Personality Stress Disease, Health and Happiness

Dr S. V. Rao

The seventeenth century has been called the age of enlightenment, the eighteenth the age of reason, the nineteenth the age of progress, of anxiety.

Today everywhere one can see anxious, unhappy, bewildered people suffering from a host of stress diseases and most of them unable to achieve a satisfactory adjustment to the problems of life, missing their best potential. Modern cult of personality worship is the cause of the malady. Treatment of the condition, therefore, is the animation of your artificially created personality. This is attainable through yoga.

"Nature contains no personalities. Each flower and tree has its unique individuality but no personality. If we conceive of life as a river, our personality is like an island we flavour to create from the flux of waters round it. It is a problem of ourselves as creatures apart."*

Our egocentric personality is that part of our being which is the slave of our desires and the instrument of our ambitions.

An individual ordinarily has three personalities as one, with one of these he contacts people wearing a mask conforming to the requirements of the society This is his social personality or the external self.

Sometimes in quite moments, he enters into another realm of awareness and recognises himself as a bundle of instincts urges, drives, desires and will which make him wear masks of different shades and textures This is his instinctive or dynamic personality or can be called the inner self.

Rarely one is able to transcend his body, mind and intellect to perceive those extraordinary moments that he is part of the cosmic consciousness which manifests itself in around beings in this universe.

He then experiences that he has no separate existence except as a part of cosmic pattern, that the life within him continuous with that in the life within him is continuous with that in the flowers, trees, birds and other beings. This realization is due to his cosmic personality or the true self. Glimpses of such experiences are seen in the lives of mystic saints, poets, artist, etc. The ecstatic joy of Wordsworth on seeing the daffodils and that of Rama Krishna Paramahamsa observing the flight of a flock of white cranes with their snow white wings against the background of dark cloud laid sky, are well known.

Persons acutely aware of their personality and its potentialities are often ambitious. This is a result of their one fundamental insecurity. It is necessary for them to build themselves bigger then life size for their own reassurance. Those who are most concerned with making their own separate existence a work of art are afflicted with an emptiness within for which they seek to compensate. The ambitious man in his pursuit of urges for more money, more power, more security, better social position, bigger garden, better car, university education to his moronic off spring, pictures of the weddings of his repulsive children in illustrated weeklies, etc. is disclosed in his pitiable state of helplessness and exhaustion. Like a deluded thirsty deer chasing a mirage, he is invariably found in the end martyred by his own ambitions.

There are, however, a few individuals whose actions are prompted not by the dictates of the egocentric personality but by the gentle whisper of the cosmic personality, the timeless, ambitionless, desireless true self. Growth of the true self transforms a person, a person such that whereas before he confronted his daily task as a challenge to his personality, he now offers himself to the same occupations as an instrument of the infinite. The result of this transformation is that the individual leads a good life.

"The essence of good life is that the good tree brings forth good fruit. This means that by virtue of an inward peace and harmony an individual is good. He does good because he is good. His good actions are performed without effort though has earlier been joined to grace in making them good."*

A large number of environmental influences mould the life pattern of an individual. Disharmony in any one of these result either in disease or crime or abnormal behaviour. The symptoms of chronic stress are produced by the egocentric personality protesting against its dissolution and expressing its unwillingness to surrender itself.

Disease is essentially a total response of the whole personality, even though it is manifested in local signs and symptoms. It is the accepted view of psychiatrists the world over, that the mechanism of repression plays an important role in determining the type of disease induced. The greater the repression, the more likely is the disease to be organic, rather than neurotic or functional. The type of disease present depends upon the degree of repression present, the level of personality at which the repression is exercised and the extent to which the autonomic nervous system is liable to dysfunction. Just as disease is deeper than symptoms, so also there are trends deeper than disease, which occur as the result of personality's reaction to universal forces completely external to it. Apart from the psychoneurotic disorders viz., anxiety, obsessional and hysterical neurosis, a large number of functional and organic disorders e.g. asthma, peptic ulcerative colitis, neurodermatitis, migraine, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis, coronary insufficiency, diabetes, obesity, etc., are found to have a bearing upon conflicts within the layers of personality.

Of these, the functional and organic diseases are defence mechanisms against the eruption of worse psychological symptoms, in asthma for example, as though the respiratory symptoms are socially more acceptable than some of the neurotic symptoms possible as alternative.

Sometimes individuals confronting some kind of void and shrinking from it show symptoms of stress diseases. An ambitious man may take up tennis or golf and prove his versatility by developing peptic ulcer in lowering his handicap. A hard working middle aged mother may develop rheumatoid arthritis on arrival of a dominating type of daughter-in-law when her hope of getting some relief from work is frustrated.

Perhaps all neurosis is an escape from reality, but the symptom complexes through which an individual is made to achieve his aim are innumerable. Symptoms of disease are the cries uttered by the personality when its integrity is threatened. Unresolved conflicts produce disturbances at different times in different section of the autonomic nervous system.

To day in the age of anxiety, everywhere one can see an unhappy bewildered people suffering from a host of stress diseases and most of them, unable to achieve a satisfactory adjustment to the problems of life, missing their best potential. Modern cult of personality worship is the cause of the malady. Treatment of the condition therefore, is the annihilation of our artificially created personality.

Annihilation of ego-centric personality results in internal harmony and peace. Health is an incidental by product of the process of annihilation of the ego-centric personality. Harmony, and through it health, can only be achieved when the personality has become simply an instrument, the direction of which has been handed over to the true self, the layers of this personality disappear. He is then the same in his mental and emotional strata. The inner and outer man are identical and the individual thinks and acts spontaneously and as a whole. Unless man be made whole, which is to become instant in the universe, he will know no form of harmony be it disguised under the name of health or happiness.

The truly happy man is, in the long run, he who is least aware of himself as a separate entity. Even though he is out of time, devoid of purpose and with no goals. One cannot feel life if one is continuously obstructing its passage.

A bird leaves its shadow behind. It does sot propel itself forward with its beak.

To be able to be happy, man has to return to nature. He should learn to see things in their proper perspective through her eyes and not his own. He must realise that he is part of a pattern sharing in the incessant waning and waxing of all things, that he has his spring and winters and there is no escape, the whole trend of civilization, that he is expendable.

The leaves which fall in autumn nourish the earth for the new saplings. They are unaware of the part they play in the earth's destiny. They die in beauty, whereas for man age is scarred with a particular stamp conferred by his ego-centricity. Man is terrified of change and death, but change and death are themselves no more then the shadow cast by the great illusion of personality, while man clings to personality, he is haunted by death:

"Death does not exist except as a punctuation mark at the end of a fantasy. What is within us, perpetually is" Bhagvadgita II (20)

Having realized this, a wise man abandons the struggle imposed on him by his personality. He ceases to cling to himself and to the world, instead he embraces the void because he knows that he is more than a moment in reality. He only exists as a breath of God. He lives in silence and adds nothing to the pain of the world. With the two wings of detachment and faith in God like a little bird sitting on a tree top ready to fly away any time, a wise man exists in this world ready to quit any moment. He works so as to live forever and lives so as to die tomorrow.

Man must live in this atmosphere or realisation and acceptance of forces greater than himself. If a man regards himself as self enclosed, he suffers. If he drifts in the ocean, it washes away both his aspirations and his troubles because in the last analyses the two are identical. What he does with his life is merely the particular form of suicide he effects. What is done with his life is all that matters. He must let go and be carried with it. It is only by doing so that he will obtain health, peace and enlightenment.

* Parts of the text are quotations are from British psychiatrist Dr Arthur Guirdham's thought provoking book: Cosmic Factors in Disease