Mental Health Gripes: The Far Side
After my somewhat scathing remarks on mental health in South Africa only partly and incidentally directed at the medical professionals – it is the system I’m trying to reflect upon – it seems only fair to also highlight the difficult plight of the shrinks.
Once when I complained about being in therapy my therapist reminded me that at least I was trying with therapy, instead of being unaware of the problem.
The fact is, as a therapist, almost any psychopath can walk through your door. As long as a patient remains intent on lying to him/herself, what can be done?
Again, while we are trying to destigmatize mental illness, the very word “illness” might be a complete misnomer.
Psychosis is not a virus. You cannot surgically remove a personality disorder.
A few months ago during a group therapy session, a competent young psychologist reported to the group: “Depression is normal.”
At the time I was battling one of my darkest episodes of depression, one I truly feared would overcome me. Perhaps I might elaborate on this at some later point, but the definition of depression I had written down before he spoke, was “evil.” And that’s a strong word for an atheist. (By the way, group therapy is a detestable reminder of Sunday School – but there is gain with the pain.)
I found a picture online which I’ll try to use in illustrating a catch 22 – and I would really love to hear opinions on this.
It’s the annoying anomaly which therapists like to call the frame.
Somehow I’m incredibly threatened by this (analyse away!) and experience it as a show-up & throw-up procedure. I’ve made notes, I understand the necessity etc. etc. but very few people enter my inner dimension and it seems preposterous to me that others have many.
So to what extent are “we” (shrink and patient team) trying to cut losses? Or do we set ourselves (as in the patient) up for an inevitable loss even if it is the loss of a false sense of self?
Because man, that hurts … and usually you go to therapy hoping to convalesce.
The Far Side
Here is my most important point about the picture: It’s not therapy at all. There is a passive, probably deluded patient who has conned his/her way into the position of a victim in trying to manipulate the therapist – who must be exhausted. The patient won’t see because he/she is not even facing the right way, but he/she will feel increasingly distraught . Something bad is bound to happen.
Recently, in doing my own research on my MMPI 2 results I came across this handy term. What I’ve realised is that whenever my therapist tried to show me my alternative view of reality I experienced cognitive dissonance and dismissed the explanation as hair-splitting, nit-picking, semantics … or rejection.
So this is what I’ve done:
I’m back to reading all I can get on my issues. The reading material and I have no emotional, historical, sensitivity based transference and I come to realisations instead of suffering imagined scorn and rejection.
I’ve decided to embrace the richness of my fantasy world as escapism, but I’ve taken a step back from others in order to keep them out of it. I’ve isolated myself a bit, but I’m safe and so are they.
Once I separated my fantasies from human interactions, I’ve come to suspect that my imagination can be a great asset as long as my human interactions don’t trip over it.