Mental Health and Baby Boomers – Some Reading

A straight country road heads into stormy clouds on the horizon
“Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.” George Carlin,


In 'Insanity Explained By A Madman', I ended the first instalment of a series entitled Mental Health and Baby Boomers with this quippy quote from Mr. Carlin. That article is a personal compilation and commentary from a layman who has struggled with addition and mental health issues. Today I give you, Part Deux.

Three books that have changed my sanity quotient (is that a thing yet?).


Fully Human

In 'Fully Human', Biddulph’s schema of the Four Storey Mansion offers these levels of understanding - body, emotion, intellect and spirituality.

Diagram showing Four Mansions of Steve Biddulph - Body, Emotion, Intellect, and Spirituality

Diagram adapted from Fully Human by Steve Biddulph


He reckons that a lot of what we are feeling and thinking can be witnessed in the body. He describes how a PTSD sufferer can be always on edge and ready for escape or battle. Furthermore, he sees that a lot of our conditioned responses can come from generations ago. Culturally, we can be very uptight, caught up with conforming to religious or societal norms.

Gender based attitudes can have dramatic influence in the way that men and women react to similar events. He suggests that even though today we think we are living in more enlightened times, we tend to have adopted the traits of our parents and continue to react to different stimuli in common ways.

There have been significant changes in society and therefore expectations, but a lot of how we emote and behave is still mired in ill-health. Our emotions and behaviour are evolutionary.

“Your mind and body are built for health and happiness, but they need one thing from you in order to work properly - your attention.”

With attention, we can listen to our SUPERSENSE. This is Biddulphs word to describe an inner knowing or intuition, and he believes it is quite reliable.

Our attention is like a torch that is going through our mansion, looking at our problems and looking for the solution.

Blue-eyed man looking through barbed wire at woman

Photo courtesy of Pexels

LIGHT UP YOUR AWARENESS

Just as when we raise our arm; it’s not the arm that does all the work, but the back and shoulders and all the other parts of our body that are connected.

Being aware is the key to the chances of change occurring. Noticing how we talk to others and the way a chair feels to us can be clues to change.

Watch anxiety as it arises.

Paying attention to what we can smell, taste, and feel makes us grounded.

That’s all we need to do sometimes is focus on something that we are feeling in our bodies.

He suggests that social media and TV are over stimulation for our minds and are to be avoided if possible.

ALAIN DE BOTTON AND CLAIRE WEEKES.

Biddulph quotes the highly regarded Swiss Philosopher Alain De Botton, when he relates this inner dialogue that may be familiar to you. He thinks that we ‘do’ anxiety in our heads to avoid something scarier. Here are some examples.

‘If I wasn’t currently filling my mind with these anxious thoughts, what would I have to think about right now instead?’

‘I might realise how sad and lonely I am?’

‘I might realise how angry I am at my partner’?

I might realise how abandoned I feel’?

Dr. Claire Weekes says that anxiety resembles a kind of low-grade chronic fear.

She prescribes this method for anxiety relief-

  • Face it
  • Accept it
  • Float with it
  • Let time pass

And sometimes it is not all in your head. Anxiety could be alluding to physical changes.

Try and be still and think about a current problem, and watch what the body has to say about it. See if different organs will talk to you. Be persistent until the gut feeling is understood.

Finally, when things aren’t going all that well, and you have a chance to talk it out with someone else, then together you can listen to the BODY OF EVIDENCE. This is Biddulph-speak for taking evidence from your body to ascertain your mental state.

If you think that your body has been trying to tell you something, then, Steve Biddulph's ‘Fully Human’ is for you.

Black and White photo of woman crying

Photo by Kat Smith on Pexels


Adult Children of Alcoholics Red Book

Apart from being a card-carrying AA member, I’ve attended meetings of another 12-Step fellowship which is less known. That is Adult Children of Alcoholics.

One of the books that I feel has had a huge effect on my sanity and sobriety is their Big Red Book. I love it!

If you are from an alcoholic or dysfunctional home, then you might benefit from reading this book too. Allow me to summarise from my perspective.

This line from the introduction does seem to encapture the essence of the program - “It is my bias that no one deserves to live a life of fear and shame. And it is through the healing of Twelve Step work that today thousands of adult children have found inner peace.”

“The Laundry List” describes the common traits of children raised by alcoholics and dysfunctional parents. We call ourselves ‘adult child’ of these dysfunctional homes because we are adults and exhibit traits that indicate a wounded child that has not yet fully recovered and therefore need to re-parent ourselves.

As the program is thorough and really needs the assistance of a sponsor and a home group, I’ll not be going into any depth here.

The book is a lifesaver for those who wonder, “Why do I still do THAT?” I had been sober and following a 12-Step program for a decade before discovering that there is another whole layer of influence from my childhood experience that benefits from this work.

For instance, one of the traits of Adult Children is, “We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process”. This may describe people around the world and who do not rise from a dysfunctional or alcoholic home, but the work in this group certainly helps me with this particular trait and is a result from my childhood experience.

Man sitting on a bank watching sunrise in golden colours

Photo courtesy of Pexels


Letting Go

Letting Go by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. is another remarkable resource for people like me.

The cover states that, “During the many decades of the author’s clinical practice, the primary aim was to seek the most effective ways to relieve human suffering in all of its many forms”.

Most famous in this work is his ‘Map of Consciousness’ where he describes all of our various states of mind and attributes a score on a scale. By understanding this spectrum of feeling states, one can more easily develop self-awareness and mindfulness.

His map of consciousness is also called a scale of emotions: it ranges from a high of Peace to the low of Shame. The scale certainly surprised me, but also allowed me to view each of the emotions with new eyes.

More than any other author that I have read in 50 years, Hawkins talks to me about my emotions and reactions so clearly. As a companion to self-discovery and enlightenment, it is the best secular book I have found.

Chapter 20 is a peach in that, he outlines his progress and all his shortcomings. “Physician, Heal Thyself” is classical in allowing the student to relate more easily to the teacher and understand that knowledge of self is no indicator of state of mind. There is a lifetime of practise that Hawkins just mobilises in the reader.

Furthermore, I think that students of all faiths can find use in his teachings and apply them to their daily regimens.

There are three insightful books that have made a difference to my thinking and state of happiness. I am pleased to say that after a lifetime of addictions and medication, I am currently drug free.

The series Mental Health and Baby Boomers continues next week with a chapter on Anger (providing I get enough relief from those bloody Humans!!!).

About the author Mike Mather

Mike was born in 1963 which technically makes him one of the youngest of the Baby Boomers. An Australian with Indigenous and European heritage, he has been an avid and required student of Buddhism and alcoholism since 2008.

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