The Best Defense Against Melancholy

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

photo by Ranoush

I might have found my ultimate defense against loss and grief. Its adoption and use though, is much more difficult than expected. Still, it is arguably the best balm to grief, anxiety, and sadness.

Every now and then, I get migraine headaches- the kind that leaves you with numbing cranial pain on the side of your head.  You’d have to be resting in a quiet dark room to feel any better.

Prior to the actual headache occuring, most migraine sufferers would experience visual distortions (dark spots/scaly bright patterns) that serve as premonitions. These premonitions are a sign of what’s to come, and have a downer-depressive effect. It has often left me in throes of helplessness and depression for a short period of time.

Ultimately, my psyche has found a remedy. It wasn’t pills the doctor gave though. It was the acceptance of and preparation for the inevitable headache that was to come, that brought relief to the pain of denial and anticipation. It amazes me how confronting our fears and worst possible scenarios brings about tranquility.

“Of course you are Pain- pain which the gouty man scorns, the dyspeptic suffers while he indulges himself, the girl endures in childbirth. You are mild if I can bear you and short lived if I cannot.”
-Seneca

This little trick is also an excellent strategy with life’s tribulations.

A note to self:

You worry yourself about with expected and unexpected misfortunes that will come to you in the future. You dread an event over the horizon that will bring you discomfort and unhappiness. Thus you suffer in advance, for an anticipated future you believe will be wretched.

You’ve been trying to teach yourself this idea of acceptance of the Worst Possible Outcome. To get rid of anxiety, expect whatever you’re afraid would happen, to happen in any case. Visualize the outcome as real as you can. It may give you some of the expected pain and unhappiness, but its magnitude and duration, will be less than you feared it to be.

This suppsed training to become “fearless” isn’t as pretty as it sounds. This develops in you, the ability to see things for what they truly are, and not color events with your own judgements.

“The discipline of Perception requires that we maintain absolute objectivity of thought: that we see things dispassionately for what they are…

It is not objects and events but the interpretations we place on them that are the problem. Our duty is therefore to exercise stringent control over the faculty of Perception, with the aim of protecting our mind from error.”
-Gregory Hays, introduction to Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

Contrary to popular belief, positive thinking and unfounded optimism is disastrous and harmful: it leaves you unprepared for the lashes and torments that life hurls at us. Prepare yourself for whatever Fortune has in store for you.

Another often practiced, but harmful attempt at a solutin you must avoid is the use of Opiates.

Sometimes we divert our minds with social activities and potential time-wasters: spending every spare moment with friends at the bar with a few beers, the latest movies, facebook, youtube, and whatnots. In the midst of these distractions are the reminders of your grief and loss.

It is better to conquer your sorrow, than to deceive it.

If merely cloaked under pleasures and busy-ness, our hunted minds eventually come back at us stronger than ever.

“But the grief that has been conquered by reason is calmed forever. I am not therefore going to prescribe for you those remedies which I know many people have used, that you divert or cheer yourself by a long and pleasant journey abroad, or spend alot of time carefully going through your accounts and administering your estate, or constantly be involved in some new activity. All these things help only for a short time; they do not cure grief, but hinder it. But I would rather end it rather than distract it.”
-Seneca

It is true then that by facing it, the Truth sets you free.

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