A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Pleasure & Pain




The thought that got me thinking about writing a blog was that generally I don't feel pleasure or pain, I feel pleasure and pain, but generally more pleasure than pain.  Perhaps I experience more pleasure now because 14 or 15 years ago I was feeling more pain than pleasure.  Traumatic experiences tend to ground you because as time passes you know you are in less pain.  You know what severe pain feels like and you know what the absence of severe pain feels like finally.  But, of course, the pain remains until you find a way to work it through you so that you can get to the point where you can release it.  Some people continue to feed that pain with feelings of guilt and shame.  Their standards for how they should be treated by others drops.  They accept bad behavior.  They allow themselves to cultivate self-debasing attitudes.  They become the victims of their own poor self-esteem.

That's just what I did when I allowed myself to begin a relationship with someone who was struggling with his own mental illnesses and addictions.  I think that I entered into such a traumatic relationship because I thought something was wrong with me; I internalized shame which is a very serious kind of pain.  There was pleasure, both healthy and unhealthy pleasure, but as time went on the pain went deeper and deeper.   So deep that I had to reject a person who had been both a negative and a positive teacher, the most important teacher of my life till then.

There are good reasons why some victims bond with their abusers.  Victims and abusers are both teachers of pleasure and pain, the human condition.  It is a terribly unhealthy relationship but from every relationship you can learn.  And we are human beings and not characters in the plot of a film.  It's weird to me that we teach ourselves through fiction in books, music and film to look at the world as if it is split in half -- good guys/bad guys.  It is just not the truth.  We are all a mixture of good and bad or as I like to see it, healthy and sick.

As I see it now, pain is necessary.  No way would I want to go back into it, but I am very grateful that I lived through it.  Some Buddhists say "Nirvana is now."  Now I believe that that is a true statement, but I wouldn't have realized this if I had not gone through the hell.  It's a hard fact to face, but appreciation tends to deepen when you've lost the object of that appreciation.  People who have trouble breathing deeply value the breath that we take for granted.  So where are we putting our attention?  On what we lack, on what hurts, on what isn't working out.  The real focus I believe should be on what we have, what feels good and what is working well.
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