Mental Health Opportunities

969 Relax and Succeed - I used to careThe medicalisation of mental health is the product of an industry. That being the case, it’s worth it to ask what the agenda of that industry is. I won’t pretend to be able to read the minds of drug company executives but I know they have the same problem that any executive in a publicly traded company has: your job and your pay and a large part of your family’s happiness is based on how well you either cut costs or increase profits. But what’s the mean for the rest of us?

A lot of people work in jobs where they’re already overtaxed by too few staff and old or malfunctioning equipment, so we’ve cut expenses about as much as we can. That leaves profits. If only we could have 15% more diseases every year….

A disease is a findable thing. A doctor can point to something and say; this is happening because a disease is impacting you in this particular way. A disease is its own entity seeking to do its own thing that is often contrary to the needs of its host. At the same time, with no disease present we know otherwise healthy muscles can atrophy and disappear if we just choose not to use them. They will appear diseased because they will shrink and contort but if we went to the gym and changed how we used them they could again be strong and flexible. So it goes with our emotions.

969 Relax and Succeed - If there are no ups and downsYou can feel an emotion and take a pill to rid yourself of it or; you can experience that emotion, become familiar with it and then master it. Some people never learned to juggle the ball of happiness by getting lots of chances to drop it. Some people never learned to juggle the knives of misfortune because they always closed their eyes and ran rather than face some early cuts. So when it comes to negative emotions we’ve either ran or tried to shut them down, but what if you coped instead? You remember that don’t you: coping?

I’ve written for years about the value of nature. I’ve written for years about the value of friends. I’ve written for years about the value of laughter and enjoyment. Meanwhile most people go buy something, or they go to their doctors and get mood pills or they go to a friend to get weed or some other socially acceptable medication, but hardly anyone copes. And every year it gets worse.

Bad things do not create a bad life. A bad attitude about things creates a bad life. Good things do not create a good life, a good attitude about things creates a good life. So what’s a good attitude? Turn it off! Give me my pill! Shut up! Go away! Nope. A good attitude is more like, wow, today was hard. Want to go swimming or biking tonight? How about if we visit the neighbours? They’re always so funny! Or how about a great meal?

969 Relax and Succeed - A good laugh and a long sleepThere you go right there. Want to know the difference between a happy family and a miserable one? That’s it: how you respond to the world. Happy people don’t have better lives they react better. They don’t dull themselves with a pill, they don’t smoke a big bowl and then sit in front of a screen until they fall asleep and they don’t sit and bitch and commiserate. They take action. They run somewhere, accomplish something or see someone.

Take all of the time you spent wasting life, wanting it to be better. Be honest: it’s a huge amount of your day for most even mildly unhappy people. Now what would your life look like if that time was spent exercising, or learning, watching comedies and seeing friends? Would your life still be so small and dull? Would it still seem overrun and rushed? Would you still have as many problems?

There are things we can do things about and things we can’t do much about. Start looking at your life for its opportunities. Rather than a pill take a walk. Rather than escapism connect with a friend. And rather than idleness choose movement. Your life is what you make of it. If it’s currently full of complaints and struggle then you built it that way. Start looking around for the invisible choices you’ve made and find better ones. Because you shouldn’t be surprised that you’d enjoy laughing with a good friend a lot more than bitching about a bad one.

Go create a good week with good choices. They’re not hard. They’re just not a habit–yet.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

The Friday Dose #113 – Addictions

931 FD Relax and Succeed - We may not be responsibleFor many years there was just a few of us offering a different idea of what an addiction was and how they truly worked. Until recently very few other practitioners subscribed to the idea because we made the addicts innocent. Even before that we also made the addicts culpable so the addicts didn’t like it either–at first.

Slowly addicts understood our point and successes piled up. People did believe there was a way to change their behaviours. Supporting science was done and articles were written. Increasingly people switched over to this other way of doing things until now it is fair to say that the model that people like Gabor Mate or myself were using is now considered the most logical and effective and now it’s only a matter of time before more recently trained or re-trained professionals start implementing these approaches in more clinics around the world.

