Friday, 27 March 2015

ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Cognitive Techniques Instead of Illicit Drugs

From The Berkeley Daily Planet
by Jack Bragen

"In this week's column I offer a comparison between meditation versus illicit drugs as avenues for relief from the suffering that may accompany a mental illness. I am offering this contrast because, in the case of mental illness, you might need something that offers at least the hope of feeling better. If stuck in pain in the absence of a way out, or even a hoped-for way out, it becomes a lot more of a temptation to use illicit drugs or to take medication not according to the directions.

If you feel okay, the above paragraph does not apply to you.

Cognitive techniques to help deal with mental illness might, by many people, be thought of as out of reach. Many therapists and other mental health professionals might not believe that persons with mental illness have the necessary insight to perform meditation.

Unfortunately, it seems that many people involved in the organized practice of meditation have the same incorrect skepticism. However, gaining an understanding of one's own mind and learning things about what makes it work or not work might be a big help with a lasting and genuine recovery. Additionally, meditation is possible for persons with mental illness. 

My studies of Buddhism date back to the early 1980's, a time when I sought a solution to the predicament of being mentally ill. I read books on the subject of meditation. In addition, I participated in two different meditation groups. 

My definition of "meditation" for purposes of this manuscript is a very loose definition, and can be seen as almost any type of looking inward in an attempt to resolve some of our problems. 

Some mental health consumers have resorted to illicit drugs in an attempt to escape the suffering associated with their illness. This decision probably led them down a less fortunate path. Marijuana, alcohol and other intoxicants might be fine for some people. However, if you are mentally ill, they compound problems created by a neurological vulnerability. 

When a narcotic becomes your primary source of gratification as well as relief, you have a problem. You might be better off not trying hard drugs in the first place, as opposed to becoming addicted and having an internal monstrosity to deal with. 

And yet, I have had my own forms of foolishness. I believed that if I meditated well enough I could cure my illness. I was wrong. Meditation does not fix a neurobiological, chemical imbalance in the brain. Meditation can work as a useful addition to treatment... " 
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