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  • Some of us belong to a social group politely known as 'worriers.' That is, we are close

  • to panic on a range of issues pretty much all the time. We worry that the scratch on

  • our knee will turn cancerous, that we'll catch a deadly disease from touching the hotel

  • door, that all our savings might disappear in a random economic disaster and that our

  • enemies could spread rumours that will forever disgrace and demean us.

  • So overwhelming and debilitating can these fears become, we may be advised by well-meaning

  • friends that we should probably go and visit a psychotherapist in haste in order to calm

  • ourselves.

  • Here we're likely to learn a lot of very reassuring things, in particular, that none

  • of our powerful fears is really any kind of reflection on what is likely to happen in

  • the real world. The scratch on the knee is just a scratch, there isn't about to be

  • some global catastrophe, there isn't some disease that is going to wipe us all out,

  • the hotel door is blameless, we're not going to be financially ruined, no one is properly

  • interested in humiliating us. And so on and so forth.

  • We learn to make a distinction between our inner world and the outer world, the first

  • filled with terror and apprehension, the second emerging as a far more benign, indifferent

  • and easy going place. We also learn, if we read a little psychotherapeutic theory, why

  • there should in some of us be such a dislocation between the inner and outer worlds. It comes

  • down to a theory about childhood; some of us had childhoods that were so disturbed and

  • cruel, so filled with shame and loneliness, that they have coloured our view of the whole

  • of life; we assume that things will always be as bad as they once were.

  • The task of psychotherapy is then to start to show us how powerfully and negatively biased

  • our perceptions are and that the adult realm actually contains far fewer demons than we

  • thought, and far more opportunity, solace and forgiveness. We learn that the catastrophe

  • we feared would happen has in fact safely already happened. We get a lot better.

  • But then, if we're unlucky, at key moments in our lives, we may run into a range of harrowing

  • events that threaten to upend everything we've carefully learnt to believe in and that make

  • a mockery of the soothing voices we've come to trust. Suddenly, in spite of our best efforts

  • to be resilient and sane, we learn that we are in fact facing a mortal illness. Or, after

  • slowly overcoming a compulsive handwashing fetish, we're told that a germ truly might

  • kill us after all. Or, despite our attempts to explore our sexuality with courage, we

  • learn that some enemies really do want to humiliate us for the pleasures we've pursued.

  • In confusion and bitterness, we may turn against therapy and its naive view of reality and

  • cry bitterly: 'See! It really is as bad as I always thought it was… I suspected

  • that life was hell and it really is.' Or, as one comic is reputed to have had inscribed

  • on their gravestone, 'I told you it wasn't just a cough.'

  • This may sound like the moment when all attempts at psychotherapeutic calm or at emotional

  • maturity and wisdom more broadly fairly come to an end. But once we have endured the initial

  • panic, we can insist that this need be nothing of the sort. We can strive for wisdom despite,

  • or even in the midst of, a range of the most awful external eventualities.

  • We should be clear on what is at stake: psychotherapy does not promise us that nothing will ever

  • go wrong in our lives again. It can't remove intractable evils. What it can do, however,

  • is to teach us a variety of mental manoeuvres that will render those evils - death among

  • them - a great deal less painful and persecutory than they would otherwise have been. There

  • are better and worse ways to endure the afflictions we cannot avoid. There are ways of interpreting

  • disasters that add a whole new layer of pain and fear to them - and others that, while

  • they do not magic away the chaos, at least remove its secondary, aggravating characteristics.

  • Let's consider two of the things that those of us with a choppy inner life (and a difficult

  • past) may - quite unfairly - tell ourselves when we run into the vicissitudes of life

  • and compare it with what wiser voices might propose:

  • 'This is going to be the end of everything…' It doesn't take very much - when you've

  • already felt a disaster or two rock your world at an early age - to know in your bones what's

  • coming next when a problem hits. Death is clearly nigh. There isn't going to be any

  • safe way out of this debacle. It's all overBut, however counterintuitive this might sound,

  • even in a pandemic, one may be exaggerating. Even with a cancer diagnosis, one may be losing

  • perspective. The outer world can be bad, very bad, and still the inner world can be making

  • it worse, may be adding yet more fear, yet more dread and more of a sense of doom than

  • would be strictly necessary. Not every calamity is the end; not every end need be a deluge.

  • Some of us will have enjoyed the blessing of that essential figure of early childhood:

  • the soothing adult. Our toy broke and it seemed it was a misery beyond compare; we wailed,

  • we screamed, we called death upon ourselves. Nothing so bad had ever been seen. But then

  • a kindly adult came, took us in their arms, and said 'I know, I know' and held us

  • so tightly until our tears abated. And then, in a calm and loving voice, they plotted with

  • us how we might repair things: perhaps there'd be a similar toy in another shop; maybe we

  • could get some glue and have a go at fixing the head back on; maybe there'd be a way

  • of playing with it even if it had only one legAnd so gradually we recovered a taste

  • for life and kept on going - and many decades later, when disaster strikes once more, we're

  • able to call on the voice of the kindly parental figure, and give ourselves more options: certainly

  • it is bad, but think of how much remains. Perhaps we can pick up the pieces and begin

  • anew. Maybe the horror will end. There might just be a small solution. And even if there

  • isn't, the kindly voice gives us a sense that everything can be OK anyway, even dying

  • can be coped with - for maybe the original owner of that calm voice approached their

  • end a few years back with a serenity and good humour we can now emulate in turn. Not even

  • death has to be a disaster.

  • 'You deserve all the bad things that happen to you…'

  • For some of us, it isn't just that bad things happen to us, bad things happen to us because

  • we are bad people. We suffer because we deserve to suffer; and we deserve to suffer because

  • we are - to put it relatively mildly - pieces of shit. It feels natural to turn whatever

  • is negative and might have been entirely accidental into a verdict on us and on our right to be.

  • We have such reservoirs of shame and self-loathing that when we suffer a reversal, we don't

  • only end up - for example - sick or broke or abandoned in love, we hear a voice in our

  • heads that at once adds immeasurably to the misery; a voice that tells us that we are,

  • aside from on our own and in a cold rented room, also a mistake that should never have

  • been born. No one doubts that sometimes people go broke, no one doubts that love lives can

  • go wrong, but not everyone who goes broke or has a bad marriage ends up feeling that

  • they are the worst person in the world and that the leading option must be to kill themselves.

  • For some of us, we aren't just our worst moments, we can exist outside of our foolishness.

  • No error we make ever puts us entirely beyond the pale. We may be in prison, most of our

  • friends may have left us, but we still know we've got lovable sides. Someone could in

  • theory still see past our sins and love us. We retain an echo of the love we once drew

  • strength from all those years back; we are still the little boy or girl that someone

  • loved, despite everything that came after. We may have done a very bad thing, we are

  • not totally bad people.

  • We tend to believe that the difference between a good and a bad life must lie strictly in

  • the quality of the events that befall people. But to a surprising extent, the difference

  • actually lies in the way each of us is able to interpret events. There are newly convicted

  • prisoners, newly condemned patients and freshly diagnosed plague victims who know how not

  • to add shame, persecution, self-hatred and unbounded panic to their already considerable

  • burdens. There are those of us who know how to incorporate a soothing commentary to a

  • battlefield: who can tell ourselves in the middle of an inferno that we do not deserve

  • this, that a lot can be fixed, that we are still loveable, that it can probably be survived

  • and that if it can't, we will simply have to cross a threshold over which a hundred

  • billion or so of our species has already passed - in a process which will, in its own ghastly

  • way, be fine for us too.

  • Therapy well done isn't a discipline that tells us all will be brilliant; it offers

  • us another go at hearing the voice of the soothing parent we missed out on first time

  • around who knew that we could cope even when it isn't.

  • There is an old misanthropic joke that goes: just because you're paranoid, doesn't

  • mean someone's not following you. The true retort to this grim wisecrack would be: and

  • even if someone is following you, that doesn't mean you deserve it or that it has to be the

  • end of you. And, in a related move, just because there is a plague, doesn't mean you are going

  • to die. And just because you're going to die, doesn't mean you can't ever grow

  • to accept your non-existence with a measure of dark humour and serenity.

  • Even at the end of the world, there will be some of us taking it worse than others, some

  • of us who will feel that they deserve it, that this means they are disgusting and wretched

  • and that none of the beautiful stuff ever meant anything - and others who will be greeting

  • catastrophe without catastrophizing. The good news is that, long before the planet expires,

  • with a little help from therapy and philosophy, we have the capacity to move ourselves into

  • the wiser camp, the camp of those who can endure difficult things without adding a further

  • critical persecutory commentary, and are able, in the face of the most awful events, to soothe

  • themselves with the kindness and empathy of the gentlest parent calming down the sobs

  • of the distressed and frightened child we all once were and at some level remain.

  • Our online shop has a range of books and gifts that address the most important and often neglected areas of life. Click now to learn more.

Some of us belong to a social group politely known as 'worriers.' That is, we are close

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危機に陥ったときに情緒的に成熟した状態を保つ方法 (How to Remain Emotionally Mature in a Crisis)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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