Written by: Kayzad Jokhi
August 1, 2021: Let’s wind the clocks back a bunch of decades or so. How often would you hear someone say, “I am depressed” or “I have anxiety issues”. For Christ’s sake, the ‘Great Depression’ was actually used to describe the state of the economy, not psychology. We have a great depression of our own today, and for purely psychological reasons. It is a cause for concern, and while you personally may not be able to control the great depression in society today (yet), the least you can do is control your own great depression. Build your resilience.
Evolution and Resilience
Humans lived in rough conditions, to say the least. They were nomads, they had no stable source of food, they were definitely not on the top of the food chain, and living conditions were pretty damn harsh. They went out on the hunt each day, every day, not knowing if they will be bested by a beast of the wild, or a snake lurking in the tallgrass. They moved from place to place, delving into the unknown, not knowing if the next land will provide enough food and nutrition to make it forward.
Human beings were resilient, because that was the cost of survival. Indeed, ‘survival of the fittest’ is not merely a theory; it is a truism. This resilience has existed in us even before language came about.
The Role of Language
If you think thoughts shape language, think again. Language shapes thought. Other creatures are capable of thinking and even communicating, but distinct language is peculiar to humans and humans alone. Language makes the brain more nuanced, multilingual speakers are known to be cognitively sharp and of keen mind.
Language brought Homo Sapiens to the top of the food chain, with their advanced ability to coordinate amongst each other, ever increasing their sophisticated cognitive processing; language is what helped Sapiens wipe their larger and stronger cousins, the Homo Neanderthals, off the face of the Earth.
Your brain uses language to shape everything. If you try to control your thoughts, you’re up for a Herculean task of mammoth proportions. Wrong method, my friend.
Control your language. Speak the reality you want. This is not some hogwash or blind faith in the power of belief. This is the scientific fact that when you speak something, this is encoded in a new neural connection, which is literally the place that your knowledge of the world, yourself, everything is stored (if you want to kill yourself over the scientific details, a synapse is the space between neurons. Each synapse in your body can store 4.7 bits of information. Your cerebral cortex alone has 125 trillion synapses. You do the math. How many does your entire body have? Go figure).
Each time you merely say something, you’re encoding that into your body. Literally. Your mind cannot decipher truth from falsehood, or even sarcasm. Everything you say, your entire being – both, psychological and physical – takes it as a law of nature, making it your reality.
Diagnosis, Misdiagnosis, Self-diagnosis and the mportance of Resilience
When you diagnose yourself, label yourself, particularly with a disorder, you are choosing to make it your subjective reality. That becomes your life, your body and mind start responding to it as if it’s a law of nature.
Even if a psychologist has diagnosed you, you have the ethical obligation to yourself (and to others that have invested in you) to live your best life.
That means, fundamentally, giving yourself the best life possible, because no one is going to do it for you. No brainer: you can’t do that if your subjective reality (which you reinforce repeatedly, time after time, day after day) is one in which there is something holding you back. Or more simply, you are far from the best version of yourself.
With a diagnosis comes the obligation of doing something about it, not wearing it proudly as the latest fashion trend, using it as a crutch to be a lesser version of yourself.
Shun the Victim Mentality
Do not live in the victim mentality. When you are feeling low, you are feeling low. Not depressed. When you experience anxiety (which is absolutely human, normal and natural; all humans go through it) you are feeling anxious; you do not have an anxiety disorder.
Even if you are diagnosed by a psychologist as having a disorder, be careful with the words you choose. “I am overcoming my anxiety attacks and regulating my emotions” is far better than “I have severe anxiety issues that are impossible to cope with”.
Works on the unconscious mind by stalwarts in the field talk extensively about the concept of “script”. Your script is what your unconscious mind has accepted as true, and revolves your entire life around it, whether you know it or not (hence, unconscious). Your self-talk and other-talk is your reality, your responsibility, your script, and how your life pans out.
Changing your script can change your life. Do not use a label as a crutch. The more you speak of yourself in a weaker or less empowered form, the more you destroy your resilience. That is the reason a nomadic hunter starving for food in the coldest of winters without proper clothing could put one foot bravely in front of another, but we collapse at a selfie not turning out right or not getting adequate likes on a post; worse yet, displaying the grossest inability to navigate through the world smoothly and appropriately, with utter lack of emotional regulation and self-esteem, coupled with a dearth of problem-solving skills. This leads to a plea for social validation and empathy, the fire; for it is a good servant, but a bad master.
Empathy: Crutch or Crippler?
Yes, empathy is important. It facilitates catharsis, deepens bonds, helps people in critical states. Yes, empathy is even good in regular, day-to-day life. It’s an admirable trait in any human being, blah blah, yes yes. What happens when dollops of dung hit the fan, and what is supposed to be a reservoir of resilience is actually a fish tank of fragility?
Because each time things got tough, you reached out to someone, they gave empathy, empathy, oh all that good empathy, and validated your emotions, your state, made you feel good about yourself and neither you nor your buds actually faced the problem head-on.
What happens when that instant gratification of empathy or a shoulder to cry on is not met? What happens when that person is no longer a part of your life, or merely unavailable? Worse yet, why would you cripple the people you care for, when you should be helping them develop the competence and capability to deal with life and its stressors directly?
Use empathy when needed. As with all things, it is best when used in moderation. Be the crutch to a fractured foot, not the crippler to one who walks fine.
Use your words to build yourself and change your reality – speaking as a victim, makes your reality that of a victim. It is not cool. It is not fashionable. It is a dangerous place to be, and anyone there should be pulled out of it rather than encouraged to dive headfirst into it.
Develop Resilience, Be Mindful
Build your resilience. Before you make a hue and cry, make an earnest attempt to tackle your problem. It is okay to seek support, it is okay to seek help. Seek it for reasons that empower you, not those that disempower you.
Be mindful of your script. Everything in your life revolves around it. It may be unconscious, but with adequate conscious effort, even the unconscious can be shifted.
“Do not speak bad of yourself. For the warrior within hears your words and is lessened by them”
– Old Japanese Proverb