Your Neurochemical Self

Getting real with a 200-million-year-old brain

Why I Don’t Believe Reports of a Mental Health Crisis

Mental health services promise us a life without emotional pain. It's not surprising that so many people are lured by this promise. But emotional self-regulation is a learned skill. Services can help people build skills but they cannot deliver and ideal state that has never existed. Read More

To wit: philosophers in past

To wit: philosophers in past times would have no time for the concept of "happiness"? The philosopher would have instead urged to strive for personal self-control and contentment. Happiness to them is the feel-good buzz you get when you feel something has just gone right in your life. Hence the etymology for "happiness" is basically getting lucky.

I liked your post up until

I liked your post up until your "mental health protects people from consequences" bs. Is this true for some sure but it feels a little too much like blaming the victim if the victim cant cope with a bad situation. It reminds me of that joke that goes "Before you think you are crazy, look around and make sure you are not surrounded by douchebags." Life can be hard and sorry if we cant all live in poverty and disease in order to realize how great our life really is. Its called progress and we will always expect more as our situations as a society improves.

I liked yours up until "victim" and "douchebag"

Seeing ourselves as victims is not useful. Some therapeutic approaches reinforce this, but in the end, everyone is a victim. More useful to develop a sense of personal agency.
When I catch myself thinking everyone is a douchebag, I stop and think. They may think I'm a douchebag. Where does that leave us? We all think differently because we all wire ourselves from life experience. My brain is sure that your brain is wrong, and vice versa. I struggle to remind my self of this often because it feels so real.

Some people are victims and

Some people are victims and ignoring that or white washing it doesn't help either.Should we push beyond this? Absolutely. But ignoring it altogether or not acknowledging the persons reality is insane.

A person's reality

has been shaped by an education system that has been teaching people to feel oppressed and focus on their victimhood for the past century (ie. the school of "critical" theory).

Situation Normal

I doubt things are fundamentally worse than they typically have been. As Dr. Henriques says in the original article, “Comparing groups across generations is admittedly difficult,” and I suspect (but can’t prove) that there may just be greater readiness today to admit to having trouble coping. We admit to (even brag about) a lot of things today about which we more discreet 50 years ago. That’s not to deny that some people, then and how, have real problems. Some of us always do – actually, all of us do to some degree at some point, but some of us truly seriously. For good reason, the first two words of the acronym “snafu,” are “situation normal.”

Ordinary stress is uncomfortable, but seems unavoidable. The “fight or flight” solution to perceived threats is not typically useful on campuses (or in modern life generally), after all, so we need to deal with them another way.

damned courageous

Hi Loretta,

I just wanted to congratulate you for that inspired essay. This is courageous and politically incorrect, especially in the clinical department of our field, which defines itself by in just the ways you criticize here.

vielen dank!

Yes, I am aware that I said the unsayable and admit to being scared, but if anyone can be real, those of us who are freelancers born in 1953 can do it.

Are we even living in the same world?

"You presume everyone else feels good"

No, I don't. I never did, for one simple reason: I talk to people, I listen to them. I learned very early on that pretty much everyone is in some sort of pain. Even when I was a kid, I knew that tons of other kids suffered from tons of different things: some had divorced parents, some had parents who fought, some had lost a parent to death, some were beaten up by their parents, some were sick, some had a close family member who was sick, some were refugees from a country where they lived terrible things, and so on. As I grew up, it became clear to me that EVERYONE is in pain, in one way or another, to some degree or other. In fact, when I meet someone who truly seems to feel good most of the time, I know I just have to wait long enough, and I'll learn of their specific pain sooner or later. Because everyone suffers, and nobody feels good 24/7.

"If you don’t feel good, you feel entitlted to services that can fix it."

Again, my experience is the exact opposite. Most people I know suffer in private, without ever reaching outside, because they feel they should deal with their own problems on their own, even when those problems are simply too big for them to manage all alone - and also because they just don't KNOW that sometimes, in some cases, there exist resources which might help them.

"If you have kids, you expect pain-free lives for them, and blame public services if they don't."

How do you blame public services for the pain that a child experiences when a beloved grandparent (or even just a pet) dies? What about when parents divorce? When a sibling becomes majorly sick? When the child is just playing outside and trips and breaks an arm? Just because SOME parents will always find a way to blame everyone else, doesn't mean that all parents do it, far from it. The vast majority of parents are fully aware that children are going to get hurt, no matter how much we try to protect them from it.

"Today, your greatest pain may be feeling left out, or intruded on by annoying co-workers and housemates."

Oh... You know, I don't think I know a single person who could be described as having this as their greatest pain. The people I know suffer from slightly more problematic things: physical illnesses and handicaps in themselves/their children/their parents, psychological illnesses (like Bipolar I, schizophrenia, PTSD, personality disorders...), past or present abuse of all kinds, family disruptions (problematic divorces, children taken far away from one parent...), unemployment, homelessness, and so on and so forth. "Feeling left out, or intruded on by annoying co-workers and housemates" would register at most as a minor annoyance to all these people.

"But you can fill your head with the pain of others by watching the news."

Yep, and most people I know use that to avoid having to talk about their OWN pain. While we're all busy discussing some stranger's problems, we can all pretend that our lives are so much easier and happier, even though they aren't.

"When pain persists, we are stranded. We wonder what went wrong."

It's the other way around, actually: it's when pain recedes that it feels weird, because we're accustomed to living with it.

"1. Service providers do not believe in your personal power."

Which is why so many people just get shipped from one service to another, or have to go looking for an nth service who might be able to help, because everywhere we hear the same refrain: "Ah, sorry, there's nothing we can do for you. Bye!"

"2. Mental health services inhibit the natural process of learning from the consequences of your actions."

You know, life would be downright easy if we only had to deal with the consequences of our OWN actions. I have to live with the consequences of my mother's actions, and the actions of all her family - some of those actions having taken place before I was even born. Believe me, I would very happily and eagerly trade my life with one where I don't suffer from PTSD because of things that were done to me as a child. In turn, my son has to deal with the consequences of my and my ex-spouse's actions. So yeah, living with ONLY the consequences of our own actions? That would be easy!

"3. Emotional self-regulation is a learned skill."

My body has learned to attack itself as a way to self-regulate my PTSD. My sister has it even better: her mind has learned to simply dissociate and go into full-blown psychosis when things get too rough. Do we try to learn better skills? Of course! Could we do it without mental health professionals? No more than we could perform open-heart surgery on ourselves.

So really, I'm left wondering in what world you live, because NOTHING in your article looks anywhere close to what myself and people around me experience. Nor am I living in any kind of particularly dramatic situation: lower-middle class in a rich, Western, industrialised country. So I have to ask: what are you talking about???

Del I think she is pushing

Del I think she is pushing cognitive dissonance to the highest degree. The problem is that not everyone can self hypnotize themselves into believing that their horrible situations are all in their head.

This is pretty scary.

I rarely see people so out of touch with reality and with themselves. And when you think of the power she can hold over fragile people... Yeah, not good.

But what if you convince yourself that your situation is horrible because

of the education system that has been teaching people to feel oppressed and focus on their victimhood for the past century (ie. the school of "critical" theory).

Bwuh?

Okay, now I know for sure that you come from some parallel world, because I've certainly never heard that people 20, 50 or 100 years ago were taught to think of themselves as victims.

In fact, it was and still very much is the direct opposite: true victims are most often told to just get themselves together, pull themselves up by the bootstraps, deal with it, and other such useless niceties.

You know, like you're doing here.

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Loretta Graziano Breuning, Ph.D., is a Zoo Docent and Professor Emerita of Management at California State University, East Bay. 

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