Lets start with the premise that we are all a bit crazy. We don’t like the word mental illness, but isn’t that the truth of it, that we are in fact all a bit mentally ill?
The question is more about where on the spectrum do we fall between the Dalai Lama and Ted Bundy.
Mental illness is the human condition. It is likely a mix of nurture and genetics. We (most of us hopefully) get to wrestle with these demons our whole lives as we attempt to minimize the consequences to those around us.
If we are lucky, we all spend our lives recovering from “something”–often multiple things. Sometimes we even use things to help us cope only to find out later we have to recover from them too. Sometimes, tragically, we die before we even become aware there is anything to recover from.
I am sure you can find things to add to the inadequate list below of things we all recover from (or don’t):
- narcissism (some argue this one cannot be recovered from—lets see if we can prove that wrong)
- conspiracy theories
- social media
- any one of 100 addictions
- physical abuse
- mental abuse
- toxic relationships
- loss of a child
- loss of a spouse
- loss of a parent
- pop music
It is one of the rules you did not get at birth: “you will not live long enough to recover from everything.”
Sometimes it seems we cannot control the damage we do to others. While there might not be any conscious malice involved, it does not change the fact that we all inflict our illness on others as we are all affected by the illnesses of others. It is probably another symptom of illness to think this can be avoided.
As parents, the best we can hope for is that we give our children the tools (or they are lucky enough to pick them up elsewhere) to recover from our “gifts” and they in turn pass on different ones to their kids and for them to their kids.
The evolution of humanity seems like a stream of institutionalized illness that struggles with whether the pendulum swings toward the Dalai Lama and Neil deGrasse Tyson or the likes of Donald Trump and Ted Bundy.
“Choice” is a rudder we can use to steer this crazy ship. When we deliberately make choices that support our inner Bundy instead of our inner Lama, we take steps backward instead of forward.
Sometimes it amounts to choosing the best of a collection of bad choices.
We all, in the course of our lives, make lots of poor choices countered by good choices and at no point can one reliably state where the pendulum has taken them. It is what it is, is no consolation.
We long for the black and white when all there is is grey.
It is even normal to assume that what we choose is the correct choice–even when it clearly is not. It would be unusual for us to actually ask the question, “is this a move toward Lama or Bundy?” That would just seem silly. We prefer to “wing it” and assume that if one can think it, it must be true. Trusting what one thinks without first putting it under the microscope is perhaps just another state of dis-ease. Regardless, our thinking all too often just gives us some new adventure to recover from.
To the degree there is confusion, we create imaginary friends to get us through the night.
"There are so many things in the dark to be afraid of that are not there." The Movie Jamestown
We create God. We create the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, and/or Donald Trump. We get desperate and think if we can force others share our kind of illness, we will all seem healthy (normal) in our agreement. We all get to wave the same flag. This is fascism—a clear move away from the Lama toward the Bundy. It is merely a mask.
A human charade.
What masks are we willing to rip off?