Gloominous Doom

Apr 29, 2008

I have learned the name of my Nameless Anxiety.

That's what I've been calling this creeping feeling that I get, the certainty that I've forgotten something important, the worry over things out of my control, the knot at the pit of my stomach that appears for no reason at all. The result of spending too much time with my own brain and not enough with anyone else's.

It's a hard feeling to dispel, when you place a lot of faith in your own intuitions. The difference between Nameless Anxiety and intuition is actually pretty stark most of the time, but a part and parcel of the Nameless Anxiety is a little voice that says that ignoring this feeling is just wishful thinking, pretending that my fears aren't true. Even with the little voice I can usually distinguish between that and proper intuitions. But the voice is still there.

In Faerie to know the name of something is to have power over it. I actually just finished reading a book on the subject; The Mind and the Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz. Dr Schwartz, trying to find a treatment for OCD that didn't rely on drugs or on traumatizing the patient out of their obsessions, found an answer rooted in the Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness. He taught his patients to recognize that their compulsions came not from their selves but from faulty brain wiring, to name OCD thoughts as OCD thoughts instead of as truths about the world, and to act on these thoughts by specifically turning their minds to something else and doing something more productive. It worked, to the tune of producing brain changes demonstrable by MRI, and he cites similar treatments working similarly well for sufferers of clinical depression. To know the name of a thing, even of a thought, is the first step toward binding it, or banishing it.

"Don't be ridiculous," I told my Nameless Anxiety -- the Gloominous Doom, and isn't that a ridiculous name -- "there are three more days in April, the papers from the grad school are not late yet. It doesn't matter if you miss your first bus this evening, you don't have a curfew. Your landlord thinks you're awesome and will not throw a fit about something that you did not break in the first place. And what do you really have to be worried about, anyway?" And he looked at me with sad, fishy eyes and slunk away.

image by Brian Froud


Stephanie West Allen said...

You might like some of the articles by, and interviews with, Dr. Schwartz here:

Jenavira said...

Ooh, I didn't know he had a blog. Thanks!