It can come in many forms – a partner leaving you, a friend betraying you, an unjust complaint being made about you at work. These are just a few that people have told me about in the last year. It always left them shaken. When we don’t see it coming and someone we’ve trusted is involved, then we can be deeply shaken and left doubting ourselves. How we feel about the other person has changed and our self-confidence has been dented.
If this has happened to you then there is something you really should be aware of, and there is something I suggest you do. The two go hand in hand.
It’s not ok for another person to do you harm. But know that the other persons actions are about them not you.
If they have been out of integrity, unkind or deceitful then this is how they have chosen to deal with whatever is going on within them. Their own feelings, beliefs, assumptions and fears have driven them to ‘look after themselves’ in such a misalignment way that it is at a cost of harming another. They may be intentionally harming, or they may be lying to themselves by pretending they’ve done nothing wrong.
Either way it is not something you did that has ‘made’ them act that way. They have been unable to communicate or act with honesty and integrity because of their own fears and insecurities. If you take it personally then you are setting yourself up to suffer more.
When we feel someone has wronged us it’s very easy to get into the blame game and this is a vicious circle. There is a fight about which one of you in the more wrong. A more constructive and healthy way to approach this is that each of you take 100% responsibility for your own actions.
Is there anywhere that you have lacked integrity? Be truly honest with yourself and own it if you have.
You may find yourself thinking ‘yeah but I only did that because they did x to me’. What the other person did is their responsibility, what you did is your responsibility. Acknowledge it, to yourself at least – ‘yes I lashed out at them because I was feeling insecure and hurt’.
Let that realisation soften you and humble you. We are all trying our best and sometimes our negative emotions get the better of us. Do you need to make amends? What new learning can you take away from this self-awareness? Can you have more compassion for yourself? Can you find compassion for the other person who also has their inner struggles? This doesn’t make what they did ok, it’s about you not carrying the poison of resentment within you.
As part of your reflections on your part in what happened you may conclude that you really didn’t do anything untoward to lead to this situation. Let that help raise your confidence and your self- belief. Sometimes another person’s actions are completely unprovoked. Again, their actions are about them not you.
The relationship or friendship may be beyond repair, but part of you taking 100% responsibility for yourself is not holding onto poisonous emotions. Compassion is the key.
Suggested reading: ‘The Four Agreements’ by Don Miguel Ruiz and ‘The Big Leap’ by Gay Hendrinks
It’s Mental Health Awareness week so a perfect time to start or deepen your Mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is a way to connect to serenity and a feeling of peacefulness, which is much needed in our fast paced stressful society. A Mindfulness practice is even more valuable for those suffering from mental health issues – big or small.
The Mindfulness practice of taking slow deep conscious breaths and keeping your focus on your breath coming in and going out, may seem very simplistic yet this trains you to release anxieties and step away from stressful thoughts. You are ‘rewiring your brain’ so as to notice your thoughts and then to refocus your attention on your breath instead of those thoughts. By ‘rewiring your brain’ I mean that you are over riding your default pattern (e.g. of letting your thoughts rule your mood) to create new neuropathways in your brain and consequently new patterns.
With regular practice of a Mindfulness meditation you create a habit of connecting to calmness instead of engaging in those thoughts that spiral into feelings of anxiety or depression.
Slow deep breaths are also an effective way to physically release stress in the body and bring your nervous system back into balance.
In addition a range of mood enhancing chemicals can be produced when you meditate such as serotonin (‘the happy neurotransmitter’) and endorphins (resulting in the ‘feel good effect’). So yes, you can feel a bit blissed out after a meditation!
As a regular meditator, over time you’ll start to notice changes in your everyday behavior – maybe feeling relaxed when you’re in a traffic jam instead of being angry that these things ‘always happen to you’! Noticing these changes in yourself is very rewarding and uplifting. Allow time for these changes to start happening – Mindfulness is also about being kind and non-judgmental in our practice. The more you do a Mindfulness practice, the stronger that neurpathway becomes, and the more engrain the pattern becomes of connecting to peacefulness instead of get caught up in anxious thoughts.
So right now … take a slow deep breath in, filling your abdomen with air and slowly exhaling, emptying your abdomen of air. And then another, keeping your full conscious attention on your breath as you do so. Continue this for a few minutes and enjoy your increased feeling of calm in body and mind.
Has stress ever felt suffocating, has the ‘black dog’ (as Churchill called depression) ever got hold of you or have you had some dark nights of the soul?
This week’s Mental Health Awareness week in the UK is a powerful movement to end the stigma regarding mental health and the notion that suffering from stress or depression are something to be ashamed of.
Both stress and depression have impacted my life in different ways, and I suspect in some form they have touched all of our lives. My Mum suffered from depression, and as a family, we didn’t know how to talk about that or deal with that in a very positive way. I never discussed Mums depression with my friends, preferring to keep it private. My teenage memory is of feeling helpless and sad for Mums obvious turmoil, and a slight judgmental anger, wishing she would just ‘deal with it’. In adulthood, my judgment was dissolved by my compassion – and this was a pivotal change that enabled me to be more supportive and kind. I wonder what conversations could have been had when I was growing up to make that shift earlier. A quote that helped me make the shift was
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
This quote softens me into more loving-kindness for others, and for myself. Try it out. Does that quote change how you perceive some people? Or even help you to be less harsh on yourself?
While I don’t suffer from depression, life has had its challenges and I have had innumerable angst-ridden ‘dark nights of the soul’. One such time was when I was dealing with immense pressure at work. This had been going on for many months. I meditated, eat well, had occasional acupuncture, talked to mentors and took many other actions to try to keep myself ‘in balance’, to get me through it. But the pressure and demands on me kept increasing. All the signs were telling me that this situation was not good for body, mind or soul. Yet what kept me trapped in that situation for so long was the thought that ‘I should be able to deal with this’ and that I was ‘weak’ if I didn’t stick with it. Does that sound familiar? Have you ever spoken to yourself like that?
It’s kind of crazy to think of stepping away from something detrimental to one’s wellbeing as a sign of ‘weakness’.
This I feel is a societal stigma and thankfully a reframe is slowly happening. It took a huge amount of courage and self-love to finally say ‘this is too much pressure and I won’t keep doing this’. My situation improved immeasurable from there, although I did feel residues of shame for a while. I kept reminding myself that to endure oppressively high levels of stress is not a badge of honour or statement of my worthiness.
The distressing feelings that kept resurfacing over those months were, in fact, a neon flashing red light that the situation needed to change. If such signs are ignored and if someone continues to push themselves to a place of imbalance for a prolonged period there is a risk of serious health impacts further down the road. Besides, it’s an unhappy place to keep yourself in. Mental health matters.
I believe we can all do our part to end stigmas about stress and depression, by firstly being honest with ourselves about any judgments we have of ourselves or another who is suffering. Then have a new healthier more loving conversations on these topics. A kind thought and a kind word can go a long way to providing the support and understanding that we all need.