True Story: A shaman visited a mental hospital and was appalled by the way patients were treated. It’s not that the conditions were shabby or the medical advice outdated. To the contrary, the hospital was renowned and the staff more than competent. What shocked the shaman was not the facilities but the viewpoint. In his culture, mental illness is no illness at all. It’s the birthing of a highly sensitive healer.
This got me thinking about viewpoints in general and psychology in specific. The makings of healthy psychology are not universal – good mental health depends upon your society. If I live here, I’m sick. If I live in his village, I’m a healer-in-the-making. This might not be the most helpful information on a manic day, when my magical thinking makes me magically over-confident in my abilities and my mania tells me it’s time to fly toward the sun. Nope, on those days, it’s better not to run away with big ideas about my supposed healing abilities. But is it any better to see yourself as a sick person when that might not be universally true?
Sometimes I like to think of myself as superman. I’ve got special powers. I’m highly sensitive, I have a very quick and accurate method for sussing out people and situations, I am decisive and steadfast and I can see through nonsense in record time. I am often the first to come to an assessment that everyone else comes too much later. These are not symptoms of sickness in any traditional sense. And as long as I keep my head healthy, as long as I know and avoid my personal kryptonites, (those things that can let my head run me instead of me running my head), then I can keep thinking of myself as something bigger than my illness. Something like a superhuman or a healer. It comes down to perspective anyway.