ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Those Who Instill Doubt

Jack Bragen
Friday May 08, 2020 - 01:27:00 PM

When we have enthusiastic ambitions for something, and we talk about it because we can't keep the enthusiasm contained, and then someone revels in shooting it down before it happens, we could be getting a message of realism or we could be prey to a mild form of abuse. 

Many people have ambitions about doing something with our lives. And there is nothing more painful than to have someone instill doubt into our minds and hearts. Someone speaking negatively and doubtfully about our ability may accomplish that. Sensitive people are not immune to what people say about us. In the words of a very smart and well-educated man (whose identity I am not at liberty to share): "Words are weapons." 

Many mental health counselors are good at instilling doubt. They feel very superior to us, and they're happy if it remains that way. If we express that we'd like to try something in a professional realm, their temptation is to shoot it down before it happens. When people tell us we can't, we are affected. Suddenly, in order to try what we want, we have to battle against that doubting message. At that point, success becomes a fight, rather than merely an ascension. 

When a person says something and you hear it, this is an instance of data in the form of sound waves being picked up by your auditory nerves and entering your brain. Only a deaf person or someone with very good earplugs can prevent this. When we try to fight this, we may find that we are in a "me vs. them" scenario. This, in itself, hinders our efforts. Not only do we have the difficulty of achieving the goal, but we must somehow negate, nullify, or tune out the negative messages of others. 

The goals and aspirations of those of us with compromised minds are fragile. Goals for us are like a fire being built by a caveman with a piece of flint. In early stages, the flame must be protected from wind, must be given just the right amount of breath, and must be nourished by twigs and brush. Not until the caveman has a roaring fire should he boast about his fire-making. And with mentally ill people, the goal begins with a seed. That seed is a mental idea. It is a fragile idea and it should not be shared with the wrong individual, who might snuff out the beginnings of a goal with negative words before we can even get started on it. 

When in my twenties, I set up a television and video repair and resale shop. I could fulfil the role of owner/operator of a repair shop--I didn't lack the necessary skills and experience. Yet, on an emotional level, I did not have what I needed. Counselors provided that. And then, when my shop was close to becoming prosperous, support was withdrawn, citing that a program was being ended. I was left with a poem on a piece of paper to put on the wall, titled, "don't quit." 

I gave up my shop, not because I couldn't make it succeed as a technician, but because I lacked a source of encouragement. When a person wants to do something ambitious, their heart must be fed. I should not blame a mental health organization for the fact that I gave up on success. If I'd had any understanding of myself, I could have found encouragement elsewhere. Also going against me, I wasn't far enough into recovery to have a steadiness of purpose. I've seen people succeed in the repair businesses and I've seen them fail. What makes the difference isn't always ability to do the job, often it is the presence or absence of relationships, and whether they are supportive. 

We cannot convince anyone of anything they don't want to hear. If I say I'm a writer, a mental health professional or someone who knows that I'm mentally ill will automatically assume I have a delusion of grandeur that I think I'm a writer. People make assumptions. We cannot convince them of anything otherwise. Instead of a poem titled "don't quit," a better poem might be one titled, "don't listen, and by all means, don't tell." Let the flames of success grow large enough so that a doubting or sabotaging person can't extinguish them. Our aspirations are our property.