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Throwing Out the Concept of Mental Illness

I find that many people are intimidated by the concepts of anxiety and depression. Part of the problem is that most treat psychological struggle as an illness. What is your association to the word “illness?” When you’re ill, you see your doctor, right? Why is this? Because an illness is something that happens to you, leaving you relatively powerless to do anything about it. You therefore can’t expect to 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.

From a Self-Coaching perspective, your healing…wait, let me stop here. From now on, rather than using the term “healing,” let’s use the more appropriate term “change” –changing is up to you! When it comes to psychological struggle, no therapist in the world has the power to change you. Ultimately, any and all change has to come from you. This is worth repeating: the capacity for having the liberated life you want exists within you. There’s no question that a therapist can facilitate that change, but so can you, with some insight and direction.

I realize that taking responsibility for being anxious or depressed may be offensive to some, “Do you think I want to be depressed?” “I can’t help being anxious!” Of course you don’t want to struggle, but if you were to adopt a Self-Coaching approach that treats anxiety and depression as habits rather than illnesses, everything would change. Why? Because unlike an illness, habits are learned and habits can be broken. By treating anxiety and depression as habits, you put yourself in the driver’s seat asking: what am I doing that feeds my habit and what can I do to starve it?

Starting today, you can begin to starve psychological struggle by cutting off its feeding supply. When you catch yourself spinning, thought after thought with disruptive, insecurity driven doubts, fears or negatives, recognize that you have a choice–a choice to stop the runaway train of ruminative, destructive thinking. Although it may not feel like you have a choice, you do! Whether it’s a cigarette smoker trying to quit or a nail biter trying to abstain from gnawing, there’s no question that habits are stubborn things, but habits, even habits of anxiety or depression, can be challenged and can be broken. One thought at a time.

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