What Cannabidiol Therapy Can Do for You

Megan, an old friend, messaged me on Facebook asking if I could write an article about her reactions to cannabidiol (CBD), the non-psychoactive sister cannabinoid to THC. Like THC, CBD binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, but they elicit a wide array of effects not hallucinogenic in nature. Some of the reported effects include an improvement in mood, increased sleep and appetite, pain modulation, and refined memory (Butterfield, 2016). It has gained popularity with an increasing number of patients interested in adopting cannabis as a form of treatment for their ailments but want to do so without experiencing the taxing head highs that marijuana is popular for.

With her permission, I am allowed to reveal why Megan chose CBD as her preferred treatment. Simply put, Megan suffers from mild depression and severe anxiety, and it took great courage for her to admit that to me when we consider the disastrous public mental health stigmas that plague Americans and ultimately turn them off from the getting help they so desperately need (Parcesepe & Cabassa, 2013). A common mental health stigma is that anxious or depressed people are weak. We know that to not always be the case.

But Megan’s story doesn’t end with this article—she wants to encourage other sufferers of depression and anxiety to not only seek possible treatments, but to seek natural treatments. Because while drugs like Prozac and Xanax have their respective benefits, one causes radical personality changes and the other yields a high potential for abuse, overdoses, and hospital admissions, especially when used irresponsibly (Harding, 2009; MacLaren, 2017). If I can use Megan’s story to spread the word that natural remedies are indeed out there and work just as effectively as synthetic drugs, I like to think that I’d be doing the world a service.

Then again, it’s very easy say that CBD therapy works, but that does not necessarily mean it will work for you. As such, this article will provide a brief rundown of Megan’s documented experiences with CBD over a period of 15 days so that you, the reader, can judge whether or not it is the right treatment option.

Before continuing, let me address the elephant in the room: CBD’s legal status. I’m sure you don’t want to obtain CBD hemp oil only to discover that it’s no less illegal in your state than THC is, so what does the legality of CBD look like both state-by-state and at the federal level? The short answer is “it’s complicated.” In December of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration articulated that any extracts from a cannabis plant are Schedule I controlled substances, effectively putting them on the same level as heroin, LSD, and bath salts. Nonetheless, CBD laws are inconsistent across the country. That is, in the 28 states allowing for the possession and consumption of medical marijuana, CBD is also legal for medical purposes. Sixteen more states have passed laws that, although restrictive, have legalized CBD. In the 6 remaining states—Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana, and West Virginia—CBD, THC, and alternative cannabis extracts are 100 percent illegal (Summers, 2017).

Now that we’ve gotten that part out of the way, how has Megan’s time with CBD been?

Day 1: This was the first day that Megan ingested CBD to treat her anxiety. She writes in the e-mail that she used a vape oil called “FX Chill.” The device she used for ingestion was the high-grade vaporizer Yocan Evolve C. She took two puffs from it at 9 A.M. and pledged to take two every morning and two every night. Instantly, she felt rejuvenated—a little high-strung from the events of the previous day, but much less apprehensive than she would have been otherwise.

Day 2: Megan woke up slightly anxious from what she puts as an “odd dream.” To her surprise, she wasn’t as on-edge as she normally is when she wakes up, and her typical anxious symptoms like heavy breathing and rapid heartbeat were absent. She also mentions that she lost the mouthpiece to her vaporizer. Whereas before, her anxiety would have snowballed, this time she felt tranquil. “That is abnormal to me,” she writes.

Day 3: This was a Saturday, and Megan felt unusually contented. She worked in the evening and arrived home feeling calm.

Day 4: This day was an emotional rollercoaster for Megan. Apparently, she felt fine for the first half of it, then depressed toward the evening, and better at night. She also felt a tad nervous here and there.  Despite this, Megan asserted that she would continue on with CBD therapy hoping for longer-term mood improvements.

Day 5: This day was a Monday, and Megan complained that Mondays are stressful for her because they net the most traffic at her workplace. She still felt calm and collected, and it turned out to be a fine day.

