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Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Spiritual Solution

What do Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, and Celexa have in common? In fact, what do all of these mood altering substances have in common? Two thirds of all these substances are consumed right here in the United States.

(This piece is going to be a little long. I am hoping it is well worth your time.)

That number absolutely shocks me. So much so, that I think we can draw a couple of inferences and so help me- an assumption or two.

I think it's a safe bet to say that mood altering substances are over prescribed. And bear in mind other mood altering substances are available. Beer, wine, and liquor. Pot and other illegal narcotics. So what is the problem?

We are in the midst of a pandemic. A widespread pandemic wherein our society believes that the only solution for our mental problems are drugs. And while I can't deny that there are people sufficiently depressed, people who benefit from their effects, I also can't deny the obvious. Most of these people have no spiritual solution for depression. None. If they did, the consumption of mood altering substances would not be so glaring or so widespread.

So what happened to us? Why can't we find better methods of managing depression?

Quite frankly, we have lost our way. We have become a nation of self absorbed human beings without a spiritual connection to our communities and to our fellow men. We are divided. Exclusive. Special, according to our loved ones. And we have been marketed a panacea to cure our problems by a medical industry that needs to sell alcohol and drugs to grow profits. Capitalism. And our doctors, those that we trust, are complicit. They are the conduit through which drug companies can legitimately convince us that we need to buy their products. And we do.

I don't use mind altering substances any more. A couple of weeks ago, I went through a fairly severe bout of depression. It simply didn't leave. Ultimately I saw my doctor for the results of a blood panel and discussed some of my symptoms. Part of that discussion focused on my depression. As my doctor asked me about suicidal thoughts, I said that they didn't exist. Unconvinced, she offered up the possibility of an anti-depressant. Hours later, it dawned on me that suicide was a perfect excuse for over prescribing medication. I mean, what doctor wants to live with the thought that they mis- diagnosed a suicide? Or worse yet, get sued by a family of a suicide victim? That fear is real.

And it dawned on me that doctors have consumed the kool-aid. They are motivated to over prescribe these medications rather than be burdened by the potential death of a patient. They might not be the villains, the drug pushers or marketers, that I have always thought that they were.

So what changed over the years? How did we survive for so many years without mood altering substances?

We had a spiritual solution. We believed in a power greater than ourselves, some call that God. And we believed in each other. We didn't work so hard to separate ourselves from each other or our core values. What's wrong with us that we must label ourselves "special?" What's wrong with a common thread, a humility and ego that doesn't need to be better than others? In our society today, without a spiritual solution, you may think taking that prescription from a trusted doctor makes a lot of sense. A quick and easy cure.

It's not. Overcoming life's hurdles, even those associated with death, can be managed with a spiritual life and an intuitive belief in something greater than ourselves. We can accept death, even our own. We are so arrogant and terminally unique. Thinking that we know everything and desperately trying to find chemical solutions to our problems when we can't think our way out of an emotional logjam.

We practice contempt prior to investigation. We believe in drugs, but we can't believe in God. And with those miniscule minds that we possess, those depressed minds, we alone think we were blessed with the answers and if we can't find them...they must not exist. Nobody could possibly tell us something we don't already know.

Could they?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Armor for the Soul

Can you eliminate all anger? Perhaps not, but you can come awfully close.

I am going to illustrate the insanity that is anger using road rage as the conduit. Road rage is almost always exclusively anonymous- at least initially- and generally it comes about almost always, unexpectedly.

Years ago, I was following two cars while riding on my motorcycle. We were approaching a very narrow bridge at about 60 MPH. Suddenly, the pickup truck directly in front of me started to pass the car in front of it, just prior to the bridge. At about that same time, an oncoming commercial truck came into view in the southbound lane. What unfolded in the next three seconds was almost unbelievable. Trapped by the concrete walls of the bridge, the passing pickup had no choice but to floor it. The car he was passing slammed on the brakes and started smoking tires. I was grabbing all the brakes that I could but anyone that rides motorcycles knows that stopping time on a bike compared to a 4 wheeled vehicle is very difficult. The pickup completed the pass, the commercial truck got to the shoulder and I very narrowly avoided slamming into the rear of the car ahead of me. I was so enraged at the completely insane pass, that I followed the pickup driver 40 miles to his house, knocked on his door, and chewed his rear up one side and down the other. Dangerous, to say the least. But then, I thought I was entitled to anger.

Over the years, I probably "refereed" well over 100 road rage incidents. Absolute insanity.

So what emotional precursors must exist in order for full blown road rage to achieve maximum intensity?

The "victim" driver must always take the incident personally. They perceive someone else's driving as so self centered, callous, and stupid that it jeopardizes their safety or life. Lives of their loved ones. Perhaps it simply hinders or impedes them. But make no mistake about it, "victim" drivers always see themselves as victims.

Many people are simply unconscious. They drive like they live their lives, completely self absorbed and unconscious, concerned only with their needs and rarely do they show courtesy to others. I accept that those folks dwell amongst us. I also accept that these drivers are going to cross my path. I expect them. I also refuse to be victimized emotionally by their actions, knowing full well that these self absorbed individuals are simply living their lives. And if I allow them to anger me, they can ruin hours or even a whole day as I dwell on the incident. I cannot be happy allowing someone like that in my head. I give them no free space.

By emotionally risk managing myself in advance, and by refusing to accept my "victim" status when harrowing incidents do occur, I've been able to deal quite effectively at eliminating my anger.

It was put to the test yesterday, when a gal rolled up to a stop sign, looked my way, and pulled out in front of me- with less than 100 feet between us. As I geared down, hit my brakes, and switched lanes in a 35 MPH zone, I passed her. She was texting. I am not talking texting on the interstate- I am talking about texting in heavy traffic with signs and lights while cornering and running stop signs. To my credit, I was hardly annoyed. These unconscious and inexperienced drivers dwell amongst us. I know this. I had nearly forgotten about her by the time we reached the next traffic signal.

Family members cause us the greatest angst. Your ability to risk manage their hostile intentions well in advance- is your greatest asset. Family can say some of the nastiest and most diminishing things you will ever hear. Some will even tell you that they did it out of "love." Those attacks never come from love. They always come from fear and self centered ness.

By knowing and anticipating those people in your life who may cause you negative emotions, whether it is attack speech, diminishing or caustic speech, or unconscious texters operating motor vehicles...just let them behave as insanely as they want to. You can't do anything about their behavior anyway. All you can do is accept that such people exist, unconscious, fearful, and selfish...whether they exhibit that at a family barbeque or turning a corner while texting. And while you cannot control them- you can control whether they will impact you negatively or not.

Emotional freedom is armor for the soul.