What a difference a thought makes
Updated: May 12
What a difference a thought makes: reflections on Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 (a blog written for Standard Life Aberdeen)
As you may know, peoples’ mental wellbeing is something I care deeply about and have been working hard to try and destigmatise as a subject, especially with veterans. During the last 22 months I have been on a massive journey of discovery. The journey has not only changed my life but is also having a profound effect on people around me. It’s not that I’ve developed a super power, probably the exact opposite, I’ve fallen back in to step with how human experience is created moment to moment.
Almost 2 years ago my world felt like it was imploding. Who I was, what I stood for and what I believed was called in to question… everything was very dark! However, in that same moment I knew, with complete certainty, that not only would I be absolutely fine, but so would everyone I hold dear to me would be too! No one said anything, I just had a deep knowing inside that that was 100% true. With that thought to guide me and the great support from friends, family and work I pushed through what I thought I needed to do: I ran. I read A LOT. I didn’t sleep. But most of all I leant on friends who would listen to me, or just sit with me in silence. This was something I’d done for friends with PTSD. I didn’t know why it was helpful, but at the same time I knew it was.
One day, while reading a book, a thought came to me that I knew was absolutely true and it changed my reality in an instant. The idea that popped up from nowhere was that “thoughts aren’t real and I didn’t have to do anything with them…” well that changed my life instantly! Again, I didn’t know why at the time, but I knew it was the truth!
So what’s all that got to do with Mental Health Awareness Week? Well since that day I’ve been exploring an idea that explains how human experience is created; the 3 Principles. They explain the massive shift in belief I had while reading a book. I also know that this understanding will help my friends with PTSD and countless others that are struggling mentally. That journey saw me join the six-month One Thought Foundation Programme in London last year; one of the best things I have ever invested in. And this week it took me to the 3PUK Conference in London for 3 days.
While this was my first conference, it has been running for 9 years and draws an international audience of almost 1,000 people from all walks of life, from most religions and none, everyone with a single focus on understanding the nature of human experience and peoples’ wellbeing. We heard the story from a couple of prisons in the Midlands where the inmates now teach themselves about the Principles and how they are helping people with drug and alcohol addictions. There was a man with a severe case of OCD who now has seen that the thoughts he’s felt a victim of, and bought in to, are no truer than believing you’ve seen a massive spider on the floor just to look again and see it’s a child’s toy. He will have those same compulsive thoughts but if he catches himself he’ll know he doesn’t have to do anything with them!
Of additional relevance to us, there were also a number of businesses that came to speak about how the 3 Principles have changed the way they operate and make decisions: one firm’s board have taken to individually admitting when they are not in the best place to make decisions. This means the remainder of the board won’t let them make decisions that day; either delaying or take the view of the quorum who are not stuck in their thoughts… just imagine, decision making with a calm, unstressed team!
However, what was really cool, and hugely humbling for me, was being given the opportunity to speak in two of the breakout sessions: 1. With two other relatively new practitioners (Ankush Jain and Shifra Chesler) talking about what we are up to; and 2. Talking with one of the faculty from One Thought (Claire Schutes) and a fellow alumnus (Sarah David) from the course after mine about “Dealing with difficult people”. The feedback we received for both talks was mind blowing, as was the encouragement and offers of support for the sessions I’m doing with veterans outside work.
So why am I telling you all this here? Well the last time I looked we are an organisation filled with people. People categorised by roles and labels, but behind all of that we are all human. It means we all have the same amount of time in the day to live, work and sleep. We all live in our own thought created and very separate realities that we can find ourselves innocently buying in to. And we are all going through a period of upheaval and uncertainty. Some of us will be struggling with life and family pressures on top of all that and some of us will be pretending that we’re OK while things are screaming on the inside. However, the very fact that we are all human and that we experience our own separate realities means that there is always a chance that a fresh thought will appear like it did for me when I was reading and that you we will see things differently. There is always hope.
All I ask of you as Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close is that you remember 3 things:
1. The life of a thought you are entertaining in silence in your head is always worse than when you share it with someone else;
2. If you think someone is struggling ask them if they want to talk, you don’t have to know what to say or anything about the subject, listening unconditionally without judgement is more than enough to be helpful;
3. This isn’t about 1 week a year, it’s a 24/7, 365 days of a year thing, because the last time I checked, there isn’t a time we’re not human.
Stay curious and look out for each other!