As human beings, we're very good at keeping going. We live up to our demands and carry out demands others place on us. We keep on showing up and can do this for decades at a time.
Then, one day, much to everyone's surprise, and our own, we break. We can no longer get out of bed. We fall into depression. We don't feel like eating. We refuse to play by the normal rules we've lived by.
But breakdowns are very inconvenient to others, so there's a rush to medicalise the problem so that it can be business as usual. To do this is to misunderstand what's going on.
A breakdown is an attempt of one part of our minds to force the other part into growth, self-understanding and self-development that we refuse to undertake. In essence, it's an attempt to jumpstart a process of getting well.
There is then a danger to merely medicalising the breakdown and attempting to push it out the way.
We break down because, over the years, there were messages we needed to hear but didn't pay attention to; emotional learning and communicating we didn't do until the emotional self became desperate to make itself heard.
A breakdown lets us know that things have to change.
But we find it difficult to simply listen to the emotional need in good time because the conscious mind is inherently reluctant to engage with what the breakdown eventually has to tell it. For years it refuses to listen to sadness or to the dysfunction in a relationship.
After a breakdown, many people will say that they don't know how they'd ever have gotten well if they didn't fall ill.
During a breakdown, we have not gone mad. We behave oddly, but deep inside, there is a search for health. If we can get through our crisis, it can dislodge us from a toxic status quo and call us to rebuild our lives more authentically.
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