What is a Good Life? #7
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 Mental Health.
Through following this weekly newsletter, I hope it gets easier to navigate one of life’s biggest questions.
1. This week’s interview – Mental health & healing
Each week I share direct excerpts from an individual interview
This week’s interview is with Sophie*. Sophie is an artist and currently training to be a therapist. She talks about her own challenges in life and what she has learnt from her own process of healing.
*Not the participant’s real name
What is a good life for you?
A good life for me is meaningful / enlivened contact with my emotions, my pain, joy, etc., and having the resilience and resourcefulness to connect with what enriches my life.
Whether in myself, relationships or my environment, it is being present with what’s happening and not trying to avoid something - there’s an energy I get from a mindful approach to life. I can feel the joy, but I can also be with the trauma that has happened in my life - that's all part of it.
A good life is allowing yourself to feel the full spectrum of life?
Yes. I avoided stuff for so long and thought I could avoid shame, anything that triggers me, as I didn't feel resourced enough to handle it. I worked very hard, years of therapy, self-work and improving my relationship with myself and my past.
There’s an expression, trauma is fast and messy and healing has to be slow and gentle. I’m going through the process of getting to know myself and staying with the complexity of it all.
I realised that the seeds of contentment can reside in the messiest and darkest of places within us.
What did you consider a good life before this healing began?
I honestly didn’t know what a good life was. I felt like my blueprint was so far off that, I started to copy other people's blueprints. I kept on projecting to the world that I was perfect, that I was always happy (I am a bubbly personality) and people thought I had success.
But I was hiding my pain, putting forward this persona that I thought was acceptable. This created this awful isolation, where you can feel like you're in a room full of people, but no one really knows you.
Can you tell me what you’ve learned from your experience?
The importance of seeing patterns and changing when necessary - what keeps you afloat when you're young can drag you down, like weights on your ankles, as you go through life.
Your perception is significant too - I felt that I was having an emotional breakdown, but I would also say that's a breakthrough. That was really the only thing that was going to move me forward.
It’s helped me to feel my feelings, not think about them, which developed greater trust in myself - before I was trying to control everything. However, security can be an illusion, as we're never fully secure or in control. This process gave me a resilience to go with the flow of life.
How do you view challenges in life now?
We need challenges to grow. However, it’s very important to find the balance between support and challenge. Too much support and you feel like you're suffocating, too much challenge and you're just out at sea and it feels needy, it can be abusive to yourself or others.
You can develop more support in your life through seeking out supportive people and and developing a healthy self-support. The more support in your life, the more challenges you can withstand and allow for personal growth. Really and truly, we can face a lot in life and still thrive.
“We are healed of a suffering only by experiencing it to the full” - Marcel Proust
2. This week’s insight
Each week I share an overall insight from reviewing 100+ interviews collectively
While good health in general was mentioned by around two thirds of the participants, Mental Health was given a specific mention by approximately 40% of the participants.
Participants shared experiences of anxiety, feeling lost and alone, depression, insomnia, to name but a few. Mental Health wasn’t discussed in a negative capacity overall, it was often referred to as a stimulus for positive change.
Mental Health was also brought up in an aspirational context of wanting to cultivate more peace and contentment in life, as well as developing more self-awareness and trust in ourselves.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it” - Helen Keller
3. This week’s reflection
Each week I share a personal reflection on one of the weekly themes
We have some ways to go in our understanding and perception of mental health. In our misplaced pursuit of perpetual happiness, we have an unhealthy relationship with accepting struggle or sadness for what it is – a normal part of life.
I am very grateful for a year of my life where I struggled with high levels of anxiety, as it led me to seek professional help in order to better understand myself and my emotions.
It set in motion a series of events that has greatly changed my interests, outlook and career. I don’t view anxiety as a negative anymore, more a natural alarm clock for me to pay closer attention and to make changes in my life.
My focus on mental health is not to avoid pain, but to enhance my awareness, acceptance and trust in myself. Just as I don’t stop exercising because I feel fit, I don’t stop meditating, journaling or talking more candidly with friends / family because I feel more content.
Maintaining mental health as an ongoing process can lead to a much better quality of life.
“These pains you feel are messengers, listen to them” - Rumi
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
If you think of moments of struggle in your life, are there examples of this struggle leading to a foundation for better things to come?
Given some periods of suffering appear inevitable, how might you choose to respond to difficult times in the future?
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.
another interesting read! Vulnerability is something I have been thinking more and more about, and in life I find being open and honest and showing you are vulnerable, that you might struggle is powerful firstly in confronting and being aware yourself, and secondly in your relationships with those around you. the veil some people put up and work came up in a previous newsletter and here we see someone projecting to meet expectations. Being who you really are, and leading, living, loving, from there - thats the important thing.