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Fake security vs freedom: Mental illness should not be "cool." Labels should not be identities.

Fake security vs freedom: Mental illness should not be "cool." Labels should not be identities.

A label is not going to give your life meaning. A diagnosis is not going to bring you peace. Especially if it is simply not true, but also if you check off the right boxes. You will not find meaning in accepting a diagnosis as a label, as an identity. And joining social group that thinks the same way is definitely going to make things even worse. You will feel a false comfort in being with other people making the same poor life decisions. At best, you are depriving your life of meaning when you accept a label. But usually, while there may be an initial high and social reward, accepting a label with a group will wind up making you more disaffected and lonely. Labels are the denial of individual responsibility, and accepting a label as an identity is a trade of freedom for security. It ditches the very real risks of taking responsibility for your own life, life with all its uncertainties and pitfalls, for security and avoidance--which will only fail you. Courage in facing the human condition as an individual produces meaning in life, nothing else.

Think about it. The worst thing that happens to my trauma clients is developmental trauma in which the client unconsciously adopts an emotional abuser's words as an identity. "Stupid." "Not good enough." "Ugly." "Bitch" (that last one is horrific and hard for me to say). But labels parents force on kids which center identity around being successful, rich, or having a martyr complex, are often more damaging. So, who am I, as a therapist, to place another label on you? As far as I am concerned, a diagnosis is good for billing insurance and that's about it, with some rare, severe exceptions (e.g. schizophrenia). Any therapist or doctor should not be asking, "What's wrong with you?" but rather "What has happened to you?" and treating clients as individuals to be listened to, not problems to be solved. So, if you wouldn't want an abusive therapist or parent, why abuse yourself with a label? Even if society or your social circle cheers you on when you accept a label as your identity, reject this. You will only find true meaning in being an individual, accepting with as much courage as possible the challenge of accepting personal responsibility

Unfortunately, some mental health diagnoses have become fads, in which primarily young people think a label will give their life meaning and deal with feeling disaffected or out of place. The worst new one is Dissociative Identity Disorder. It's all over YouTube and TikTok.

I don't want my clients to be happy. Does that shock you? If I did, I'd cheer on the acceptance of labels as identities along with pop culture. I want my clients to be FREE. I want my clients to be free to live MEANINGFUL LIVES. Freedom means having the courage to face the inherent lack of security that comes from accepting existence as an individual, and taking personal responsibility for facing the fact that life is short, and no one can make sense of that but you. This brings meaning to life, nothing else. I'm sorry, but a label isn't going to cut it, and accepting that as an identity is not only a false security, it will fail you quite quickly. What is meaning? You've got to figure that out, and no one else can do it for you. At the end of the day, death inevitably turns this into a spiritual question, and that's frightening, an impossible load to bear without having found ultimate freedom against the ultimate destruction of security. I'm not a preacher--this is simply observed fact and the subject of most great literature worldwide, the occupation of the great thinkers of all cultures.



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