Posted: Friday 5th June 2020
The other day my 8 year old son made yet another lockdown induced video call to his best friend from the adjoining room. I overheard the start of their conversation. He got stuck in straightaway: ‘Hi Jack! Did you know that people can change reality? Well, you know how people think? That’s a sort of reality. So, you can really change reality if you think something….’. I must confess to an initial rush of maternal pride at this profound boy of mine, and then the talking descended into Minecraft, and as such he unknowingly reassured me that I need not clear a space on the mantle piece for his Nobel prize quite yet.
And yet, he makes a good point. What we think creates our realities. So what do we really think about children who present with mental health difficulties, and their families? What realities do we create? When I reflect on commonly held views about mental health problems in society, there’s often something about being deviant, not like the rest of us. There’s also often something about being shameful for not coping better. And for those who won’t just get ‘better’ when helped, there’s often something about a lack of gratitude and a charge of the unsavoury enjoyment of thwarting others.
What my son didn’t quite articulate in his recent profound declaration was the logical next question: What impacts do the realities that we create in our minds have on ourselves and other people? What gets done and what gets ignored? When we create a reality that people are deviant and not like us, the impacts are that we try to fix them and we don’t treat them as we would treat our own children and families. When we create a reality that people are shameful, we look down on them and underestimate their worth and potential. When we create a reality that people are ungrateful and enjoy frustrating us, we block them from our services.
Of course, this is the bleak end of the possibilities, and many people create wonderful realities about children and families presenting with mental health difficulties, and the positive impacts of these ways of thinking abound. Nevertheless, we think it is important to look closely, and frequently, just to double check: Have any of these other ways of thinking crept in?
As well as checking in that things haven’t descended to where they shouldn’t, there is huge positive potential in this too. Back to my son’s words: ‘You really can change reality if you think something’. So how might we think differently to really change reality? Or to turn it on its head: If we picture the reality we want, what would we need to think to create it? This might make a nice agenda for any team meeting don’t you think?
Jen & Jael