encouragement: the act of giving someone courage
courage: an action in opposition to the resistance of fear
work: an action in opposition to the inertia of laziness
aetiology: the investigation or attribution of the cause
teleology: the explanation of phenomena in terms of the purpose they serve rather than of the cause by which they arise
entropy: a gradual decline into disorder
chronic: expanding out across the timeline
Fear is only a limit. It forces us to stay still, it doesn’t make us breathe. Fear itself is scary. But like everything around us it is only a limit.YoungBloodRose*
Are you feeling a little down. Worthless even? A bit of a fool or something of a let down to yourself? Have you failed someone else? Caused a bit of a scene? Gotten into a bit of a pickle?
More chronically, do you feel that life is just not panning out the way you figured it would or should? Or could have?
When you were born you were entirely dependent for survival, second by second and minute by minute, on others. It was essential that you improved. You very quickly learnt the local tongue and how to walk without falling over and having to lean on stuff. This desire to walk the path of improvement is classically termed a feeling of superiority. Superior to your immediate prior self, that’s all. It’s not like you wanted to rule the world. (actually you did, but I’m sticking with Adler not Freud for today).
Alfred Adler was an Austrian born medical doctor and psychotherapist (1870 -1937) so I have honoured him with the German word for what we would term feelings of inferiority as the above subtitle heading. You think Welsh is bad. German joins everything in one long word. Either that, or its English younger brother breaks words down into excessive bit-parts forcing complexion into formerly simple sentences. Both are true, of course. Perspective is all.
Coach yourself home
When you’re a life coach and you experience an entropic collapse – very common these days – let’s face it, twenty-twenty is not a year replete with majestic insight – a nifty vision-embedded nomenclature, the essence of the promise therein long-since bruised and broken – you are equipped with the tools to correct yourself, within reason and you are, as such, equipped with the ability to know what you cannot do and to recognise that for which you need to seek professional guidance. There are blindspots. You cannot see them. But you can know they are there to be seen by others. And you can go get the others.
In a kind of murky on-and-off depression that took a hold of me some time over the past eleven months – like a smart weapon of stealth – without knowing it – and interspersed with lengthy spells of intense pseudo-joy which acted as a master camouflage – I began to sabotage my life. I subconsciously and very slowly – slow enough so as to be imperceptible along the event horizon of conscious awareness – formed attachments (just mental configurations but very powerful nonetheless). Attachments are the ultimate source of all suffering in life – be it money, stuff, power, attention, people, careers, achievement – because once we attach we naturally seek to conserve. We hunch up against the cold dangerous world rather than openly embrace the warm one. Worse, we begin to move away from ourselves. Our vital honesty is lost. Clinginess and neediness ensue. And when we attach to things that we cannot have we experience feelings of inferiority. Minderwertigkeitsgefühl. Come on, at least give that word a shot.
The solution to the problem of attachment is….. you guessed it…..detachment. We simply let go. When we detach, at once, we are on the road to healing and the path back home. Yet, this comes with pain, initially. Afterall, who wants to let go of what they have chosen to be around precisely because they liked it so much in the first place and continue to do so?
Happily, contingent with the pain of release is the innate knowledge (intuition) that freedom lay ahead and the right thing to do is being done. Not has been done. Is being done. For we are here now. In Buddhism, this is The Fourth Noble Truth.
An essential subtlety of Buddhist detachment is not that we detach from everything continuously nor do we seek to avoid forming attachments, but that we see the nature of joyous attachment for what it is and we enjoy it fully yet always with an eye on it’s giddy fleeting illusion. Attaching to things – making them special and important to us – very often infuses our lives with colour and meaning. Attachment can provide motivation and a sense of purpose. It can be an experiential assist of terrific magnitude and in wholesome, controlled situations, an engine of growth. As such, attachment is good. Detachment as I speak of it here is both an ontological call-to-arms – I love my new shoes whilst deep down knowing that I don’t actually love them I just like them, and that they are only material stuff – and a tool to deploy in emergency situations when things go awry – such as the boundary issues I am about to reference. A kind of parachute cord.
You are choosing to be depressed
This sounds absurd. But only because you are assuming that I am referring to the conscious you. I am not.
Courage – defined at the outset as an action in opposition to the resistance of fear – is precisely that. An action. Not a thought or any other version of mental intention. All too often, what we require yet what we shy away from is the courage to be afraid.
For we are scared of the fear. The fear of failure. Of loss. Of ill-repute. Of the truth. Of loneliness. Of insecurity. Of not having the answers. Of not being loved. Of not matching and surpassing our preconceived mental projections of self-identity and corporeal possibility. Of missing out. Of jumping in. Of the skin we live in.
Taking personal action directly in opposition to a powerful force-field such as fear requires work. Work – defined at the outset as an action in opposition to the inertia of laziness – is precisely that. An action. Nothing gets done lest we do it.
Inferior to whom?
