What do we call a thing, when you think you know something about how people fit in a box, and then you treat people based upon how you think they fit in that box, what do we call that? We call it racism. We call it bigotry. We call it discrimination. That’s exactly what we call it.
But in the field of psychotherapy, that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re taking people, we’re doing tests on them, and we say, “Hey, we’ve determined that you have this disorder.” Right? Like depression. So based on what I know about depression, I’m gonna treat you based upon how you fit in this box. And that’s ridiculous. That is not how people heal.
Do you know the number one thing that people heal from? Number one. There’s research about this. Time and time again, it always comes out true. Do you know what it is? A hug is literally the most healing thing in the world.
How many of you guys have ever had an experience where you were a child? I’m talking young, 5, 6, 4, you know, young. And you can’t sleep at all, and you go beg your mother, “Can I please lay in the bed with you?” And you fall right asleep? You ever have that happen?
You remember being a kid outside playing, and you fall and you skin your knees, kill your skin, your elbow, your mother puts a bandaid on it, and then she kisses the bandaid. You feel better.
Why is that? ‘Cause human beings heal through connection. That’s how we do it. That’s how we’ve always done it. It’s how we always will do it. We heal through connection.
So how would you feel? Everybody in this room happens to be female. How would you feel if I said to you, “I read a book about how to treat women, so I now know everything there is to know about how to treat women. So your women’s issues, I’m an expert and I now know how to do therapy with you.” Would you enjoy that? No, not at all. You wouldn’t enjoy that and you would have a very difficult time connecting with me, right? Because I’ve just put you in a box and then I’ve told you I studied the box, so now I know how to treat you.
That’s what we do in the field of psychotherapy, and I hate it. I think we’re absolutely treating people how to be discriminatory and we know that’s not how people heal.
My mother struggles with bipolar disorder. It’s actually the reason I live in Texas. My mother had a manic episode in 1995. We didn’t know what the heck that was. At the time we were calling it a nervous breakdown. She spent some time in a hospital. When she got outta the hospital, she needed to leave the environment in which my abusive father existed. We had family in Texas, Chicago, and California.
So we asked my mother, “Where would you like to live?” Not Massachusetts, which is where we were at the time. My mother said, “California’s too expensive. Chicago’s too cold. (That’s where she grew up.) So I guess we’ll go to Texas.” So here we are.
If my mother came to see you, I beg you to not treat her like a bipolar disorder client. Treat her like my mom. Treat her like she’s somebody’s mom. Treat her like she’s somebody’s loving breathing thing. I can’t live without my mother. And it’s horrible to me that we treat people like their diagnosis. You can hear when people say it. Those of you doing their internship, how many times have you heard somebody say things like, “Oh, I gotta go. I got this depressed client I gotta see at such and such a time.”
It’s a horrible way to describe people. That’s not how human beings heal. We heal through connection. We heal specifically through non-judgmental connection, right? That’s how we do it. But that’s not what we’re taught.
We’re actually taught judgment stereotypes. We’re actually taught discrimination. And we need to stop doing that.
The reason that I fell in love with Solution Focused Brief Therapy (and it is the only model I have ever practiced). Well, that’s not true. In the early, in the early part of my career, they tried to make me do cognitive behavioral therapy, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it. And the reason I couldn’t do it, it was bringing my depression back. Because in order to practice something like cognitive behavioral therapy, which I’m not here to bash, I have to think about the person I’m talking to and their deficits. And that was causing me to look at my deficits, and that was causing me to be depressed.
If Lizzie came to me for therapy. You look like a fine, upstanding human. And obviously you’re accomplished and done some things, but I’d have to find your cognitive distortions, your flawed thinking, your maladaptive behaviors. And it was making me look at mine, which is a problem.
You guys ever see a kindergarten teacher who’d been teaching kindergarten for 40 years? They talk to everybody like they’re six. Your brain acclimates to what you do to it.
So if all day long, I look at Lizzie and I say, “Ugh. We gotta find your cognitive distortions and your maladaptive thinking, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And then Lizzie leaves and there’s another client. And I do that eight times a day. I do that five, six days a week. I do that month over month, year over year. When I look in the mirror, what do you think I’m gonna see? I’m not gonna see my own brilliance. I’m gonna see my own flaws.
The scariest thing about the human experience is you will find what you look for. If Lizzie goes home today and she wants to look in the mirror and find the greatest human being that’s ever lived, she’ll find evidence that she is in fact the greatest human being that’s ever lived.
But if she looks in the mirror and she wants to find evidence that she is the worst creature that God has ever created, she’ll find that too, right?
So part of the human experience is to be able to look in the mirror and trigger your own resilience by just looking for your own inherent brilliance.