With the ongoing epidemics of anxiety, depression and drug addiction refusing to abate, as well as the proposed introduction of medical assistance in dying (assisted suicide) for people with mental illnesses in Canada, it has become starkly clear that the mental health status quo is failing the people it’s meant to serve.
In this essay, I make a case for a radical rethinking about how we might serve those who are suffering deeply, at this crucial time.
It will not be a paradigm of treating disorder, but a paradigm of educating individuals in how to live a good life, such as by viewing ourselves the way that a happy, secure person does. Only the lucky few receive this kind of practical education in childhood. The rest of us have to learn it in adulthood.
A Neglected Houseplant Needs Sunlight and Water Before Medicine
Before we can consider a withered houseplant to be diseased, we first make sure that it has received enough sunlight and water. If fulfilling these basic needs causes the plant to thrive, we cannot truthfully say that there was anything wrong with the plant. It is the environment that is at fault.
In the same way, we comfort a crying baby by giving them what they need, materially or emotionally. We do not watch them helplessly, dose them with drugs (prescription or recreational) or euthanize them.
For some reason, we do not apply to our own lives these fundamental principles for how to take care of life. Most adult human beings who experience suffering are painfully deficient in love, acceptance and validation. Many of us do not fulfill our most basic physiological needs, such as breathing deeply enough, sleeping well enough and exercising regularly. Yet rather than giving ourselves the essentials, we might take drugs that we do not need (prescription or recreational), or simply suffer in silence. Psychiatric drugs will never completely alleviate our suffering because our bodies are not deficient in drugs.
Part of the reason we suffer is that, unless we had love, acceptance and validation normalized in childhood, these essentials register as alien and unnatural in adult life. Even when we attempt to give ourselves the same using the self-authority that we each have as an adult, it’s only the feeling of being unloved that resonates as “what we deserve” or “the way things are.” This is not a personal failing, but a failure of our parents and caregivers. If we are to thrive as adults, we must exceed our parents by learning what they did not show us.
Our Modern World Teaches Misery
To take a full account of human suffering, we have to acknowledge that our happiness and inner peace are dramatically affected by our environment, both past and present. If our environment is injurious, we must locate the harms in our environment, and remove either the harms or ourselves from the environment. We would be remiss only to search within individuals for the causes of suffering.
Even outside of dysfunctional households, which is where we usually look first, our modern world does not provide the conditions for happiness and inner peace. Sometimes, it is actively harmful to our mental well-being.
It isn’t only bad parents, but bad teachers and employers, who teach us that they hold the keys to our worth and esteem, and that we must meet their requirements before we are allowed to feel a fundamental level of self-worth. Too often, they teach us to say yes when we mean no, for their own convenience and not for our moral development. Then, when we must work to live, we often end up living to work, and neglecting our own self-care as a result.
Advertisers teach us that we are not good enough unless we purchase the products that they’ve manufactured to solve deficiencies that they’ve imagined in us. The popular news media is not journalistically informative as much as it has become an attention-grabbing spectacle of one train wreck after another. Social media—which once held the promise of democratizing all voices—too often causes us to compare the complexity of our private or inner lives with the carefully curated and polished exteriors of others, to which we cannot possibly compare.
The world has taught us how to feel miserable and inadequate.
What Do the Professionals Do When We Seek Relief?
When a person who experiences suffering sees a psychiatrist, they are usually prescribed medication. They are not taught how to cultivate healthy thought processes that lead to happiness and peace, and it seems almost absurd to expect this kind of guidance from a modern-day psychiatrist. Indeed, it is not obvious that psychiatry as a discipline actually understands how an unhappy person might become happy again, except through medication.
Perhaps because it counts itself as a medical discipline, psychiatry seems to take the stance that happiness occurs when we are in a default state of health, and that various forms of unhappiness are medical problems that must be treated with the right medicine. This medical paradigm produces a blind spot where psychiatrists do not seem to fully recognize that the mind-body link works both ways, and that our thoughts inexorably affect our bodies too. Worse, psychiatry’s standing as a medical discipline might actually require wilful blindness to the two-way nature of the mind-body link.
Psychotherapists understand the mind-body link much better, but as a feature of their profession, they are reluctant to teach their clients straightforwardly how to think. When you ask a therapist how to think like a confident, secure person, they will usually remind you that “therapy is not about giving advice” and that they “don’t have a magic wand.” Manualized modalities like CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy) and DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) come closer to providing the guidance that we need and crave, but they are still centred around disorder, not health. ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) enters the right ballpark. No matter the modality, however, well-trained therapists are systematically averse to dominating therapy sessions with lectures about how to live an excellent life.
I return to my claim that we must teach happiness and inner peace. These essential emotions do not come naturally in our modern world, and the distressed emotions that we feel instead are not “things” that can simply be removed (the way that a tumour is). Instead, happiness is the outcome of internal processes that must be cultivated intentionally. Few secular practices teach us how to do this.
Where Have the Teachers Gone?
In ancient Greece, you might visit the agora and speak to your favourite philosopher about how to live a good life. Sometimes, they will even leave you better off than when you had started. Today, in the public sphere, the pursuit of anti-intellectual pride is more common than the pursuit of wisdom.
This brings us to professions that exist outside of the mental health orthodoxy. I write this from the perspective of a career-long hypnotherapist: It is scandalous that unregulated professions, such as my own, are the ones that are most willing to look beyond blame and pathology in order to find and communicate healthy lines of thought. This is not an endorsement of hypnotherapy (or life coaching and related practices), so much as an indictment of the professions that we are advised to seek counsel in. Every profession has its strengths and weaknesses—you should not seek a life coach when you are experiencing a florid psychotic episode, and you should not seek a psychiatrist when you want moral guidance—but it follows that professions that do not pathologize their clients must find solutions for them instead.
I have met many compassionate psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists who are hamstrung by the methods and standards of the profession they have joined. I believe that their compassion would go much further if they were permitted to straightforwardly teach their clients how to find happiness. Part of the reason they won’t (or won’t admit to it) is that many of their colleagues will cringe or bristle at the idea. The business of treating mental illness is most definitely not the business of teaching happiness.
Mental health care must become a study in mental health, not only mental illness. I challenge compassionate mental health professionals to fervently pursue happiness in their own personal lives, and I challenge their professional bodies not to censure (even casually) practitioners who are strongly directive in teaching their clients or patients how they might find happiness too. When a client’s distress is caused by a lack of guidance in an often-hostile environment, it would be cruel to leave them so unguided.
Human beings sleep better at night when we learn how to be self-accepting, drink less alcohol when we are unconditionally self-loving, and experience less anxiety in groups when we believe that we are fundamentally equal to every other adult in the room. What is the purpose of medicalizing insomnia, alcohol use and anxiety, then, except to crystallize suffering? Why are we not teaching people that self-acceptance comes from the best-informed of authorities, that love is a positive-sum game (such that self-love increases the amount of love in the world), and that an inalienable sense of equality is our fundamental right?
A Few Principles for Happiness and Peace
As a human being, regardless of whether you are a mental health professional or a consumer of mental health services, there are a few basic principles for happiness that will certainly apply to you:
- You have a mind-body link, which means that your thoughts have consequences to how you perceive the world, how you feel, and how you experience life. Just as we must be mindful of how we speak to a child, we must be mindful of what we think to ourselves. The words you will not speak to others should not be thoughts that you think to yourself, either.
- As a prerequisite for happiness, you must treat yourself as a living human being. The rules for how we treat people are very different from the rules for how we treat objects: only objects can be discarded or verbally abused without consequences, and only objects can be appraised as worthless. Living human beings cannot.
