Can the Solar Eclipse Bring Us Hope for Transformational Change?


Recently, I heard the term “transformational change” applied to businesses and how they grow. And then shortly after, I heard someone use the same term applied to spiritual change. To me, “transformational change” sounds like the growth I see in patients who benefit most from their mental health care. The change does not happen right away. At first, people experience the alleviation of symptoms and the growth of new coping skills. Over time, the momentum of change builds into a new relationship of that person with the world around him and a new relationship with himself. The end result is that he is better than his baseline, before his mental health problems began.

Transformational change also sounds like what occurs in marriage counseling, and in family counseling. Through therapy, relationships are remade.

That term “transformational change” has been popping into my mind this week, coinciding with the solar eclipse. As people struggle individually and as a collective, many seem to imagine that the eclipse will bring hope in a time of hopelessness. People are traveling from around the nation to gather and witness the total eclipse in the heartland. A recent article in Time touted today’s eclipse as “a gift to our divided nation.” The article speaks of American’s profound discontent, hoping the event might bring people of differences together.

Perhaps the symbolism of the event will be a source of hope, not just for people who feel that we are divided from each other, but also for people who feel broken inside and want to heal. Maybe the eclipse will propel some people forward, either in relationship to each other, or perhaps in relationship to themselves.

I hope so.

People need more than simple relief of symptoms, they need to grow. They need to become new in order to truly heal.


STUCK in the Sick Role: How Illness Becomes and Identity

Posted on August 21, 2017 .

Grit and Mental Wellness

Have you heard about Grit? I recently read Angela Duckworth’s book by that title, and I can’t stop wondering how to answer the questions the science of grit hasn’t illuminated yet. In particular, is lack of grit contributing to the disability from mental illnesses?

Grit is the drive to keep going, even when things get hard or boring.

Why am I worried about Grit?

I met another mom today whose young adult is giving up. He's giving up on adulthood, hard work, dreaming for his future... Giving up seems increasing common in the 18-25-year-olds I meet as in my clinical practice of psychiatry.

Some of the young people give up when they feel things are too hard, or when circumstances feel unfair. Record numbers of young people quit college. They quit jobs. They go home to live off their parents.

In mental health clinics, these young people often cite their illnesses as the reason they quit. They say their anxiety or their depression are incapacitating. But I’m skeptical. I see other people with the same illnesses of similar severity that kept going.

Grit seems to be in the DNA of some, and innately missing from others. Why does anxiety lead one student to drop out, and another to persevere?

Like the story of the little engine that kept trying to get over the hill, gritty people push with all they have in the face of apparently insurmountable odds. 

I think mental disorders get a bad wrap. Anxiety and depression get blamed for quitting, when sometimes we need to look at the absence of grit. 

I'm not quite sure how to help people develop grit when it's not an inherent trait they possess, but science is searching for an answer. For now, I'll try to encourage anxious young people to face their fears, and depressed people to keep going. But I hope the science of grit has something to offer the field of mental health. I think it might be a missing piece of the puzzle for young adults who struggle with mental health issues.   

Posted on July 31, 2017 .