Breaking the Cycle of Mental Illness

Posted by Travis Slagle on June 22, 2023

TravisSlagleAccording to the World Health Organization, mental health problems are now the leading cause of disability worldwide. Mental illness has become the largest pandemic in human history, and yet there still remains a stigma around talking about our feelings. We see the symptoms of mental illness all around us. We see it in our families, in our workplace, in our government, in our neighborhoods, and in our schools. It’s easy to see the problem in others, but we are often the last ones to notice it in ourselves.

Is it possible that we are all suffering from a mental illness? Are we not insatiably addicted to some form of distraction? Whether scrolling our phones to self-soothe or getting lost in the frenetic maze of our own thinking, it takes courage to slow down and turn our focus inwards. Fear and anxiety can be the catalyst for so much illness and dysfunction in the world, and so many of us don’t even know that we are anxious. In fact, we can be so adept at not feeling our emotions that we end up making ourselves physically sick from it.

Breaking the cycle of mental illness starts with being honest with ourselves because we will never be good listeners for others if we haven’t learned to listen to our own Self. There isn’t a line separating mental illness from mental health. We are each living examples of how to be sick and well at the same time. This is the nature of being human where so much of life exists within a spectrum that defies black and white thinking. Being hurt, scared, lonely, and sad is part of the human experience. When we learn to feel, we learn to find balance, hone our intuition, increase our resilience, and develop the sensibility to notice the subtle clues of our internal experience. Becoming self-aware and developing the wisdom to heal and grow is one of the many beautiful gifts of our life. We all get emotionally stuck, and we all have a tendency to make ourselves sick. These are uncomfortable moments that can teach us some of the most valuable lessons of our lives.

With time and a trusting relationship, we learn to sit with the discomfort, recognize the parts of ourselves that were previously hidden, and approach the emotions that we once suppressed with a curious mind. By working with a trusted therapist, we can learn to recognize when we are projecting our emotions onto others. Psychological healing occurs by expanding our awareness of the underlying issues beneath the symptoms and behaviors. We learn to develop a more loving response to ourselves knowing how we adapted in the context of our family of origin, and how those adaptive skills are still being applied in our relationships today.
How many of us unknowingly let the people we love carry the burden of our unhealed history? How many learned to perform for love and approval, to confuse love with anxiety, and put the needs of others ahead of our own? These were the twisted ideas and early attachment experiences that planted the seeds of codependency long ago. As the seeds grew, they formed the foundation of many of our families and social institutions making it even more difficult to figure out who we are, what we feel, and what we need.

What if mental illness was the common cold of humanity? What would change if we stopped pretending that we weren’t sick and stopped pointing the finger at others? How do we learn to be more self-aware and compassionate to our anxieties and our unique propensities toward neuroticism and suppression? As Dr. Reedy suggests, a key to enlightenment is “to be on speaking terms with our mental illness.” Inside the mystery of every illness, there is a clue to discover the medicine needed to treat it.

At an Evoke Intensive, we show up for you with that same love and commitment that is needed for you to show up for yourself. We don’t aim to fix, problem solve, or stand on a soapbox to lecture about what you “should” do. There’s no magic pill for treating mental illness and transforming our lives. The path to healing is going inward and learning to listen deeply to what the symptoms are trying to teach us. As the riddle goes, “We can’t heal what we don’t feel.”

During an Intensive, we create conditions of safety, comfort, and a welcoming spirit to help you explore deeper wisdom and discover the answers that are within you. Intensives offer adequate time and uninterrupted space to learn how to break the cycle of mental illness that has been carried through generations. Breaking the cycle of mental illness starts by recognizing it in ourselves. As the famous psychologist Carl Jung once said, “We cannot change anything until we learn to accept it.” The path to acceptance and letting go requires a capacity to make sense of the many parts of our lives, to make peace with our fears and anxieties, and discover a truth that lies beyond the polarity of sick and healthy.


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