Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Did you know? I didn’t realise until last night. Let’s pretend this post was up yesterday, shall we?!
At its most primitive, most simplistic, mental health can be one of two states: fear or love. The two don’t tend to dwell harmoniously, one will push the other one out. Usually fear wins that battle. Love is an adult response, fear a childish one, and most of us are still little kids on the inside (whether we acknowledge it or not). Fear lingers on long after the reason for our fear has passed, it burrows deep into our psyche and takes control. From this position of power it takes over our decision making – we will find ourselves driven to certain courses of action with no clear idea why, or frozen in time, unable to make a move one way or another, again with no clear understanding of what is holding us back. Fear isolates, it makes us uneasy with other people, distrustful, suspicious. At its extreme, fear can inspire extreme behaviour that seems inexplicable to an outsider. Hatred, prejudice, anger and violence are almost always expressions of deep debilitating fear.
As long as fear has you in its grip, it leaves no place for love. Love is based on trust, which is a no-go area for fear. Fear makes you retreat inside yourself, it doesn’t permit reaching out and connecting with people. It closes your eyes to the beauty around you. It is like the eternal winter in Narnia, freezing out everything that is good and warm and beautiful and light.
But like any playground bully, fear is all bluster and show. In a face off, it is actually no match for love. Love is our very essence of being, and when we allow it to fight in our behalf, it is more than capable of dethroning fear. Love is immensely powerful, as are the other qualities it brings with it: hope, faith, peace, generosity, contentment, forgiveness. It gently turns your attention from inside to outside, it illuminates your surroundings and makes you see things, situations, people, from a new perspective. And it rubs off on others. Whatever the question, love is the answer.
So how do you get from one state – fear – to the other – love? I’m still working on that. I think to begin with, being aware of the power of them both, and being honest about which is running your life. Then, making a conscious decision that you want to push fear out and welcome love in. Looking for opportunities to show love to others, to be generous, compassionate, forgiving, trusting. Being gentle with yourself about why you feel fear, but firm about not allowing it to govern you any more. Having faith that opening up to life and love is the path to happiness and peace, instead of allowing fear to close you down and fool you into thinking that you will be protected that way. When you do feel the unreasonable tug of fear, taking a breath, and asking yourself why. Why am I afraid? What am I afraid of (usually not the immediate thing that has triggered the fear, usually something far deeper and more primitive, fear of failure, rejection, abandonment, vulnerability)? Has giving into this fear benefited me in the past? Is there any way that I can shine love into this situation, and give it a chance to drive the fear out?
Thomas Carlyle said, “A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge”. What question will it answer for you today?