When we are down it helps, precisely because our sense of inferiority is entirely relative, to be mindful of those who we consider to be worse off than ourselves. Luckily I do not have to look too far, and neither do you. Friends recently have told me they now seek psycho-analytic psychotherapy and hypnotic regression psycho-therapy, that they may kill off the old version of the self and build a new one. I applaud such courage and I applaud it with a caution: it will do what it says on the tin so beware. It may also make you worse before it makes you better. And you gotta turn up and stay in the room. Every time. Should the course of therapy work, it will also illuminate the true nature of the self as a cheap convincing construction. This is the best medicine, for then you will be equipped, going forward, with the ability to self-medicate when you hit a sticky spot in the road up ahead, within reason and to an extent. And it’s a bumpy road let’s face it.
I have neighbours who are struggling ferociously with depression and it’s great to see one in particular attending the gym daily despite his medical depressive deterioration. Keep going bro’. This is courage if ever courage were to be demonstrated.
Yet I must look closer to home. In my own depressive creeping determinism I unwittingly and without the slightest degree of external solicitation, attach to people (relational dynamics) inappropriately thereby turfing up all manner of basic boundary issues; the subsequent detachment from whom must mean the loss of that which I value dearly. Beautiful time-honoured friendships. I can then point to this loss as a kind of validation of my worthlessness. See? Here’s proof I am not valuable. Even they have gone away! It doesn’t seem to occur (nor does it seem to matter, should it occur) that I am doing it. I am doing all of it.
“You know the happiest species on the planet? The goldfish. You know why? It has, like, a ten second memory.” Ted Lasso**
You are choosing to be happy
So, given that I can choose: how about I choose a little better this time around? And every single day (in fact, every single second) is a new time around.
What you think of the world around you and what you think of yourself – is your world. It is ”the world” to you. And it starts now. And again now. And again now.
It is OK to be sad. To be lost. To get it wrong. To delude. To mis-attach and over-attach. We’re gonna do it. Let’s start by accepting the fact.
And it is also OK to be happy. Yet I prefer contentment. For it has no direct opposite.
Get a good support network around you of people who can see you and will level with you. Glowing in a sheen of trust. Your support network encourages you. The word encouragement literally references the action of giving someone courage. The network cannot take away your problem. For it really is your problem. But it can embellish you with the tools to go finish the job. No greater act of love exists so take the toolbox and get to work.
Reach out to your support network. Listen. Consider. Then, when you are ready (all in your own time it’s not a race), level with yourself, speak the absolute truth as you see it to those concerned and let go. What, you’re too embarrassed? Do me a favour. Embarrassment is a quality of the ego and we are transcending ego. Personally, I named my depression. I called it The Gary Show. And here today is all about how to bring the curtain down on this particular episode.
There’s a fork in the road up ahead. You can amble the broad boulevard of Aetiology Avenue and continuously use your past experiences as valid reasons for your current life choices and state of mind. A long and often very pleasant walk. Embalmed in the late evening sun of self-pity and the smug security of logical justification. Vaunt, ye shall, in the velvet valour of victim-hood. The enticing abdication vacation. Have you noticed how it arcs gracefully in a continuous loop?
Or you can take a trip down Teleology Terrace and face up to the fact that whatever is happening, you are doing it and you are doing it to subconsciously achieve some goal of avoidance. Yellow dog. You are choosing to be lost. You are opting for unhappiness. You are the saboteur. You are engineering excuses to stay right where you are whilst simultaneously whining about being left behind because you are scared of realising your potential. Can’t fail the test if you don’t take it, cowboy? I hear you. I am you.
Benchwarmers of the world disunite!
You’re at the edge yet you dare not jump. But you have to jump to grow – to fully live. And it’s all on you. You’d sooner just make excuses so as to spend your life basking in the false dawn of if only. A much shorter jaunt. Not so warm here. The leeward shade picks the hairs on your neck up and makes your skin pimple. The townhouses are cute though. And it’s sunny in the back gardens and it’s a joyful homely community for those who got the balls to hang around. Content, grounded, wholesome, authentic, real people make their home lives along this idyllic stonework stretch. For the truth is patently obvious down Teleology Terrace: all attachments are a narrative construction. You are doing it and you are doing it on purpose.
Sure, when you let go, it will sting, but you ain’t really letting go of anything at all. Just your sad self. You are letting go of letting yourself down and letting those who rely on you down. So when it gets to this stage, pull the cord, Jack. Like, just do it already!
When I summon the will to deploy the courage that has been lovingly supplied, I sure would sooner put an offer in for one of these cosy cottages than anything down there on Acacia. You think you know the property market? So how come you don’t even know that the real estate is inside your head? Everything else is just babble. Background noise, baby.
Lockdown is hard. COVID-19 is really hard, for me. But tomorrow the sun will rise. I can do it. Y’all can do it.
The Four Noble Truths
1 Life is suffering
2 The source of suffering is attachment
3 Cessation from suffering is possible
4 The path to cessation is suffering
Thanks for reading. You are never alone.
We are one
This article is inspired by my reading of a book called The Courage to be Disliked: How to Free Yourself by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga.
Alfred Adler was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of inferiority, (notably not the inferiority complex as commonly referenced nowadays), is recognized as an isolating element which plays a key role in personality development.
**Ted Lasso is an comedy series now showing in the UK on appleTV+