My father-in-law, a lifelong scientist and cancer researcher (as well as a pretty darn good jazz pianist!), is fond of telling anyone willing to listen that science ONLY advances by disproving things. When one sits back and reflects on this idea, it can be a mind-expanding experience. When we understand that as one forms a hypothesis, and then sets up an experiment to test it, the goal is not really to prove that our hypothesis is true, but rather, that it is NOT true … i.e., to disprove it. Otherwise, what do you really know? We learn and move forward by finding out what does NOT work.
Recently I’ve been wondering whether our personal mental health improves only by disproving things, too. In this case, ‘things’ would refer to false beliefs, false self-talk, falsehoods in general.
I am a psychiatrist; AKA, a ‘shrink’! I am also human. While your experience may tell you that the two are mutually exclusive, especially if you’ve ever had to deal with a psychiatrist (we ARE a nutty bunch!), I can assure you that there are a few of us who are both! I’ve been working in the field of mental health care for nearly 20 years, including the time I spent in residency training, but only recently has it begun to dawn on me that discerning truth from falsehood, if one can succeed in doing so, would do far more good for us in our personal journeys than any amount of medicine, psychotherapy, community habilitation, support groups, and various other interventions and treatments.
Learning and applying truth in our lives could and likely would, in a very real sense, set us free.
I have a fairly small mind. I have a fairly small voice. I have a few decent ideas. I can type. With those building blocks as my starting point, I’m hoping to now finally put into writing some things that I’ve longed to say for a long time. I’m also hoping to learn about new and old truths myself as we go along, and perhaps you will share some truths you have learned with me and the rest of us. My hope and prayer is that it will help someone. I believe it will help me. If by disproving a few ideas and thus illuminating what is true about us and about our mental health I also happen to help you or someone else, then so much the better. It will just be a small bit of paying forward what has been so graciously given to me.
The “Shrink in the Belfry” theme was chosen because I think it befits what I hope to do. Obviously, the idea springs from the old phrase, he/she has “bats in the belfry”, referring to someone mentally unstable, or “crazy” (a term I dislike, by the way). A belfry, of course, is a large room atop a church or old building in which are hung bells. It’s a nice metaphor in the sense that our “belfry” would be our head, in which is hung our brain! My thought is that, if we can dispel some notions that tend to keep us stuck in our unhealthy ways and unhealthy states of mind, we’ll be literally releasing bats from our belfries, allowing our bells to ring much more clearly and beautifully.
I think it could be a fascinating adventure. If you’re interested, come along!
Craig Meek, M.D.