- You must believe the evidence of your eyes and ears over anything that you have to imagine or remember, since neither imagination nor memory give evidence of the present moment. When you see and hear that you are safe, you can believe it.
- By adulthood, you have the moral authority to consider yourself an equal to other adults—not only at election time, but in everyday life. This means that your self-advocacy is valid and, in fact, comes from the person who is best positioned to speak on your behalf.
- Your inner critic is not your conscience, nor a truth-teller. Criticism with merit comes from appreciation for the subject. If you wouldn’t take restaurant recommendations from somebody who hates fine dining, or book recommendations from somebody who hates books, why would you take life advice from your inner critic?
- Healing from emotional wounds is not only possible, but inevitable, when you maintain on a long enough timeline the conditions that allow healing to occur.
This is a short and incomplete list, but it should give you a flavour of the conversations that are not happening often enough in psychiatrists’ and psychologists’ offices. I have outlined the case for why these conversations must happen.
When we are quick to pathologize suffering, yet we do not provide even the most basic fundamentals for healthy living, we are all but discarding the houseplant that can be rehabilitated with sunlight and water. When we do this to our fellow human beings, it is inhumanity of the highest order.
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I agree with these principles, which are lucidly expressed. Other than 3 and 6.
6. “Healing from emotional wounds is not only possible, but inevitable, when you maintain on a long enough timeline the conditions that allow healing to occur.”
An emotional wound is metaphorical. So the healing process is metaphorical too. Time heals, as this principle suggests. And time is slow. The assumption in the metaphor is that all healing is beneficial. Whereas in life a lot of healed people are disfigured. This is because they relied on time alone to heal them. Or found help from a corrupt individual that cared more for their money than their heart. In which case they may be healed, but wound others, continually. Or be so unhappy with their disfigurement that only corrective surgery can offer them hope. And which will lead many to a lifelong self-obsession.
Principle 3 then clashes with principle 6.
“You must believe the evidence of your eyes and ears over anything that you have to imagine or remember, since neither imagination nor memory give evidence of the present moment. When you see and hear that you are safe, you can believe it.”
Imagination and memory are always active during waking life, the information gathered by our eyes and ears is processed creatively. We construct realities, continually.
We assess danger versus safety through an active engagement with imagination and memory.
In fact, removal of the activation of imagination and memory from real- time assessment of the environment would be a more devastating loss to a person in terms of safety than the loss of eyesight or hearing.
We know this from our blind and deaf brothers and sisters.
This principle clashes with 3 because emotional wounds we carry are recreated from memory and imagination. Those wounds also play some role in keeping us safe by actively assessing risk.
Thank you for contributing to the conversation. Each of the principles at the end deserves its own essay, since there’s much substance to explore in each one, and the lucidity comes in part from omitting all the finer details.
Principle 3 argues in favour of empiricism over rationalism as a epistemic stance. It isn’t that a rich inner world has little relevance, nor am I claiming that it’s possible to sense the objective world independently of our subjective interpretations. Instead, I claim that we’ve been encouraged to overvalue cognitive processes and undervalue empiricism (not only sensory information, but hard data), and that this is detrimental to our well-being. My claim is that the safest way to drive down a highway, navigate a new relationship or relax in a strange environment is by prioritizing ongoing sensory information over our memory and imagination, and that this is characteristic of mental health.
Principle 6 is very much open to interpretation, because of its metaphorical nature. When a deep wound heals, it leaves a scar, and something analogous happens with the emotional wounds that we are discussing. Even a trauma that we might call “healed” can produce a life-long scar — it just doesn’t hurt as much anymore. When it’s easier to focus on the present moment because you aren’t hurting as much, I don’t see a clash with principle 3.
And I agree, art (in all its forms) is essential to human happiness. Without it, we suffer — with it, we are capable of thriving.
Thanks for clarifying. It’s helped me understand your perspective. I think. Not sure.
