My wife and me recently watched the movie Silver linings playbook. The main character, Pat, is a bi-polar man, who would have caught his wife having an affair with his colleague, almost kills his colleague and is sent to a treatment center. Once Pat is out of the treatment center, he tries to clean up, believing that his wife still loves him and will come back to him if he fixes himself. Inspite of his wife getting a restraining order on him and his family asking him to move on. The movie is a comedy, well made (won oscars) and does a great job of showing the suffering he endures because of his delusional thinking. I was cheering from my seat hoping that Pat gets better and almost wanted to shake him out of his warped sense of reality. Hmmmm.. I’am sure that’s exactly how my wife feels at times.
Delusional thinking. The Buddhists say that delusion is a state of mind in which reality is not seen. At my last session with my therapist, the movie was still fresh in my mind and as we were discussing me, I realized that my own thinking is delusional in many cases. Here are some of my delusions.
- Giving meaning (usually negative) to my feelings, no matter what the reality is. The mind thinks that a) everything is bad and b) exaggerates how bad it is. An example: If I’am feeling anxious about our finances, then the mind thinks we’ll end up on the streets and that the future is bleak. Never mind the fact that the issues we are facing with finances are temporary, plus, it’s not so bad.
- That I don’t have needs and wants. Not taking care of myself. There is this sense of being a tough person, who can handle stuff and not make a big deal about it. I don’t really feel that I’am very tough inside, on the contrary, I’am quite scared actually. But I think I suppress my needs and wants to portray this tough exterior. It bites me in the ass since this leads to building up resentment and a general sense that things I want, or outcomes I desire, will not happen.
- Believing that I can do everything and at the pro level. Basically, that I’ll be able to do anything and everything and be the best in all of them. See, I’am no superman, but the mind still believes that to be the case. Never mind the fact that my days only last 24 hours (as everybody else’) and when this get’s split up between family and work there’s not much time left to do much. This kind of thinking has some bad side effects. I will attempt to do something but set such a high bar (pro level) for myself that no matter what the results, I’am not satisfied. Many times, I’ll simply not even attempt certain things since I would have reasoned out and resigned to the fact that it can’t be done. After all, it would take a lot of time, which I don’t have, to do something perfectly. Now this means that a number of ‘enjoyable’ things are simply not even attempted and this feeds into the general sense of despair that life sucks.
- Thinking that I’am not good enough. This ties into the previous delusion and is perhaps linked to the general sense of dissatisfaction at not having achieved perfection in everything I attempt. My mind believes that I’am not good enough. After all, I can find at least one person who is doing something much better than me (without knowing what their lives really look like from the inside) and hence I must be a failure.
- Magical thinking. Having unrealistic expectations, no dreams, that things will somehow, magically work out. And when the real laws of gravity kick in, feeling shitty that the desired outcomes didn’t actually happen. An example is this expectation of retiring at 40, having earned enough money. Raising healthy well adjusted children at the same time, while traveling all over the world. And let’s not forget having time to be party, be physically fit and healthy along the way.
So here’s my silver linings playbook: When I’am stressed out or I feel that I’am getting depressed, check my thought process – is what I’am thinking real? Recognize that I can’t do everything at the same time and consciously try to do one or two things, at the most, at any given time. Also try to break things up into smaller pieces since reality is that I will be stressed for time. Most importantly, start taking care of myself by doing things that I like, in small chunks.