Dealing With Distress

We have a reader question from Akash,

What are some good strategies to deal with distress or conditions of extreme suffering, anxiety, pain or sorrow? Often times, I feel extremely dejected and it takes me months to recover from that state. What are some ways to recover quickly?

Recovery. Recovery from what? From a thought. Distress is caused only by thoughts.

  • Loss of a job is not the cause of distress. The thought of losing your livelihood and reputation is causing fear which in turn is causing distress.
  • Loss of a relationship is not the cause of distress. The thought of losing someone you loved and feeling deprived of love is causing distress.
  • Loss of money is not the cause of distress. The thought os losing something you earned and not winning it back is causing distress.

Thoughts causes distress, events are just haphazard occurrences. You cannot control events but you can certainly control your thoughts.

You want to recover from something which exists only in your mind. And where from that thought originates? That thought originates within your own mind through the equations and assumptions that it has set. And why does the mind sets equations and assumptions? The mind sets these equations because the logical part of the brain is always working but the spiritual part is not.

The brain is doing calculations all the time. But the brain is not realising why it is doing so much calculations? What is the end goal of doing all the math?

We don’t know.  We are doing it because this is how we have trained it to work and we cannot control its behaviour. This is our fault – we don’t know how to control our own minds and we keep cursing the world when something doesn’t work our way.

Let’s take an example.

Q: Why are you studying differential calculus?

A: I want to learn integration and differentiation. Once I learn and master this subject, I will crack that exam and when I crack that exam and score the highest marks, I will get accepted in that university. There I will study for 4 years and in those 4 years, I will get all the knowledge I want. With that knowledge earned, I will get a good job, and then I will be able to lead a happy and fulfilled life.

Q: So the end goal is a happy and fulfilled life, right? What’s the point of studying calculus then? That shopkeeper over there, he has never studied calculus. But look, how happy he is. You can do the same thing, why don’t you do it like him? You don’t need to learn calculus to achieve your goal of living a happy life, that shopkeeper is the example right in front of your eyes.

A: I don’t really know. I just have to learn it to pass that exam.

Just see the fun. The brain has convinced the mind that in order to lead a fulfilled life, he needs to follow a specific cycle of events. And the subject must succeed in all those events. Any aberration in that cycle, and the subject will be distressed.

You cannot control external events, better control your thoughts

Controlling your mind is very important, since it is the mind which interprets what is good and what is bad. If your mind is not in your control and is controlled by external events, you can never be free from distress.

We are continuously getting influenced by external events. Examples –

  • News.
  • Opinions of others.
  • What majority is doing.
  • Government
  • Influencers
  • Status Quo
  • The so called “Experts”.

The list goes on. We are always looking outside, getting the facts, observing and recording it in our head. With the data that has been accumulated, we are setting equations and assumptions. And then, we are doing a math based on these assumptions and equations.

While there is nothing wrong in following this approach, there is a fundamental flaw. The flaw is – setting up notions and assumptions based on external events and believing it to be true. What you read, see, hear or observe is not the truth, so if you set notions based on these, you are doing a mistake.

Control what you think – Follow the backward Trail of a thought

Try to put some discipline in what you think. Every time you think about something, ask yourself

Why am I thinking about this thing? Where from this thought is originating?

If you keep going backwards, you will notice that any thought is basically a reflection of an assumption which is deeply rooted in your mind.

Sometime back, I was thinking about buying a new car. When I investigated what triggered this thought, I kept going backwards.

Here is what I found

  • I need a new car because the current one has slow pickup and is not suited well for driving in a highway.
  • Why do I need high pickup and why do I need to drive in a highway? It’s because my workplace is far and I need to travel everyday back and forth from work. I can’t take the usual route because its congested with heavy traffic.
  • Why is my workplace far? My workplace is far because I was born in a village but studied computer science. All the jobs related to computer science exists only in cities.
  • I was born in a village, that wasn’t in my control. But studying computer science was in my control. I could have become a farmer like my father but I chose to study computer science.
  • Why did I choose to study computer science? It’s because farmers don’t make enough money, compared to software engineers.
  • Why do I need to earn enough money? So I can buy a new car in every 2-3 years.
  • Right now, I can’t buy a new car because I don’t have enough money. I am distressed.

Just see the madness that happens inside your head when you have no control over your thoughts.

Whenever you are in distress, keep going backwards. Follow that thought and find why this thought came to your head. You will see that in the end there lies a baseless assumption.

Remove it. Remove that assumption from your head. That distress will be gone in some time.

And please, keep cleaning your mind. Clean those assumptions and notions you have set in stone. None of them are true.

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