Viktor E. Frankl, a well renowned psychiatrist and survivor of the Holocaust once said, "He who understands the why, can endure any how." I feel like we have a lot of spiritual gurus and experts on mindfulness and yet, we are not knowing the "why" as to why we need to have positive vibes, meditations, gratitude journals, compassion, and living with intention in our lives. My hope is, by writing this, I will show us why, now more than ever, we need conscious living. We all need to be living our #undeniabletruth.
As a professor of a Human Development graduate class for our future therapists and counselors, I keep noticing how mental health is talked about as if it's a life sentence in our society. It's not a life sentence, NOT EVEN CLOSE. Rather, it is unhealed pain and, in most cases, a lack of self-love and a loss of hope.
Over the past 11 years in my career as a therapist, my job was to be a hope merchant for my clients and to show them where to find it in their own lives. As a professor, my job is to show students that there is HOPE and that we, as humans, are resilient. Resilience is another way of saying that we can have the power within to overcome obstacles and thrive.
I believe in this so much that, in my class, no one is allowed to talk about a person by using a diagnosis. I teach my students to describe a person's behaviors. I think it is extremely important to see people separate from their diagnosis. To see us all as one. That there is no difference between the clinician and the client. We are all on our own yellow brick roads to Emerald City, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. We are all our own Superman or Superwoman in our own lives and we are capable of giving ourselves hope, truth, and justice.
I am trained as Marriage and Family Therapist. This means that I am not just a referee for couples and families, and I am way more than "How does that make you feel?". I am a therapist that works with relationships; relationships with Self, family, significant others, friends, food, money, substances, shopping, etc. I am trained to see cause and effect and the process of things. There is also no such thing as linear in my world. The days of thinking everything happens in a vacuum are gone. Nothing is what it is seems on the outside. There is always a reason for someone's behaviors even when it is not evident right away.
On Oprah's last episode, she talks about out of all her years of interviewing she realized that people just wanted to be seen, heard, and validated. That is the key to success in any relationship, including our relationship with our self. Everyone needs to be able to live their own life in a way that makes them feel free. Free of judgement, ridicule, and shame from themselves and others.
Everything in our world is about our connection to people, places, and things, including our relationship with our Self. Our "love map" is created before the age of five. This means that who ever raised us during those early years sets the tone for how we perceive the world, biological or not. If they are kind, responsive, and empowering then we grow up thinking that the world is kind, loving, "I am good enough" and "I have the power within to conquer anything". If the people that raise us handle stress poorly, are fearful and anxious, or they themselves do not feel good enough or powerful, then we grow up thinking our power is outside of ourselves. If the people that raised us loved us too much and did everything for us then we will struggle with knowing our worth and we will feel powerless to our circumstances because we didn't develop the skills to navigate conflict. This is, in a nutshell, is Attachment Theory which was created by John Bowlby and Maria Ainsworth.
Please know that this has nothing to do with how much people love us. Love and how we are in the relationship are two different things. If we do not have a healthy relationship with our self, we can not have one with anything outside of us. Read that again.
This is also not meant for us to put blame on the people that raised us. They loved us and did the best they could with the tools that they had, given the circumstances they were experiencing. Maya Angelou quote comes to mind, "When we know better, we do better." I truly believe most parents are doing what they know and if they knew a different way, they would. That is because that's how much they love their child.
This is for us to have understanding and compassion for them. It is our OWN responsibility to heal and figure out how to change our perception of the world; not them. It's up to us to learn how to have healthy connections with people, place, and things. It's time for us to take a good hard look at ourselves and be honest. We KNOW when we are being kind or not.
What is a diagnosis exactly? A diagnosis is a set of behaviors clumped together that the mental health field uses to communicate with other providers and insurance companies. Examples of diagnoses are Generalized Anxiety Disorder, ADHD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, Bi-Polar, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Autism, just to name a few.
In my opinion, diagnosing has now taken on a life of it's own with Big Pharma. Big Pharma has gotten so good at marketing their products that they have us believing that we need medication to heal ourselves and that our power to heal ourselves is outside of us. On my journey, I have learned that if the body is able to create the illness, then it has the power to heal it, as well. YES. You read that right. It does come down to what we eat, think, and believe in (a.k.a our faith). Processed foods are toxic to us. Eating WHOLE, CLEAN foods is part of the solution to healing not only our bodies, but our minds as well. Just like negative thinking is toxic to us; positive thinking is the antidote to illness.
It has been my experience, both professionally and personally, that when we are taught mindfulness, positive thinking, gratitude, and have worked through our past trauma, there is no need for medication. I want to be clear and say that depending on level of impairment, medication is necessary. If this is biological, then there is no way around meds. If it is poor attachment and trauma related, then in my experience, medication is a short term answer or not even an answer, Quite frankly, medication is for life when we don't process our feelings and we don't learn how to navigate or handle them.
Humans are not meant to live in a constant state of fear. Fear is to help us know when we are in physical danger. When we stay in constant fear, our fight our flight response system is on and that shuts down other systems in our body and we are only operating with what is necessary to survive. Our rational part of our brain is turned off when we are in a fear state. We operate from our survival part of the brain, called the Amygdala. This is why meditation is so important for not only our minds but our bodies, as well. They need to know how to be in a calm state so we can be the best version of ourselves. Basically, so that we can think clearly. Below is a video about the effects of childhood trauma.
Diagnoses have no place outside of a therapy/medical setting, in my opinion. This is because labels separate us and take away our connection to one another. It is shame based and judgmental when used outside of therapy setting. I want you to think about how loosely we use the term Narcissist or Bi-Polar when we are hurt by someone's actions towards us versus seeing that person who hurt us as someone who is hurting themselves. Just do a quick search on Pinterest, Redit, or Instagram and you will see what I am talking about here. There is a whole community against Narcs.
