3 and ½ years ago I came across the inside-out understanding. A new way of understanding how human beings work and it has dramatically changed my view of mental health and wellbeing.
All people I know, me included have been brought up to believe that if we want to change anything in life we have to DO something, it can be techniques, strategies, or change our circumstances. This is also most people’s view on mental health and wellbeing, “If I feel insecure, worry, nervous, afraid, stressed, depressed, sad, anxious, etc I have to do something so it can change”.
Let’s take stress as an example.
When human beings feel stressed it’s because they have a lot of thinking going on in their mind that causes that experience… As everyone knows there is nothing that calms a noise mind down as more thinking, like analyzing why we feel this way, what can we do to lessen our feelings, what tools can we apply right now and/or shaming ourselves for feeling like this.
That is often where people’s minds go when they have a feeling they experience as negative (a problem). the thing is it tends to make us feel worse and not better.
This was exactly what was going on in my mind before I had a panic attack. Back then I didn’t know the following… If you cut your arm what do you do?
- Do you stick your finger in the wound and recite healing mantras?
- Do nothing except for maybe keeping the wound clean?
This is a no brainer we know that the body will heal the wound and we can’t make it go any faster no matter have many fingers we stick in and no matter with how strong conviction we repeat our healing mantra.
Option 1 is the way most of us see mental health and wellbeing, we don’t believe that we have a build-in mental health system, so we have to install wellbeing, happiness, joy, content, and peace of mind.
It’s not like tools don’t work at all. They sometimes work for some people. Maybe that’s why there are hundreds of different tools to change our mental state. The thing is we can’t count on it to work, so what if there is a better way of dealing with our challenges than applying more to life?
Remember in the example with the wound? You know that your body is healing itself and what I’m pointing to is that our mind has the same capability. We have a build-in mental health system.
The only way we can have an experience of life is through the power of thought. The way you can tell in which direction your thoughts are going is by how you feel, you won’t always know what you think if you check in with your mind. If you feel stressed it’s because you have a lot going on in your mind at the moment. However you feel at any given moment is how you should feel given what is going on in your mind, that’s most natural thing to being human.
At some point, your mind will relax and calm down. Haven’t you tried being upset, annoyed, or worried about something, and all of the sudden you notice that you haven’t been thinking about it for a while, why is that? At some point, a new thought entered your mind and without any willpower, you just thought about that instead or your eyes caught something of interest, or whatever that got you going crazy just didn’t look so real anymore?
I haven’t talked to a single person that hasn’t had that experience. People who are anxious who suddenly aren’t anxious anymore, people who are stressed who suddenly aren’t stressed anymore, people who are depressed who suddenly are not depressed anymore. It doesn’t mean they will never have any of those experiences again, but we go in and out of them.
See that’s the nature of thought! it is transient, it’s ever-changing, it takes 80.000-90.000 different forms every day. We are always just a moment away from a completely different experience.
The second thing the inside-out understanding is pointing us towards is that our default state is calmness and wellbeing, that is where we start. Our mental health system is oriented towards that, which means if you feel stressed, depressed, anxious, or frustrated for that matter it’s because your thinking is off-road in that moment. The awesomeness about the build-in system is that it clears out the thinking that creates those feelings and we return to calmness and wellbeing.
A metaphor for this is:
Imagine I give you a snowglobe where it’s snowing inside of it. I tell you to make it so it’s not snowing anymore so the snow settles in the globe. If you take it and walk around with it or move it in any other way it will probably not happen or it will take a long time. The fastest way to make the snow settle is to put it down and let it settle by itself.
The best way to settle our mind is to put our thinking down and how do we do that? By seeing it’s not our job to settle it.
The reason that it is so powerful is that the build-in system is way better at the mental health and wellbeing job than we are. to me, it looks like when we have understanding we are better at not getting in the way of the system (better at putting down the snow globe), and when we don’t do that it works really well.
What if you already work perfectly but you’re innocently getting in the way of you running smoothly?