Psychology and psychotherapy, at their best, can be opportunities for self-knowledge and well-being. While it’s true that any of us can become seriously troubled with psychological problems, we do so usually because we fail to understand our own psychology, not because we are “sick” or “ill.”
Science and technology have made great progress. We all enjoy things that would have been unimaginable to people living 100 years ago. Smart phones, GPS devices, computers, cars, planes were all just dreams not long ago. We make time to learn how to make good use of this technology. But we often don’t make the time to learn how to use our minds well. Our culture does not seem to value learning how to “live psychologically.”
That’s a shame because we suffer tremendously as a result.
For example, if our schools taught us how to manage our thoughts and feelings, not only would there be much less suffering in the world, but we’d be a lot healthier in mind and body. We now know that “negative self talk” is at the core of problems such as anxiety and depression. And chronic anxiety and depression drive the behaviors that lead to substance abuse, heart disease, diabetes and other debilitating illnesses.
Negative self talk results from our mismanaged thoughts and feelings. This sets the stage for a vicious cycle of negative states of mind and inaccurate, but powerful, negative assumptions about ourselves and our lives. We need to learn how to respect the power of our thoughts and feelings. They can create joy and well-being, or woe and misery. If we learn how to manage our thoughts and feelings, we’ll be able to have more joy and less misery.
We pay a steep price for our wrong assumptions about what is “normal and healthy.” We tend to evaluate our own lives on the basis of these false assumptions. One false assumption that leads us astray is the idea that normal and healthy people have one stable identity, a trouble free “I” or “me.”