“Forgiveness is to set a prisoner free, and to discover that prisoner was you” – Lewis B. Smedes.
One of the burdens people carry is the inability to forgive those who have hurt them, there are three ways people react to this;
The first is the Reactor; this is the obvious relationship break down, there is no communication and the betrayed is clearly angry and makes the betrayer aware of their wrong doing any chance they get. They feel their anger is justified and they want this person to suffer.
The second is the Faker; this person pretends like they’re over it, even acting as though it never happened and seemingly continues their relationship with the betrayer, but deep down harbours resentment towards them; talking negatively of them behind their back, secretly revelling in their hardships, perhaps organising friendship gatherings and ‘forgetting’ to mention it to them. Like the Reactor, the Faker feels their resentment is justified. The resentment gradually builds up, causing an inevitable explosive rift, resulting in more pain and conflict than had the original act of betrayal just been acknowledged.
Third is the Wise Man; this person recognizes that the Reactor and the Faker are only causing themselves more pain, and has a genuine desire to forgive the betrayer and to move on. Not for the benefit of the betrayer but for their own sanity. Sometimes the Reactor and the Faker get to this point, as they mature, they become more aware & recognise that their un-forgiveness is as punishing to themselves as it is to the betrayer, if not more so; it becomes a burden they do not want to carry anymore. This is a really important first step; to love yourself enough to want to forgive those who have hurt you. But more often than not, we find that forgiveness does not come when we simply decide we want to forgive, and that brings with it another challenge “why can’t I forgive them”. In this case, we must be so careful not to develop guilt and self-blame, “I must be a bad person because I can’t forgive”. With this new found awareness & empathy, we may especially feel bad if the betrayer is genuinely trying to make amends. It is equally as wrong to continue to remind someone of their past mistakes when they are trying to better themselves, whether that be directly as the Reactor or indirectly as the Faker.
Acceptance is the key to healing in any circumstance, and therefore you can say “I don’t forgive them, and that’s ok”. This doesn’t mean you continue to feel angry or resentful, it means when those feelings arise, you allow them to be, but you do not react outwardly or inwardly as a reaction would feed the emotion and therefore encourage it to manifest and to grow. When you begin to allow an emotion to be, but to not define you, you allow the natural flow of energy, (that is to feel and to release; energy is not supposed to hang around for more than a moment) feel, allow/accept, release, there is no should or shouldn’t about it. So when you begin to accept your un-forgiveness as it is and not as you expect it to be, you find that forgiveness naturally follows suit. Some find that forgiveness enables them to rebuild the relationship better and stronger than before, but of course, forgiveness does not mean you must allow someone back in to your life; it means you have finally let them go.
A friend of mine recently shared a very inspiring post about the power of self-love, she had spent years battling with who she was and changing this to please the people she was spending time with; she wrote that it was only when she made friends with herself and started to put herself first that she was able to make space for a genuine relationship. I absolutely agree with everything she wrote but I wanted to share my experience because in hindsight whilst I always thought I was a strong single women, I realised that it was my relationship that taught me how to make friends with myself, how to forgive and how to enjoy life more.
I met my boyfriend of 5-years when I was a very lively, ‘happy go lucky’ 23 year old, I loved socialising and spending my weekends drinking and dancing with my girlfriends. I hadn’t been in a relationship for 6-years, whilst I had enjoyed a few short-term flings, I struggled to develop emotional connections and quickly got bored. I had expected the same would happen with my current partner. On reflection, I had spent the first few months of our relationship up to my usual tricks; distancing myself and then showing interest; finding buttons to push and making a drama out of tiny mishaps, of course I didn’t realise I was doing this at the time. Each time my partner would brush them off and love me all the same, I remember saying to my sister “I think I might be with this one for a while”. As I started to feel more secure in this relationship, I started to fear that someone would take my partner from me. I had never been a jealous person, I believed I had so much self-love that I didn’t need to worry about anyone else, but the first two-years of our relationship brought a real ugly and vocal green eyed monster. Whilst this was infrequent compared to the majorly happy memories we were making, it was enough for me to worry that my partner or even myself may get fed up and leave. I remember once saying to my partner “what if I’m like this forever” (a jealous girlfriend) and he replied with absolute certainty “you won’t be”. His faith in me encouraged me to figure out where these insecure emotions were coming from.
