There is a mentor of mine who gave me what was probably the most impactful advice I have gotten. We were sitting in his office talking about how we influence others, particularly young people. He was the supervisor of a community program I had applied to that involves spending time with struggling youth in order to help their treatment team with the development of their mental health. I was soon to see my first client and I stepped into his office for some support. It was a wonderful conversation but one thing has stood out to me since then: he told me that strength does not involve a strong armor; he said that strength is the ability to shed the armor, to be wounded, and to keep opening yourself up to the world.
I have since used this advice abundantly in my sessions with kids and in my own life. Once I charged myself with regularly shedding it, it became both frequent and frightening at times to talk to people about vulnerabilities and burdens to bear. But I have come to understand through these little day-to-day connections that they are precisely what life is about. There is a time for armor and situations in which it may be more necessary—when dealing with manipulative or aggressive people, for example—but it should rarely be used among friends. It can stagnate you, cut you off, and it can keep you from growing and evolving while those close to you begin to forget what you look like inside.
I was handling my depression quite well when I decided to apply for that community program. I remembered that most of my troubles began appearing in my teenage years, and it was an opportunity not only to understand a little better who I was but to connect with young people going through many of the same things I went through—those feeling many of the same things I had felt. There was something symbolic about it for me: to confront the place where it started for me, and to use what I went through for good—to guide others in a better direction. The fulfillment that comes to me when hearing a parent say that I had a measurable impact on their child is profound. There is a kind of resolution in it. There is a sense of peace.
I believe that understanding oneself is vital to a meaningful and fulfilled existence. Beyond objective and cohesive efforts at understanding a history, there is remembered history which means something to you and which plays out symbolically each and every day. To understand, confront, accept, and love these parts of us is to enter a depth of understanding which continually stokes a flame of love and understanding.
To Be Continued…
To View Overcoming Depression: Part 1 click here
Written by: Arthur Westbrook
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