Stopping the Curse and Cycle of Mental Illness Before it is Cast (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 212)

My mother was a highly intelligent, hyper-aware individual. She was also unquestionably mentally ill. It is impossible for me know or assess how much of her mental illness was purely genetic/inherited and how much was environmentally nurtured. I am confident that both factors are involved in such a disease, but her ratio of risk from each factor will always remain a mystery to me. I have come to believe that the environmental factor, the taught and imprinted perception and behavioral interpretation, thrust upon a child from their parents (their earliest authority figures) is the primary governing consequence which determines the child’s ultimate susceptibility to the degree or extent of suffering from mental illness in the overwhelming majority of cases.

If my assessment is accurate, that means that the majority of mental illness is actually as much or more of a behavioral problem as it is a mental one. I can prove this in animals and the correlation to people is more than easy to illustrate to anyone who is willing to listen and consider the obvious evidence.

As a result of suffering from mental illness and lacking the help, support, recognition, comprehensive understanding, and nurturing stability required to treat such a condition, my mom fell into the predictable state of severe anti-social introversion, paranoia, chronic anxiety, and severe insecurity. In other words, the instability she had suffered, her failure to understand it, and her inability to put it in its proper perspective, left her mentally suffering, crippled with fear and believing her best option was isolation from almost everyone.

Yet still, a spark of desire for human connection remained in her, as it does even in those of us who are the most damaged. My father cared for her the best he could and I believe loved her to the fullest extent she would allow. Because of her overriding insecurity, she banked almost all of the love she thought she needed in the world into her children; into entities that she could control, and “protect”,  and “love”. But, protection and love are easily twisted by an insecure psyche, and most commonly, a parent suffering from such will over-nurture (spoil) their children in an effort to “buy or purchase” their child’s love and commitment. This is doomed to fail. It weakens and destabilizes the children, teaching them to be bullies who are paradoxically often dependent on those they bully. Those children also have often inherited the high awareness and high drive of the mentally ill parent which often confuses the matter exponentially more. These children, now high drive, highly aware, bullyish, but also codependent on those they bully, eventually grow into adults.

I dealt with such issues for a very long time and only through tenacious unrelenting introspection, and perhaps the luck of my external life, was I able to move beyond this curse or possession. In those who remain trapped and suffering, they often detect or feel an unrecognizable inescapable pathogen, but they can never quite come to the point of realizing that the psyche they have chosen to live by is the demon that torments them so hellishly.

The key to avoiding such suffering in any individual and in such an individual’s eventual children is to stop the cycle and the curse before it develops, not after it has snowballed into a juggernaut beelzebub reproducing abomination for years and years, or even half a lifetime. Children, most especially the highly aware and the highly intelligent, need the structure, insight, and guidance, of a truly stable and balanced pack leader in their early developmental stages to ward off all of the demons of mental anguish and instability which constantly swirl about to infect, and linger, and fester in our souls.

This is why behavior and genuine stability is so important. It is the only way to break the cycle. It is the only way to deliver our highly aware and highly intelligent children, and even our high drive pets, from the otherwise inevitable confusion, suffering, and mental illness created by being trapped in an unstable pack (support group).

Jeff Cribb DVM          2017

Struck With (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 209)

What I hear from trauma survivors, what I’m always struck with, is how upsetting it is when other people don’t help them or don’t acknowledge the reality of their situation or respond very poorly to the suffering, needs, and distress of all of those involved. I’m very struck by that.

And I’m very struck by how many Holocaust survivors got through because there was one person that focused on their survival or because they focused on another’s.

So, I believe that how we behave towards one another individually and in society can make a very big difference in the effects of environmental events (trauma, tragedy, disaster) on our molecular biology (expression of PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc.). It becomes very interesting when you think about it that way, but I believe it’s true.

