Shake off the dust

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20% of Americans experience mental illness in any given year. Now, look around at your friends and family. One out of every 5 of them is likely struggling with some form of mental illness, statistically-speaking of course. One group of your friends may have a lower incidence, but that means that another group has a higher incidence,…(just sayin’).

Depression probably accounts for a significant portion of the mental health statistics – we are a miserable lot in so many ways in this country – but there are significant statistics on schizophrenia (estimated to impact 2.4 million Americans), Bi-Polar disorder (6.1 million Americans); Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) – estimated to affect between 4.8 million and 17.7 million Americans while approximately 42 million Americans are impacted by an anxiety disorder of some type.

Life with a healthy mind and solid coping skills is challenging enough. The trappings of the modern American experience can leave even the most stalwart among us feeling vulnerable, inadequate or ill-prepared on bad days. For the portion of the population suffering with some form of mental illness, however; this struggle is exponentially more difficult. While the movies have portrayed the more extreme forms of mental illness (notable examples include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Girl Interrupted, A Beautiful Mind and Sybil) some of the less extreme but still-damaging forms play out all around us, often unrecognized, undiagnosed and misunderstood.

Across my professional career, which began in the US Navy, I have observed a handful of extreme cases of mental illness that eventually resulted in a formal commitment (we call that a 302 – involuntary commitment – in Pennsylvania), but I have also observed many, many instances where I suspect (not being a therapist, I can only suspect) that a good dose of therapy and perhaps some medication management would have helped people who suffered from symptoms that included paranoia, delusional thoughts, unsubstantiated anger, extreme depression, unstable moods and more. While all of us can have moments of paranoid thinking, incidents that make us angry and periods of sadness, there is a significant difference between transient feelings and a pattern of behavior that repeatedly interferes with and disrupts someone’s life.

I once believed that Wayne Dyer/Louise Hay-style thinking could help all but the most extreme cases. I still believe that cognitive behavioral therapy (and dialectical behavioral therapy) are some of the best methods in practice today for dealing with most of the aforementioned illnesses (schizophrenia being a noteworthy exception) and while CBT and DBT are similar to the Dyer/Hay methods, they are employed under the supervision of a licensed mental health professional who can identify and help to correct inappropriate thought patterns as well as to help keep the client on track.

So if passing a Louise Hay book or Wayne Dyer audio download to someone displaying questionable behavior isn’t the answer, what is?

If the person is a close friend or family member, you MAY be able to suggest that they seek out a therapist to work through some of the issues you are observing. If they reject that advice, or if you’re dealing with someone who is not a close friend or family member you can always know the truth about them as is taught in Science of Mind communities. Knowing the truth about someone means that you see them only as perfect, whole and complete. This is the kind response; the peaceful answer and the most appropriate reaction – even when the vitriol directed at you was deserving of a consultation with a VooDoo priestess.

When we can look past the ugliness that comes at us from someone we know and recognize that beyond the appearance of pain, misery and nastiness, they are still a child of the Universe; we walk away with no scars and can move forward without dragging the negativity along with us. However, do not conflate knowing the truth with continuing to put yourself in the line of fire. I personally like Edwene Gaines’ take on this: she forgives the person, but will tell you in a skinny minute that she “…does not hangout with people who do not know how to behave.” In the Bible, Jesus advised his disciples in Matthew 10:11-14 with a similar message:

11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

A “deserving home” represents those people or organizations who treat you with respect and honor, as is deserved by every human being. Letting “your peace rest on it” means giving your blessing while letting “your peace return to you” refers to maintaining the peace; and not letting it be diminished, no matter how terrible someone treats you. “Shaking the dust off” means you leave the negativity with its source and don’t take it on and carry it with you.

Sometimes we’re faced with people and situations that are simply unacceptable. Understanding the prevalence of significant challenges in our society as well as knowing that we can forgive and release people who don’t behave from our lives allows us to move forward without carrying the dust with us and most importantly – to live in compassion and to be the peace that we seek in the world.

And so it is.


For more information visit the National Alliance for Mental Illness (



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