the PRACTICE of embracing what is…

Commentary and a collection of posts on topic

At the end of this post there is a note for mental health professionals in particular. If you are a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, etc. please be sure to scroll down and read it after reading the introduction below.

I was talking about the practice of accepting that which is in a withdrawal group and it was requested that I put together a list of posts that speak to how to go about doing this. So I’ve done that below. I’ve collected posts that speak to embracing the full spectrum of our emotional inheritance as human beings. I’ve found that without acknowledging and integrating the darkest part of our psyches we cannot heal. We also cannot become fully mature adult human beings. One need not be labeled “mentally ill” or be sick for this to be an important part of our life’s work.

So below are some posts that deal with the PRACTICE of embracing everything and also about reframing ones experience…sometimes we think something is bad but upon reconsideration and reframing we find that it’s actually good or at the very least instructive…our original perception is a result of conditioning which we can ultimately shed…and must shed in order to individuate and grow up.

The below is not an exhaustive list. I would say that at this point the underlying main theme of this blog is about the benefits of this deep acceptance of our nature as human beings on this planet in this universe.

This is a long post because it’s compiled so that it might be a resource and so that people might pick and choose those pieces that resonate. It will be included in the drop-down navigation system at the top of the blog so that people might revisit it. It will be under the “Recovery” section and also the “Healing Arts” section for future reference.


How I deal with mental breakdowns  — By Jayme

So what do I do when those symptoms occur that I described above?

I embrace them. I honor them for what they are and I feel them for all they are worth. If I am depressed, I feel the depression as if I were being paid to describe to someone what depression is like. I describe it as I am feeling it. I don’t try to distract myself from it the way everyone advises me to do. I hear things like “Take a walk, call a friend, go out with friends, exercise, do anything except feel the depression, you are only dwelling on it and it will make things worse, and for godssake don’t isolate!” I used to feel so guilty for not being able to follow their advice. Not anymore! I will dwell on my depression. I will isolate. I will remove myself from all of society and I will treat myself to whatever my heart desires. That usually means isolating and wallowing in depression and crying my heart out for no reason. There is movement in crying! There is healing. I cry as deeply as my body will allow, and the exhaustion that follows is the most healing experience of all. And “healing” does not mean that the depression is over. It may be around for a while, and that is okay. It is not something that needs to be healed. Depression is simply another human experience, and by god, I am going to experience it! (continue reading)

There is nothing wrong with you 

There is nothing wrong with you: That was the title of a book I read in 1997 when it was first published. The full title at the time was: There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Regardless of What You Were Taught to Believe. It has since been republished and the subtitle has changed to:  Going Beyond Self-Hate. I prefer the first title since as a person labeled by psychiatry I came to that book believing something was deeply wrong with me. Recently I realized that this little book, written by Cheri Huber, planted revolutionary seeds that I still carry with me today. (this posts shares commentary about her teaching) (continue reading)

Don’t give fear a thought — By Robert Augustus Masters

When fearfulness infects you, neither avoid it nor let it recruit your mind. Don’t give it a thought.

Approach the infected areas with care. No antibiotic heroics, no psychosurgical wizardry, just ordinary everyday caring.

Touch the infection with undivided attention, while letting the raw reality of it touch you, penetrate you, shake you more awake. Make contact, intimate contact, allowing it to breathe, allowing to it vibrate, sound off, even grieve. Stop treating it like an adversary or disease. (continue reading here)

You can’t heal what you don’t feel —  by Nicole Urdang

It takes great courage to move through dark emotions but ignoring them, or sweeping them under the cognitive rug, just makes them less accessible for healing.

How can you make it safe to feel emotions that potentially trigger a sense of devastating loss, wild rage, or deep depression? By cultivating the inner, loving parent who is always there to comfort, protect, and remind your inner child how you are a spiritual being having a human experience.

Life’s trials don’t come with a manual, so you can’t always figure out what the lesson is. Patience, and faith in yourself will reveal their purpose, even if it is simply to show you how much you can bear. (continue reading here)

On Fear (or some call it anxiety) and Fearlessness 

Pema Chödrön describes a liberating way to relate to our fears: not as something to try to get rid of or cast out, but as something we became very intimate with. In so doing, she explains, we come to find that the journey of knowing fear is in fact the journey of courage. From this wisdom, we learn to embrace the fullness of our experience in life. (continue here, video included)

Are you “isolating” and “withdrawing” or do you just need to spend some time alone?

In mainstream mental health circles we are encouraged to believe that “isolating” or “withdrawing” is always bad, that it is in fact pathological.

This is really too bad, as part of healing from mental distress for most people requires spending some time alone. Unfortunately, we find that in professional mental health circles this very natural inclination is often maligned and people are shamed if they show a propensity toward needing time alone. (continue reading here)

Doctors say she’s schizophrenic. A new movement says she’s just human.

The Hearing Voices Network (HVN) USA is one of over 20 nationally-based networks around the world joined by shared goals and values, incorporating a fundamental belief that there are many ways to understand the experience of hearing voices and other unusual or extreme experiences. It is part of an international collaboration between professionals, people with lived experience, and their families to develop an alternative approach to coping with emotional distress that is empowering and useful to people, and does not start from the assumption that they have a chronic illness. (continue reading here)

The best therapy for mental illness…

Rossa at Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia nails it on the head with her post from yesterday. I’ve often thought about the fact that “recovery” is about learning to live well. That is all. Learning to be healthy and true to oneself. Calling what it is one does to do that therapy actually keeps one in the illness framework quite often. Healthy lifestyle choices is what it’s all about…call it whatever you feel like calling it. Whatever resonates and works for you. We all have different combinations of things that make us thrive. But certainly the support of those around us is always important as Rossa underscores. (continue reading here)

“Acceptance underlies most of my recovery from what was once diagnosed as bipolar disorder” — by Will Meecham

As earlier posts have made clear, I no longer buy into the concept of ‘mental illness’ because the phrase refers to putative brain disorders that are viewed as irreversible. My recovery demonstrates that my formerly intense moodiness did not result from a structural or genetic neurologic condition, but rather from errors in relating to the chaotic vicissitudes of life. My instability resolved once I learned to accept my experience, no matter how painful. (continue reading here)

Insomnia? Or is your body just asking to sleep like our ancestors did?

