Saturday, May 10, 2014

Good Reasons to Feel Bad: What to Do When They Fade

Question for today: what happens to people with bad brain chemistry when they have a good reason to feel bad?

When people with balanced brain chemistry have that problem, they may feel bad for a while, then they feel better. A loved one dies, for instance, and the non-BBC-plagued person responds in a rational manner, feeling bad for the length of time needed to heal from the loss.

Someone with bad brain chemistry, though, may experience something different. Because this is a good reason to feel bad, that person clings to the reason, and when after a time of mourning the day-to-day bad feelings return, he or she continues to ascribe them to this reason.  Now all the bad feelings that naturally cycle in and out in the suffering person's brain are blamed on this reason: bereavement.  If this goes on long enough, people around the suffering person begin to wonder why their friend/family member is still mourning after so much time has passed.

"You need to get on with your life," the well meaning friends may say, thinking the person is fixated on the loss of the loved one.  But though the BBC person feels the loss, he is at this point trying to cope with his day-to-day BBC, and not the loss. He just doesn't realize that is what he is doing.

As I pointed out in my last post, people with BBC who go to war want to cling to that life-or-death experience because it made them feel better in a strange sort of way. Mourning the death of a loved one is that kind of experience that explains bad feelings in a socially acceptable way. Coping with a serious illness also provides that kind of paradoxical relief because the BBC person can now solicit sympathy and support legitimately.

But if something changes (the person recovers from the illness or returns from the war), or a reasonable amount of time passes, the "good" reason to feel bad loses legitimacy, and if the BBC person clings to that reason, he or she is in danger of deteriorating into a dysfunctional or debilitated state.

So what's the answer? The same as ever: recognize that your brain is making you feel that way by sounding a false alarm; then, find a way to turn off the alarm.

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