When finally taken to the hospital he asked the Vietnamese doctor for something to relieve his intense pain. The doctor explained that if he were to be cured they must not numb the pain, for the pain carried the hidden message of what ailed him and would lead them to the cure. Pg 3, Lost Connections
He lived because the doctors refused his request and instead let his pain show them what was needed for his healing.
One of the strong messages in this illuminating book is that pain is really our ally, rather than an enemy. This includes mental pain such as anxiety and depression.
Our states of mind can lead us into our healing when wisely and compassionately worked with—not avoided and pushed away as quickly as possible, as is often done in our Western civilization.
I find this similar to Dr. Carl Jung’s observation that the symptoms of our neurosis can lead us to our cure.
Johann Hari quotes studies from neuroscience resulting in much evidence that depression is not the result of an unbalanced brain, as was believed in the medical world, and that the many anti-depressant drugs that have been prescribed over the past are not so effective as once believed.
What neuroscience reveals is that depression comes from how we are living our lives, not an imbalance in the brain.
The profound solution to depression and anxiety the book presents is to find a way to reconnect with family, friends, our community, and our dreams. Depression lifts as we are connected with true meaning and value.
Instead of primarily dealing only with the physical symptoms, happiness and well being come as we begin to explore how we connect with what is going on in our lives, both inner and outer.
Where is our pain? Can we sit with our fear? Can we let it all become our ally, leading us into our healing?
Rather than get rid of the messenger, healing comes as we listen—painful though it may be. We don’t like to hear bad news. But if the message is that we are off the path, we need to listen.
I took heart when I read “….your distress is not a malfunction. It is a signal—a necessary signal………this pain isn’t your enemy, however much it hurts…it’s your ally—leading you away……..from the things that are hurting and draining you, and toward the things that will meet your true needs.” Pg 257 Lost Connections
This caused me to feel differently toward the sadness and angst I often experience. I now realize that these feelings don’t mean there is something wrong with me
I now see that sadness and anxiety are here to show me how I need to see differently, to develop more compassion for myself as well as others. I need to explore what is really missing in my life.
Sometimes we imagine that more money, more health, more resources will cure our ailments, but Hari’s message is that anxiety is a sign that we have lost our connection with what is truly valuable.
Where is our support system? Who can we call when we need help? Who has our back? With whom do we talk over the things that are meaningful in our lives?
Social media doesn’t help us connect. In fact, it usually does the opposite, causing envy and leaving us feeling more isolated.
Friends are REAL! You can speak with them on a one on one basis about meaningful subjects. Friends offer each other caring and support. They hold our hand and give us a shoulder to cry on. We all need this from time to time, more often than we might think!
In our modern world old values of taking care of each other has given way to an exaggerated need for privacy and space. Yes, we also need space, but we often carry it to its extreme, which leads to loneliness.
What are our real needs? It is vital to our health to have a web of supportive people with whom we can turn for psychological and physical nourishment and companionship.
Not to be avoided is paying attention to what we are thinking and feeling each moment. We matter! This is called mindfulness. What are the sensations in our bodies? Slowing down and experiencing the breath we are breathing helps us connect.
When we don’t give attention to what our mind and body are doing, we have lost vital connections. If there is pain where is it? And what are the sensations within what we call pain?
When closely examined we find pain moves and shifts. And by steadily paying attention to our sensations, thoughts and emotions, we are gradually led to what truly ails us. Then the way will open to our healing.
The universe loves us so completely that it shows us when have lost the path and it gives us clues how to find it again.
We were never intended to live disconnected from each other. Let us know we each have inner resources that guide us. And let us remember this for others.
Helpful phrases to use are:
May I have the inner resources to be present for my suffering.
May the power of lovingkindness sustain me.
May the power of lovingkindness sustain you.
We journey together.