October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa. Media is already clogged with articles and references to this. Companies, too, may be doing things to highlight the importance of attending to one’s mental wellbeing. Much of it will be cursory and probably superficial.
There is an awareness out there that there are deep and, mostly, unresolved mental health issues pervading our culture, companies and communities but not a great will to do much about it. Advocates, leaders and journalists will talk about it, write about it and make sweeping statements and declarations about it. The question is, what is actually being done about it?
During the week Chantal came upon the newly released book from Gabor Maté, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture. Dr Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian physician and author, is highly sought after for his expertise on addiction, trauma, childhood development, and the relationship between stress and illness. You may remember him from the film The Wisdom of Trauma that was circulating last year...
Chantal expressing her delight that our big pile of rubble has been removed!
It's a mindbody system
This book, like so many of a similar theme that we have read over the last four years, and we have read a library of books, mirrors what we intuitively understood and purposefully developed with our work. The physical, cognitive and emotional systems of the body are one, not distinct. A mindbody system.
Gabor Maté reveals how autoimmune diseases have increased dramatically over the last few decades and predominantly in women. An autoimmune disease is a condition where your immune system attacks your body. The common denominator, Gabor found in those that succumb is the inability to express one's needs and emotions appropriately. Suppression and repression of emotions, he reveals, leads to illness.
The new home space for the bees prepared and ready.
The real problem is trauma
When we started out on this journey in 2017 we recognised that the real problem in education in this country wasn’t a lack of resources, or unskilled teachers, overflowing classrooms or inadequate language policies. The real problem was trauma. All pervading trauma in the children, parents and caregivers, teachers and community. We knew that there can be no learning if there is trauma and we wanted to do something about that. And we did.
It is called Shape of Emotion, a full model of emotion regulation that allows for dealing with, releasing and letting go of difficult, stuck, painful emotions, such as those that arise when we are traumatised. The true beauty of it is that it can be done at scale. That was the other issue we wanted to address: the scale of the problem, which is enormous.
Shape of Emotion can be done in groups, big groups. As long as you can see and hear the facilitator you can do the process. No talking about what or why. Just working on the structure of the emotion as it shows up in the body. And it works. We have a “How”, an answer to the question: How do we address the problem of mental and emotional health?
Bees in their new home, seemingly more relaxed and less aggressive.
Society is in denial
The challenge, as we experience it, is that most of society is in denial at the enormity of the issue and how it impacts businesses, families, relationships and communities. South Africa is suffering the equivalent of an autoimmune disease right now. It’s at war with itself. Trauma, big and small, is in every one of us, conscious or not. Stress and anxiety peaks and peaks and peaks some more with every load shedding, water restriction, corruption revealing notification.
South Africa is not alone. Across the world societies, cultures, political ideologies are at war with one another. In the same country. It is a civil war on a cellular level. The polarisation is exhausting. The old and outdated notion that I can only be right if you are wrong is eating us alive.
Apparently veggie gardens are not just for vegetables!
Do something different
Until we are ready to accept where we are nothing is going to change. Until we can stop resisting what is and acknowledge that there needs to be a different way, a way informed by our emotions and feelings, we will remain in a state of perpetual anxiety about the future, stressed out about our livelihoods, and our children.
This is not what we want, and we are sure not what you want. The invitation, then, is to do something different. As we so often say, start with yourself and what you are feeling and work from there. Use this month, with its focus on mental wellbeing to herald the start of a new way of being in the world. We have a suggestion below on what this may look like.
If we all do our little bit this will add up and together we can make the world a better place.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Chantal & Matthew