Many great thinkers throughout human history have asserted that less than 15% of people are truly “self-actualised.” That means that only a fraction of us are making the most of our potential and our mental capacities. This wonderful guest post provided by my friend, Dane Findley an international relocation specialist who – together with his partner David – help people buy and sell luxury lifestyle properties in warm-weather climates. In his free time, Dane enjoys writing health articles for an online community for creative types over 50 who want to improve their daily quality of life. Dane also holds a masters degree in counselling depth psychology.
Over the years, psychology has revealed to us that people can only acknowledge the harsher realities about themselves in small, gradual doses. As a result, we construct defences to keep too much reality from rushing in at us all at one time. This is healthy and normal.
The 7 Positive Mental Health Signals
How can any of us really know if we’re sane? What are the signals determining our good mental health? As we travel life’s journey, many of us become braver about exploring who we really are. Here are seven ways to know if you are truly engaging all of the intellect, compassion, and creativity within you:
1. You see yourself objectively – You are developing the ability to see yourself realistically and in proper context. This is harder than it sounds. Often, how we experience ourselves is not how other people experience us.
2. You recognise your own patterns – You recognise patterns in your life, especially as it relates to your own behaviour and choices. This, too, is not always as easy or quick as it sounds.
3. You are tuned-in to others – Many people become bored or frustrated if a conversation goes too long without being about themselves. Some people can last 2 hours. Many cannot last two minutes. Ironically, the more knowledgeable you become about yourself, the less threatening it becomes to discover new imperfections. As you do The Work of personal growth, you begin to realise that you are responsible for how you feel and other people are responsible for how they feel. And yet – as you mature – your ability to accurately determine what someone else is feeling strengthens. With practice, you find that you can use these powers of empathy for much longer periods without becoming restless.
4. You receive feedback more gracefully – You’ve heard the expression ‘She can dish-it-out but she can’t take it.’ Some can hand out constructive criticism generously; however, they become defensive if anyone challenges their perception. Ironically, the more knowledgeable you become about yourself, the less threatening it becomes to discover new imperfections, if you are continuously finding healthier ways to manage and “metabolise” anxiety.
5. You manage anxiety intentionally – In modern life, everyone feels anxiety every day (in both big and little ways). How we “self-medicate” our general anxiety varies greatly; television, jogging, codependency, romance novels, heroin, sugar, meditation, Oxycontin, beer – the list is almost endless. Some methods serve us better than others. Just as a plant uses the process of photosynthesis to turn the sun’s radiation into sustenance, so can humans take anxiety and use it as fuel for increased clarity and personal expansion. In a sense, a successful life is really just a series of experiments in finding better and better ways to metabolise life’s daily anxiety.
6. You are happy with what you have – Of course, you still have dreams and goals. Nevertheless, you’re also learning to be content in the present. You feel less and less like that person for whom nothing is ever enough, or the person who will only be happy “once this happens” or “once this is in place.” You are finding it easier to relax in-the-now, with exactly how things are in this moment.
7. You know how and when to apologise – Learning the art and science of a proper apology is one of life’s most important skills! Apology-dynamics can be confusing. Under-use and overuse of apologies can both have negative consequences. It’s true that conflict resolution skills are what make or break a couple, but this is true about friendships and work colleagues, too.
Disagreements Can Help a Healthy Relationship to Thrive
No one is perfect. Everyone is selfish at times. But, it’s how you clean-it-up that matters the most.
Almost any unfortunate situation or misunderstanding can be fixed if you know when and how to apologise. In fact, a relationship – be it romantic, platonic friendship, or professional at the workplace – can be made stronger and deeper by a thorough, heartfelt apology. Just as a transgression harms trust, an apology can not only heal the wound, but can often add something positive to the ongoing record of trustworthiness between the parties in question.
Why it’s Important to Apologise
The best part of making (or receiving) a complete apology, is that it means that both parties have stayed in-play through the end of the spiritual or psychological lesson. Life has a way of repeating old hurts, in various forms and disguises, until an internal shift is made and an authentic, positive insight obtained.
There’s a reason they say “life is not a fairy tale.” Star-crossed lovers are those whose relationship is thwarted by outside forces. In fairy tales and fantasy films, the majority of lovers are star-crossed lovers – and it is some nefarious antagonist who keeps them apart. In real life, the opposite is usually true.
Generally speaking, the only thing interfering with the prince’s attainment of love is himself. And the only thing interfering with the princess’s attainment of love is herself.
We get in our own way, folks. Much of the suffering we experience in the world, we create – though we may have trouble seeing it at the time. Fables and fantasy do not usually portray lovers negotiating over who’s going to take out the trash or drive the kids to practice. Quite simply, most of these stories are the lead-up that finally culminates as the couple shares their first kiss.
But what does their situation look like two years hence, or twenty? Conflict resolution skills are a significant part of what define us in this lifetime. The real artistry comes into play when attempting to resolve everyday problems. The question is not whether of not our life will have conflict – it absolutely will. It’s not about the conflict itself, it’s how we handle it.
