Kid Cudi's Letter

Rapper Scott Mescudi, aka "Kid Cudi" has checked himself into rehab for depression. We know this because last night, he posted a raw, emotional letter to has fans about the fact that he is "not at peace" and that he has made a decision to care about his life by seeking help. Within hours, his words of vulnerability inspired more words across the internet, myself included. Kid Cudi, your commitment to staying alive means more to your fans than your commitment to making good music.  

If you have listened to his music, you would immediately feel the intensity of his melancholic lyrics and sounds. He has surely already helped millions feel little less alone in their own suffering. And now, he tells us, it is time that he pursue his own happiness.  

What Scott wrote to his fans has the same apologetic tone and language as a suicide letter, yet the difference is that he is still alive. He will be around to witness the effects of his actions on himself, and on others. While we don't know what will happen to him, we are grateful that he has given himself the chance to find out.

Suicidal feelings are important because they create a turning point in our lives. They can push you to make the difficult changes needed in order to keep going on as "you." When you are seeking an escape, what you actually want is to exist in negative space, the space outside of the bounds of social definitions that shape your reality. You want freedom from that reality. But if you're dead, there will be no negative space because there is no existence left to create it. Thus the only way you can escape reality, is to find a way to live within it.

A Relationship Unlike Any Other

A therapist is a person with whom you can speak the most peculiar and difficult things about yourself. They can listen to you in a different way than other people in your life, and respond differently as well. Seeking out this “difference” is key to therapy; you and your therapist create a confidential space where you can separate yourself from the way others see you. Some might assume that this means that the relationship you have with a therapist is not a relationship at all, but this is not the case! It is just a relationship unlike any other. 

Here are 5 unique aspects of your relationship with your therapist:

1. You pay us to listen.
What is quite interesting about the therapeutic relationship, is the odd pairing of intimacy with formality. You are sharing your personal life challenges with a trained and certified person to whom you pay an agreed upon fee, and you never see her outside of a regularly scheduled time and place. The nature of this exchange and the rules that accompany it, is the very reason why you can share in a safe way and have a therapeutic experience. The relationship that unfolds between you and your therapist is also part of that experience.

2. You don’t have to be a good person.
When a thought comes up that you fear may come out as offensive and make you look like a “bad person”, your inclination may be to censor yourself. But your therapist will not be offended. She just wants to know what the thoughts are, and encourages you to speak to anything that comes to mind.

3. You don’t have to like us.
A therapist is not invested in you liking him. He knows that the way he can benefit you is by helping you with the challenging task of expressing your truth. And towards this end, he is open to hearing all about your feelings towards him, including the way he has let you down, angered you, or irritates you for no reason.

4. You are never wrong.
Therapists live in your reality, period. You get to explain to her how certain ideas fit together and make sense in your head, no matter how nonsensical, immoral, or ridiculous seeming. When it comes to your life, she doesn’t know anything you don’t know. 

5. We don’t think we understand you.
When you are talking with friends or family, the desire to understand is a natural motivation for forming close bonds with others. But your therapist on the other hand, is more likely to express curiosity as opposed to understanding. At the risk of appearing foolish, he can ask questions about a fact that you have been certain of your entire life. 

So, what do you think might occur in such a relationship?
Expect to have some unusual conversations. Say the things you’ve never been able to say, or never had the words to say. Out of these conversations, you might discover new directions that you want to take in your life that were right there in front of you the whole time.


All those "Self-Help" Books

In Portland, Oregon, I've made an obligatory stop at the famously enormous Powell’s Bookstore. Refreshed by the fact that people still enjoy the act of flipping through pages of paper, I aim to peruse their impressive collection of new and used books.

Upon entering the store, I notice that the books that are specifically designed to grab my eyes and pull me into the store to read more, are “self-help books." They promise confidence, assertiveness, achievement, money, and love. There's an entire wall of books with the word “happiness” in their titles, and it's hard to look away.

OK, I want “happiness,” but which book do I choose? The one that says what the true secret of happiness is, or the one that debunks the myth of happiness?

My favorite display was the famous book by Japanese cleaning icon Mari Kondo, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and right next to it is its sassy response-book, “The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck.” This hilarious meta-message playfully invites the reader to opt for their own kind of self-help. Or in other words, the kind that they already believe in. The ones who think that tidying is the answer, will pick the tidying book. The ones who don’t give a fuck, will pick the latter. Someone else is wondering, “What do I do if I give a fuck but I don’t want to tidy up?” 

Like many other psychotherapists, I’ve been obsessed with the goal of enlightenment, self-actualization, happiness, or whatever you want to call it, for a long time. But I’ve realized that I merely enjoy being seduced by the writing of an Other, a knowledgeable Other who acts as a surrogate ideal-ego when I am feeling alone, far from enlightened, and at times just ridiculously unaware. 

Rather than seeking to understand my own experience that is defined by its invisibility to others, it was easier to just grab the next best thing to read and feel temporarily relieved from uncertainty. But the books are always an inadequate response to what I am ultimately looking for. Most of them end up in the giveaway pile when I’m tidying up.

Here’s what I have arrived at: The search for how you should be won’t be found in a book. Read them, but beware, don’t succumb to the temptation to be cured. Instead, try on the work of exploring yourself in therapy, where the Other just listens to you and all of your unenlightened thoughts and feelings. You will be surprised by how original and articulate you actually are. You will find yourself in the position to create your own answers. 

All I ask is that when you do, don't write a self-help book. 

Beginning Therapy

First of all, I want to assure you that you don’t have to know exactly what’s wrong when you go to your first session with a therapist. Ignore what your friends, parents, partner, other health providers, or boss say you "should" work on. You can simply describe in the best way that you can, using your own words, what is happening with you that is not synching up with how you want to live your life. Remember, the whole point of needing help is the fact that you don’t know how to solve your own problems. You might even feel stupid or embarrassed in the beginning because what’s being asked of you is precisely to speak of what you don’t know about! The invitation is to become as curious and honest with yourself as possible. If you have never had the chance to speak in this way, you will probably experience an immediate relief from painful feelings. 

Starting therapy isn't easy; resistance and doubt are natural yet uncomfortable forces to deal with. The obstacles to getting help are totally real, involving a significant investment of your time, money, and emotional risk taking. At times it might seem like a struggle with no end in sight. If you still want to do it, it means that you have decided that your desire is worth fighting for, despite all of the obstacles. You are ready when all of the reasons to not seek whatever it is you are looking for cannot drown out the voice that seeks it. Therapy starts with listening to that voice.

To Live is to Suffer

"You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world, this is something you are free to do and is in accord with your own nature, but perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering you might be able to avoid."  -Franz Kafka

It's curious that most humans do everything they can to avoid suffering- it's only natural, right? Yet the results of these actions can lead to graver discontent and even deadly consequences.

Consider everything you're not doing when you attempt to not suffer:

You're not asking that person out.

You're not asking your boss for a raise.

You're not sharing your art or writing.

You're not speaking your mind in school or at work.

You're not standing up for what you believe in.

You're not calling your friend to hang out.

You're not leaving your house. 

Take Franz Kafka's simple words seriously, and you may see how the avoidance of suffering leads to an un-lived life.