Connection is key
This blog post has been inspired by an article I recently read: "Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?". It is an excerpt from the book "Lost Connections" by Johann Hari, who is apparently a well-known and controversial journalist who I hadn't heard of until a colleague forwarded the article to me. It was so well-written I ordered the book right away - I've just started reading it.
The contents page made me feel both reassured, and frustrated at the same time. The reassured feeling was seeing the chapters listing Johann Hari's nine causes of depression, and feeling an instant sense of recognition and alignment. Yes, they sound familiar. Yes, they resonate with me and my own experiences of depression. Yes, they align with and confirm that what I now teach to other people holds true.
The frustration comes from my thought that "why is this ground-breaking enough that it warrants a new book? Surely society is savvy to this already?".
Sadly we're not savvy to this stuff already, hence why people like Johann Hari write books and people like me run training courses. If it was embedded in the collective knowledge of society we wouldn't have the kinds of problems we see today in regards to low mental and emotional well-being. I often forget that I've taken a 15-year deep dive into understanding psychological health for my own sake, and that many other people have not had the time or opportunity to immerse themselves in that world. So I remind myself to get off my frustrated high horse and continue educating people until society at large starts to "get it" and our systems, organisations and policies can change to underpin our well-being.
"Lost Connections" (with its subtitle "Uncovering the real causes of depression - and the unexpected solutions") is all about how we are disconnected - from ourselves and our values, from our histories, from other people, from meaningful work, from the natural world, from a hopeful future. I've often said that well-being depends on connection with ourselves, with others, and the world around us. One of the guideposts of wholehearted living that Dr Brene Brown describes and that I teach in my work is to let go of avoidance, disconnection and numbing out, and embrace connection through a resilient spirit. We can only do this through our willingness to step into some discomfort and change the way we see and do things.
A huge frustration for me is observing people who only want to do what is fun, comfortable or feels good in the short term. They end up disconnecting from things that are meaningful when the inevitable challenges of life arise. Which in turn, over time, leads to a sense of emptiness and eventually depression. Hence the term "first world problems" which are not always the joke we think they are. I read somewhere recently that we have to take first world problems seriously, because eventually they will be the problems of the whole world. That made an impact on me.
What can you do to reconnect? It might mean you have to face up to the nagging emotions inside you that you've been avoiding. It might mean you have to have a difficult conversation with someone that you really don't want to have. It might mean you have to take a risk and tell someone how you really feel, instead of just offering the filtered version. It might mean you have to take a leap of faith and totally change what you're doing in your work life. Whatever it means for you, reach out and connect with other people somehow and share what you're doing. The world will only change for the better through connection.