Recently, the conversations with my e-counsellor have been very helpful in lifting my spirits. Her accommodating persona allows the bottled-up emotions in my locked heart flow out freely in copious words. I am amazed by how her writing exercises help me to start an adventure of getting to know myself better day-to-day. Getting to know ourselves is so important as this self-knowledge dictates our life choices and projects which we would like to work on.
She has never tried to impart in me any ideologies or life principles but is always prompting me to look deeper within me for answers to my big questions in life. Below is what I have learned from my self-reflection after countless rounds of e-counselling with her:
#I am using present tense below as I am trying hard to practice all this on a day-to-day basis.
1. People tend to judge. Most of the time, we have learned not to judge people based on their negative words or actions by treating them fairly. We accommodate their bad qualities and sometimes even guide them towards the path of living an ethical life. However, it is far too easy to fall into the deep trap of being a judgmental “saint.” Positive values and belief systems are good benchmarks for us to live an ethical life but people are too easily trapped by these positive values and belief systems. I know it is important to uphold positive values and belief systems but…Have we practiced listening without judgement by holding space for someone? Can we really listen to someone’s story attentively and just be there for them? …When does she come from? Why is she doing this? Why does she say this? What are her difficulties? What are her specific needs? What are the strengths in her which can help in coping with her current setback?
2. I always trust all my emotions because they are authentic. For me, all our emotions are the most brilliant teachers in life which we should embrace. Instead of allowing our negative emotions to overwhelm us and create a mess in our life, we can look deeply into them. We can examine their triggers by paying attention to some intricate details about their emergence. With these triggers in the forefront of our mind, we can be a better sailor for our ship of emotions when there is a sea storm of unpredictability during the moments we least expect. It means that…if you put in efforts to understand the triggers of your emotions, you can have better control of your emotions by avoiding or dealing with those triggers through employing some self-management strategies.
3. Empathizing with someone’s internal struggles is a challenging skill to master. Besides its vital “ingredient” of sincerity, you also need to have great mental strength. That’s why professionals have recommended that all future counsellors go for their own personal therapy before stepping into practice. Everyone, including counsellors have their own underlying mental issues or hidden “unfinished business.” Paraphrasing someone’s words seems to be an effective way for showing empathy as we show our understanding towards the expression of one’s own internal struggles. However, we should avoid comparing the internal struggles in our personal experiences to others’ internal struggles. This might turn out to be a form of overgeneralization. Everyone’s life is unique. There are no two internal struggles which are exactly alike. Of course, we can share our success in overcoming the similar kind of internal struggle as a form of inspiration and encouragement for others. Nonetheless, this can just be a reference for the person struggling with life. Your life story does not necessarily come with a one-size-fits-all solution for the person. We are not in the capacity to say something like… “I have experienced what you are facing right now. And, I have survived it by…”… because for certain things in life, only our Creator understands. This kind of statement might sound harmless and empathic, but for some sensitive, vulnerable human beings, it is like bombarding them with the ideas about their overdramatic persona or inadequacy in coping with the issue at hand. (I know what I am saying here might not make sense for you but you should be very mindful with your language while talking to a depressed soul. Intentionally good words can turn out to be hurting and triggering.) Maybe, the best thing to say next time is…“I might not know how it feels like to be in your situation, but I understand that it must be… (paraphrasing part) …”
4. All of us have our own dreams, wishes and aspirations. Everyone should fight for the freedom to choose the journey one would like to embark on. We should be allowed to love ourselves as who we are, be our authentic selves and pursue what we love. For some people, being a housewife is a dream worth aspiring to; travelling round the world is a dream worth aspiring to; completing PhD study is a dream worth aspiring to; being well-known is a dream worth aspiring to; raising a kid is a dream worth aspiring to; preaching the Gospel is a dream worth aspiring to; being a blogger is a dream worth aspiring to…All in all, everyone has the right to their own choice. And, we should always respect people’s life choices. If you have someone who can encourage you to push the limits for your own good in realizing the dreams you hold dear in your heart, appreciate the person.
5. We should love our imperfectly perfect life. There are two sides to our life: the negative and positive. Since it is not within our capacity to avert all life negativities due to our sheer power as just human beings, we should embrace all the negativities in life. Instead of lamenting, we should just immerse ourselves in the ups-and-downs of our life completely. Whatever our reality is, we just need to find our life meaning from it, and sometimes, our life lessons. There is no need to aspire for a perfect life with full protection from our Creator as we can only shine like a “diamond” after rounds and rounds of painful “sculpturing and polishing.” Our life challenges, failures, pains, loneliness, etc. help to shape us into a better person. At the end of our life, what matters to us is just what we mean to others. Death might set us apart from our loved ones, but it allows us to think carefully the meaning we derive from our mortal human life on this earth. Nobody can take away our meaning of life from us. It is deeply embedded in our spirit. Instead of seeing our imperfect life in this broken world as being void of meaning, we should practice more on how to see the goods in every existence. In this well-designed world, every occurrence arises for a good reason beyond our human understanding. We just need to enjoy the ride by tasting all flavors in life. Sadness foregrounds happiness; loneliness foregrounds understanding; hatred foregrounds forgiveness; abusive deeds foreground dignity; phobias foreground mental agility; anger foregrounds calmness; envy foregrounds self-examination; self-doubts foreground self-love; separation foregrounds appreciation, busyness foregrounds priority, sickness foregrounds health; failure foregrounds resilience, etc. We should really experience all this in our life.
Listening to people’s stories about what life is can be inspiring, but it is never the same as we experiencing our life by ourselves. Just try to stop analyzing if your life is worth living, just experience it head-on. There are no theories to guide you in interpreting your life worth (even God doesn’t do this), you just need to live your life authentically and describe to others how you feel about it. Just feel the sensations in life that make us feel alive! It can be physical or mental but most importantly, it makes you closer to the real human life which our Creator would like us to truly experience. Experiences make us grow in many aspects!
Although our physical body will die off one day, it is an important vessel for us to experience this life on the earth. When we are gone physically, what remains is just the meaning we have made out of this life. We are brilliant creations who can make meaning out of our imperfect life in this broken world. There is no need to wait for God to assign meaning to our life by waiting for miracles. Instead of waiting for our inadequacy to be filled by God, why not utilizing what is within us to be great? Unless you are kidnapped and jailed somewhere in a vacant desert?
God is a supernatural celebrity, so we are! Be the celebrity who shines rays of hope on others ❤
I hope… this marks the end of my self-harming addiction and occasional drinking habit.
A special thanks to TheHelpTalk, the e-counselling platform I am subscribing to.
If you would like to know more…
An inspiring news report on TheHelpTalk: https://vulcanpost.com/625654/the-help-talk-online-counselling-mental-health-malaysia/
Some helpful contact details for the mental health warriors:
Online forum: http://depression-understood.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=6&sid=a90aa4711e2a56027c0eda30d4ade785
Suicide prevention lines: https://www.befrienders.org/
Thank you:) Stay safe!