What Would It Be Like To Be Free of Neurosis?


Ever find yourself acting a little uptight? Maybe a touch controlling? Perhaps too demanding of yourself and possibly other people? In this punchy, powerful quote, Chogyam Trungpa suggests that the behaviors we play out as a reaction to stress, perceived inadequacy, or claustrophobia are not examples of “how we are,” but passing states of neurosis which obscure our natural sanity.

Because we’re accustomed to our habitual patterns, it can feel like these reactions are our natural, “permanent” self. We think, “I’m just a stressed out person when it comes to ____.” But in actuality, our mind is simply defaulting to ingrained behaviors that it has been relying on as a means to handle stress and other unpleasant situations.

Through meditation, we create space between our triggers and our reactions. We can learn to interrupt our learned neurosis and consider an alternative approach. This sliver of space can be the difference between turning a reaction into a habit, and a habit into a personality trait. With the space provided by meditation, we can learn to live life with creativity, spontaneity, and flexibility.

You can read Pema Chödrön’s insight on this insightful quote below. 

We’re relating to our habitual patterns with an upcoming programs taught by Buddhist Psychologist Dr. Bill Auerbach “Contemplative Psychology: A Meeting of Western Psychology and Buddhism.” 

“The majority of the world’s population is far from being able to acknowledge when they’re about to explode or even to think it’s important to slow the process down. In most cases, churned-up energy translates quickly into aggressive reactions and speech. Yet, for each and every one of us, intelligence, warmth, and openness are always accessible. If we can be conscious enough to realize what’s happening, we can pause and uncover these basic human qualities. The wish for revenge, the prejudiced mind — all of that is temporary and removable. It’s not the permanent state. As Chögyam Trungpa put it, “Sanity is permanent, neurosis is temporary.”

To honestly face the pain in our lives and the problems in the world, let’s start by looking compassionately and honestly at our own minds. We can become intimate with the mind of hatred, the mind that polarizes, the mind that makes somebody “other” and bad and wrong. We come to know, unflinchingly, and with great kindness, the angry, unforgiving, hostile wolf. Over time, that part of ourselves becomes very familiar, but we no longer feed it. Instead, we can make the choice to nurture openness, intelligence, and warmth. This choice, and the attitudes and actions that follow from it, are like a medicine that has the potential to cure all suffering.” 

– Pema Chödrön, for Lion’s Roar