Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anxiety (#1 of 2)

My name is J........ I am currently suffering from severe anxiety and depression. I am seeing a therapist and have read many books on the subject as well as trying various forms of medication, but to little or no avail. The reason I'm writing you is to seek an alternate view point. I have sought the psychological view and I feel that it is lacking. I feel that there is something to this trial in my life that can be labeled as something other than a "disorder". What I fear is my alone-ness. I am terrified of being separated from the people I love. I fear that something will happen to them and I will lose them. I can, intellectually, accept all this as being the normal uncertainty of life. But there is something inside of me that won't allow me to let go and live life freely. Deep beneath this is the feeling of a void. A feeling of separation that engulfs me with such pain that there are times I have considered suicide. I will continue my psychological efforts, but I would appreciate your perspective on this matter. Thank you so much for your time,

My comment:

First I must remind you that I am not a qualified counsellor. I am here to answer questions relating to Buddhism. However, I don't mind giving my "alternative view point" as a Buddhist.

You have actually diagnosed your "problem" which is "severe anxiety and depression". You have also traced the "cause" of this problem, which is "fear". Fear of being left alone and the loss of loved ones. You have lost confidence in yourself. All of us have the same "problem".

The Buddha advised us to realize and ACCEPT the true nature of life and this world. We have been deceived by the world due to our delusion and ignorance. We want perfection in this imperfect world. We want everlasting happiness in this ever changing world wrought with problems and sorrows. We want permanent relations when everything is impermanent. People grow old, get sick, and eventually will die. This is the reality of life. We have no control over it.

As Buddhists, we train ourselves to this understanding and realization. Then we acknowledge this fact that we cannot change many things and cannot control many things. Then we begin to ACCEPT and come to term with REALITY. Upon acceptance of this fact, half of our problems disappear.

A good illustration is the prison scenario. We know that the prison has strict conditions and restrictions. It is the nature or purpose of prison. Otherwise it would not be called "prison". Its purpose is to restrict freedom and inflict punishment or provide rehabilitation. Can a prisoner complain about lack of freedom in prison? If he insists of complaining and getting upset and aggressive with the prison authority, no one suffers but he, himself. The prison conditions are not going to change. On the other hand, if he ACCEPTS that prison is supposed to restrict and punish or rehabilitate, and there is no way he can escape or change the conditions, he immediately becomes "free". This ACCEPTANCE sets him free.

Your condition, in my humble opinion, is just like the prisoner who does not want to accept realities. We all have fears and doubts. We all experience happiness as well as sorrows. All of us go through the same journey. Conditions of this journey are not going to change. Since we cannot change the true nature of this worldly life, the best option left is for us to ACCEPT this fact and to live WITH it. Once we accept the inevitable as inevitable; the uncertainties as uncertainties, we face the world with wisdom. The wisdom to realize that life is uncertain, and death is certain. This wisdom will free us from fear and anxiety.

As Buddhists, we build our confidence to face this life by understanding the law of kamma, the natural universal law of cause and effect. We know that good actions, thoughts, and speech will bring corresponding good results. We make effort to live skilfully by training our mind to ACCEPT that which is natural and inevitable. With this acceptance, we no longer become fearful and resentful. The key factors are acknowledgment and acceptance. No longer resisting……; fear and anxiety will gradually disappear. Realization alone is not good enough. It takes the courage and commitment to want to accept the facts of life and face them squarely. Peace in oneself and with the world will surely follow.

It will be good if you can also take a vacation and relax your mind.

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