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Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the cure?

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Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the cure? Vi Va - 9/27/13 9:16 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Derek 9/27/13 10:26 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c . Jake . 9/27/13 10:35 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Bruno Loff 9/27/13 12:49 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Ian And 9/27/13 1:38 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Vi Va - 9/27/13 3:10 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Ian And 9/27/13 6:57 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Vi Va - 9/28/13 8:39 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c jer mur 9/28/13 12:14 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Vi Va - 9/28/13 12:23 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Richard Zen 9/28/13 12:54 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c jer mur 9/30/13 10:01 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Ian And 9/28/13 1:22 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Vi Va - 9/28/13 1:43 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Chris G 12/11/13 9:55 AM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c Hazard J Gibbons 3/30/14 10:38 PM
RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c sawfoot _ 3/31/14 3:28 AM
So, I'm really quite confused on how to form this post, but I'll give it a try. Ever since I graduated I have been stuck with depression, social phobia, high anxiety, high self-doubt, making it very hard for me to communicate with other people, making it hard for me to concentrate and stay focused in conversations, making it hard for me to manage a regular work. Antidepressants have helped this from time to time.

When I found meditation and Ingrams book I thought, "oh, so this is just the dark night, all I have to do is push through to equanimity" (I've had A&P-like events and feelings of ego-loss in the past, so I thought I had crossed the border) ... but is this really the Dark Night? Or is it a depression that won't get solved by meditation alone...

My meditation these days is mostly lying down on the floor, trying to stay equanimous to all the doubtful thoughts and emotions. The anxiety is so intense at times that it takes up all space. I have isolated myself on the country side and I feel that I just go deeper and deeper down in depression. I sleep more than twelve hours a day. I have absolutely no hope that my meditation will help me. The doubt/self doubt is SO intense... and still I have soooo much time to meditate, but it's more of a sinking away from life.

So, I'm not sure what my question is. But are there people here who can recognize this deep state of fatigue, depression and self-doubt - and who have eventually been able to push through to stream entry or at least to a state of being OK, being able to handle ones life. How did you do this? When you're in this deep mess it's really hard to understand...

Could medication be of help, I mean anti-depressants. I stopped taking anti-depressants when I started meditating and it worked fine for three-four months, but I was in a rush of "finally having found the way" and was very diligent in my meditation. Now the rush is gone, my meditation sucks (I think it always sucked) ... I'm still avoiding anti-depressants, because I don't like the fact that it's chemical and so on.

Should I put less focus on the meditation for the time being... and instead trying to find a job, practicing the life of a normal human being who goes to work, talks to people, discusses things, goes home. Is it perhaps necessary to in a way "strengthen" ones ego before starting this journey, to have a healthy sense of self before letting it dissolve?

As you can see I'm utterly confused and really don't know how to solve this situation myself, so some thoughts from people who have been in similiar states of being are really appreciated.

That sounds like serious depression. It's a matter of finding what treatment works for you. Anti-depressant medication and/or cognitive-behavioral therapy would be the standard treatments for depression. Group therapy is the standard treatment for social anxiety. I've never heard of anyone treating serious depression purely with meditation. At the same time, some forms of mindfulness meditation do have some overlap with cognitive therapy. Sorry I can't be more helpful.

Hi!

First of all, I have some personal experience with depression and anxiety, occassionally some time ago perhaps approaching what you are experiencing, and all I can say about that is I am truly sorry you are suffering that way right now, I know it sucks. I am not qualified to address what you are describing clinically, but I think that finding a good professional that you trust and work well with could be a big help in this situation-- someone with clinical expertise. I say this because what you describe sounds like serious depression, and there are many things that could help with that and I hope you find some help that works for you.

