By: Joseph A. Garcia, PsyD
The field of psychology and psychiatry has for most of its history been dominated by what is referred to as the medical model. This model basically makes the assertion that if a person suffers in any visible way then they are “ill” or “mentally ill”. There has also been a long tradition of diagnosing these “illnesses” so that they can be put into categories and treated with medication and/or scripted therapies. Much of this has been driven by drug companies and insurance agencies. The unfortunate consequence of all of this has been to pathologize a very normal human experience; suffering.
What does this mean for you?
In my experience thinking of oneself as somehow abnormal or “ill” is simply not good for you. You may be familiar with the phrase “you can think yourself sick”. This falls into the same category as negative self talk like “I am not good enough” or “I am a failure”. All beings suffer. So what is so “abnormal” about that? Nothing at all is abnormal about suffering. This does not mean that you don’t experience anxiety, suffer from panic attacks, experience depression or mania. You may even be given this diagnosis. Notice that I did not say you may HAVE anxiety or may BE depressed. You are not a diagnosis. Diagnosis is a way for psychologists to talk back and forth about a particular set of symptoms, it was not meant, in the beginning, to become a person’s identity.
Experiencing psychological distress does mean you are abnormal or sick.
To the contrary, it means that you are human. You can be sure that any therapist that you may ever encounter has experienced some form of suffering: grief, depression, anxiety, panic, insecurity, self-doubt, obsessive-compulsive ticks, you name it. This does not mean that the therapist is incompetent. It means that they are human, just like you. What we do have is a storehouse of skills and training to offer you during your time of suffering. We do not have an absence of suffering, nor does any human on the face of this planet.
Normalization is important because it means that you are not alone. Normalization is also important because it opens our eyes to a myth. The myth is that we are supposed to be happy all of the time and if we are not happy all of the time then something must surely be wrong with us. This is just not realistic or even desirable. Mental suffering, functionally, is the same as physical suffering. If you feel pain in your hand it might be because you have placed it on a hot stove. The pain serves to alert us to this fact so that we can do something about it. Mental suffering serves a similar purpose. If we find that we are experiencing some mental pain we seek to alleviate that pain. Mental pain however can often be more difficult to figure out. It would be wonderful if it was as easy as moving our hand off of a stove!
This is where White Cloud Therapeutic Services comes into play. Our counselors are here to help you with the often difficult and sometimes tricky business of helping you to discover your metaphorical hot stove.