It’s the simple, ordinary stories that are the most powerful in helping us understand something which is often difficult to grasp. For example, how does an understanding of the workings of our mind help someone reconnect with their natural resilience and mental wellbeing?
Prior to my meeting with John and his partner, I found myself questioning my ability to help in these ‘high stakes’ circumstances. Thankfully, I quickly spotted my own habitual thinking pattern of ‘not being good enough’ which had unhelpfully labelled both John and the situation. I realised that at a deeper level I completely trusted in the healing power of listening. It’s not on me (or anyone) to fix another person. I just needed to be able to hold the space for John to hear his own wisdom. Armed with this insight I now felt settled and curious to understand John’s world.
At our first meeting, John appeared agitated, uncommunicative and disconnected. He was off sick from work with stress and was anxious about many things, including his job. Life felt like a pressure cooker of circumstances, with little or no peace in sight. His partner was extremely concerned for his mental health, having called the police when she feared he might be about to harm himself.
On our second meeting, he had come to appreciate the amount of ‘red’ thinking, particularly around the pressure he felt coming from the job and from his mother’s needs. Later, in a moment of calm clarity, he decided that leaving his job was the right course of action. He was then able to create more space for the building project to adapt his mother’s home to better meet her needs, at the same time as developing a strategy for coping with her onsetting dementia.
On our third meeting, he appeared to be much more upbeat and positive about the future. Indeed, that morning on his usual early morning walk, he had said ‘good morning’ to a lady he recognised but didn’t know well. She stopped to talk and asked him what he did. He explained that he was between jobs but was a skilled carpenter by trade and currently working on his mother’s house. She asked him if he was able to help her with some jobs that she needed doing. The spark of an idea emerged about how he could establish himself as a ‘Mr. Fixit’, and by the end of his walk he had the beginnings of a business strategy!
What could possibly explain such a miraculous change in a few weeks? This is the process I observed… on his first visit he was consumed by agitated ‘red’ thinking. He believed his thinking and that his circumstances were to blame for his poor mental health. He didn’t see that his busy thinking was obscuring his built-in, natural resilience (which we refer to as the ‘inner diamond’). In the space of being listened to, he became aware that he was naturally resilient but for his thinking. He accepted that much of his thinking was unnecessary and was indeed the cause of his feelings of stress. At this point his thinking naturally calmed down and he began to notice insights popping into his head. The future was suddenly filled with possibilities and a greater confidence that he would know what to do irrespective of circumstances.
Once we accept our own thinking for what it is, it bursts the bubble on the layers of additional meaning we give to it. With this powerful insight our thinking calms down, we gain new perspective and clarity about the next step to take. And we have a better understanding of how the human psychological system works – we are designed to thrive and to experience life from the inside-out through our own personal thinking.
N.B. I have changed his name for the purpose of anonymity