And I think it is really worth making the following clarification: things like anxiety, lethargy, and depression, and desperation, and sinking away from the world/experience are not what constitue the Dark Night. The Dark Night points to a phase of practice wherein we get experiential insights into suffering, and learn to be with and see the mechanism of suffering without adding to it / compounding it. Things like depression anxiety etc. *can be* reactions to those insights, but the two shouldn't be conflated. Also, one can't exactly 'push through' the DN, as it's lesson is about stopping and letting go the push/pull and just being with what is coming up and seeing clearly the way body-mind functions to create dukkha. This naturally segues into EQ when the time is ripe.

Depression anxiety etc whether DN related or not should be dealt with on their own terms. Depending on the severity, that might mean structuring one's life intelligently with a balance of exercise, diet, and cultivating good relationships, or it might involve that plus some form of clinical help, and you need to be the judge of that.

How does meditation practice fit into depression anxiety etc? Well, I think meditation practice fits into life as one peice of a whole life, even when we are practicing for liberation and awakening. So this too must be balanced and try to avoid setting up a dichotomy of worldly vs. spiritual as if you have to choose between them (not saying you are, just saying, it's a common trap and can constitute spiritual bypassing, a way of avoiding problems in other areas of your life, like mood, health, relationships).

I hope some of this helps emoticon

What else have you tried? Have you tried to consistently exercise every day? Have you tried working with your diet? Psychiatrists?

Diet and exercise are, in my experience, fundamental pillars of good psychological health. Just those two make the difference for me, from being really depressed, discouraged, fatigued, with body pain everywhere, to just being really OK tending on tranquil, having the energy to work and do what I'm supposed to, etc.

For exercise, there are many possibilities and they all seem to be pretty OK. Some that are apparently particularly suited for mood lifting are: interval training, weight training, crossfit.

As for diet, it really depends on the person. A good place to start is to experiment with a paleo diet — as presented in the book it starts with food. If you feel improvement from that, but are still feeling pains or other digestive issues, it might be worth it (was for me) to experiment with other diets, such as SCD, FODMAP or ketogenic diets.

So, what else have you tried?

Hello Vi Va,

I'm sorry to hear about your condition. I can relate because I have been where you are now.

The bright side of this is: You should know that this is a temporary condition, that it can be handled. It's just a matter of turning your thought processes around and getting you right side up again! Right now, everything you are doing feels like it is taking you in one directions: in a downward spiral into a pit of self-loathing and despair. Feeling good about yourself rather than allowing your mind and thoughts to drag you ever deeper into a seemingly endless pit of despair is the change that needs to occur before you can begin to lift yourself out of this pit of negativity.

You need to find things that you feel good at doing, have confidence in performing and which provide you with a general feeling of confidence in yourself overall, in order to begin seeing that you CAN accomplish anything that you set your mind on. It's just a matter of turning your mind and thinking patterns around to the positive, and finding positive accomplishment in even the small things that you are able to accomplish while enduring this maelstrom of mental negativity.

Even while in deep depression, the mind does not totally abandon us. It KNOWS what is true and what can be of help and assistance. What you have outlined below is EXACTLY what needs to occur before you can begin to use meditation and its technology to help you get back on track.
Vi Va -:

Should I put less focus on the meditation for the time being... and instead trying to find a job, practicing the life of a normal human being who goes to work, talks to people, discusses things, goes home. Is it perhaps necessary to in a way "strengthen" ones ego before starting this journey, to have a healthy sense of self before letting it dissolve?

As you can see I'm utterly confused and really don't know how to solve this situation myself, so some thoughts from people who have been in similar states of being are really appreciated.

Meditation can be of help, but only once you have gotten to the point of beginning to put the shattered pieces of your mind, ego, and thinking back together. This may not be an easy job, but it is a job that needs to happen first before you will be able to begin benefiting from a practice in meditation. You can be working on both these activities at the same time, but generally speaking, the meditation practice won't begin to yield fruit until after you have been able to restore a more positive sense of ego and self-worth.

