February 27, 2023•449 words
Over the years / decades / centuries, we've done a lot of work to figure out how we're wired inside.
This knowledge evolves, and becomes more and more complex. Scientists can no longer seriously say that the shape of your skull predicts the kind of person you are (but they used to). But the energy, the drive to work this out, to notice patterns / mechanisms - that's always been there.
Here's a relatively new thing, though: we didn't always spend so much time and effort on studying the "bad news" part of it all.
You're able to google the symptoms of the things you know about; you're able to self-diagnose (correctly or incorrectly) based on what you think the answer might be. This, in turn, feeds back to the machine. People look for the negative, which ranks higher, which makes more people look for the negative - and see it in their social media feeds more.
Obviously, this is a huge oversimplification. Often, your research turns out to have merit, and the solution you find is helpful.
But somewhere between the Greek "concern with self" and the modern confine-and-cure complex, the default focus seems to shift from "what's good with us?" to "what's wrong with me?" The conversation about strengths and growth is still possible - but you'd probably do much better on a "match the mental illness to its era" quiz than on a "match a positive mental breakthrough to its era" quiz.
The bad symptoms get the clicks and the headlines, but they are not the whole story. Adding another condition to the DSM-5 manual is big news, and incredibly important: for many people, this becomes a life-changing moment.
But the opposite of DSM-5 doesn't exist. There isn't a manual for all the amazing stuff happening in our mental state - and all the different ways in which we individually achieve learning, strength, connection, joy. This means that "being okay" is as shallow and un-examined as a smiley face sticker. This means that working out the ways in which our mental or neurological make-up makes us stronger is, on balance, a lot harder.
The research is there, and it keeps coming every day. The communities, the support, the amazing success stories: this is now possible, and gaining traction. I've found my introverted tribes online, and my HSP tribes, and I'm grateful.
Think about this next: what if you could build a habit of googling the symptoms of what you think might be right with you? What if "being okay" was the next thing in need of naming, exploring, googling, debating? What would that do to you - and your mental lexicon - and your Instagram feed?