Redefining Mental Illness

Narcissus, from Greek mythology, gazing at his reflection in a pond

As I am reminded of the tale of Narcissus, the boy from Greek mythology, who was so in love with his outer beauty that he lost his life to it, I can’t help think of the many people who drown in the illusion of who they they think they are.

Certainly loving oneself for who one truly is, is fantastic but when we love ourselves for our material possessions or accomplishments we easily fall into Narcissus’ trap. Not realizing we are trapped, we easily continue to fuel dysfunctional patriarchal, ego driven structures and mindsets that inevitably lead to more pain and suffering.

Today, I invite you to consider how unhealed narcissism may lead to places where unhealthy people think they are healthy and healthy people think they are unhealthy- perhaps offering a new way to look at mental illness.

Mental health labels

Mental health professionals have created a whole slew of labels to describe people who cannot cope in society. According to UPMC HealthBeat mental illnesses can be categorized into five categories:

  • Anxiety disorders.
  • Mood disorders.
  • Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders.
  • Dementia.
  • Eating disorders.

We are often conditioned to believe that there is something wrong with a person suffering from any of these conditions. Of course, anxiety, mood swings, confusion, forgetfulness and not being able to feed ones body adequately make it difficult to function and contribute to society.

I offer a different perspective. Given the way many people are treated and still segregated today, perhaps we ought to look at those who do not suffer from any of these conditions, as out of balance, rather those who do.

A narcissistic mindset that plunders the earth, and rewards cut throat competition, unfair distribution of resources, abuses of power, lack of empathy, stealing, cheating and lying may very well give rise to a “healthy” person losing all sense of clear thinking.

Let’s take a closer look at how patriarchal pillars that have become toxic may lead to confusion over what it means to be truly healthy and well.


Patriarchal structures and mindsets that have become toxic seek to control what people think, do and say. Countless examples of this are found in many of the judicial, legal, corporate, educational, government and medical institutions still standing. Is someone truly healthy when they control people and events, or are controlled in return?

Close your eyes, connect to your breath and bring your awareness to how and why you personally collude with these controlling structures and mindsets. How and why do you control or are in turn controlled at home, at work, socially with your friends and in society? Notice what comes up for you….


Patriarchal structures and mindsets that have become toxic fuel a sense that certain people or groups of people are more deserving of resources than others. Countless examples are seen today where certain professions, countries, talents and skills are more valued than others. Is someone truly healthy when they accept that certain people are more deserving of having basic needs for food, shelter, safety, respect and kindness met while others are not?

Close your eyes, connect to your breath and bring your awareness to how and why you personally collude with these hierarchical structures and mindsets. How and why do you support hierarchies at home, at work, socially with your friends and in society? Notice what comes up for you….


Patriarchal structures and mindsets that have become toxic feed into behaviour that supports deceitful behaviour and the wearing of the false mask to meet goals. Think of the student who cheats in an exam, the aspiring social climber who hides his true thoughts to be accepted into a group, the athlete who takes drugs to win a race, the ambitious employee who discredits a fellow colleague to win a promotion… Is someone truly healthy when they do, and are encouraged to do, whatever they can to get what they want just because they can get away with it?

Close your eyes, connect to your breath and bring your awareness to how and why you personally collude with these competitive structures and mindsets. How and why do you compete at home, at work, socially with your friends and in society? Notice what comes up for you….


Dysfunctional patriarchal systems create a divided society. As more and more people come into balance and heal what they need to heal, there is certainly a good argument to be made that these traditional structures, support and are perhaps even the cause of much of craziness, confusion and may I even suggest “mental illness” in the world. The invitation is to rediscover the light in these patriarchal structures so they can continue to offer the needed structure without squashing the human spirit.



Nicole Rolland is the author of  “Stepping into Consciousness- A Guide to Living a Life of Joy, Meaning, and Abundance” . 

You can visit her anytime at Nicole Rolland Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness (NRYM) to learn more about her classes, programs, mindfulness coaching, as well as, her blogs, podcasts and other healing tips to help you experience and remember the wholeness and perfection you are.

Six Practical Tips to Stand Up To The Patriarchy And For What You Believe In

I don’t know about you, but I am rather distraught about recent news items. It’s easy to feel powerless and ignore egregious injustices happening in the world and this trend seems to only be gaining momentum. Rather than waiting for the proverbial saviour, I believe we can each help reverse the tide by pushing out of our comfort zone. This means standing up to the patriarchy and for what we believe in.

I have said this before, the patriarchal mindset was helpful for a long time, it has accomplished great things and a lot of good has come out of it. However, I also believe it’s gone as far as it needs to go. What is needed now is change- Change to a more caring and loving way of interacting with one another.

In a previous blog “Is Colluding With The Patriarchy The Only Way?“, I defined what the patriarchy means to me- as any structure that is controlling, divisive, hierarchical and competitive, I  offered five things you can do to build awareness and suggested a new vision of how you could live more lovingly with your neighbour. Today, I share some actionable steps to stand up to the patriarchy and create change. Yes, change is possible- when everyone does their bit together, mountains can be moved.