Whilst I wanted to find the root cause of my insecurity because I wanted to stop harming my relationship, I found that I couldn’t really take this seriously until I wanted to do it for myself;
Lesson number 1
I had to accept that I wasn’t this confident, empowering, radiating with self-love woman that I had believed myself to be for so long. If this was true I would have no reason to fear losing the man I loved. So whilst my relationship forced me to recognise that I didn’t have so much self-love, it also forced me to find out why this was; this helped me to know myself better and to show myself compassion. Consequently I began to love myself enough to not want to hurt myself and this meant releasing any negative emotions that were causing me pain; in this case that was jealousy or fear of losing my relationship.
Lesson number 2
I remember I once said to my partner that the reason I would get jealous and fearful of losing him was because I had suffered bereavement of my Grandad and my dad when I was a child; he told me this was not an excuse. I remember at the time I thought this a heartless thing to say but on reflection he was right and in turn this taught me that I had a habit of blaming; I wasn’t taking responsibility for my actions and whilst I was doing this I could never get better.. because you can’t fix it when it’s not yours to fix.
Lesson number 3
I didn’t realise how much of a control freak I was. One of the reasons I enjoyed being single so much was because I had my weeks planned like a rota; I knew exactly what I was doing at exactly what time and I could get quite upset when someone messed that up. My partner is fun, spontaneous and is always late. My relationship has taught me to live in the moment; it has taught me that being 10-minutes late is not the end of the world and spontaneity can be more fun than it is scary. I am a lot more adventurous and carefree since the beginning of my relationship.
Lesson number 4
I had no idea how selfish I was!! My partner never told me I was selfish or insecure or blameful, in fact I can’t remember a negative thing he has ever said to me about my personality or appearance. My partner gave me time, patience and a lot of love, when he tried to give that to anyone else I got fearful and demanded that he give it all back to me. It’s not fair to expect your partner not to be kind, not to laugh with or not to give attention to another person. I think a lot of people, particularly those who have been betrayed in a relationship struggle with this; but know that your relationship will fail if you continue to put a barrier between your partner and the outside world, it is not natural.
Lesson number 5
Forgiveness is the key to a happy life; my partner never brings up the past, when I am angry I can say some pretty hurtful things but he has never used them against me. I used to live by the motto ‘forgive but never forget’; if someone hurt me I could quite easily accept their apology but I would hold a grudge for a while. My partners ability to forgive and forget has taught me that if you choose to forgive a person you must also choose to forget because otherwise it will eat you up, you will bring up the past and you will destroy relationships; so essentially you are not forgiving at all.
I cannot give my partner full credit for my personal development since the beginning of our relationship, I could not have learnt any of this had I not chosen to be aware of my actions and their impact. I made the choice to grow and to learn; nobody has the power to change us, but anybody can set an example that can nudge us in the right or wrong direction, without them even realising they are doing it. The right relationship offers a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, it can be and should be empowering. So while I agree that we need to focus on loving ourselves before we go searching for someone else to love us for us, don’t let the journey put you off a blossoming romance, it just might help you reach the destination.
I often wonder how many people can relate to this moment; pull up car, breath, breath, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t face this’, breath, breath, switch off your thoughts, breath; turn the ignition off, breath, ‘you got this, just like you did last time’.
3, 2, 1.. Smile.
You put on a pretty convincing act, you even begin to believe it yourself. I remember the very first time I did this, it was after the death of my step-father 4 years ago; I was driving the short journey to my friends house when something triggered and I began to cry, I quickly began degrading myself, and talking to myself out loud ‘stop this, you can’t let her see you like this, sort yourself out’. I slowed my driving so as to give myself more time to sort myself out. As I pulled into the drive, I smiled; if she asked, I would say I have been laughing, I thought. Luckily, she didn’t notice.. phew! I remember reflecting on that moment, and thinking to myself ‘I hope I never have to do that again’.. I did it again many times.
One of the positives to experiencing emotional pain, is that I have a newfound compassion for others; I put on such a convincing act, what’s to say that the person in front of me isn’t doing the same? I wish everyone thought like this, perhaps then everyone would think before they speak. Words hurt; your words can turn someone’s single good day of the week in to another bad day, it could turn it from a manageable day, to an unbearable day.
