"I didn't ask to be born."

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Queequeg
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"I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Queequeg » Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm

I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 30, 2019 5:51 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
You have to be able to see the falsity, and well, selfishness of a narrative that says life is so terrible, that your problems are so much more important than everyone else's.

The thing is that the person has to see it, another person can make suggestion in the right direction, but it's a very personal "ahah" moment when realizing how much of your depression is because you've bought into nostalgic bullshit, other people's messaging, society's messaging.

It can indicate a life that is stuck in terms of values, a person who sees no value in life presently because they are pursuing nothing they care about. Lots of times people in situations like this say "oh, I can't do X because of Y" - "Y" is often feelings of depression, anxiety, social anxiety, what have you.

The irony is that them pursuing their values in life (X) would ultimately alleviate their focus on their suffering (Y), and they would likely be happier. There is a disconnect though, we do the exact opposite of what we should with problems like depression, we run away from what we love rather than towards.

It's a kind of thinking error.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by alfa » Thu May 30, 2019 6:19 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
Isn't this Buddhism 101?

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 30, 2019 6:54 pm

alfa wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 6:19 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
Isn't this Buddhism 101?
Any advice or help has to be in a format the person will understand. If they are interested in Dharma it's a different conversation.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu May 30, 2019 7:09 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:51 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
You have to be able to see the falsity, and well, selfishness of a narrative that says life is so terrible, that your problems are so much more important than everyone else's.
I've been in "this place" before. More often and more recently than I'd care to admit, to be honest. I don't think the person in this position thinks their problems are more important than everyone else's. But there is usually a thought that they don't owe anyone anything, because they didn't choose existence in the first place. At least that's how I've felt before. I've had that feeling before when feeling pressure from parents to pursue major life milestones that I'm not interested in. Of course the thought of "I didn't choose existence" is not a Buddhist one -- but I think the OP is beyond the scope of Buddhism and Dharma practitioners.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by WesleyP » Thu May 30, 2019 7:17 pm

Sounds like a negative view of life and sometimes depression. When I met Psychiatrists after some time I discover an error in the Thinking.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by WesleyP » Thu May 30, 2019 7:21 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm

How does one get out of that view?
I don't have a problem with it. (Do you mean Buddha's The Thicket of Views)

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by tkp67 » Thu May 30, 2019 7:35 pm

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 7:09 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:51 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
You have to be able to see the falsity, and well, selfishness of a narrative that says life is so terrible, that your problems are so much more important than everyone else's.
I've been in "this place" before. More often and more recently than I'd care to admit, to be honest. I don't think the person in this position thinks their problems are more important than everyone else's. But there is usually a thought that they don't owe anyone anything, because they didn't choose existence in the first place. At least that's how I've felt before. I've had that feeling before when feeling pressure from parents to pursue major life milestones that I'm not interested in. Of course the thought of "I didn't choose existence" is not a Buddhist one -- but I think the OP is beyond the scope of Buddhism and Dharma practitioners.
I am very familiar with this place and I think it also speaks of a deeper dynamic.

It seems that when one "inherits" a life condition, say poverty as a condition of upbringing, one might rationalize I didn't ask for this condition so why am one is plagued by it. If the external cause didn't exist one wouldn't need to feel this suffering, thus if one blames external conditions one no longer has to feel blame/guilt for choosing this life condition but that does not eliminate the suffering from it just the self blame/guilt.

This of course (in my opinion) is not reasonable from a Buddhist point of view as even if we did inherit unfair life conditions escape from suffering remains the same and instead of seeing ourselves as unfortunate for being challenged this way we might also look at it as fortunate that there is a way to eliminate this suffering none the less.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Queequeg » Thu May 30, 2019 8:07 pm

To flesh out my questions a little more -

As someone pointed out, this view is fundamentally incompatible with Buddha Dharma. Things don't just happen to us - they are the culmination of our karma. This can be heavy if we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances in the sense we might beat ourselves up for getting ourselves here to this point; on the other hand it can be empowering because if we got ourselves "here," we can get ourselves "there". This is the fundamental empowerment we find in the Buddha's teachings. Then, teachings on the preciousness of this life, for instance, weight the balance in favor of the positive, I think. No matter the obstacles one faces, the tremendous good fortune to be born human is inestimable.

