Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Prayer as Replacement for the Meditation that Psychotherapists Urge

Important in all currently-heralded forms of cognitive psychotherapy is an emphasis on “mindfulness,” exhortations to meditate. If you are a dedicated practitioner of Judaism or Christianity, this might pose a problem for you if you are a psychotherapy patient or client. I know that “it drove me crazy” over a period of more than a decade, when I could not persuade my psychiatrist that I spent/spend at least as long daily at prayer than he was encouraging me to meditate. He wanted 15-20 minutes, whereas with all the blessings and the prayer service, I was sure that I focused on G-d’s majesty and sovereignty at least as long as he desired me to focus on my own ego via my breath. 

Of course, both of these monotheistic religions have traditions of meditation, but they are G-d focused, not centered on the self.

I suggest that you keep a time log for a few days and jot down in it all the blessings and prayers that you say, as to their duration. Show this to your mental health clinician the next time that this problem arises. It may “seal the deal” to persuade him or her that you are experienced at focusing and becoming calm, which after all are the outcomes therapy seeks in pressuring you to concentrate on secular, or worse for the religious in a Western tradition, Eastern phraseology or on your breath.

If you get nowhere with that stratagem, urge that a verse from Psalms be the focus of your meditation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

How to "Crash" A Party--Enjoying Yourself at a Gathering

The first step needs to take place long before you go to the place where you have been invited. Undertake to establish an introduction for yourself that emphasizes your hobbies, your education, and any occupational licenses that you have. Practice the introduction in front of a mirror or with the feedback of a member of your family. Make the introduction so familiar to you that you can say it in a number of different ways, so that it will sound natural and unrehearsed.

Now, you are there at the party, function, or get-together. The cardinal rule is: Divide and conquer. You cannot make friends with a group. One at a time will be your motto. 

With each person you talk with, ask questions to draw him or her out. Everyone is most interested in his or her own life, and will feel engaged to have you care—or at least, seem to care. Indeed, by seeming to care, you will likely find that indeed you become interested in the person with whom you are speaking.

Ask such questions as—
How do you know our host?
How did you spend your weekend? Or, what are your plans for the weekend to come?

Avoid talking or asking questions about politics. Unless everyone at the gathering is of the same religion and the same level of observance of it, avoid talking or asking questions about religion as well.

When your conversation partner asks about you, stick to your prepared introduction and be circumspect beyond that. Do not start to speak about your psychiatric disability. (If this gathering is after all focused on disability issues, of course your symptoms and history are open to be spoken about—but it is still best to focus on the other person, not yourself.)

Fancy, you Aced that party, function, or get-together! You did not need to “crash” it at all!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

As You Have Been Given So Much, Give Back!

You have received
  • From the A-mighty, “who has sustained you through this day,” to quote Jewish prayer;
  • From family—who have stood by you throughout your illness and your recovery to date;
  • From friends and neighbors;
  • From teachers and the educational opportunities they gave to you;
  • From jobs that you have held, even part-time gigs like baby sitting or lawn mowing; and,
  • From your country.
Give back!

Anybody can give a friendly smile and a greeting to each person met in the course of a day. It is a good way to give back when you are feeling unable to cope with undertaking volunteer work or just bringing a meal or snack to a neighbor in need, visiting someone who you know is sick, or other charity that involves more time, patience, and “feeling 100%” yourself. 

The Jewish tradition is that you should give to members of your family first, and then in concentric circles those further outside your home.

Monday, February 18, 2019

False Friends and True

[There are two posts today. Next week, with G-d's help, I will be moving house, so next week's designated essay is being posted today.]

If my experience is any guide, your family will be the only “carry-over” people upon whom you can count if you have had bouts of severe mental illness. It is only the friends you make during the course of your recovery whom (speaking for myself,) I have been able to count on to be enduring—and this may be true for you as well. 

My best friend I met through work with NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (of the United States.) She is a family member of three diagnosed people. No matter how close prior friends had been to me, they all fell to the wayside as being “false” during the course of my recovery. My “true” friends outside my family never had to put up with the acutely-ill me. Thanks be to the Good L-rd, I have found a number of them.....

"A friend in need is a friend indeed." Few people other than those doing religious charity or professional clinical work will be there for you in acute illness as will be your family, and the latter will be true to you on-going.

For Despair, What Works for Me....

For Those Times When G-d’s Sunshine is Hidden, and You Despair
Depression is a real biological disease that results in terms of days lost from work, worldwide, a number that is only second to spinal conditions. Grief from the passing of a loved one is natural, but biological depression is an illness. There are medicines and procedures that you can use to move towards lessening of a depression, the simplest of which is getting enough natural light (or blue light from a special unit) in the early morning. If you think that you are depressed, you need to see your psychiatrist if you have one, or your primary-care physician.

What about spiritual malaise? It comes to all pessimists by habit, and even to optimists at times. I do not know a religion better than I know Judaism to be able to state whether there is a season to be depressed, but I know in Judaism that the fast days commemorating our so-painful losses harness for many people that impulse. On the festival days, one is commanded to rejoice, and the plentiful meals and singing--and sometimes dancing--make it possible to have a respite from spiritual malaise. It is possible to—and may be advantageous for you to—join your lot with a group whose customs aim at being happy in G-d’s world, such as I have found in Lubavitch Chabad.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Learn to Look for the Good in All Experiences

My religious beliefs underscore my natural tendency as an optimist to see the best side of everything. Divine Providence sometimes, and sometimes for veritably lengthy periods of time, can be hard to see through the fog therewith pertaining. For most aspects of my life, it has been actually years before I have been able to see why I had to go through some experience or another. I understand only when I can discern how I grew because of it. 

I am so constituted that I often quote to myself the atheist Voltaire’s sentence, “Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds,” completely without putting his sarcastic spin upon it. I take it quite literally and--eventually--always find it true.

There is a Jewish tradition that G-d gives the hardest lives to those who are the most worthy in terms of character. I think that it goes the other way 'round. "What does not kill me makes me stronger" is probably the only thing that Nietzsche wrote (paraphrase) that makes sense to me. But it takes a disposition to like people and be flexible in order to be refined by hard experiences. After all, some who have undergone suffering become criminals..... 

By looking to see what you can learn from every experience, and by being primed to try to find the good aspect of each, you can lead a happier life.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Dating After a Diagnosis of a Major Psychiatric Disorder

Personally, I remained “on the dating scene” for nine years after my initial episode that was later diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder. I stopped dating altogether because I saw that my character defects were making me repeat the same stupid choices. Therefore, I never did marry, to my regret—but never initiated a marriage that would have necessitated a divorce and harm to the children, either!

My advice is that you seek an intermediary to introduce you to a compatible person who has a psychiatric disability, though not necessarily the same one that you do. (Opposites attract.) The traditional Jewish Schadhan (professional matchmaker) would be an ideal agent if you are of that group. An intermediary will handle the issue of disclosing your disability with much greater sensitivity than you would do yourself. And she or he will be able to “accentuate the positive!”

[I am in the midst of moving from one apartment to another, and posts cannot be promised on Tuesdays until I am relatively settled. This one is two days late!]

Hang On Till Tomorrow--Your Attention Will Probably Have Deflected from the Present Despair

Hang on until tomorrow because it can’t be the same bad as it was today, even if you don’t achieve a decent day. Why? Your life is not ...