I’m going to begin this episode by calling out the shadow of people who work in the mental health field. No one just wakes up one day with no provocation and decides that they want to be a psychologist, psychiatrist, life coach or self help expert. We arrive at this place because of struggling mentally and emotionally ourselves. The way we coped with that mental and emotional pain was to try to figure it all out. Most of us thought and felt things as a result of our own life experience that caused us to feel confusion and to doubt our own sanity and so we needed to secure our own sanity, find out the truth and get firmly grounded in reality. Knowing the “what” and the “why” helps us to feel grounded in that reality and in that sanity that we reached for like a buoy in the middle of a sea that was trying to drown us. And we try to rescue ourselves through others by helping everyone we come into contact with to find that buoy. We help people to come into that stable construct that we see as sanity and reality and truth.
This is a noble enough cause. But this very strategy that can help us and other people, is also the strategy that can destroy us and other people. It is this very strategy that makes it impossible for us to truly catalyze healing in people’s lives.
When people come to us for help, we can clearly see where their reality (the things they are thinking, saying and doing) is totally out of alignment with our reality. After putting years of study into it, we have decided that our reality is the one that is right, true and real. Our entire career is based off of having that truth, and having that reality and knowing the answers. Therefore, we can easily see where the things they are thinking, saying and doing are out of alignment with what we have decided is right, true and real. This is where things go wrong. The way we try to help them is to get them, often in an oppositional way, to join our reality.
I want you to imagine that each person lives inside a bubble. That bubble is their own personal subjective reality. What professionals in the mental health field do is to try to get people into their bubble. It is believed that the makeup of a person’s own personal bubble reality is the very thing that is making them hurt. But the reason that mental health professionals fail with this strategy and often make matters much, much worse for people seeking help is the following:
We are unwilling to accept that our reality may not be the actual objective reality. Objective reality is the amalgamation of all realities. You could see objective reality as the truth that emerges when every subjective reality is accommodated for and thus combined. We all know the danger of mistaking our subjective reality as a fixed objective reality. We have all seen those movies, movies like Powder or K-Pax or The Butterfly Effect or The Secret Garden or every movie featuring medieval medical practices where the person who is assisting someone’s process towards health is so limited by what they have decided is real or true that they end up doing more damage. We can clearly see their limitations and that they are the ones who do not have a handle on reality. But they cannot see this about themselves. It simply never occurs to us that we might be that person. We must always keep our realities flexible enough to accommodate for the truth that we may not actually have the full truth or be seeing reality. None of us can ever escape from the fact that we all don’t know what we don’t know.
We do not understand the reality of parallel perceptual realities. Most people only really become conscious of the isolation of parallel perceptual realities when they go through something like the death of a loved one. In intense experiences of grief, your world stops. You are in a reality of pain and terror about what could happen in the future and time moves differently. Meanwhile, everyone else is going about their lives. They are smiling, laughing, talking about their jobs or vacations. They are telling us to come with them to cheer up at the bar. They are in a totally different reality, even though technically our bodies are in the same place. The worst part is, they don’t even notice. They will not notice what conflicts with their own realty.
When we talk to someone or interact with someone from inside our own reality, we may think we are saying and doing things that will help them, but all we are doing is making a person feel like we do not see, feel, hear and understand them. We are reinforcing that they have a different reality and that they are alone in it. What we do and say comes across as invalidation and ignorance. And we make the mistake of thinking it is good to invalidate someone’s reality if it is causing them pain. But all this does is to solidify their reality in fact. We fail to establish rapport enough to say or do something that will actually change their reality or should I say, make it pliable enough to accommodate other realities than the one that is causing them pain.
