ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Getting and Remaining out of Crisis Mode

Jack Bragen
Thursday October 26, 2017 - 02:06:00 PM

There are some people who could be thought of as "crisis junkies." The addiction to crisis may not be uncommon. A crisis brings adrenaline, it revs you up, and it blocks out certain sets of emotions.

Fear seems to have ways of reinforcing itself, such that getting rid of it can be very difficult. But it is not impossible to be rid of fear.

In the Dune Trilogy, science fiction from the 1960's, there was a saying: "...Fear is the mind-killer..." Does fear interfere with cognition? Yes, it probably does. Fear convinces you that you need to be afraid. You've probably heard this one: "FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real." While this may not always hold true, we could be rid of many of our fears and still be just fine.

When in "crisis mode" we may neglect a number of things that should be done. This includes enjoying life. It includes doing those extra things that we could be doing to make our lives and the lives of others better.  

If we are unable to be rid of our anxieties, our fears, and so on, we can learn to coexist with them. This means that we're not going to postpone enjoying life. And this entails acceptance on another level.  

Before being able to be rid of our fears via cognitive techniques, I believe it is necessary to be able to tolerate these fears and to function in spite of them. There is probably no shortcut to becoming free of fear.  

This doesn't mean that one must experience all of the realities of which we are afraid. It is not necessary to experience Armageddon to get past a recurring fear of that. However, we may need to be able to go to the store and buy a loaf of bread, at the same time as we are afraid that at any time, we could be vaporized by WWIII happening. In other words, our worst fears don't have to materialize in order to get past these fears, but we must be able to experience these fears, and at the same time, we must be "okay" on another level. If you are afraid to feel fear, you can not become the master of it.  

Being a "crisis junkie" could mean that we are afraid to let go of fear. We could be afraid that if we stopped being afraid, all of the bad things we fear are going to happen. This is the illusion that the fear is somehow protecting us.  

Fearfulness, brought into existence by evolution, was intended to be a self-protection mechanism. However, as adult human beings who possess all of our faculties, we can do okay without experiencing most of the fears we may have.  

"Crisis mode" brings a poor quality of life. Being stuck in that mode for a long period of time may make it more difficult to finally let go of it. When we finally let go of crisis mode, we will be different people. We will not be afraid to start new things. We will not be afraid to do things that we enjoy.  

In the not too distant past, I have experienced actual crises brought about by unforeseen circumstances. Having dealt with actual crises and having dug my way out of them, I am a stronger person for it. Yet, in the aftermath of all of these crises, which seem to happen one after another, it is hard to calm down. I keep expecting some new urgent problem to come up.  

But we must go on. Regardless of the demands we may have to meet, some of which could be unexpected, we have to live our lives.  

Getting out of crisis mode is important. You can not live effectively if controlled by fear. Mastering fear can do more for quality of life than almost anything concrete that you can do. When functioning from a space of not fearing anything (and I am not there yet) it could free us up to achieve almost anything we want in life.  

How to achieve this? That is the hard part.  

One possible route to get there is through various cognitive therapies, which seem to me to be Americanized versions of Buddhist practices.  

An advantage of these over actual Buddhist meditation is that you're cutting out the religious aspects, your cutting out the ceremonial parts, yet you are keeping something that could work to liberate the mind. Also, with "cognitive techniques" as opposed to Buddhism, you can continue with any religion you want, outside of that. So, if you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or of any faith, you don't have to discontinue it or feel that you are in conflict with your faith.  

Getting past fear also can include getting past the "fear of success." It could do a lot toward improving quality of life.  

When we climb past fear, often the next rung is anger. I believe you can't get past anger without first getting to anger. That doesn't mean you must become aggressive toward people or obnoxious. You must merely be in touch with that set of emotions. What you do with those emotions will be up to you. 

I'm scheduling the release of my new, self-published book, "Understanding People with Schizophrenia," for the beginning of December at the latest. It will be available on LULU, and a bit later on Amazon.