QUESTION: I have two issues that I have never been able to overcome, except, as you would say, just enough to become frightened by my progress and withdraw from it as thoroughly as I could.

The first is that of relationship. I find that it takes great courage for me to participate at all in the lives of other people. I make an effort to do so on occasion, but usually I find myself saying or doing something I feel embarrassed about, to the point where I will cease contact altogether. Another scenario is that I will feel as if the person wants to be closer to me and I will immediately become overwhelmed by a sense of entrapment, with the same result, I run away. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of others, I do. Usually, I am mortified when a man expresses interest in me, even though I yearn for a loving relationship. I have this terrible feeling that sooner or later I will disappoint. When I am feeling healthy and attractive, I will withdraw and eat compulsively, smoke compulsively, and make every effort to ruin what I seem to only know intellectually is the temple of my body, but which much of the time I am bent on destroying.

It is a similar issue, but a different aspect of it - that I am unable to commit to any of the practices that I feel called to… I love to write and make music, to do things like yoga and healthy eating, to give massages to others and help them relax, to enjoy conversation. Yet, I never fail to zero in on my flaws until I give up altogether and once again retreat from the world.

I realize that many would be quick to diagnose me with depression, but I just don’t think it’s that simple, and I also am not interested in medicating in the hopes that it will "cure" me. I feel it is my own responsibility. I am so ambivalent that I feel on one hand I am depriving myself and the world of my gifts, and on the other hand, that I should just be destroyed so I don’t cause any more pain.

ANSWER: What you are describing here is something that all of us, on some level, are playing out. Some of us are more conscious of it, and some oblivious. But the push and pull of abject terror of intimacy with ourselves (and then others) resides in all of us. Depression is a symptom, not a cause. Our whole culture is based on shoving such feelings deep down. If one were to take medication, the ideal would be to use the relief to dig deep into therapeutic work.

So, you have a clear understanding of your patterns. This is powerful and useful. What you state so lucidly here can take some years to comprehend; usually we tend to feel a victim of circumstances. But stopping at this phase will only make you be awake in an unpleasant dream. Time to roll your sleeves up and get busy with going to the basement and clearing up. Such issues need to be addressed on a psychological level; intellectual understanding will not stop their activation in our lives. It is common to think that having specific mental understanding will shift the pattern, but as any addict knows, that simply is not the case. Sit with yourself and take an honest inventory of how much pain you are in, and start seeking for a competent therapist or healer to work through these issues so you can find the serenity and joy that you deserve. The gift of the pain being so loud is that we finally get pushed into taking action. Or not. The choice is yours.