Throwing Out the Concept of Mental Illness
The term "mental illness" stereotypes what most of the time are simply bad habits. Learn how to steer your thoughts away from the concept of illness and towards healthy living.
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Joseph Luciani, Ph.D.
I find that most people (and a lot of therapists) have too much respect for anxiety, panic, and depression. Part of the problem is that anxiety and depression are usually considered to be mysterious and threatening illnesses. What is your reflexive association to the word "illness”? When you're ill, you need to see your doctor, right? Why is this? Because an illness is something that happens to you, you don't necessarily cause it, you're powerless to do anything about it, and therefore you can't be responsible for curing yourself. This definition takes the concept of "healing" out of your hands and puts it in your doctor's, where it should be with a physical illness.
As far as I'm concerned, it doesn’t matter if you go to a neighborhood clinic or travel to Vienna for your therapy, healing. . .wait, let me stop myself here. From now on, rather than using the term “healing,” I will use the more appropriate term “change.” That said, regardless of whom you seek for treatment, no therapist in the world can change you. Change--all and any change--has to come from you. This is worth repeating: the capacity for creating the life you want resides within you. A therapist can facilitate that change, but so can you, with some insight and direction.
Begin right now by refusing to treat anxiety, depression, or panic as if it were an “it” (or worse, an illness). It, anxiety or panic, doesn’t exist! At least not like a virus lurking about looking to infect you. What we call anxiety is an array of symptoms that you generate by allowing yourself to be victimized by reflexive thinking. Here’s the key: You don’t get anxiety, you generate it! Think of it this way. Make a fist. Look at your fist. Now open your hand. What happened to your fist? Anxiety is like a fist. It really doesn’t exist, not if you learn to let it go. Please don’t misunderstand, when I say it doesn’t exist, I don’t mean to imply that you’re not suffering with diverse symptoms that we commonly refer to as anxiety. What I’m saying is that once you stop treating anxiety as an illness and start treating it as a habit, you’ll finally be in an empowered position to make the shift from impotence to potency. Why? Because unlike an illness, habits are learned and habits can be broken.