Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The tragic loss of Robin Williams: depression, suicide and why we need to revise our judgments on and understanding of this issue

So, I've got to weigh in on the loss of Robin Williams a bit further here, and I'm going to do so because it's important to speak out about the issue of mental illness. Here goes...

  I'm a bit stunned at the number of people out there who are belittling the great Robin Williams' life, his genius, the laughter, joy and better understanding of life and humanity that he has brought to us all. These people are making these judgments simply because he was struggling with mental illness. I would like to remind such people to reign in that judgment a tad.
 After all, mental illness isn't a choice. It's not a test to be passed or failed. It's not a weakness or a personal shortcoming. It is a chemical imbalance within one's brain. It doesn't matter how "strong" or "weak" someone is or how much "faith" or "conviction" they have. It doesn't matter what a person "has to live for." Mental illness, like many physical illnesses and ailments, claims lives. 
 When mental illness hits, it's like a freight train mowing you down in it's path. Sometimes you see it coming, other times you don't, but oftentimes even if you do, you are still powerless to move out of it's way. I work with clients who struggle with mental illness every day of their lives. It is a very serious and unfortunately stigmatized and little understood state of being (and yes, it consumes your whole being) which has to be fought on a daily basis. 
 So, let's try to move away from treating Mr. Williams' life and death like a failed experiment simply because his life was claimed an illness, and a very serious and pervasive one at that, and try to move toward showing him some compassion and understanding. Suicide is never the answer, but sometimes it isn't a choice. A mentally ill person isn't always capable of making correct decisions because their brain isn't functioning properly. Think of a healthy brain as an excel spreadsheet with the correct values set into it-basically, the factory settings have been programmed into it. If you input 1+1, the properly set spreadsheet will give you a 2 in the next column. 
 Now think of a mentally ill person's brain as an excel spreadsheet which has been messed with-the values have been improperly entered. Entering 1+1 into their mental "spreadsheet" might garner a totally different answer. A person with a "normally" functioning brain might scoff at the idea of someone else not being able to decipher a mathematical problem as seemingly simple as 1+1 equaling 2, but the only reason they can solve such a problem correctly in the first place is because their brain is set to it's proper "factory settings." What I'm trying to say is that this is a matter biological imperative and not personal failing, so let's try to come to some sort of understanding of that before we throw value judgments at Robin Williams. Yes, we all feel badly for his family. Yes, we all agree that this was a tragic end to a great life. No, no one here thinks that suicide is ever the answer. But perhaps Robin Williams' brain was telling him that the answer to his equation was to end his life, and if it was, we should be compassionate about that, not make uninformed comments about how he "failed the test" of life, how "karma is coming his way" or how he was "selfish" for leaving his family/leaving the world this way/etc. I hope this blog post helps those who've taken the time to read it to better understand why judgment-namely judgment that holds a mentally ill person to the same standards that we hold mentally healthy people to-is not the way to go here. 

For more information on depression, and what it is and isn't, what it's symptoms consist of and what you can do about it if you feel you may be struggling with it, please visit the website below:

If you feel that you or someone close to you may be struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, please visit the websites below AFTER you call the crisis intervention line listed there: 


As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, August 8, 2014

People Worshipping (Namely Among The Spiritual Community)

People Worshipping (more to come later)

