Recently I was talking to someone suffering from depression and he told me, ‘I feel like a failure. Being depressed feels like I’ve failed life: my friends, my family and even myself.’ His words stayed with me and I’ve been thinking about how hard that makes it to seek help or be able to tell the important people in your life what you are going through. Our society puts such emphasis on being happy: it’s as if being happy is part of being a success. And, of course, being happy isn’t something any of us can sustain. But being depressed can take away any possibility of happiness – again, that sense of having failed oneself, of being incapable of allowing yourself even the simplest of pleasures. I believe that people suffering depression need the opportunity to understand why, what’s gone wrong in life for them that they’ve ended up feeling that way? And in order to do that they need to be offered understanding, acceptance, support and care: all the things that they can’t provide for themselves at this time.
When we find ourselves overcome by a need for chocolate or crisps or cake – the kind of need that it feels impossible to say no to – what’s really going on? It’s worth thinking about how our cravings often come not from physical needs, but from emotional needs. If we do have whatever it is that we crave, we might well feel better temporarily. However, what is really behind that craving won’t have been expressed, understood or dealt with. One way of looking at cravings is as a sign from within: an opportunity to pause for a moment and ask yourself what it is I really want? Maybe it’s about something that has upset me, or something that feels missing in my life at that very moment. It isn’t always easy to discern, particularly after possibly years of misinterpreting your cravings, but it’s always worth asking. And it allows for the possibility of fulfilling that need rather than staving it off with the distraction of food.
Often we find ourselves stuck in battles to change others in our lives. If only our partners, friends, parents, children, bosses or colleagues would behave in the ways we want them to, then everything would be ok and we are sure we would be happy. The implication in this is that we are somehow more enlightened or have a better knowledge of what is best; giving the other person the message that he or she is in the wrong. A healthier approach is to look inward to fix the problem rather than trying to change the other person, and sometimes this means practicing acceptance. For example, if you are more sociable than your partner, why not consider attending the next party on your own? That way you avoid the situation where he resents being there and you feel irritated by his inability to enjoy the situation. Therein lies a crucial recognition that there are some matters on which you may never be totally compatible, and that you’re willing to accept this in order to preserve the other’s autonomy.
in our society, parents are constantly being presented with endless, conflicting half-formed pseudo-theories about how they should be bringing up their children. For many feeling that they are doing a good enough job, with the weight of all this information bearing down on them, can feel impossible. Lying behind these theories is the unthinking assumption that there is something wrong with children: that these products of “Broken Britain” are somehow worse than previous generations; that they have been damaged by social change, technological upheaval and ignorant parenting. Thinking about all of this, I was struck by how prevalent, and easy, it is to fall into blaming: blaming the parents, blaming technology/society, or the children themselves. How much harder it is to try to understand individuals, in all their complexity and confusion.