Why on earth do we expect our brains to work perfectly? If you bang your knee on the corner of the bed it hurts like hell, swells up and a few days later a bruise spreads out. Your body responds to trauma, repetitive work and strange sudden movements.
When you’re reaching over all the junk in the cupboard under the stairs, trying to grab the hoover at the back, you’re not shocked when a pain shoots up your back (who is this ‘you’ guy?
He sounds like a complete idiot!) You know that your body has its limits; when you push past them, there are anatomical mechanisms like synapses that tell you you’re doing something stupid.
So why do we imagine that our brains are different? For some reason we expect our brains to be perfect. We believe our brains will survive the horrors that each has to absorb: the vile images and cruel injustices that everyone experiences, in their own individual way.
Anything construed crassly as ‘bad’ has to go. All good. It has to be all good, happy, positive, lovely-dovely stuff. Out with that bad negative thought. You don’t want that dreary darkness dragging you down, oh no. You’re in control of your brain, and you’re saying it all has to be good.
Get yourself a dose of Mindfulness. Be aware of who you are right now and appreciate your life as it happens. Fight the fear and pack a parachute. Load up your quiver with a fistful of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) arrows and let those babies fly as soon as you feel the slightest bit of anxiety bubbling up from your soul’s abyss.
Maybe we’re trying to cure something that isn’t unwell. If it ain’t broke, don’t spend your children’s inheritance at the psychotherapist and the rest of your life on SSRIs that you don’t need.
This is not about depression. That’s another story. This is about you out there, battling with your own brain. You’re not depressed. You’re just trying to be a better person. They tell you to be mindful, aware, positive, appreciative: all good stuff, without question, but life isn't like that.
More to the point, you’re not like that. Sure, part of you is at least a little of all those yummy things, and sometimes you’re zippeddy-pip with life and the universe. Sometimes you can go for months without losing a single sock in the laundry.
Yet there are periods when life all goes nasty, like a wet toothbrush falling into the cobwebs down there behind the sink, beyond where your cleaning powers go.
Oh goody. My toothbrush is full of other people's cruddy putrid waste, several species of insect larvae and oh, splendid, a black bic biro top covered in hair.
Inside you want to scream and wail and give out to the Lord of the Dance, but hang on, you’re meant to be all calm and see it for what it is. It’s just a dirty toothbrush. A mere peccadillo in the universal order of things.
So how do you react? Can you react in a positive way?
No, you can’t and you shouldn’t even try, because you’re not built all mindful and positive. You are human. You're just a unique beautiful bloody ridiculous human. As a human you are part of a species blessed with this colyoom’s old favourite: The Four Effs Of Humanity:
We are Fallible; Freaked Out; Fucked Up and Fantastic.
‘Fallible’, obviously, in that we all make mistakes. Freaked Out’, in that it’s a very rare person, or more accurately a liar, who purports never to have been scared by this perilous journey of life. ‘Fucked Up’, simply because we all have families. Nuff said there, and ‘Fantastic’ because yes, we are, we’re blooming amazing. We are generous, loving, caring and sympathetic. Hell, we even went the extra mile and became empathetic. We plan surprise birthday parties and laugh and cry at adverts on the tele and yes, we’re just absolutely Fantastic, with a capital F; but we are not perfect.
Surely it’s the contrast with sad that makes happy so great? However trite that might sound, a good amount of awareness seems to have been washed away by the tidal wave of Mindfulness going on. Nothing against it. In fact I think it’s terrific. I love Tai Chi and Yoga and Meditation and anything that brings you Peace and Joy with even more Capital Letters.
Yet by focusing on your aspirations for positive enlightenment, you’re ignoring the mental elephant in the room, which is never a good idea. Ignored elephants are notorious for causing crazy damage to your brainbox.
We are fallible, so we’re going to make mistakes. We’re also probably going to hate someone. We’re going to feel gut-squeezingly terrified by a challenge. At some point in our lives, we’ll feel absolutely bewilderingly confused.
We have evolved over millennia to feel a vast range of emotions, so why do we now choose to avoid them? I’m not suggesting that we ignore all curative therapy. I’m just saying that maybe it’s vital to feel sad and blue. On a rare day, a little bit of hopeless is okay.
There’s a reason that constant 100% Positive Thinking doesn’t come naturally to us humans. It creates conflict by its own insisting existence. Life is not all good. Alongside all the jolly fun in the sun custard cream stuff, each of us is constructed with differing amounts of anxiety, fear, dark moods and depressive tendencies.
How self-aware can you be if you seek to ignore who you are, by refusing to acknowledge several vital facets of your own make up? How mindful is it possible to be if you deny what is an intrinsic part of you?
Surely, if we’re going fulfil our potential as sentient human beings, it’s best to know what we’re made of and accept it. We need to stop trying to cure ourselves of simply being ourselves.