Living a more enlightened life
One of the silver linings of the Trump presidency is the awareness it has raised about the mental health crisis we face as a nation.
My investment in mental health started nearly a decade ago when I sought professional advice to overcome challenges I was experiencing in my marriage.
The reception from friends and family was mixed. Many in my inner circle believed and perpetuated the stigmas associated with the word “therapy”. Others applauded me, supported me, or, in the very least, tolerated me as I sprinkled dinner parties with expressions like, “My therapist said this…” or “I just learned this in therapy.”
The most beautiful result, aside from my personal growth and more meaningful relationships, was the ripple effect my actions had on those I loved: many of my friends and family began seeking assistance for issues they wanted to resolve.
I clung to those manifestations of improved mental health as I continued along the often bumpy and emotionally grueling road of self-love.
It’s a trip I plan to navigate forever, using the epiphanies I have had as markers to remind myself how far I’ve come. And in my pursuit to live a life founded on love, I will hold fast to the 10 to traverse new territories.
I share both my mile markers and these tenets with She’s It readers as encouragement to carve more enlightened paths of kindness as a means of repelling darkness.
Epiphany 1: My portion of marital difficulty is created by unintentional behaviors I acquired as a result of my childhood.
Epiphany 2: Most of the difficulties in my life—at home, at work, in public—are also caused by this prior learning.
Epiphany 3: I am not unique in my difficulty, but only I have the power to overcome it.
Epiphany 4: Each person is responsible for his or her own issues brought about by prior learning, and healthy relationships exist when both parties take responsibility for themselves.
Tenets to propel us along our self-love journeys
“This is what it means to be a human on the planet.”
“Love the inner child.”
“Your goodness is not determined by what you do; it’s determined by the person you are.”
“It’s not about what you do but who you are when doing it.”
“Practice mindfulness and meditation.”
“Perfect enlightenment is unattainable unless you are Buddha.”
“This is not a result of an intellectual deficit: it’s the result of an emotional one.”
“Each one of us will challenge our prior learning until the day we die.”
“Each one of us has a responsibility to take care of ourselves: if we don’t, we become the needy ones.”
“Creating goodness in the world happens one charitable and kind act at a time.”
A description of the tenets to which I cling most steadfastly in our current cultural climate
#1 – “This is what it means to be a human on the planet.”
When I first attended therapy, I thought my pain was unique. It wasn’t that I was ignorant of various forms of human suffering greater than my own; on the contrary, I often thought of those who were less fortunate than myself, and I felt guilt-stricken and ashamed as a result. That changed once I understood that ALL humans on the planet experience suffering. This realization created a shared humanness between myself and others and allowed me to have a more accepting attitude toward what I had formerly perceived as flaws within myself and within others. This tenet allows me to love myself and others more fully, and it allows me to forgive.
#7 – “This is not a result of an intellectual deficit: it’s the result of an emotional one.”
This tenet was delivered verbatim after the 2016 election, but the theme was present in many discussions before then. I had, so often, perceived others’ irrational behavior or baseless, hateful language as a result of ignorance. I had fought against such ignorance myself by pouring all my energies into Women’s Studies as an undergrad and becoming a scholar of reading, writing, and thinking as an adult. I perceived the 2016 election results (and campaign) as an indication that all the endeavors of activists, intellectuals, educators, etc., across place and history were for naught, and I struggled with what this election brought to the surface: so many of the people I respected and loved had values completely counter to mine.
This tenet challenged me to remember that what turns our words hateful and our hearts hardened is not a lack of intellectual ability: it’s the lack of willingness or ability to confront the pain within ourselves, to acknowledge and admit our imperfectness, and to accept each other and ourselves as we are.
#10 – “Creating goodness in the world happens one charitable and kind act at a time.”
Don was a civil rights and anti-war protestor in the ‘60s and ‘70s, so when I got on my bandwagon about complacency being the biggest hindrance to positive societal change, he would quickly remind me about the first-hand experience he had with mass movements, change, and disenchantment. He would also remind me that taking action had many forms: “Holding the door for someone at the grocery store or helping load groceries is just as good,” he would assert. “Living your value system can spread goodness in the world.”
Though I participated in the Women’s March in D.C. and the Science March in Philadelphia, the small gestures of kindness and goodwill I give and receive do seem to produce the most satisfaction and have the most impact.
When it’s hard to look at a passerby without questioning his or her stance on the swirl of current controversies, a simple, “What a lovely dress,” or “Hello, family” can certainly calm the tension and create the sense of peace and ease most of us desire for ourselves and for others.
How do you instill kindness into your life and the lives of others? Let’s ELM together!