Last weekend, my longtime friend Randy and I attended a mental health workshop out in Richmond, BC. We had a great weekend spending some quality time chatting during the breaks and having lunch together. For myself, I like to keep an open mind when it comes to learning new tools to boost my level of mental health awareness. In the past I’ve gone to EMDR, CBT, meditation workshops, mental health conferences, suicide prevention, anxiety workshops and the list goes on. This particular workshop was what’s known as Neuro Linguistic Patterns (or Programming) also known as NLP. For those who aren’t aware, NLP draws the connection between our mind and spoken words. It reprocesses how you think and communicate by tapping into your subconscious mind through a variety of techniques. In a nutshell, NLP reshapes negative patterns into positive beliefs.
I registered months ago with an open mind and heart to gain new skills. I’m not a believer that one rule fits all. I like to think that we mix and match a variety of skills to customize what works well for us. Thus, when I attended this workshop I had 3 goals in mind: learn one new tool I can add to my arsenal, meet new people and practice my social skills. I came out of that workshop with flying colors: I learned a new skill that helps me reframe problems into opportunities, there were about 60 participants who I connected with and I managed to make a few new acquaintances with their contact information. Mission accomplished!
Throughout all my years of learning about improving my mental health and acknowledging my own personal growth, I sometimes think about how things in my life have happened for a reason. I love to self-reflect because it’s a reminder of how far I’ve come since my days of kicking the dirt on the ground feeling defeated.
So, what if my pain was supposed to teach me about being self-aware of my emotions?
What if my dad’s anger was to guide me how to understand people’s suffering more?
What if my failed relationships was mirroring how I was seeing myself?
What if the solution to my son’s depression began with me?
What if being single is telling me to focus on achieving my personal goals as an author, speaker and mental health advocate?
Things happen for a reason. There’s a cause and an effect, and if we choose to see an opportunity, greater things will come to surface given some time and patience.
“My internal pain for the better part of my life took on the form of anger, anxiety, fear and self-loathing.”
I grew up in a very volatile household of yelling, abuse and physical violence. It wasn’t exactly the Brady Bunch for me growing up, although there were many days as a kid where I wished that I was a part of a loving family that talked out their problems, with heartfelt apologies and forgiveness. I still sometimes wonder if I was born an introverted guy, or if my environment growing up made me more guarded and self-reflective than the average introvert. Because of my seemingly withdrawn personality at times, I’ve had to learn to be self-aware of any unhealthy thoughts I might be having about myself. When meeting new people for instance, if I wonder whether or not the people will like me or possibly cast judgement, I need to mind-wipe those self-limiting beliefs and go in with a new sense of courage and innocence. I tell myself that they’re probably just as shy and nervous to meet me for similar reasons and that I don’t need to worry about what may or may not be true. And at the end of the day, if I’m not their cup of tea, then my self-esteem is OK to accept their beliefs.
“Growing up with a dad who had a raging temper was terrifying.”
As a kid, I remember almost always tippy-toeing around him when walking hoping he won’t notice me. Or I’d have to keep my presence relatively unknown so that I wouldn’t disturb whatever he was doing. It was like walking around the house filled with trip wires, because if I happened to set off the bomb, dad punished me harshly, both physically and verbally. As a dad, I always feared being just like him to my own son. Can you imagine if your own kid is afraid of you?! I can’t imagine ever wanting that out of my child in order to get respect and order in my home. It just seems unfathomable. However, my anger did grow to a fraction of what my dad’s was and this was well documented. Although it wasn’t to the same degree as his, it was enough to do some serious harm to loved ones around me. This anger inside of me, led me down the path of self-reflection to understand why I behaved the way I did and why I had a hard time managing it. So deeper and deeper I fell into the rabbit hole which took me back to my childhood days. This also guided me to understand where my dad’s anger came from. He too was an abused child in a much more uncontrolled environment, growing up poor in his native country where he was severely punished for not doing what he was told to do. Although I don’t know in great detail what that looked like, but it’s enough for me to draw a picture in my mind of a young boy in tears getting beaten for not cooking for the family. My dad’s pain carried forward to his adult years and sadly when he passed away in 2010, he didn’t have the opportunity to reconcile that with himself.