Just recently I was cycling out from a small city in England, out into the country lanes, and there’s this very steep hill about half a mile long that kinda plunges you in and away. I made my mind up to head thay way as the conditions were good to get the descent speed up to 50mph+.
So i’m midway and my GPS is alleging 47, 48, 49 and Im almost completely at one with the moment, the environment and in less than 1-2 seconds I spot a woman walking up the hill to my right and she looks at me and she looks at the road and I have a rapid flashback to when I was a boy, and this young girl came hurtling past me and she cried out, Can’t stop! and she flew past and slammed into a wall and broke her arrm. It was the look on the woman’s face and the memory of the girl’s distressed face. They somehow co-occured. I crouched low in the drops, pushed my head forward and could see multiple deep potholes in the road ahead And I was able to immediately adjust and somehow position onto a 2inch route that avoided the deep holes, which had I hit would have sent me flyting to an uncertain fate.
That is an acute attunement of sensory data and traumatic memory that I consider healthy. In my waking life I aspire to that form of synergy at all times, though obviously not as intensely.
Is where I’m coming from.
Perhaps there needs to be a consensus on what mental health is before we can decide we’re experiencing it or dispensing it?
Some here consider mental illness/health as a false dichotomy. Although they also offer no way out of emotional pain and suffering. So far as I’ve seen.
Your cycling example indeed sounds healthy. When I imagine somebody who’s ignoring sensory input and tuned into their imagination or memories instead, I think of myself when I am riding through city streets with a lot going through my mind… I am not a very safe cyclist then, and would have gotten hurt in the situation you described.
I’ve come to accept that words are wholly inadequate for conveying emotions, so I choose the most common words, not necessarily the most precise ones. In this essay, I use the phrase “mental health” interchangeably with “happiness and peace,” and “mental illness” synonymously with “various forms of unhappiness.” This is imprecise and nonmedical, but I believe it communicates effectively enough, and allows one to get on with the thornier business of figuring out how to help people to suffer less.
“Where Have the Teachers Gone?”
Youtube. Tik Tok. Instagram.
Are there any creators that you find especially insightful? I’m partial to Patrick Teahan, TheraminTrees, Doctor Ramani and Daniel Mackler.
Visceral Gravitas on Youtube provokes much thought. I enjoy his use of other creator’s material, emphasising the good stuff, highlighting the weaknesses. Active critical engagement.
He’s engaged with Dr Ramani’s output a few times. Not altogether generously, if I remember correctly.
Daniel Mackler made some good videos, I agree.
Just to be transparent I used the ability to post without logging in for the first time under your article. I am the person that goes by the name rasselas.redux. Can’t handle splitting or being dishonest to someone I respect! I plucked this name out the hat.
I’m a very troubled individual. I am currently in what professionals may call a “hypomanic phase”. Today I was in tears suddenly because I had nearly an hour of “feelings of impending doom”. Then was running with my dog and laughing loudly.
It is not a dignified life I lead, often.
Visceral Gravitas’ analysis of Doctor Ramani is eye-opening.
I might suggest that dignity is innate — even when you can’t quite see it, your dog definitely can. The third principle that I listed — believing your senses — is something that our animal companions are excellent at doing. It’s worth allowing such a friend to remind you of who you are.
Luke says, “Dignity is innate — even when you can’t quite see it, your dog definitely can…it’s worth allowing such a friend to remind you of who you are.”
This is very true. Our furry friends aren’t hampered by over-intellectualizing.
I’m one of those people who considers the term(s) mental health/illness a false dichotomy. But I actually HAVE offered a way out of emotional suffering in previous comments of mine: it’s something called “Self Therapy” and Daniel Mackler has written a wonderful book about it that Ihighly recommend.
Thanks for your kind words, Mr Chao.
You’re right, Luke Chao, that we need to think more about thinking. There are tried and tested methods of nourishing the mind and the minds of others. Art is the most powerful influencer of thought and contemplation. The next part is what usually gets skipped and is probably the most important: live discussion about the encountered art. A sustained non- individualised grasping at meaning.
rasselas.redux says, “….we need to think more about thinking.”
