Roots Over Tools: Why Tools, Hacks, and Tricks Do Not Heal Our Mental Health
Open Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and more you’re likely to come across some sort of mental health advice. One of the best outcomes of having such public spaces is having a diversity of voices and perspectives (and I’m one of those voices!). I know that I have found some of the insight extremely valuable. On the flipside, I’ve also seen a rise in mental health advice focused around language of having
the tools, or nervous system hacks/activating your vagus nerve, or tricks to calm anxiety, depression and more. These practices often are co-opted from BIPOC communities but separated from their history, philosophies, and deeper meeting- arguably the aspects that lead to long term healing.
The problem with is in isolation, tools, hacks, and tricks keep us reacting to life stressors rather than getting to the roots and finding a more sustainable healing. The emotional intensity of a situation, memory, stressor etc.… does not die down if we don’t look towards deeper understanding and meaning of the situation. So, when you use a tool in response to a stressor, it might be helpful in the short term but is not enough for the long term. Tools and hacks also are somewhat limited in helping us with discernment, which is the practice of tapping into our own inner wisdom and understanding what our needs are saying in the moment, because we often see these experiences as individual events versus patterns connected to the past (societal histories, integrational experiences/genes, personal experiences) and present self. In addition, an Interpersonal Neurobiology perspective understands harm and healing happen in a relationship. That’s relationships with individuals, societies, and the earth. Tools keep the focus on the individual level.
When clients ask me about tools, the next question I asked is “what are the tools for?”. We often spend considerable time diving into this and what comes up is that some significant part of them is wanting tools is to fix themselves because the client sees themselves as broken (a message that is repeated from personal histories and dominant culture narratives). It’s important to not accidentally support this idea that you are broken or unskilled and that tools will fix you.
If it’s important to have tools at your disposal here are questions I ask:
· What are the tools for?
· How do I define “the problem”?
· Are the tools to avoid slowing down and feeling emotions that are uncomfortable?
· How do the tools help me in my longer-term practice of healing?
I personally like to think of mental health as a more dynamic process. In any given situation there is an infinite number of variables affecting my mental health. such as: if I slept well, if I’m hungry, my genetics, my history, the physical environment, the political environment, current work stress, and so much more. That means the tools I employ are also affected by these infinite variables. Because of this, I consider two options: learn to move fluidly in the situation like a mental Aikido (using my discernment), or create my own tools (with my insight and awareness about what feels healing for me). In order to respond with either of these options, having a foundational and embodied understanding of yourself in relation to your past, present, future is imperative.
Interested to learn more or join me as a client? Send me an email at kantimentalhealthagmail.com.