Hi there, my name is Emilia & I am a positive psychologist. I am not your typical psychologist in the “I treat mental disorders” kind of way, I focus on what factors lead people to live a fulfilled life & to have good mental health.
So if you imagine mental health as a continuum, you might have mental disorders & negative mental health on one end & flourishing or good mental health on the other. People tend to lie somewhere on this spectrum, mostly somewhere in the middle. So, that is where I come in. I work with individuals that do not classify as having a mental disorder but also don’t live the best life they could or struggle with their emotions. In the end, it’s about moving people up the spectrum to a good, fulfilled life - a life of contentment.
But… the story behind why I am doing what I am doing comes from a very difficult time that I went through. I am here to share my story.
I went to university in Nova Scotia, Canada & it was a great time. My first two years were a blast & things were looking pretty good. But after my second year, I moved into an apartment with a group of girls & we didn’t know each other very well. From there on, my mental health declined rapidly. I kept a journal throughout all my years in university & now looking back, I know I was suffering from situation dependent depression. Meaning that the sadness I felt stemmed from the situation I found myself in.
The most difficult thing to deal with were my emotions. I felt intense sadness and anger. I felt sad because I felt so alone. I thought that I didn’t have any support & felt like nobody was there to hear me out. I had a boyfriend at the time & that sadness quickly turned into anger because I felt like he didn’t understand me, or didn’t even try to. I was a victim of my own thoughts & the emotions I felt were heavy. I knew I was depressed but that my depression & therefore also my emotions had a clear cause. I just had to somehow get through this third year & then start fresh. I was never a fan of antidepressants - at the time they were handed out like pieces of candy at our university. So I started to ask myself, what else could I do? How can I get through this time? How can I deal with my emotions? How can I manage to not let these emotions consume me?
Here is what I learned: Suffering is part of life. Sometimes it hits us unexpectedly. We may feel emotions which we have never felt before & we may not know how we could ever carry such burden. But, emotions are fleeting, there is no differentiation between ‘good’ or ‘bad’ emotions because they all have an evolutionary purpose. I used to hate feeling sad, angry & frightened but now I welcome these emotions as friends. They are part of me & part of life. A life without them is not possible. I changed my relationship with my emotions and as a consequence my life changed for the better.
Good mental health, or what we researchers like to call flourishing, also encompasses, among many things, the ability to cope effectively with emotions. It took me a while to understand that this was a skill that does not come naturally. We need active & continuous practice to deal with emotions. In my humble opinion I think emotion regulation & coping should be taught in school, early on, so when the time rolls around & adversity or bad times strike, we are not afraid to look very closely at all of our emotions. Then we can welcome all of them as our friends. It’s about being able to sit with any emotion without getting carried away by it.
Over time, I practiced a state of mind which is called “equanimity” or “the mind of no preference”. I know that the emotions we desperately seek, such as joy, happiness & excitement are not a constant state of mind. We cannot hold on to them, because that is not the nature of emotions.
Emotions are fleeting & impersonal. They come and go. And whenever an emotion comes up, ‘good’ or ‘bad’ I like to stay humble and remind myself: "This too will pass". With such a state of mind we can stay content even in the midst of adversity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, you’re not alone. You’re supported & loved.