There are a lot of things we can be addicted to. Alcohol, prescription drugs, non-prescription drugs, sleep aids, gambling, sex, work or even exercise, but each of these is pursued in lieu of something else and that is why the addicts are comfortable with their culpability because they come to understand it was innocent. They were acting outside of their own best interests but that was only because they hadn’t fully considered all of the definitions of what their best interests might include.

Kicking an addiction can take more time than other things but is no more difficult than changing any other behaviour if pursued the right way. And by going about things that way, once you’re finished with that process you’re not clinging to your health for the rest of your life. You are moving forward with understanding and confidence that you know the route back to addiction but it simply doesn’t interest you because your life is so rewarding to live.

Create a wonderful weekend for yourselves everyone. 

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Parenting vs Exampling

It is extremely common for parents to come to me with what they feel are problem children. They talk about behavioral issues, worrisome friends, disrespect, aloofness, bad grades, or casual sex etc. Certainly there’s almost always at least a few kids in my roster who genuinely need some serious help from me, but I’m happy to report that most don’t need much. In fact, in most cases the kid barely needs me at all. Because the issue actually isn’t with the kid. And it’s not with the parents either. But it is with the parenting.

549 Relax and Succeed - The kids who need the most loveAgain: this isn’t to say the parents are bad. Their dedication isn’t an issue, and all of them are intelligent, successful people in whatever life path they pursued. They bring their kids to me because they love them and want them to do well. They’ve invested time and money and effort and endured all kinds of things before they meet me. And always, the kid in front of me is—despite their issues—impressive in all sorts of ways. So the parents have overwhelmingly succeeded, despite a few lingering concerns. In the end, the problem is really very simple: it’s just that most people don’t parent as consciously as they believe they do, so once I help them become more conscious they certainly don’t need any advice from me.

Parents will believe they’re putting a lot into their parenting by giving a lot of thought to their kid’s development and their “issues.” And they are putting a lot in, in a way. But it’s largely wasted energy because their parenting is choosing and inflating those issues unconsciously as a reflective or reciprocal resp0nse to the parenting they got. So if you feel like your life would have gone better if you paid more attention in school and your parents never pushed you in school, then you will be more urgent about trying to get your children to do well in class. But it’s also logical that if you did well in school and that brought rewards, then you will also urge your child to do really well so they can have those rewards too. Yet at the same time, it makes sense that a kid who is 549 Relax and Succeed - Make the ordinary come alivepushed too hard could crater and drop out from the pressure, even though they’re smart. The point is, you’ll act a lot like your parents, or a lot like the opposite of your parents, and you’ll do this in super subtle ways that you will find largely invisible, except for a few key issues (“Oh my God, I sound like my Mother!!”)

So most parenting is based in fear, and on the act of trying to prevent bad things from happening, and the parents choose the bad things they’re most afraid of based on their own lives and the parenting they got. If your mother’s sister died from drowning then you can bet that you’ll be taught to be extra wary when you’re near water. Or if your dad was never home because he was always working, you will have unconsciously learned to leave work exactly on time for the rest of your life, because you want to get home to your kids. Those are the kinds of motivations that create unconscious parenting.

Can you see how that’s like a crazy chain of misinformation and misunderstanding? You don’t need to manage a kid’s life like you’re their agent. There’s little need to focus on individual areas of a child if they feel fully actualized by parents who are parenting under the automatic assumption that their kid will be a successful human being. Not in an egotistical, materialistic 549 Relax and Succeed - The best security blanketway, but rather they will be confident enough to do as well as they should at whatever they try. So some things they’ll be built for, other things not so much, but they’ll feel secure doing either. We’re all crappy at some things, so if a parent’s focused on their child’s weak points, the child will soon have no self esteem and that is the worst blow of all.

