When I was a girl I had a little Strawberry Shortcake figurine that smelled like strawberries. I never wanted the smell to go away so I kept her all these years in a little box, and every once in awhile I take her out and smell the strawberry scent. In the same manner, I have created my "black box" for storing the deep emotional wild rides I call my episodes, which in writing the book, "My Black Box - A Memoir of Flights of Bipolar" has become my transparent box, as I play with the episodes and confront realities I was not previously ready to confront.
The black box philosophy outlined below is an off-shoot of the book and the poem, "My Black Box and Fine Lines". The seven tenants are listed below, followed by forty thought-provoking questions to help you survey where you are today and how you want to proceed forward. This method is not dictatorial - it is from your own revelation and ideas that spring forth when answering the questions.
Recognize and give some credit for your so-called far off thoughts, so long as they are not immoral. It is quite possible, that despite the odds against it, that the situation you seemed to have created in your mind could be a mix of a very creative mind and a sensitivity or perception of actual “unseen” technologies or realities. It could also be what I call “emotions gone wild”. We have our nightly dreams where our brain catches up and sometimes processes information and events experienced during the day. For those of us that are ultra-sensitive or who have additional baggage, this process may carry over into our daytime activities.
What is the goal though? The goal is that while we may give ourselves some credit and acknowledgement that our emotions and thoughts really do exist and have meaning, that they may lead to undesirable results. We can lead ourselves down a road to deception, or become very wrapped up in activities and thoughts beyond what we can take on or control. The idea of just “letting” our mind go where it goes, without any sort of restraint or discipline is not good. We live in a time of “live and let live”, tolerance galore, and this idea of being open-minded and free-thinking and even experimentation with our minds and lifestyles skirts at being on the edge. This can be dangerous in the long-term. On the other hand, the idea that we are supposed to be happy all the time, and experience no pain and agony in our life, will set us up for failure as well. We will again and again decide that we need treatment and fall into the long-term seduction of “pain-killers” over and over, whether it be with over-the-counter depressants and so-forth, or whether it be with illegal drugs. Ultimately, you probably would like to be toxic free.
Toxic – free. Does this really exist? Some of the best thinkers of our age have been noted as having high levels of lead or mercury in their systems, and in their brain. Many of these individuals also suffered from so-called emotional disorders. Being toxic free and healthy is a good goal towards good mental health. It is recommended that you spend time finding out if there are alternatives to the current medications you are on, and if you can resort to stronger medications, only in an emergency situation. Now, current technology has pointed out that even with regular levels of toxins or elements in our body, that the symptoms of overdose can be created under certain frequencies that may be available in our current communications and power systems. Health technologies are also moving forward addressing these issues. All we can try to do is address the health issues through good doctor care and self-research as best we can find and afford.
The assumption we want to make is that we will not be perfectly toxic free or perfectly healthy. We certainly need to strive forward in these areas, but we need to remember that there are those that have been mentally tough enough to handle even the most debilitating type of physical impairments and that we can learn habits of self-discipline that will get our minds in a healthy place.
Education. Have we received a good and thorough moral education? If not, then we might not be grounded in reality; many people may be surprised by our reactions and methods of making decisions, saying that they are not grounded, even though they may be well intended. It is up to ourselves to say, well regardless of any training or other education we could or have received, a healthy dose of ancient wisdom may do us quite well. Even if you are not sure about your beliefs, I would take this on as an experiment at least. Start attending some sort of morality-based teaching, absorbing all the knowledge you can and from an artist’s point of view, evaluate this type of moral philosophy, and apply it to your life. Be aware that a lot of mantras today teach dangerous attitudes that were discussed above – mixing in “living in excess”, “free-thinking” and “guaranteed happiness” – which remove us from what moral teachings actually say. If you find that the place you have entered is not your cup of tea after a year of regular discipline and intense study and application, then you will have at least spent one year training your mind to be in-line with some sort of moral teaching. The self-discipline will be achieved, and hopefully you will become more aware of the truth.
