The past year I have been researching and reading about mental illness. The whats. hows, which and whens. So I was shocked and bewildered when I chanced upon the news that the son of the famous pastor Rick Warren had committed suicide. This was the father who had written the chart topping best seller ‘The Purpose Driven Life’. He couldn’t answer his own son’s question – What on Earth Am I Here For? Frankly, it makes me suspicious about what was a actually going on in his home. In his statement he blames America’s mental health system. Pastor Warren sheds more light that his son was mis-diagnosed and actually had Borderline Personality Disorder. The family and parents are blameless
Seriously, it is common knowledge now that BPD is caused by dysfunctional upbringing and childhood trauma/neglect. According to David Hosier MSc, “It is this false belief (frequently caused by internalizing parental negative views of them whilst growing up) that contributes to many of the suicides.”
There is now enough evidence that points the origins of mental illness to early childhood deprivation of loving care. The child’s feeling and needs are thwarted while Mom and Dad who many a time detest each other are busy putting up the show of Good Christians. And what it means by being Good Christians, going to church, saying the specified prayers at the precise hour and being part of the mega circus of Christian devotion. Having really big church services which go on for hours at end. So if a young child is hungry or thirsty, he better shut up because mom is busy with God show. And if the child wants to satisfy his own urges he is promptly labelled as bad. Imagine growing up in an environment that constantly derides and undermines one’s needs and feelings. You are just not allowed to be YOU. You have to be a docile, subservient, sacrificing guinea pig to be loved and accepted in your family. However, there is a limit to which we can pretend and go about the motions of living a lie.
My favorite psychiatrist Scott Peck explains the origins of mental illness ‘I believe that the conscious is the seat of psychopathology and the mental disorders are disorders of the consciousness. It is because our conscious self resists our unconscious wisdom that we become ill. It is precisely because our consciousness is disordered that conflict occurs between it and the unconscious which seeks to heal it. In other words mental illness occurs when the conscious will of the individual deviates substantially from the will of God which is the individual’s own unconscious will.’
The conflict of having to pretend, to deny one’s feeling, to be something that is antithesis to one’s soul yearning are the underlying causes for depressive illness. Kahil Gibran’s poem Your Children aptly sums up what we as parents need to do to raise mentally healthy kids.
‘Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,’
As parents we don’t need to police our kids and drive their lives. We need to love, care, guide, protect, spend time with them and be a good example. But the most precious gift we give our kids is letting them freely live their own truth.
Again quoting Scott Peck “it is not what our parents tell us about God and the nature of things but rather what they do – how they behave towards each other, towards our siblings and above all, towards us.” As a mother of a teen I can vouch for that. We can teach our children about a loving God by being loving, caring parents. Not by trying to mold them into something or someone in the name of God to suit our selfish needs.