Sunday Neurosis

Sunday neurosis (n.) – that kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest (Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning)

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote here. Frankly, I’m a bit ashamed of that. I have wanted to get back to writing, to blogging, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Even my personal journal, which used to be inundated by entries week after week, had been tucked away inside my drawer and was lucky to have been taken out just once every few months.

So what’s been happening? The simple answer is, I’ve been busy. I’ve started practicing as a clinical psychologist in a hospital for the mentally ill. Actually, the first few months were more training than practice; I’ve had so much to learn at a fast pace. But every day there was something to be fascinated about. Every patient had a story. A humanity that persists even through the most spirit-breaking of times. Even after their break from reality.

Now for the complicated answer. As the months went by, I grew more and more busy. I worked and worked and no longer dared to stop and think so much about what I was doing. I just wanted to get things done and get my life going. Maybe I pretended to be one of those people who “get it”. Who don’t question life so much and just gets on with it. Maybe it worked for a short while.

But over time, I grew rather jaded. There were days I failed to see my patients as people, but more as tasks. One after another, like a factory production line—get the interview done, get the tests done, write the report, goodbye. When I catch myself doing that, I am ashamed. No, this is not what I chose psychology for. This is not what I came here to do. I consciously prod myself then—these are people, real people, each and every one of them. When they’re in front of you, see them. When they talk with you, listen. Hear them. Feel with them. Don’t lose the humanity in what you do.

I then realize that maybe I started to lose more and more of that touch of humanity the more that I tried to live on the fast lane, just having blinders on and doing one task after another without stopping to think anymore. I had begun to be afraid of delving into the deeper questions for fear that I might lose ground. So I gave up my existential questions and just started to act more like a robot than a human. Don’t think, just do. Don’t question, just follow. The herd seems to have it alright. They seem to know what they’re doing. Be one of the herd.

“Even more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” – Victor Frankl

Sometimes I scroll down my Facebook feed and wonder whether I’m the only one not getting it. Not getting this life thing. There are days when all I see around me are people who seem like they’ve got it all figured out. Career, spouse, kids, friends, vacations, real estate, businesses, etc. I ask myself whether I’m doing enough with the time I’ve been given. I ask myself whether it’s even worth the effort. I ask myself whether life should be about Enoughness, or about a continuing Striving.

Currently, I’m reading First, We Make the Beast Beautiful by Sarah Wilson. It’s a book chronicling her thoughts on living life with anxiety. In it, she mentions new research revealing that there live among us, people who are “biologically immune to anxiety”. She calls them “life naturals”, and they make up about 20% of our population. They reportedly have an enviable gene mutation that gets them to produce more anandamide, a molecule with an effect similar to marijuana, thus its nickname “the bliss molecule”.

“This is what else life naturals do: they see a flower. And find it beautiful. That’s it. They don’t wonder if they’re liking it enough, or if the whole experience is a waste because today they’re too stressed to appreciate lovely things like flowers. Nor do they fear that the flower won’t last. And they don’t try to draw on that Zen proverb about how a flower doesn’t try to bloom, it just blooms on its own. And then despair that they’re failing to do the same. They simply grasp the is-ness as a matter of course.” – Sarah Wilson, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful

I am not a life natural. Not in the slightest way. If you are, shoo. This post isn’t for you. Kidding (sorta). To be honest, maybe I’d lived some parts of my life wishing I was a life natural too. Or in the case of the past few months, pretending to be one. But in so doing, I started to alienate my true self with the rest of me. It was not good.

I wonder if life naturals have Sunday neurosis too. For me, ever since I started to really grasp the concept of death, I have wondered what we’re all here for. I have struggled with a sense of meaninglessness and I’ve tried to find answers (and not only on Sundays). And as I read in a book before, it’s unfortunate that we now only see having a notion of meaninglessness as a symptom of mental illness rather than a genuine philosophical viewpoint. For me, it should be the latter. What’s unfortunate is that if left unexamined, it tends to lead to a downward spiral that may very well lead one to fall into a dark, inescapable pit.

 “You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

I guess my point here is that it’s worth talking about, whether with someone else or with your own self, this sense of meaninglessness and the resulting depressive feelings it may bring. It’s worth acknowledging, discussing, and examining. There is such a fear and stigma attached to the idea of feeling “off” or “depressive” or having a sense of “meaninglessness” that we bury all these “negatives” away, not realizing this denial and sweeping under the rug really do us more harm than good. Sunday neurosis is not all bad; it can be the jolt we need to bring us back to a deeper sense of humanity and to start taking on the real challenge of life—that of truly living instead of just existing, that of living fully and without pretension.

I am a believer in gifts enclosed in darkness, in gems concealed somewhere in a seeming void. If you’re in pain, find the gem of wisdom in it. If you’re bored, ask yourself what’s missing or what you’re refusing to admit that you need, what you’re refusing to do for your own happiness. If you’re engulfed by Sunday neurosis, engage yourself fully in the questions it makes you ask. Maybe you can use those questions to build a more fulfilling, meaningful life. Or maybe life itself is in the mere asking of those questions. Either way, have lovely Sunday, everyone.

It’s good to be back. 🙂

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“The significance of man is that he is that part of the universe that asks the question, What is the significance of Man? He alone can stand apart imaginatively and, regarding himself and the universe in their eternal aspects, pronounce a judgment: The significance of man is that he is insignificant and aware of it.” – Carl Becker, Stanford University 1935

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7 thoughts on “Sunday Neurosis

  1. I had wondered when you were going to join the club. (Not really, but I do recall some rather insightful and evocative exchanges. With those in mind, I suppose, I would have expected someone like you to have already come to our club’s realizations.)

    The Universe is Absurd. Life (all life) is pointless: think—heat death of the Universe.

    However, none of that matters, provided you don’t wake up one morning a true and absolute Nihilist — at which point you must kill yourself, then and there.

    Since you’re here, and reading, you’re not a Nihilist, therefore, you get to join the club. What club?

    The Club that accepts all of the above yet realizes that there is tragedy and beauty, pain and joy and suffering and laughter in the world. And that, thus far, humans are the only entities we’ve discovered in this absurd Universe who get to have their cake and eat it too.

    You weren’t here.
    Then you were.
    Soon you won’t be.
    So what?

    Who wants cake? Ice cream counts, too. And pie, if you’re a pie eater.

    Liked by 1 person

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