We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night – but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural.

In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month.

It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep…. (continue reading here)

Musings on anxiety… 

In general this blog supports embracing all our emotions. That is how we come to know who we are. The whole spectrum of our emotional lives are of value. It’s a shame that we learn to call many of our emotions negative and in keeping with that we try to numb them out in various ways, including with the use of both legal and illegal drugs. It is in resisting our shadow sides that those emotions we fear/anxiety grow bigger! That is the sad paradox. (continue reading here)

Equanimity is steady through vicissitudes, equally close to the things you may like and the things you do not like

Equanimity contains the complete willingness to behold the pleasant and the painful events of life equally. It points to a deep balance in which you are not pushed and pulled between the coercive energies of desire and aversion. (continue reading here)

the only way out of suffering is to move toward it 

Looking back, I can see that my biggest obstacle at the time was that I thought of meditation as something that would help me get rid of the parts of myself that I didn’t like. I sincerely hoped that meditation would lead me to happy, peaceful states of mind where panic and fear could not touch me. Yet what my father was leading me to was much more radical than that: He wanted me to see that the only way out of suffering is to move toward it; that the path of true awakening lies in experiencing every single moment, whether pleasant or painful, with complete and unconditional love. (continue reading)

Curiosity about ourselves and our inner lives is spirituality

Even when life brings one lemons, I’ve found the most helpful attitude is to be curious:

To me, spiritual practice is like a mystery story in that we stumble onto something we have never encountered before. At that point, the intelligent approach is “Wow, what have we here? Let me take a closer look.” (continue reading)

Befriend your fear

This video is in keeping with my practice of being with all that arises within. Fear here can be translated to “anxiety,” which is the clinical term for fear which everyone at one time or another experiences with or without a diagnosis of some sort of anxiety “disorder.” Psychiatry pathologizes much of the normal human experience and fear and/or anxiety often referred to in Buddhism as such. Normal. There are techniques to learn how to be with these normal feelings, whether they’re very intense or not. (continue here)

relax in the midst of chaos

To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. (continue reading)

Letting go, acceptance, surrender

Yes, I’ve personally found that trying to change myself actually gets in the way of  healing. I am okay with acknowledging I am not in control. Sometimes life hands you a crisis where the only way out is coming to accept that reality. For me, what happened to me on psychiatric drugs was one of those situations.  In that realization too, there  is grace. The idea of not being in control, nor ever being able to be in control, isn’t a comfortable thought for a lot of people. For me, though, surrendering to “that which is” is where my healing comes from. No choice anymore, just surrender. I practice letting go and watching. In that process I get out-of-the-way and let life flow through me. We find we have an amazing teacher right within us if we can learn to do that. (continue reading, there is a guided meditation here too)

Lastly I want to add a small bit for mental health professionals. I spent about 15 years in social service agencies in the United States as a social worker serving folks with a large spectrum of mental health issues. What I learned is that, as a generalization, most mental health professionals are not comfortable with their own unchartered psyches and therefore, project their fear onto the people they are charged to help. This unconscious habit leads to the incredibly unsuccessful mental health system in our country.

One of the many harmful ways it manifests is in the massive over-drugging of  individuals who exhibit difficult psychic material, emotions, feelings and thoughts.

I have never been one to say that psychiatric drugs are always unnecessary. They certainly have a place in crisis care and I imagine on some occasions they are likely to be necessary beyond that. We don’t really know given we don’t allow people to find out at this point. We have a system that reflexively puts everyone on medications without any other considerations and we do it while damning them to an entire life-time on them. This is ludicrous to say the least. I now know hundreds of people who have been told this who have freed themselves from the drugs who are now doing far better without them.  It is no exaggeration to say that this reflexive habit  to medicate and the refusal to seriously and sensitively engage the pained psyche of those who look for help in mental health services is destroying lives in a multitude of ways.

I want to say, simply, “Healer heal thyself”

and finish with this article I wrote:

Bridging the patient/professional divide

Clinicians are trained to never, ever identify with the client. Why? What is wrong with recognizing shared humanity, even a weakness or flaw, and bonding in that? In providing a safe container from that understanding? The mere instruction to avoid such intimacy at all costs seems like a violent denial of oneself and clients both. It seems indicative of a deep fear of ones own dark parts. How do we help others find their way out of the dark if we hide from our own darkness? Such identification may not always be appropriate to share, no doubt, it may also not be present with many clients. But when it is present and appropriate to share from such a place, with adequate boundaries in place, it can be an incredibly healing experience for both parties.  I believe that all our psyches contain a full spectrum of the content of the human psyche within it…some people experience more or less of this or that, but we’ve all got it in there. Healing ourselves and others both require deep familiarity with all its parts. This is not understood particularly well among most mental health professionals, in my opinion.

Most mental health professionals not only know next to nothing about the deepest part of the psyche, they are terrified of it, adding another layer of obfuscation to the problem. When people in mental distress are terrified the last thing they need is to be met by a “healer” who is equally terrified of the clients thoughts and behavior.

Changing our system of care for those in mental distress requires deactivating the knee-jerk response of professionals and non-professionals alike towards those in psychic pain. (continue reading)

There is a large collection of med-free recovery stories on this blog here too: Recovery Stories

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