Once you remove the idea of an Objective Reality, mental health is a very straightforward proposition. But thanks to early philosophers like Freud, we got lost for a few decades as we focused on the content of our thoughts rather than on the fact that we were thinking at all.
The other mistake we make is that we don’t trust ourselves. Rather ironically, a belief in science has caused too many people to completely defer their awareness and common sense to the point where you’ll see people doing truly insane things just because they were told to. They have abdicated their ability to actually calculate for themselves. We can’t infer what is going on around us any more. We can’t do basic chemistry or math—instead we rely on machines or let the symbols on bottles vaguely tell us what to do. But we have lost touch with Understanding. We no longer notice, we’re no longer aware, we no longer use our own direct experience to inform us.
Science is wonderful but we still must always remember that throughout history large swaths of scientific belief will later end up being proven incorrect as our understanding of other subjects deepens. We thought the Sun rotated around the Earth, then we thought we were the only planet with the only potential for life, etc. etc. We just keep having science push out the frontiers of what’s possible.
Thanks to early psychological study we tended to focus on what we thought was wrong or unhealthy about someone. It wasn’t until someone got the shocking idea of asking happy people how to be happy that research began to shift. It’s only been recently that the mental health field got the notion that it might be helpful to study happiness rather than depression.
Below are some interesting studies that you may find illuminate aspects of your own journey. These are not presented as a wholesale new set of beliefs—I want you to pay more attention to the fact that the disease concept for depression is fading. Rather than the content of thought, we’re focusing on the quality of thoughts. And people are beginning to see their psychology as malleable, flexible and resilient because it is all of those things. We’ve just lived a generation or three where we supplanted our own wisdom with science and it took science this long to catch up to what aware people had already noticed.
So quiet thoughts about your current beliefs and thereby open your mind to fresh, new, rewarding ideas. Let’s begin with this list of healthy behaviours as assembled by Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and licensed social worker:
For a time we went through a fatalistic period where we thought our genes controlled everything about us. We had no free will and we were just destined to be whatever our parents made us. Of course now we know the gene system is much more flexible and changeable than anyone dreamed it could be, as expressed in this study by Richard J. Davidson, a Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin:
And finally, in this article Dr. Kelly Brogan asks us to reconsider our quasi-scientific beliefs. What media soundbites have you converted into beliefs that in fact run contrary to the actual science? Because a lot of people are walking around with crippling half-formed ideas of where quality research has lead us. Fatalistic chemical destinies are fading in favour of a more holistic views of health which incorporate the value of a healthy attitude:
The mental health field is in the midst of a revolution. Do not feel defeated or defined or destined. You have much more control over your mental health and life experience than you’ve previously been taught. Yes there a lot of people still pawning off old ideas, but happy people all agree—there is an enormous level of choice in being happy. Become aware of it and start making those choices. Because that is what will lead you to the sort of quiet, peaceful, healthy place that allows life to be as enjoyable as it is rewarding.
The Friday Dose is a collection of cool, interesting and surprising things that are chosen for their potential to distract you away from any painful thought loops that may currently be disrupting your sense of perspective. Save these for when you’re feeling low and you want to change your perspective. They’ll help Enjoy. And please let me know if you bump into any broken links. Thanks!
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.