Thomas Edison once said when he invented the light bulb, “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.”
Interpret it however you’d like because it also demonstrates whether you’re a glass half full or half empty kind of person. Although I’ve not been in 10 000 relationships (heaven help me if I have!), each failed one I was in was an incredible learning experience for me. Out of every single one, I was able to internalize where I faltered and where I found ways that wouldn’t work. I explored my own lack of insecurities, my anger and my sadness. Everything I accused others of not being, was merely a projection of how I saw myself. Receiving Love by Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt describes that our projections is what we need most from ourselves. If I felt my partner wasn’t telling me that she loved me enough, that simply meant I wasn’t loving myself enough. Or if I felt insecure because she was talking to another guy, the insecurity was more about my lack of self-worth. I was merely reflecting my past of feeling insecure when my most trusted loved ones (ie parents/caregivers) would leave me or break that trust.
“My teenage son the other day shared with me that his mom was feeling a bit depressed.”
I asked him how he knew and he explained that he noticed she was a bit off lately and he simply asked her if she was depressed. I was floored with amazement and delight that he openly talked about it with her, yet I wasn’t surprised. Mental health is a language that I’m very fluent at, and over the years, I casually chat about my mental health with my son over dinner, while driving or whenever there’s any similar opportunities. I don’t look at it as something debilitating. Instead I look at it as a part of our whole body/mind experience that we need to balance and optimize. I’ll never be a great dad, a faster runner or a better worker even if I’m in the best physical shape of my life unless I completely embrace the notion that my mental health needs to be equally as strong if not stronger. Several months ago, one of my long time friends reached out to me because he was having a breakdown with life and had suicidal thoughts. He called me and I immediately went out to meet him to talk and hear what he was going through. He was in tears feeling frustrated with family, work and life in general, and he didn’t know what else to do. After talking him into a steady state he managed to speak to a professional and is doing much better these days. If I never addressed my own personal depression over the years, both my son and my good friend would be in a much different space than they are today. In the book The Journey of the Heroic Parent by Brad M. Reedy, he talks about how after we resolve our own struggles with mental health, our children mirror our behaviors and beliefs. In other words, if we’re always worried and anxious over every little task, there’s a good chance our kids will have their own form of anxiety. If we feel as though the world is against us, our kids grow up feeling the same fear and may develop trust issues. The road home for yourself can eventually lead to a happier home for our kids and friends around us.
“Would I like to be a relationship now?”
Sure I would! Am I really ready? Well, without trust and faith in myself, I’ll never know, will I? Who do I want to be in a relationship with? Definitely not just with anyone. This is a massive contrast to where I was back in my 20’s where I wanted to date ANYONE. I’ve now applied numerous filters because I have a better sense of who I’d like to get to know. When I read dating profiles that say: Must have your shit together, don’t want baggage or don’t want drama, I’m instantly turned off by those statements. The use of negativity to illustrate what the person wants is a red flag to me because I’d much rather meet someone who wants to share positive traits their looking for instead. Plus, who’s to judge what “baggage and drama” is? I also feel that could be a reflection of themselves when I see those words. While I’m not investing a whole lot of energy into the dating scene, I feel it’s also been a great opportunity for me to focus on the things that makes me, ME! Going to workshops, writing, blogging, podcasting are fun hobbies I enjoy doing. I’ve found purpose and interests that help define who I am which is incredibly important to me before I’m in my next relationship.
When I reframe my painful past, I’m able see so many great things I’ve received or have become. Today is another rainy day in Vancouver, or maybe it’s an opportunity for the trees to grow and for me to stay indoors and write.