What is wellbeing?
Posted by Simon Parke, 05 June 2018, 10.32am
I’d like to write briefly about wellbeing, with reference to The Mind Clinic.
Wellbeing has become a bit of a wallpaper word. It is used so much and so freely these days we hardly notice it any more.
It’s ubiquitous, seemingly on everyone’s agenda - organisations and individuals.
We have Wellbeing centres, Directors of Wellbeing…wellbeing sections in newspapers and magazines.
It’s a new fluffy, if vague, religion. Like grandma’s apple pie, we all have to be for it, we all have to promote it.
And the myth grows that because we talk about it a great deal, we’ve got it covered.
‘I like to think I’m pretty self-aware,’ most people say, though in my experience, the evidence is slight.
So what is wellbeing? Wellbeing is what we do with our suffering…past suffering, present suffering.
Suffering arrives when something is ending in our lives and something beginning… which is always.
And endings are difficult because we don’t generally want things to end; we build up meaning around them, it’s a crisis.
So life is difficult.
Life is beautiful and life is wonderful, but life is also difficult. These are the first three words in Scott Peck’s popular book The road less travelled and it’s a good place to start.
Suffering comes our way; we don’t need to seek it out.
It comes in different forms and guises over the years…but it comes.
Sometimes it creeps up on us slowly, with so much damage unnoticed and unseen; sometimes we are hit by an express train of circumstance, a sudden event, and we stagger at its force.
And while this is dismantling, and no one likes dismantlement, it is nothing to fear in itself… if we are able to process it.
This is a big ‘If’, however, for our education has not given us the necessary psychological tools.
We have been trained to survive, but not to grow and thrive.
So suffering is a thousand miles from easy.
But what a difference to our present if we can process it with awareness and self-kindness - instead of, say, with self-punishment, anxiety, catastrophising, depression, repression, disengagement, delusion or fear.
That’s ill-being which is different from wellbeing. The latter makes better decisions. The former is more common.
So now to The Mind Clinic to help us ponder what we might do.
We are a little company and we go into businesses and organisations to offer listening space to employees, free at the point of delivery.
And what I am writing here, I was saying to staff recently in one of these organisations.
People book online, leave their work space (whether it’s a school, hospital or business) and come and talk.
And what they find is this:
1) Safe space where we do not have to edit or filter what we say. And safe space is rare. In life, we filter a lot, whether with parents, partners, children or friends, because of the agendas in the room. Sometimes, though, it is good not to have to edit.
2) Confidential space. We are not part of the management team, so people can cry/scream/be vulnerable and it won’t threaten their promotion prospects or become the talk of the office.
3) Insightful space. A fish cannot describe water because water is all it knows. In the same way, (and it’s a bit of a shock) most of us cannot describe ourselves because we are all we know. We imagine we are normal, when in fact we are freaks. For someone to hold up a truth mirror to our lives may be uncomfortable but it is also eye-opening and liberating.
The most common opening line when someone comes to The Mind Clinic is ‘I don’t know where to begin’ or ‘I’ve never done this before’
Wonderful! It doesn’t matter where we start or lack of experience. We’re underway.
The sadder opening line is, ‘I should have done this ages ago.’
I like what I do because I’m in awe of people’s honesty and bravery – it takes both to be well.
I also like it because I wish I’d had someone to talk with when I was younger. It would have helped a great deal.
Sometimes people bring shocking news; sometimes, just a small sense of discomfort.
But my bottom line is very simple: ‘If it matters to you, it matters to me.’
The Mind Clinic is just one approach, however. There are many other helpful journeys.
So here’s to your wellbeing and your relationship to suffering amid your difficult and wonderful life.
Seek help if you need to; it’s what the sane do.
(Only the sane choose help, of course. It’s a little known fact but true. You will not find the insane seeking help. They are too sealed-in, and too convinced by, their neuroses.)
Oh, and another thing before I go - don’t tell me you haven’t really suffered, and that others have it far worse.
This is the mantra of the frightened, the dishonest and the closed.
You can only look after yourself, truly.
So through dismantlement and joy, tend to your own wellbeing… and the ripples of health may reach distant shores.