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Mental Health Awareness Month Myths

3 tips for you and mental health professionals.

Key points

  • Mental health is the practice of reading and embracing the chord changes of life.
  • People need positive and negative emotions in order to be fully fulfilled and integrated.
  • People may not need a therapist, but they need regular witnessing in relationships and in themselves to be psychologically healthy and happy.
Wokandapix at Pixabay
Source: Wokandapix at Pixabay

Mental Health Awareness Month can throw a lot at you. A few tips that dispel common myths can get you back on track.

Myth #1: You should find your center and know what you are thinking and feeling instantly.

We all wish we could be more stable and centered than we are actually built for. In truth, we shift and change all the time. Musician David Bowie was right. Our psyche constantly asks and demands for us to 'turn and face the strange,' to help us figure out what more we are thinking and feeling so we can embrace ourselves, our relationships, and the world with even more possibility.

We all wish to be built with a monophonic mind and heart, one that sings only one major melody and is constantly accompanied by the same background support, and yet life would be much less interesting, rich, and nuanced if we were so. Instead, we are built like an exquisite Bach fugue, where the melodic voices move in and out and around each other, sometimes bringing lovely consonance and other times bringing us temporary dissonance.

When we can learn to notice and align with our polyphonic heart and mind, we can read and ride the change of life with much more grace and creativity. In fact, many of the most common psychological issues—like anxiety, depression, and social disconnection—can be improved if we are open to learning how our psychological instrument is meant to play.

Myth 2: We should override our negative emotions with positive ones in order to be more happy and fulfilled.

No, and yes. We definitely want to cultivate all of the positive emotions—like joy, excitement, pride, curiosity, etc—and yet we also need to make room for the negative emotions too. Some of them, as psychotherapist Hilary Jacobs Hendel notes in her Change Triangle, are right at our core. We can live without the valuable information and richness of color that sadness or fear brings us. Even disgust, regret, or sorrow are emotion colors that are worth painting with and getting to know more keenly—they bring more richness and dimension to our emotional picture. Many recent writers like Daniel Pink and Susan Cain are showcasing how leaning into these negative emotions not only helps you through them but also helps you reposition their worth and value.

Myth 3: In order to be mentally healthy, I need to regularly talk to a therapist.

Not necessarily. A therapist provides wonderful support and help in the hardest of times and regular encouragement and inspiration through the creative times, but in the end, the skills a therapist provides can often be internalized and shared with each other. We are all built to become more fully ourselves through the benevolent and loving witnessing of others, and these relationships, paradoxically, help us know more fully the many sides of ourselves, and help us to put them into play.

Therapists serve as a witness with specialized training to help you get the most out of this process so you can do it for yourself and in all the relationships you have in your personal and work life. Therapy actually teaches us all something very ironic and paradoxical: we all become our witnesses and refine the ways in which internalize a multitude of different audiences to be the audience for the art that is ourselves.

I recently read Quincy Jones' amazingly inspirational book, 12 Notes, about his personal and musical journey. What struck me the most is that we all could use a Quincy Jones in our psychological recording studio, just as he relied on Count Basie, Clark Terry, Frank Sinatra, and countless others when he was growing creatively as a musician and as a person. We are always bringing in more positive and nurturing influences to help hear our own music and find ways of incorporating more interesting music into the music we will be making.

It is in cultivating this regular practice that we have done something truly magnificent for our mental health. And again, ironically enough, it is accepting and loving that we are all built in this funny and interesting way that we always need to be listening to what song we are currently playing, and what's the most interesting way to solo right now to make something beautiful out it.

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