On that note, one of the things the man who helped me so many years ago said to me about meditation was: "It will help to burn the bad karma you have built up, and help you to begin replacing that with good (or positive) karma." The triggering point for me was his saying, "The more you meditate, the more karma you burn up." That helped encourage my beginning a practice in meditation and sticking with it. I threw myself into it, meditating sometimes for three times the amount of time he recommended in the beginning (which was a half hour per session). The way I viewed it at the time was, the more I'm able to meditate, the more negative karma I'm able to burn up. It was a naive view at the time, but it had a positive effect on my attitude. Having this thought expectation can be a helpful triggering mechanism, but only if you are also working on rebuilding your sense of identity and self-worth.

Jake has provided you with an excellent analysis of the circumstance that is facing you. Yet, while being able to recognize and confirm this from your own perspective can be a helpful first step toward beginning to eliminate the negative spiral, such recognition by itself will not change the situation. For that, you need to consult with someone you trust to help you through this mess.
. Jake .:

And I think it is really worth making the following clarification: things like anxiety, lethargy, and depression, and desperation, and sinking away from the world/experience are not what constitute the Dark Night. The Dark Night points to a phase of practice wherein we get experiential insights into suffering, and learn to be with and see the mechanism of suffering without adding to it / compounding it. Things like depression anxiety etc. *can be* reactions to those insights, but the two shouldn't be conflated. Also, one can't exactly 'push through' the DN, as it's lesson is about stopping and letting go the push/pull and just being with what is coming up and seeing clearly the way body-mind functions to create dukkha. This naturally segues into EQ when the time is ripe.

Depression anxiety etc whether DN related or not should be dealt with on their own terms. Depending on the severity, that might mean structuring one's life intelligently with a balance of exercise, diet, and cultivating good relationships, or it might involve that plus some form of clinical help, and you need to be the judge of that.

How does meditation practice fit into depression anxiety etc? Well, I think meditation practice fits into life as one piece of a whole life, even when we are practicing for liberation and awakening. So this too must be balanced and try to avoid setting up a dichotomy of worldly vs. spiritual as if you have to choose between them (not saying you are, just saying, it's a common trap and can constitute spiritual bypassing, a way of avoiding problems in other areas of your life, like mood, health, relationships).

Once you have found someone who will work with you, then and only then will things like the institution of meditation into your activities begin to yield some needed relief from the pressures your mind is currently putting itself through.

Take your time and be careful in finding someone to help you. Make sure it is someone who you have confidence in and who has dealt with situations like yours successfully before. I cannot tell you who to see: it may be a psychotherapist or some other professional, or it may be some sort of spiritual adviser. Use your intuition when seeking someone to help you. But, by all means, begin the process of seeking help with this, because it is not going to go away without some guided thought and attention paid to it.

Always remember: this condition can be overcome, and you can be led to a better perspective on life. Just take it one step at a time, and build on small successes until you are able to rebuild the ego and thought processes on more positive ground.

All the best,
Ian

What is really important for me to remember is to build on small successes...
I haven't tried exercising, but I will definitely do that.
My diet is getting better, since I started meditating six months ago or something I've been eating healthier food. Eating unhealthy stuff was an aid, a comfort, for my depression earlier... but this has gotten better.
The biggest problem though is my inability to function around other people, how my mind goes completely blank and I can't say a single word nor really grasp what they are saying...

But at least I've grasped what all of you said and I'm very thankful for all the good advice... I feel the metta. And yeah...

"You need to find things that you feel good at doing, have confidence in performing and which provide you with a general feeling of confidence in yourself overall, in order to begin seeing that you CAN accomplish anything that you set your mind on. It's just a matter of turning your mind and thinking patterns around to the positive, and finding positive accomplishment in even the small things that you are able to accomplish while enduring this maelstrom of mental negativity."


... this is really what I need to do.

I have consulted with a psychotherapist before, I can't actually say if that has helped me or not. I still find myself coming to this depressive state, it always gets much much worse during the fall and the winter. But I should definitely find someone to consult with again.

Hm, yes... thank you. I'll sort this out somehow. I have no choice of course. Haha, if I hadn't learned about dharma I'd been suicidal for sure.

Vi Va -:
What is really important for me to remember is to build on small successes...
I haven't tried exercising, but I will definitely do that.

