I love Transpersonal Psychology, a field which captured my heart years ago.
Transpersonal psychology validated my existence whereas the more typical forms of Western psychology defined me as broken. The focus of my academic study was, in fact, how Western psychology tends to leave thousands upon thousands of individuals behind, depending upon their cultural background. Let’s face it- if you’re not firmly rooted in Eurocentric ideology, you’re very likely crazy or dysfunctional, according to the American Psychological Association. If you’re American Indian, for example, hearing the voices of ancestors long dead isn’t necessarily crazy. Dream travel into spiritual dimensions is a common occurrence too. According to the diagnostic standard issued by the APA, however, admitting either could earn you a direct route to the psychiatric couch.
The APA rarely takes into consideration generations upon generations of alternative worldviews. The governing body has a tendency to point at others and label them “sick” or “wrong” if they’re not exactly like them. In fact, a very small percentage of the planet believes as the Western Eurocentric governing body of the APA believes, but somehow we, as Americans, are right and everyone else is wrong because, why…? Because we said so, and we carried a bigger stick, that’s why. Nothing more valid than that. This practice, when dealing with the mentally ill, has done nothing but cause decades of crippling shame to countless people. There’s a reason that the Native American population in this country claims depression, suicide, and chemical dependency rates three times higher than any other culture. It’s the Western Eurocentric narrow-minded dualistic Cartesian system that’s flawed, not an entire population of people. Be like us– conform– or take these pills. The message is as simple as that.
Depression in this country is considered an epidemic and billions of dollars are stuffed into the pockets of Big Pharma as a result. Medicating people who occasionally shed a tear is all the rage in our country’s medical community. I empathize with people who struggle with depression because I’ve been there myself. Several years ago when the roundness of my Being was forcibly stuffed into the square hole of my unsuited life, I declined to the point of near permanent bed inhabitance. I simply couldn’t face the day. I took the meds at that time, and no doubt they helped me. But psychological meds for severe depression I believe should be a bridge to get you from point A (my life sucks) to point B (I’ve made changes and my life makes sense to me now). I had several psychologists tell me that because there was something wrong with my brain– I was depressed– I’d have to be on psychiatric meds for the rest of my life. And after months and months of popping those pills, guess what, my problems remained. There was nothing wrong with my brain that making some monumental life changes couldn’t rectify. I wish I had a coach back then. The truth is, I was suffering burn-out from twenty years spent in veterinary medicine, a field I had outgrown. I hated what I was doing for work. It was killing me. I finally found the courage to leave. Problem solved.
Had I been professionally coached through my burn-out, rather than just asked to take a bunch of pills without changing the course of my life, I would have been able to navigate the huge transition I went through with much more grace, and much less anguish.
But because I was a successful, functional member of society who came to her therapy appointments wearing expensive clothes, not one of my mental health workers asked me to re-evaluate my life choices. They simply kept filling those prescriptions with a pat on the back, a fist pump, and a “Go get ‘em Tiger! Get back into that system and be productive!” (Based on their definition of productive, of course.) Back then, Western psychology didn’t work for me. It failed me. I’m not saying it doesn’t work for everybody. I firmly believe in the importance of psychotherapy and there are millions of therapists out there who are evolving past the closed-minded patterns of the past. The emergence of alternative forms of psychology are strongly gaining steam in our country. Integrative psychology. Eco-Psychology. Positive psychology. Transpersonal psychology. Holistic Psychology. There are so many holistic approaches out there, ready to be explored. Unfortunately, the APA doesn’t recognize or validate half of them…
The reason I feel this is so important today is that if you are one of the people struggling with crippling depression that will not release, no matter how many pills you take or doctors you see, please understand that it’s not you that’s broken. It’s your form of therapy. Try something new. It’s a personal choice. Follow your instincts. If you’re making a ton of money, but how you’re earning it is literally killing you, then nothing else matters but re-focusing. The cars, the house, the fancy clothes… None of it matters but your happiness, your health, your ability to live freely- societal expectations be damned. Major Depressive Disorder (aka Depression) is diagnosed so frequently in this country that it’s been labeled the common cold of psychopathology. Why is everyone so damn sad? Have you ever asked yourself that question?
There is a Native American belief that when a person is inflicted with severe depression, it means the Spirit of Sadness has descended upon them. No longer able to walk on its own, it alights on us for support. The more that person fights the Spirit- the more they battle themselves and hate the Sadness- the sadder the Spirit becomes and settles more heavily on their shoulders. What is needed is not to battle it, but to show it compassion. Focus on the Spirit- within yourself- and love it with all of your heart. Tell it you’re sorry it’s so sad. Embrace it. Tell it there’s no reason for it to be sad, because you know that it’s a beautiful entity deserving of universal love. Compassion toward the Spirit takes us from the role of victim (poor me, there’s something wrong with me, I’m broken, etc) to role of caregiver (I love you, I can carry you for awhile). Be a caregiver to yourself.
Therapy for many is a necessity, indeed for many it’s the one thing standing between their life and death, but it should result in forward progress. There isn’t one formula (or one pill…) which fits all. Each of us responds to everything uniquely. It’s just a matter of finding the path which feels right. And trusting in our own body’s wisdom to lead us there.