What is a nervous breakdown? It’s not a disease, as some materialists would like people to think. It’s not a physical ailment like a broken leg or something. A nervous breakdown happens when a person cannot handle the burden, anxieties and pressure of his or her life.
A person breaks down when he realizes that the material shelter where he has been trying to take refuge has all fallen through. The person experiences, “I can’t find happiness in this anymore. I can’t find meaning in any of these things. None of these things are satisfying though I’ve tried to squeeze out pleasure from them. I just can’t find shelter in them anymore”. He experiences such a heavy burden and pressure due to his futile attempts to find satisfaction in either material things, relationships, possessions, endeavors, ambitions or goals.
The typical person who has a nervous breakdown is the businessman. He continuously strives to reach the top of the heap in the material world. The pressure to be the number one guy is always on him. He worries that he is not going to get what he wants or that the other guys are going to get the main job instead of him. The burden is so great that he can’t handle the pressure and finally cracks.
Almost every politician also comes to the verge of a nervous breakdown whenever there is a major election, unless he rigged it beforehand. The politician wants to be the guy – the winner! While the votes are coming in and being tabulated, he is on the verge of a nervous breakdown along with his followers, campaign workers and wives. They are all waiting for the election results.
Finally, the announcement is made and it hits them. “Huh . . . we lost, we lost”. Then they start crying and don’t know what to do. They are sitting there in a stupor. “What is our future? What is our purpose? What are we going to do now? Now what?”
Also on the verge of breakdown may be the housewife who is overwhelmed with this purposeless existence of just taking care of the house. She tries taking anti-anxiety drugs but they don’t really do anything for her. They keep her spaced out and she keeps coming down. So, she comes to the point of a nervous breakdown without even necessarily knowing why.
These different people get so tense and the cause of this tension and agitation is their whole materialistic life. Due to anxieties based upon material ambitions, goals and illusions, they get so uptight. Their nerves come up to this bound, wound up condition due to lust. This lust or passion puts people in a state where they just wind up so tight that they are ready to spin out or break apart.
A nervous breakdown simply means that a person cannot cope any longer with the burdens that arise from their materialistic existence. “They come to the end of their rope”, as some people put it, and when they come to that point, they see and feel that they have no shelter, no refuge.
The problem is that they have been trying to take shelter in matter – material things, relationships, bodies, goals and ambitions. In other words, they have been trying to take shelter in this world. And, when you come to that point, where you can’t take shelter in this world anymore, then they don’t know where else to take shelter. So they think this is bad.
But, I say it’s not bad. A nervous breakdown isn’t bad. But the materialistic person gets wound up in this condition of misery without experiencing any real relief. And coming to that point he freaks out. He tries to forget his existence through alcohol or drugs or desires to cease existing. He wants to end his existence because he feels he has no refuge.
But an intelligent person who knows that God exists and remembers that God is the Best Friend of every single living entity experiences, “I can and must actually take shelter in God. I do have a Friend and my Friend loves me unconditionally”. Coming to this point, he falls on his face and cries to God, “Please save me. I have no shelter; I have no refuge but You. All the great spiritual masters say that I can take shelter of You. I have no other shelter. Please give me protection”. So, calling upon the Names of God and crying out to Him. “Please give me shelter”, you will then experience your real identity, your real relationship with God.
Interestingly enough many cultures in the world relate to God with different names, and all those names relate to different aspects of God’s personality. The Hebrews call Him Abba (Father) or Eloi (Friend); the Muslims call Him Allah (The All-Compassionate One); the Jehovah Witnesses call Him, obviously, Jehovah (The All-Mighty One); the Hindus call Him Krishna (The All-Attractive One). The Hindus feel that the name Krishna is the most potent because if someone is all attractive then the name for that aspect of their personality must contain all the others.
So what is often seen as a negative thing – the pain of a nervous breakdown – is really an opening. It is a door. It will cause you to enter another dimension – the spiritual world – where there is real refuge; where there is real love; where there is real friendship, real security, real purpose, real solace, and a real meaning to your existence.