Day 6: Megan explains that Tuesdays are hard because after working for 16 straight hours, she refuses to get any sleep. As a consequence of her lack of patience to rest up, she becomes very tired and thus aggravates her anxiety. However, on this particular day all her negative feelings—her depression, anxiety, and apprehension—were absent, and she only felt happy and carefree. She notes, “I am able to experience a glimpse of what life was like pre-onset of my anxiety and that was something I never thought I would see again.”

Day 7: Nothing of much importance happened on this day. Megan went out at midnight to celebrate her friend’s 21st birthday, emphasizing that while she normally feels uncomfortable in social situations of that nature, she felt like she could handle it well.

Day 8: On this day, Megan felt tired and restless but still wasn’t anxious. She worked a run-of-the-mill 8-4 shift and arrived home, relieved to discover that her boyfriend, in a gesture of affection, had completed an assortment of household tasks for her. However, he was troubled by things going on in his life, and Megan did all she could to make him feel better, but nothing worked. Even so, with the help of CBD, she felt more than capable of handling the acute stress associated with trying to console a partner who’s clearly distressed.

Day 9: Here, we start to notice a theme of liberation. Megan once again expresses that she just feels free, like all her troubles are ever present but minimized and less threatening. Later on, however, a rude and obnoxious customer triggered an episode of aggressive anxiety in her. She took a few more puffs of CBD to quell her frustration, but didn’t feel much better afterward.

Day 10: This was a bit of an off day for Megan. Still upset from yesterday, she cried intermittently but was able to pull herself together. In addition, she attended lunch with her dad and dinner with friends, and on both occasions, she drank alcohol.

Day 11: “It was a fairly normal Monday,” Megan writes. She experienced very little anxiety.

Days 12/13/14/15: After forgetting to take CBD on Tuesday and Wednesday, Megan’s anxiety came back in full force, with feelings of extreme sensitivity, despondency, loathsomeness, and most of all, doubt about herself and her capabilities. When she resumed treatment late on Wednesday and into Thursday, she could get back to living life on her terms again, attesting that all this time CBD has worked wonders for her and that she wouldn’t know what to do without it. The quality of her life, she states, has improved dramatically, and she didn’t realize how much better she felt until she missed her dosages.

Based on Megan’s feedback, does CBD therapy work? If so, is it within your best interest? I’ll let you be the judge of that.

I would like to thank Megan for opening up a window into her life and allowing me to post this article. It is people like her who remind us that depression and anxiety are not simply character flaws, but rather afflictions that, much like a physical disability, can be treated and coped with. I hope that through sharing her story today, I can lift the stigma off mental health issues just a little bit and encourage my audience to finally request help.

 

References

Butterfield, D. (2017, February 09). CBD: Everything You Need To Know About Cannabidiol. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://herb.co/2016/07/26/everything-you-need-to-know-about-cbd/

 

Harding, A. (2009, December 08). Antidepressants change personality, study suggests. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/12/08/antidepressant.personality.changes/index.html

 

MacLaren, E. (2016, October 06). Xanax History and Statistics. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://drugabuse.com/library/xanax-history-and-statistics/

 

Parcesepe, A. M., & Cabassa, L. J. (2013). Public Stigma of Mental Illness in the United States: A Systematic Literature Review. Adm Policy Ment Health, 40(5), 384-399. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835659/

 

Summers, D. (2017, March 22). Is CBD Oil Legal? Depends on Where You Are and Who You Ask. Retrieved October 10, 2017, from https://www.leafly.com/news/politics/cbd-oil-legal-depends-ask

When to Know You Have Redeemed Yourself

I work at the local grocery store, and one time, I was facing the shelves in Aisle 15. While I was minding my own business and organizing items, a customer approached me and kindly asked where the prunes were. Prunes, I thought, were located in the produce section—they’re a fruit after all. It turned out that at my store, prunes are only sold in the form of a can, and that they were actually located in Aisle 9, the baking aisle. Of course, I erroneously instructed the customer to search for them in the produce department, but to my dismay, the hostess was working next to me and therefore overheard my misleading feedback.

