(September 29, 2017)
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” in the mainstream Mental Health Field: What is it?
I started taking psychology classes about 34+ years ago (1983), and I only started becoming aware of this situation I’m about to describe in 2004, soon after finishing graduate school in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT), and after having about 4 years of consistent Vipassana meditation practice.
In the famous story by H. C. Andersen, an innocent child blurts out the obvious - that the Emperor was almost naked! The adults hadn't said anything due to fear and the power of conformity. So in a similar manner I will say this: The training of mainstream mental health practitioners is inadequate because it does not involve deep self-explorations in silence to explore consciousness and to know oneself beyond the limitations of language, beyond the limited dimensionality of concepts, in order to better understand themselves to better help their clients.
Shouldn’t this be a given, that anyone who is going to help others psychologically should know themselves very deeply, beyond the personality? The best therapists are those who have done exactly this on their own, either through self-education of various kinds or from experiencing severe life traumas.
The word “personality” comes from the ancient Etruscan word “persona” which means “a mask worn in a play.” In the training of psychologists/psychiatrists/psychotherapists the inner explorations are done only at the mask level: with epistemological and intellectual investigations and discussions of who we are with all our insecurities, biases, belief systems, personal histories, etc.
This is well intentioned but it simply doesn’t go deep enough. Shouldn’t the therapist explore who he/she is beneath the mask? Wouldn’t this seem to be of prime importance for all mental health practitioners? I noticed that this is the case in the clinical psychology/psychiatry programs in which friends were in, where they seemed to be so busy with an obsessive amount of busy work in their programs. This inadequacy was also present in my program: my teachers in graduate school were wonderful and open-minded, and the program was excellent, but it just has to do with the fact that the mainstream psychological model has been developed in the west, which is a very young culture when compared to the more ancient eastern cultures.
In these ancient cultures their main focus was the courageous exploration of consciousness; basically who we are beneath our masks at the foundation level of our existence. Did you know that modern science knows almost nothing about deeper consciousness? In science this is known as “The Hard Question.” This limitation is what deeply needs to be transcended in the training of mental health practitioners, otherwise the entire field’s legitimacy and efficacy is profoundly questionable. I heard of a very high level psychiatrist who admitted to a friend that modern pschiatry doesn't really know how the mind works. Well, this needs to be acknoledged publicly to cultivate true evolution in the mental health care field.
Anyways, I hope this has lit a lightbulb in your head. Remember this, “There is no growth in the comfort zone,” and growth is what our lives on this wonderful 4 ½ billion year old planet is all about.