When people try to stop the madness, they often expect to reduce the frequency of episodes. The want to stop having negative thoughts, anxieties, urges to use drugs, unwarranted guilt, paranoia, or impulses to do what they’ll regret. When they go to therapy and these things don’t stop, they get discouraged and figure nothing can help. They’ve got it wrong, though. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t reduce the incidence of madness without first reducing the duration.
You know those people who walk through your neighborhood in pairs and knock on your door asking you to join their church? I get them in my neighborhood, too. One day, I invited them in for coffee. I gave them donuts. We had a good talk, but I couldn’t get them to leave. They next day they were back. I didn’t want to be rude, so we had coffee again, and again, and again, and again. They were good people, but I wasn’t going to join their church, I was already set in that regard. I was wasting their time and mine also. I couldn’t stop. It was madness.
Then, one day when they knocked, I made an excuse that I was painting the kitchen, so we couldn’t have coffee. They were back a few minutes later in old clothes and offered to help me paint. Since, I really wasn’t really painting anything, I had to tell them the truth. Please don’t knock on my door anymore. Goodbye.
The next day, they were back.
Eventually, I learned that even engaging with them in the doorway was a mistake. Whenever I would hear the doorbell, I had to peer out a window. If it was them, I’d make like I was not home. Finally, they stopped coming.
Your negative thoughts are like that. So are your anxieties, your cravings to use drugs, your unwarranted feelings, your paranoia, and your impulses to do what you’ll regret. You can’t stop these thoughts from knocking at the door; but, you don’t have to let them in.
When you notice you’re engaging in madness, that’s the time to end it. Say to yourself, Stop the madness, and your participation will stop for the moment you say it. Seriously. All you have to do is identify your thing as madness for you to end the power it has over you for that moment. It’s as simple as that.
Oh, madness will come back in, like, two seconds; so soon it’ll seem like you never stopped. It’s simple, but often it’s not easy. Sometimes the madness has already moved in, is sleeping on the couch, or even kicked you out of your own bed, or is holding you hostage. It’ll dig in its heels, argue, threaten, lie, hornswoggle you into believing you need it. Getting rid of it’ll be like when a woodchuck chews his own leg off to get out of a trap, but it all starts with you identifying the madness.
So, do it again. Say, Stop the madness, and your participation stops once more. Do this as many times as it takes. You will reduce the duration of madness. Time spent in madness will get shorter and shorter. You’ll get better at doing this. It’ll get easier for you to stop. Eventually, you’ll learn to see the madness coming and, like me, pretend you’re not home.
I was complicit with my madness, but I didn’t know it. I thought I had no choice. I gave the madness the ability it had over me when I let it in the door. I entertained it. I fed it. I sat with it and had coffee.
When you stop answering the door every time your madness knocks, you will see you were complicit, too. The sooner you terminate your engagement with madness, the sooner it loses its power over you. It withers away, malnourished. You’ll see.