What is a Positive Nervous Breakdown or Emotional Breakdown? By George Hartwell (416) 939-0544
Note: This perspective does not apply to every nervous breakdown, nor is it meant to minimize the emotional pain, confusion and disorientation of those going through a mental breakdown. However, this perspective does offer a helpful perspective to some people. It gives them a reason for the pain and hope that a positive outcome is possible.
An observation from child development is that periods of stability and integration alternate with periods of instability and disintegration. This lead to the observation (Dabrowski) that adults also experience periods of instability and disintegration in their pattern of character or personality development. He suggested that such periods are not always negative because they cal lead to higher levels of integration. When this higher integration followed a time of instability he called that time 'Positive Disintegration.' Therefore, we must observe periods of disintegration in adults - times that feel like a 'nervous breakdown' - for evidence that such times can resolve in a positive way. IF this is true we could identify these periods as times of 'Positive Nervous Breakdown.' John and Paula Sandford in their book, Transformation of the Inner Man, identified significant character or personality patterns. These patterns are functional for a time but there is a time to grow out and beyond their limitations. A Life Transformation therapist is able to facilitate this transition in a safe orderly way. Alternately life itself arranges for this transition wether one is ready or not.
These are the times when a person comes to me feeling like they are going through a nervous breakdown. What is happening is that these character patterns have begun to undergo spontaneous disintegration. The old pattern is disintegrating and, if all is well, it will be replaced with a new more functional and authentic pattern. During the breakdown of the old the person will feel that they are going through a nervous breakdown. They feel anxious, confused and disoriented.
At the same time they may be expressing a side of themselves that seems alien to others. I would suggest that these expressions are indications of a new different, and perhaps more authentic self emerging. Some people find this perspective helpful, comforting. For example, "Dear George, I have had the most distressing time coming through what I feel has been a nervous breakdown. I have not had the insight before that your website has brought me. It has been very encouraging. For the first time, I can see why I am this way, and understand myself." I have written about this before: In Nervous Breakdown as Positive Breakdown I wrote, 'It is clear to me the 'something' that is breaking down in a 'nervous breakdown' is a dysfunctional personality pattern. This pattern no longer works. The person's inner self - the human spirit - will no longer sustain it. It has not being working and it is time to let go and find something better.'
My definition of a Nervous breakdown is a time of deep painful identity transformation. There is anxiety and confusion because of the personality disintegration. The fear is the loss of identity. However, one must move through personality breakdown so that a healthy identity can emerge. This new identity will be healthier and better reflect the core self, our inner soul or spirit. Positive emotional growth requires that we shed old personality patterns. The old must die so the new can come. Just as there is a time for the snake to shed its skin; there are times for identity transformation. While medical doctors whine that "nerves don't breakdown," I know this: often a 'nervous breakdown' is a significant life crisis, a transition time, an opportunity to leave behind the old and discover the new or, if not new, perhaps, the real core identity - the real more natural you. Thus a time when a dysfunctional personality pattern is breaking down can also be a time for a new healthier personality pattern to emerge.