Walking the line between psychology and philosophy is an interesting road to travel. People who walk the path have a tendency to be hunting for life’s most burning questions and in Graham McDowell I see a fellow traveller.
A psychotherapist and mindfulness coach, McDowell is the creator of The Monkey Mind programme and specialises in treatment of anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders.
Removing the ego
Over video, McDowell spoke candidly about his experiences with psychology and the moment he realised it would shape his life. Back in the 1970s, McDowell recalled seeing a guy drive a Ford Anglia up a hill.
Even as a boy, McDowell sensed the man in the car felt better about himself because he had the car. That he took pleasure in an external object and that it validated him. This kind of intuitive thinking got McDowell interested in the egoic consciousness. It’s the part of us that craves the material things, that tries to protect itself no matter what.
A way that McDowell helps his clients deal with the egoic mind and other problems is through changing their energy frequency. This means emptying the mind out and focusing on the sensations of the body. It’s about not thinking at all and it’s a soothing process.
Creating The Monkey Mind
A lot of McDowell’s work is focused on helping children, which is where the original idea of The Monkey Mind programme came from. McDowell offered free mental health services to schools and was met by silence. The people he spoke too didn’t want to truly dig into the issues or have the commitment to spend the next few years trying to solve the problem.
This left McDowell feeling frustrated. The only way to get any organisation or institute to truly adopt better mental health practices is for it to come down from the top and lead by example.
Undeterred, McDowell created Monkey Mind as an online resource filled with helpful tips, exercises and routines for coping with mental health disorders. These resources include interactive whiteboards, meditations, a month-long wellness programme and more.
The philosophy of psychotherapy
Next, I asked McDowell about the connections between philosophy and psychotherapy and he pointed out Socrates as one hell of a blueprint.
There’s a famous story of Socrates being called the wisest man in Athens, a claim that shocked him. He set out to find the truth of this by engaging his fellow humans in a dialogue, bringing out their intellectual pretensions and establishing the Socratic method.
Socrates was able to transcend his ego. An aim McDowell reaches for with his patients. Instead of concentrating on a problem e.g. anxiety, he looks to the solution e.g. raising the level of consciousness awareness so a person is better able to understand the route of their anxiety.
It’s a good credo to live by and McDowell embraces it every moment. His personal philosophy is that he has two jobs. The first is that he remembers who he is, an extension of other people, of source energy in the way Socrates did. The second job is to be that person through his actions, to live a cosmopolitan lifestyle and be a citizen of the world.
It’s a very Stoic attitude to have. Perhaps McDowell is a Stoic and he didn’t know it. You can find out more about McDowell’s work here.