I’m not so sure about that. I think we need to think less and feel more, especially the bad feelings that bring us down, so they can be processed — meaning grieved, understood and hopefully for the most part expunged.
But imo it’s important to remember that this can’t and shouldn’t be forced on someone, or even expected, because however people find themselves getting through this life is their own business and no one has a right to judge it.
What I find most interesting about art is that it speaks to the unconscious, because it’s from the unconscious, meaning it expresses things that the conscious mind cannot express. And that’s where the power of art comes in because it speaks to people on a level they’re unaware of; in other words, it bypasses the conscious mind. And sometimes, when people know they’re not alone, they can start reclaiming their lives in spite of themselves. And it’s a process that mostly takes on a subliminal level, because that’s where the emotions reside.
And while public discussion of art can be very enlightening, to me it’s more meaningful when experienced privately.
“Psychiatric drugs will never completely alleviate our suffering because our bodies are not deficient in drugs.” A wise statement pointing out how insanely stupid psychiatry’s belief system is.
“self-authority that we [should] each have as an adult” – but psychiatry unjustly, and in some cases illegally, steals this “self-authority” from millions of adults and children. Forced and coerced drugging should be made illegal.
“We would be remiss only to search within individuals for the causes of suffering.” Yet that is exactly what psychiatry and psychology do with their “bullshit” DSM stigmatizing.
“Advertisers teach us that we are not good enough unless we purchase the products that they’ve manufactured to solve deficiencies that they’ve imagined in us.” Which is why direct to consumer big Pharma advertising should be made illegal again.
“Today, in the public sphere, the pursuit of anti-intellectual pride is more common than the pursuit of wisdom.” And those who are truth seekers, hopefully working our way towards wisdom, have literally been censored from the internet, today’s “public sphere.” It’s shameful.
“The business of treating mental illness is most definitely not the business of teaching happiness.” Indeed, quite the opposite.
“self-love increases the amount of love in the world,” and stigmatizing people with “invalid” DSM disorders and neurotoxic poisoning people is all about trying to end the psychologists’ and psychiatrists’ clients’ love of oneself.
“The rules for how we treat people are very different from the rules for how we treat objects: only objects can be discarded or verbally abused without consequences, and only objects can be appraised as worthless. Living human beings cannot.” Yet this is exactly what some of the DSM believers do to their clients with their SMI stigmatizations. Psychological and psychiatric gas lighting, coercion, force, and neurotoxic poisonings are mental abuse, NOT mental health care.
“When we are quick to pathologize suffering,” as too many time strapped psychologists and psychiatrists do, “yet we do not provide even the most basic fundamentals for healthy living, we are all but discarding the houseplant that can be rehabilitated with sunlight and water. When we do this to our fellow human beings, it is inhumanity of the highest order.” Congratulations (sarcasm) to the scientific fraud based DSM “bible” believers for committing “inhumanity of the highest order,” on a massive societal scale.
Thank you, Luke, for this insightful and common sense based blog.
Psychiatry’s DSM is a book of CODIFIED HATE, and it’s “medications” are NEUROTOXINS —
Thanks for your close reading!
Luke says, “The world has taught us how to feel miserable and inadequate.”
Psychiatry formally reinforces misery and inadequacy with diagnoses and drugs.
And no one should trust people who use misery as a commodity.
Here’s some things to learn, preferably on one’s own:
1. That using terms like “mental health” is counterproductive because it implies that there is such a thing as “mental illness”
2. That “mental health” is a ridiculous metaphor used by opportunistic people in order to extract money and prestige
3. That having a “degree” is NO measure of integrity, competence, and especially benevolence
4. That someone’s expectation of payment for assistance with emotional matters strongly indicates mixed motivations
TRANSLATION: The Emperor is stark naked —
Although I agree with much of what Luke is saying, I don’t agree that people should take advice from psychiatrists or psychologists because I don’t think their education makes them any more qualified to give advice than anyone else.
Having professional qualifications doesn’t mean anything because the most important qualifications are insight and compassion, the very things that an “education” can drag out of someone.
And while there are some exceptions, the mental health industry is taught and practiced in a way that has more to do with suppression than validation. So for me I find the professionalization of emotional intimacy to be questionable at the very least.
I like a lot of what you have to say! I’ve been walking with my wife on a healing journey the last 16 years, and I realized that to become a good healing companion for her, I had to get as healthy as I could myself because she made it clear she didn’t know what ‘healthy’ meant and she needed me to live it…kind of as a role model. And so I worked really hard the first few years of our journey to transform myself into the kind of healing companion that would help rather than hinder her progress. Fortunately, I had a mostly healthy childhood and had been securely attached to my mom, and so I had and learned the tools I needed to make that transformation.
But that might be my one concern about your article. I think for someone like my wife who was traumatized as a toddler and literally told me she had no idea what ‘healthy’ looks like at the start of our journey and had spent more than 5 decades being shaped by her inner critic, she needed a healing partner who could do what she and her parents never did as a child. I validate the feelings her inner critic espoused, but then I turn her toward my view of her and turn her to her current, safe and healing situation she has with me…and slowly over the last 15 years, in partnership with me, she has been empowered to take on that inner critic, make peace with it and move forward to the present with me.
Thanks for your comment. Your wife is lucky to have you, and she demonstrates the point that healing is inevitable when conditions for healing are maintained on a long enough timeline.
People who are not as lucky will often hire a mental health professional to overcome their lack of role models and proper guidance in childhood. But when these professionals are not clear on what ‘healthy’ looks like, or when they believe that it’s unethical to provide directive guidance, they will not be able to do for their clients what you’ve done for your wife. It’s a case where paid is worse than free.
Imo, whole idea of mental health/illness needs to be thrown out because the obsession with naming and categorizing emotional distress leads to stigmatization, alienation and marginalization.
And imo, people shouldn’t have to subscribe to anyone’s moralistic standards of “mental health/illness”.
What people need more than anything is emotional support, untainted by someone else’s ideas of sick or well.
I appreciate Luke’s principles; here’s my take on them:
1. Be mindful of the thoughts we think and the way we speak, as these affect our health, physically and psychologically
2. Treat ourselves with respect
3. Stay in the present moment
4. Be our own advocate
5. Question our negative thoughts
6. With enough time and patience, these principles can lead to a healthier, more fulfilling life
This is a good encapsulation of each principle!
People experience art privately always at the first point of encounter because as you rightly say when art works in a person it is working in their unconscious mind.
That in itself is sufficient for art.
But I believe that there is also a social purpose of art, a social encounter, and that at least some of the time the power of art is lost if it isn’t a catalyst for social meaning.
Emotional literacy for instance can be deepened by talking about art with others.
birdsong wrote: “Our furry friends aren’t hampered by over-intellectualizing.”
One of the first things a hypnotherapist does is establish how suggestible you are and thus how prone you are to hypnosis. A defence against hypnosis or manipulation is to intellectually engage with someone, engage actively and critically with their ideas. As a rule of thumb, an intellectual/questioning approach is a safer approach to life as a whole. Obviously if you are making an approach to a hypnotist you are likely going to voluntarily give up your critical self.
birdson wrote: “I actually HAVE offered a way out of emotional suffering in previous comments of mine: it’s something called “Self Therapy” and Daniel Mackler has written a wonderful book about it that Ihighly recommend.”
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the self- therapy approach?
For me the best part was not having to deal with a therapist, which was a HUGE relief. Some people might find that a bit isolating, but it restored my sense of agency, which I lost in “therapy.”