No matter how well you think you know someone, you may not know their internal struggle. No matter how well you think you know someone, it does not give you the right to say what you like to them, to take your anger out on them, or to degrade their choices. You have no right to comment on a person’s behaviour or appearance because it doesn’t meet your norm. How dare you belittle another person because you’re having a bad day.
Please think before you speak, your words may seem futile to you but to someone who is already in so much pain, they could be the final straw- don’t let your words be their breaking point.
You always have an option; compassion or judgement. If you can’t do the former, at least keep your judgement to yourself. Think before you speak ♡
I haven’t posted for a while as I’m working on a book, and I’ve acquired a small animal sanctuary in my home, so all my free time is spent on feeding, cleaning and cuddling animals, and typing and proof reading my book. It’s all fun and games but not where I expected to be at 30 years old.
I turned 30 in January, like most I had plans for this important milestone; I had planned to throw myself a big party, I love having my family and friends all together and so this was a great excuse. I had not considered that Covid would affect my birthday party; I had believed it would all be over by the time my birthday came around. Even with the announcement at the beginning of January that we would be going back into lock down, I was still hopeful right up to the week of my birthday that some miracle would happen and I would have my dream party, but no miracle happened. I can still feel the resentment in the pit of my stomach as I type this, as if I’m the only person who has had their dreams squashed by Covid-19. I had many goals I had hoped to achieve by the time I was 30, I have achieved few of them, and my 30th birthday party was supposed to be a distraction.. despite all my failings, this was something I had believed was achievable! I had woken up on the morning before my 30th birthday with a sore head, my thought processes something like this; ‘this is not fair; why is this happening to me; the one year that my boyfriend had to pull out all the stops and he’s got away with it for another 10 years; I bet my best friend gets a big surprise party for her 30th birthday in July..’. Fortunately, my higher-self stepped in before these childlike thought processes spiralled out of control and risked ruining what I did have of my 30th birthday. As I mature, I have learnt to acknowledge such negative thought processes quickly before I become completely unconscious, and act on them from a place of total disregard, consequently hurting the people I love. I have learnt to flip the coin and turn these thoughts into a learning process; what is the circumstance trying to teach me? One of, if not THE most important life lesson I’ve learnt in my 30 years is that life is about growth, and in order to grow we need to learn, and in order to learn we need to be challenged, so when circumstances arise that I do not like, I am learning to look for what I can take from them to improve myself, and better my life. Much of where I am now, at 30 years old, is not where I would have liked to be. If a Fortune reader had told me 4 years ago that I would still be living at my mother’s house with 4 birds, a rabbit and a dog, I would have laughed in her face, and asked for my money back.
When I was 19 I had wrote a list of the things that I wanted to do by the time I was 30 and at 26 years old, I still aspired to much of what was on that list; one of which was to run a marathon. At 29 I almost signed up to run a marathon, however I reflected that I didn’t really want to do this anymore. I love running but I didn’t feel I had much to gain from running a marathon, I’m not a competitive person and I considered that i wouldn’t be doing this for myself, so who would I be doing it for? I also aspired to the other bog standard materialisms; successful job, nice car, nice house, fit husband and bright children.. I got the job and fit boyfriend.
As I was lay in bed the morning before my birthday, and focusing on re-evaluating my thought processes, I reflected on where I am today, and considered how I could change this resentful pit in my stomach to a feeling of love and gratitude. I thought of how far I’ve come in terms of addressing my inner demons and past traumas, owning these and beginning the healing process; I thought of the animals I have rescued in the past 12 months, some rehabilitated back into the wild and some at home with me. I reflected on my self-absorbed, materialistic 26 year old self and that she would have never imagined 30 year old me sacrificing my early morning runs to feed the animals, spending my left over wages on bedding, food and toys for the animals instead of fake tan and new outfits; and most importantly, accepting myself without the makeup, fake tan and skimpy outfits. I considered that of all those things I wrote on that list 11 years ago, I did not aspire to becoming a more compassionate, authentic and self-loving person. We tend to aspire to materialism, wealth and physical beauty which is great but I have learnt that without the internal progress we become unfulfilled and all the external stuff starts to fall apart. When we focus on getting the internal stuff right, we can have the external stuff and keep it. We should never feel ashamed for changing direction and not accomplishing past goals; our priorities and values change and that’s not a weakness, it’s a really good thing because it demonstrates personal growth. Sometimes what we committed to years ago, months ago or even weeks ago doesn’t feel right anymore and it’s a real strength to acknowledge that and to embrace the change; sometimes the goal stays the same, but the journey changes and that’s ok too.
