It still boggles my mind that we – the advocates for emotional health – cannot rid ourselves from an umbrella of shame. Deeply embedded stereotypes still persist in our field – ones of mental illness, Nurse Ratched, crazed hysteria and weakness – all that can presumably be fixed if we were strong enough or smart enough to “pull ourselves up by the boot straps.” Perhaps this is one of the last beckons of good ole’ American independent pride … that we need to both maintain the illusion and give off the impression that we indeed “have it all together.” To that, I say to hell with it. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. In fact, in my worldview, the opposite is true. It is to those that have the courage to know and face the truth that I give the badge of strength.
There are two buses in life – those that ride the bus of “I am sick and I know it” and those that ride the bus of “I am sick and I don’t know it.” Let me tell you … you want to be riding in the first bus. It’s a lot more human, honest and accurate … and most importantly, it is a lot more fun. The journey is filled with the spirit that we are all in this together – struggling through the human experience, making mistakes, owning our stuff, learning and growing into a better version of our imperfect selves. There is a wide-berth of compassion for each other’s story – that we all have shit and started somewhere back from the starting line. Judgment is waylaid in that I am no better or no worse than you … just a fellow passenger in this growth experience called life.
The other bus is stuffy, pretentious and exhausting. Maintaining an image of perfection takes its toll … not only on me, but on my relationships. The position of “I have it all together and you don’t” … well, that is grandiosity plain and simple. And no one wants to be around that. For even if I am fooled into thinking that you are better and more valuable than I am, I am only left to feel inadequate and one-down in your company. I may then be seduced into a game of showmanship and competition which can only go in one direction … the opposite for the creation of true emotional intimacy.
So, dear friends, hop on board. The bus has plenty of seats available. Admit your fallibility. Own your vulnerabilities. And do your work. Your intentional and conscious psychological work … that which evolves you into your better self. Yes, psychotherapy is a tried-and-true means to such an outcome. But there are others … spirituality, community, 12 Step Programs … to name a few. Any setting which enables you to face your truth in the mirror. But by all means, find yours and do your work. It is a lifelong process but the generational legacy of emotional health that you will pass along will be the prize. And the bus ride is a hell of a party. Come on board and find a seat.