I’m going to look into it. I find therapy degrading to some degree, yet still seek it out at times. Perhaps because of social conditioning more than anything. Not put off by isolation. When the lockdowns kicked in, a mental health professional asked me, What do you make of all this?
I goes: Finally, the world is reflecting me back! I’ve never felt so advantaged, so on top of things!
Solitude with silence is one of my favorite things…
rasselas.redux wrote: “An intellectual/questioning approach is a safer approach to life as a whole.”
I agree. But when something is bothering me, I find it helpful to acknowledge my feelings first. Then I can think more clearly and have some perspective.
I find a balance of both to be optimum. I consult my emotions directly, and then use my reasoning to figure out where they’re coming from and what they’re telling me to do. I try not to act on emotion alone, but I also find that acting on intellect without consulting emotion can lead me to bad decisions!
“….consult my emotions directly, and then use my reasoning to figure out where they’re coming from and what they’re telling me to do.”
The reason I won’t endorse my own profession is that it isn’t a homogeneous practice, even though all hypnotherapists are hypnotizing their clients. The hypnosis part is only a method to intentionally suspend critical thinking, as you’ve identified: once that’s out of the way, the hard part begins.
The six principles I’ve shared in my essay are examples of suggestions I’ve given to so many different people that I’m ready to call them universal. In my view, hypnotic suggestions should make sense on the rational and moral levels, and should be backed up by one’s own lived experience, which makes the bypass of critical faculties an accelerator rather than an absolute necessity. If an idea is so fantastical that it can’t be accepted without hypnosis, it shouldn’t be accepted with hypnosis, either.
When a client is being asked to suspend their own critical thinking, the hypnotist has a duty to perform critical thinking on their behalf. Because we can make mistakes too, I believe that hypnotists owe their clients transparency about what they will suggest — in other words, the client can only give informed consent with their faculties intact. I disavow practitioners who take advantage of their clients’ lowered defences, or who abandon critical thinking alongside with the client.
This happens in other contexts too — wherever we find people in positions of power and authority — but because hypnotists make a study out of substituting another person’s thinking for their own, we have extra responsibility to be critical, truthful, moral thinkers. When I think about what’s normal and what’s not, this isn’t at all an endorsement of my profession, but an indictment of some other professionals who we have all met.
I consider hypnosis a good way to realign the mind when done respectfully and responsibly, which thankfully you seem to be doing.
The biggest problem in any of these techniques:
to suspend an adult’s critical thinking regardless of what we think is actually dissociation.
The problem is we think we can get them back but that is the false promise cause if we could get them back, then we would be eradicating dissociation related traumas (almost all traumas).
The only time an adult should have suspended cognition and critical thinking, they are a child (under 2) and or they are in traumatic situation or in comma. We need to stop deceiving us by the same method psychiatric uses. I watched Szasz video recently where he was flabbergasted that we have 100s of psychiatric conditions more than any other diseases in the world – it is growing and growing…because we are disabling people with these techniques!
Just because you pay a person does not mean anyone should suspend a brain work intentionally to do what?
No one in the world can suspend adult’s cognition on a weekly basis and be healthy.
The brain does not work like that. This is basic human understanding. The whole iatrogenic harm is precisely the use of these techniques which puts the client/patient in a double bind situation and unable to get out unless of course the therapist says OK…a therapist who themselves do not know exactly how they did what they did and what is the consequences concretely!
Why would not a person outside of therapy do this? What is stopping others to do this without consent?
“The hypnosis part is only a method to intentionally suspend critical thinking, as you’ve identified: once that’s out of the way, the hard part begins.”
“When a client is being asked to suspend their own critical thinking, the hypnotist has a duty to perform critical thinking on their behalf. Because we can make mistakes too, I believe that hypnotists owe their clients transparency about what they will suggest — in other words, the client can only give informed consent with their faculties intact. I disavow practitioners who take advantage of their clients’ lowered defences, or who abandon critical thinking alongside with the client.”
