OK, so maybe you kill yourself working out. You try to present yourself as a positive, growth oriented person. You’re even willing to reveal a bit of your personal life on Instagram if that will get you noticed. Do you finally feel loved? Have your efforts to be seen in the world made you happy and well, truly cherished for who you are? Are any of us mentally well if we’re chasing after love and caring all the time?
Male or female, social or not, most of us qualify as being mentally ill in one way or another. Anxiety and depression are the most prevalent problems found today, but the complete list of mental illnesses is virtually endless. The standard psychological models embraced by most mental health practitioners tell us we’re broken in some way that needs to be fixed. Neuropsychological theories, along with big pharma, are increasingly dominating the discussion and telling us our brains are malfunctioning. We’re sick, usually from a faulty brain, hence the term “mental illness.”
After working with individuals, couples and severely mentally ill clients for about a decade, and seeing just about every medication and theory dumped on those struggling souls, I believe that biologically-based mental illness accounts for a tiny fraction of sufferers. In most cases, mental illness is simply a conscious or subconscious strategy to cope with a very broken world. Cutting? Anorexia? Alcoholism? How freakin hard is it to trace the etiology of those desperate re-actions.
To be fair, many therapists understand that a person’s life situation — the “social world” part of bio-psycho-social assessments — plays a big role in their problems. But how is it that so many people encounter situations that make them mentally ill, and why is mental health’s goal usually aimed at helping people rejoin a broken world that causes so much sickness in the first place? Perhaps mental health doctors and therapists are lost and broken too.
Real yoga, the real stuff discovered so long ago, came up with the same broken-world diagnosis, the same explanation of how a beautiful, intelligent and powerful person like you or me can be made to turn on our own selves. Contrary to the mental health industry, yoga believes you’re not broken — it’s the world you live in that is ill and delusional. Yoga has many ways to free us from the delusion, but they’re different from what the delusion itself tells us we need to do in order to be well.
Yoga calls for a radical reorientation to life, one that devalues much of what the world values so highly. That’s one of the reasons it’s so difficult to be a yogi on social media — so much of what is applauded there (like the picture above) just damages us more. It’s especially painful to watch when that damage is done using a yoga hashtag.
But each one of us can help to suture some of those socially inflicted wounds. If we look closely and use the real tools of yoga, we can eventually see ourselves for the miracles we truly are — infinitely complex beings with the capability to laugh, love, create, care and on and on. These amazing abilities are always within us, even when the regular ego-driven world simply can’t see or acknolwedge our depth and radiance in any real or meaningful way. We simply can’t prioritize what we bring to the world based on the world’s feedback and acceptance. That’s an impossible way to be truly loved or well.
So let’s stop convincing people they’re mentally ill, and let’s start diagnosing the real problem — that except for a few biologically-based cases, we’re asking intrinsically-awesome people to live in a mentally ill world! Let’s stop contributing to that world’s delusional mindset, one that’s forgotten how to see that every single thing about you is special and prized. No more begging a sick world to give us healthy things. You and I need to be in a world that cherishes us personally for who we really are. Yes, you need to be cherished, regardless of any accomplishments or physical traits you can trade for momentary and hollow recognition. We, especially us yogis, need to do that cherishing. Let’s continue yoga’s building of a world based on unconditional admiration, interest and love, rather than continuing to reward people by how well they fit into the delusion. You are all infinitely loveable and well. Our recovery lies in constantly letting each other know that.