Editor’s note: The following article refers to spiritual concepts. Please read Lovefraud’s statement on Spiritual Recovery.
By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
While I am a Christian in belief, I also read about the beliefs of various other religions and philosophies because I think there are valuable lessons in the writings of each of them.
Lately as I have been increasing my study of “mindful” meditation. Since this was first practiced by Buddhists, there were some interesting points about Buddhist beliefs brought up by the author in a book I read called Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This book is about mindful meditation for stress reduction, and is not a religious work.
In the Buddhist tradition, the causes of unhappiness are Greed, Aversion and Delusion. I am going to expound on these three a bit.
Greed is our desire to have something which we think will make us happy, be it a new car, a career as a singer, or to have someone love us. We have this big desire for something; anything. Actually, that feeling of unrequited desire can definitely cause unhappiness.
I think about how “greedy” I was that my children would grow up to be successful men, happy, caring and loving men. How much unhappiness did I bring on myself for having this “greed”? I think about how I spent so much time wanting to be loved by the psychopaths in my life.
Jon Kabat-Zinn says:
That doesn’t mean we cannot desire things or that we should not have goals or ambitions. It simply reminds us that we generate less suffering in ourselves and others when we are aware of how attached we may be to our desires and then let that awareness modulate our thoughts, emotions and actions.
Aversion is the flip side of greed. Aversion comes from whatever you don’t want, don’t like, and/or would like to change. Many emotions are encompassed in aversion; anger, rage, fear, hate, and even smaller emotions like being irritable or resentful. In learning about aversion, in other words, being unhappy at how things are, I have spent too much of my life being unhappy because the world wasn’t what I wanted it to be. By acknowledging that the world or situation isn’t what I want, but not allowing those emotions to overwhelm me, I can spend less time being unhappy.
The author says:
Mindfulness of aversion is profoundly healing, because it offers us a way to at least momentarily dissolve the self-imposed but unconscious straight jacket of such automatic and unconscious reactions … it allows us to see that we have very real choices … and whether we are really better off with our emotional reaction.
Delusion, or the trap of self-fulfilling prophecies, is the exact opposite of wisdom. This is believing what we want to believe rather than seeing the reality. This delusion, this illusion, is what keeps us welded to the psychopath and believing that they will change.
The author says about Delusion:
We can always marshal any evidence we want in support of a particular view and then believe it even if it is patently not true.
Boy, if that doesn’t sum up the delusional life I led trying to believe what I wanted to believe about the psychopaths in my life!
Overcoming the unhappiness
However, we do not have to fall prey to any of these problems, we can control how we react to whatever is happening in our lives, good, bad or indifferent. I’ve realized in the last few months I have engaged in all three of these toxic things in my personal life and I have suffered for it in stress reactions, poor health, poor sleep, and depression. But I am determined to dig myself out of the abyss in which I have sunk by doing what I know is good for me, what I already know to do, and to study other positive things I can apply to my life. I am not powerless. Knowledge is power….if you use it.
Dr. Viktor Frankl lost everything except his life in a Nazi prison camp. After he was released, he wrote in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, “everything can be taken from a human being but one thing— the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances; to choose one’s own way.”