Blog Entry November 2012

About the Aware Blog

Each month we will post an article on a range of topics relating in some way to Depression. A blog post may be the author’s personal experience, a reaction to public events, or views on how better we can support ourselves and others who experience depression or related mood disorders. Each of our posts will be from an individual viewpoint,  this means that some blog posts may not reflect official Aware policy.

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Blog Entry November 26th by Dr. Moya O’Brien 

The stories we tell…

The word resilience comes from the Latin word ‘resilio’ to jump back. We are familiar with the idea that resilience is about the ability to bounce back from adversity, to meet life’s challenges and adapt. But it is more than this – recent thinking has expanded our definition of resilience to include not only the ability to bounce back but also the ability to bounce forward or take on new opportunities. Resilience allows us to be open to the world, to see and grasp opportunities, to look to the future, to try new things, to be adventurous and achieve goals. And the stories we shape about our lives have a key role to play in determining our resilience.

We all have a personal story, an internal narrative we create to weave together the strands of our lives and make sense and meaning of events.  We can identify the key elements of our personal narratives in the language we use. Some people portray themselves as the victim rather than the survivor, others portray themselves as being successful and competent or alternatively at being a failure at trying new things.  It is important to become aware of your own personal narrative.

Do you tend to generalise or see the nuances in a situation? Is your script flexible and inclusive or static and closed? Is the language optimistic or fatalistic? Are relationships sought and cultivated or seen as threats?  And what of opportunities for change, are these welcomed or resisted? Do you see yourself as being able to influence the plotline or merely as a bystander?
Researchers have found that the narratives of teenagers who are able to process difficult experiences, and reach out to take on new challenges tend to be richer and smoother (Hauser, Allen and Golden, 2008*). They learn from the storms of adolescence, gain new understandings of relationships, learn how to handle their feelings and shape their environments.  Stories in all forms, myths, folktales, fiction and theatre have immense psychological power; they help to bring order and meaning to our experiences, they transform our thinking, introduce new themes, and help us broaden our perspectives. Healthy stories tend to be complex, coherent and flexible, they can adapt to change and help us negotiate challenges in our lives.

The good news is that you can choose to change the shape and thrust of your story. If it is negative, you can begin to rewrite the script- move on from seeing yourself as victim to recognising the survivor in yourself. We need to turn our attention to the strengths that brought us through the difficult times and allow us to grow and thrive despite adversity. And as we make changes in our stories, these trigger new perspectives, new thoughts and emotions about different aspects of our lives that free us up to respond differently and make more constructive choices. This ongoing process of sense-making, of crafting our personal narratives can boost resilience and become a source of renewal and growth.

*Hauser, S., Allen, J.P., and Golden, E. (2008). Out of the Woods: Tales of Resilient Teens. Boston: Harvard University Press.

Blog Entry October 24 by Dr.Claire Hayes

‘When is enough enough?’ This is the title of a book I bought years ago and despite reading it and probably thousands of books since I still don’t know the answer. A few months ago I bought another book called ‘Enough’. I like that title. It doesn’t ask the question, it answers it. I like the book too. It is written by John Naish and has the subtitle ‘breaking free from the world of more’. Reading it, I was struck by how bombarded we all are that more is the key to happiness. Yet is it really? If we already have enough, more and more food leads directly to obesity which leads to major health problems and guaranteed unhappiness. If we already have enough ‘stuff’ more and more leads to clutter, disorder, things getting lost and problems with security. What about information? Surely we can never have too much information? I think we can. Am I the only person who feels a qualm of ‘ignorance’ when someone mentions something that is happening in a remote part of the world? I beat myself up and decide to watch more news, to read more newspapers, to be more informed …Why? Why are we constantly pushing ourselves to do more, to be more, to have more?

I found the answer to that question in the pages of a magazine in my hairdressers! There I was, quietly browsing through pages of information (and more information!) on people I did not know, before coming to an article which was about me! It described a condition that up until then I did not know that I suffered from: FOMO – Fear of Missing Out. Seemingly this condition affects other people, not just me. It explains why people say ‘yes’ to all sorts of requests, even if they do not want to. Not everyone suffers from this though. Recently two young Australian women visited Ireland. They stayed in my home for a night before going on a week-long trip which took in Kilkenny, Cork, Killarney, Dingle, the Aran Islands, Galway, Belfast, Giant’s Causeway and several stops in between. They then returned to spend a day with me before leaving for the next stage on their ‘do Europe’ trip. I was concerned though that they hadn’t seen Dublin. They hadn’t been to Trinity, they hadn’t seen the Book of Kells, they hadn’t gone to the Guinness Factory, they hadn’t … My plan was for them to ‘see’ Dublin in their last afternoon and I was stunned when they both told me that they really wanted to ‘hang out’ in the house and read and nap. When I read the article about FOMO I realised that the sick feeling in my stomach was my fear that THEY WOULD MISS OUT! When I voiced this, one of them said, ‘you know Claire I am so tired that if I went into Dublin now, I would miss it anyway’. How is it that I didn’t know that when I was her age?

Imagine how it would be if we each knew, really knew, when enough is enough. Enough complaining, enough fighting, enough striving. If we knew and appreciated that we have enough – enough to eat, enough to wear, enough to read. For me though the biggest question I have been pondering is this: ‘How would it be if each of us really did know, appreciate and value, that we are each enough?’

One of my favourite lines in a book or a film is this one said by Mark Darcy to Bridget Jones: “I like you very much. Just as you are” (Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones Diary). If you saw the film though you remember the amazement of her friends – how could he possibly like her, very much, just as she was? The rate of depression is increasing at a very rapid pace and is affecting young and old. It is rare to meet someone who likes themselves – very much – just as they are. Do you think that you are enough – for yourself and for others? If thinking that you are enough – and have enough – is too much, what about this for a thought for today: ‘Maybe I am enough today – maybe I have enough today’.

Please let me know how that goes for you! Go raibh maith agaibh, Claire.



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