I especially hate the phrase, “It’s all in your head” not just because it’s dismissive and undermines the suffering of millions with mental illnesses or mental health struggles, but also because it makes no sense.
Everything is in your head…
You do realise that our experiences of pain comes from our minds, our brains, right? There is a stimulus outside of yourself (say you touched fire) and this sends neurons firing and sending signals, which the brain determines to be pain. If your brain was damaged in some way, you wouldn’t feel pain. You could break your leg or walk through fire, and yet because your brain doesn’t determine it to be painful, you’d feel no pain.
Pain is all in your head.
Who you are. What you have experienced. What you know. The things that make you cry when thinking about the past. These are your memories. Your memories are in your brain, your mind. Again, if your brain was damaged, you could lose your memories. Lose your history. Lose your Self. Everything that you are is a collection of memories.
Memories are all in your head.
What you do comes from the brain. Even when we are on autopilot and we just walk or talk without really thinking, it is still our brains that are making it so. Our brain sends the message to our legs to walk. If your brain was damaged (not even your legs), you could lose your ability to walk.
Our routine, natural, instinctual actions and reactions come from our brain’s collection of past experiences and memories; they become a source for expectations for every situation akin to what we have already experienced. These are called Schemas (see definition below).
Actions are all in your head.
What we say and how we say it comes from our brains, our minds. Whether we think before we speak or not, there is still a cognitive process that happens in milliseconds that then converts thoughts into speech. A damaged brain, you guessed it, can cause you to lose your speech or your recognition of speech.
Speech is all in your head.
The brain and the mind is the governor, the God, the ruler of all that you are, do, experience, feel, think, and everything in-between.
So, why should illness be seen as any different?
Any less important? Any less of a priority?
Leaving your mental health on the backburner is dangerous. It is, I think, more important than physical health pursuits. But for the best life, you will be someone who realises that mental and physical health intertwine and work together in making a healthy, happy, strong person.
So yes, I suppose you’re right; mental illness is all in your head…but where else could it be? A disorder of the brain/mind is important, scary, and affects many other areas of your life.
Don’t you dare dismiss it.
*Schemas: A schema is a cognitive framework or concept that helps organize and interpret information. Schemas can be useful because they allow us to take shortcuts in interpreting the vast amount of information that is available in our environment.
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