My Take

Inertia and Power Over Mental Illness

Today I’d like to take us back to high school when we learned about Newton’s first law of motion: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

Why are we Talking About Physics?

I promise there are no calculations or intense theory involved in this blog. Believe me, I don’t want to hurt my brain either, as fascinating as these concepts are! My purpose is to use Inertia as a semi-allegory (for lack of a better term) to reveal a link that I see.

In a short and simplistic summary, here’s what I’ve taken away from the site I linked above. Objects do not need force to continue moving; it’s not the absence of force that stops motion. In fact it is the presence of force that slows or stops an object. For example a ball would continue rolling if it were not for another force such as friction which slows it down. (The example on the site is a book so you may want to read it.)

“The book in motion on the table top does not come to a rest position because of the absence of a force; rather it is the presence of a force – that force being the force of friction – that brings the book to a rest position. In the absence of a force of friction, the book would continue in motion with the same speed and direction – forever!”

The Symbolism

Now that we have a lay persons’ knowledge of this theory we can bring it into our context of mental illness. How about we replace ‘object’ with thinking patterns, habits and the like. (Just FYI, looking up some physics explanations for this blog brought me to pages full of equations and scary calculations. I’m intimidated…but it makes my stats formulas seem easy so I suppose that’s a plus…!)

(Now I’m not one who usually encourages meeting force with force so given this scenario, force will refer to consistent effort, learning, re-adaptation, etc.)

Let’s consider thinking patterns to be objects in motion moving at a constant speed and in one direction. Going by the theory, the thinking patterns will continue unless acted upon by another force. What does that mean for us? It means that without thinking about it, we are continuing a pattern that is harmful…and only an exterior force can stop or redirect the unhealthy pattern. Since we’re not speaking of a tangible object, the exterior force required would have to be a mental effort to stop either the continuous bad habit or way of thinking, and/or replace this ‘negative motion’ with a more positive one.

Again, we are speaking of minds and not objects that have traditional force arrows like that of gravity and buoyancy for example. Therefore…I propose a new mental force. I don’t know what an appropriate name would be but let’s call it the Force of Personal Direction just to term it something. I think it should be a symbolic term that reminds us of our power. This force can be exerted at any angle and therefore pointed in any direction. The magnitude and strength of the force…well, that depends on us! My last drawing is an example of reversing a negative direction with positive efforts.

Here is a little clay portrayal of what I’m talking about. It’s a reminder to myself that I’m the one who can move the arrow in any direction I please. Visual reminders of my power and control over this illness really help me. If I let myself give in to the feelings of powerlessness, I’m giving away the keys to my mind … and I’d like to keep them, thank you very much!

Next up is a drawing I saw online and redid. I thought it was important to include because it demonstrates a balance of forces making things function properly. Isn’t that so true of life? Nature strives for balance and physics seeks to explain the phenomena of how things work the way they do. To me it’s not a far stretch for it to extend to our minds themselves. Please bear with me, but could thrust be our motivation and will to move forwards? Is drag the mental and situational factors that hold us back from attaining our goals? When drag is in balance does it keep us from flying forwards too quickly than we should? Does gravity bring us too low, or can it keep our thinking grounded when in its proper place? Perhaps my imagination is running wild because I’m seeing symbolism everywhere…

My last drawing is another physics parallel. We may be moving in a certain direction (the red arrow) and be experiencing things such as the issues listed. What we need is to oppose that arrow with the green one, and focus on that list instead. However even though my arrows are opposing, the reality is probably more that we shift the current arrow and mold it into having a different course. Little adjustments made with our ‘Force of Personal Direction’ will gradually bring the arrow where we want it to be. I’m in the process of reshaping my anxiety arrows into those of productivity. I’m transforming anxious energy into concentration and motivation. I’ll end for today by drawing attention to the word transformation. Why? Because as Physics also tells us, energy doesn’t begin or end; it transforms. My final point is simply that – so must we.

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