Emotional well-being is a term that has entered our vernacular since the 1990’s. It will hold different meanings for us individually and collectively. As a result there are many different ways of looking at what it means to you and I. As a counsellor I believe it means having a balance between, work, life and family. That these different strands of life compliment each other bringing happiness and joy. There is also the spiritual and psychological component that constitutes our emotional well-being. However, when an imbalance strikes at the core of our being it can break our equilibrium resulting in devastating consequences for ourselves and loved ones.
Decreased emotional well-being can result in stress, anxiety and depression. These elements not only impact on the individual and family dynamic but on the wider community as well. Our greatest concern is getting our needs met but it has become a oxymoron as our unmet needs are what fuel our desire to become something we are not. To live authentic lives is admirable but this is contrary to what is conveyed by the people who govern us, the media and popular culture.
Psychotherapist Irvin Yalom posits that there are four ultimate givens of life; death, isolation, freedom and meaninglessness. He describes how each reflect a deep underlying need to find our place in the world. The discussion around death is often avoided as we cannot fathom our own demise. The fear around death is the inability to know and understand when our end will come. Isolation, is our instinctual desire to belong. The young men I work with may have joined a gang to raise their esteem and sense of identity. Trading aspects of self for an ideal that can be intoxicating albeit with a shelf life. Freedom allows us to create our own meaning. This can become convoluted when we join our souls to gangs, organisations, individuals to avoid death and isolation. The final given, is one that can challenge us all on any given day. Finding meaning to our lives, can be challenging if our belief in what we do, who we are and where we believe we belong in the world is distorted.
As a man of faith I have learned many ways to develop my emotional well-being. Writing a daily gratitude journal has proven invaluable. In the morning I write three things I am grateful for, the things that are already tangible in my life, followed by one thing that would make today great, such as taking the time to go to the gym or have an hour lunch break, and an affirmation for the day, such as, I am good enough. In the evening, I write three wonderful things that happened today. Reading or listening to something that was of interest or amusing. Touching base with a friend or perhaps finding your way to a difficult destination. The final element is : How could I have made today better? At times I may find there are not enough hours in the day, what could I have done differently to make it happen. This a five minute exercise that allows me to gain perspective for the beginning and end of the day. The agency of your emotional well-being is a choice that can go a long way in motivating a change in how you see self and others.
Carl J Barge is a Counsellor, Lecturer and Clinical Supervisor.