So, I pushed aside my self-pity and enjoyed a quiet 30th birthday, contented that at 30 years old, I’m everything I’m supposed to be and I’m exactly where I need to be.
Good old Facebook ‘on this day’ brought up this picture. I was surprised to see it as I actually thought I had deleted it. Nevertheless it encouraged a reflection and I’m overdue a blog post.
When I look at this picture, I am not the great animal lover & empath I am today. I am a self-absorbed, naive and incredibly innocent 23 year old. I was teaching English language in Thailand and the Elephant ride was supposed to be the highlight of my trip; I had no idea the suffering those animals were put through for my entertainment & Facebook likes!
I remember feeling that something wasn’t right when I was on the back of her; such a beautiful, majestic animal yet there was nothing majestic about the experience, it felt invasive & wrong. I remember looking at the long stick with the small dagger on the end and the small holes in the Elephants ears, I remember pushing aside the thought that the two correlated. I guess I had such a sheltered upbringing that I never thought that humans could be capable of such cruelty. I didn’t allow myself to even think it and I shared my pictures on social media boasting of the experience (how shameful).
My friends went on a second Elephant ride, I turned it down. Whilst I was stood waiting for them, one of the Elephants retaliated, he got angry, he whaled and stomped into the shelter huts. There were many other Elephants around him but they weren’t as brave, or they were too broken to notice the opportunity for freedom. This was their chance I thought, they are so much bigger and stronger than us scrawny humans buzzing beneath them.. or on top of them. All they had to do was shake them off or stamp their feet a few times but the others didn’t; the humans who tamed them made sure they were so broken, so terrified to ever stand their ground, to ever know their worth or capability. Whatever they did to them, they did good and proper!
It wasn’t long before this lone warrior was tackled down and hurried away. I can’t imagine the punishment he endured.
When my friend returned from her second Elephant ride, I told her about the brave Elephant and my fears that the Elephants were being harmed, she casually replied “of course they are, we would never be able to get near them otherwise”. She was so self-assured in her response that I felt silly for sharing my concern for the Elephants. I pushed this to the back of my mind for a long time, I wasn’t ready to face the cruelty of humankind; my kind.
My partner & I enjoyed a holiday to Rhodes 4 years after this experience in 2018. I was saddened to see many tourists enjoying a hike on a Donkeys back. I reflected on my Elephant ride & suspected that most of the humans participating in the Donkey ride were not much different from my 23 year old self (naive, clueless, self-absorbed) and ultimately appreciate and ‘love’ animals and therefore want the experience of being as physically close to the animal as they can be. I hoped that they would be as utterly horrified as I was to learn that they were supporting the inflicting pain & maltreatment of these animals.
I stroked one of the Donkey’s for a few moments (just before her human saw me and sent me away when I refused him money). I could feel her exhaustion and I think she felt my kindness, she bowed her head into me & closed her eyes. I suspect she was rarely shown human compassion.
I don’t believe humankind is intentionally cruel, I think we are broken and consumed by ego and materialism. The earth provides everything we need but we believe we need more and unfortunately this encourages the abuse and exploitation of all other living beings.
Animals are not here to fulfil human needs, we just can’t seem to grasp that. People discard of a pet because it doesn’t look the way they want, doesn’t give them the love they crave or behave the way they want it to. Animals are gagged, not physically but in every other sense of the word. They are not allowed a personality or freedom to express themselves; they must do as humans expect them to do. Whether an animal has a happy or miserable life is entirely in human hands, we choose the life path of our animals. I think it is such an incredible thing to give an animal a loving home.
I give you life, I share my home; I provide enough nutritious food to feed every being on earth, yet you choose to grotesquely feast on your brothers and sisters, causing immense suffering, pollution and disease.
You are the creator of the 6th mass extinction and you are so egotistical that you believe this won’t affect you.
You think you have control, the right to rule the lands. You think I am your toy.
You think you are more worthy than the sea, the trees and creatures, yet you depend on them to feed your insatiable appetite for consumption. Aside from this, your kind could not survive without them.
You think you are the most intelligent species, yet you are the only species who inflicts your own illness and premature death through your deplorable gluttony. You foolishly desire a beauty and social acceptance that doesn’t even exist and you don’t care who you destroy to get there.
