Monday, July 26, 2010

My sweet Lord

The week-end was a whirlwind of consecutive but separate dinners out with two sets of friends who we haven't seen for a while. The first couple also have three sons like us and their youngest is now officially depressed, seeing a psychiatrist and having problems with his course work at university. In his younger years he was given therapy for some kind of learning related disabilities (dysgraphia being one.) This pattern of ending up with a new diagnosis beyond learning disabilities around the age of eighteen seems to be not uncommon.

This young man has been seen as "having problems," something not quite right most of his life. I wonder how this image feeds into his sense of well-being and prevents him from being who he is.

Our next set of visiting friends brought their two teenagers with them to the dinner. They are both very bright and engaging. The sixteen year old daughter casually mentioned she was seeing a psychiatrist, so of course, we got talking. Since she seemed so engaged I was trying to figure out the nature of her needing to see a psychiatrist. She was very au courant with her problems, with the jargon, with the limitations of her treatment. She suffers from anxiety. Well, how exactly does this play out, I asked?

What her brother and her agreed on was that there are hours on end when she completely freaks out and makes everyone's life miserable. Still, I was puzzled because she seemed so aware and self-confident. Then it got interesting. She is a very, very religious Christian. Just talking about her passion for Christ was whipping her more and more into a sort of religious ecstasy and about then I decided to switch topics to diffuse a possible melt-down.

Her parents are very religous, especially her father. Her father is the anxious sort, but, like most of us, age has given him some coping skills. His daughter doesn't have that filter. A reasonable guess is that her anxiety is related to being afraid to venture out beyond parental control. I don't believe in Deepak Chopra she said, because he teaches that it's all about happiness. (I think that's a misinterpretation of Chopra.) I don't believe we should live in the now. I want to be with Christ. And, you could tell, she really wanted to be one with Christ. Intense religiosity, in my opinion, is an internal destabilizing force.

From my more pan-Buddhist perspective, I would say a little yoga would temper her fixations.


  1. Overdoing anything, being too zealous about one subject, needing to convince everyone around you that the path that just lit up IS the ONLY way - makes me wary of the source. I know that I hear a voice in my head screaming MODERATION when I am writing comments on blogs. (I fear I am becoming a little too fervent in my anti-psych med rant.)
    Yet, I have heard time and time again of how religious affiliation has pulled someone back from a very scary psychotic place. Buddhism seems to have "saved" my niece. A friend's brother who was diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses found strength in burying himself in the study of the torah.
    To me, religion seems full of rigid rules that don't have to be questioned, an undisputed guide to live by. A more meditative approach or one more introspective and self-aware might be a more stabilizing endeavor. Wanting to be "one with Christ" sounds like she wants to get free of something in the here and now.
    And, then there is the parental forces behind her decision to follow in her father's religious footsteps. No wonder she is anxious!

  2. It's a tricky area. On the one hand, it's good to be interested in and practicing a religion, on the other hand, it can be a warning sign of serious instability. Even though I am a believer and a regular church attender, I tend to stay away from the truly fervent because they seem, well, I hate to say it, sort of mentally ill. Yet, it is also very true, as you point out, that there is the spiritual conversion that many need to actually overcome their demons. (Jung felt this was important.)So, it's a balance.

  3. Too often well meaning, frustrated, frightened parents abdicate their parental responsibility and turn their children over to psychiatrists.

    Children need a connection with their parents and not with a psychiatrist or therapist. Present it any way one likes however the only real distinction the child can be left with is there is something wrong with me.

    If we understood as parents the value in spending time with our children, truly connecting, and affording them the opportunity to talk and us the opportunity to listen, there would be no need to hand our children off to someone else.

  4. True enough, but both sets of parents, from my observations, are very family oriented and spend greater amounts of time with their children than I have spent with my own. I take my hat off to them. At one point in raising our children we were having real problems with my middle son and needed some help. The psychologist spoke with him, spoke with us, and gave us some tips about how to handle him. Best advice I ever got. Most of us no longer have day to day access to the extended family members, like people used to have in the early part of the last century. Even if we did, most people resist allowing a relative to tell us how to raise our child? We gain and we lose by having or not having contact


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