What is a Good Life? #12
Good day to you all,
Thanks again for your interest in this newsletter.
If this is your first time reading this newsletter, please click here for background information on the project and how it is structured (4 separate sections).
The key theme this week is Experiencing emotions.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – Love & optimism
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Isaiah*. Isaiah is an author, a podcast host and a trainee therapist - the focus of his content is mental health. Here he discusses the importance of love and optimism and how a fuller connection with both can emerge from a better understanding of our emotions.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life for me is a life of intention, that is purpose driven and led. That can manifest itself in many different ways depending on the person. It doesn't have to be something, where in the UK you turn 18 and you should know your purpose, what to study, what to be when you grow up, etc.
Everybody's idea of what a good life is so different, that should be respected and taken into account. For me, my overall purpose, is a life that is led with love and it's one that can pursue joy and all the things that make us human.
Can you elaborate on your interpretation of love?
When I say love and joy, I mean, they both come with disclaimers, huge disclaimers! I always look at these things in a box, and I think the idea of love that we've been given is this Disney idea of love - you open the box and it's just sweet music, pies and hearts.
I look at love in this box that just says TREAD WITH CARE, OPEN AT YOUR OWN RISK. It's a beautiful thing, but know that it's going to be a journey, it is going to be hard. That's something that we need to really get to grips with.
How do you think we struggle with love and emotion?
We struggle with our emotional education and our communication of our desires, of what we need and want. While love is at the core of nearly every spiritual practice and most philosophical teachings, many of us are so detracted from it.
We’ve stepped so far away from it and we think it's such a distant thing. There's still much to do in our understanding of what it is, how to be loving, how to be lovable, and how to push ourselves to be the best version of ourselves.
I understand that I may be super idealistic, super optimistic, someone who is not really on this plane sometimes! But I believe that love is something that we could really do so much more with.
I look at so much disconnection and dysfunction in the world and think, “what a difference it would make if we just understood what the prophets and philosophers were saying throughout time, that love is at the centre of it all”.
We have a huge amount of discontent, disparity and inequality because we find it very hard to love one another, just on a human level. Many of us grew up with a lot of traumas and a lot of pain is usually transferred to one another, but I remain optimistic that we can learn to do better.
Can you talk to me about the significance of remaining optimistic?
Part of that is still relative youthful optimism but there’s a reason for this hope, love is at the core of nearly all of human nature. The balance of those keeps me going.
Because if I was hope-less, and that doesn't mean the derogatory use of the term - I have been in hopeless spaces, when depression has caught me and said, “nothing's gonna change”. That’s where I operate at the lowest version of me, and I don't like being in that energetic understanding of who I am.
For me, it's a matter of survival. I don't want to be somebody who’s consistently dwelling in hopelessness. I prefer to be hopeful, to be optimistic, and to push on.
It doesn’t mean I don’t see the problems in the world, I still have critiques on many things, but I try to do it without judgement. I’m more interested in understanding why things are this way as opposed to judging how it is.
“I consider Love as a conjunction between scattered parts of souls that have become divided in this physical universe” - Ibn Hazm
2. This week’s insight - Experiencing emotions
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
Experiencing emotions was suggested by approximately 10% of the participants in this project as being an important part of a good life.
One participant reflected on a time where not feeling strong, negative emotions led to him not feeling anything at all. While another participant suggested that suppressing her emotions was exhausting and led to burnout.
Numerous participants referenced sadness or pain as integral to appreciating the other side of the coin (happiness and joy) and that emotions, whether perceived as painful or enjoyable, were fleeting either way.
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell” - Carl Jung
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on the weekly theme
The first time I sat down with a psychologist, she asked, “how do you feel?”, and after two elaborate monologues explaining my thoughts, she repeated, “but how do you feel?”
At 31, I was completely stumped by a question a child could answer. I suspect I wasn’t all that alone in being unable to communicate my emotions at that time.
Unfortunately, we generally categorise anything other than happiness as undesirable - making it harder for people to accept, explore or even discuss sadness with others.
When you look at the proliferation of addictions to food, legal / illegal drugs, porn, computer games, shopping or social media, we have a plethora of tools to distract ourselves from “negative feelings”.
While avoiding pain is completely understandable, it’s illogical to me to think that we can insulate ourselves from pain and yet remain fully able to experience happiness in our lives.
In a world where many of us don’t know what we want to do in life, connecting with our full range of emotions is highly underused in terms of discovering more about ourselves and what we actually want.
“Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge” - Audre Lorde
4. This week’s questions for personal reflection
Each week I pose questions to support your own inquiry into what a good life is for you
How often when asked, “How’s it going?”, do you respond with a positive answer despite feeling differently? How do you feel in such moments?
Can you describe how you presently feel? Take a moment, even just one minute without distraction, to observe how you are feeling. What words can you put to those feelings?
That’s all for this week. I’d greatly appreciate you sharing this newsletter with your friends. I’d also really like to receive any feedback with suggestions for what you would like to see from these weekly updates. If you want to contact me directly, here’s my email and LinkedIn.
I’m a coach, based in Berlin (via Dublin, Ireland). I formerly had a 15-year career in Capital Markets, and for better or worse, I’ve convinced myself that I’m going to make a discovery around human thought / behaviour.