By Roger C. Mills, Ph.D.
As Psychology has striven to become more of a science, it seems that we have unintentionally gotten further away from seeing and addressing the basic humanity in people. We have evolved in the direction of identifying more and more external, environmental and biological factors that seemingly impact mental health. As a consequence, we have moved away from helping our clients access such inherent human attributes as insight, understanding, common sense, free will, humor and a real appreciation for their own other more “humane” capacities, such as caring, love, self worth, forgiveness, giving and empathy. My colleagues and I found, in our work over the last thirty years, that these are very real, universal human qualities that can themselves be used to improve and insure mental health. These are not qualities we can teach as acquired skills, but are inborn and natural to everyone.
Psychology, looking for a more scientific foundation in the 1950’s and 60’s, adopted a more strictly behavioral model, with Skinnerian assumptions about the primary importance of behavioral conditioning via external reinforcements. We were all viewed as products of patterns of rewards and punishments, almost like trained animals that could not break out of the box of conditioning, but perhaps, through new reinforcements find better conditioning. Thus we moved away from looking at free will or self understanding and discernment.
Another factor in this trend has been current popularity of biochemical and genetic explanations for emotional and behavioral patterns. These trends have caused the field to move more toward mechanistic and engineering views of human psychology. These factors have made the field less responsive to the basic humanity and capacity for understanding that makes us genuinely human. Even innocently assuming that we can fix people who are broken, in itself, dis-empowers people, taking them further from recognizing their true potential for being wise and healthy. Our innate, universal human capacities, we have found, are those that open up a mental health that is more powerful and more positive than better coping or better conditioning, or even managing symptoms through medication.
After thirty plus years of university, government and foundation funded pilot demonstration programs, doctoral research and clinical follow-ups, my colleagues and I are convinced that it is our innate, fully human, inherently positive attributes, prior to conditioning or biochemistry, that provide the most direct route to mental health, no matter what the affliction or diagnoses. These attributes are, in a sense,” god given” capacities that my colleagues and I would now say, connect our basic consciousness, soul and spirit to our psyche. From recognizing this connection, we now know that everyone is connected deep inside to a state of mind that is healthy and wise.
In our view, this state of mind does not originate in the brain, and is therefore outside the realm of biochemistry and genetics. It is created from our connection, as humans with consciousness, to what some call the human spirit, to the deeper intelligence of life. This intelligence was most recently re-discovered by an ordinary man who had an extraordinary experience. Sydney Banks, through a spontaneous revelation, realized this intelligence to be a life energy that is in all things. It is the intelligence that is behind nature.
Immersed in Wisdom: Contrary to many theoretical formulations, we would posit that we are actually “hard wired”, or connected directly to, this intelligence. Both wisdom and creativity stem from tapping into this intelligence. Everyone can tap into this intelligence as we are immersed in it just by being alive. Every insight comes from this intelligence. Throughout all of our work over the last thirty years we have found that wisdom and the deep feelings of well being that come with this intelligence are themselves the most effective cures for mental illness and mental torment.
This may seem like a strong statement. Yet understanding the very scientific, straightforward and logical Principles behind this view makes it compelling and happily, it gets results. Real understanding involves “seeing” our thinking being transformed into our reality moment to moment. One of the most compelling observations we have made is that if care-givers do not experience this deeper mental well being and wisdom themselves, they cannot see it in their clients. When we are wedded to theories about conditioning, about the past, or about biochemistry and genetics, that is what we will see and tell our clients they are as well.
Another consistent observation we have made is that everything from the past, all of our conditioning, is carried through time via thought. When Sydney Banks made his discovery of the existence of Mind, he also realized the nature and function of Thought. He realized that all his problems stemmed not from his past, but what he had made of the past in his thinking. He saw a deeper dimension to thought that showed him how people create their reality from an inside-out process controlled by thought. The vast majority of our clients have had a similar realization, one that has re-connected them to their free will and capacity to change their mind. They now experience control over their thinking rather than the other way around.
We would say that everyone’s ability to regain their good feelings and enjoyment of life come from insights about the true nature and role of thought. In fact, the capacity for insight itself is a basic human capacity. When we try to manipulate people’s thinking or their behavior, I would say that we are not giving them enough credit for having insight or understanding. Anytime we lead people away from recognizing that they have the freedom of thought we are inadvertently dehumanizing our clients. Anytime we do not share with people their true capacity for wisdom and for understanding of their own psychological functioning, we are dehumanizing our clients.
When we as care-givers begin to recognize these deeper capacities in ourselves, we then respect them as true potentials in our clients. When we treat people with respect for, and confidence in, their humanity and spirit, they start to realize these potentials in themselves. This certainty was the catalyst behind the work of Carl Rogers and his colleagues. When we explain to people the Principles behind their ability to create reality, via thought, their own insights start to flow naturally. Having one genuine insight about the nature and function of Thought will bring a lasting boost in mental health and stability. Having one insight about the nature of Consciousness will do the same. Having an insight about the nature of Mind will bring the mental health that is everyone’s birthright.
Consciousness, in my view, is our ability to experience life via our thoughts. It is the ability to experience the reality produced by our thinking. Mind can be seen as the power source that makes our thinking, combined with consciousness, appear real. As stated earlier, Mind is also the source of wisdom and insight, as well as what we normally call plain old common sense. I would now claim that wisdom is our most powerful psychological resource, along with our capacity for thought. Yet the mainstream literature does not often mention these as resources nor acknowledge their qualities or even their existence.
This gap is understandable if the quest for scientific status eliminates anything we cannot see, measure directly or find in our biochemical make-up. Yet in working with clients who where drug addicts, welfare recipients, inmates, abusers, homeless, and with those suffering a variety of clinical diagnoses, we have seen this wisdom emerge and guide thousands to a healthy, mature and stable life. We are therefore convinced that eliciting innate wisdom and the very human positive emotional capacities for love, caring, forgiveness and understanding is the most effective route to mental health.
True resiliency and the ability to rebound and regain our well being are inside everyone. Because of the positive outcomes of our pilot/demonstration projects, we have received funding from major national foundations, local and State government and federal agencies. These groups cannot argue with the results. Yet these internal resources are neither visible nor measurable until they emerge and impact people’s state of mind on an everyday basis. Evidence for the universality of these resources has been measured in the spillover effects or ripple effects of these applications in community resiliency projects, in educational applications, in jails, in residential treatment centers and in organizations. Once people realize and live in healthier states of mind, they tough those around them in ways that resonate and elicit the same resources in them.
In this sense as well, the bulk of practitioners who have become involved in our community and institutional projects have themselves benefited tremendously from these discoveries. They have found freedom from dwelling on, coping or dealing with trauma or negative experiences from their own past. As they found more of their own inner resources, they gained new hope as well for their clients and were no longer dealing with issues of burnout or feeling responsible for their client’s problems. They realized that their own happiness and understanding was what they had to offer to their clients. Most have reported a sense of getting a fresh start in their careers along with an increased ability to help their clients.