Helping others on their journey
As a mental health nursing tutor, I have considered what we do and how we help individual’s on their journey. many times I have discovered it is the smile, the kind action such as making a cup of tea that gives us the entrance to be challenging towards others. We often have to help the individual to deal with their emotional responses, mostly our methods were reactive, i.e. a problem occurred and we helped the person to find a way through retrospectively. This may lead to giving the person a greater understanding for their own future. A few years ago now I read a radical theory that you can be both mentally ill and mentally healthy at the same time (Keith Tudor). This meant that I could start trusting my own patient’s to do their best (mentally healthy) to grow and at the same time understand that this would help the individual to deal with their mental illness issues.
Finding meaning in life
Then a little while later I was to go through a series of bereavements, including my wife (I was not yet 40). I personally went into a period of decline as I tried to find meaning to life. I was to begin understanding meaning one day when I was in my sister-in-laws house and her four year old wanted me to build Lego with her. I had nothing better to do so built, she knocked it down. She encouraged me more and she knocked it down again and started to giggle. Okay, so I built again from floor to ceiling, she knocked it down and giggled and then I begun to giggle. Before I knew what was happening I was laughing. Later I went for a walk past the farm where my wife grew up, and then I cried. It was a liberating couple of experiences. Today that little girl is 21 years old, but meaning for me was discovered in laughter and tears, that we all go through good times and bad times.
Applying positive psychology
I saw a flyer for the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and decided to enrol, thinking this will give me a couple more tools I can teach my students to help them in their pursuit of care. I enrolled and joined the programme, only to discover I had missed the concept of “applied” and that this meant examining my own self using tools such as blogging, journaling, random acts of kindness, gratitude and much more. So here I was on a course that I thought would teach me positivity as a way forward, it didn’t! Rather it taught me balance, understanding that bad things happen, but that we can have tools to help us move forward. At the same time, it taught me that many of these tools can be applied in radical ways.
Emotional regulation for me is a major issue, whilst treating those labelled borderline personality disorder, I see where this goes wrong radically. You get to thinking that’s just them, but reflecting back it’s not, it’s all of us to a greater or lesser extent. I was intrigued and annoyed to be taught positive emotions, but recently, Robert Biswas-Diener wrote about the positive side of negative emotions. I came to the conclusion that all emotions are good, however, it is what we do with these that matter.
Mental health and illness and positive psychology
So positive psychology has begun to crystallise my understanding that we all have the potential for mental health and mental illness (Corey Keyes), that this incorporates emotional understanding and that this is best expressed through positive relationships. For me all of this leads to a willingness to flourish in the understanding that sometimes things will go wrong, but at those times I now have more tools to help me. Now I have my MAPP will I ever suffer with depressive symptoms again? The answer is “probably”, but will they be as disabling? I believe the answer is “no!”. So it is that I am incorporating positive psychology into my teaching, after all I have found meaning in it and I remember telling more than one person it is simply a life changing experience.