A Return to Mental Health (#751)

“Wisdom is not learned – it is unfolded from within one’s own consciousness.”Syd Banks

Over the past few years my work has evolved from an interventionist, technique based approach to something which could be fairly accurately described as “conversational coaching”. We talk, something new gets heard, and people’s lives transform.

I have heard whisperings from the community chalking up this change to everything from a marketing ploy to a religious conversion, yet the truth is far simpler.  I’ve seen some fundamental things about the human experience and how life works that make my old technique based approach seem as uncomfortable to me as a velour shirt and a pair of disco pants – they may come back into style but I’ll never again look at them as “cool”.

While I do my best to share bits of what I saw (and continue to see) on the radio and in each week’s tip, today I want to point to something which is absolutely at the core of this new understanding – our innate mental health.

I heard a lovely illustration of this idea in conversation with Robert C. Kausen, a teacher and consultant in this approach for many years.  He was telling me about a friend of his from high school who was training for his pilot’s license.

During his first solo flight, he lost control of his Piper Cub “trainer plane” high above the ground.  The more he tried to bring the plane back under his control, the more wildly it span, and his conversation with the tower went something like this:

Pilot: Mayday! Mayday! I’ve lost control of the plane- please advise!

Tower: Take your hands and feet off the controls – I repeat, take your hands and feet off the controls!

Imagine yourself for a moment as that young pilot.  You are spinning wildly out of control, clearly heading for a devastating crash, and the person who’s supposed to be looking out for your safety and well-being is telling you to let go of the controls of the plane.

Is he insane?  Does he have some kind of a personal vendetta against you that you don’t know about?

Pilot: Negative, Tower – repeat, I have lost control of the plane!  I’m trying everything I know to do to to bring it back under control but I just can’t do it!  Please, just tell me what to do!

Tower: This is a matter of life and death – take your hands and feet off the controls – do it NOW!

What the young pilot didn’t know (and the air traffic controller clearly did) is that trainer planes have a self-righting mechanism built in to them.  When you let go of the controls, the plane levels itself out.  Once the plane is back onto an even keel, the pilot can take over again and steer the plane back to safety – which is exactly what happened in the case of Robert’s young friend.

So how does this apply to us?

Here’s how I’ve written about it previously:

There is a power beyond us that seems to work through us in the direction of health and well-being – a sort of psycho-spiritual immune system that will bring a return to peace the moment we step out of the way.  I wouldn’t even think of trying to heal my own cut finger; I needn’t try so hard to heal my wounded psyche.

The reason so few of us get to experience that power working in our lives is that we are so busy trying to fix everything for ourselves.  And ironically, like the pilot overworking the controls of a plane designed to right itself, our constant affirmations and interventions often get in the way of our mind’s return to clarity and health.

It’s difficult trying to “not fix things” when you’re convinced that they’re broken and even more difficult when you’re convinced that they’re getting worse.  So if that’s where you’re at, don’t worry about it – fix away!

But in a quieter moment (and we all have our quieter moments), consider the possibility that healthy psychological functioning is the default and your natural state is “well”.  And if your willing to take your hands and feet off the controls, you just might find yourself returning to that natural state more and more and more of the time.

When you do, you will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that place of peace inside you isn’t just somewhere to visit when you get stressed out by life – it’s your psychological and spiritual home.

With love,
Michael

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