So whilst it is true that your potential is great, your obsession with money, power and greed makes you reckless, weak and sick.
I assigned you role of protector, you are failing.
When your role is no longer useful, when it is more harmful than it is helpful, I will inflict sickness, fires and floods; storms, earthquakes and fear in an attempt to make you see sense.
I am forgiving, I am loving. You have made me tired, you have made me weak and now you think you are experiencing my retaliation. Humans, you can take full responsibility for this pandemic.
Whilst you’re sick, I am getting better. Whilst you’re in hiding, I am flourishing. I am strong, don’t make me angry.
I felt I should write something about the current pandemic as most other bloggers are, though I’m not particularly inspired to write about Covid-19 and I won’t write without inspiration. This quote inspired me and as I wrote this blog, I realised how relevant this is to the current pandemic. Many of us are stuck at home with our partners and many people are posting on social media that their partner is driving them crazy; some relationships will thrive under these circumstances and some will fail, it depends on how aware either individual is.
We spend the whole of our lives looking for someone to make us complete and sometimes we do feel complete in the first 6-months of a relationship, or even so long as 3-years into a relationship; but eventually the sex gets repetitive, the date nights become infrequent if at all, perhaps your partner has let themselves go and so they are not as physically attractive and you find that their gross habits that used to be cute or tolerable at least, become disgusting and intolerable. The relationship ‘is not the same’, it doesn’t feel right; you no longer feel complete. Truth is you were never complete and that’s why these inevitable changes in the relationship have offended you.
We carry so much emotional baggage with us throughout our lives. As children we learn to bury our fears, sadness and even anger because the adults in our lives have taught us to do just that. Adults try to protect children by not telling them what’s going on for example, and so the child may be scared to ask (bury that fear away); or when the child does ask, they are berated or dismissed (bury that sadness away); if the child is frustrated and lashes out, they are told off (bury that anger away). These emotions don’t just disappear, they are stored in our subconscious and are reflected in our behaviour. They take us away from our innocence and the pureness that we are all born with.
We avoid dealing with these buried emotions by keeping ourselves busy; many people can’t bare their own company because they begin to feel scared, worried or sad. If we don’t recognise that these emotions are coming from within, we start to blame them on our external environment and particularly our partner because they are the most familiar person in our environment. We become angry, sad and blameful when our partner no longer makes us feel ‘complete’ a.k.a. fuzzy, excited, special etc. We believe there must be something wrong with the relationship or that something must be missing; this often results in infidelity because the individual wants to find that fuzzy, excited feeling of ‘completeness’ again but until they look within, their relationships will keep failing.
I had never recognised myself as the jealous type but when I met my partner and fell in love, I became possessive, I eventually recognised that this was a reflection of my childhood grief and fear of losing another man in my life. My relationship encouraged me to recognise this buried emotion, release it and heal; subsequently my relationship flourished. I know many people who have blamed their relationship for making them feel insecure, when actually the relationship is not responsible for this at all, it was already within but it lay dormant until the opportunity arose for it to come forward. This is how relationships can encourage spiritual and personal development because they unearth undesirable emotions and give us the opportunity to recognise, release and heal.
The current pandemic is forcing many of us to be in our partners company for far longer than we would like; lots of unresolved emotions are coming to the forefront and our spouses are going to be on the receiving end of it. When you are in conflict with your partner listen to what is being said, often it is so petty it is humorous. Recognise the emotion, if there is anger know that there is anger. If there is jealousy, defensiveness, the need to be right, an inner child demanding love and attention recognise it. Are you really upset that your partner is watching football instead of going for a walk with you? Or is this your inner child demanding attention from your absent father? Feeling rejected but too scared to say so (bury that emotion; take it out on your partner 20-years later). Notice how you may overreact to a minor circumstance, feel silly for it later but you’re too stubborn to admit it so your partner gets the silent treatment anyway. Try to allow yourself the time to reflect on why you reacted the way you did, whatever the emotion, there is always a deep rooted cause; don’t forfeit a loving relationship for the sake of your pride.
