Today is World Mental Health Day, a day devoted to spreading awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health.
There are many causes of mental illness … and one that can’t be downplayed is that many of us struggle to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge our own hurt and pain to others; which only causes others to also not be vulnerable, and pretend everything is okay. (Does, “How are you? … I’m fine!” ring a bell?)
This cycle can lead to isolation, loneliness, despair, and ultimately to not seeking help: these are some of the many seeds of mental illness.
We often pretend everything is okay because of something Brené Brown calls comparative suffering, which is best explained by example:
- I can’t share that I’m in pain about ABC when I know you are in pain about something I perceive is harder, pain XYZ.
- I can’t celebrate that I reached this new goal, because you’ve reached even bigger goals.
- You think that’s a problem? Listen to my bigger problem …
- You’re complaining about being hungry? There are kids starving in Africa.
- and on and on …
Brené Brown points out that comparative suffering is a function of fear and scarcity, which we see in our culture more and more every day. What we need to remember, is that fear and scarcity trigger toxic comparison. When we fall into comparison, we fall into comparative suffering.
“Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world.” – Brené Brown