If you really want to have an effect, the most effective form of parenting is exampling. If you and your spouse yell at each other, then you have no business telling your kid not to yell. That’s ridiculous. So they have to live to a higher standard than you? No wonder they’re sassy; you’re a hypocrite. And if you’re constantly focused on their bad classes and wanting them to do great in every subject, then again—they’re doomed. No one is good at everything. 80% of the world believes they are bad a math. For God’s sake, let them be a human. They’re allowed not to be good at things and so are you. Everyone gets that by birth.

School and sports have become like the stock market. They drive people insane. The book publishing industry was historically a 4-6% profit business. But then big international media companies bought all the publishers and because they were publicly traded, they wanted the same 15% a year that all their other businesses are whipped into providing—as though 6% is a failure. But of course, the desire of the market to make 15% does not change the state of the world any more than the existence of schools and classes means that kids should be good at 549 Relax and Succeed - The educational systemevery subject that gets invented. It doesn’t matter if you want 15% or A’s, sometimes 6% and C’s are all that’s available. And it seems cruel to whip a zebra because it’s not a horse.

Most people are much, much smarter than they give themselves credit for. But they limit themselves with narratives that they’re stupid or incapable. And those scripts come from responding to the demands of parents. You don’t want to push a kid into a subject, you want them to be inspired toward it. And for the few things they’ll suck at, you can use those as life lessons about how everyone has things they struggle at and that’s okay.

So the best thing you can do is, if you want your kids to focus, focus yourself. If you want them to speak respectfully, then speak respectfully yourself. If you want them to be kind to others, then be kind to others 549 Relax and Succeed - Behind every great kidyourself. If you want them to get their stuff done, get your stuff done. And if you want them to care about something, don’t demand it. Care about it yourself. Because you don’t build a kid. You nurture one, and they’ll grow toward the light.

Forget talk-parenting. Forget lessons. Take some responsibility for their behaviour. Example what you want to see. Show it to them and they’ll amaze you.

I normally would have stopped at the previous paragraph but I want to take a moment to stress that the example above is common. A lot of my current and past clients read the blog regularly and it’s remarkable to me how often they all constantly believe a blog is about them specifically. It shows how much we’re all the same. These are always amalgamations and re-creations of many experiences. So if you’re insecure about you’re parenting, this truly isn’t about any individual, it’s about you the human being. And I do hope it helps de-stress you so that you and your child can more fully enjoy each other’s company. Because I’m confident you’re doing a better job than you think you are.

with love, s

Disadvantaged Youth

452 Relax and Succeed - I am twoWhen parents talk about kids having it easy, they’re talking about the fact that they’re not dealing with either money or relationship issues. But to the child their challenges are very real and the emotions they face as a result are the exact same ones we face. This means terrible disappointment feels like terrible disappointment whether you’re broken up about a divorce, or broken up about the fact that you can’t play at your favourite friend’s house. Relatively speaking the disappointment is just as big and it’s felt just as strongly and we would do well to remember that.

Another thing worth remembering is the fact that kids are human. I see this all the time. A child is considered to have misbehaved every time they do something other than exactly what the parent wanted. They essentially get scolded for being their age. Kids learn through interaction. They learn through trial and error. To be scolded for that is to be scolded for being human.

So you didn’t love it when your kid dropped stuff off their high chair in their attempt to understand concepts like gravity or here and gone—but you put up with it because they were babies or toddlers. But as soon as they can talk they’re more like employees or soldiers. They’re simply supposed to do what they’re told and anything else is classified as misbehaving. And that is ridiculous and entirely unreasonable for the kid.

452 Relax and Succeed - So often children are punishedThere are days where you get a bad sleep. Maybe it was the way your body was positioned. Maybe it was the dreams you had. Or maybe you’re ill and don’t know it. But everyone’s woken up feeling less than ideal and it makes the day a lot harder. Diets can impact our moods as can the various bacteria and virii that compromise much of who we say is “us.” But adults can have bad days. Kids don’t get bad days. Kids are being bad when they’re disagreeable. They don’t have the luxury of a grumpy day. No one will give them that latitude.