Yes, exercise can be a beginning to building on small successes. But what you really need is someone to help you begin to see what's going on inside your mind and to help you begin to build self-esteem.

So, while focusing on the body can be a helpful activity, focusing on your mental attitude will be more what you really need right now. But, every little bit counts when you are attempting to regain your mental balance. Being able to successfully establish a regular exercise program and stick with it, even if for only 10 to 20 minutes a session, can begin to help you build self esteem.

Vi Va -:

The biggest problem though is my inability to function around other people, how my mind goes completely blank and I can't say a single word nor really grasp what they are saying...

This is something you're going to eventually have to wean yourself off of: your mini-panic attacks around other people. It's something you're going to have to face head on and overcome. Once you begin to feel better about yourself, this will begin to work itself out naturally. Any small steps you can take that will help you to be more at ease around people will help. Do you have any close friends you can talk to? That sometimes helps you to see that, yes, you really can interact with people, even if they are only people that you feel safe and comfortable to be around. Any small steps you can take to come out of your shell will be helpful.

Vi Va -:

"You need to find things that you feel good at doing, have confidence in performing and which provide you with a general feeling of confidence in yourself overall, in order to begin seeing that you CAN accomplish anything that you set your mind on. It's just a matter of turning your mind and thinking patterns around to the positive, and finding positive accomplishment in even the small things that you are able to accomplish while enduring this maelstrom of mental negativity."


... this is really what I need to do.

I have consulted with a psychotherapist before, I can't actually say if that has helped me or not. I still find myself coming to this depressive state, it always gets much much worse during the fall and the winter. But I should definitely find someone to consult with again.

Yes, this is something you will need to take great care with. Finding a good mental health counselor is no easy trick. Be very picky if you go this route. There are people out there who will just string you along for the money. I consulted with a gestalt therapist way back when, and while I felt comfortable around him, there was something about the way he conducted the session that told me "he's only after your money and he'll probably prolong things until he's gotten out of you what he wants."

From there I started looking into self-hypnosis. I found a man in the city I lived in at the time who seemed to know what he was doing. He had group meetings at his home once a week in the program I became involved with; that helped me to get out of the house and meet other people in a group setting, and begin to feel comfortable being around and interacting with other people. Yet, after going through three programs and twenty weeks, I still wasn't any nearer accomplishing my goal of feeling better about myself, so I kept looking for other mentors. Nothing substantive had changed in my effort to reprogram the mind.

I had some success dealing with a former Scientologist who conducted some auditing exercises on me, and that's when I began to have some success at making some real changes in the way I viewed things. But this was done under the supervision of my main counselor, who turned out to be a priest, who also taught me about meditation. It was the work I did with him for the eight weeks of the course I took from him that really did the trick. He had some training in psychotherapy and knew how to find unconscious painful events in people's lives to help them blow off the energy valence that was holding them back. There's not many people who are trained in that way. You just have to be lucky to cross their paths.

That's what I mean about being picky. Find someone who you really have confidence in to help you. Someone who demonstrates the kind of qualities you would like to develop within yourself. And follow your intuition. At some point, you're going to have to develop trust in your own discernment. I trusted my intuition to tell me when I had found the right person. It can be tricky, but you can do it!

Thank you for all the tips. Right now I think I will leave the vitamins and drugs aside and just try to get myself up with will-power and with the help of someone professional. I do have a few friends that I will start seeing again... I've been isolating myself for some time now. I will also try to at least find a volunteer work at a kindergarden school. And will probably find some group therapy to work with my social phobia. I really can't allow the depression to drag me down completely again.

But let me ask you Ian And, did you make it through depression without any medication? I find it hard to make the decernment if this is something that needs medication or not. But then again, that thought is more likely to come from my self-doubt... doubting my own power to handle all this.

