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In the previous video, I shared how after suffering depression, I was inspired to learn about the real causes of depression and how that choice steered me into a whole new career as a psychotherapist. In this video, I’m going to share some of the crucial insights that I learned and I discovered during my training about mental illness and its causes.

Now this is the 13th video in a short series in which I’m going back over significant events in my own life, in mostly chronological order, in order to illustrate why I believe that I have the necessary knowledge, experience, and training to help other people who are struggling with life. And this is because I feel I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel I can cope with whatever life throws at me, and I want to help as many people as I can. I want to help you to live a life that’s relatively free from anxiety and stress.

Please ask me questions about this by commenting below!

   The previous video in this series: Do you really expect me to believe that?

Hello again. What do we really know about the causes of mental illness?

In the previous video, I shared how after suffering depression, I was inspired to learn about the real causes of depression and how that choice steered me into a whole new career as a psychotherapist. In this video, I’m going to share some of the crucial insights that I learned and I discovered during my training about mental illness and its causes.

Now this is the 13th video in a short series in which I’m going back over significant events in my own life, in mostly chronological order, in order to illustrate why I believe that I have the necessary knowledge, experience, and training to help other people who are struggling with life. And this is because I feel I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel I can cope with whatever life throws at me, and I want to help as many people as I can. I want to help you to live a life that’s relatively free from anxiety and stress.

And the card that I’m going to be using to illustrate my message in this short video is this one, the Stressed Plant, card number 22 in the Anxiety Freedom Cards.

So first of all, let’s dismiss one of the most common misconceptions about mental illness, and that is that it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Now we use models to understand the world. The value of having a model for an illness is that if it mirrors reality, then it’ll help us understand how to treat the illness. So if our model is that mental illness is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, then it also implies that if you want to overcome mental illness, you must address the chemical imbalance. So we take a pill, we take medication.

But I want you to think about this whole thing for a minute, this whole idea about chemical imbalance. We know that the brain manufactures a whole range of powerful chemicals, depending on what we’re doing and how we’re using our brain. It manufactures dopamine, which is a cocaine-like stimulant. It also manufactures endorphins, which is a morphine-like relaxant, and serotonin, which is connected with rewards and feeling good about life.

The point I’m trying to make is that the brain is a powerful chemical manufacturing plant. It makes a whole range of really powerful chemicals, according to how we are living our life. The question is, which comes first? I’m sure that if you looked inside the brain of someone who is depressed, you might see a difference in the level of serotonin in that brain.

But which comes first? Is it the chemical imbalance that causes the illness, or is it something about the way that we’re living life that causes the chemical imbalance?

The problem is that the pharmaceutical industry has been feeding us this message for many years that it’s caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. And the problem is that there’s very little money to be made from telling people that we can reduce mental illness by empowering people, by educating them, and by spreading knowledge about innate needs and the real causes of mental illness. And because there’s no money in it, then nobody’s going to do any research into it, so there’s no evidence to support this approach, or at least not the kind of evidence that’s generally regarded as scientific, you know, randomised control trials and that kind of thing.

So suggesting that mental illness, whether it’s ADHD, depression, or some kind of personality disorder, is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain is like suggesting to this plant that it’s stressed because there’s something inherently wrong with it. And yet we know that if a plant is struggling in this way, if we give it water or light or a big enough pot or if we talk to it, if we provide it with what it needs, provided it hasn’t been irreparably damaged by the stress it’s undergone, you know, if it was lacking water, it might’ve become quite dried out, if it hasn’t become too damaged, then it will return to thriving when its needs are met in balance. So one thing that we do know is that stress often precedes mental illness, either acute stress like a significant event, a traumatic event, or buildup of stress over a long period of time, chronic stress.

And another example is that you may have heard that there is a genetic component to the illness that’s known as schizophrenia. But you might also be interested to know that you have a higher chance of developing schizophrenia if you grow up in a particular deprived area of Nottingham than if both your parents have been diagnosed as sufferers of schizophrenia. So we need to keep these different factors in context.

Now Joe Griffin, one of the co-founders of the Human Givens approach, and I’m a Human Givens practitioner, points out that every single living thing comes into the world with things that it needs to get from its environment. And it also comes into the world with a guidance system, a sort of a set of inner resources that are used for getting those needs met. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a sunflower seed, a mouse, or a human being. The way that we come into the world and the way that our resources are tailored to our needs is not a random thing.

You know, plants put down roots looking for specific things in the soil, in the nutrition. If a plant is suffering, if it’s stressed, it doesn’t need fixing. You don’t have to go in with a scalpel and dig up the roots and mend it. Quite often, the answer is to look to what’s missing and to get that need better met.

Now Joe Griffin points out that there are three ways that needs may end up not being met. And the first is that if the environment is toxic, then you can’t get your needs met in that environment. So if you’re in a workplace situation where there is bullying going on, there’s very little you can do about your own mental health while you’re under that kind of stress. Perhaps the solution is to remove yourself from that situation, not always easily done. But being aware that actually the environment has to be supportive of life, and if the environment is toxic, then we can’t get our needs met and we may suffer stress. And that may eventually tip over into mental ill health.

The second reason is that we believe that there’s a sort of a 50/50 balance between nature and nurture. We come into the world with this guidance system, but we have to be taught how to use it. So our culture supports the way that we interact with other human beings in order to get our needs met. And if we haven’t been given a supportive start in life, we haven’t been taught how to connect to other people, how to learn, how to achieve things, then of course, we may not be able to use our innate resources effectively to get our needs met. So a lack of relevant education or supportive introduction to the world might be a second factor.

And the third is damage to our guidance system. And that might be physical or emotional damage. Physical damage, obviously, injury, but emotional damage such as traumatic events can also prevent us from being able to utilise our natural resources to get our needs met. So stress can be described as unmet needs. Time and time again in the therapy room, I’ve seen clients’ symptoms fade away once they get their needs met in balance.

I’ll give you an example. I’m going to change the name, but let’s call him Tom. A man in his 60s who came to me, he was retired from the MOD. He had incredible anxiety. In fact, in the first session, he was banging his head against the wall of the therapy room. His journey was fairly long, and it took a little while to untangle what was going on, but basically he was living pretty much in isolation. And my intervention as a therapist was to almost drag him by the hand and get him to join in with groups, with other people. At first, I tried some, he was interested in indoor bowling. But that didn’t quite work out, and I remember taking him to a U3A, that’s the University of Third Age, meeting locally, where he met some people. And actually, in the end, he ended up volunteering for a charity. And in his volunteering capacity, he started to integrate with people, started to talk to people, they started to respect him, he started to feel he was achieving something. He got his needs met in balance, and his symptoms just fell away. I didn’t have to fix the symptoms.

So the point about this is that we need to stop asking what is wrong
with people. You know, we need to stop asking what is wrong with this plant and start asking, what’s happened to it, or what’s happened to people? What have they survived? And also to help them to figure out what it is they actually need.

So if you find this interesting or in particular, if you’ve got any questions about this, please ask me. Please leave a comment below. Scroll down, leave a comment. My work involves talking to lots of people who are struggling, and I know I’ve helped many people in the past by talking about these things. And if you interact, it will help me reach more people and help more people.

If you’ve got a question, also you can put it here today and I will address it in my live Q&A session this Friday, which is at two o’clock in the afternoon, Greenwich Mean Time.

And whatever else you’re doing, don’t forget to keep breathing.

Thank you.

Alec

 

   The previous video in this series: Do you really expect me to believe that?