Mental Health… So what’s in a label?

Among the countless things I don’t know is one thing I’ve learned FOR SURE… life is anything but black and white… neat and tidy! It comes instead, in a spectrum of shades… often overlapping according to facts and perspective. The issue of mental health falls perfectly into this conundrum. We seem to have a need to define everything and give it a name. It makes us feel safer… more in control regardless of how far from the truth that really is.

The professional field of mental health has historically been broken in many ways. A diagnosis can only be as accurate and effective as the tools used to assess any given situation along with the insight and training of the psychologist and or psychiatrist making that assessment. Until recently due to a lack of funding and priorities, the human brain has not been studied beyond a certain point. The tendency has always been to view the issue from only part of our human spectrum which is only a slice of the entire pie. The reality is we’re all made up of physical, emotional, mental and spiritual bodies… each just as essential as the next and all connected and symbiotic.

Good therapists are worth their weight in gold but sadly those who aren’t seem to far outweigh them. This has been not my personal experience repeatedly but also mirrors the opinions of many friends and peers of mine in this field who have identified this as a real problem as well. Nobody in a healing profession can be effective unless they’re willing to also do their own personal work. People are often drawn to professions like these because of their own tough experiences and a sincere desire to help others. What they don’t yet understand however is we can’t help anyone else unless we’re willing to help ourselves first. When we know better… we do better. Knowledge gained through books and class-time is very different from wisdom. This is what we gain from going through the process ourselves. It shifts our perspectives and the way we deal with everything and everyone around us. Otherwise, it becomes just another way to avoid our “stuff” by focusing on someone or something else. That’s not empowering for either party!

Unfortunately, the propensity for life-long damage to someone who is incorrectly diagnosed or mishandled by the so-called “professional” they’ve sought help from can be heart-breaking. It certainly has been for me as I’ve listened to countless personal stories from clients and friends who have suffered the repercussions of being incorrectly diagnosed and labeled. They’ve all held the belief that they WERE their diagnosis… somehow less than everyone else… flawed… not worth having a joyful life or a healthy relationship. In every single case, they could not have been more wrong. NOBODY should go into the field of mental health unless they’re empathic and compassionate enough to see and understand the perspectives of those they are supposed to serve. The damage I’ve witnessed from ignorance on the part of the professional who should know better has left me many times with my mouth hanging open in amazement.

Learning to truly identify who we are at our authentic best requires letting go of the antiquated beliefs that keep us stuck, powerless and unable to see the bigger picture and truth of it. Becoming aware of the labels which hurt and shame so many and keep them hostage is something everyone of us can and should do. It also means having the courage to speak up when we hear or see someone doing something counter to that. At our cores, THAT is who we ALL are.

GET CURIOUS…. REMEMBER…

Recognizing Shame and Finding Grace

african angel

Sometimes the best avenue for really understanding the value of something is to view it from the polar-opposite perspective first. “Dis-grace”…. When have you felt shame & embarrassment over not measuring up to someone else’s ideals? Although we need to be self-policing, I have continually met & worked with SO many people who carry such immense shame that was never theirs to own…often through entire cultural histories… always caused by abuse & a lack of respect & value for them as individuals, usually very early on. Their shame blinded them to their own value & ability to make better choices for themselves. I’ve always recognized it in their eyes.

The good news is at the end of each & every day, we’re our own jail-keepers. That truth allows us the opportunity to stand in our own Personal Power and re-define ourselves. As tempting as it may be to place blame for our decisions on someone or something else, we truly disable ourselves by not recognizing & accepting responsibility for our own “stuff” & allowing others to do the same. Our human mistakes are how we learn what we’re actually capable of & we remain stuck & disabled when we’re “rescued” from that… whether through good intentions or forced slavery. And yes… what doesn’t “kill” us, actually does make us stronger!

I watched African American adults in the South where I grew up for 10 years during the 60’s & 70’s, carry themselves in shame… heads down… shoulders rounded… adults unable to look me eye-to-eye even in my youth.  I was a 21-year old, blue-eyed, blond intern working with their children… the ONLY Caucasian in that entire, inner-city, elementary school. I also felt the sting of being treated by the staff there as not worthy of acknowledgement which I eventually realized in hindsight was just their shame manifested in another form.

I interacted with wonderful, loving Africans in Jamaica who carried great shame from their own slavery into their culture in so many insidious ways. Their people were only emancipated in the 60’s & in a more passive-aggressive effort to speak to their pain & anger over losing their freedom; they ceased to create their vibrant art during their enslavement. The poverty in which they live leaves them feeling very much “less-than” the many tourists & elite but very small upper-class there. They fear being judged & defined by it.

The energy work I’ve been involved in with various Native American, tribal communities over the years is yet another example of a gifted people who have been so lost in the painful issues that have plagued them for generations…alcohol, drugs, physical abuse, suicide, etc. They still hold great, intrinsic wisdom and insight through their DNA from their early ancestors but collectively they’re unable to see the higher vision of themselves through the lens of shame they’ve carried even though it doesn’t belong to them. It was put in place long ago when their way of life was crushed along with their spirits by the early settlers who took away their right to choose the life they had embraced & flourished in.

Enslavement of any kind robs humanity of its Self-Love & higher vision of itself. As Maya Angelou so simply & wisely put it… “When we know better…we do better.” Sometimes it takes some assistance from others who can hold up that vision for someone of who they truly are until they can see it for themselves. Every person needs to “see” who they came here to be… underneath the layers of painful “lessons” we all tend to collect in our lives. If we don’t discover who we authentically are, how can we really know our purpose? We ALL have one.

Because our thoughts so very much create our realities, learning to live in “GRACE” is profoundly important. Grace is not perfection but rather the ability to see the Higher…Bigger Picture of things so we can gain a more realistic perspective & then to “let go” and allow it not only for ourselves but everyone else. It is and always will be an inside job!

   “GET CURIOUS …. REMEMBER”