It’s amazing the turn-out I observed yesterday here in The City. people were coming out in droves. especially noticeable were young people from all demographics. This is good.
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Beyond Help, pt. III
“We all know sometimes life’s hates and troubles/ Can make you wish you were born in another time and space/ But you can bet you life times that and twice its double/ That God knew exactly where he wanted you to be placed/ so make sure when you say you’re in it but not of it/ You’re not helping to make this earth a place sometimes called Hell/ Change your words into truth and then change that truth into love/ And maybe our children’s grandchildren/ And their great-great grandchildren will tell”
— Stevie Wonder, As
It’s the beginning of February and most of the people who made New Years resolutions have stopped trying completely.
Let’s start from a different assumption today. To live is to know suffering. Let’s drop for the moment the assumption that left to their own devices, normal human beings are happy and that it’s only the “abnormals” that experience disruption of peace. Let’s assume instead that suffering is normal and it is the rare person who learns how to create peace of mind. If you’re wondering why this is so, the following is an attempt to uncover this puzzle.
First lets think of how many problems human beings have that non human beings can’t even imagine. Consider suicide. It occurs in every human population, and serious struggles with suicide are shocking in their persistence. Throughout your lifetime, you have about a fifty-fifty chance of struggling with suicidal thoughts at some level for at least two weeks. Almost 100 percent of all the people on the planet will at some point in their life contemplate killing themselves. Even very young, newly verbal childre3n occasionally do. Yet we have very little reason to believe that any nonhuman animals deliberately kill themselves.
That basic behavior pattern repeats itself in problem area after problem area. The fact is that most human beings struggle, even in the midst of seemingly successful lives. If you doubt me, ask yourself this question: How many people do you know really well who don’t experience periods in which they struggle with serious psychological or social problems, relationship issues, problems at work, anxiety, depression, anger, self control issues, sexual problems, fear of death, etc.? If you’re like most people, a list of such acquaintances will probably empty.
Research into the scientific data on human problems confirms this assumption. Let me throw out a few random facts. About 30 percent of all adults have a major psychiatric disorder at any given point in time, about 50 percent will have such a disorder at some point in their lives, and nearly 8o percent of these will have more than one serious psychological problem. Americans spend huge sums of money in their efforts to alleviate psychological pain.
For example, even though their impact on depression is only 20 percent better than a placebo (too small to be clinically significant), antidepressants are a ten-billion dollar industry . It’s shocking but our consumption of antidepressants is so high that our rivers and streams have become polluted with them, contaminating the fish we eat (Streater, 2003). But even these statistic, sad as they appear, underestimate the extent of the problem. When people are given open access to mental health care, only about half of those who seek help are diagnosed with a serious mental-health disorder. The other half are having problems at work, or in their marriages, or with their children, or they suffer from a lack of purpose in their lives, what philosophers call “existential angst,” a strong persistent feeling of apprehension and anxiety.
Marriages, probably the most important voluntary adult relationship most humans enter into, yet about 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce and remarriages (who says people aren’t optimistic? LOL) are no better. The statistics on fidelity, abuse, and marital unhappiness show that the majority of marriages that do stay intact are based on unhealthy relationships.
I could go for a long time – easily. Suffice it to say that by the time that all of the major behavioral problems human beings face are added together, the fact is that it is “abnormal” not to experience significant psychological struggles.
Thought you were unique, huh? Nope!
And yet, how can this be? I guess we all heard the admonition to eat all our food because some poor child was starving In Africa. We could probably empathize with such a child experiencing horrendous conditions. But for most of us reading this, war, hunger, and deprivation is not a fact of life. Yet, in many areas, people who are more fortunate, intelligent, and capable are not necessarily happier than their less fortunate counterparts in other parts of the world. People who live in countries that have abundance are not necessarily happier than those living in less affluent societies. Again, how can this be?
Apply this question to your own life. Isn’t it true that the things you are struggling with and trying to change tend to persist, even though you’re competent in other areas of your life? Isn’t it true that you’ve tried to solve your problems, but have yet to come to find a real solution?
Indeed, I’m willing to bet that you may have already tried many solutions, and yet here you are where you started.
I’m asking you to keep these questions in mind as you read my rants. Why is human suffering so endemic, why is yours so difficult to change, and what can you do about it? Many o my posts explore these questions in detail. I think I can help some arrive to their own answers.
I’m not asking these questions from an arrogant or critical stance. I’m not going to blame you for your troubles, sending the message that your life would be fine if only you tried harder and got your shit together. That’s bullshit. You would be surprised how many people like to hear that shit. Moreover, you know why people like to hear that shit? Because they’re already beating up on themselves, that’s part of the reason why suffering persists. I’m coming from a perspective of compassion and identification; what you read hear comes from my own struggles and those of the people I work with. These questions are those I’ve asked myself, sometimes from the depths of despair. I believe that there is a way that provides an answer; and it is one that can be directly helpful to you.
Streater, S. (2003, October 17). Drug found in fish stir area concerns. Fort Worth Star-Telegram.