Maybe we can’t handle every conflict as it occurs in the moment, with the grace and dignity we know we’re capable of. But, we can reflect on it afterwards, shake it off, soothe our scratches, then go back and try doing it again, only this time from the highest part of our Selves.
The Art and Science of Making Amends
Perhaps they’re afraid of losing credibility? Perhaps they’re afraid that it’s a slippery slope? We could make conjectures all day long. Whatever the reason, those who have trouble doling out a necessary apology, generally are not realizing their full potential as human beings.
Of course, the opposite is also true. Nobody wants to be apologised to fifteen times a day. Not only is it annoying but, much like the boy who cried “wolf,” it loses all meaning and begins to feel disingenuous.
…’I’m sorry’ should be the card up your sleeve, not the deck spread face-up across your coffee table.
Like everything else, balance is key. Saying “I’m sorry” for every little infraction means that the words will eventually lose their punch. There are other ways to acknowledge mistakes.
Models of Apology
It’s important that you be able to distinguish between the two types of apology, and when to use each:
- Simple Model for Smaller Hurts: the Simple Model apology is for small infractions – the little blunders of everyday life. Regret is expressed, but the weightier words such as “I’m sorry” and “I apologise” are saved for another time. In this scenario, you can instead say sincerely, “By the way, I regret that I…”
- Full-Scale Model for Larger Mistakes: the Full-Scale Model of apologising is for when you’ve said or done something that was, consciously or unconsciously, deliberately hurtful. This is when you pull out the big guns.
For this type of apology, you want to sort of “knock on the psychic door” by offering a preamble, such as:
I was hoping to clear up with you a mistake I think I made. Is now a good time to talk with you about it, or later?
Next, you acknowledge what you did, and apologise – AND don’t be afraid to go deep. It’s perfectly okay to say, “You know, I’m not sure what came over me. I guess I had a moment of being selfish and fearful. I do know better, though.”
And, for pete’s sake, don’t skip any of the steps!
A poorly executed, half-ass apology can be worse than never having apologised at all (I’ve witnessed the most atrocious apologies! I’ve seen people start to apologise, then stop before the process is really completed). Practice beforehand if you need to, but make sure your apology is complete on the first try. How someone receives the apology is none of your business. Just hold up your end of things, that’s all you can really do in life, anyway.
Now, you may think that I’m giving too much credence to these words. Well, maybe, but as I see it, language is paramount. Body language can be difficult to read, and varies from person to person. Used correctly, words carry weight and can help us avoid the more probable misinterpretations of body language. Let me put this in context for you:
- Simple Apology is for those instances when you’ve inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings. You simply express regret.
- Full-Scale Apology is for those instances when you really knew better. Own up to your behaviour, explain your actions (without excuses or cop-outs), make amends (“I’m sorry”), and offer to make it up to the person if you can.
Now, understand, I’m not trying to give you a “get out of jail free card” here. This is not an invitation to misbehave or take your partner for granted. Ideally, one doesn’t have to resort to the Full-Scale apology very often. And, as is always the case, what matters more than what you say is the tender and compassionate energy behind what you say.
Seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is. Relationships, any kind of relationship, take work. That’s just the nature of life on earth. It’s the human experience. But learning to get it right is probably the reason you’re here. Reciprocal, healthy relationships are worth the investment!
Why to Never Expect an Apology
Most people who have narcissistic tendencies – that particular fracture to the psyche that separates the personality from the soul – are unaware of it. It’s a secret that they’ve masterfully kept from themselves. It’s not your job to punish the people who have hurt you (karma takes care of that, in time, anyway).
However, to hold up your own end of things, it’s usually a good idea to express yourself, as simply, tenderly and calmly as possible.
Life can be made more meaningful when, with each passing year, we become better at communicating with our fellow human beings. But it takes work. Healthy relationships are like gardening. You have to cultivate your garden; nourish and weed your relationships in a systematised and compassionate way.
It’s good practice, in life, to be able to say what you think or feel without making the other person wrong or trying to shame them into seeing things your way.
How to Get Smarter and Live Better
Eventually, a lesson that the brightest among us will learn, is that relationships are what really matter. Experience also will teach us that the more healthy relationships we have, the more prosperity can enter our lives. It’s the law of attraction at play in the universe.
If living a happy and healthy life is important to you – especially as you age – then you must pay attention to the relationships in your life.
When you’re feeling particularly happy and positive, life will tend to give you more of the same. When you’re thinking negatively, life tends to give you more negative circumstances. The Universe is a great energy-matcher.
One of the most effective ways to infuse your life with meaning – to uncover your purpose and to fulfil it – is via relationships. As your relationships improve, so does your life. Period. The kicker is, that in order to continually improve your relationships, you have to continually improve yourself, too. Consider:
- which of the seven mental health signals listed above do you believe has the most room for improvement in your own life?
- are you on a vigorous journey of personal growth and insight?
- what positive things have you learned along the way?