Just as there is something called the “fog of war”, there is also something like a “fog of life” or “maelstrom” of emotional problems and mental illness. It is like a psychological and emotional sand storm that one gets “lost” in and eventually becomes foggy/confused about how life got so difficult including how one ended up where they are now, where they came from, and what they wanted out of life in the first place. The net effect of feeling so lost in this psychological and emotional way is a palpable loss of ones zest for life and meaning-purpose for living. It may feel like grief, agitation, confusion, anxiety and depression (and psychologically speaking it is) but on another unseen spiritual level that person has basically lost their “mojo” (see above definition).
Ones “mojo” is not something that’s easy to quantify because its not simply a persons self-esteem or self confidence, or even their diagnosable mental illness but also their natural strength, resilience, verve, life energy and (will)ingness to keep trying to “recover”. With our mojo working one keeps pushing forward including trying to recover from traumatic experiences and emotional problems as well as attempting to “re-find” themselves, their identity and their purpose for being alive. Without mojo people not only dont feel “happy” (even if they try to pretend that they are) but they feel burdened by having to keep trying. Often they also feel guilty and ashamed about the “burden” they believe they put upon others, like their family and friends. For the person who has lost their mojo there is pain and sadness in their eyes that even expensive make-up and a great tan cant hide. The eyes are indeed a window to the soul and without ones “mojo” the soul is injured somewhat like a ballet dancer with a broken ankle or a bird with a broken wing. In this case it is more like a broken spirit. I suppose you could say that a person without their mojo is still “alive” but not truly living. The joy we normally associate with living life fully like enjoying music, nature, good food, travel, physical exercise and dancing is dramatically reduced, if not gone completely. That doesnt mean they are actively suicidal, which they may or may not be. It means that such a person has begun to “give up” on life, lost their “faith”, and stopped believing that things will ever get better or turn out ok. Like a broken ankle or even a badly sprained one, practically every effort to “get up”, get out or get “back up on the saddle” is met by an unexplainable resistance, physical and/or mental pain, and overwhelming fatigue. Paradoxically, as one tries to get better they predictably encounter emotional mood states, negative thoughts and physical sensations that conflict with feeling better, positive behavior change or overall “improvement”. Such is the immensely frustrating “stuck in a deep dark hole” experience of those who are deeply depressed, broken in spirit and stripped of their mojo.
Without a doubt, depression degrades ones “mojo”. If Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz wasn’t such an unusually chipper, optimistic and upbeat person and instead had a serious depression or untreated bipolar illness, there is a much greater chance she would have meandered off the yellow brick road and gotten sidetracked in a roadside bar, a delapidated crack house, a dead end job, a difficult relationship, her bed, or maybe just the opiate-laden poppy field for like a year or two or ten. Actually, the real Dorothy (Judy Garland) loved her children dearly but struggled greatly with her own inner demons, substance abuse issues and clinical depression. For Judy Garland there were no ruby red slippers to click three times. The good news is that at some point and with good professional help clarity and complete recovery can be achieved. With focus, commitment, consistent therapy and hard work, a person can reemerge from the emotional fogbank and psychological sandstorm. After first surveying the wreckage (and the ramifications) of their emotional illness and their loss of mojo, one can not only pick up the broken pieces of their life but also transform them into new meanings and reclaimed purposes that reinvigorate the soul.
If you have ever watched Hoarders or Intervention on TV you can easily see both the symbolic as well as real life results of someone having experienced significant trauma(s), suffered subsequent mental/ emotional problems and spiritual/moral injuries to their soul that were never fully resolved or dealt with. It happens to the best of us. My point is simple. You cant just throw psychiatric-psychotropic pills at the psychiatric problem or use high-tech medical imaging technologies like PET scans and functional MRIs to identify the parts of the brain that are underfunctioning or overfunctioning. That’s admittedly interesting scientifically but not what makes a person whole again. Sometimes the medications make the necessary difference for someones eventual recovery, but other times they become an actual hinderance and makes things worse. Human beings, like Humpty Dumpty (only better) need to use various creative means and expressive methods to look at themselves (and at all their scattered broken parts) and begin to consciously put them(selves) back together again. This also means facing the dark, yucky shadow pieces of ones own psyche that we tend to avoid, minimize, ignore or shove off to the side (or sweep under the proverbial rug). Therapy is good. Therapy is great. But even once or twice a week psychotherapy for an hour is no panacea for obtaining a lifelong sense of emotional stability, serenity, inner peace and spiritual renewal. We are talking about uncovering deep personal traumas and moral injuries that rip away ones basic sense of safety, security, and attachment. In a way they are the psychological and spiritual equivalent to a soldier running over a large IED in Afghanastan or Iraq. The powerful blast’s devastating impact is felt throughout every fiber of ones being.
One way to start to “re-cover” our mojo and inherent resilient nature is to honestly ask yourself where it all started to go “south”. What “exploded” in your life and when? I dont know why people refer to bad things that happen in life as “falling apart” or going “south” but the general idea is to try to answer the basic question, “when did you first start to lose your “mojo” (see Urban Dictionary definition above). In addition, what happened after that, and how would you describe it in a long letter, honest email to a best friend, personal essay, or journal entry?
My Facebook friend Christine bluntly but lovingly (her basic style and I like it..ha) asked me to describe when my long slow disintegration happened. Dis-integration is an excellent way to say it too because we all start as whole human beings, beginning as beautiful newborn infants and then proceed to encounter various life events that change us, some for the better, some for what seems like the worse. Worse doesnt necessarily mean “bad”. It means something “damaged” our psychological “heat shield” (our positive protective defenses and coping ability) and unlike the Challenger Space shuttle, it wasn’t a just a chunk of hard styrofoam. If the emotional wounds and the psychological trauma is severe enough, and if our healthy defenses and resilience is not up to the “challenge”, the injury to our body/ mind/spirit/soul can be profound….. enough to lead to a temporary mental “breakdown”, something like a electrical short-circuit or psychological malfunction. At best it’s barely remembered (if at all) and at worst it can cause or result in (like the Space Shuttle) a catastrophic loss of self and/or sanity. I’m certainly not saying there isn’t a biological component to mental illness and that there arent hard-wired biochemical vulnerabilities in our brain and body like a genetic predisposition to severe depression, anxiety, bipolar illness, arthritis, or heart disease. I’m just saying if one takes the time to think about it many of us could probably identify where the major stresses of childhood, adolescence, marriage, divorce, and resulting social isolation began to create “cracks” in our self-esteem, our normal healthy functioning, and in our Dorothy-like exuberance for life. Truly there are “tipping points” in everything and its reasonable to ask ourselves where our negative tipping point occurred and how we got “lost” in the fog of anxiety,fear, depression, eating disorders, suicidality, OCD, bipolar, drug dependence, addiction (to something or someone) and even psychosis. For that matter, people who end up killing scores of innocent human beings in a movie theater, an elementary school or in a shopping center food court weren’t born that way either. They suffered a series of dissapointments, perceived rejections and personal “defeats” that left them angry, bitter, hopeless, and unfortunately homicidal. True Psychopaths, on the other hand, need not attempt the aforementioned therapeutic exercise. They wouldn’t know the answer and/or would just make some shit up that sounds good.