Three Principles Living

Judith A. Sedgeman, EdD

Mental Health: Call it what it is!

Mental Health: Call it what it is!

Sometimes things that have been evident for years leap into sharp focus, and demand new attention. Over the past few months, that has happened to me with the term “mental health.” I’ve always known that the “mental health field” is all about the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. It has always struck me as ironic that a field called “mental health”  has neither a clear definition for nor a clear vision for  actual mental health. But lately I’ve realized what an obstacle that is to progress and how those words in their present context hurt us all.

Not long ago, watching an interview about still yet another act of school violence linked to “mental health issues” that led to experts demanding that our nation focus more money, effort and time on mental health, I had the thought: “Wait a minute! Call it what it is! You’re talking about putting more focus on mental illness. That’s not what we need. We need a whole new look at true mental health!” And in that moment, I decided I had to dedicate myself to redefining the “field” currently named “mental health” and create a  vocabulary and context for Innate Health work that more closely describes exactly what I do.

I do not diagnose or treat or even take seriously the current definitions of mental illness. I work in the field that allows people to recognize and understand their own innate mental health and resiliency at the deepest possible level.  I write, I teach, I facilitate and I mentor people about Principles that apply to all people, across the board, no matter their current circumstances or state of mind. The Principles explain our universal access to high levels of well-being that, once seen, are sustained across all life situations. I (like many thousands of my colleagues across the world) create immunity to “mental health issues.” We prevent so-called mental illness and break its imaginary stranglehold on those who have come to define themselves by it.  We unleash the powerful outcomes of resiliency: happiness, unconditional love, selflessness, creativity, indomitability. It is work filled with joy, love, lightheartedness, gratitude. We thrive in it; we do not burn out; we do not “suffer” along with our clients; we do not dwell on the past or worry about the future.  We do not see life as hard, or sad, or punitive. We see life as a constant adventure in learning and discovering new heights of well-being and new depths of psychological and spiritual understanding as we all move together on our separate paths.

When people look to us for “help,” we see them as equal partners in learning, not as sick, damaged people to whom we are superior and for whom we have “treatments”. We know any one of us can stumble into insecure thinking and take it seriously and fall prey to feelings of despair and torment and anxiety and so on. But we have within us the capacity to lift ourselves beyond it, and when we know that, we might still stumble and fall, but we’re always on solid ground, not in quicksand. Everything looks temporary, because it is. We live in a dynamic of ever-changing thoughts and perceptions.

The only thing that keeps us from naturally getting over bouts of distress and upset is our own misunderstood thinking. If we get frightened by our negative thoughts, we try to analyze them or fight them. In doing so, we unintentionally give them increasing weight in our own minds. If we are not particularly interested in or concerned about any thought, it passes quickly. As soon as we grab it and start to deal with, we give it a life in our mind. We keep it going because we’re holding onto it, not letting it go.

I had a phone call recently from a friend who is a constant worrier. No matter what opportunity presents itself in her life, she goes right to work thinking about all the things that could go wrong, and then she becomes fearful of change, and feels stuck and miserable. This time, it was the possibility of a new job to replace a job she really doesn’t like. This new opportunity came to her, unsought. It appeared to offer everything she had hoped for in her work. After about 15 minutes of “thinking it over,” she had just about decided to stay where she was. She didn’t call me for help, just to share the news.

Here’s a snippet of our conversation.

I have a pre-existing condition, and now I have health insurance. What if I can’t get it in my new job?”   Obamacare has addressed that. You can’t be denied for a pre-existing condition.  Yes, but what if they repeal Obamacare? Then I’ll be screwed. And on top of that, what if I don’t do well? Then I won’t have a job at all.  Why wouldn’t you do well at your dream job? Isn’t this the exact job you’ve been hoping for?   What if I’ve fallen behind the last few years? What if I don’t know what I need to know?


And so it went. Information was not a helpful interjection into her constant flow of worried thoughts, but she hadn’t asked me for help. So I decided to try a question: “Have you ever noticed how quickly you think of what could go wrong? Have you considered entertaining some thoughts about what might be good in this opportunity?”

At first she retorted it had nothing whatsoever to do with her thinking — things could go wrong. Everybody knows that. But when I asked,  “If it has nothing to do with your thinking, how did so many of those things find their way into your mind?”,  she started to laugh. And then the game was up, for that moment. She caught on to what she was doing. If she had been a client, I would have used that light-hearted moment when her head was clear to explain to her the simple logic behind what just happened: As we focus on distressing thinking, our mood starts to spiral downward. We feel worse and worse, the more we think about all the negative things. The worse we feel, the more we try to figure things out. We have no control over what’s happening because we lose sight of who is creating it. It looks like life is speeding downhill and taking us with it.

Once we know for ourselves what’s really going on, we don’t slide into that vortex. We see the bad mood as a big “Uh-oh!” We know it’s never a good idea to take our thinking to heart in a low mood. Instead of thinking more about our thinking, we turn away from it and look to calm down, allow the mind to get quiet. When our mood lifts, we can “think again” and everything that comes to mind is more helpful and useful.

It is that simple.  Any thought not entertained will pass and new thoughts will come to mind, just as any person not greeted will walk on by as we stroll along. We are the thinkers. We are all connected to the universal energy that is life itself, the breath of life that propels our thinking. As we think, our consciousness brings what is on our mind to life, colored by the state of mind we’re in. Dark mood; thoughts look scary. Light mood; thoughts are interesting.

It’s all coming through us, not to us.

True mental health is our natural state, but for the way we manage our thinking. We default to it as soon as we understand it, not because we learn and do a whole lot of things to “get better,” or because we need someone or something outside of ourselves to “fix” us, but because the less we do with our thinking, the more quickly it settles into a natural flow.  Once we understand, we’re free to live at peace.

The true diagnosis of the human psychological condition: Innately Healthy. The one cause of mental distress (despite the 800+ diagnoses in the literature): distressing thinking taken seriously over time without understanding. The true cure: understanding that we are spiritual beings always using the gifts of Mind, Consciousness and Thought to create our experience.  We can create anything, and let anything go.

“Believe me … you will never help anybody by encouraging them to get into their feelings of anger and hate. … Feelings are thought in action.  … feelings are the barometer of the soul and if your heart and mind are full of anger and negative feellings, it is a sure sign that life is going to be stormy. On the other hand, if you host positive feelings, it’s a sure sign that life will be calmer and sunnier.”

Sydney Banks, The Enlightened Gardener, p. 91.

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