I hope this finds you well – even thriving.
Apologies for the long gap between musings – I’ve been busily engaged in a number of projects.
One of these projects has been to become qualified as an iheart facilitator – the curriculum being taken into schools to help young people reconnect with their innate wellbeing and resilience. The course is having a tremendously positive impact on 10 – 18 year olds in the UK and around the world. https://www.iheartprinciples.com/
Read more here https://www.iheartprinciples.com/impact/#latest-reports about the impact the curriculum is having in over 400 schools.
Yes folks, contrary to popular public opinion, wellbeing and resilience are innate to all human beings – although sometimes it can absolutely feel like it’s covered up.
I’ve become so very tired of hearing ‘experts’ invited on various media to talk about how the pandemic and the lockdowns are ‘causing’ an epidemic of mental health issues.
iheart are offering a fantastic free one-day conference on 1 March – and you are warmly invited. It’s called “Unlocking Resilience: Your Psychological Vaccine”. You can register here: https://www.iheartprinciples.com/
Feelings are a perfectly natural part of the human experience.
Feelings don’t need to be medicalised or pathologized.
But this is what we have done as a society over the last couple of decades. I am not trivialising the distress people sometimes feel – that is real (I spend the majority of my time working to support people who are suffering)
Anti-depressant prescriptions in the UK have increased from around 9 million in the 1990’s to 65 million in 2016 – without any convincing improvement in mental wellbeing.
There are many academics now who are challenging this ‘medicalisation’.
Eminent Harvard Psychologist Jerome Kagan deplores the explosion in diagnostic disorders, and our tendency to conceptualise normal human suffering as disease in his book “Psychology’s Ghosts: The Crisis in the Profession and the Way Back”
I recently finished reading “Cracked” by James Davies. A psychiatrist himself, Davies takes a mind-boggling wander back through the last few decades, and shows convincingly how we got into the mess we’re in. A profoundly disturbing look at a profession that seems to be in thrall to Big Pharma. This is an important book for anyone who has an interest in mental health.’
Another highlight for me last year was Marilyn Bowman’s book called “Individual Differences in Post-Traumatic Stress Response”, summarising her comprehensive research into PTSD.
This book challenges the assumptions of the event-dominated DSM model of posttraumatic stress disorder. Bowman reviews the empirical literature, and finds (wait for it)… that post-traumatic stress is not caused by the traumatic event. It is, rather, a reflection of the meaning and narrative the individual has created about the traumatic event. In other words, thought. And the degree to which the person was in touch with their own resilience prior to the ‘traumatic event’.
She also reports that all the so-called evidence about PTSD was assembled by studying those people who experienced it, and excluded all the people who experienced a ‘traumatic event’ and yet were not ‘traumatized’. This is known as ‘availability bias’.
By the way, both James Davies and Marilyn Bowman are keynote speakers at the iheart Conference I mentioned earlier.
When we construe normal feelings as an illness, we encourage people to think of themselves as disordered, broken or un-whole in some way. Our inner landscape can become stuck on this narrative, and see themselves as victims.
By no means am I suggesting that we go back to the days when people felt shame, or stigma, in reaching out for support.
But we do seem to have created a society where we ought not to be expected to tolerate distress or discomfort. We have come to the point where we believe that emotional disquiet will cause harm, that we ought to be soothed and tranquil at all times. In fact, there is much evidence to support the opposite idea – that children raised by parents who normalise challenging experiences suffer from less anxiety, not more.
Much mental suffering results from being stuck in a story about ourselves. In my view, the mainstream mental health profession risks reifying and reinforcing this story. What’s needed instead is to help people to shift perspective, and transcend the narrow, ego-based experience of ourselves.
So many of my clients show up for their first session with me by listing their various diagnoses.
The sad thing is we’re doing this to our children too. Watch this inspiring video called “Childhood is not a Mental Disorder”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv49RFo1ckQ
When life’s problems are addressed only from within the impoverished terms set out by this medicalised approach to distress, difficulties can become concretized. This overly concrete attitude toward our inner life creates petrification – as in a fairy tale, things harden and turn to stone.
Those of us working with people ought not to communicate how fragile we believe people are. We ought to be in the business of helping people to see themselves as innately whole and psychologically resilient.
So, you probably don’t have a disorder – but you do have feelings. Feelings are transient by nature, and you are strong enough to navigate them all – even the unpleasant or uncomfortable ones.
I’d love to know your thoughts about all this.