Alternative Healing: How to navigate the psychiatric system if you're caught, and how to present yourself as "normal."
Alternative healing, in this instance, implies not necessarily a healing of a disease, but a resolution of a problem and healthy living. The problem is continuing to be yourself in a world that is constantly judging you as deviant. As many of us know, those who judge us as deviant are far more pathological than the person whom they are judging.
My concept of alternative healing has to do with an acute awareness of one's lifestyle and existence, the possibilities that could evoke change and the strategies one can learn them come to accomplish this.
First and foremost has to do with the old adage: you are what you eat. Your health is primarily dependent on what enters your body. We all know what happens when we abuse substances, including pharmaceuticals. As a general rule, to maintain a healthy cellular integrity it is wise to avoid any chemical that is not naturally derived. Much can be said about the side effects of any pharmaceutical preparation. However, we will leave this for another focused presentation.
What our cultural and socioeconomic condition is, generally determines what our diets are like. In order for us to maintain a healthy cellular integrity, we would have to consume so much food, we would likely be eating for half the day. This is where nutritional supplements become so important. For example, upon the start of my day I take about 25 or more different supplements in pill form, and one concentrate in spray form, which I spray underneath my tongue. I generally take only those nutritional supplements that were sent out to be verified by independent laboratories. There are few such companies that do this now. Natures Plus, to my knowledge, has been doing this for the longest time.
It is not within my purvue, here, to prescribe any specific nutritional supplement, which is why I purposefully did not mention any. One can browse the shelves of books in health food stores to discover advice by professional nutritionists and natural health oriented physician's or, one can consult with a Naturopathic physician, a nutritionally oriented MD, or sophisticated nutritionist and/or chiropractor, for such advice. On the Web, one might find many sites run by nutritionally oriented physicians or alternative healing or health sites. However, I would be particularly wary of any practicianer who will attempt to push, on you, his or her own brand of nutritional supplement. Do your research.
Then, there are the foods we do eat. One only needs to do a quick study of the research on diet and health to discover that minimizing fatty foods, white flour products, wheat products, products containing sugars whether it be fruit sugars or refined sugars (whole fruits are good), products that contain chemical preservatives and flavor enhancers, while maximizing whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, preferably organically grown, serves to maximize our cellular health.
One might exclaim: 'Wheat products? I eat bread, pasta, pizza, etc. for most of my diet. Are you nuts. How can I eliminate that? I love that stuff.' The answer is : if you want to maximize your health, substitute rice bread, organicaly grown brown rice pasta that can be purchased in a health food store or in frrequently more supermarkets and speciality markets like Trader Joe's and pizza crust made from rice flour. It tastes a bit different, but, in recent years, the manufacturers of such foods refined the process so that it is much like flour products in taste and texture. You have to make the effort, over the long-term, to see the results.
What happens if you're captured as a patient in the mental health system? Well, one of the first things to realize is that the system basically functions on a model, Newtonian mechanics, that has pretty much been disproven, in recent years. It is still the prevailing and all pervasive model by which you will be judged. The diagnostic system used, is a system based on pseudoscientific principles. However those who use it, e.g., those who have a say so over the direction of your life, once captured in the system, believe in it, wholeheartedly. You, who unfortunately had been captured by the system as a "patient," are in a one down position. Always keep that in the forefront of your awareness when dealing with these people. Many of these people are well-intentioned, yet they are driven by false beliefs, and all are likely accusing you of having other false beliefs.
R.D. Laing, the British psychiatrist, was once quoted as saying that the psychiatric system functions as a mutually reciprocal projection system. In other words the person who is doing the diagnosing is actually projecting their own unconscious conflicts on to you, the "patient," who is sitting across the desk from them. In this stressful situation when you're being diagnosed, always keep these facts in mind, but, and this is important, keep them to yourself. That way you will be able to maintain your perspective of what is going on and present the best face or persona (or mask, as you will) to the person who is before you.
You say, "Mask? Isn't that being phony? I'm not going to play their phony games." Well, yes it is phony, especially if you are aware of it. However, most likely, the ' mental health' practitioner, sitting across the desk from you, is quite likely to be unaware of their own mask or persona. A person is certainly not the persona or mask they portray to the world in different situations. To identify with the persona means not being aware that it is actually a mask and you, in fact, are merely presenting that face to the public. If I identify with my persona of psychologist, I am then not being aware that my psychologist role is merely one of the many faces I portray to the world. You see how, with your awareness of the rehearsed mask you are manifesting, puts you in a superior position. You are aware and they just as likely may not be.
Most of the 'mental health' practitioners I've worked with, over the years, actually identify with their masks or personas. Hence, most of them are identifying with an illusion or, in fact, acting out a delusion of what they think they are, that they are not. I would say the delusion is the false belief that they've acquired from various sources, that they can, first, be objective in their opinion of the person sitting across the desk from them, and secondly, the belief that their 'refined skills' as a diagnostician can actually enable them to accurately assess this other human being in the course of a brief interview, to the extent that they can label this other human being in such a way that would radically affect his or her life, for years to come, or permanently, as the case may be.