So, Dharma practice might be a good way to overcome the view.

However, I intentionally framed the issue in a more general way so as to not box in the discussion from the start.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:51 pm
You have to be able to see the falsity, and well, selfishness of a narrative that says life is so terrible, that your problems are so much more important than everyone else's.
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 7:09 pm
I don't think the person in this position thinks their problems are more important than everyone else's. But there is usually a thought that they don't owe anyone anything, because they didn't choose existence in the first place.
Interesting - seems logical that both of those conclusions could come from this statement.

In the first, the problems are overwhelming, in the second, agency is not the problem, but rather social constraints.

Now that I think of it, I've seen both.
The thing is that the person has to see it, another person can make suggestion in the right direction, but it's a very personal "ahah" moment when realizing how much of your depression is because you've bought into nostalgic bullshit, other people's messaging, society's messaging.

It can indicate a life that is stuck in terms of values, a person who sees no value in life presently because they are pursuing nothing they care about. Lots of times people in situations like this say "oh, I can't do X because of Y" - "Y" is often feelings of depression, anxiety, social anxiety, what have you.

The irony is that them pursuing their values in life (X) would ultimately alleviate their focus on their suffering (Y), and they would likely be happier. There is a disconnect though, we do the exact opposite of what we should with problems like depression, we run away from what we love rather than towards.

It's a kind of thinking error.
I don't want to quite turn the discussion on ways to get to the aha moment - though my sense is that there are such methods.

What is it about focusing on other things that alleviates the depression?

Also, when say things we love, can you elaborate on that? What are some examples?

Finally, if its a thinking error, isn't there a danger of relapse where they've become happier because they focus on pursuing (x) and then that pursuit, for one reason or another, is concluded?

Thanks for the input everyone. I'm trying to think through how I should conduct myself toward someone who has this view and tends to the depression side of the equation. My impulse is more or less to say, "Get over it, stupid." Which I've found never really works.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Dechen Norbu » Thu May 30, 2019 10:00 pm

Maybe addressing that particular mindset, "I didn't ask to be born", doesn't yield much results. Perhaps trying to understand what's behind it and dealing with that is more promising, IMO.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 30, 2019 10:11 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 8:07 pm


I don't want to quite turn the discussion on ways to get to the aha moment - though my sense is that there are such methods.

What is it about focusing on other things that alleviates the depression?

Also, when say things we love, can you elaborate on that? What are some examples?
Understand I talking here as a counselor, and assuming we are talking about someone who is not a Buddhist, the answers there are much more familiar. Dharma informs my counseling, but obviously I cannot force that worldview on someone who does not share, and shouldn't.

Here I am talking about a basic concept from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (worth taking a look at if you are interested in this kind of thing), which is that by not accepting our suffering, we use it to create a roadblock between us and the life we want to live. Essentially we drop our values because we (wrongly) think our suffering prevents us from reaching them. Living our values despite suffering is the way to a more contented life, we can "step out of the battle" to be happy, and simply do what we want to do. That's the basic concept I'm talking about.

Things we love is anything, quite literally, that we love and want to pursue. So if the person loves music, music. If the person loves their family, family. Literally the things that a person values in life.
Finally, if its a thinking error, isn't there a danger of relapse where they've become happier because they focus on pursuing (x) and then that pursuit, for one reason or another, is concluded?
If they continue to wrongly believe that life is supposed to involve less suffering, and cannot accept it... then yes. If they can understand that living out ones values can and should be done in the midst of suffering, then no. In short, Acceptance of how one is feeling allows one to leave the battle of always looking forward to some happier life, and allows one to actually do what one wants to do. They have to leave the battle.