In case you’re wondering, the hostess’s job is direct customers to the items that they cannot find, so you can probably imagine how frustrated she was with this pathetic cashier’s uninformed, uneducated guidance on the whereabouts of prunes. She corrected my mistake by ushering the customer to Aisle 9, and then returned to Aisle 15 to scold me.

“These people pay our salaries,” the hostess angrily exclaimed. “If you constantly direct them to the wrong locations, they’ll get fed up and WE’LL lose business.”

Little did she realize that at the end of the day, I am just a cashier and thus not expected by my managers to know the locations of every conceivable item in the store. But I’m a man of principle in that when I’m asked a question—any question—I try to give the best answer possible to it, regardless if I’m right or wrong. That was how I was taught. I protested to the hostess that if I relinquish my competence by constantly relying on others to answer questions that were originally asked TO me, then I’ll be perceived as weak. When she continued to poke that bee hive, I naturally reacted with agitation.

“Okay, SORRY” I said with a snide tone, turning my head away and continuing to organize the items. For the next ten seconds, neither of us would say a thing. The hostess, dumbfounded by my defiance, asked what my name was in order to report me to a manager, but before she could leave the aisle, I promptly apologized to her. “I apologize for my tone-of-voice. I’ve had a long day and took my frustration out on you. I didn’t mean to.”

That was over a year ago, but I’ve routinely thought about the ways in which I could’ve better handled the encounter. Perhaps I should’ve set aside my pride, and allowed the hostess to answer the customer’s question all along. Maybe I should’ve been a little sterner when she scolded me, or maybe I should’ve just known where the damned prunes were.

Interestingly, five days ago, I’m working the register and a different customer approaches me to ask about where to find the prunes. “Aisle 9,” I told him.

I told this story because it is a glimpse into what self-redemption could look like. We’ve all made thousands of mistakes that we wish we could take back. Due to the nature of time and how it works, we can’t undo or rescind them, but we can register and put them to work.

Let’s say, for example, that I was never approached by that fateful customer. Big deal. I could’ve done my job in peace and circumvented an uncomfortable conversation with a pesky coworker. Five days ago, however, the outcome would’ve been the same as the incident that occurred over a year ago, but with one key difference: I would’ve erroneously directed the customer to the produce department, and never learned about the location of prunes, thereby setting myself up to repeat the same mistake as before.

In a world outside a grocery store, we might fail at relationships, fail at new jobs, and fail exams, but that doesn’t always mean that we’ve failed as people. Through applying this knowledge to navigating interpersonal relationships, learning a novel career position, and taking an important exam, we begin to realize that each of our mistakes, lamentable as they may be, are stepping stones toward achieving a more favorable outcome the next time an opportunity presents itself. That is the precise definition of self-redemption, because to achieve it, you must endure profound failures and hardships but take away from them the wisdom to know that you’ve done a poor job, and that you hope to do better the next time.

Now go and find those prunes.

Depression Is Your Friend

It’s crazy, right? How can something as unpleasant as depression, the leading precursor to suicide, actually be thought of as a good buddy?

First off, I would like to emphasize that I am in no way praising deep, debilitating depression. Instead, this article is aimed at discussing depression as a form of motivation, not a psychological disorder.

When you think of a friend, what is the first thing that comes to mind? A friend might be someone who you watch a ballgame with. They might even be someone who drives you home when you’re too drunk to drive yourself. For me, a friend is someone so much more than that; someone much different than a family member or spouse.

For me, a friend is someone who attends that ballgame not because they want to get out of the house for a few hours, but because they genuinely enjoy your company. A friend is someone who drives you home when you’re drunk not out of obligation, but out of concern for your safety. Really, a friend is someone who accepts you without question, sees the value that you bring to the world, and looks out for you during hard times.