Kids can’t want something different, they can’t need some time alone. Every disagreement is seen as bad behaviour rather than recognising that it’s very often just being created by the simple and very real differences between the parent’s personality and the kid’s. In short, your kid isn’t obstinate and difficult—they know who they are and they know what directions feel like theirs.

The fact that society makes demands on them that are unnatural doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the kid—the concept of society itself is just a subconscious agreement we all make to follow largely silly unnatural patterns. Just because some guy invents the concepts of a clock and a job doesn’t mean that an actual individual human being is wise to live their life according to those two things. (See: Intentional Being Video)

452 Relax and Succeed - Normal is getting dressed in clothesIf we want to be truly healthy we have to respect what we are in nature and stop forcing ourselves into the shapes that society demands for conformity. Kids are still wise enough to resist that pressure as unnatural. Adults get subdued into a state of mind where they just follow the patterns and lose all consciousness. And then they wonder why they barely laugh while kids laugh all day.

Stop expecting perfection from kids. Start to understand their behaviour not as something that’s not only relative to you and your rules, but as something unto itself. Because that’s what egos do—they assume everything has to do with them. So when their kid has a tantrum in a public place the kid is making the parent look bad, rather than the kid is having their own very distressing experience.

Do you think back in our tribal history that when we saw a kid freaking out that our reaction was to try to get them to conform so we would look good to our fellow tribesmen? Or do you think we would have watched them in an attempt to understand their actions. Might we then see that the kid is discovering how the world works, or maybe they’re actually noticing something valuable that you’re missing?

452 Relax and Succeed - Childhood is not a mental disorderYou will have conflict with your kid when you try to talk them out of a noisy instrument like drums in favour of some musical instrument they have zero interest in. If your kid loves drums and you buy them a guitar because it’s quieter, then your kid isn’t being difficult by not wanting to go to guitar lessons—he or she is just being a drummer.

Stop spending all of your time reciting complaints to your kids. Stop and actually ask if what they’re moving toward is really a problem, or are you creating one by wanting them to do what you expected rather than what was natural for them? For instance, some people are naturally nighthawks and some people are natural early-risers. An early-rising parent who forces a nighthawk awake is placing a greater value on society’s external rules than on nature. Even their love for and appreciation of the individual that is their child doesn’t overcome that. We may not find that fact convenient but it’s true.

Cities and nations etc. make us conform. We have to surrender who we are to some degree to function smoothly with others (i.e. traffic laws). But beyond that a lot of people will still demand changes just to suit them personally. You can’t blame kids for pushing back against any unnecessary restriction–because they’re right. It’s not them that’s wrong; we’re the ones who’ve been brainwashed and convinced to subjugate our natural impulses.

452 Relax and Succeed - Play is often talked aboutBe with your kids less as a corrections officer at a prison camp filled with rules, and more as a fellow human being who is co-discovering the world alongside them. Because in the jungle there are no bedtimes, no wake times, no school and no rules. There is the world and how it works and after that everyone’s allowed to be who they are. And it works, because that kid in the jungle will know and understand his world far better than any city kid who only sees the world as a set of pre-organized concepts that can only be manipulated in pre-decided ways, like life is a Transformer that can be this or that, rather than it being like Lego where it has the freedom to be anything.

Your kids are people first and your kids second. Respect them as individuals. Instead of telling them what to do try listening for who they are. What do they place a value on that you don’t? Maybe no one in your family plays an instrument but your kid sits at every piano he sees. Now that’s a kid you put in music lessons. Maybe you want them to sit still and they can’t. Well maybe they’re a kinetic kid who’s a dancer or an athlete. Maybe your kid likes to be off alone drawing or reading. That’s not antisocial, that’s a dedication to practising something.

