Today, when the local paper arrives I will read of yet another youth suicide in our region occurring on the weekend. Some youths I know where grieving Saturday night.
And it seemed timely to present a series of pieces under the general heading of ‘Strategies of Mental Health’. These will present what I believe is essential to teach, to our kids and teens and to learn ourselves if we are truly serious about suicide prevention.
Because bluntly ladies and gentleman, here in Australia our youth suicide rate is an atrocious reflection on the adult community. Not the individual family. I mean the whole community; the education, the local community, and specifically, as was my field for many a year, the mental health system.
After all the consumption of mood changers, the depression rate and indeed the suicide rate in the adult population clearly show some things are amiss.
But despite all these things that may be wrong I want to focus on what can be done right. I’ve always thought there ain’t much use bitching about stuff if you don’t have a rational suggestion to replace the current way. And yep, your right, I do! Many actually.
The title for this piece follows on from a piece I wrote last week called “Lose the Rage Girlfriend”, where I explained the reasons for my anger (not rage) and for my tears and why they will continue.
And I expressed some confusion as to why others don’t feel the same. And it is the same with Joy. I feel a lot of Joy though again generally others don’t seem to feel the same.
And yet, like Anger in response to injustice so too is Joy an emotion that is constantly at our finger tips, in response simply to life.
Yes Joy; no matter what Anger and Sorrow we also may be feeling.
And one of the reasons we do not experience this Joy I believe is because of the way we are taught. Both what is included and what is not. Not just in education but starting in our homes.
We are taught to always look forward to achieving things that will ‘bring’ happiness.
Money, a career, marriage, and so on. And yes, we can look forward to these things in life.
But they are not what will make us happy or sad…unless that’s our expectation…and that is surely a hit and miss situation. We may or may not have a happy marriage. We may or may not make a great career or make lots of dollars.
However if we are happy first, we are much more likely to succeed in all these other areas of our lives. How can we be happy first? By having a look around I reckon!
So many folks I’ve talked with over the years truly don’t know how to even feel appreciation for who and what they are. Instead of appreciation, every single client I’ve ever had, live in a world of judgment and fear. Judgment of others and more severely, judgment of themselves. Fear of others and worse, fear of themselves.
We judge our looks, our personalities, our deeds, our thoughts, our emotions and our morality. But we don’t judge fairly. We have been taught to judge with an eye to fault and failure.
Are you happy inside right now?
So many say no when answering from their heart. Why? The responses may be different but there are always thousands of things that could be better. That ‘critical parent’ inner voice most of us are trained to have, pointing out all our failures and faults with mundane regularity.
Mind you, I’m not saying things, or anyone, is perfect. My last article showed that. There are certainly areas of improvement required in all of us. But do we need to be so condemning of others and ourselves? Is it helping us to be happy? Of course we aren’t perfect. Why on earth does anyone expect us to be?
But my real question here is where is our Joy for the magnificent things in ourselves, in others and in this world?
Have you ever considered yourself or those around you as magnificent? My guess for the majority is no. And yet we are; you are. Absolutely and completely magnificent and unique, as is the whole world around you.
Please don’t think I mean this in a boring, politically correct, psychological, new age, crocky way.
I mean dead set scientifically, creatively, imaginatively blooming magnificent!
So if folk are only focusing on the negatives, on what’s wrong with themselves, with others, with the community, the government the world, well, they are going to be pretty negative hey.
And the thing is, whether a person is currently in a prison cell, in a hospital bed, or in the richest hotel in the world, Happiness, Joy is possible; without needing to self-bullshit.
Right at this moment your life is filled with beauty, with treasures, and with magnificence, as well as the crap, so surely it deserves at least half of the attention, and then I reckon we’d at least have some balance in our perspective (thus emotional reactions).
(And a word to those who were treated badly as children. I’m sorry. I was too. But now you are an adult, and however badly you were treated you are still alive and all this magnificence is at your fingertips.)
Life is much more magical, much more magnificent, much more amazing; we are much more powerful, much more in control, much, much more creative and much more blessed than most people seem to ever realize.
My next piece will examine some of the myriad of things we have to be joyful about, but let me finish with a very simple change of perspective we could start with and that is what we do and do not teach about the human body.
Open any magazine, or turn on the TV, and you can see our obsession with our bodies. But here is a perfect example of how conditioned we are to only focus on the negative.
Our obsession is not about how wonderful our bodies are (unless they fit a rare criterion promoted by the media and even those few seem dissatisfied).
Instead our obsession is about how we can change our bodies. Too fat, too thin, too tall, too short, too white, too dark, too lumpy, too whatever. Cut this, reshape that, fix this. PLEASE!!!
What the heck are we doing here teaching our children about how they can change rather than how perfect they are?
If any of us stopped for a minute and considered our bodies separately from the entire crock commercialism shoves in our faces, we’d all be a little impressed at least. We should be, and this is the stuff we need to teach our kids.
After all, with no help from us, our heart beats, our organs clean our insides, and really a bad haircut means little as our hair will grow again without our help.
Meanwhile our brains sending thousands of messages at a speed unimaginable. Our bodies dispense hormones and chemicals and all sorts of natural drugs to help us maintain our homeostasis.
Watching my son I often am amazed at the ability of the human body to grow so perfectly with absolutely no effort from us. Daily I stop and look at my boy and for a moment simply appreciate the miracle that whilst I was a channel for, I really had so little to do with.
Here we are with this magnificent human body. Bodies that can take a whole lot of abuse from us and keep on keeping on.
Senses that allow us to experience all the pleasures that this life, this world, has to offer.
An emotional capacity of such proportions that heroes are made. And the more scientists learn the more it is clear that we are using very little of our own body/mind capacity and its potential evolution is beyond our imagination.
What else are we capable of? What else are you capable of?
So next time you’re looking in the mirror, on the verge of self-criticism followed by those horrible emotions, perhaps you can look through different eyes and feel joy just at your ‘being’.
For you are indeed magnificent. And surely there is joy in that!
Note: you will have observed I’m sure my capitalization of emotions. I intentionally do this to reflect how much importance emotions carry yet in our society only intellectual abilities receive serious note. Hence ignoring a very important part of our psyche; often the messenger to our intellect. Another area of imbalance in our perceptions, but that’s for later the third in ‘Strategies of Mental Health’.