I want to start this blog by recognizing the men in my life, whose love for me has inspired me to be my truest and best self… OMG did she just start a blog titled the empowered woman by giving credit to MEN?? Yes I did and I give equal credit to my mother and my sisters whose impact on my life has been just as significant. I do not believe the empowered woman aspires to a gender; I believe she aspires to the qualities of kindness, compassion, strength, humility and love. I believe it does not matter to her to be greater than or louder than, to argue her point or to compare her worth because she knows it already. She has a love of self so fierce that no thing or being can disturb her peace.
Empowerment does not require justification or validation; empowerment is not angry protests or division, it is not who is right and who is wrong; empowerment is self-love, inner peace and unity. I recognize that many women use the term ‘I am an empowered woman and therefore I do not need a man’ and ‘empowered women empowering women’ this insinuates that women who have any kind of relationship with a man are not empowered. I haven’t yet heard the saying ‘empowered men empowering women’ or ‘empowered women empowering men’ yet we know that without each other, human kind cannot survive; we have equal importance to the reproduction of human kind. Empowered woman need men, empowered men need women.. yes, even if you don’t plan to reproduce because of course without man or woman you wouldn’t even be here.
A world without males
I lost my grandfather and my father before the age of 5-years old, still their short time on earth with me taught me some valuable lessons that carry me through life. My grandfather was incredibly patient, humble and kind, he was the first person I knew I loved and I wanted to grow up to marry a man just like him; he taught me that love is patient, humble and kind. My father was funny, even when he was in a wheelchair and bed ridden by cancer, he was always smiling and doing cheeky things to make me and my siblings laugh; he taught me the importance of laughter, even in the face of incredible hardship. These males were the only males in my world, and I lost them. I have been in the presence of women insinuating a desirable world without males; I can tell you my world without males was scary, confusing and emotionally painful. Equally I was raised by very determined, independent women who taught me the importance of standards, hard work and resilience. Because I was raised by these incredibly strong women who seemed to manage life well on their own, I was of the view that I too was an independent woman who did not need a man. I met my current partner in my early 20’s and despite my initial stubbornness and resistance, I eventually learnt that I can be incredible empowered and independent in an equal relationship with a man; far more so than when I was a single woman (refer to my blog The Power of the Right Relationship).
Sadly, there are many patriarchal societies where women do not have the privilege to live a life of their choosing, but rather a life that is determined by the men who surround them. These women do not have a voice but if they had, may very well argue that life without males would be one of bliss and freedom. However if they were given the choice to completely eliminate males or to make woman man’s equal, I highly suspect they would chose the latter. When a man and women work together as equals, in any aspect of their life (relationships, employment, sport, raising a healthy child, world peace etc.) the consequence will be more powerful, consistent and positively effective.
The Women’s Rights Movement echoes that all men and women are created equally and therefore we should live in a world where all men and women are treated equally. It was never meant to be a vendetta against men, in fact the very opposite; it is about equality and bringing men and women together. It concerns me that some women are using feminism and women’s rights as an excuse to encourage a divide between men and women; to generalize men as controlling, greedy and coercive. The women’s right movement is not about berating and belittling men, it is not motivated to make women more powerful than men or more worthy. Women’s rights should not be fueled by hatred toward the collective male because of a bad experience with the minority male chauvinistic. In my experience, men generally dislike this type of man as much as women do. In the face of such a man, the empowered woman will not be offended or enraged, she may decide to give him her time to encourage a more enlightened perspective, dependent on the sophistication of his naivety. Either way, she will remain humble and at peace within herself. The empowered woman is fierce and passionate when she speaks; she is receptive and patient when she listens, she has a studios mind but has no desire to argue her point, her inner peace is too precious.
Let’s be honest…
The empowered woman is whoever the hell she wants to be but this is who she is to me!
Anxiety and depression diagnosis are increasingly familiar in the UK, so much so the diagnosis has become normalized and some are even referring to it as a fashion trend; mental health is not fashion, it is incredibly challenging and life debilitating and I applaud anyone who has found the courage to share their experience in the hope that it will help them and others recover. As mental health is on the up rise, so is suicide; new figures from the data of the Office of National statistics reveals that suicide in the UK has hit a 16 year high after surging in the past year following half a decade of decline; this includes an increase of 83% of females aged 10 to 24 years and an increase of 25% amongst boys of the same age. It is unclear as to why poor mental health and suicide rates have increased but professionals suggest a number of factors including relationship break downs, bereavement, concerns about body image, academic pressure, redundancy and bullying to name a few. Challenges that I’m sure most of us have experienced in our lives but may have overcome with early intervention work, supportive family and friends or simply because life thus far, has acquired us with coping mechanisms and a resilience that others do not have.
