I used to be an onion. Now I am a pearl. Let me explain.
“Mental disorders” have multiple causation. Several things need to combine to cause suffering. One of the most powerful findings in psychology is that childhood trauma is a part of this mix in a very high proportion of cases. If you define “trauma” as the child’s perception of a situation, then probably 100% of adult mental disorders involve the effects of childhood trauma, which Lenore Terr defined as “the mental result of one sudden, external blow or a series of blows, rendering the young person temporarily helpless, and breaking past ordinary coping and defensive operations.” Let me emphasise, the trauma is the mental result, not the event.
OK, so nasty things happened to me when I was little. I built layers of competence, achievement and experience around this middle, layer by layer, but the damage was always there, never mind how many good layers surrounded it. Onion, right?
Something would trigger the old stuff, and I’d find myself calling myself stupid and useless, and crashed into the ugly, unlovable little child. Old pictures showed I was not ugly, and there were people who loved me, both when I crashed and back in childhood, but reason is irrelevant in the grip of depression.
Some 35 years ago, I waved a magic wand, and turned the onion into a pearl.
A grain of dirt gets into a seashell. It irritates the little animal, who therefore builds a slippery layer around it. Then another layer follows, and another, growing the pearl larger. But this beautiful thing wouldn’t be there if the original bit of painful grit hadn’t happened.
That layer upon layer of good stuff I’ve built around the childhood hurt is there, not despite the trauma, but because of it. I am now a healer, a helper, a person people admire, precisely because I needed to build those layers.
So, if you’ve also had some grit in your past, examine how that experience has made you into a better person. We are all apprentice Buddhas on the way to enlightenment, whether we realise it or not. (OK, some people have an AWFUL long way to go yet, and many of them are politicians, or hold other places of power.)
If you are currently depressed, or anxious, or stave off the meaninglessness with addictions like buying stuff you don’t need, or feeding poker machines, or feeding yourself more than is good for you, or blotting out the pain with brain-toxins… just remember, there is another way of looking at things.
You are a pearl. Make yourself shiny and iridescent and beautiful through what you do to benefit people, including humans, but also other animals, and plants. The way to progress on the road is to ACT AS IF you were a Buddha already — however difficult that feels.