So how does depression look out for you? Well, for starters I’m writing this post with my fingers. I have a brain that thinks and reasons in order to produce the language that is responsible for the post in the first place. I have a stomach to digest the food I ate two hours ago and a heart that pumps blood to keep me alive. The truth is, depression wouldn’t exist if, along with every organ in my body, it didn’t serve some kind of a survival function. The theory of evolution suggests that our predecessors who did not experience depression were selected against and died off, while those who experienced depression lived on to spread their genes and ultimately create you and me. With that said, depression is as much a part of us as our fingers, stomachs, brains, and hearts are. It is an instrument of survival.

Then again, depression doesn’t get enough credit. We condemn it, scrutinize it, and in many cases medicate it when it doesn’t need medicating. How do you even define depression in a positive light when it is this widely stigmatized and condemnable “sickness of the mind” or worse, character flaw? Well, it’s not an impossible task.

Normal depression, and by extension grief, can be defined as a self-regulatory mechanism in which a problem is continually reflected on and analyzed with the intent of preventing it from reoccurring. It’s almost like trying to solve a math equation that you’ve been stuck on for hours in that you’ll rework the problem over and over until a correct solution becomes evident. The only time the mind-boggling math equation that is depression becomes debilitating is when episodes are prolonged, lasting for weeks and months at a time, and disrupt personal and professional relationships. At that point, you never solve the problem, you just keep staring at it and expecting something to change.

I can tell you with certainty that for every mistake I’ve made and problem that I’ve created, I never would have improved as a human being if I didn’t feel depressed afterward. There were times when I failed a test or said something extremely hurtful to another person, and afterward that was all I thought about for the rest of the day and even the rest of the week. I’d think to myself, “How could I let this happen?” and “What went wrong, and what can I do to fix this mess?”

Don’t get me wrong, depressive rumination isn’t fun. Some of the worst moments in my life were where I would become so emotionally drained, so dispirited, and so, well… depressed, that I couldn’t even move. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t play video games, and I generally couldn’t function normally. Why would anybody want to suffer through such an experience? The answer is that it can be used as motivational fuel when it is channeled into something more meaningful. I look at it this way: you could achieve every major success in the book, but by the time that one failure comes around it’s suddenly the worst thing in the world because you haven’t acquainted yourself with what it’s like to truly lose. To truly face defeat. In this manner, the low points in life help us appreciate the high points and remind us of the progress (or lack thereof) we’re making.

Occasional, not chronic, depression is your friend because it’s got your back. It PUSHES you toward improvement by notifying you that you need to make some much needed corrections in your life. And trust me, you’re better off with than without it.

Five Criticisms of “13 Reasons Why”

Note: Spoilers ahead for “13 Reasons Why.”

13 Reasons Why is a great show—possibly one of the better shows I’ve watched this year. However, I couldn’t help but walk away from it without expressing a few criticisms of the way it handled its subject matter. So what might these criticisms be?

Criticism 1: Too often, it ignores Hannah’s mental health problems.

I do not personally believe that the writers glamorized suicide, but I can understand both arguments. On the one hand, the show did an exemplary job at illustrating the long-term ramifications that suicide has on our relationships. On the other, it deceived the audience into thinking that Hannah’s suicide was a revenge ploy, when in fact it was the result of her deep-seated psychological issues (e.g.: depression, bipolar disorder, histrionic personality disorder, or PTSD) that went unabated.

Criticism 2: It makes it difficult to sympathize with Hannah.

It was difficult to feel sorry for Hannah when she wouldn’t speak up for herself. After being raped by Bryce, why didn’t she tell her parents, or anyone for that matter? If she had explained what happened to her, she could have gotten the help she needed and therefore turned Bryce in. Instead, she allowed her pain to consume her indefinitely, and that made it hard to root for her.

Criticism 3: It places undeserved blame on the other characters.

Clay and the guidance counselor did absolutely nothing wrong. Clay was punished because Hannah expected him to be a mind-reader, while the counselor was punished because he was unequipped to advise suicidal students. Both clearly overlooked obvious red flags that Hannah displayed, but that doesn’t make either of them responsible for her death. The same holds true for everyone else on the tapes, including Bryce.

