Mental Health, Pandemic, and A Book

Mental health has become another pandemic triggered by Covid-19 pandemic.  Many of us are caught unaware. No one alive has seen so many deaths so rapidly, cry for help all over social media, fear of being infected by a deadly virus, what if we / family members get infected and do not get help or bed?  All these questions and issues are looming large, These questions have occupied a large part of our mind space. Everyone is caught with these questions.

It’s time to pause your thinking. It’s time to refocus your thinking.  It’s time not to preempt the agony. It’s time to take precautions. It’s time to do self-care. It’s time to do exercise. It’s time to do the work you like. It’s a god-given free time, use it the best of your resources.   

Now if the worst situation arises. Do whatever you can. But before that know what you can and what you can’t.

I have come across one book referred by many other books while dealing with the subject of enduring severe mental and physical pain. The name of the book is Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The author, a psychiatrist, was captured by the Nazis and who lived in Nazi concentration camps during the 2nd world war.

The author has documented his camp experiences and insights from his experiences about life. To understand the insights, a glimpse of life in the camp is necessary.

We all have to endure the present situation so about the endurance, he writes,

We were unable to clean our teeth, and yet in spite of that and severe vitamin deficiency, we had healthier gums than ever before. We were to wear the same shirts for half a year until they had lost all appearance of being shirts….

If someone now asked of us the truth of Dostoevski’s statement that flatly defines man a being who can get used to anything, we would reply, Yes, a man can get sued to anything but do not ask us how…

The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly everyone, if only for a brief time. It was born of the hopelessness of the situation, the constant danger of death looming over us daily and hourly, and the closeness of the death suffered by many of the others…

I made myself a firm promise, on my first evening in camp, that I would not “run into the wire”. This was a phrase used in camp to describe the most popular method of suicide- touching the electrically charged barbed wire fence.

From the above, you can make out the life in the camp. This is just a glimpse of what is stated in the book. The author has written about several such painful daily life experiences of severe hardship, enduring violence, hunger, insults, and witnessing many deaths daily.

In-spite of several such days, he and some others survived the camp life and were finally released with the help of the US army. What he learned and experienced from this life is worth knowing.

  • It is well known that Humour, more than anything else in the human make up, can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation even if only for a few seconds.
  • The attempt to develop a sense of humour and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.
  • No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether, in a similar situation, he might not have done the same.
  • Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the humans’ freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. (Profound)
  • Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food, and various mental stress may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis, it becomes clear that the sort of person the prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not the result of camp influences alone.
  • The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the sufferings it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity even under the most difficult circumstances to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified, and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight of self-preservation, he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.
  • Everywhere man is confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving something through his own suffering.
  • For no man knew what the future would bring, much less the next hour. Even if we could not expect any sensational military events in the next few days, who knew better than we, with our experience of camps, how great chances sometimes opened up, quite suddenly, at least for the individual.
  • Only slowly could these men be guided back to the commonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them.

There are many such inspirational gems in the book. The author from his personal experience in the camp and as a psychiatrist practitioner eloquently establishes man’s capacity to endure severe physical and mental pain.

It’s all about our hope, meaning we attach to life and our sufferings, the capacity to choose how to feel, and much more.

We all are feeling like we are in a similar helpless situation at present. But we are not. Keep your hope and don’t let hopelessness encroach your mind.

Here is another wonderful book that gives us solace in this painful time.

“Everything is perfect in the universe – even your desire to improve it.” Wayne Dyer

Attachment is undesirable and how to achieve detachment, free will vs everything is destined, we are formless souls with a body not the body (form) with a soul. Usually, these kinds of matters we read in Indian religious books and scriptures like Bhagavat GitaYogavasisthaTattavartha SutraAshtavakra GitaUpanishadsAtma Bodh, etc.

The book is You’ll See It When You Believe It by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It seems the author of the book is highly influenced and convinced about the Indian philosophy contained in UpanishadsBhagavat Gita, etc scriptures. The book is written by an American author, Dr. Wayne Dyer, in which he has referred to Bhagavat GitaYogananda Paramhansa (Prominent Indian Yoga Guru), J. Krishnamurthy (Well-known Indian philosopher) to name a few. The book talks of the subject mentioned above quite eloquently.

The book starts with the following excerpts in the initial pages.

“You are not a human being having a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being having a human experience.”

In the chapter on Synchronicity, (this is important) he writes,” Everything happens for a purpose and the puzzle of life fit together perfectly….. There are no accidents of any kind. (In Jainism this is known as Krambaddha Paryay i.e. Sequential Unfolding of the Future of Everyone/ Everything). It makes no sense to worry about those things over which you believe you have no control. There is nothing to worry about. It is all handled for you already. So just flow with it, rather than fighting for anything.

These two books will help all of us to deal with the pain and shock we are enduring. This will keep our mental health in balance.

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