  Let me just bring up an issue that is close to my heart and a bit troublesome...it's called people worshipping and it's based off of the notion of hero worship, which extends back to times before the written word was even a "thing." One can find examples of hero worship in the earliest myths and legends of the most ancient cultures. In cultures across the world (Aztec, Greek, Roman, Babylonian just to name a few), the gods and goddesses were exalted and held above human kind. Consequently, their priests and priestesses were as well. There is a reason why as a friend reminded me recently, the hats of priest, magician, and healer were all worn by the same person during such times. The priests, priestesses and prophets of the gods were exalted as being nearly godlike themselves. They were so sought after that people would make grueling trips from all over civilization just to meet with the oracles, prophets, priests and priestesses of a specific god or goddess. Since the beginning of time, humans have been looking outside of themselves for that which they can only truly find within, and although we consider ourselves modern, civilized and past such unevolved, illogical behavior today, consider this-we are still seeking the exact same comfort, solace and gratification, but instead of seeking it through oracles, prophets, priests, priestesses, alchemists and magicians, we seek out Deepak Chopra's, Dr. Drew's, Dr. Phil's and Dr. Oz's, the same people who thousands of years ago would've been priestesses, priests, oracles, magicians, prophets or alchemists. Unfortunately, just like way back in days of old, this field is still rife with snake oil salesmen. 
 Of course, many of those of us within the wellness and personal development field are hardworking, caring and honest, but there is no small number within our ranks of those of who are anything but. That is, of course, up to the prospective client to determine, but people still come from all over civilization, which admittedly has grown a tad since days of yore to have their questions answered and seek to have their life's dreams fulfilled. Some seek only guidance and a helping hand, while others seek out a hero-someone to worship, someone to be saved by and someone to blame for their problems when the time inevitably comes that the individual realizes that they haven't been saved. 
  I'd like to share with you some information from my point of view and my own experiences. I notice that, as I pointed out earlier, a lot of people worshipping goes on in our culture today. We are truly predisposed to the concept of worship, and unfortunately much of that worship can be seen within my profession. Although I do understand the human tendency to seek out heroes to worship and model themselves after, I honestly question how such people get by in life without constantly being manipulated or taken for a ride. I am only willing to speak for myself here, and not for other practitioners and healers of course. That being said, I doubt if many of them will disagree with what I'm about to say. If I tell a client something, whatever that thing may be, I want that client to question it at least in their own minds if not out loud. I'm not suggesting that they be nasty or unnecessarily combative with their wellness practitioners, but I certainly am suggesting that we as human beings should get in the habit of questioning everything! What are we here in these bodies, walking around in this world for, if not to affect the world around us and to learn for ourselves by thinking, communicating AND by doing? If we sit by, inactively, and take everything anyone in a position of power or influence tells us as gospel and dedicate ourselves to that person, way of thinking or cause, isn't that in itself a means of devaluing ourselves? And why seek out a healer of any sort just to end up devaluing ourselves in the end? We're not here to be passive or to follow someone else's word or deed with vigor, lust and zeal. We are here to follow our own path with vigor, lust and zeal and to make our own word our deed and to trust in ourselves first and foremost. We are here to dedicate ourselves to ourselves and to have and develop faith in our SELF as a whole. Only then can we make sure that the world around us is in fact better for having us in it. Rather than being doggedly loyal and faithful to a certain cause, system of belief or "guru," we should be doggedly loyal and faithful to ourselves. Happiness, confidence, stability and success come from within. Spiritual, mental and emotional healers, practitioners and counselors like me are here to help you to find that within your SELF and for your SELF, not to doggedly pursue us and declare your undying loyalty to us. 
 And as to those of us who work within this field, as far as our clients are concerned, to encourage or allow the sort of dysfunctional situation described above is actually the complete opposite of what a successful client-practitioner relationship should look like. I for one don't want my clients proclaiming that I'm Goddess or that I'm their sole teacher and that I alone know the meaning of life. I want my clients leaving their sessions with me, thinking 'I am more confident in my own path and I am finding meaning my own way in my own life and I love myself and respect myself and fully realize that's what matters.' I want them to be able to utilize the tools necessary to answer their own questions rather than to depend on me for answers every time. I may be able to tell you what you've done, thought said, etc in life and in fascinating detail, and what you will do, think and say in the future. I may be able to speak with spirit and communicate with your loved ones who have passed on. I may be able to marry people, separate people, give sacrament and last rites, counsel people, and heal people physically and energetically, but it is still YOU who has to live your life, know your SELF and know what life means to you. You have to formulate your own beliefs and your own belief system and you have to make your life what you want it to be. I'm just here to help you along the way, so why not dedicate yourself to you, proclaim your greatness and have complete confidence and trust in yourself? I think you will find that your life changes for the better once you do. And that's what I want for my clients in the first place. 


First Question [podcast] Belle Gunness short show notes

​ Listen to THIS episode of First Question here! Born as Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth Belle Gunness, nee Paulsen was born in Christiania, ...