Mental Illness and Living in Alignment with Reality

Years ago, one of my heroes in the psychology and counseling field wrote a book that was called by some as a professional suicide. Not an actual suicide, mind you, but rather a suicide to the profession of psychology and counseling.   Larry Crabb wrote a book called Connecting, where he argued that all mental illnesses were, at their core, a lack of close relationships – and that included schizophrenia. And that those mental illnesses could come into the manageable range by having a small group of people who support them in their daily life.

I don’t think he would write that same book today (he only recently passed away), knowing all that we know about trauma, in particular. But I developed my own theory, that if I were to start a doctoral dissertation (that ship has sailed), it would be that all mental illnesses are, at their core, a misplaced understanding of what is true and real. In essence, the more mentally ill a person is, the further from reality they are. And the more mentally healthy a person is, the closer to reality they are. And by reality, I mean objective, observable, scientific reality.

My thought is that depression has its roots in not recognizing our own value (where Scripture teaches that we are created in the image of God, and furthermore, that God Himself exchanged His life for our life to redeem us). The narrative we tell ourselves has everything to do with how resilient we are to adverse circumstances. If it is clinically able to be diagnosed, then it’s time to look for beliefs under the symptoms that support that faulty narrative.

Aside: There is an approach in the field that says that what is true for you, is true. Period, end-of-sentence. That one person’s experience cannot be labeled as either true or false, right or wrong. Therefore, as counselors, we are not ever disagreeing with a client’s reported understanding of events; truth is left up to the detectives and juries. Our job is to help them through their understanding, and to create coping skills. I do that routinely, and most clients find it very helpful. But take a step back.

A step back: A non-challenging approach to a person’s perception is also that of post-modern thinking. We, as a culture, don’t spend too much time thinking about what is under the surface; the current in which we swim is not routinely examined. We are all better off if we are able to be critical evaluators of our own thinking, especially in the context of our own culture.

The longer I am in the field of helping people through their struggles, the more I disagree with the undercurrent of simply coping with surface-level mental illnesses. Coping skills are simply not enough (they are a good starting point), especially when I look further into trauma-work. We must change our thinking about ourselves; our internal narrative.

Example time:

Individual Health:  Schizophrenia is a textbook example. Hallucinations and delusions do not reflect reality and the person has a hard time knowing what is real as a result. Coping skills for these people involve having trusted people that they listen to who confirm whether or not something is true.

Anxiety and depression are also rather clear, as they include a mind-body disconnection. PTSD is additionally clear with the disconnect stemming from the present moment and past moments not being in alignment. The Body Keeps the Score, a book by Bessel van der Kolk, traces through how trauma is reinforced in the body and the brain (it really is a must-read for anybody in the field). It details how events are stored more than just in our brain’s memories, but also in our muscle memory. When muscle memory kick-starts our autonomic responses we are left questioning ourselves, “Am I going crazy?”. In essence, we’re living not in the present, but in the past; away from reality.

We all can understand how a combat vet performs differently after they have returned home. What kept him alive was wonderful in that moment, but bringing that same level of hyper-awareness and tension into a marriage… now we have problems. Coming home was the goal, and having that home be safe was essential, but the vet’s muscle memory traveled home with him.

The body remembers past events. The mind may not overtly believe that it’s threatened all over again, but the autonomic physical reactions are those same responses that kept the person alive, which trigger the brain to think as they did before. To shift that vet into home and peacetime requires an exerted effort to connect the brain and the body with the new reality. That is the essence of EMDR and Mindfulness and all trauma therapy.

Ratcheting it up a Notch, into National Health:  Dysmorphia is a very serious concern, and has everything to do with feelings not lining up with reality. When dysmorphia is diagnosed, usually multiple other mental illnesses are also diagnosed.  And so by extension, the transgender ideology is far removed from reality. The current thought is that the body is wrong and the feelings are to be trusted.

Feelings are the waves on the ocean, they ebb and flow. Our thoughts interpret those feelings into a story. And we reinforce our thoughts, for good or for ill, through repetition. We consume support or challenge to those thoughts through media, people, and our own desires. So we can trick ourselves into believing something is true when it is patently false.

Ten short years ago, it was understood that the thinking and feelings were pliable, while the body was observably what it was. It was called dysmorphia when a person’s feelings and thoughts were not in alignment with their own bodies; gender being only one of the many possible ways to not feel aligned with our physicality. Therapy was bringing thoughts into alignment with reality, and feelings may, or may not, follow eventually. Along the way, that is where coping skills entered in – that was the focus of resiliency.

Even the DSM5 hasn’t adjusted fully, as the transgender ideology phenomenon is so new. Up until sixty years ago, it was not even possible to change a person’s sex with surgery. Now, it is a field unto itself. Only in the past ten years, five in particular, has the surgical approach gone full-throttle, with faulty and misplaced thinking used to justify it – and so now there are layers of faulty thinking. First, there is the thinking of those with dysmorphia, which is understood as claiming that something is not right. And secondly there is the thinking of sex-change industry, which surprisingly reinforces the mental illness, rather than mental health.

Threats of suicide are the driving force to justify surgically neutering a mentally fragile person’s body: “You’d rather have a living son than a dead daughter,” has been reported by the parents of many children who have gone through this process. The book, Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier is such a good resource on this. And yes, suicide is a very real concern with this population, but no other mental illness is treated by reinforcing the problem, let alone adding to it.

One of the significant areas to note, is that those people who struggle with dysmorphia are much more likely, than the average person, to have multiple co-occurring mental illnesses. Basically, if this one area is isolated, that would be enough to deal with, but almost across the board, there are multiple concerns, including anxiety and depression and trauma, which are layered onto the dysmorphia.

Ratcheting it up yet another Notch, into Worldwide Health: The Covid Narrative is far removed from reality. A couple months ago Dr. Robert Malone went on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and explained the whole concept of Mass Formation Psychosis. I won’t go into detail, but it is a culture-wide belief that something is true, when in fact it is false. Google no longer links to clinical explanations about this phenomena [insert raised eyebrow here