Let’s face it: the history of the mental health profession is not a good one. It’s a wonder we trust shrinks at all.
Whether it was the lobotomies and straight jackets of yesteryear or the current over-pathologizing and totally irresponsible medicating of the masses of modernity, psychology has a tough rode ahead to prove itself worthy of being our principle guides to happiness.
But, it must step up to this role. We need it desperately – people are either too jaded or too fanatical about religion and doctors mostly see us as parts and pieces, much like a mechanic looking under the hood of a car. Politicians are mostly a joke, and our current role models of actors, athletes and rich people are obviously not worthy of this type of status we give them. So, if it is true – and I believe it is – that we require some form of mentorship to lead fulfilling lives…then, I fear it is up to the women and men of psychology to fill the role.
That said, it is also up to us, the ordinary people of the world, to point out the bullshit when we smell it. It is one thing that some guy in a smock does a lab experiment on a rat and determines that it’s a bad idea for mothers to soothe their crying babies because it will reward and encourage their tears. It is an entirely different problem that thousands and thousands of people believe these insane conclusions just because they come from people with a degrees or some position of “authority.”
It is up to us to hold the wisdom of our culture to the standard of common sense.
We are designed to cringe at the sound of our crying babies and that shrill they send up our spines is meant to inspire us to pick them up. They are designed to cry when they need something. Real needs do not only amount to being hungry, thirsty, wet or tired. Emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs – though more amorphous – are every bit as real. So, just as an example, when I hear people tell me things that that fly in the face of common sense like that it is a good idea to let a child cry alone in a crib because it teaches them how to “self-soothe,” I have to wonder who the hell convinces us of foolishness like this and why in god’s name do we believe them?
Most of the infringements I see like this have to do with the fact that we, as “adults” become parents, are not really grown up. In a different era of my imagination, being an adult meant that you had matured to the degree where you realized that your personal needs were no longer necessary to fulfill. But, in the age of pop ego-psychology we have succeeded in prolonging our adolescence to the point where moms and dads, or any of us for that matter, don’t have it in them to be truly selfless. We are still working on our “wounds” and so we often justify our need to “shut the door” on the parts of our lives that we are responsible for.
What we need from mentors is a wake-up call. We need someone to snap us out of the story that has been sold to us for too many years by shrinks and self-help books: that our problems are real! I know this is a radical view for a counselor to take. And it may inspire the reader to think of what an uncompassionate professional I must be.
But, our belief in the reality of our problematic life-story, which we identify with as who we are, is the only problem. We make it real – and we often do so in very complex and complicated ways. Thus, compassion and skillful means end up being necessary to assist us in waking up to a natural reality. We all require this guidance from time to time – it seems to be part of the human predicament. But just because our problems are normal does not mean they are natural. A counselor must be aware of and working towards an ultimate standard of health or else there is no possibility for them to help us to recognize the deeper truths of our lives.
What we also need from our mentors is a lack of hypocrisy.
They must practice what they preach – really. So far, the psychology world is notorious for being full of practitioners that are every bit as nuts, and more so, than their clients. This doesn’t mean that our counselors must be perfect – no one is. But, they must be transparent. They must know themselves so well that they catch themselves at once when they are full of shit, and they must self-rectify immediately. In this ability, they must exceed in skill that of the average person. They must be held to a standard of being MORE self-aware than the rest of us, and better able to more immediately get their lives in tune with their counsel as soon as they notice that they are off-beat.
It is the responsibility of the people served by counselors and shrinks to hold them to this high standard and tar and feather them when they are out of line. Their role in our culture is too valuable to let them continue to mislead us. The masses must pool their common sense and when they read a “scientific” study published in the New York Times, which I did recently, that says, “Don’t worry ladies, increased stress does not contribute to your infertility woes,” we must cry out collectively. We must say what me must be said: ”Whoa, whoa, whoa you silly scientists are totally out to lunch. I don’t care what your study results were in your contrived laboratory of ideation but they simply cannot override a far more authentic source of knowledge: natural wisdom born from real experience.”