meaning, and subsequently  almost no value.  This is a shame.

In order to grasp the profound implications of this, it is important to first understand an interesting quality of the human mind.

Let me begin by noting that most people are only nominally tuned into the thoughts they are having at any given point in time, their current emotional and body level feeling states, running memories, decision making processes, and most of the impulses which drive the actions in which they are engaged.  As such, they are not conscious of  most of the essential  experiences one could describe as being “me”. 

The fact of the matter is that almost everything we do is done with very little awareness. A very large percentage of our day is spent on automatic pilot, and only in very particular circumstances do we actually “wake up”  and pay attention to what we’re doing.

And yet, for the most part, none of this is a problem.

Our essentially non-conscious self system functions like this because we have already practiced and learned how to behave and respond to our life during our many years of growing up.  As one example, having learned to talk a long time ago I don’t have to start relearning every day. The same goes for driving my car, shopping, interacting with others, and on and on.

But what happens if I have to do something different than what I’ve learned to do? What if my ways of being in the world aren’t working for me and I have to utilize more adaptive and productive behaviours? Somehow I have to be able to override the purely habitual and automatic quality of those learned responses which are not working for me, and modify or adapt them to become proper and effective responses.

But here’s the rub; I cannot change something if I am not aware of what I am doing. If I have any hope of being able to change or over-ride my cognitive and emotional responses and reaction patterns,  I have to be  aware of them in the moment of their activation.

But if I am am right in my previous assertion that most people spend too much time not being present to “this” moment, then herein lies the problem.

If my previous life lessons were inadequate in some way, it will be the automatic behaviours that flow from those lessons that will lead to my  constant bumping and scraping up against this life, and inevitably creating varying levels of distress for myself, and for others. Given that my choices and actions didn’t work the first time, it’s unlikely they will succeed the second.

When my normal ways of solving my life problems don’t work despite repeated attempts, it creates a very interesting scenario, almost always accompanied by some anxiety. Eventually, if enough efforts fail and my situation worsens I can even get depressed.

The series of articles on Mindfulness look at this position I am expressing in more detail. I invite you to read them and see if they help  answer any doubts or or questions you have about what I am saying. and  my approach with such issues.

19 Feb

Being Here: Depression, Anxiety, Stress and All (Part II)

In my previous article (Being Here: Depression, Anxiety Stress and All (Part I))  I was arguing that we cannot truly make choices and therefore changes in our life, if we are not aware of, or conscious to, our own experiences. Since most people seem to think they are already quite aware, then either I am making a weak argument, or we are talking about very different things. This article focuses on my definition of this notion of being aware of our experiences, and also looks at some of the implications which flow from it.

To begin,  let me ask a simple question; “Do you know what rain feels like on your face”?

I am betting you would probably say, “Of course I know what rain on my face feels like”.  So let me push the question a little further; “When was the last time you chose to stand in the rain and let it fall on your face, so you could intentionally experience it”?  Now I would  guess that you may never have done that, or if you have, you haven’t done it very often.

I would guess, if you are like most people, what you were talking about when you said you “know” about the experience of rain on your face, was  perhaps your  experience of what happened when you unexpectedly got caught in the rain, and then reacted in some way so as not to have rain in your face.

My point is that there are many experiences which we say we “know”, or which we say we are familiar with, which should more appropriately be called, “experiences we tried not to have”.

Take sadness for example. Who doesn’t know what it feels like to be sad? But have you ever taken the time to really feel sad; intentionally, purposefully? Really sit with it and listen to it, hear how it speaks, where it lives in your body, what kind of memories come up and whatever else is connected to it?

I am trying to clarify that the quality of “sadness” one experiences when “Trying not to feel”,  and the experiences of sadness which arises should one choose to “feel” it,  are not the same experiences. “Trying not to feel” sad is an active attempt to suppress and alter that experience.  “Feeling” sad opens up a whole range of experiences that simply do not and cannot exist otherwise.  

My next guess is that reading about this, the idea of letting yourself feel your sadness, anger, your frustration, or any “negative” reaction, actually seems strange,  if not questionable to you. After all, these experiences hurt, they are painful. And if there is anything our evolutionarily programmed survival system does well, it is too move us away from pain, usually before we even have to think about it.

But  most likely, when you think of the painful experiences what you are thinking of  are those “Trying not to feel” experiences, which I am suggesting actually have different qualities to them than when we allow ourself to be aware of our experiences.   Expressed another way, moving away from, or trying not to have,  an experience has more painful and complicated effects than when we move towards it. 

I would think most people do this suppression/avoiding thing most of the time. There is nothing odd in doing this. But I believe there are many unfortunate consequence which arise from doing so.

It is my opinion that “trying not feel” over an extended period of time, especially when our experiences are powerful and highly charged, leads to depression, anxiety,  and stress, just to name a few.  Further, as I have discussed in other articles,  “trying not to feel”,  also characterized as avoiding our experiences, can also lead to other complications such as gambling, drinking and other addictions.

Finding our way back once we have gone down one of those roads is remarkably difficult.  So I really only see one of two options.  Either we begin to learn how to actually have our experiences, to begin the practice of Mindfulness,  or we cross our fingers that we are going to find something else that is going to work that we haven’t been able to accomplish for our self.