Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Not About Mindfulness...Or Is It?

My post today was originally going to be a vehicle for me to assert my opinion that mindfulness-based approaches to mental health therapy are superior to other approaches. I was also going to discuss practicing mindfulness in day to day life, lauding its efficacy as a tool of personal development. I was going to say those things, and say them proudly. I still want to, actually, because I believe them to be true. But I'm not going to, because I had one of those head-smacking "OY" moments you have when you realize you've made a rookie mistake.

What was the mistake?

It's simple: I was mistaking my subjective, personal beliefs for objective, generalizable truth. I was projecting my experiences onto you, Dear Reader, and I was going to rubber-stamp it. My bad. I'm glad I didn't go through with it. 

What I'm left with, then, is a mixed-bag perspective, which I will now scribble out in the following paragraphs.

I'm not going to beat myself up for wanting to share my opinion with an authoritative voice. For one, this is "my" blog, you know, and I'm allowed to do that if I want to (hehe). For another, it's perfectly normal to be biased in favor of one's own experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. (Incidentally, as we proceed through life, we tend to embrace information that reinforces our beliefs, and ignore/reject information that contradicts our beliefs -- a phenomenon also known as "confirmation bias.") 

Anyway, our abilities to both communicate our subjective experiences to others, and to consider the subjective experiences of others, are pretty amazing and essential aspects of what it means to be alive. So while the word subjective sometimes carries negative connotations, it really isn't negative at all -- not in essence, anyway. 

To be sure, subjectivity can become quite negative if it isn't acknowledged and accounted for. That is, if one takes one's own perspective to be Absolute Truth, and attempts to impose it on others as such, then the potential for doing harm is very great indeed. Because let's face it: each of us is unique, such that no single perspective could ever hope to resonate with, or be of relevance or use to, ALL of us -- and certainly not in the same way, and certainly not as intended by the original perspective-bearer. 

Consider the religions of the world, for example. Within any given religion, there is a broad range of approaches, and even beliefs, among adherents and clergy: some emphasize ABC, while others emphasize XYZ, while others maybe emphasize Q and P, and a little bit of M. Ya dig what I'm getting at here? 

I'm reminded now of why I loved -- still love -- my grad school training, which culminated in a Master of Social Work (MSW) degree: in it, I was reminded to be aware and respectful of the intrinsic power I hold as a practitioner. To that end, I was reminded to never lose sight of two very important facts: 1) Each of us has the right to self-determination. That is, each of us has the right to do whatever we see fit for ourselves. 2) Each of us is the expert of our own lives. 

Those are incredibly valuable -- and crucial -- things for me to remember as I work on this blog. 

The ideas I share in this space will necessarily be of a subjective nature, you know? They're my ideas -- or, at the very least, they're other people's ideas that I've interpreted through my own life experiences. Do I think they're valuable? You bet I do. Do I think they can help people? Yes indeed. But I strive to remind myself, too, that my ideas won't resonate with everyone, and that, indeed, they aren't even applicable to everyone. 

There's a real freedom, and a real peace, in that. 

Thanks for reading.