Rachel Yehuda
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience
Transcript excerpt from On Being recorded 2015

A Capacity for Irrelevant Dancing (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 198)

Blood beats in the ears. Beat, beat, beat. A slow drum in the darkness, beating in the ears of one who lies wakeful with fever, with the sickness of too much misery. It beats unceasingly, in the ears, in the mind itself. Body and mind are indivisible and in the spirit blood painfully throbs. Sad thoughts droop through the mind. A small pure light comes swaying down through the darkness, comes to rest, resigning itself to the obscurity of its misfortune. There is resignation, but blood still beats in the ears. Blood still painfully beats, though the mind has acquiesced. And then, suddenly, the mind exerts itself, throws off the fever of too much suffering and, laughing, commands the body to dance. The introduction to the last movement comes to its suspended, throbbing close. There is an instant of expectation and then, with a series of mounting trochees and a downward hurrying, step after tiny step, in triple time, the dance begins. Irrelevant, irreverent, out of key with all that has gone before. But man’s greatest strength lies in his capacity for irrelevance. In the midst of pestilences, he builds cathedrals; and a slave, he can think the irrelevant and unsuitable thoughts of a free man. The spirit is slave to fever and beating blood, at the mercy of an obscure and tyrannous misfortune. But irrelevantly, it elects to dance in triple measure—a mounting skip, a patter of descending feet.

Antic Hay

Aldous Huxley          1923

Love Not of the Real Child (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 197)

It is one of the turning points in therapy when the patient comes to the emotional insight that all the love she has captured with so much effort and self-denial was not meant for her as she really was, that the admiration for her beauty and achievements was aimed at this beauty and these achievements, and not at the child herself. In therapy, this small and lonely child that is hidden behind her achievements wakes up and asks: “What would have happened if I had appeared before you, sad, needy, angry, furious? Where would your love have been then? And I was all these things as well. Does this mean that it was not really me you loved, but only what I pretended to be? The well-behaved, reliable, empathic, understanding, and convenient child, who in fact was a never a child at all? What became of my childhood? Have I not been cheated out of it? I can never return to it. I can never make up for it. From the beginning I have been a little adult.

The Drama of the Gifted Child: the Search for the True Self

Alice Miller          1994

But Not (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 194)

Pretext Comment: This passage is the most succinct yet comprehensive statement I believe that I have ever come across which explains the overwhelming majority of ongoing mental illness in any of its various forms.

I knew

what had been done to me,

but not

what I had done to myself.

thoughts without a thinker

Mark Epstein          1995

The Two Poles of the False Self; The Root of much Mental and Behavioral Illness (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 190)

Paraphrased pretext note: According to Buddhist psychology, narcissism is an inherent consequence or side effect of maturation in human existence. It does not necessarily have to become a demon of future suffering, instability, and mental anguish, but most often it does. The adults suffering from such eventually become parents and pass this insufferable torch onto their children via their over invasiveness/intrusiveness or neglectful behavior in relation to their child’s true self. The child’s narcissistic anchor is unable to lock and hold on a stable parental entity in this dynamic and is thus unable to naturally autocorrect by withering away into oblivion from whence it came. Instead, the narcissistic anchor becomes a narcissistic “demon” possessing the child and that demon then assumes one of two possible versions, creating the shell of a false self around the child. Often, the child grows into an adult who continues to carry the demon for the rest of their life.

Cribb 2017

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Just as the philosophers of the Buddha’s day could be described as either eternalists (who believed in an immortal heaven, God, or real self) or annihilationists (who believed only in the meaninglessness or futility of life, so the human psyche finds comfort in alternatively embracing one or the other of these views. they are in fact, the two poles of the false self: namely, the grandiose self developed in compliance with the parent’s demands and in constant need of admiration, and the empty self, alone and impoverished, alienated and insecure, aware only of the love that was never given. The grandiose self, while fragile and dependent on the admiration of others, believes itself to be omnipotent or self-sufficient and so retreats to aloofness or remoteness, or, when threatened, clings to an idealized other from whom it hopes to retrieve its power. The empty self clings in desperation to that which it feels can assuage its hollowness or retreats to a barren void in which it is unapproachable and which reinforces the belief in its own unworthiness. Neither feels entirely satisfactorily, but to the extent that we are governed by the demands of the false self, we can envision no alternative.

thoughts without a thinker

Mark Epstein, M.D.          1995

Awakening or Bondage (Warrior Poet Mental Yoga 185)

Yet, one of the most compelling things about the Buddhist view of suffering is the notion, inherent in the Wheel of Life image, that the causes of suffering are also the means of release; that is, the sufferer’s perspective determines whether a given realm is a vehicle for awakening or bondage. Conditioned by the forces of attachment, aversion, and delusion, our faulty perception of the realms—not the realms themselves—cause suffering.

thoughts without a thinker

Mark Epstein, M.D.          1995