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  • One of the great problems of human beings is that we're far too good at keeping going.

  • We're experts at surrendering to the demands of the external world,

  • living up to what is expected of us and getting on with the priorities as others around us define them.

  • We keep showing up and being an excellent boy or girl, and we can pull this magical feat off for up to decades at a time,

  • without so much as an outward twitch or crack.

  • Until, suddenly, one day, much to everyone's surprise, including our own, we break.

  • The rupture can take many forms. We can no longer get out of bed. We fall into a catatonic depression.

  • We develop all-consuming social anxiety. We refuse to eat. We babble incoherently. We lose command over part of our body.

  • We're compelled to do something extremely scandalous and entirely contrary to our normal selves.

  • We become wholly paranoid in a given area.

  • We refuse to play by the usual rules in our relationship, we have an affair, ramp up the fighting

  • or otherwise poke a very large stick into the wheels of day-to-day life.

  • Breakdowns are hugely inconvenient for everyone, and so, unsurprisingly, there is an immediate rush to medicalize the problem

  • an attempt to excise it from the scene, so that business as usual can restart.

  • But this is to misunderstand what's going on when we break down.

  • A breakdown is not merely a random piece of madness or malfunction,

  • it's a very real, or be it very inarticulate, bid for health.

  • It is an attempt by one part of our minds to force the other into a process of growth,

  • self-understanding and self-development, which it has hitherto refused to undertake.

  • If we can put it paradoxically, it's an attempt to jumpstart a process of getting well, properly well,

  • through a stage of falling very ill.

  • The danger, therefore, if we merely medicalize a breakdown and attempt to shift it away at once,

  • is that we're going to miss the lesson embedded within our sickness. A breakdown isn't just a pain, though it is that too of course.

  • It's an extraordinary opportunity to learn.

  • The reason we break down is that we have not, over many years, flexed very much.

  • There were things we needed to hear inside our minds that we deftly put to one side.

  • There were messages we needed to heed, bits of emotional learning and communicating we didn't do, and now, after being patient for so long, far too long,

  • the emotional self is attempting to make itself heard in the only way it now knows how.

  • It has become entirely desperate, and we should understand

  • and even sympathize with its mute rage. What the breakdown is telling us above anything else is that

  • it must no longer be business as usual, that things have to change or (and this can be properly frightening to witness)

  • that death might be preferable.

  • Why can't we simply listen to the emotional need calmly and in good time, and avoid the melodrama of a breakdown?

  • Because the conscious mind is inherently lazy and squeamish

  • and so reluctant to engage with what the breakdown eventually has to tell us with brutality.

  • For years, it refuses to listen to a particular sadness, or there is a dysfunction in a relationship we're in flight from,

  • or there are desires it sweeps very far under the proverbial carpet.

  • We can compare the process to a revolution. For years, the people press the government to listen to their demands and adjust.

  • For years, the government makes token gestures but shuts its ears,

  • until one day, it is simply too much for the people,

  • who storm the palace gates, destroy the fine furnishings and shoot randomly at the innocent and the guilty.

  • Mostly, in revolutions, there is no good outcome. The legitimate grievances and needs of the people are not addressed or even discovered.

  • There is an ugly civil war, sometimes, literally, suicide. The same is true of breakdowns.

  • Yet, a good mental physician tries hard to listen to rather than censor the illness.

  • They detect within its oddities a plea for more time for ourselves,

  • for a closer relationship, for a more honest, fulfilled way of being, for acceptance of who we really are sexually.

  • That's why we started to drink or to become reclusive,

  • or to grow entirely paranoid or manically seductive.

  • A crisis represents an appetite for growth that hasn't found another way of expressing itself.

  • Many people, after a horrific few months or years of breakdown, will say:

  • "You know, I don't know how I'd ever have gotten well, if I hadn't fallen ill."

  • In the midst of a breakdown, we often wonder whether we have gone mad. We have not. We're behaving oddly no doubt,

  • but beneath the surface agitation, we are on a hidden yet logical search for health.

  • We haven't become ill, we were ill already. Our crisis, if we can get through it, is an attempt to dislodge us from a toxic status quo

  • and it represents an insistent call to rebuild our lives on a more authentic and sincere basis.

One of the great problems of human beings is that we're far too good at keeping going.

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B1 US breakdown attempt ill emotional listen usual

The Importance of a Breakdown

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    Evangeline posted on 2021/03/23
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