Updated: May 11, 2021
We are deconstructing the current foundation of the conversation around what we call mental health and mental illness and starting to build a foundation on love and understanding.
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Meditation on love
What is the mind? One reason we understand "lung disease" is because we can say with consistency what a lung is and where it is located with respect to the body. However, with "mental illness" this is not the case. What is the mind? Where is the mind? A deep exploration of these questions is not part of the curriculum of most clinical programs.
What is "mental illness"? By "mental illness" what we generally mean is suffering or experiencing distress specifically related to uncommon thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and behaviors. Whether this qualifies as illness or not depends on culture, understanding, and the purpose of separate labels for the purpose of diagnosis.
What we are missing in our understanding
Big picture: How does the mind develop over a lifetime/lifetimes and how does that match up to how our society is set up?
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” -Jiddu Krishnamurthi
In our society, people are put in a position to prove they are worthy of housing, food, companionship. We have some economic practices that value quantities over people, qualities. Some of our most advanced technologies are used to harm (warfare). Elder care can be very difficult in some countries.
This demonstrates the intimate relationship between health, medicine, public health, and politics.
We do try to address this through a biopsychosocial approach. But in practice, it falls short.
We are cut off from ourselves by an incomplete understanding of being human.
Physical anatomy vs 5 bodies anatomy
Changes in perception and identity: Hallucinations or refined perception?
Additional perspectives on trauma
In additional to intergenerational trauma, we can also consider inter-lifetime and trans-lifetime trauma if we go beyond a materialist view.
In addition to dissociation, we need to start talking about association, as in associating across our 5 bodies and associating across broader ranges of identity.
Consider trauma as an opaque boundary
Cost of misunderstanding
When we don't study different perspectives on mind, we get locked into a materialist view of science.
When we don't see or acknowledge societal issues, we localize a societal problem in a person.
When we don't recognize the full anatomy of a human being, we further localize a problem in the physical body. Hence the focus on neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. These play are a role but are part of a much bigger story.
All of this misunderstanding results in stigma. The stigma that comes with the phrase "mental illness" is not because people think suffering is rare, but because we are using and assigning labels when we do not understand the basics of mind, identity, and perception.
Solutions Current approaches to helping with suffering and distress should be augmented and contextualized by
advocacy, social justice
Education: critical thinking about identity, different philosophies about self and world, introspective practice
Learning w those who have experience
Keep in mind
Maintain an open line of communication with professionals and friends involved in your care.
Introspection can be helpful, but it can also be overwhelming and/or bewildering. The right kind of practice at the right time with the right kind of guidance is important.