Is there a doctor here?

Why everyone believes they are a mental health expert now.


The Dunning-Kruger effect seems to be in full swing with the mental health industry in peak demand and people seeking to not let an opportunity go to waste. With barriers to entry at an all-time low, you basically don’t need to have any experience or qualifications to go around parroting any sort of mental health mumbo jumbo and reap the rewards from it, regardless whether you are actually helping people or not…and to quote Peter Griffin from Family Guy, this really does “grind my gears.”


But, Martyn, isn’t this what you do? Try and help people with their mental health with your articles? In essence, yes. However, let me explain the difference.


One thing I never do with my website here and what I write about is that I never claim to be something I’m not – I’m not a clinical psychologist. I may have a degree in psychology and counselling, I may have studied psychology at the postgraduate level, but I’m more of a friend/acquaintance with psychological knowledge then anything more. I never claim to know more than I do, there are limits to my knowledge (which I’m constantly trying to lessen) nor do I claim to be some guru or panacea to the world’s problems. I am – much like you (I hope) – just trying to work things out as much as the next person. I utilise my degree and other knowledge and experiences from my life, philosophy, history and literature in an eclectic sense. I’m not here to “sell” you anything or start a cult, my aim is teach one how to think, not what to think. I really work hard on this and I aim to not bum steer you – I still follow the psychological principles of benevolence or non-maleficence (do good or at least do no harm).


“Just think for five seconds, how could this be wrong?”

I get saddened by the amount of nonsense in general out in the world and on the internet, but more so when it comes to mental health “advice”, because you can really mess people up (and you’re not the one paying the price). I wish people took more care in what they said and shared with people rather than a quick “sounds/feels good enough” approach. People are clearly hungry to find ways to live a better life, ascertain solutions to their problems and work out why they (and others) are the way they are.


“I try and bring technical knowledge to the everyday person and not make you feel like you’re getting ripped off with little benefit in the process.”

Whilst a number of these people spruiking mental health “knowledge and insights” may be well intended, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”, but this is not to say that every good intention will lead to hell. It was Scottish philosopher David Hume who coined the phrase, “reason is a slave to the passions”, meaning that our desires, emotions and feelings are a map and rationality helps us find the spot marked “X”. It was meant in a way to illustrate that logic couldn’t determine what you should do or how you should act (opposite to Immanuel Kant, at the time) rather than to justify hotheadedness, for example. This is not to determine whether feelings>facts or facts>feelings, but I find it more beneficial to try and understand how the world is and how people are rather than how it and they ought to be (as our good friend Hume also postulated, you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”).


A fair amount of people are going to believe what they want to believe, especially if it makes them feel good. It then becomes decidedly difficult to change their minds because for one, they may not be open to it, and two, you can’t convince someone with logic and reason if they do not value logic and reason (or you’re not going to win an emotional argument with analytical thinking) – side note: I thought about doing an article on analytical arguments vs emotional arguments, if you’d like that please let me know in the comments.


It has certainly become more noticeable the amount of in-group/out-group bias that is prevalent in the world today. “Tribalism” and “reductionism” are pronounced to the point that I feel is unhealthy in its current forms, but I unfortunately see it becoming worse before it gets any better.


I believe there to be a lot of misguided positivity out in the world today and I tie this to my previous point about “good intentions”, which comes across as ignorance and misunderstanding disguised as reassurance and comforting. It’s not like I wish people to be horrible to each other, but sometimes misguided positivity can have the same results or worse. If someone comes to you and they are not doing well, the last thing they need to hear is you telling them that they are “okay just as they are” when it’s clearly not the case! It will just confuse them and make them feel more misunderstood. Like I was talking about last week, there is a section of society where “no one can tell them otherwise” and a significant amount of what I’ve attributed to misguided positivity can descend into tribalism where people lash out at any criticism or someone who isn’t totally supportive, as they are seen as mean/the problem/someone who doesn’t understand.


“Just because you feel anxious, depressed, uncomfortable, hurt, offended etc., it doesn’t inherently mean someone else is wrong or the wrongdoer. Our feelings can lead us astray.”

As I discussed in my “External Validation” article, one has to be aware of how much they seek of it, as this can generate its own issues. The problem I have with “validate my experience” / “your experience is valid” is because your perception of events is not 100% of the experience and it be might be wrong (quite likely so) and it may be badly wrong. I find this mantra translates closer to “I don’t want anyone to tell me how I’ve appraised this situation is wrong.” This is another reason why communication is so important, engaging in the dialectic with another like we’ve been doing since Socrates so we can try and articulate our thoughts and feelings and understand those of others.


Whilst I appreciate the amount the awareness (and resources) going into mental health nowadays, I feel there are downsides to too much awareness which go unexamined that I’d like to briefly dot point here now.


The downsides to too much awareness:


· I find that a number of people don’t really want to deal with your mental health problems – despite what they say about how great it is that people are sharing them – and will possible distance themselves from you.

· People will have a tendency to self-diagnose (which makes it crucial as to where/who you’re getting your information from, doesn’t it? – see first paragraph).

· I believe there are overdiagnosis and misdiagnosis problems when it comes to mental health and the increases in awareness have tended to exacerbate these problems.

· Don’t trust the people who say “this can only be a good thing” – nothing is only ever a good thing.

· As a private person (and not just because), I disagree with the publicising of all your woes modern trend. It feels like we’ve gone from repressing/stifling to oversharing.


The last point especially has bred somewhat of a victim-mentality, where people, in a weird way, are rewarded with sympathy, status/position and sometimes financially, based on who has the worst woes. This is very counterproductive to healing one’s mental health problems. One of the main problems in psychology is people can become identified with their mental health “illness” – they adopt it in as part of who they are, their identity. Now, what happens here is that they don’t want to separate from it, for a number of reasons, such as it gives them comfort, status, sympathy or a reason for their behaviour (please don’t use your illness as an excuse, it does you more harm than good).


A slightly longer post this week and I appreciate it if you’ve made it this far. I know I may sound a tad pedantic, but nuance is important especially when dealing with the complexities that arises in humans and their interactions. In an Aristotelian sense, I’m not asking for more precision than something can give, like mathematical precision in ethics and morality, but in a very Platonic way, it matters how you do something and not just the ends.


Although, with modernity, I can’t help but feel a bit “where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise.”

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