To illustrate the absurdity of those who diagnose and the the grandiose opinion of their abilities, there is a published research study on the evaluation of so-called "mentally ill and dangerous" people that established that those with a high school education are as accurate or more accurate in their assessment than a trained group of psychiatrists and psychologists, in assessing an individual's so called "mentally ill and dangerousness" condition.
Of course, if you happened to be so unfortunate as to be the in the process of an evaluation by a traditional psychiatrist or psychologist, don't tell them this. This is important. Their apperceptions are such that they will interpret any such statement that attempts to discredit their high opinions of themselves as either hostility or a manifestation of some other aspect of psychopathology. When you go into the situation, with this knowledge at hand, you needn't say anything about it. The very fact that you know this can reassure you that the best practice is to adopt a persona or mask that will demonstrate to the diagnostician that you have no symptoms e.g., you are relatively 'normal.'
How does one learn to be 'normal?' That is the subject of another essay. One can easily learn, by studying others: the storekeeper, the person at the bank, the people in church, just about anyone who has a reasonable job, works throughout the week, has a family, and relaxes on the weekend. We can all adopt relationships with so-called 'normal' folk. Attend your city Council meetings, public speakers organizations, adult education classes, college classes, etc. Pay close attention to how these people speak, interact with each other, dress and generally deal with the world around them.
Many of them will frequently have bizarre beliefs. However, they never share them with anyone other than their intimates. For example, many people have beliefs that they are divinely inspired or somehow in communication with a deity. You may work with such people for years and never hear this from them. For, they somehow understood, early on, to only share these beliefs with those whom they trust with their lives. Of course, once a person begins to broadcast these beliefs to others, it raises the suspicion of everyone and can even draw the attention of the authorities, or what I like to refer to as the 'brain police.'
How does one navigate the "mental health" system, if one is caught and placed there by an arm of the 'brain police?' Again, one needs to adopt the correct persona. Just as you have learned how to be who you are, speak the way you speak, you can also learn to adopt the correct persona that would enhance your chances of being released from the system, after capture.
That correct persona, in brief, unfortunately is not what many people who are captured by the system will want to engage in. Once captured, one is in a one-down position, the true position of the underdog. This is the reality of the situation. The typical reaction is to rebel. This is a healthy reaction to authoritarianism, but not a reaction that will get you where you want to be. One of the interesting findings that came out of the human potential movement in the 60s and 70s was the issue of the top dog-underdog dialogue. Surprisingly enough, the underdog always wins, without fail, providing he or she plays up the role that they are forced into, in a realistic and genuine-appearing fashion.
In other words, your first utterances following the realization that you are in a system, not of your control or desire, must be, unfortunately, an exaggerated patronization of your captors. You must become the essence of their wrongheaded projections on to you. This does not mean to act bizarre or agree with everything they say. A projection, as previously mentioned and many of you know, in this case, is seeing the unconscious psychopathology of the person who is evaluating you, in you, the so-called "patient" sitting before them. In other words, they project their own craziness onto you, albeit outside of their awareness. Though a word of caution: never tell them or hint at this.
You must begin by asking them what it is that they want you to do so that you can help yourself. Asking, also what they can do to help you to understand the disturbing mental condition that you've developed (and whatever you do, don't frame this as the 'disturbing mental condition you say I have or accuse me of having.' When you say the "condition I developed", you are, in essence agreeing with their own opinions. You are pacing their projections in such a way that they will perceive you as an agreeable and compliant 'patient. You are now playing the role or persona of the underdog, to the hilt. It doesn't hurt to also complement them, during each meeting, by saying how grateful you are to be in their care. Most likely you will be offered some form of psychiatric medication. If that occurs, rather than immediately reject it, tell them that you appreciate their offer to help you, and, in the same breath, inquire about the potential side effects compared to the potential gain.
The choice to accept the offer, is, of course, yours alone. You might also inquire as to the benefits of therapy, compared to medication, saying that you know or have heard of some studies indicating that psychotherapy with a well-trained psychotherapist, knowledgeable of your condition is as effective as the medication alone. If they ask you about the study you might say that you've looked into or heard about the literature on psychotherapy with "mentally ill" folks and recall some books and articles (there are many since the 1960's). You don't have to get specific. You might then request to meet with a psychotherapist on a daily basis; and ask that the treatment team monitor your progress for a period of time, to see if any changes can be made with that approach, first.
One of the most important things, is to remain calm and mindful. Mindful meaning you constantly are aware of the realities of the situation that you're dealing with. It is your freedom that is being affected. Your goal is to regain your freedom in as quick a way as possible. This strategy will likely work if it is done with it genuine sincerity. If you attempt to top-dog the top-dog, you will lose, all the time. The underdog always wins at this game.
One effective way to ensure a genuine sincerity, is to practice with your friends, as if you are an actor rehearsing for a part in a movie. That is what this will be. It will be a movie. You will be the star. You need to rehearse to be successful and generate a happy ending.
That's enough, for now. After this, if I'm given the opportunity to present another aspect, I will develop this theme and present various exercises that you can practice, to hone your skills, to impress clinicians that you are an eager, likeable and respectful "patient." That will be the most effective way towards success in becoming a non-"patient."