The general consensus is that poor mental health if not caused by, certainly results in lack of care for oneself a.k.a lack of self-love. I suggest that the factors recognized to have caused poor mental health are lack of self-love because if you loved yourself you would know that these circumstances do not define your true essence, and therefore you would trust your ability to overcome these challenges; you would not allow the circumstance to belittle you; and most importantly you would forgive yourself.
When we are born we are pure love however society quickly molds us into what it wants us to be; up to the age of 8-years old our brains are like a sponge, we absorb everything we see, feel and hear and this becomes who and what we identify with; if my father shouts at me every time I speak, I learn that I am not to speak and therefore I will become timid, quiet and I will have low self-esteem. As I grow into adulthood I may lash out and shout when I am frustrated as my father did; I may have trust issues and therefore relationship failures and due to my low self-esteem (lack of self-love) it is unlikely I will have aspirations. As a result of all of this, it is highly likely that I will have poor mental health. We can take responsibility and we can change this at any given moment through personal development but only when we recognize that this behavior is negative, is of no service to our life and is not who we are! In order to recognize this, we need to have at least a little self-love because if we don’t, we will not believe we are worthy of feeling or doing better.
Many people who are brought up in loving homes develop mental health difficulties and this is a contribution of their external environment. We are constantly told that we are not pretty enough, thin enough, curvy enough, clever enough, wealthy enough and so on; we are constantly made to feel that we are lacking. Advertising industries know very well that in order to sell things they need to convince us that we are not good enough and that this product will add something to how we see ourselves or are seen by others. Of course it doesn’t enhance our sense of self or it may seem to for a short time but lack always creeps back in. Most of what we want isn’t even what we really want, it is what society is telling us we should want; most of us don’t even know who we are because we are so conditioned by society. Strip yourself of your job status, parent status, relationship status, gender, sexual orientation, culture, religion, materialisms, financial status etc; if you were to lose it all, who are you? These are all societal conditions.
So begs the question, how can we love ourselves when we don’t even know who we are? How can we really love anyone else when we can’t love ourselves?
The office of national statistics recently revealed that 42% of marriages in the UK end in divorce, the most common reason being unreasonable behavior, that is our spouse is not behaving the way we want them to. We have attached a condition (an expectation) to the relationship that we have been conditioned to believe is right or wrong and when our spouse fails to meet this condition or no longer meets the condition, the relationship fails. We put the same conditions on ourselves, our love of self. After my step-fathers passing, I went through a period of poor mental health and I used to cry when I looked in the mirror; I thought I was not societies condition of beautiful, I felt a failure. One day I wondered how I would feel if my sister degraded herself the way I did, it broke my heart to think she could feel that way about herself; then I thought about my partner and how I would feel if he spoke to himself the way I spoke to myself, again it broke me. I thought about what I would do if someone in the street started speaking to me the way I was speaking to myself and I immediately went on the defense; I would never let anyone speak to me like that, so why was I allowing my mind to speak to me like that? And so began my journey to self-love.
At 27 years old, I began to teach myself how to love myself; it is the greatest lesson I am still learning. My hope is that this will soon be taught in schools daily ,as a part of the education curriculum. It is assumed that human beings already know how to love and that if self-love were to be taught, it is our parent’s job to teach us; but what about the children who are raised in an abusive home? Who are brought up in the care system, by multiple carers? What about the children whose parents were never taught self-love? The only consistency for these children is school.
I am told they are teaching mental health awareness, they are teaching young people to recognize when they are feeling sad or angry or not right and what they should do when they feel this way; they are managing it but they are not preventing it. Our individuality, our uniqueness needs to be promoted; why do we make a room full of unique, individual beings do the same thing? Why do we attach the same expectation to completely different beings? And act surprised when they become frustrated, angry, confused, sad and insecure. We are setting them up for failure; we are destroying the artist who cannot spell. Children who are reminded that they are powerful, unique, worthy and perfectly enough just as they are, will grow into adults who are empowered and resilient; adults who will have enough self-love to face and to overcome life’s challenges.
I recently finished reading ‘The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle and this has encouraged me to set a New Year’s resolution to live in the present moment (this is a lot harder than it sounds). If you are interested in personal and spiritual development, I would highly recommend this book however I will forewarn that it will make you question your entire existence.
