So…. I was having a major (almost one-sided) debate about the myth of mental illness on a popular social media site.
I was providing factual information about the incorrect assumption that neuro-divergence (psychosis, autism, bipolar, anxiety etc.) is the result of illness. I won’t get into it here, but the research over the past 60-70 years plus does NOT support the medical model of neuro-divergence.
Anywho, a fellow PhD student, who arguably should know better, piped up and began arguing for the genetic heritability of ‘mental illness’ – but from a purely subjective, personal perspective and belief-system – no facts, theories, research etc.
Behind my keyboard I got angry, frustrated and anxious.
Angry, because she was being illogical, providing purely subjective personal opinion about the subject, regardless of the facts and research I was referring to (and the fact that 15-or-so years prior I had the same perspective as her and ‘Joe/Josephine Public’, until I read and researched all the arguments for and against the medical model of differential mental health experiences, and was shocked to determine that I was wrong, and that the research supporting e.g. the dopamine hypothesis of psychosis is deeply flawed, inaccurate, and down-right falsely advertised).
Frustrated, because this was the kind of ignorance, stereotyping and stigma I am trying to eradicate in my PhD research. If I can’t reason with an academic, how can I hope to help the young and the self-stigmatisers who believe the dominant stereotyping narrative?
Anxious, because I hate confrontation, full-stop. But also, what if at some-point the research I read proves me wrong (*it hasn’t thus far)? But this would destroy my social and personal narrative – how I make sense of the world. Would destroy my reason for doing my research.
And, in the shower, it hit me: this woman, when I really read what she was saying, was just defending a personal narrative that helps her make sense of her world.
She, like everyone, was scared of the unknown, the unexplainable, the chaos of humanity and being human. I threatened that narrative. And as Terror Management Theory states (a theory about the threat to the theories that we make that protect us from the terror of death and the uncontrollable state of human life): when our narrative we construct about the world is threatened, we more readily defend and protect it, as this protects us.
And so, I decided to let it go. To forgive her for her lack of understanding and open-mindedness. She is just another scared human being trying to make sense and bring about a modicum of control in the chaos of human life.
In reality this forgiveness took the form of a personal message saying that I empathise and sympathise with having psychosis run in the family, and thanked her for the debate.
This forgiveness, although not stated outright, out-loud, allowed me to feel calmer and not so overwhelmed.