Somewhere in the hurry to diagnose psychological pain and suffering we have lost sight of what is a typical life experience. We are bombarded by messages everywhere that tell us that happiness is all that matters, and that there is something terribly wrong if we are not happy. Happiness is for sale at every turn if we just buy the right thing. People with fame and money are marketed to be our idols of happiness.
When we feel unhappy or stressed the world is only too happy to diagnose it, and suddenly we really do have a problem that starts to grow with the shame fear and stigma that comes with the diagnosis. Before we know it, we are given “happy” pills, and when they don’t work to make us happy, it is even more proof of our failings. We start to lose our connections to others because they don’t know what to do, and we make them uncomfortable (more proof of our faults). As our lives shrink we become our diagnosis and nothing more. All wellness and opportunity seem out of reach as we become helpless and hopeless, with no choice or control.
We are encouraged to totally overestimate the power of medications to help us. Medications cannot change behaviour. Medications are considered to be a restrictive procedure. They are meant to supress feelings and cognitions that contribute to agitation. They do this primarily through cognitive interference or sedation. Over time all behaviours reappear despite the interference, and people are overmedicated as a result. The person, and their pain and suffering do not change, neither do they grow, which is necessary for humans to recover from suffering and to thrive. For so many more of us, all the time, this is the new normal and happiness is nowhere to be found.
The reality that life will always be full of fear, sadness, stress, hope, optimism, and joy is lost. Yet that is the human experience. Despite media portrayals, no one has a charmed life, without some pain and suffering. Some of us have a very difficult life where our capacity to express is repressed by the need to cope with experiences we do not know how to cope with. We need help, but do we need the diagnosis to define us and our lives? When we are safe and loved and believed in by the people who care for us, we are able to share our humanity. We can think about and recall our pain, suffering, joy and understanding, without it taking over. Compassion, support and love is so nurtures our ability to be a caring, feeling, thinking person, a survivor. If we never feel love and safety this can’t happen.
In ACT therapy the therapist teams up with you for recovery, through acceptance of the realities of life; commitment to practicing solutions and wellness; and focusing on self-compassion. Find your new normal.