Updated: Jul 29, 2019
How does one begin to ‘work’ on their mental health when they’re in the depths of despair? How can one move from the kind of mental anguish which causes either an all-consuming panic or a paralytic numbness, to a mental state of ‘working on oneself’?
What I have experienced in myself and what I have witnessed in others is that when it comes to moving from panic and despair to moving toward emotional balance there is no quick fix, there is no panacea...but given time there is a way.
To be more precise, when I say ‘work’ I don’t mean work in the ‘toil and sweat’ sense. I mean ‘work’ in the mental health sense – that is, doing the work of ‘paying attention’. People who have, or who practice, good mental health pay attention. They do this by developing a part of themselves which watches both the internal and external world without making a judgement about what's happening, which is what we normally do. If something's happening we normally have an opinion about it. The watcher who doesn't judge can go by many, many names but it’s often called the Watcher, the Observer, the Witness.
I’ll call it the Observer here. The Observer observes the inner and outer worlds without reacting to it or judging it. It watches the emotions happen -- say, fear or anger -- it watches how the nervous system responds -- say, short breaths, rapid heartbeat -- but The Observer doesn’t get involved in the chaos, the struggle, the drama. It simply watches and notices the other parts which are having the human interactions and the human responses as you experience them.
This doesn’t mean you attempt to change your personality to become unemotional, no, it means that you develop an aspect of your mental functioning which is already within you but one which you haven’t brought to the fore because no-one showed you how.
Next post: Developing the 'Observer'