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Opening and closing doors

Posted Nov 11 2011 11:03pm

Experiences are defined by the lessons they teach.  Every experience has one of three possible outcomes.  It may leave you worse off.  In some sense it may diminish you.  It may reduce your capacity to cope.  It may reduce your ability to connect with others.  It may bring into question your sense of purpose in life.  It may result in your perceptions and your orientation towards life not being as accurate or as effective as it once was.  It may add distress that you carry with you into the experiences that follow.

It may not affect you in any qualitative way.  It may not weaken you, but it may not leave you better off or more equipped in life.  If there was something you  could have gained from the experience you didnt.  If there was something you could have lost you didnt.  In the scheme of things, it just wasnt a big deal.  It had minimal impact on who you are and how you live.

The third possibility is that you may learn valuable lessons or skills  that help you to be more successful or happy in life.  You may, in effect, be a better person for what you went through.  Although it may be painful or difficult the net effect of the experience may be to make you stronger, more skilled, wiser, more encouraged, more connected with others or have a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in life.

A friend summed it up well.  Things are either door openers or door closers.

I have known people diagnosed with a mental illness to have found the act of being diagnosed as a profound door closer.  The message they took from the experience was that life was limited, they were deficient and broken, and their ability to plan and be in charge of their own life was limited.  They felt like the diagnosis reduced them to a label and much of what was important to them or about them left out.

I have known people whose experience of diagnosis was that it was a door opener.  One friend explained it this way.  “There was an elephant in the room for a long time.  I just never knew who he was. Now he has a name.  I can fight against things that have a name.  I am glad I know.”

My experience has been that naming things helps.  But it helps when they are a hypothesis to be tested.  Names help if they take you to a place worth going.  Names dont help when they are a judgement of truth.  There is a large difference between telling me what you think it going on and telling me who I am and what my life can be.  Maybe it is a function of how the people who make the diagnosis approach it.  Diagnosis as a tool may or may not work.  As I have said in other posts the measure is the outcomes it leads to.  Diagnosis as a judgement almost always acts to reduce life and to injure the people diagnosed.

Take a look and look at all your experience and rank them 1-10.  1 means that experience is always a door closer.  10 means it is a door opener.  Look at your experience in the mental health system and use the same ranking system.  Too many people I know rank too much of their experience close to 1 than to 10.

A younger kid I knew once told me his idea of the secret of life.  “Dont make bad situations worse.”  It might serve as a great guide for the mental health  system.


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