Adults healthily and voluntarily suspend their critical thinking when they watch a theatrical performance, play make-believe with a child, learn from a lecturer they trust, relax during a nap and, yes, when they undergo hypnotherapy. It is not automatically harmful, as you suggest.
I appreciate your response Luke and my comments are not directed at you personally but more at large in these type of techniques. Even Freud over 100 years ago realized – hypnotizing was not necessary when one could listen actively what clients/patients are saying to understand their POV.
I think there are context where we split our attention but we are not hypnotized completely enough that another person is acting on the behalf of our cognition on regular basis such as weekly sessions.
The context does matter in my view.
Regardless, I am in the camp that thinks even the words such as “unconscious” are like pseudo-science and belief systems like “god” until we have concrete ways of discussing multiplicities of one’s subjective views.
I have absolutely no problem to doubt you are doing the best you can to help those under your care. I am only shedding light that these techniques are not bullet proof of recovery from trauma in a substantial manner that is fully scientifically supported.
Sometimes hypnosis is the only way to effectively reach the unconscious.
rasselas.redux wrote: “A defense against hypnosis and manipulation is to intellectually engage with someone, engage actively and critically with their ideas.”
I wish someone had told me that years ago. It would have saved me a world of trouble.
I know what you mean. I haven’t always held fast to that rule, and have suffered the consequences.
Equally there have been times that I’ve willfully and purposefully ignored gut feelings and that has led to some spectacular errors. Took me a long time to get to a point where I could reliably differentiate between anxiety, gut feelings and strong suspicions. At times it’s not a straightforward distinction. Same as anyone, no doubt.
Very well put indeed!
Indeed. I too regret not listening to that still, small voice….
Luke, thank you for writing this. My physician and I have had many discussions relating to this. A huge problem seems to be what western society, including western medicine, sees as important. Quick fixes are the thing. Bandaids are slapped on open wounds (perhaps metaphorically) and no question are asked about the causes or the whys. There simply isn’t time to ferret out the real problem. It takes too much time and simply (in this age of Capitalism) isn’t efficient. The more people run through the system, the more money the system makes. We, the suffering patients, with our core needs, have been set aside as the “bottom line” has taken priority. It is so much easier, quicker, and time-efficient to hand a patient a prescription than to eliminate the cause of his/her/their suffering.
However, in addition to my comment above, I think there are a lot of merits in the writer’s ideas and I think this are worth repeating in our own words to make sense and reflect.
These six steps are great and may go much better than a psychological technique: In my own words and how I reflected them on.
1. We are a body and brain connected to everything around us via the law of gravity.
2. We are flesh: soft and vulnerable…treat ourselves like a child to regulate and care.
3. We must learn alone or with someone what is the feeling of safety in our body and brain at the same time. We must know this so we can judge when it is not there anymore and why by comparing our inside and outside critically.
4. We are an adult so regardless of our condition, we must learn how to ask what we need from others not assume they must accommodate us infinitely. for example, having ADHD and where one cannot do housework is fine but one must ask the other person living or involved with to agree with and offer what one can do instead. So effective communication instead of assumption.
5. Our inner critic is two things (often): an old programming from childhood, trauma and /or lost critical/intelligent mind focusing on settling old scores. Most often healing means, this critical part starts to focus on present or future interest rather than rumination and fear shadowing.
6. Healing may feel like seasons, winter comes, after summer….sprig comes sadness, fear, joy, content…a basic physiological states that we gave stories because our inner critical/intelligence was off focusing on perfecting old stories given to us by others or by experiences (often traumatic levels).
I believe teaching people how to do something is better than playing with their neural activities week after week for years! I personally see no benefit in that! NONE!
People learn and just like I put my own words to the great six steps in this article, people will improvise to align with their values and great intelligence whatever they learn!
Thanks for your summary!
This is one of the most wonderful articles I have ever read. Thank you for speaking into our world.
Thank you for reading!