I was listening to the radio today on my way to an appointment and caught a ‘Mental Health Week’ discussion as I travelled. Today’s focus was on depression and, as you would expect, they had on a bunch of people doing depression and a bunch of doctors, psychologists and other medical experts to talk about it.
It was fascinating in many ways yet I was left with an overwhelming sense of frustration at the experts. Why? Well, they knew their stuff. I can’t argue with that. Neurological chemical balances were talked about, the pros and cons of ‘care in the community’ over in-patient treatment and therapy (predominantly counselling) over drug interventions were debated and lots of rhubarb was aired and everyone sound very intelligent, calm and knowledgeable.
My issue? Every single one of them talked about depression and mental ‘illness’ as if the person’s mind was broken. Every one of them, patients and experts, started from the belief that something was wrong and the mind had done something unexpected and therefore needed fixed.
This causes 2 problems;
1. The ‘patient’ believes they are broken and therefore looks to have their mind ‘fixed’. They defer all power and influence to the expert.
2. The expert believes their patient is broken and therefore approaches treatment as a repair, looking to replace and fix all that is broken.
But nothing is broken. Everyone is missing the fundamental fact that the mind is working perfectly. It might not be doing what you want, but it is working perfectly.
Your mind is an amazing machine but it isn’t perfect. As I talk about all the time it regularly gets stuck in negative thinking loops but only because it thinks that by running crappy scenarios in your head that it is helping in some way. Your mind is always working with a positive intention. It is always working perfectly.
As a quick example, imagine someone loses a loved one. They are quite rightly very upset and sad about their loss as we all would be. Where many people eventually move on, imagine this person’s mind refuses to let go of the thought of their loved one because somewhere they believe that to not be upset would be to not love the person enough and that brings with it extreme guilt. The mind has equated the feeling of upset to showing the world how much they loved and cared for the person who has passed away.
Now, imagine this person runs those feelings and that upset for a year, 18 months, longer perhaps. They want to crack out of it but unconsciously they are terrified that to do so would be to let that person go. The pain of the upset is simply much less than the pain and guilt that they would feel by letting that person go forever and moving on therefore the mind makes the less painful choice. And keeps making it. Tell that story to your doctor. You’ll get some cool pills.
This is just one recipe for depression. This person is not broken. This person just wants to keep the love they felt for that special person alive and well. They just haven’t realised yet that it is much easier to love with a smile than a tear. This person is more common than you would believe. I meet them regularly. They normally have cool pills.
Thinking of the mind as a thing that can just suddenly break is not in anyway useful to treatment or to you feeling better. How can it? It is also, in my opinion, totally wrong.
Thinking of the mind as a perfect, logical machine that will choose either what it believes to be the quickest way to pleasure or the path of least pain is a way to have influence over your mind, feelings and future. This is the path to emotional freedom.
You are not broken. You’ve just not been listening. Be friends with your mind. It is doing its best.