After having surrendered to God in this way, even once, a person will not have any more nervous breakdowns because his shelter is God. As far as this world is concerned, they experience, “If I ain’t got nothing, I got nothing to lose”. In other words, because they are not attached to anything in this world, then nothing can go wrong for them. What can go wrong? They simply live their life trying to serve and please God. So, if they are in anxiety, their only anxiety is whether or not their life is pleasing to Him.
Since the Supreme Person is the unconditional lover of all of us, there is no question of His not giving shelter to those who sincerely turn to Him. But what if a person falls down from the platform of serving God? Easy! He simply turns to his Dear-Most Friend and from the core of his heart cries out to Him. “Please forgive me. Please give me shelter. I have rejected You. I have been foolishly trying to take shelter in this material world even though I know that there is no real shelter there. I have tried to take shelter in the finite, which is not You. And again, I am suffering because of it. And now I am turning to You. Please give me shelter. Forgive me for my rejecting You, for my turning away from You”. Then God will give you His protection for He is always waiting for a person to surrender to Him in this way.
A person who is serving God does not mind “nervous breakdowns” at all. In fact, he likes them because it’s a different sort of nervous breakdown. He might come to point of being nervous or experiencing some pressures in his trying to do things in the service of God. But he doesn’t try to carry the load, nor does he try to escape in drugs, alcohol or whatever. As soon as there is too much pressure to bear, he simply goes into the secret world of his relationship with God and surrenders to Him. Then he experiences how he himself is nothing. Because he feels he is nothing he then experiences that he has no burden at all. “If I’m nothing, how can I have a burden? If my world is simply dovetailed with God, it means that I don’t have any problems that seeing myself as my body and not the spiritual spark residing in the body (false ego) will present.
If I’m following my will, ambitions and desires, then I will have problems. Because I am not God, part of my will may not be done. Because I am not God, my will is not all-powerful. But, if I’m trying to do God’s will, then the problem is not mine, but God’s. And since He is God. the Supreme Controller, then the so-called problem is not really a problem at all.
I do not accept the idea that God can have problems or troubles with the devil, for example. God has no competitor. No one can compete with God. Some individuals may be in the illusion that they can compete with God but no one can truly be of any worry to God. He never worries about losing control or that His will won’t be done somehow because he may be losing His power. God is always the Supreme Controller. He simply gives us the choice to turn to Him or not.
So a nervous breakdown is for a person who is still trying to do his own will. What is he nervous about? If you look at anyone who has a nervous breakdown, everything he is nervous about has something to do with his having his own will, his own desires, his own interests and his own ambitions.
But if a person doesn’t have any interest, will or ambition of his own, then there is no question of him having a nervous breakdown. He’s already broken down. How can that which is broken, break? A nervous breakdown is for those people who have not yet been broken. A lover of God is already broken. His self-will is broken. His self-interest is broken. His ambitions and plans are broken. He has nothing but God, Who is everything. Yet, in this broken condition, he is the strongest of the strong.
When people lose things they are extremely attached to, they experience semi-death. For example, entertainers and movie stars worry about losing their looks, as their bodies get older. Things start to fall apart and they start losing control. They are in anxiety because they aren’t respected as they used to be. Basically, a nervous breakdown means my source of security gets taken away.
In the Bible, there is a good point about not building a house on the seashore at low tide. Eventually the tide will come in, so only a fool will build a house on the sand when the tide is low. Those who have built houses on the seashore, those who have taken refuge in this temporary material world, get surprised even though it was obvious to them that sooner or later they would be kicked out of their bodies through death.
So, people who are living materialistic lifestyles and who are taking shelter in the temporary instead of the eternal should be warned, one day, you’re going to have a nervous breakdown. Right now, you may be temporarily getting away from your problems through different methods. You may be able to temporarily forget the insecure position you are really in, but one day you will realize how insecure you really are, that you have no shelter. And when that day comes, remember this: that you have real shelter. It is not hopeless. When the walls of your house come crumbling down, then remember that God loves you. His love for you is unconditional and that actually He is the only shelter.
In short, be in the world but not of the world.
Nectar of Devotion