Criticism 4: It overstates the unpleasantness of high school.

The fact that Hannah was unwilling to cope with petty interpersonal drama (something that we all put up with) means that she probably lacked the emotional resources to solve real problems. More importantly, the show implies that high school is the worst time in a person’s life when it isn’t. Life gets much harder after we’ve graduated high school, and thus in Season 2, the show needs to do a better job at depicting the challenges that we face beyond those relatively insignificant 4 years.

Criticism 5: It imposes unrealistic expectations upon its audience.

It seems that the main message of the show is to “be kind to everybody, because you never know what someone else is going through,” but you know what the fundamental flaw is with that logic? You can never be totally sure when you’re hurting someone else’s feelings. Sometimes, I treat people poorly when I don’t realize it, and the opposite is also true. I should not be expected to moderate my language at every moment of the day on the off chance that someone is going to commit suicide because of some stupid thing that I said.

Despite all of this negative feedback, I agree with the writers’ decision to ultimately display Hannah’s suicide on screen, because by not showing it, they would have downplayed its severity and taken away the whole point of the show.

Overall, I hope that 13 Reasons Why further encourages younger people to seek professional help by driving discussions on highly sensitive topics like suicide and sexual assault, and that Season 2 (if there is one) addresses the criticisms I’ve listed above.

The Apocalypse Might Not Kill Us All

Normal body temperature fluctuates daily from 98.5 to 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit. When you contract the flu, you will feel terrible. You’ll have a sore throat, runny nose, fatigue, headache, or muscle aches, but your body temperature will also elevate way beyond its normal range, causing you to feel like you’re burning up and that you’re on the brink of death.

Fevers are triggered by chemical agents known as pyrogens, which flow in the bloodstream. Pyrogens activate special receptors in your hypothalamus that signal to your body’s immune system that is has to work overtime, and thus raise your body temperature enough to kill off hostile bacteria and hopefully eradicate the sickness. As unpleasant a fever may be, it serves a critical survival function in that it helps your body combat a potentially life-threatening infection.

So why the science lesson? Because a fever, no matter how bad it makes you feel, is an inherently good thing.

In my previous post, I introduced this idea of “good and bad” thinking—that if you incorporate perspectives that you hadn’t previously considered into your attitudes, you can begin to convert every inconvenience into an opportunity. This week’s post is about putting that idea into action so that you don’t have to feel like the inconveniences that do spring up in your life have to be treated as though they were end-of-the-world catastrophes. While practicing this strategy of thinking, that fever of yours could be treated as a welcome addition to your sick day, assuming that you drink plenty of fluids!

If you still don’t believe me, I’m going to provide three examples of objectively classifiable catastrophes, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the bombing of Hiroshima, to further demonstrate that beyond all of that large-scale destruction is an opportunity for positive change.

Disclaimer: I am in no way downplaying any of these disasters. I am merely using them to illustrate the point that, in spite of the inconceivable destruction and enormous loss of life, they still brought some good.

September 11th

9/11 is thought of as profoundly devastating because it was an attack on American people and most of all, an attack on American values, or the very fabric that once made America so highly esteemed. Over 3,000 innocent people, many of which were mothers, fathers, boyfriends, and girlfriends, lost their lives while two of the most iconic towers in New York City collapsed in just 102 minutes. What further exacerbated this tragedy was a growing hatred and gross misunderstanding of the Islamic faith (Rose, 2013).

Those who were directly involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and lived to see the next sunrise could never truly let go of what happened to them. At the same time, many participated in what was one of the greatest coming-together occasions in all of American history, while multiple foundations were established that appropriated funds toward other causes like hurricane relief and the assisting of emergency respondents (Davis, 2013). The attacks also motivated the Federal government to upgrade security measures and conceive of the Department of Homeland Security, which has since been responsible for multiple counter-terrorist operations.

