I remember the day, eight years ago, when I first met the man who would eventually become my mentor and teacher. He was a psychologist, a shaman and a holistic counsellor. I described to him the feelings of angst I was having- my existential crises that felt like they occurred on a daily basis, my anxiety about the future, and the sense of anticipation that I couldn’t ever shake. I asked him whether he thought I had anxiety or depression and I braced for the response. I was terrified to be branded with what I considered to be a lifelong illness.
At that moment, this man had my inner life in his hands. And he said something extremely powerful that would affect the rest of my life.
He said, ‘Well if we were looking at a list of depressive or anxious symptoms, then yes, you have some of them. But you don’t have depression or anxiety. You have a powerful mind and you need to understand how to use it.’
That session set me on a course of learning how to understand and use my mind.
But it also made me realise that the medical model treats people as having problems or illnesses to be solved or cured. A holistic model treats people as having lifelong patterns, challenges and strengths.
I now look back on that person who was sitting in his room and I can see how much I have changed, simply from maturing and embracing consciousness. I treated my symptoms as doorways into my mind, rather than illnesses.
treating symptoms as doorways…
Anxiety can often be induced by social/cultural conditioning. Sometimes the problem is not with our minds- it’s with the society we live in. But regardless of our outer environment, we need to reconstruct the story of our emotional life. If your story is, I have an illness, my brain doesn’t work properly and for the rest of my life I will be unhappy unless I take tablets, then that is what you will believe and you will need to take tablets. The medical world still does not know what comes first: the negative thoughts or the brain chemicals. Are the brain chemicals low so we create negative thoughts, or do our negative thoughts create lowered brain chemicals?
In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.
When did you stop dancing?
When did you stop singing?
When did you stop being enchanted by stories?
When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?
This week, find time to sing, dance, become enchanted by stories and meditate. See life as an evolving masterpiece, not as a series of problems to be fixed.