06 July 2007

New Roses

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Is this bullshit really necessary? Neuroses, while they are inarguably
a pain in the fucking neck, are not actually as intractable as Big Pharma
would have you believe.


You know what I can't wait for? Yeah, that's right - football season. I love football because it gives me an opportunity to take a gigantic emotional dump in public without getting arrested or having to buy booze. I never thought of myself as an exhibitionist or anally expulsive until I caught myself freaking out and screaming like a stone-cold lunatic at a Seahawks home game - correction - every Seahawks home game. (I hope to God you're using the term "anally expulsive" in the psychoanalytic sense and not actually firing turd javelins out of the 300 level. -Ed.) Actually going that nuts in public is so freeing that it makes me wonder why there aren't places where you can go and drop your inhibitions and just run buck-wild without having to take some kind of psychoactive substance. (There are. They're called whorehouses and football games. And neither one of them is free. -Ed.) Seems like there would be a lot less angst in the world if there was a place where you could just peel back your social mask and get batshit freaknuts without fear of reprisal. (Hmm. Well now you've ruled out football games. -Ed.)

Which brings me to neuroses.

Our talk on Sunday about neuroses - what it is and how to deal with it - got me to thinking, which is sometimes not a bad thing. Sometimes I use my brain for good and not for evil. Then again, sometimes my brain is not so good to me. Maybe it's bad to me because I have not yet given it what it wants, kinda like women I used to date who thought I could read their minds. They thought I was an incredible jerk for not simply giving them what they wanted without them having to ask for it. Maybe my brain is exactly that kind of pain-in-the-ass. Maybe my brain is in fact in my ass, like I'm some kind of latter-day brontosaurus. That would explain a LOT. It might even explain why I digress so often and so readily when I'm trying to make a point.

Oh look, a bird!

What the hell was I talking about? Oh yeah, neurosis.

I should know a thing or ten about neurosis as my neuroses are beyond multitudinous. They are legion. It's like having a petting zoo full of comically deformed barnyard animals. Pigs with antlers. Sheep with steering wheels. Goats with extra goats on them. Fortunately, neurosis husbandry for me has moved beyond affliction into the realm of hobby. In other words, it is no longer an obsession but more of a bemusement. I take a walk every once in a while down the grotty stalls of depression, anxiety, neurasthenia and phobia, stopping to pat each on the head in turn and give it a peck of oats. Each neurosis then gives a pitiful bleat and ralphs on my Wellingtons.

Suffice it to say that I know a lot about neuroses (including the fact that phrase has 40 letters and 11 spaces in it). So to answer the questions you had when we were discussing the subject, I sewed together a number of definitions from sources medical and otherwise, and came up with a definition of neurosis that just about meets everything I know about the subject. It is this:
Neurosis is a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physical complaints without objective evidence of disease, all in various degrees and patterns, dominate the personality. It is a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety or indecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment not attributable to any neurological or organic dysfunction.
(I think its intractability would be the indicator of whether it is a personality disorder or not. Sometimes it is and sometimes it ain't. It can also be transient, like in response to extreme stress or whatnot.)

Does that sound familiar at all? But wait, here's the good news. (My oil needs changing and my horse is pregnant? -Ed.) Neuroses arise from the inclination to focus on only the negative aspects of an event or situation. If you are so inclined, then you will have anxiety. You will be depressed. You will fall prey to magical thinking, believing that your rituals and systematic avoidances will have a direct influence on your outcomes. Worse yet, you will have manifold physical complaints without frank and objective evidence of disease or pathogens.

Yes it gets better! How do I know? Because thinking that way is just an inclination. It's not a certainty. It is not a truth about reality as a whole. It is a way that you have chosen to think about things, and other people would think differently about the same situation. On another day, with more sleep, I myself might even think differently and act differently in the same situation. I might see more possible outcomes than only the negative ones that I see right now.

To wit, I can be neurotic, know that I'm not neurotic every single day, and have faith that this neurosis too shall pass.

Martin E. P. Seligman one of the forefathers of positive psychology and former head of the APA lists depression and anxiety as the top two most curable neuroses in his book "What You Can Change And What You Can't". Considering that friggin' everybody and their dysfunctional uncle seems to suffer from those two things, that fact alone seems to offer a great deal of hope to humanity as a whole. Most heartening to me is the strong evidence that he presents that proves that panic does not respond to any medication and can be unlearned. UNLEARNED. When I was diagnosed with panic disorder in 1984, they told me it was intractable, could not be cured, and that I would be on medication for the rest of my life. I wasn't satisfied with that diagnosis and did everything I could to simply not ever feel like that again. And I sure as Eli Lilly didn't want to keep eating the truckloads of brain-stopping will-withering pills that they were giving me. I didn't know at the time that what I was doing by creating a program to deal with my panic was called "unlearning it". I thought it was called "how to not feel like shit every day". In the end, panic proved to be just an inclination - a patterned way of thinking, like the inclination I used to have to smoke cigarettes or order a Domino's pizza each and every goddamn day, both of which I am now disinclined to do. And just as a ten ton flatbed truck has the nearly unquenchable inclination to barrel down a 10% grade it is therefore not easy to stop, but with the right amount of force applied at the right time, it can be stopped.

Know what this means? Mm hmm. If this idea catches on, you better dump every bit of stock you have in Big Pharma.



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