It just demonstrates that while terrorists can destroy all of the buildings they want, they can never destroy the American spirit.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was an event of destructive proportions. The storm, with winds stretching over 50 kilometers and blowing 40 mph on average, caused the deaths of an estimated 1,833 people and a whopping $108 billion in total property damage (Zimmermann, 2015). It is ranked as the sixth strongest storm in recorded Atlantic hurricanes, and has sent the city of New Orleans into social, political, and economic disarray. Thousands of people were left without homes, stripped of all hope and a will to move on.

However, even Hurricane Katrina had positive effects. Juan Williams (2010) uses the example of former New Orleans resident Josh Levin, who wrote in a post for Slate Magazine saying “[Katrina] gave New Orleanians an unprecedented opportunity to remake a city that wasn’t working.” According to Levin, Republican Joe Cao and Democrat Mayor Mitch Landrieu used the storm as an opportunity to tackle rampant poverty, crime, and education issues, inciting major reforms that would set the city in the right direction and essentially hit the reset button. Williams also states that interestingly enough, Hurricane Katrina lifted the stigma off New Orleans’s widespread poverty and improved upon previously tense race relations.

Right now, New Orleans is still in a very tight spot, but even if it takes another 10, 50, or 100 years, I believe that someday that town will be better off than before Katrina first made landfall.

Hiroshima

Unlike the 9/11 attacks and naturally based Katrina disaster, the bombing of Hiroshima was instigated on American prerogative in an effort to put a stop to WWII and therefore save countless lives. Harry S. Truman was faced with the hardest decision a president has ever had to make: force Japan to surrender unconditionally, or suffer hundreds of thousands more American casualties by allowing the war to continue. Finally, at 8:15 A.M. on August 6th, 1945, the decision had been made, and the United States dropped an A-bomb on the heart of Hiroshima. Most if not all people within a two-kilometer radius were instantly vaporized while the city had become leveled and shrouded in atomic fire.

Overall, around 140,000 were killed or died in the following months, either by burn damage or radiation poisoning. Yet as much of a stain on our history as Hiroshima is, it was necessary to end a war that claimed, and would continue to claim, millions of lives. In fact, the total amount of prevented casualties is roughly as high as 1,237,980, not counting for conservative estimates (Vespa, 2016).

The argument as to whether the bombing of Hiroshima was morally and ethically justifiable remains unresolved, and like other moral grey areas, there will never be a single answer that everyone agrees with. One thing is for certain: it was preferable to the alternative.

Final Word

9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hiroshima are evidence of how all life is a double helix of good and bad; that all bad has to lead into good and vice versa. I’ve found this way of thinking incredibly helpful not because it promotes positive thinking, but because it promotes critical thinking. It allows you to get creative and actually use your brain to arrive at an accurate conclusion of the universe’s complicated dynamics.

Anyone can curl up in a ball and cry when the world’s about to end, but to stand up and smile in the face of imminent annihilation? That takes character.

 

References

Davis, L. (2013, September 12). 9 Ways 9/11 Inadvertently Sparked Good In The World. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/12/9-ways-911-inadvertently-_n_3909148.html

 

Rose, S. (2013, November 11). Since 9/11, Racism and Islamophobia Remain Intertwined. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/steve-rose/911-racism-islamophobia_b_3908411.html

 

Vespa, M. (2016, May 27). Yes, Dropping Atomic Bombs On Japan Was A Good Thing. Retrieved September 29, 2016, from http://townhall.com/tipsheet/mattvespa/2016/05/27/no-america-dropping-atomic-bombs-on-japan-was-a-good-thing-n2161273

 

Williams, J. (2010, August 27). Even Katrina Has a Silver Lining | Fox News. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2010/08/27/juan-williams-katrina-brookings-new-orleans-gulf-coast-black-poverty-pew-poll.html

 

Zimmerman, K. A. (2015, August 27). Hurricane Katrina: Facts, Damage & Aftermath. Retrieved September 09, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/22522-hurricane-katrina-facts.html

The Dangers of Seeing Black & White

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the narco world, it’s that life is more complicated than you think. Good and bad, they’re relative concepts.”