Look up "ACT Life Map" if you want an example of how this particular school of thought would approach it.
Thanks for the input everyone. I'm trying to think through how I should conduct myself toward someone who has this view and tends to the depression side of the equation. My impulse is more or less to say, "Get over it, stupid." Which I've found never really works.
P.S. If this was a Buddhist person, obviously the tools and view are different, this is for someone approaching their pain and suffering from a "secular" mindset.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Queequeg
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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Queequeg » Fri May 31, 2019 1:38 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 10:11 pm
Here I am talking about a basic concept from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (worth taking a look at if you are interested in this kind of thing), which is that by not accepting our suffering, we use it to create a roadblock between us and the life we want to live. Essentially we drop our values because we (wrongly) think our suffering prevents us from reaching them. Living our values despite suffering is the way to a more contented life, we can "step out of the battle" to be happy, and simply do what we want to do. That's the basic concept I'm talking about.
Thanks for the reference. Briefly looked up ACT.

So, "I didn't ask to be born" statement - that's sidestepped. I guess that's more of an existential view. To accept would be to accept whatever it is that's got the person down, and then taking action to pursue their happiness, and by doing that, one lets that process work out the angst and depression.
If they continue to wrongly believe that life is supposed to involve less suffering, and cannot accept it... then yes. If they can understand that living out ones values can and should be done in the midst of suffering, then no. In short, Acceptance of how one is feeling allows one to leave the battle of always looking forward to some happier life, and allows one to actually do what one wants to do. They have to leave the battle.
Its a different existential view, then? The "joy" of Sisyphus? Living in Kafka's absurdity... Never getting past the truth of Dukkha... Is that right? As a practicing Buddhist, how did you feel learning about that particular therapy? Have you observed people implement this therapy? How does it go?
P.S. If this was a Buddhist person, obviously the tools and view are different, this is for someone approaching their pain and suffering from a "secular" mindset.
Let's go there... How would a Buddhist deal with that view?
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Fri May 31, 2019 1:47 am

Queequeg wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 1:38 am
Let's go there... How would a Buddhist deal with that view?
If they are a Mahayanist, they might have a cup of alcohol :rolling:

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Fri May 31, 2019 1:49 am

Queequeg wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 1:38 am
Let's go there... How would a Buddhist deal with that view?
Perhaps more seriously, this would be used as fuel for cultivating renunciation. And then that renunciation is a fuel for Dharma practice. Eventually, through Dharma, one abandons the eight worldly concerns, and then they are free.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Wayfarer » Fri May 31, 2019 2:26 am

Here, I'm not talking from a counselling perspective, but a philosophical one.

The notion that you could "ask to be born" is tricky to accomodate in the Western view of life. The idea that we could somehow assent to being born, or seek birth, is incomprehensible in that framework, because we identify strictly with the physical body which, of course, only came into being through the act of procreation and physical birth. So there's a severe cognitive dissonance that 'I' could have asked to be born, because 'I' didn't exist prior to being born. By definition, being born is not something one could ask for. Hence the comment 'I did not ask to be born'; in Western culture, you're only stating the obvious.

But there is a way of re-framing it so that even someone who can't accept this idea can still make use of it. And that is to 'take ownership' of your having been born, by acting as if it were your choice (even if you can't see how it could have been.) In other words, 'owning' your experience. But by acting as if we have actually decided to be born, then we're, at least, no longer here in spite of ourselves, or against our will. I think that takes a fair degree of emotional maturity, but at the same time, it undercuts the sense of 'what did I do to deserve this'.

(I suppose there's another thing that needs to be said. Looking at someone who has had something dreadful befall them as if that is a consequence of karmic retribution is, I feel, the opposite of compassion. (It's one of the things that turns many people against the idea of karma in the first place.) Seek to understand and empathise with their plight - even if it's true in some sense that it's karma playing out, seeing it as a punishment then frames the whole issue in terms of 'reward and punishment' which is surely not healthy.)
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by DharmaN00b » Fri May 31, 2019 3:22 am

A depressed person lacks will, and can be clinically unmotivated, so that opening statement pertains to will. Perhaps I could just as well say I didn't ask for other people to climb the ladder then kick it away.

Being born is also a beginning and the feeling of depression is a static thing, so the subject may encounter an eternal born-ness. 'Rome wasn't built in a day' as the saying goes, yet without a fluid and flexible mindset reverse engineering becomes impossible.

So in other words the depressed person is really saying, I'm stuck and don't know how to move forward (or perhaps they just don't like being on a treadmill and seeing a road to nowhere).
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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Tenma » Fri May 31, 2019 3:47 am

Queequeg wrote:
Thu May 30, 2019 5:28 pm
I hear this from people time to time. They're usually depressed, or prone to depression.

