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Love and Mental Health in the Time of the Pandemic

Love and Mental Health in the Time of the Pandemic

Painting by Rassouli

Love and Mental Health in a Time of Pandemic

Is love the source of mental health or is mental health the source of love? We have defined for a long time mental health as the absence of illness but how many people who never visit the doctor’s office suffer because of the disconnection from our sources of mental health: acceptance, peace, love, meaning? The more suffering we feel, the more disconnected we become to the flow of love. Love is for the soul what vitality is for the body, a resource that facilitates mental health and well-being. It energizes us to connect, it motivates us to share with others, it gives us meaning. At the same time, love diminishes we feel less and less of its flow when we are out of balance.

Fear about the health of our bodies under the threat of Covid-19 has sent us into isolation. Our soul is grieving the loss of connection. Some people are with their families, some are alone. Some families are easier to live with than others. We can connect via the abstract medium of the internet, but we still miss embodied presence, sharing our energies. What if we take this time to reflect on the presence and quality of love in our life? To what extent do you feel you can give your love to others? How open is your heart? How do you cultivate love?

Our ability to give and receive love depends on three factors: our attachment experiences, the sum of our previous love relationships and our mental state.  As we become healthier in our thoughts, emotions and perceptions, we open up to more love, which acts like the gift that keeps on giving. As we experience more loving connections, we also become mentally healthier. Having a closed heart may make us feel safe and protected inside but it also isolates us from love, the main source of our mental health. I invite you to start anywhere: create more peace in your mind through mindfulness practice, create more loving relationships by talking to people about your needs and theirs, connect to people who can guide you. You are not alone!

Democracy of the Mind

Democracy of the Mind

How interesting is that we created a social system based on the rule of majority (even if this may still be an ideal) but we openly allow inner tyrants to rule our lives. Some examples of inner tyrants include: the inner critic, pride, fear, cynicism, anger, guilt, shame. I am always puzzled by the gap between our ideal selves and our real selves. We all desire to be loving, kind, brave, resilient, powerful and in reality…well, we are as we are. The paradox is that the more we allow all of our aspects to have a place in our life, the more at peace we feel. Otherwise, there is always a conflict between our inner tyrants and other aspects of the self. We become a battle zone and it does not look pretty. One exercise to become aware of our inner tyrant is to spend a bit of time thinking of the reasons you feel less satisfied about your life. If you are fully satisfied, you probably do not waste your time doing inner work and this will not apply to you. Write down 5 reasons why you cannot do what you would really love to do. Reflect on your answers with as much honesty as you can. How can you allow yourself to be as you are?

Cracks in your Wholeness

Cracks in your Wholeness

“Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen Anthem

We use the same words to talk about people and objects as being whole or being broken. When do we feel whole and when do we feel broken? There are two ways of feeling whole: when we claim a strong identity and we behave according to it or when we connect to people or things outside of us. The first feeling makes us create a story about ourselves that we will protect at all costs. We will try to control reality according to our story. The second feeling is more intense and satisfying but also more fragile and beyond our control.

Psychological suffering stems from the feeling of not being whole, even if it starts with a crack. Cracks happen when we experience failure, loss, breakup, change.

As we grow up, we start identifying with certain stories, certain parts of ourselves we hold dear. We call all those our reality and we form a coherent idea of wholeness. When a crack happens we realize that what we called reality was in fact our perception of it, our story about it. When we feel a crack, we struggle to repair it, to hide in another story that we create but my invitation is to be curious about what lies beyond your story. You will start seeing your story as story and not as The Reality. You will experience the vastness and complexity of every moment. Know that the pain you feel will not last for a very long time and be compassionate with yourself rather than frustrated and angry. Take the time and the necessary self-care to be with that feeling for a while. Remember that stability and the perfectly enclosed, unique identity are myths we create to feel safe and in control.

My friend at Camellia Teas uses the Japanese art of kintsugi to repair broken pottery with gold as you see above, an inspiring metaphor for the renewed beauty and preciousness still possible after painful transformation.