Hi Vi Va,
Sorry to hear about your situation. I feel your pain since It could have been me writing that a year ago. Everything the depression sleeping more than half the day, serious social anxiety hiding in the country side, mind going blank when trying to talk or even listen to someone (or worse total panic attack). I know you don't want to go back on anti-depressants I'm thinking about going off them now myself but for me they were the turning point. They allowed me to take the next step, which for me was just getting out of bed at first. Then it was exercise walking and yoga. Walking in the countryside has the benefit off being gentle exposure as you might meet few cars or people walking but you can also turn it into a walking meditation, and the fresh air doesn't hurt either. Yoga as well I found really helpful , I just did videos I found on youtube. I was so tight and tense from the never ending anxiety, I felt like slowly but surely I was unwinding my body and my mind started to follow. If you can manage to get moving every day though maybe you won't need the medication.
Keeping a journal can also help, helps to keep track off progress and to plan what you goals are for the next day, week, month. Small steady steps and you will amazed what you can achieve.
Best of luck
Jerry

This is very motivating. Thank you, jerry. I will think about the medication. I'm also thinking maybe I should try to leave the countryside, as I'm afraid I will just sink further away from the world.

Are you now back to "reality", communicating with people on a daily basis?

It's common for people with depression that have serious meditation goals to continue with their medication while they meditate. When the meditation progress is so far along that the medication isn't needed any more then they stop it.

Ordinary people can get enlightened

Vi Va -:

But let me ask you Ian And, did you make it through depression without any medication? I find it hard to make the discernment if this is something that needs medication or not. But then again, that thought is more likely to come from my self-doubt... doubting my own power to handle all this.

Yes, I did. This happened back in 1980, and there weren't that many drugs out there then as there are today. And I was very conscious about not relying on drugs to help a psychological problem. It didn't make any sense to me to treat a psychological problem with drugs. Drugs were never even an option for me.

The way to overcome self-doubt is to do your homework about the subject you are approaching. In this case, one's mental health. I read up on things psychotherapeutic. One of the things I came across was a chapter (titled "The Illusion of Personal Individuality") out of famed psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan's book The Fusion of Psychiatry and Social Science. It just so happened that my mentor had also read H.S. Sullivan's material.

Understanding how anxiety works in conjunction with the processes of mind can be very helpful when you're trying to figure out how this applies to your own situation. You will ideally learn about the same things in learning about and practicing the Dhamma, but this can take a bit of time to develop. And you don't have that amount of time to work with; you need something (some therapeutic approach) that will help you begin to deal with the problems you face right now.

At one point in this chapter, Sullivan explains about one of the causes of anxiety: the disapproval of others of one's way of doing things. He states: "Disapproval. . . , in so far as there is empathetic linkage between the young and significant older people, is unpleasant, lowers the euphoria, the sense of well-being, interferes with the ease of falling asleep, the ease of taking nourishment, and so forth.

"All this type of interference is originally profoundly unconscious in that it is in no sense a pure content of consciousness made up of sensations, conceptions, deductions, and inferences; but it does come ultimately to be clearly connected with disapproving attitudes on the part of others, with other people not being pleased with what we are doing, or not being satisfied with our performances. This early experience is the beginning of what goes on through life as a uniquely significant emotional experience, called by the name of a profoundly important concept in social study and psychiatry -- the concept of anxiety. Anxiety begins that way -- it is always that way, the product of a great many people who have disapproved. It comes to be represented by abstractions -- by imaginary people that one carries around with one, some of them in the shape of ideal statements, some of them actually as almost phenomenologically evident people who disapprove. The disapproval and its effect get to be so subtly effective that a great deal of anxiety which shoos us this way and that, fomr this and that feeling, emotion, impulse, comes finally to be so smooth-running that very few people have the foggiest notion of what a vast part of their life is influenced by anxiety."

While it may not help you to deal with the practical situation of overcoming an anxious moment in your life, it does help to know and to understand what the problem is and from where it stems. Knowing this helps you to be able to take a better decision when comparing people who might be able to help you. If they don't understand the situation in the same way as you about the psyche and how it works and are thus not able to help you from that standpoint, you can cross them off your list, and go on to the next one.

