Are We Really Ok with Not being Ok?
I have a problem with the term “mental health’’.
That the term “mental health’’, ever so subtly, insinuates that anxiety, grief, sadness, disappointment, are sicknesses. That the only emotions healthy to experience, are the “positive” ones.
We have a positivity culture that is relentless in its message. You are successful if you are happy. You are worthy if you get up as quickly as you fall.
This is also the message being sent through most of the mindset training out there. Think positive. Reframe your thinking so you can get back to positive emotions. (And there is value in that of course. But we need to be able to discern when.)
The relentless message in our culture, irrespective of the rhetoric, is that it is NOT ok to not be ok.
Yet, our emotions are our experience of life. And life has ups and downs. Grief is the other side of love. Anxiety is the other side of hope. Sadness is the other side of care. We cannot have one without the other.
When we experience shame for experiencing life, we experience shame for how we are. So, on top of not being ok, we experience sadness or embarrassment for not being ok. And that is a breeding ground of persistent negative thoughts.
A healthy emotional life is being able to experience the complete kaleidoscope of emotions.
Feeling free to feel, is the key to feeling whole.
By accepting the truth of what is going on with us, we invite in the possibility of being transformed through our experiences. Pain is a teacher. Pain is often an invitation to go inwards. We discover ourselves through that inward journey. And that journey is different for each one of us.
We need to unlearn the need to fix emotions. We need to learn to listen to our emotions. We need to resist the urge to get rid of them as quickly as we can.
And then, we need to learn to witness the emotional journey of another, support the journey of another, without the need to pull them out of it.
That is how we will create a culture where wholeness is welcome — because wholeness is our whole experience of life — in all its colours.
“Go to the heart of your pain and you won’t find more pain, but rather a freedom that doesn’t require the absence of pain”: Robert Masters.