Should we share our sorrows?


It is a tough question.

The ego has at times been described as a misbehaving chimp

But tough questions, require carefully formulated, rational dialogue to decipher the signal from the noise. Furthermore, my interpretation of the question may well be disparate to yours. Fundamentally due to hardware differences in my brain wiring, which could result in a different software output and associated verbal expression. Nonetheless, my answer is just as valid as yours. Henceforth we enter the realm of Phenomenology. Phenomenology is a sub-field of psychiatry that posits that the subjective experience is worth celebrating, as at any one time, an individuals subjective experience, is to them the most objective. In this manner, during my work in psychiatry clinics, I can have the utmost respect for the subjective experience of my schizophrenic patients. Returning to the topic of sharing our sorrows, I will begin by introducing the concept of learnt helplessness vs learnt resourcefulness.

Helplessness is often a learned behaviour in which a person is overly dependent on others for emotional or financial support. A client may engage in the provoking of sympathy and will often seek advise from anyone willing to offer it..

Resourcefulness is the ability to act effectively and creatively, especially in challenging situations. It is a skillset that can be nurtured through deliberate practice, cognitive re-appraisals and seeking specific mentors for the issue at hand…

I do not wish to dwell too long on helplessness, as I believe there is too much focus already on negative psychology, and it is of little relevance to this article’s title. Furthermore, you are all smart individuals, who have likely got the gist from the above definitions. Let us shift our attention towards positive psychology. How does one build resourcefulness? I will dissect the 3 terms that I ended the definition on.

1. Cognitive re-appraisals

It had be great if we could all have a portable, 24/7 psychotherapist with us. Upon whom we can project our thoughts and emotional valences towards, and re-structure our thinking. Unfortunately, we live in a society where such a service is not only impractical but also likely not required. Huh, what do you mean? Well you can already have a 24/7 portable therapist at hand. This therapist is called your gratitude journal. Cliché as it maybe, writing your thought’s allows you to firstly clean your mind (mental hygiene). Then on the next page you can start articulating your feelings to the events that matter. You will be surprised, at times that, what you initially felt was the key issue is not really the main issue. We have repressed the main issue and started to fret about a minor issue as a cover up, subliminally shying away from the main task, that primarily needs our attention. After we have realised and actioned on the main task, the secondary tasks should flow intuitively.

An example to illustrate the above goes something like this, I get agitated at myself for procrastinating on doing the dishes. The stale dry soy sauce on the dishes, travels up my sinuses repeatedly taunting me of this fact. I then either push through the procrastination and unwillingly do the dishes, in the process cracking a few plates with my frustrated heavy-handedness or continue to let the soy sauce fester for another day. Alternatively, I take my journal out and vent my frustration in words, as a form of catharsis. My journal entry will go something as follows,

I am pissed off at not doing the dishes, my flat smells like s**t . If only I had more energy to get s**t done. The Sunday gone by was great. I got up early as I knew I was having friends round for lunch…I downed my protein shake and jumped straight on the indoor spin bike. I cut my workout short to 20mins as I had to clean the flat for my friends but within 15mins into the workout I was feeling full of energy. At 20mins I stretched, meditated for 5 then ran the hoover whilst still high on the post-cycle endorphins, a.k.a endogenous morphine. I think I have my answer for today, I need to f**kin jump on the bike a.s.a.p.

Through the above process, you have just undertaken some self-therapy, and it costed you some ink and an A4 sheet of paper. A session of self-therapy = £0.01. A session with a psychotherapist = £80+. Furthermore, you have just reminded yourself of how your ideal day looks. This is very important, as neurons that fire together, wire together. So through repeated recall, modulated by the medium of haptic feedback, you strengthen your likelihood of repeating your ‘ideal day’ again.

EMCog: Emotion, Motivation, Cognition. The trifecta modulating human behaviour.

2. Seeking specific mentors

Everyone has an opinion these days. There are only a few whose opinion you should follow. I vet whose opinion to follow by looking at their track record.

A child is curious, and perpetually asks “Why..?” questions.

Do they walk the walk, or simply just talk?

Once I am in awe and become inspired from an individual’s track record, I make sure to ask them at least one or more of these questions.

What is your daily routine? Trust me, every big player out there has a structured daily routine, with some lee-way for spontaneity and flexibility. Psychological research shows that individuals who plan for a degree of flexibility in their routines, have greater levels of well-being and creative output. It is because we need to allow for novelty and surprises. These give us food for thought, so we can reflect, become inspired and re-integrate the inspiration into our routines. There is nothing sexier, than a well-oiled routine. Sexy is subjective and the subjective should be celebrated (I refer you back to the term phenomenology, discussed in the introduction).

How did you get started? Could you share with me a book, podcast or you-tube video that you got some value from? If they got value from it, and you are trying to be like them, then you need to model their behaviours, but remember to integrate it into your authentic self and not simply become their carbon-f̶o̶o̶t̶p̶r̶i̶n̶t̶ copy.

This is the ethos of self-development.

Another way of looking at this,

One man’s signal, is another man’s noise.

If I wanted to learn how to fix my bicycle, I would be better off seeking a bike mechanic rather than a pro-cyclist. In this simple example, both the mechanic and the pro-cyclist work within the same domain, but one focusses on the material, while the other on mindset and physical training. Hence the more specific of a mentor I can find for my goals, the more successful I will be in developing the skillset and in turn nurturing resourcefulness. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more specific mentors you seek, the wider and deeper your network grows, the more opportunities come towards you and simultaneously you are more competent in making the most of these opportunities. This is how amateurs become masters.

3. Deliberate practice

Finally, repetition is key. We form bad habits through successive ill behaviours. Likewise we form great habits, through disciplined repeated practice. Get started. The first 3 days of any new routine is the most challenging. Make it easy for yourself by focussing on one skill at a time. With the first inkling of success, your motivation will gain momentum and soon enough you will be s̶m̶a̶s̶h̶i̶n̶g̶ bagging your goals, like a Leprechaun with a tonne of gold.

As you rise up the success ladder, remember to share your gold with others who maybe less competent than you. They require support from specific mentors, just like you did, once upon a time 🙂. Through sharing your resourceful gifts with others, you self-actualize.

This is the essence of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

In conclusion

Us humans like circularity and closure. Henceforth, I ought to give you a summative statement. Should we share our sorrows? Yes! But not with every living entity that crosses your presence; even-though dogs make for great therapists, you don’t want to bore them with all your details, they also got s**t to do (literally and metaphorically). As discussed, whip out your journal and firstly vent your frustrations. Minutes into this process you will naturally refine your thought, and reveal the most important task that ought to be done. If you can do this task, then do it now! Otherwise search for a specific mentor, who can help you develop the skills, so in the very near future you can do it independently. Reflect upon your experiences and repeat. Happy resourcefulness building. I look forward to your gifts for the world.



Dr Ad ALI• Physician-Philosopher

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