What mental health is ‘really’ about


My sweet and kind hearted wife got into an online discussion recently, hoping to add a small insight for those who are also experiencing distress on a day to day basis – about being kind to ourselves, even though the world often isn’t.

One might think a deluge of kindnesses would follow. One would be wrong. But the reasons the whole discussion went pear-shaped in a hurry aren’t actually hard to understand.

Overview (top photo)

I possess three unusual liberties in this discussion, which I should declare up-front. I was raised in an all-encompassing philosophy (commune/cult) which is now completely extinct. This means I’m from a lost civilization, there is no horse representing my faction, in any race in the world – so I step outside of faction, far more easily than most. The fact that the theme of this commune was psychotherapy (along the Freud/Jung/Wilhelm Reich axis, primarily – but many other quirky strains were also woven in), means I have been sensitized to great thinking in this area for my whole life, and I have never stopped learning more.

I also had to raise myself. This means I learned early, how to make my family from strangers, and also that I love more easily and widely than many others – because I recognize the value of practising love unabashedly, even when it is misunderstood, or unappreciated.

The reason I offend some leftist friends so often, with such perfect confidence, about one of the central tenets of Christianity – true universal familyhood – is because I have indeed staked my entire life on it, and I’ve never regretted that.

Strangers aren’t enemies – only stupid people (which includes way too high a percentage of modern pampered westerners, left and right) think that. Strangers are all the wealth we haven’t got yet, because we haven’t yet got over ourselves and made friends.

Now – lets get down to the meat of the matter!

Into the woods we go

If you judge by my grandmother, whose brain was completely fried by severe electroshock treatments for depression back in the fifties, and could never quite construct a coherent thought afterward, the mental health establishment is a vast profitable complex of brutal industrial scale misogyny.

If you ask my huge-hearted and generous psychologist friend who was driven to the brink of suicide by the confessions of his patients, and his own solemn burden of confidentiality, such duty to others can be a very hard lift.

If you ask my friends who struggle best without medication, it is challenging.
If you ask my friends who find medication helpful – it is still hard, but better.

If you weigh the whole thing by any of my beautiful dear radiant and eternally missed friends who have committed suicide – it is too little and too late, by far.

If you discuss the matter with my friend whose insane mother had him committed for being a hippy, and sent to the same institution where the CIA conducted horrific brainwashing experiments in the sixties, it cannot be described as anything but unjust, cruel and unusual. Also, even to him, hilariously arbitrary.

If you talk to my friend who worked as an attendant at the infamous 999 Queen W, decades ago – when it was the biggest custodial psychiatric facility in the country, you are forced to acknowledge that one simply cannot generalize.

Some people will hurt themselves, some will hurt others, we cannot imagine these extremes away with wishful thinking – we must respond with compassion, which means first respecting the reality of each individual situation, and holding our opinions as of little use for any but our own individual cases, and empathies.

And this is of course where my poor wife fell into a tiger trap, which had been cleverly covered-over with a sweet cartoon about good affirming thoughts.

The familiar made beautiful

When we suffer great difficulty and come out of it, we emerge with a narrative of particular weight for our motivation and pride. The demon we conquered must be named, and some part of the hide tanned, to justify our pride in our scars.

But when someone else is facing their own struggle, the last thing they need is one more angry source of pressure from the external world, declaring, commanding, insisting – that is – all talking with no listening – more silencing.

To be clear, I’m a passionate guy, so I’ve done it myself, plenty of times – and I’m ashamed of some of my excesses on that front like few others. It is obvious on the surface of it – no one can ever be bullied into wisdom, happiness or good health.

What we can do, and is always welcome, even when not practically helpful, is offer our encouragement, support – specific clear helpful information, and all the contextual humour we’ve stumbled into ourselves – because it is in humour, not anger, that we are far more likely to find deep shared experience, and feel our burdensome loads lightened, by those friendly knowing smiles around us.

One family only, my friends. Even when we argue, we should always be arguing like we remember that, above all other points.

Certainly if we want anyone to take our opinions about the mental health of others as serious, thoughtful, well-considered compassionate insight – rather than still more of what the web (very sadly) does best.

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