Not everyone has the ability to manage their emotions or has been raised in environments where there are emotionally healthy role models. In some cases, this can lead to different kinds of problems – often, what are labeled ‘mental health’ issues. While it’s positive that wellbeing is now accepted to mean more than the physical, we need to be aware of the harm that can come from labels such as mental health and consider reframing the discussion to emotional wellbeing.
Although millennials and Gen Z have helped edge mental health into everyday conversations, there still remains a stigma and negative connotations attached. In my experience as a psychologist and mentor, mental health remains something that people are hesitant to own or even consider. The more we’re able to work through all the myriad of emotions that we experience in different ways, the more likely it is that we can process them in a healthy way which informs our mental state. Prevention is far better than cure. The realm of mental instability has the possibility to bring on a potentially stressful process including diagnosis, medication, and perhaps institutionalisation.
The term mental health suggests a set of conditions that people don’t have control over and that are fixed rather than fluid. Mental health issues can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and inhibit a sense of what is possible. Labelling a condition can contribute to a conscious or unconscious bias, even from ourselves. An approach which I see works, even in extreme cases, is to explain to someone who is suffering their symptoms that symptoms do not make a person. Emotional disturbances are often caused by something deeper, usually trauma. Here is a good example. One of my female clients came from a highly toxic and abusive family. She channeled her rage out onto other people and was considered disruptive in her workplace where she held a senior position. Socially, the friends that she had didn’t want to be around her, she felt increasingly isolated and the exclusion she experienced increased her aggression. Through a process of analysis and with practices such as meditation and mentorship, she became aware of her misplaced anger and the genuine sources of her anxiety and hurt. It took time for her to be able to believe that a different way of being, feeling and acting was possible. Although clients can experience swift transformation, when it comes to deeply held trauma it can take consistent effort and commitment to come to a place of equilibrium and stability. My philosophy is that every emotion has a root cause and to every challenge there is a solution. We can overcome even significant issues by solving problems at their root, bringing awareness to the underlying causes.
Sometimes there are mental health conditions that are not being resolved because there isn’t the right type of support and understanding. For example, rather than burdening somebody with the labels or diagnosis of anxiety or depression, I believe it’s better to give them the solutions so that their emotional challenges don’t hold them back or absolve them from doing the necessary internal work on themselves. I see how anxiety comes from a level of inner conflict with a root cause in childhood, depression can be grief that is not expressed and turn becomes like a frozen state of anger. Once the root of the problem has been properly identified, solutions have been tried and tested, then accurate and incisive support offers us an empowering way to look at the future. It’s my belief that it is as vital to look after our emotional wellbeing as well as physical and material. If we’ve grown up surrounded by people who are not able to process their own emotions, chances are, we haven’t learnt to either. The painful and often psychologically damaging effects can be exacerbated when we are also not taught how to care for our physical and material wellbeing.
Society offers us role models for good health and financial security. It’s harder to identify role models for emotional health – we can only really learn from those in our immediate vicinity. When all aspects of wellbeing fall short, life can quickly feel out of control. One of the ways to come back to a feeling of control, especially when we have experienced significant trauma, is to observe and document emotions through stream of consciousness writing. The practice of journalling can help us to understand why we feel the way we do, to confront ourselves and others and ultimately raise our consciousness. Going back to the example of my client. When she was able to transform her inner world, she began to experience shifts in the outer world. She realised she had many more friends, the issue had been in how she had responded to them. The more included and accepted she felt, the more her heart was able to open up to being loving and to give love which changed the dynamics of her relationships. She now sees the world as a beautiful and safe space where she can be herself and feel supported. That doesn’t mean her challenges have gone, now they are navigated with resilience and trust.
What comes first, emotional state or behaviour? I wholly see how our emotional state drives our actions. Her feelings of exclusion, unacceptability and lack of not belonging created a persona prone to bad behaviour. With awareness we can recognise such actions as a cry for help. My philosophy is that the heart acts as a mirror and a magnet. When we have a positive state of heart, there is a positive ripple effect that extends beyond ourselves to the world at large. Unprocessed emotions present themselves until they are acknowledged and released. And when qualities of the heart such as gratitude and love flow freely, these same sorts of qualities are then reflected back to us, thus the ‘mirrors’ and ‘magnets.’ Only when we learn to truly love ourselves can we live in a world that reflects love back to us and therefore amplifies and attracts love, builds confidence and much more.
For over thirty years Hema Vyas has been practising as a life leadership mentor and human capital strategist and is one of the UK’s most prestigious psychologists. She guides growth for leaders from heads of industry and high profile celebrities, to ambitious millennials and GenZ, entrepreneurs, public figures and innovators from all walks of life. As The Omnipreneurial Psychologist ™ speaker, Hema provides the pathway to commercial success, promotes inclusive and evolutionary leadership, enhances wellbeing and generates positive impact for independents, startups, corporates and diverse global audiences. From masterclasses for high-achievers to keynote and learning programs, she shares powerful, life-changing advice and tools for sustained high-performance. Please get in touch to explore ways of working together or for interview requests please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.