Generally, they seem to think life is an imposition. It plays out in all kinds of sad and destructive ways.

What's going on in the thoughts behind that statement?

How does one get out of that view?
Reminds me of this:
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47154287

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 31, 2019 4:56 am

Queequeg wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 1:38 am


So, "I didn't ask to be born" statement - that's sidestepped. I guess that's more of an existential view. To accept would be to accept whatever it is that's got the person down, and then taking action to pursue their happiness, and by doing that, one lets that process work out the angst and depression.
Yes, from that perspective dwelling on those thoughts is simply being "stuck in the battle" to be happy, which ironically can't make anyone happy. BTW ACT has a big mindfulness component as well.
Its a different existential view, then? The "joy" of Sisyphus? Living in Kafka's absurdity... Never getting past the truth of Dukkha... Is that right? As a practicing Buddhist, how did you feel learning about that particular therapy? Have you observed people implement this therapy? How does it go?
I use parts of it, and mainly just what I've talked about here, to help people find places in their lives were they have tricked themselves into thinking they can't do x, y, or z "because I have depression", "because I have anxiety" etc. I am not certified in using it or anything like that. Like many therapies, it works pretty well for the already motivated. People who are super unmotivated to do anything and usually have an entirely external locus of control are hard to work with no matter what you do. They first have to develop some confidence in their agency.

If you read the major writings on ACT, they have kind of a "mini First Noble Truth"...in that they acknowledge that suffering is inescapable, and that we create a large portion of our suffering simply by how we react to pain. It of course does not go as far as Buddhism, and doesn't attempt to.
Let's go there... How would a Buddhist deal with that view?
"Get over it" basically lol.

Honestly though, I think for a Buddhist with a developed practice, one begins to understand that misfortune and bad feelings are just part of the deal, so what this therapy teachers in a secular manner is already implicit in all Buddhist teaching, it's just in a form that helps people get to "healthy" rather than going beyond that.

Anyway, usually people in that sort of "I didn't ask to be born" position are feeling so defensive that there is nothing you can tell them, advice will usually backfire. If you really want to you can learn to ask really good questions and be a reflective listener for them, that way they might be able to figure some stuff out in conversation with you, but IME that's about it.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Fri May 31, 2019 5:30 am

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 1:49 am
Queequeg wrote:
Fri May 31, 2019 1:38 am
Let's go there... How would a Buddhist deal with that view?
Perhaps more seriously, this would be used as fuel for cultivating renunciation. And then that renunciation is a fuel for Dharma practice. Eventually, through Dharma, one abandons the eight worldly concerns, and then they are free.
They can use it as fuel for bodhicitta and compassion. They can bring forth the compassionate wish that no sentient being ever has to experience such negative emotions ever again.

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Re: "I didn't ask to be born."

Post by SunWuKong » Fri May 31, 2019 6:05 am

I can see how someone who is intending to end their life might say "I didn't ask to be born" but that's just an attempt to rationalize the intention.

The elegant solution around understanding the motivation suicide is found in this: that the pain of living outweighs all the other reactions to living. In other words, the actual pain of depression. It can be a deeper pain than some of the worst physical pain, and (me, myself) I've only ever known in the realm of pain, chronic and long-term pain of the physical type. The prospect of unending pain is a huge challenge to actually face, not easy at all. My own encounter with emotional pain due to depression has been short-winded. But what I've heard and it makes sense to me - that the pain of living outweighs all the other reactions to living.

Depression causes you to only see what it wants you to see, which is why it's not at all easy to get out of. At the neuron level, the nerves aren't transmitting very well, they lack adequate stimulation to achieve a sense of well-being. If you can get to the cognitive - thinking that supports the intention to end one's life, and break that thinking down, showing where it is faulty, incorrect, not factual, that we aren't indebted to these rationalizations, that's a good start. The Buddhist perspective is the best in my humble opinion because it does not assume things will go well, that they are meant to go well, or that we are failing if they don't go well. It is the perspective that allows acceptance for what is and allows the most growth for allowing it to be what it could be, again, an unlimited unknown.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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