Narcos (Season 1, Episode 1), Steve Murphy

I used to think colorblind patients literally saw the world in black and white, like their lives were an unending 1940s noir film that lacked in depth and quality. Later, I realized that colorblindness is actually a deficiency of the retina’s cone cells to properly differentiate between colors. It is, of course, still possible to see in black and white, but not in the way that you would expect.

Disclaimer: I take no credit for what I’m about to say here. The purpose of this article is to put my own spin on what’s been known for the entire course of human existence.

You do not need eyes to see. I was introduced to this concept when I attended therapy last year, as I wanted to get a better feel for how the process worked. I only went a couple of times because I didn’t see the value in talking about my problems to a stranger whose job was to more or less regurgitate much of what I already knew. My therapist, by her grace, brought up an interesting point that I will never forget.

She told me, “Well Marc, you seem like an all-or-nothing kind of guy.”

Her statement struck a chord with me because it identified a personality trait that I wasn’t previously aware of. It appeared that my understanding of the problems I was discussing ad nauseum was the real problem, and not external forces. Perhaps if I viewed them as opportunities and not impossibly unreachable obstacles, they wouldn’t be so problematic anymore.

I felt transformed and revitalized, but as time had come to pass, I reverted back to my age-old ways of interpreting reality. Nonetheless, my understanding of what my therapist told me that day became further solidified upon listening to the audiobook Positive Intelligence (2012) by Shirzad Chamine. There was a particular chapter in that book where Chamine referenced an ancient Taoist parable that is also my now-favorite philosophy.

The parable chronicles 5 days in a Chinese province. On the first day, a horse jumps a poor farmer and his teenage son’s fence, causing major property damage. However, by the terms of the local law, the boy and his father are allowed to keep the horse, meaning they will become wealthy and prominent. On the second day, the horse gallops back to the mountains and leaves the farm behind, yet returns on the third day with a dozen more wild horses. On each of these three days, the father dispassionately asked his son, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?”

On the fourth day, the boy gets violently knocked off one of the horses and breaks his leg. His father, noticing that his son is in tremendous pain, asks him once again with his usual indifferent tone, “Who knows what is good and what is bad?” Finally, on the fifth day, the province goes to war, and Army recruiters arrive at the town where the poor farmer and his son live and begin drafting able-bodied young men to go off and fight. Every young man in the town is sent away to certain death except for the farmer’s son, and all because of his broken leg from the day before.

This old but gold parable led to the creation of an idea I call Noir Syndrome, with noir being a reference to the film genre that was traditionally shot in black and white. Noir Syndrome proposes that all of our anxieties originate from our tendency to view life as falling on one extreme or another without taking into account deeper meaning, contrary evidence, and alternative perspectives. All or nothing.

We’ve been conditioned to view life in this way because it is effortless and requires very little additional thought. However, this manner of thinking is dangerous in that it harbors the delusion that everything is always operating on a good-bad dichotomy, when it is anything but. Chamine talks about the same thing in his book. Again, I am not the first person to think of this, and neither was he.

How do you even define what is good and what is bad, or what should fall on one extreme end of the spectrum and the other? The poor farmer could only ever ask this question because he was wise enough to know that it didn’t warrant an answer. Technically, every “bad” thing in life is nothing more than a momentary inconvenience, while the extent of this inconvenience is the primary determinant for how “bad” it really is by our standards. Life is a double helix of sorts, and not a straight line; all good eventually leads in to bad and all bad eventually leads in to good, creating a self-contradiction of sorts since the two cannot be categorized independently from each other. They are two sides of the same coin.

You have to search for some shred of good in every tragedy or setback you experience. In fact, you don’t even have a choice in the matter. This is because if you constantly view things as the best or worst, good or bad, all or nothing, you’re setting yourself for unimaginable heartbreak if they fall somewhere in the middle. By that logic, you determine your reality by setting the parameters for how it’s supposed to look in your eyes.

Start seeing grey, and the world becomes a whole lot more colorful.