One of the things that I found particularly interesting was the realization that we live (or at least I certainly did) in the past and in the future, we are never really present. Many of us are actually a victim to our past because we define ourselves by our past experiences; this can result in trust issues, blame, controlling behavior, resentment, anger, depression and low self-esteem throughout our lives. We also define others by their past behavior; as part of a job application it is a compulsory requirement to provide details of a criminal record for example, something someone did 10 years ago may impact on their chances of getting a job 10 years later even though they may be completely reformed. Alternatively people may grieve for their past life, we notice this more so with the elderly; they reminisce over the good old days and resent the fact they can’t party as hard as they used to, or walk as far as they could, they miss their deceased friends and family; they forget that old age is a gift many of us are denied. Many young people however, look forward to the future and may use this is a distraction from their present situation or to manage their emotional pain from their past circumstances. I used to fantasize about having my dream career; I put all of my time, money and energy into working towards this dream career. Ironically two weeks after completing my eight-year-higher education and getting the job offer I dreamt of, I realized that life is not about getting the job offer; it is about the journey. By focusing on the end result instead of living in the moment, I missed out on numerous opportunities for personal growth, love and clarity.
there will be times where the past and the future are useful but rather than spending most of our time in the past and the future and only dipping into the present; we need to spend most of our time in the present and dip into the past and the future.
I remember a close friend of mine telling me that she doesn’t look forward to things anymore because they are never as good as she hopes. I remember at the time I felt that this was really sad, however now I understand the significance of this statement (unfortunately I don’t think my friend understood this from my spiritual viewpoint); whilst we are always looking forward we cannot enjoy the present moment, so when we get there we are never really present and therefore it is impossible to feel real ‘happiness’ or peace. It is like spending your entire life climbing a rope ladder with the belief that there is a pot of gold at the top but when you get there you find an old sack of dust, little did you realize that every 10 steps there was a pot of gold; you were so focused on the end result (the future) that you could not see the pots of gold right in front of you (the present). To live in the present moment doesn’t mean you can’t set goals; set goals but do not attach yourself to the outcome and therefore do not worry about how you will get there; do what you can do in the present moment, you will find that things progress and at a much faster rate than if you are attached to past experiences or future expectations. This also applies to our working life, there will be times where the past and the future are useful but rather than spending most of our time in the past and the future and only dipping into the present, we need to spend most of our time in the present and dip into the past and the future.
Eckhart Tolle argues that happiness is just as negative as anger because it is an illusionary emotion; it is short lived euphoria because it has conditions attached to it. We find that where there is happiness, there is always sadness because conditions are temporary, for example I am happy because it is my birthday tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow it is not my birthday so am I sad? Yes because my happiness, that feeling of euphoria was on the condition of my birthday and that is now over. I realized the impact this has on relationships; when we attach a condition to our relationship, it will almost always fail because conditions are temporary; I love my boyfriend or I am happy with my boyfriend because he is funny, handsome and patient; eight years later we have 2 children, my partner is working long hours, he becomes stressed, short-tempered and unattractive, do I stop loving him? If we learn to embrace our relationships in the present moment and for what it is now, not for what it was or what it will be, we find that our acceptance will develop into unconditional love and in turn a relationship that is peaceful, natural and long lasting. Tolle uses the term peace and peaceful because it is a sense of being, peace means freedom from disturbances; it is neither happiness nor sadness.
to live in the present moment is to live in a constant state of peace
Emotions such as anxiety, stress and worry are caused by living in the future, when you really get your head around this you understand how bizarre these emotions are; how can you be worried about something that may never happen? In most cases the situation is never as bad as we imagined it to be and even if it is, what is the sense in prolonging the emotional pain? Eckhart Tolle argues that being present, even in the most challenging situations diminishes all emotional pain. If you can catch an emotion as soon as it appears and observe it; that is to realize that this pain (the pain body or the ego) is not you, you are essentially detached from it and thus you bring awareness to the emotion, you will find that awareness makes it quickly disappear. Tolle emphasizes that to live in the present moment is to live in a constant state of peace, because presence does not have any conditions attached to it; it just is. It is a journey that requires patience, however awareness is a really positive start. If you can recognize a thought or emotion before it overwhelms you and know that it is not you, you are becoming aware, you are becoming present.