We need to feel
Posted Wednesday 12 September 2012
As part of our lead sponsorship of the forthcoming Mind Media Awards, Friends Life decided to take up the offer of involving ourselves in the initial judging of one of the categories, choosing the Journalist category.
I’ve spent a couple of days reading one-off or a series of articles by various journalists and listening to CDs of radio programmes. I’ve honestly felt privileged, humbled, enlightened – I’ve felt hope, pain and been moved to tears.
A number of the journalists obviously know exactly of what they speak. They are open about their own experiences of (for example) mental health issues, being gay, bullied or hospitalised. They have jobs writing very eloquent pieces for our national or local press and is testament to the fact that, as one of them quoted one interviewee: “It’s actually very rare that my condition means I can’t perform.”
I was especially touched by a radio programme on post traumatic stress disorder among ex-servicemen and the therapeutic power of poetry. This resonated with me at a deep level, not least because I had a brother who left the army after over 20 years, seemingly in good health and spirits (poor choice of word here), to not be able to find work on “the outside”. He died in his early forties, within 2 years of leaving the force: heart and liver failure brought on from excessive alcohol consumption. One of the ex-servicemen on the programme mentioned how he could have become an alcoholic. Memories flooded back for me.
As I’ve read the various stories, despite the extent to which I know they impact me, I also know that so many other readers will not have been moved emotionally to the same extent. I’m glad I have been but I can understand why many cannot allow themselves to be. We hear, see and read so much bad stuff. We have to protect ourselves from being overwhelmed by it. We feel impotent because we can’t do anything about it – we can’t feel powerless. So we let most of this bad stuff wash over us. The one place we can’t let it reach is our heart. That would be just too painful.
I want to let you know that yes, it is painful. But letting these people’s stories reach your heart, to feel the pain, is the only way you can really protect yourself mentally and be empowered to see the issues and the people with humanity. They are no different from you and I. We’re all somewhere – although there are many different lines of degree, we are all connected from one extreme to another. And we shift on these lines throughout our lives, we react to the environment around us, the nurturing we did or did not enjoy as impressionable children and traumas that beset us. If we’re very lucky we might not suffer agonies contained in many of these stories, if we’re not, we might yet. It can help, as the advice goes, to be open with ourselves and particularly others. Don’t be afraid to be seen as vulnerable – it’s actually a strength and can strengthen others around you. Protect yourselves by opening your hearts to the pain of others – face the world and its’ demons head on. It doesn’t help to shut your emotions off. We need to see people as people, not their issues. Learn to empathise and feel some of their pain. It will only make you more human and stronger.
So yes, it has been a privilege to read and listen to all this upsetting, sometime humorous stuff and to ‘feel’ what I’ve felt in the process.
Thank you Mind for giving me this.
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