This is why we do so much damage to people who are mentally ill. We make them more and more and more alone and feel more and more and more crazy by doing this until their condition escalates and sometimes results in death. For example, if you tell a paranoid schizophrenic that what they are perceiving, seeing or hearing is not real, it doesn’t make them better. It either makes them feel alone, crazy and terrified of themselves or it makes them more convinced that you are not seeing reality and therefore cannot be of any help and potentially cannot be trusted at all. You cannot get anywhere by fighting against someone’s reality. You have to work with someone’s reality. People’s realities work like Oobleck. The harder you resist it, the harder it gets. To understand more about parallel perceptual realities, watch my video titled: The Most Dangerous Parallel Reality.
We are too terrified of losing touch with our own reality that we refuse to join someone else’s reality and feel what they feel and see what they see and hear what they hear and understand what they understand. We are terrified to assume someone’s perspective. And we come up with all kinds of justifications to disguise this fear. Professional justifications like ‘if you validate the perspective of someone who is mentally ill, it will only make them more mentally ill’. Or ‘if you mentally and emotionally explore death with a person who is suicidal, it will cause them to commit suicide’. Or ‘if you let yourself get swept up in the person’s mind and emotions, you will lose your capacity to hold space professionally for that person’.
Psychologists and psychiatrists are literally taught to keep professional distance, which prevents them from exiting their own perceptual reality and entering the reality of their client or patent. Instead of seeing their reality as if from first person perspective, they are taught to remain like an outside third party observer, fixing from the outside.
I want you to imagine that a person who is emotionally and mentally suffering is underwater. The world underwater is much, much different than the world above water. Most mental health professionals sit on the dock and drop a rope in and yell down suggestions to the person who is underwater. If you do not dive into the water that person is swimming in, you are only guessing at what would work. And this is the mental health field today… Guessing. I will never forget a movie I watched once, it was called The Doctor starring William Hurt. All you have to do to understand this limitation within the healing field is to watch this move. He plays a self-centered doctor with a terrible bedside manner. He is always teasing and looking down on his colleague who is the opposite. That is until he, himself gets sick. Being quite literally forced into the first person perspective of his patients changes his entire strategy with regards to how he helps people from that day forward.
When we refuse to dis-identify with our own perceptual reality so as to perceive through someone else’s being we cannot see the full truth of the situation at hand. This includes the truth that there is no such thing as self-sabotage. We tend to look at what a person is thinking or doing as if it is self-sabotaging, when the truth (which you can see once you get into their perspective) is quite the opposite. Not having a grip on the positive intention behind these thoughts and behaviors that we are judging as all negative gives us no way to create actual resolution. To understand more about this, watch my videos Titled: Fragmentation, The World Wide Disease, There Is No Such Thing As Self Sabotage and The Octopus Technique.
If you get into first person perspective of the person you are trying to help, it will drastically change your own reality. It will drastically change your awareness about what that person actually needs and what is actually right to say and do. But if we are honest, we are terrified due to our own original trauma, of our reality and sense of truth becoming pliable. We are terrified of losing touch with that buoy that we found to make ourselves feel cognitively safe.
The shift that must take place within the mental health field is that we need to be brave enough to dis-identify from our bubble of subjective reality (that we so often confuse for objective reality) in order to join other people’s subjective realities. It is only by doing this that we can accommodate both realities. Only by accommodating both realities can we build a bridge between a perceptual reality that would provide the healing they are wanting and the perceptual reality they are currently stuck in. We need to be brave enough and be willing to feel and see and hear and understand enough to get our hands messy in other people’s first person perspectives and experiences so as to see what would actually work.
We need to own our own shadow of fearing that we are not capable of doing this without losing our own minds and becoming emotionally unstable and enmeshed. This is self distrust disguised as professionalism. We need to see that it is only our willingness to stretch in this way that will cause us to arrive at the actual objective reality, because objective reality is the truth that arises as a result of accommodating all subjective perspectives in a given scenario. And we need to do this fast. Because we are not doing this, people are dying every day. People are being hurt every day by an overwhelmingly prevalent pharmaceutical approach to mental health. And every day and we will continue to feel the extreme frustration of having no idea what to do for someone to actually help them to heal. Or we will convince ourselves that it is simply their fault for being too mentally ill to adopt our estimation of reality.