10 May 06
Psychotherapy With Dr. O’Malley (Part 3)
On Dr. O's desk sat a magazine article about Susan Sontag and depression, titled “Melancholy Minus Its Charms.”
“Here’s my thought journal.” I handed Dr. O two sheets of paper.
He began reading the positive and negative thoughts I’d documented since the last session.
“What I noticed,” I said, “by writing my thoughts down, was that I varied within certain levels of happy and sad until the weekend, then my happiness went off the scale. I think I was manic.”
Dr. O took extra interest as he read Saturday’s entry: Currently manic? Overwhelmingly, inexplicably happy. Felt as if I could accomplish anything. Have written for almost 8 hours. My mind is racing with ideas. Creativity and the right words are flowing naturally. I haven’t showered, done yoga, or talked to anyone other than ushering a few visitors out. Time is flying. The announcements of rec beginning and then ending (a two hour period) seemed like ten minutes. I thought I was hearing things when rec ended because time couldn’t possibly be moving so fast. I’ve accomplished a lot today, and I am extremely satisfied. In comparison to recent happiness, I am way off the scale. Why can’t I feel this good everyday? I feel like I could walk to the chow hall and back on my hands – and maybe even fly!
“When you reviewed these thoughts after you wrote them what did you think?” he asked.
“I thought, Oh no! Now I’ve got multiple personality disorder, because Saturday’s thoughts seem like they were written by a different person.”
“Some writers, when they are feeling great like that, achieve tremendous insights. What was the quality of your written thoughts on Saturday?”
“Words fell into place. My sense of humour was up. I liked what I wrote.”
“The reason I ask, is because when you are at negative or positive emotional extremes your critical ability goes down.”
“That’s true, because a lot of what I wrote was rubbish, but I judged my production on the things that bubbled up that looked good, things that I don’t think I could have written if I wasn’t in such a good mood. I simply edited out the rubbish when I’d calmed down, and used the good stuff.”
“Your sudden energy interrupted what you usually do in the day: yoga, taking a shower, and dealing with people. What did foregoing those things mean to you?”
“I didn’t mind. That was all secondary stuff. Most important to me was writing.”
“Is this energy you experience the same as the energy you utilised when throwing raves?”
“I never thought of it like that. It could be. Actually, I feel it wasn’t happy energy that led me to partying – it was depressions, thoughts of suicide, relationship break-ups, and negative emotions and events that made me look to drugs for solace. Also, a lot of energy, I channelled into sex.”
“You have to watch your swings. It seems that you don’t think of yourself as interesting when you’re not manic. You need to polish your thinking style, and be able to weigh the consequences of your ups and downs. You have a high state of denial - it’s something you must remedy if you want to have a normal life. ‘I like the highs! I can walk to the chow hall on my hands!’" Dr. O threw his arms in the air as he imitated me.
I laughed. “Here’s the rest of my homework.” I handed him my notes about my connection with the universal.
The Shakti (universal force) is the source of all power. We can do nothing unless the Shakti enables it. The ego resists this truth, and we believe we have our own power – which is a fallacy. We are unfullfilled until we discover the inner Shakti. Upon discovering it, we flow with good or bad events, conscious of the dance of the Shakti, the power behind all happenings and moods.
“Is that what you were looking for?” I asked.
“Yes. Yoga means union, everything, good and bad, dark and light. Whether studying Dao, the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy, or Christian theology at the mystical level, all paths lead to the union with the universal – including observance of the eight limbs of yoga. Such awareness doesn’t demand perfection. Whatever occurs is allowed to occur. The problem is: the mind interferes. The monkey mind. It doesn’t stay still. It behaves like a restless monkey grabbing at objects that aren’t there. The flow of the mind is the essence of many esoteric doctrines.”
“I understand that, but reading it and understanding it are different from being able to apply it.”
“It always is. You have to work at it. Look at ascetics, people who have isolated themselves from others. Not bums with their cheap wine and oblivion, but renunciators with their books and bags. Isn’t that an expression of intellectual energy? Although it has good and bad to it, it seems to enhance the path for some folks.”
“So where am I on that spectrum? I’m channelling my intellectual energy into writing, but I’ve also spun out of control into drugs and partying.”
“It doesn’t matter. My opinion has little to do with it. It is your image of yourself that’s important – your insights, your judgements. Can you imagine yourself five or ten years from now?”
“Yes. I have long-term goals. That’s why I try not to waste time. I’m happy knowing I’m moving in the right direction.”
“But goals shift. And rest is important. You need rest to be able to apply yourself to achieve your goals.”
“I need to rest more. I know this, but it seems impossible to apply.”
“That’s were mindfulness and self-awareness come in. If a Tibetan Buddhist monk lost his legs, he could still achieve his goal of making a journey around the Sacred Mountain. He would do it slower than most, but he would be mindful and self-aware. If your goal is to throw the best rave parties in the Valley –”
“Oh no, never again!”
“Let’s just assume that at one time it was. If you’d been mindful of the bigger picture instead of being excited by one thing and forgetting everything else, then you would have been more aware of the unintended consequences of your actions. Consequences that put you in here.”
“For homework, I’d like you to keep up the thought journal, and consider the difficulty you have with good intentions. As the old cliché goes: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Most folks don’t think about the consequences for themselves. With your physical practice – your asanas - I’d like you to be more mindful, and to consider your bone and muscle alignments. You should also try meditation to control your monkey mind."
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