When I was in graduate school taking the diagnostic class, the professor stated something that has always stuck with me. To look at every diagnosis as if it is on a continuum and to recognize that every human being has these continuums within them. An oversimplified way of saying this is that we all have anxiety traits, Narcissistic traits, PTSD traits, Depressive traits, Autistic traits, etc. and given certain scenarios we will show these traits.
Labels also take our power away. How many times have you heard someone say they can't do something because of their diagnosis? It's a language that hinders our growth and empowerment. Think about how often we hear something about how children can't do something because they have ADHD or they are Autistic (this is High Functioning Autism). Our thinking is backwards here. We should be empowering our children to RISE UP. The way we teach them needs to change, not our level of expectations of success! Actually, this can be said for any of us. We should be empowering each other and ourselves to RISE UP, instead of lowering our expectations.
I have linked Brene Brown's TED Talk on Listening to Shame. She is a well-known researcher on Shame and Vulnerability and NY Times Best Selling Author, as well. She is funny and charismatic! So, if you don't take my word for it; take hers.
I don't know about you, but when I hear the words "mental health" I automatically think about diagnosis. Then I get a pit in my stomach because we are about to enter into taboo territory. I can already feel people's resistance to talking about it, i.e. the eye rolls and "doesn't she know she shouldn't talk about things like this".
Like I stated earlier, diagnoses are just a group of behaviors clumped together. The great thing about behaviors is that we have the power to change them, through self-awareness, willingness to change, consistency and repetition. Our brains are amazing. They are constantly growing new brain cells and evolving. We can literally rewire them based on how we think and talk to ourselves.
America, it's time to start talking. Enough is enough. How many more suicides and school shootings do we need to experience? How much more nastiness are we going to tolerate? We need to go back to the basics and keep it simple. It's time for us to start connecting and start being kind to one another. We somehow got away from the simple rules we teach our kindergartners about playing in the sandbox together.
1. Sharing is caring.
2. We use our words and speak kindly to one another.
3. We apologize when we hurt someone's feelings.
4. We take space until we are calm enough to talk.
5. We keep our hands to ourselves, at all times.
6. We always tell the truth.
7. We are always responsible for the words we use and our own behavior, no matter what is going on.
When did we start thinking that being kind meant we were doormats? Being kind is demonstrating compassion. It doesn't mean we let someone walk all over us or "bully" us. It means we still hold people accountable, just without the nastiness. For when we lash out or call people names, we are just as harmful as the person who inflicted the pain on us. It definitely doesn't mean staying in a toxic relationship, family or significant others.
We should be teaching our children the skills on how to solve their own problems and on how to navigate relationships with others, especially conflict. If we don't have those skills as adults, we should be learning them, stat. We have gotten out of control in our society about the definition of bullying. We are taking our children's and our own power away because we are not teaching them or ourselves that we have the power within to overcome any obstacles that cross our path. We are not giving them the ability to build their own confidence and resilience. This video is a great example of how to handle "bullying".
We have to learn how to dig deep within and speak our #undeniabletruth from a place of compassion. We ALWAYS have our right to speak our #undeniabletruth, and tell someone, politely, that their actions or words have hurt us or offended us. It's using "I" statements when we talk. We aren't blaming, judging, or shaming someone just because we are hurting on the inside or we don't agree with their opinion. Hear me loud and clear, this is not speaking our minds; it's speaking our truth, as it pertains to us. What is the difference? Speaking our mind is not kind; speaking our #undeniabletruth is kind.
In addition, #undeniabletruth is about being authentic and living with intention. It's not being "nice" because being "nice" isn't always honest or authentic. Kindness is both and it is through kindness that we build connection. It's living with love and compassion in our hearts because we know how to calm ourselves down, give our self a hug, reframe situations so that we see the positive, and then have faith that everything will work out for our highest and best. We are able to see the good and abundance in the world and, more importantly, live without fear. It's about knowing how to find our truth and having the courage to own it, speak it and live it because we know we are good enough and worthy of living the life we want. It's mixing both therapy and spirituality together so that this is a way of life.
How do you know if you are living your #undeniabletruth? I can tell you are NOT living it if you...
1. Feel anxious most of the time
2. Feel depressed
3. Worried about the future
4. ALways worried that something bad is about to happen
5. Are in a relationship that you feel like your partner never listens to you.
6. Feel as if "I am not good enough"
7. Feel like you are trudging through mud and can't seem to get out of your own way
8. Feel like your a bystander in your life
9. Feel as if your life is controlling you, rather than you controlling it.
10. Feel frustrated or irritated with everything, more so than usual.
11. Have had thoughts, "I don't know how I got here. I thought I was doing everything right?"
12. Get angry really easily
13. Feel as if you everything is happening TO you, life is unfair
This isn't a gender thing, a rich or poor thing, educated or not. This is a human race thing. We are ALL capable of living a mindful life and being more active participant in our lives. It's time to find our Power Within America. We are all worthy of inner peace and hope for a beautiful future. Imagine a world where we are filled with gratitude, authenticity, compassion. inner peace, joy, and hope. That is my vision and why I embarked on this. I KNOW we can do this.
It starts with each and every single one of us. This is our own responsibility, no matter where we started off in life. We can't change the past, but we sure can direct our futures from this point forward. We are all responsible for learning how to love ourselves so that we have the capacity to love others. If we know our #undeniabletruth, then we can own it, speak it, live it. We can start being kind to one another. Remember, love wins. Love wins every single time.
You are strong. You are brave. You are fierce. You are kind. You are love. You are light. You are important. You are good enough. You are lovable. You are worthy of the life you seek!!