Re-Imagining Relationships for Mental Health
What if we stopped looking at mental health issues as ‘things’ to be fixed, eliminated or worked on, and instead looked at them as beautiful emergent masterpieces of life, that are adaptive, fluid, healthy, collective and normal?
The underlying idea is that we (Mental Health Practitioners) would: ‘help’, ‘support’, ‘guide’ the folx we work with through the challenges that they are facing, to re-enter their community, with more efficient tools to manage their issues next time.
However, in doing so we uphold, and perpetuate, systems and structures that support problem-focused pathology, diagnosis, and treatment that continues to emphasise a colonialistic, ‘white’, individualistic, dualistic, hierarchical value system. What might it look like to instead put emphasis on intuition, cooperative meaning making, genuine diversity and collective wellbeing, that acknowledges multiple perspectives and experiences?
Recently in a post on instagram Ijeomo Oluo stated, ‘If there is one thing I’ve learned in 2020, it’s that everything you put into community you get back tenfold.’
What if this could be our primary approach to mental health? What if we expand our community to include our thoughts, the plants, the air, the animals, the people and the energy that we surround ourselves with?
Everyone has experienced some form of anxiety, depression or trauma in their life. Could you imagine if instead of having feelings of shame, guilt or fear creep in, instead of feeling like something was ‘wrong’ and needed ‘fixing’, you felt utterly accepted by your human community as well as the physical community around you? And you knew on a cellular and cosmic level that your community(s) could hold your whole truth with radical love, acceptance and accountability?
Wooof, It gives me chills to think about. Complete acceptance. Honoring what comes with radical acceptance. Each one of us is the way we are for a specific reason. What are those reasons? When is the last time you reflected on, and honored, them? It is the acknowledgement of these reasons that enables the possibility for transformation. How can we create more spaces for ourselves, and our communities, where people, and their reasons, are honored?
The most significant factor associated with ‘therapeutic change’ is not the years of experience of the therapist, nor the clinical approach, nor the number of years in therapy, but instead the ‘therapeutic alliance’ (which is really just a fancy term for the relationships involved with the therapy).
“I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings!
My hopes rose high and me thought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust.
The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou camest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say `What hast thou to give to me?’
Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee.
But how great my surprise when at the day’s end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little gram of gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all.”
— Rabindranath Tagore (from Gitanjali)
It’s ALL about togetherness, the community(s). It’s ALL about relationships. What might it look like to develop a heart to give thee my all?
Lead Author: Rosie O’Connor
Rosie O’Connor is a healer and social worker in unceded Duwamish territory often referred to as Seattle. She enjoys disrupting the status quo to integrate a more human centered lens to the intersection of mental health, healing, international politics, and basic human interactions. In her personal and professional work, she hopes to curiously interrogate the stories we tell ourselves, particularly with respect to systems of privilege and oppression, in the hopes of collective liberation. It is with radical hope and love that I move through this life. Feel free to reach out for coaching, conversation or questions at wildroseshealing.com.
Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph (editing, small additions and Tagore poem)
Daniel Rudolph is interested in exploring alternative, experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages. He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. Currently he is spending a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings. He also enjoys writing and sharing poetry. Daniel is a very curious and playful person and is always open for creative collaborations.