You might want to see if you can find Sullivan's book in a library and read that chapter (or search for it online). There's a lot more there that may make sense to you and help you to better understand what is causing your social anxiety.

Thank you, Ian. This is very helpful. Is there anyway to contact you in private? Perhaps I would like to discuss a few things in private? If you feel you have the time and space.

Yes at least way more than before, and it gets easier all the time. It's still difficult though and I have to me very mindful not to slip back into old patterns. Ever little bit more I'm present during the day is a moment I'm not worrying/anxious. I think that is where meditation has helped the most, so every hour sitting helps! I found its best not to measure progress in days but in weeks and months, keeping a journals helps with that. If you can stick moving into town and you won't be hiding at home than I'd say go for it...just don't take on 2 much at at time.
Keep your head up
Jerry

Vi Va -:
I will also try to at least find a volunteer work at a kindergarden school.


I do recommend volunteering or other practices of generosity to help alleviate depression. By volunteering, you come into contact with nice people and this helps create healthy social ties. It keeps your mind active and keeps you engaged in the world. By doing something useful for others, you also get a chance to see, in a very concrete way, that you're a valuable person and have something to contribute to the world. Good things all around. It's been helpful for me.

I hope you're making progress, keep us updated! When you find something that works, please report it, as that can help other folks struggling with similar problems.

Best of luck!

Vi Va -:

Could medication be of help, I mean anti-depressants. I stopped taking anti-depressants when I started meditating and it worked fine for three-four months, but I was in a rush of "finally having found the way" and was very diligent in my meditation. Now the rush is gone, my meditation sucks (I think it always sucked) ... I'm still avoiding anti-depressants, because I don't like the fact that it's chemical and so on.

Should I put less focus on the meditation for the time being... and instead trying to find a job, practicing the life of a normal human being who goes to work, talks to people, discusses things, goes home. Is it perhaps necessary to in a way "strengthen" ones ego before starting this journey, to have a healthy sense of self before letting it dissolve?

As you can see I'm utterly confused and really don't know how to solve this situation myself, so some thoughts from people who have been in similiar states of being are really appreciated.


This may have been covered by other posters, but I think you're dividing meditation and "regular" life into separate categories when meditation really inter-penetrates all levels of "normal life". You sound like you're between wanting to renounce "the world" and wanting to be a participant in it. I would say be a participant, and use meditation as one of the main (not only) tools to balance yourself in an unbalanced world. You're absolutely right that an ego, healthy ego, is a good thing to have before spending extended periods contemplating no-self, suffering and impermanence.

You could try relaxing insight practices and focusing more on samatha, which I'm doing, as I want better concentration and the ability to lift my mood through jhana before deconstructing things seriously. I know this sounds terrible when you're stuck in it, but try anything to get out of your interior zone and out into the world. Shinzen Young's Focus Out technique is good for this ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEsxY7DI06g ). Try it at home, and if your in the countryside do it on long walks in nature, or through small towns. I found that my noting practice had me zoning into my interior self ( Focus In ) too much, and found this technique to help expand my range of attention, which has provided some space. And finally, if all else fails, listen to the "Solid Air" album by John Martyn, alone at night, especially if you don't normally enjoy jazzy stuff.

RE: Isolation, doubt, depression, social phobia. Is meditation really the c
Answer
3/31/14 3:28 AM as a reply to Hazard J Gibbons.
An old thread, but I thought I would post this which I read recently:

http://www.personalpowermeditation.com/the-end-of-social-anxiety-e-book/

I like his approach, and he has a good forum on the website. He takes some basic insights from buddhism - particularly the need to connect with emotions with equanimity rather than seeing anxiety as "bad", and applies them to help with social anxiety, though the use of meditation. He ends up somewhere that has similarities with Actual Freedom - i.e. to learn how to switch on a mode of interacting with the world that is inherently pleasurable and without threat.

And, wow, I forgot how much I used to love "Solid air" - I should give that a listen!