On Death from Working-Out, Self-Love, and Wellbeing of the Psyche
Yesterday during dinner my brother read aloud a news titled Death from Working-out: “A young man tried to lift 60 kg weight but failed. The weight fell straight on his jugular and killed him instantly.” The story made me cringe. That’s what happens when we break our body limits due to our ignorance of its universal language: pain.
Even though the attentiveness to body’s pain is astonishing low among many people, human beings are much more oblivious when it comes to the pain of the psyche. I look around and see many others whose healthy body is carrying a broken psyche.
It’s easy to know when our body is unwell. The signs are clear: ache, soreness, fever, blood. When recognize those symptoms, we eventually go to doctors and find a way to heal our body. But very few of us pay as much attention to our sick psyche. And that’s why people become mad, commit suicide, get depressed, and hurt themselves in so many ways – like the boy getting killed by 60kg weight falling on his jugular. It is very very rare to find a healthy psyche. That’s why it is our psyche that needs healing, every single day of our life.
How do we measure the wellbeing of our psyche? It is really very simple. Imagine a healthy body: it doesn’t get sick easily for the strength of its immune system, it does what it’s supposed to do smoothly, and you barely notice it when it is functioning. Like driving a good car, you don’t have to be conscious about the car driving and you instead enjoying the scenery and the experience on the road.
A healthy psyche is the same: it doesn’t get so easily disturbed, annoyed, hurt, angry, or sad; it does what it’s supposed to do, or assist the brain to do things uninterrupted: be it creative, analytical, comprehensive, or communicative tasks; it remains steady in its natural state of imperturbable happiness so you are not self-conscious and you simply enjoy the life that unfolds.
The sign of a broken body is pain; the sign of a broken psyche is fear. I’ve come to believe that fear is the common denominator for all psychological pains and negative emotions.
A wife beats herself up and ruins her marriage with jealousy because she is afraid of losing her husband, of being lonely.
A high school student commits suicide, after being badmouthed on Facebook, because she is afraid of the humiliation and judgment from her peers.
An executive jumps from the rooftop of a corporate building after a stock market slump because he is afraid of look into his family’s eyes, and afraid of looking into his own eyes in the mirror.
I’ve met , worked, and lived with many people whose psyche gets much much less nurturing, and much much more punishment, than what it deserves. In fact, your psyche doesn’t deserve any, any punishment.
The other day my mother drove me to some places on her motorbike. She got lost at some point, she asked for direction, and it seemed to take the wrong turn. Over the next 10 minutes she kept saying to herself: “Stupid! So stupid! Could’ve asked differently! So stupid!” She was in so much psychological pain, her psyche was suffering out of her ignorance. What is the point of all this? What good does it bring?
My mother is a director of a big government organization. She is a doctor, she has a Master Degree and is studying for her PhD. She is a wonderful, albeit worried, mother and wife. Her family is well-off, her children are healthy. Yet she gave her happiness away, and punished herself over and over, just because she got lost. That is not fair! She deserves more than that.
Now you see. If body pain is caused through interacting with outside forces; psychological pain is inflicted upon us by ourselves. The mind is untouchable. Nobody can damage it but its owner. There is a Ne-Yo love song that goes “and it’s all because of you” – which is absolutely stupid. If someone throws a stone at our head, we can point at that person. But when our psyche hurts, “it’s all because of me”.
“Stupid! So stupid! Could’ve done differently! So stupid!” This is very familiar. This is also how she scolds me. And this was also how she was scolded by her mother. She only does what she knows. She punishes herself as hard as how the adults of her childhood punished her. And I, once, punished myself as hard as how she punished me. Abuse becomes self-abuse. But I cannot blame her. I cannot blame myself. When I understand, truly understand, I can’t help but love. I can’t help but love.
Like the boy who killed himself lifting weight, if you are punishing your psyche the same way. No wonder why it is so fearful, so fragile, so distracted, so disturbed, so easily explode. The only anecdote to this is self-love. Pain, whether physical or psychological, is our body and mind whispering: “Love me…”
I know if I hadn’t learned self-love, I would’ve gone on to punish my daughter the same way my mother punished me. And she would’ve gone on to punish hers. The only way stop that unending chain of suffering is awareness and understanding. Our only chance to disrupt this absurd way of living is to look at ourselves in the mirror, face our imperfections and self-hatred, examine our broken psyche, see our 3-year-old child who is so afraid, instead of scolding her, speak softly: “It’s alright. It’s alright... We can try again. I love you exactly as who you are…”, and sing to her a lullaby.