What is the Black Box theory? A Black Box is a box where things can enter, but are not seen and not removed. This is the type of black that absorbs all other colors. Black is also a color that can make us seem slimmer than we actually are. Black is also the absence of light. And light is typically associated with exposure. So we have this box, something we want to place certain ideas and thoughts and experiences in, that we choose not to shine a light on and not to resurface. Now, for many of us with intrusive thoughts or voices or hearing, seeing and living in other areas of reality, that do not seem apparent to others; we may already keep quite a bit of these thoughts to ourselves. We may have even become experts at pretending and disciplining ourselves so no one is aware of our actual thoughts. That does take a certain discipline, but maybe it is a discipline out of fear, or maybe even out of uncertainty. This proves we can make choices about our thoughts and actions. Now we need another rule. We need to actually keep these thoughts from bothering us. Now some of us may relish in these thoughts all day; they are automatic. But for whatever reason they are not healthy, or considered normal by others, or keeping us from leading productive lives, or keeping us from focusing on what God would have us do. As a result, we need to keep these thoughts from reoccurring. Certain ideas, while we don’t necessarily have to totally discredit them (remember (1)) to put them away, need to be put away. There is rationale for doing this. One, is we want to focus in areas that are more productive and helpful to ourselves and others, and to do that we need to be in a reality similar to the reality others are living in. Credit yourself with being creative. Give this process some time. Make firm contracts and commitments to give up thinking, worrying and paying attention to items that others do not recognize as real. I guarantee you that you will never go anywhere with it anyway; what really happens is that we end up locked up, or confused in the details, or suffering the long-term effects of continual medication. Learn additional techniques for training your mind. At a future time, you may be able to take on what is stored up in your black box, which is used as a basic coping mechanism. Share the story of your private reality when you’re ready, maybe best in small bits over time with different people - utilize your black box, but also be open to making it more transparent. Some of us have dark stories and it’s important to get those out in the open too. All it takes is a mustard seed in faith to move forward.
Pray or meditate. Another way to move forward in an area you are working on, possibly related to self-discipline is to pray or meditate. "Those persons who know the deep peace of God, the unfathomable peace that passeth all understanding, are always men and women of much prayer.”- R. A. Torrey
Knowing vs. doing. Maya Angelou said, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” Well, a lot of us are moved and knowledgeable as we figure out how to live life – through teaching, reading, observations and study. It is another thing to change an emotional habit. For instance, for years I have gotten into an argument or debate with my husband on a topic of interest. We disagree and the conversation escalates. Then we turn a little more serious and mean and become more engaged. Then it resorts to telling the other person they are stupid and don’t know what they are talking about. Then I get very angry and start yelling. We’ve talked about this behavior. I have asked him repeatedly to just drop the subject in the middle of the escalation, and it doesn’t happen. The one thing I can do, which I don’t is keep my mouth totally closed, no matter what happens, and not to re-engage. I have never had the discipline to do this. This would break the cycle of habit. It says in many teachings to be very careful of our tongues. That is more easily said then done, but we need to think of a specific item that occurs during the day, write down how it occurred and what type of discussion was held, and if their would be a better way for us to react. There is no need to bring in the other person, unless they are also interested in making a change here as well. And try not to spend all your time making demands on how other people should be acting, or to always turn-in and blame yourself thinking I am just horrible. Just focus on doing what is right, and move past this blame game attitude (and onto the solution!). Watch both your ego, your concept of being a victim all the time, your reasoning to blame others, and other behaviors you have identified as unhealthy.
QUESTIONS FOR INTROSPECTION
What is the root cause of my illness?
What steps can I take towards recovery?
To what degree can modern medical techniques aid in this process?
What is my overall view of my problem, and is it a healthy one?
Are there some areas where plain old resilience and discipline can help out?
Is there more to life than just being happy all the time?
Have I set meaningful goals for myself?
What is my bedrock of values?
What is going on with my family?
How can I be more productive?
Am I watching too much television?
Do I need to be re-educated in certain areas, through reading?
Is my lifestyle healthy?
Are there some things I can set aside from my thoughts?
How can I re-integrate family and tradition into my life?
What are my views of God based on?
Am I the product of someone else's pipe-dream?
How can I become more of an individual?
How can I become more independent?
Can I help take care of or be supportive of someone else?
What are my priorities in life?
Am I too wrapped up in the material world?
What type of drive do I have?
Do too many unknowns burden me?
Am I overindulgent with my thoughts and actions?
What rules can I set for myself, for my mind, for my next episode?
Can I affect change?
Where do my beliefs come from?
Am I worried about things beyond my control? Can I set aside those worries?
Does medication make me feel better?
Do I want to experiment with alternatives with the help of a doctor?
Can I trust myself?
Can I trust those nearest to me? Why or why not?
Does my imagination go wild?
Am I trying to escape from life?
Is it okay to hold an emotion other than happiness?
What actions do I take that seem out of control?
Is my understanding of the world or my environment based on truth?
Do I act like a victim, instead of a responsible individual?