But before you run out and buy an industrial tub of yogurt and a tempeh starter kit, know that something as immutable as your birth month also impacts your risk for many diseases including several mental illnesses. From the Atlantic...
Marsha Linehan, the psychologist who developed Dialectic Behavioral Therapy, used for treating substance abuse and borderline personality disorder, among other mental illnesses, talks about the importance radical acceptance.
Linehan does not mean that we accept our brokenness, our faults, our failings and stay there. As Carl Rogers said in On Becoming a Person, "The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change." Linehan, in a very courageous move, recently talked about her own experiences of mental illness, including many attempts at suicide and her recovery from it which was prompted by a religious vision which included a profound feeling of self-acceptance.
“I decided to get supersuicidal people, the very worst cases, because I figured these are the most miserable people in the world — they think they’re evil, that they’re bad, bad, bad — and I understood that they weren’t,” she said. “I understood their suffering because I’d been there, in hell, with no idea how to get out.”
In particular she chose to treat people with a diagnosis that she would have given her young self: borderline personality disorder, a poorly understood condition characterized by neediness, outbursts and self-destructive urges, often leading to cutting or burning. In therapy, borderline patients can be terrors — manipulative, hostile, sometimes ominously mute, and notorious for storming out threatening suicide.
Dr. Linehan found that the tension of acceptance could at least keep people in the room: patients accept who they are, that they feel the mental squalls of rage, emptiness and anxiety far more intensely than most people do. In turn, the therapist accepts that given all this, cutting, burning and suicide attempts make some sense.
The idea of radical acceptance, even for the purpose of change, seems profoundly lacking in our thinking about health. In North America, at any rate, we are meant to view ourselves as our own greatest work of art, as perfectible.
I am in the change business. If diet can help people with mental illness then I want to know about it. But I also believe that sometimes a hyper-developed sense of agency, which is pretty much the modern condition, oddly, keeps people stuck. Sometimes we have to accept even our darkest feelings, "meet them at the door, laughing, and invite them in" before we can learn what they came to teach us.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks