The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.
Interview with Lee Jampolsky
Over the past 100+ years a bewildering number of “psychologies” have arisen: Freudian psychology, Jungian psychology, Adlerian psychology, gestalt psychology, narrative psychology, self-psychology, transpersonal psychology, cognitive-behavioral psychology, depth psychology … and on and on. Can they all be right? Might they all be wrong or inadequate? Most pertinent to the questions we are asking, what can people in distress glean from these many competing psychologies? The first step is simply to recognize how many different approaches exist …
EM: You call what you do “Inspirational Psychology.” What do you mean by that?
LJ: Inspirational Psychology includes the practical application of identifying the thoughts and mistaken beliefs that cause us pain, along with a contemplative practice to discover our true nature, which is Love. Inspirational Psychology brings peace and choice to life even in the most difficult of situations.
Essentially, what the most important questions we can ever ask ourselves are, “Who am I? Who are we all? What do we share, and what is our purpose here? How do we discover meaning?” Addressing these questions is the core of Inspirational Psychology.
More succinctly put, Inspirational Psychology offers ways to live, learn about, and practice love. The focus is less on how to achieve and accumulate, and more on finding the roots of our freedom, strength, peace and happiness, and how to be of service to others. Inspirational Psychology is an umbrella to gather under together with the goal of exploring both our humanness and our divine nature, and to express what we discover through compassionate action.
EM: “Acceptance” and “resistance” are important ideas to you. Can you discuss what you mean by them and why you see them as important?
LJ: Most people believe they know what it is that would make them happy, and what it is that they should get rid of in order to be happy. Unfortunately, few actually do. What many fail to realize is that being attached to what we think we want and don’t have while resisting what is happening in the moment is the cause, not the cure, of much personal suffering and interpersonal conflict.
Simply put, resistance is a result of our mind being attached to having things a certain way rather than the way they actually are. It is a mental habit of the ego that we need to become aware of in order to see the consequences. Only then can we see into our thought system and realize that nothing could be more of a waste of time than to resist and complain about what already is. Slowly we then see the paradox of acceptance: When our mind becomes less attached and dependent on things being a certain way our happiness in life dramatically improves.
Don’t confuse acceptance with being a naïve or weak person. Acceptance does not mean condoning negative behavior, staying in a bad situation, or not working to improve our life and the world. It does mean that wherever we are we choose to be there completely. When we combine acceptance with self-responsibility we can then see that whenever we are in a painful or disturbing situation we have two choices: We can work compassionately to bring something positive to the situation or leave. However, the key is the mental stance that we make the choice from, and thus the first step is always accepting the moment without resistance.
EM: You’ve written a book called Healing the Addictive Personality. Can you share some of the headlines from that book?
Many people live in a self-imposed prison and don’t even know it. I did. For years I was so busy building walls I did not see I was imprisoning myself behind them, and did not recognize this pattern as being addiction. My addictive thinking and behavior became the bars of my cell. Denying feeling empty inside, I constantly looked for new things to acquire, people to be around, substances to take, and new goals to achieve in order to feel better about myself. Over the last four decades I have focused on healing my addictive mind and helping others do the same. To briefly get a feel for the work, the following are the core beliefs of the addictive mind:
1. I am separate from everybody else. I am alone in a cruel, harsh, and unforgiving world.
2. If I want security and success, I must judge others and be quick to defend myself.
3. My perceptions are always correct, and my way is the right way. In order to feel good about myself, I need to be perfect all of the time.
4. Attack and defense are my only safety.
5. The past and the future are real and must be worried about.
6. Guilt is inescapable because the past is real.
7. Mistakes require judgment and punishment. They are not an opportunity for correction and learning.
8. Fear is real. Do not question it.
9. Other people and situations are at fault for my feelings.
10. Another’s loss is my gain. Success comes from looking out for number one and pitting myself against others.
11. I need something or someone else to complete me.
12. My self-esteem is based on pleasing someone else.
13. I need to control everyone and everything around me.
EM: You also help people dealing with health challenges to live with less emotional and mental distress. What are you top recommendations for folks dealing with health challenges?
LJ: Within Inspirational Psychology, health doesn’t refer to just the state of the body, but also the state of the mind, which affects the body. The body can limit our ability to experience life to the fullest, especially if we identify ourselves as being only our bodies. Freedom, which is an aspect of health, remains impossible as long as we perceive our bodies as a complete definition of ourselves. Yet our bodies and their challenges, such as illness and injury, can actually help us discover meaning in our life. When the mind no longer sees itself as a body, forever in bondage to the body, the mind can be free and at peace even when we are physically sick.
As a start, frequently read the following as a reminder of how you want to direct your mind when dealing with a health challenge:
1. You may not have chosen what is happening to your body, but you can choose how you respond.
2. Becoming less focused on the past and future and not resisting the moment is how to overcome fear, physical pain, and all suffering.
3. You can learn to direct yourself to be peaceful inside regardless of what is happening with your body.
4. You can learn from your health challenge what is most important and become a better human being.
5. You can learn to focus on love in your heart rather than the symptoms of your physical condition.
6. The core of who you are, your true nature, is Love.
7. No matter how sick your body is, extending Love will reduce your suffering and aid in healing.
8. Forgiveness is essential to health, growth, and healing.
EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she try or do?
LJ: This is a very broad question, however, I would suggest three things: 1) Take time to remember your true nature, which is love. 2) Focus on what is really important, and that is never the small stuff, blame, and guilt. 3) When in doubt, be a little kinder than you need to be.
One of the most liberating personal discoveries I have made is the knowledge that whenever I am upset, there is another way of looking at any situation, person, or condition. A miracle is when we respond with compassion where a moment ago we may have believed there was something to be upset, blaming, or angry about.
Most of us, if we are truly honest with ourselves, have an ever-evolving and ever-growing list of what we think we must change in order to be at peace or to be happy. But what if we are mistaken? What if nothing needs to change other than our perception of what we see? What if happiness is in fact more about remembering who we are, rather than attempting to change anything or anyone at all?
Though few would admit it, most of the time, when people are upset they don’t actually want to feel differently, they want agreement and ways to make a situation, condition, or person change. Most likely, when you are upset for any reason, it is rare that you will want to quickly see the real cause of your upset or the solution, but with practice you can begin to ask yourself honestly, is it the person/situation or is it my unforgiving thoughts about this person and the past that are upsetting me? Does this person need to change, or do my thoughts about this person need to change?
EM: You wrote a book called Smile for No Good Reason. What is the central message of the book on happiness?
LJ: Happiness is more about removing the blocks to Love and remembering who you are than changing your situation or another person.
If you believe you are an effect of the world around you—that your happiness is dependent on this thing or that person—then you are always going to be a victim of circumstance to one degree or another.
What if you had no problems, only opportunities? How would your life be different then? In actuality, this is the case. There is never a circumstance, no matter how catastrophic, that also does not hold within it an opportunity to better things, to better yourself. Every moment brings with it an opportunity to love, to forgive, to grow beyond your shortcomings. For me, the more I don't foolishly waste my life wishing for a better past the more free I am today to create, grow, and love. Freedom rests on finding the meaning and lessons even in our greatest pain.
Dr Lee Jampolsky is the founder of Inspirational Psychology, a way to live, learn, and practice love. He has served on the medical staff and faculty of respected hospitals and graduate schools, and his books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. Free courses, video, and information on Inspirational Psychology can be found on www.drleejampolsky.com. For Facebook: http://www.drleejampolsky.com
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com.
To learn more about and/or purchase The Future of Mental Health: Deconstructing the Mental Disorder Paradigm, visit here.
To see the complete roster of interview guests, please visit here: