Are we brainwashed to believe we can’t be experts in our own lives?

In various teaching and employment workforce roles I have had I am often led to work with people’s ability to “think around corners”, “think for themselves” or “develop critical thinking”. 

I have been dealing with various levels of human “dysfunction” related to negative patterns of behaviour for many years, often because of my own levels of dysfunction.

I have smashed some of my own “dysfunctions” (namely recovering from a brain injury and several other injurious events and addictions).  Sometimes people call me “amazing” or “remarkable” as a way to deflect from the fact that if I can do it – so can they.  I am always telling people they are the experts in their own lives and that I am no more amazing than the average gnat.

So I have ended up a facilitator of thoughts and ideas and often get emails and a throng of my ex students who credit me with changing their thinking.  I remind them that they changed their own thinking – I did relatively little, they did the work.

They laugh at this and then agree.  Hooray!!!!

Are we so brainwashed as a culture that we have to believe our experts have all the answers all the time?

Are we not losing site of our own capabilities and depending on experts for answers we already have?

How do we know that the expert is right?

Do we want to be right or do we want to be happy?

I’ve been where most people seem to want to go.  Mortgage, cars, income over 100k (just one income too) and I returned from that place and rejected it.  Now, by many peoples standards, that makes me a “loser”.   Ironically, most of it has been a choice and a lot of it has been because of illness and burn out.  But even then – I know I chose to burn out.  But I also got here (and I am 100% liking where I am going now – which is not to another mortgage) because I spent most of my time trusting the words of experts.  Sometimes negatively, sometimes positively.

I gave medical experts the “proverbial middle finger” 22 years ago to overcome an injury caused by four days in a hyperbaric chamber after getting neurological decompression injury.  I went to a neuropsychologist who told me I could rewire my brain (neuroplasticity) – something that was not accepted science then.  I was told by many I was wasting my time, but it turns out that now neuroplasticity is now considered cutting edge.  I chose to go with my gut and try something new, but if I had listened to mainstream experts I wouldn’t have even tried.

Now I check the experts status against my own understandings of what works for me and what doesn’t.

My own checklist for testing if they are patronising poops or got a clue.  I keep abreast of research on brain function.

I’m working with an OT at the moment cause I’ve had some major dramas with old injuries and my cognition again.

My new OT has introduced me to the joys of neuro-diversity.  This posits that we all think differently and this fits with the neuro-plastic scientific view that we are all wired differently.

Check this out –

I know why it’s happening and it’s a tricky situation.  It’s putting off any adventures for the moment and I’m a bit cranky with myself for letting it happen.

Never mind, next challenge.  Oh and I am no longer prepared to accept the term “brain injured”.  I am replacing it with neuro-divergent.


On the nature of “normal”…

Normal is only a cycle on the washing machine.

Normal is defined by whatever is the current “norming of behaviour” that is present in your society, family, group, culture…in fact it’s totally dependent upon who is observing (or not observing) the person behaving.

Yet anything remotely related to our mental health is still so stigmatised that it gets hard to seek help and when you do you might find that the help increases the symptoms if you are misunderstood.

I recently was alerted to an experiment that was conducted in the 1970’s by David L. Rosenhan from Stanford University.  In short he placed people with no mental health issues in psychiatric facilities and got them to simulate very vague symptoms that may or may not be consistent with schizophrenia.

The results were stunning and it was apparent that people  were judged more by a diagnosis regardless of whether or not it was actually consistent with their behaviour or not.  Please take a moment to watch the YouTube video linked to this…

It did garner a lot of criticism and today we hope that our diagnosis of mental health issues is better – but it still seems that sometimes the public perceptions of what is normal may not have caught up and are quite possibly 1970’s (or earlier) in layman thinking.

What do I mean?  It means that the professionals who deal with the issues understand the process of stigma and it’s impact on those with or without mental health issues and diagnosis is not a rapid process anymore.  But have the public caught up?

This link  has a great discussion of how we can all end the stigma.

From Sane the figures below speak to how prevalent mental health issues are…

What are the figures?

  • Nearly half (45%) of the population will experience a mental disorder at some stage in their lives.
  • Almost one in five Australians (20%) will experience a mental illness in a 12-month period.
  • During a one-year period, anxiety disorders will affect 14% of the population and depression will affect 6%.
  • Depression is one of the most common conditions in young people and increases during adolescence.
  • At least one third of young people have had an episode of mental illness by the time they are 25 years old.
  • Research indicates that people receiving treatment for a mental illness are no more violent or dangerous than the
    general population.
  • People living with a mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence, especially self-harm.
  • Mental illnesses are not purely ‘psychological’ and can have many physical features.
  • Anyone can develop a mental illness and no one is immune to mental health problems.
  • Most people with mental illness recover well and are able to lead fulfilling lives in the community when they receive appropriate ongoing treatment and support.
  • Women were more likely than men to use services for mental health problems. Approximately two-thirds of people with a mental illness do not receive treatment in a 12-month period.
  • It is estimated that up to 85% of homeless people have a mental illness.

I would argue that what we see as mental illness is totally dependent upon what we think is normal at any given time and that that normal changes, lots!  If most or many of us experience some mental health problem – perhaps it is a normal part of life to at one time or other have a mental health issue.

I think we need to stop talking about normal behaviour and start looking to what is “helpful” and/or “useful” and/or “constructive”.

Normal can also be used as an excuse not to deal with something or continue to stigmatise someone else rather than deal with someone’s your own discriminatory or damaging patterns of behaviour.

“It’s normal to be jealous” comes to mind.  Jealousy can be extremely harmful behaviour if acted upon and then justifying it away as normal is not really helpful.

Jealousy is a choice, depression is not.   How we choose to deal with either is also a choice.  Healing can be a conscious endeavour, a concerted choice.