  1. Get Angry                                                                                                                              Get over any limiting beliefs that your anger is wrong. This notion that anger is wrong is a foil the patriarchy uses to control you. When basic human rights are violated you have every reason to get angry. Face any ingrained fears of being labelled angry, an angry person, having anger issues, crazy, hysterical, irrational,  or being accused of having some kind of mental illness…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Historically real change has happened in the wake of  angry men and women who have allowed their anger to fuel action: The Civil Rights Movement, the Sufragettes, the Resistance, Political Revolutions… Leaders of these movements did not always appear to be zen, peace loving people, they wanted change and their anger galvanized action. By the same token, some of the most calculating psychopaths we know of appear calm, composed and charming on the surface. Healing anger is not about eradicating it but learning to express it in healthy ways.                                                                                                                                                        You don’t need to start a movement or lead a march to make a difference, but you can give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling and hold it in a loving space. It then becomes easier to express in a safe way, and used as a catalyst for change. Anger (and all emotion for that matter) appears to make people uncomfortable when it gets unleashed. Inevitably this happens as a result of it being kept under lock and key.                                                                                                                        Learn to safely express anger and harness it to support rather than harm 

2. Share concerns                                                                                                                  There is a genuine need to belong and be part of a pack and that is fine, but when this need is also laced with a fear of being kicked out for expressing valid concerns this becomes problematic. Rather than respecting differing points of view, these concerns get perceived as criticism and negativity by the narcissistic mindset rather than ideas and opinions worth listening to.                                                                                                                                                  Whenever any group punishes, in any way, its members for voicing concerns they are reinforcing principles of control, division, hierarchy and competition. This can unwillingly push people to become so enthralled with embracing group think that they become  cheerleaders, often cheering just for the sake of being seen as a team player rather than cheering because their heart is truly into it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Learn to voice and listen to concerns with compassion  

3. Get curious 

When you are learning to stand up for what you believe in, judgement is not helpful. Whether you are judging yourself or someone else, judgment will get in the way by keeping you trapped in duality. Instead, choose to become curious. Curiosity helps foster empathy so you can look at a situation from different angles without getting emotionally charged. “ummm interesting that she/he/I said/did/thought…wonder why that was said/done or thought…” Get over any worries about making  a mistake, being misunderstood or judged .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Your ego may fear standing out from the pack because you have no doubt been punished in the past for ruffling some feathers. You may have received the message that it was safer to stay on the sidelines. I believe that your true self always accepts the reality of any situation you are in without judging it in a binary fashion. As more and more stand up for what they believe in, it becomes easier for others to follow suit. This happens  because the quantum field of consciousness changes each time a new person finds the courage to say “enough is enough!”.

Learn to practice non judgmental awareness 

4) Take action                                                                                                                       Weigh the costs of taking a stand and determine how much you are willing to risk. Are you willing to leave your job because your boss is asking you to act out of integrity with yourself? Are you willing to share a controversial opinion at a party with your peers? Are you willing to defend a friend, a colleague, a child whom you believe has been unfairly treated? Are you willing to post a concern on Facebook when you are in the minority, “FB like” a controversial comment or simply share a personal message no one else will see. Whatever your comfort level, take some kind of action and push yourself beyond what you would do normally.

Learn to weigh the cost, decide how far to go and take some form of action

5) Trust Life  

The patriarchy teaches us that if we don’t follow the rules or when we make a “mistake” we will be poor, alone, unprotected and therefore will suffer and be unsafe in the world.  This belief keeps us shackled to the patriarchal mindset. My opinion is that when we believe our needs will be met they will be and when we believe that they will not be, they will not. If you want to free yourself from the hold the patriarchal mindset has over you, you can start believing that it is safe to be yourself and to be your own master.                                                                                                                                                                            In your heart, you know you will be fine if you leave that job that depletes you, that marriage that demeans you, those friends that criticize you, those colleagues that don’t respect you. It is in your head, that you feel worry and fear. You have the power within your heart to do what it takes to feel nourished, honoured and accepted.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Learn to trust the wisdom in your heart 

6. Keep It Simple 

The patriarchy wants you to believe that you need a lot of “stuff” to be safe and you need to be “busy” to be productive. This is another limiting belief that keeps you shackled to the patriarchal system. How can you afford your house, cars, schools, clothes, trips, parties and fun unless you continue to accept the rules dictated by the patriarchy? You have choices and there are alternatives. You do not need these distractions you only think you do.                                                                                                                                                                          Learn to connect to what you truly desire rather than what you think you need.  

Change can happen, mountains can be moved and everyone can make a difference when they stand up for what they believe in by unshackling themselves from the hold controlling, hierarchical, divisive and competitive patriarchal systems and people have over them. Replace judgment with curiosity and practice non judgmental awareness. Use your anger to fuel you towards positive action. Trust that everything will be fine by listening to your heart and then it will be easy to simplify your life.

Remember, you are doing your best and are a student in the earth school of life learning to love, just like everyone else and this, like everything else I say and write about, is just my humble opinion.  

Namaste, be kind to yourself!


Nicole Rolland

Nicole Rolland is the author of  “Stepping into Consciousness- A Guide to Living a Life of Joy, Meaning, and Abundance”  and the owner of Nicole Rolland Yoga & Meditation (NRYM)

Nicole Rolland Yoga & Meditation
Yoga, Meditation and Mindfulness Coaching
T (1) 514.824.8510