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By Brianna Wiest
In a world of vinyasa yoga, juice cleanses, 21 day fixes and an endless stream of promises that a suffer-free life is on the other side of someone’s $195 online course, it has never been harder to have anxiety, depression, or both.
You’d think it would be the opposite: that with so many resources circling around, it would be easier to find solutions. This is only sometimes the case. What’s also happening is that as more and more people want to subscribe to the idea that their latest lifestyle transformation will heal themselves, they want to convince you that it can heal your life, too.
Their intentions are good. Their messages are received. But when you have some cocktail of mental illness, the solution is never as simple as doing breathing exercises or more yoga or eating better. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be a problem in the first place. If the solutions were that simple, it would already be resolved.
Now, all of those aforementioned things are components of health and healing. They are important, if not essential. But they do not cure mental illness, at least not singularly, and certainly not easily.
When someone who is deeply struggling reaches out to you to express their pain, telling them a list of the ways they could be helping themselves really does not help. They’ve heard them before. They’ve probably tried them before. They are exhausted. They are feeling hopeless. To imply that their mental issues would be resolved if only they did x, y or z is insulting. Of course they’ve tried that. It didn’t work.
So the next time someone tries to open up to you about their pain, instead of reaching for a way to help them, try saying this: “I understand.”
Even if you don’t, just try. Compassion is what people who are suffering need, not reminders of how they are failing or could be doing better.
No radical, inspiring life change is happening when people are in their darkest moments – they first need to let the intense emotions pass. One of the healthiest ways you can help them do that is by extending some semblance of empathy. This is not coddling, this is compassion. This is what forms connection and bonds people. Not instruction or lecturing, but understanding.
The most overlooked part of healing is our inherent need for our pain to be seen. Usually, our biggest hurdle toward healing is the fact that we keep resisting the pain, which is what is creating our suffering. We resist in large part because when we express it, it’s met with other people shutting it down, or trying to “solution” it away.
The best way to help ourselves move back toward oneness and tolerate our own pain better is learning to tolerate other people’s. If there’s one little magic trick that might still work, maybe it’s the one you haven’t tried.
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