Respect children. They do need your help establishing healthy limits. But don’t always assume you know best. Yes, for practical daily reasons sometimes they just have to water-ski along behind your day. Whenever possible, really try to see their behaviour as having less to do with you and life’s rules and more to do with their own individuality and how that meets this great big world. Because ultimately your job isn’t to teach them who to become—it’s to help them realise who they already are.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

The Nature of Addiction

227 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to

I’ve been fortunate enough to help a lot of people overcome some very serious and long term addictions. To do so it’s necessary to understand both the nature of time and the nature of addiction. In regards to the latter, it’s important to remember that the people who get angry all the time are addicted to anger in exactly the same way that a cocaine addict “needs” cocaine. The difference is, one person thinks some thoughts and that leads them to get in their car and drive to go buy drugs, while the other person scans the world constantly for things that will piss them off and then they think about those things over and over until they’ve dosed themselves with the brain chemistry for their drug.

That’s why when you drive with an angry person they’ll find reasons to be angry all over the place when you couldn’t see any of them. It’s just like finding the drug dealer’s house. You can’t go get the chemistry if you don’t know where to look. So the nature of addiction isn’t that you want the chemical itself, it’s that you’ve gotten into the unconscious habit of looking for it.

Every one of the cocaine addicts I’ve worked with hate doing cocaine. They always say they waste it because the entire time they’re doing it they experience guilt over the fact that they bought it again, including an internal discussion about what else they could be doing with the money; and they think fearful thoughts about how they will feel when they run out. It’s not like the drug use itself is super appealing after a time. It’s that they can’t break the habit of looking for it any more than the angry driver can figure out how to get to work without judging every decision every other driver makes.

227 Relax and Succeed - Awareness is the key

The second aspect is time. You don’t quit drugs for life right now. That’s silly. How would you possibly do that? Now is only now. It’s not all-time. So you can’t quit for three weeks now. It’ll take three weeks. You’ll do that quitting then, when that then is Now. (I know, I’m sorry, our language wasn’t built to discuss this idea.) The point is: Now is the only time you can actually take action in. So stop setting dates and saying to yourself, “after this I quit.” Because you can’t quit then, now. Even quitting is the wrong word. It’s not that you quit drugs or quit getting angry. It’s that you do something else instead.

A cocaine addict doesn’t quit drugs on the 15th and then not want them on the 16th. On the 16th the same tilt in their brain will cause them to want to go in that direction. It is then, in that now that the person can make an alternate choice. They can choose to do something other than the drug.

So do you see that you don’t quit anything? You’re always doing something, it’s simply a matter of what. So if you want to quit cocaine or stop getting angry so much, then you have to assume a moment-by-moment awareness over your thought processes. You have to be consciously aware of what you’re thinking and where it will lead. Once you can do that you’ll choose directions more often favourable to you.

227 Relax and Succeed - Heaven on earth

Fortunately both anger and the anxiousness of a drug addiction can be quite helpful. Those unpleasant feelings help signal to us that we’ve let our thinking drift into unhelpful territory. Isn’t that handy? That nature created that little warning system? Like a dog with a shock collar, once we step outside of our healthy space we get a signal to remind us to turn our thinking around and change our direction toward only those choices that are productive and/or enjoyable.

Don’t battle your addictions, be they to chemicals you produce, or ones produced by a drug company or criminal cartel. You don’t stop experiences like that in one moment. Life is a moment to moment decision-making process. Once people realise this they will tell you it is surprisingly easy to quit. None of them have any desire to return to those thought patterns now that they’ve changed them. That’s how you know you’ve really changed. There’s no tension. There isn’t a battle. Because when you chose something better than your addiction, you did it because that’s what you really wanted to do.

Quit quitting. Live instead. You’re always doing something. Start being more aware of all of the potential choices you have to fill every single moment. If you do, filling moments the same way will seem strange and illogical. And once you can see your life as a choice like that, you’re free. Not only from your worst addiction, but from all of them.

Have a wonderful day. And do it by choice. Moment by moment.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.