The Human Condition

   As a mental health professional, and someone who is a curious human being in general, I spend a large amount of time trying to understand the complexities of human emotions and the reasons for the pleasure and pain that humans can experience on a regular basis. The underlying question is this:  are humans always bound to return to “suffering”, regardless of what we do? Is it the human condition to experience loss and sadness, forever, along side happiness and pride and excitement?

    As a therapist I must ask myself this question repeatedly as it is part of my job to help people with their suffering. If there were a “happy” pill to take away sadness, people wouldn’t go to therapy at all.  If there were a pill to take away sadness, would we every really feel happy, though? Would there really be light if there were no darkness?  If the human condition is to swing between emotional well-being and emotional suffering, then would we really know happiness without knowing what pain feels like?

    I don’t try to talk my clients, my friends, or myself out of being unhappy.  Mostly because I have learned that being unhappy is not permanent, and I don’t think that ignoring or burying the pain will really make it go away faster.  I do, however, strive to work with the meaning of the pain.  For example, if someone is consistently depressed over a long period of time, they may think that this means that they will always be depressed, which is not necessarily the case.  But every time that they are depressed thereon after, when they return to sadness, the meaning that they make may be that they are still sad and that they will always be sad.  On the other side of 10 years of steps to becoming a therapist and practicing therapy, I have formed the opinion that the point of therapy might not be to eliminate the sadness, but rather, to learn let people in when you are suffering as to not be alone. I now understand therapy as being the practice of reaching out in the suffering, and learning to be with another in suffering, as to learn to repeat this in your outside life, as to surround yourself with those people in your life who understand and who also don’t want to be alone in suffering. 

  For hundreds of thousands of years before this point in time, it was our purpose to survive on a daily basis.  Our survival needs were forefront to our emotional issues.  Finding food, clean water, safety, warmth, and other basic survival needs kept us from the daily suffering that we now experience in absence of the basic will to survive.  Struggles now have become making enough money, not feeling isolated, finding meaningful relationships, and finding meaning in general for our purposes on a daily basis.  Our survival needs have manifested differently and they are now not what we spend every second of every day thinking about, or fighting for.  So if you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, and like your life is existentially pointless, it might be helpful to think about spending some time in the wilderness, conceptualizing how you would go about finding food if you didn’t have any, how you might build a shelter, how you could keep warm. And if you feel like you are the only one in the world suffering right now, it might be helpful to talk to someone to discover that you could possibly be understood by another person and potentially many others. 

 

Bianca Aarons LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in San Francisco . Bianca’s specialties include attachment, trauma, sexual abuse, post traumatic stress, relationship issues, depression issues, couples work and work with teenagers. Learn more about Bianca at www.biancaaarons.com, email her at BiancaAaronsMFT@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.

 

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Love, Self, and the Addiction to Perfection

(and learning to love yourself, of course)

Addictions can come in all different shapes, sizes and forms.  When one thinks of addiction, they often assume that an addiction is referring to a substance, such as drugs, or an activity, such as sex.  There are many types of addictions; food addictions, love addictions, ect. Addictions are coping mechanisms that are formed when emotions are intolerable and stress levels are unmanageable.  Often times, a person feels out of control of their addiction, and when they try to manage or change it, they find that the addiction gets worst.  

Many addictions can be misunderstood or misjudged, such as the addiction to control or abstinence.  Anorexia is actually an addiction to avoiding eating or preventing food intake.  "Sexual Anorexia" or contact avoidance is yet another misunderstood and highly unseen addiction, where one can go unnoticed in being addicted to finding ways to avoid relationships and prevent themselves from having sex.

One of the most recent addictions that I have encountered is the addiction to perfection. The signs of this are when someone feels that they cannot do anything because they cannot, or will not, be perfect enough when they do it.  Many people who have an addiction to perfection find that they experience procrastination or a hard time doing anything at all for the daunting reality that what they do will not fit their own expectations.  A person who is addicted to perfection will walk away from a partner who is not "perfect" enough, or walk away from a potential partner because THEY THEMSELVES feel that they are not perfect enough, or will just avoid dating in general for the same reasons.  An addiction to perfection can stilt a person from being able to do things that they could maybe do if they were ok with "good enough", like get a good enough job as opposed to being jobless in lieu of the the perfect job.

An addiction to perfection is surprisingly, and comparatively, as difficult to work through as other addictions.  And to work through this addiction, and many other addictions, some deeper issues may need to be confronted around fundamental sadness, self-hatred, grief, and hopelessness that may lay just beneath the protective layer of the addiction. 

 

 

 

Bianca Aarons LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in San Francisco's Duboce Triangle neighborhood. Bianca’s specialties include attachment, trauma, sexual abuse, post traumatic stress, relationship issues, depression issues, couples work and work with teenagers. Learn more about Bianca at www.biancaaarons.com, email her at BiancaAaronsMFT@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.

 

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