There I was, minding my own business thinking about how awesome heaven was going to be after I died when a voice in my head said: What if that’s NOT where you go? Another voice added: I think death is the end period. Still another thought came wondering: How can any of us know what happens? A different persona chimed in with: Can’t we all just get along? I share this somewhat dramatized, but very true story about myself because the more I understand and embrace the differences, diversity, and doubts within myself, the better I’m able to do it with others … and I have a hunch the same could be true for you too.
To give credit where credit’s due, I’ve been listening to Peter Rollins podcast, “The Fundamentalists”, and in one of the episodes the philosopher gave this insight: Even though you and I often pretend and “think” we have one view on X, one take on Y, and a singular belief on Z, the truth is our inner, mental scenery is far more like a diverse committee than it is a singular dictatorship. So, props to Dr. Rollins for the idea behind this blog!
While I’ve been Christian my whole life, if I’m completely honest with myself parts of me have doubts about God, questions about life after death, see goodness in competing views, and so on. Likewise, when it comes to my second ex-wife, while typically the loudest voice in my head has grace, understanding, and forgiveness, there are ALSO voices of hurt, sorrow, and loss, as well as feelings of rage that want to see shame and suffering befall her. Or even consider when I’m walking down the street in Seattle at night and see a group of young black men coming my way: One part of me sees nothing more than passing strangers, but another, taught by movies, TV shows, news, and American culture raises an alarm of DANGER.
I teach yoga and sometimes NOBODY will come to my class, wherein something like this has happened in my mental committee/community:
Competitive Lang: “Did you see how many students Sally had? TWENTY and you had ZERO. FAIL!”
Optimistic Lang: “No worries at all. Since I’m at the studio anyway, I might as well do my own practice in the space.”
Insecure Lang: “Oh man! Do people not like me? Do I need to change my teaching? Do I need to figure out how to market better?”
Calm and Grounded Lang: “It’s not about me. People have lives and responsibilities outside of yoga. Vacations, chores, work, family, meetings, illnesses, or accidents are just a few of a whole host of reasons why people didn’t show up.”
Helpful Lang: “Coolness. This gives me time to clean and tidy up the studio!”
I could go on, but hopefully you get my point. 🙂
As I thought about this blog and how I’m saying we’re all a bit schizo, truly schizophrenic people, and multiple personality disorder, the following occurred to me: I wonder if mental illnesses like multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia, aren’t so much abnormalities as they are extreme amplifications of our normal mental operating system? I point this out both as a side note, and because I think the more we recognize what’s in “her” is in me, the views of “him” I don’t like dwell in my mind too, and the attitudes and feelings of my “enemies” reside in my being as well, the better our world will become. It seems to me recognizing we have diversity hardwired within each of us in our unity, will not only help us become healthier and happier individuals, but also a healthier and happier humanity.
Recognizing our commonality and engaging with curiosity increases understanding, and understanding births kindness and love. Whether the difference of belief, the diverse opinion, or doubting thought is within your/my mind, or it’s coming from a friend, coworker, family member, stranger, the television, or an “enemy”, I think the key is to recognize and see “it” well by approaching it with curiosity. The thing is, when we don’t address our internal insecurities, worries, doubts, and differences, they will go “underground”, grow, and bite us in the butts later as addiction, depression, anxiety, etc. Similar disasters happen when we ignore, shun, or oppose the differences in other people.
With all this in mind, I write this blog as an invitation to each of us:
– May we recognize, see, and embrace our diverse mental committees.
– May we engage our inner differences, doubts, and paradoxes with curiosity and kindness.
– May we become masters at allowing differences of beliefs and opinions to coexist harmoniously within us.
– May we honor and embrace the diversity of views and beliefs among family, friends, coworkers, cities, nations, and the world.
– May we engage different points of view with curiosity and kindness.
– May we remember what’s in her/him that we don’t like or agree with, is in us too.
– May we seek to understand instead of ignore, divide, or fight.
– May we always choose love.
Grace and peace,
Thank you for sharing your insight with us. I do think that we all have elements of what we call mental illness, just not the extreme manifestation of mental illness behaviors. Thinking that way makes it easier (and less scary) to relate to those with mental illness.
Agreed, I think it absolutely does make it easer to relate!