What do you mean by “mental illness”?

We do not think that some people are “mentally ill” and others are not. Our understanding is that all people in our society accumulate hurts that affect how we live our lives and interact with others. Some people are diagnosed as “mentally ill” because their hurts cause them to exhibit behaviors that their society deems to be unacceptable. In our experience, anyone who is listened to well and supported to discharge the hurtful experiences from their past will be able to change any behaviors they decide to change. This includes people with diagnoses of “mental illness.” They can, with listening and support to discharge, change behaviors that have led to a diagnosis, recover from any difficult experiences in the “mental health” system, and again determine the course of their lives.

When we refer to the “mental health” system, we refer to the system of services intended to help people who have been diagnosed with “mental illness.” From our perspective, the people running this system, though fundamentally well-intentioned and helpful to some individuals, are limited by four main factors:

  • the system’s failure to understand how distress recordings, resulting from hurtful experiences, affect people’s functioning, and people’s inherent ability to heal from these hurts through discharge and re-evaluation
  • corruption of the “mental health” system by profit-seeking entities such as psychiatric drug corporations and residential facilities
  • discouragement of generations of “mental health” practitioners, which has led them to rely on drugs to address symptoms instead of working to free their clients from the hurts that limit their lives (in large part because they are unfamiliar with the role of discharge and re-evaluation)
  • that “mental health” professionals do not have opportunities to discharge so that their own hurts do not interfere with their ongoing ability to be counselors.

“Mental illness” diagnoses are usually made when someone is so preoccupied with something upsetting from their past that they don’t function in ways required by society. Sometimes, too, there are political or societal confusions about people’s behavior that lead to such a diagnosis – for example, a behavior might be acceptable in the person’s culture, but not accepted by the dominant society. There is no objective way to predict who will be diagnosed “mentally ill.” There is an imaginary line between those diagnosed “mentally ill” and those not. Supposedly some people are “crazy” and others are completely fine. By contrast, RC theory sees that everyone has hurts they need to heal from. Some people who are diagnosed “mentally ill” have more hurts than some who are not so diagnosed. Other people, who are not diagnosed, have a similar amount of hurts, but are able, for whatever reason, to put them aside and not become preoccupied with them. In any case, any person can recover from any past hurt, no matter how deeply affected they seem.

Here is a list of five broad reasons people are diagnosed as “mentally ill.” It is simplified for the sake of clarity, but may help demystify “mental health” diagnoses:

  • Displays of grief, or other types of emotions, that seem “out of control”.

The term “nervous breakdown” is an attempt to explain this situation. Nerves do not “break down.” Uninhibited displays of emotion are often a pattern “breaking down” and beginning to discharge. It may seem to observers, and to the person himself or herself, that the person cannot stop crying, but that isn’t the case. (The person always has the power to stop crying but the feelings, having been held in so long, make it feel overwhelmingly compelling to continue crying.) Until people have experienced a lot of discharge, they tend to feel uncomfortable with it. However, if you can remember a time when crying helped heal something, such as after the death of a close relative or friend, you will understand how the process of discharge works. Painful emotions will discharge through observable emotional release, such as crying, sobbing, tantrums, raging, perspiring, and shaking. Such emotional release is a natural, healing phenomenon and, if allowed to continue, it will serve to drain the past painful hurt.

  • People dramatizing (showing) their distress in ways that are not understood or accepted by those around them.

We use the term dramatizing distress to mean showing, or acting out, early hurts without being in a counseling session where there is help to discharge. For example, when adults yell at children they are dramatizing the way they were hurt when they were children, when their parents yelled at them. That type of dramatization is common and accepted in society. However, if someone believes they are the reincarnation of Jesus and acts on that belief, that type of dramatization is not accepted. If such a person is awarely listened to, long enough, he or she will eventually reveal the early hurts that have led to the dramatization. The person dramatizing is always, either awarely or unawarely, seeking help to release emotion from their early hurts, i.e. to discharge, in order to heal the hurt. Most people think nothing of the common, acceptable dramatizations and they don’t understand the other ones because they, themselves, have been cut off from the natural discharge and re-evaluation process. When one is cut off from discharge and re-evaluation, one doesn’t notice one’s own hurts very much nor the hurts of other people. The way people act seems unchangeable, especially when they act in ways that seem inexplicable. Not many people, seeing someone dramatizing unacceptably, think, “Oh, they must have had an early hurt.”

There are two ways of dramatizing distress that are virtually always seen as unacceptable, and are commonly diagnosed as “mental illness”:

  1. “Delusions”: “Delusions” are patterned recordings that a person has gotten preoccupied with. They may or may not be acted on; they may just be talked or thought about. (See basic RC theory explanation above.) When someone talks about their “delusions,” others may assume that the person believes that the “delusion” is real, and in fact some part of the person may believe it. When a person believes a “delusion” is real, a pattern has temporarily obscured the rational thinking of the person. However, if the person can get their attention disengaged from the “delusion” and decide to take their focus off it and/or discharge about it, it would no longer be obscuring their thinking.
  2. Acting, or being, completely unaware of their present surroundings for long periods of time: The person has not “lost her/his mind,” but their thoughts or awareness are focused in some distress of the past.
  • Hallucinations

When people are in hurtful situations, all the sights and sounds from the experience are recorded as part of the hurtful memory. When people later seek to release the painful emotion from that hurt in order to recover from it, they do not ordinarily hallucinate. However, if patterns have severely suppressed discharge, and one is in a life threatening situation or other crisis, one’s mind may bring up sights or sounds from the hurtful memory as things that one can actually hear or see as if they were real, instead of just remembered, in order to get discharge started. The isolated bits of memory usually have no obvious connection to anything in the present, because they are related only to the early hurt one is trying to heal, and so they often scare people who do not understand what is going on. These phenomena are called “hallucinations” and become part of diagnoses. (See basic RC theory explanation above.)

  • Circumstances

Diagnosing one person rather than another as “mentally ill” is often arbitrary. For example, doing certain activities in private rather than public view will avoid hospitalization. A person might scream angrily when alone in their house, and not be diagnosed, since no one would know. Another person might be locked up in a “mental hospital” because they happened to be in a public lobby when upset and screaming.

  • Oppression

Some people experience so much oppression that their lives are ruined by it, their actions blatantly show how they’ve been hurt by the oppression, and then they get blamed for it. Examples include women overwhelmed by sexist mistreatment and then, after childbirth, suddenly facing sexist expectations of them as mothers and becoming “depressed”; or African heritage teens having experienced racist violence and mistreatment in their neighborhood, unable to find work, and exploding in rage. Virtually everyone who is diagnosed “mentally ill” is a member of several oppressed groups, and what is labeled “mental illness” is actually their showing the hurts caused by oppression