While I watched Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions, I began thinking about how the series illustrates the difficulties of coping with reality. Everyone has different ways of coping with their problems. We avoid, fight, deny, and face demons within and without. Reality is tough. It’s hard to face death. It’s hard to face loneliness, loss, and love. Love, Chunibyo, though odd, has a lot of human elements.
Zach already reviewed the first season. During the second season, Yuta’s old friend, Satone, appears and strains the relationship he has with Rikka. The story follows how Yuta and Rikka continue to grow closer through various challenges.
Both seasons use the Japanese slang term chunibyo (or chuunibyou) to describe Rikka’s tendency to live in a fantasy world. During the first season, we discover she does this to avoid the pain of her father’s death. She continues to live a fantasy of her own making because of the difficulties of living in a dull, repetitive world full of stress. This centerpiece of the anime spoke to me.
As a teen, I didn’t LARP (Live Action Role Played) as Rikka does; however, I used fantasy to help me cope with bullying and other issues. I was the pimply, nerdy kid the jocks targeted. Diablo 2 and books provided a way to escape my lack of a school social life. The number of hours I spent on the game–I don’t want to think about it, but I was an addict. Eight hours was a light day of gaming. I used the game to avoid the aspects of myself I disliked or found uncomfortable. I used the game, and others, to avoid feeling deaths in my family.
This behavior prevented me from facing my issues. Avoidance doesn’t work. Problems do not go away because we ignore them. They must be faced and worked through. Eventually ,Rikka faces her father’s death. While this doesn’t stop her from living in a fantasy world, it changes why she uses the fantasy world. No longer does it become a sanctuary. Instead, it becomes a way for her to live with more awareness and wonder. Avoidance makes problems fester. Eventually, you must face your issues.Otherwise, they will pounce on you…likely during your final moments in this world. Best to take care of them on your terms rather than let them dictate the battlefield.
But how do you face demons inside you? How do you face soul-gnawing loss?
Mental Training Exercises
Stop running and face it.
This hurts. A lot. Agony will pierce your heart, and the longer you run, the more intense the pain. Your first reaction will be to shut it out, to run. When the pain grips you, it is hard to remember that the pain will pass after it runs its course. But it will. Everything is temporary, including pain.
Embrace the pain
In America, we are taught that pain is bad, that pain is evil. Life changing events are painful. Growing up physically hurts. Having a child hurts. Losing a parent hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. If it didn’t, it would mean we didn’t care. It would mean you are not changing. Change hurts. But we can’t avoid pain. Find someplace quiet and sit with the pain. Don’t act on any of the impulses. Just sit. It will pass. Everything passes with time.
Watch your feelings and thoughts
Acknowledge your anger, sadness, and joy. Don’t act or let yourself fall into them. Watch them as if you sat on a riverbank, watching the water roll past. Listen to what they are saying, but don’t dip into the water. It is hard not to get caught in the torrent. Notice how your thoughts move. Look at what they are saying. Ask each one these questions:
- Why are you saying this?
- Is this logical or reasonable?
Often we already know the solutions to problems if we listen to what is going on beneath the torrent.
Forgive yourself for being human and having these thoughts. They don’t make you a horrible person. They make you a person. Few people lack demons. I have many! But you can make peace with them if you take the time to listen.
Thoughts are Thoughts
In the moment, we can forget thoughts are just thoughts. They can’t harm us unless we act upon them. Mindfulness–being aware of your present moment, inside and outside of you–helps. The torrent of thoughts you experience feel overwhelming, but they are only thoughts. Thoughts come from your behavior, worldview, environment, and level of mindfulness. Change these and your thoughts will change.
None of this is easy. Most people use entertainment to drown out their uncomfortable, racing thoughts. However, you can only be truly content if you learn to sit in silence with yourself. When you first do this, it isn’t pleasant. Your mind will be a torrent. “This is dumb. I’m bored. This won’t help.” Anxiety will hit you. When I first started mindfulness practices, anxiety was a severe roadblock. However, even a few minutes counts. Stick with it. Pain tells us something is wrong. It is a friend. Listen. With time it becomes easier and even pleasant. After a certain point, your day will feel off without a few quiet moments to sit and have a silent conversation with yourself.
Backsliding and the Anime Hero Within
After you do this, you will find yourself like Rikka: falling back into old habits. You will start avoiding things again. You will be a chunibyo again. It takes practice to change your behavior. And time.
In modern society, we want easy fixes. I see library patrons get angry with technology after only a few minutes of encountering a problem. Modern society has trained us to be impatient and avoid discomfort at all costs. This is childish. Life requires patience and perseverance. It takes years to overcome some inner demons. Others we have to make peace with and accept. There is no magic cure or pill. Hard work is the only course.
Fantasy worlds have their place. In small amounts, escapism is good for the mind. However, if you live anime, video games, or are a chunibyo, you need to look at why you are avoiding reality.
There is no shame in needing help. Some problems can’t be faced alone. Rikka needed Yuta. Yuta needed Rikka. No one lives without the help of others. If your problems make you consider harming yourself or others, talk to someone. Every anime hero becomes a hero through the help of his friends and community. Look at how much help Rikka and Yuta get from their friends! Talk to a close friend, a pastor, a doctor, or a teacher.
If your thoughts lean toward suicide or violence and you live in the United States, call these mental health hotlines.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Helpline
Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST
You have an anime hero within. We all do. But like all anime heroes we have to work to unlock our hidden powers of mindfulness and compassion. We have to train hard like Goku and Ichigo. And like them, we have to sometimes seek help in that training. American heroes lie to us. They are born heroes or become them through some freak accident of fate. Heroism doesn’t work that way. Heroism comes from facing inner barriers–demons–and training to overcome them.
Are you training to face life like an anime hero? If not, why are you waiting to start? Go out and train your mind!