Your mental health is not something you can get away with neglecting. The internal processes of the thought and emotion can be beautiful parts of our lives. At the very least, we want to be aware of them. The reality is that we should be developing them all throughout our lives. Each of us has the ability to protect and enhance these psychological functions. Still, many of us don’t use this ability. As the great Walker Percy once said, “You can get all A’s and still flunk life.” Our thoughts and emotions provide the substance of our identity and provide us self-validation. As such, we need to work to make sure that our thoughts and emotions are as positive and healthy as possible.
Let’s think about your mental health and its link to identity by considering a quote of John Eldredge, who says it best: “All men, young or old, have within them a famished craving for validation. It cannot be denied. We will chase validation wherever we can and we learn pretty fast what this world rewards, what it shames, and what it cares nothing about. So the athletes seek validation by being fast, strong, and winning, while the valedictorians throw themselves into papers, exams, and maintaining their GPAs. The “spiritual leader” latches on to the praise coming from their giftings, and they give their hearts and souls over to that dance, while the “cool” kids go barefoot and wear dreadlocks. Most of us are looking for the same thing.
When a young man doesn’t know who he is and what he’s made of, resisting those “scripts” that are being handed out is about the same as defying gravity. ’Let’s see—I gotta clean the kitchen, move my car, and oh yeah, I think I’ll fly today.’”
Validation plays a key role in our identifying who we are, and who we see ourselves to be is a result of our mental health.
VALIDATION AT THE CORE OF MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES:
There are those among us who seem to go through life with the right attitude. Maintaining a balanced and healthy psychological state is a thing of ease for them. For many of us, however, mental well-being is not a sure thing. It is, instead, a daily struggle. A few blogs back, we discussed how ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can impact self-worth and mental health. Many people are fortunate to have grown up in a healthy environment. Others of us had childhoods where we experienced many of the 10 ACEs (http://aliveforwellness.com/adverse-childhood-experience/). These adverse experiences make us more susceptible to chronic stress depression, anxiety, relationship fractures, etc., etc.
A common feature to most mental health struggles is a slow, but consistent erosion of a person’s self-worth. Working to help a person ward off or overcome a mental health struggle involves including validation as a component of their healing process. It isn’t the only process involved, but it is the most significant one. From our youth and throughout our adulthood, we are focused and hopeful that we will one day reach a level of success as measured by socially recognized achievements or the accumulation of material possessions. We believe that such things will result in our feeling accepted and validated. Unfortunately, instead of feeling validated, we will more likely find disappointment with these things. We may, in the end, find ourselves in a worst psychological state.
ACHIEVEMENT AND ACCUMULATION ARE OVERRATED
Achievement or accumulation are not wrong in themselves. They are only problematic when we expect these things to fill the deep intrinsic hole in our souls rather than authentic validation. This type of validation comes from deep, engaging, and strong front-row relationships. From these connections, we form a deep awareness that we’re enough and worthy to be loved.
I remember wandering around my neighborhood as a fatherless young boy, while wondering if there was anyone who noticed or wanted me. One evening, while I was out and about, a neighbor called out to me, asking me to come help him. As I started walking to the workshop in his garage, I was filled with excitement. My excitement wasn’t so much about what was going to help within his shop, but more from the realization that someone had noticed me and that they wanted me. For many days after that, I would run to his house to see if his garage door was open to see if he wanted me to join him again. Of course, what I really wanted was more validation. Today, I wish I could tell this man how his acknowledgment of me and his kindness toward me impacted me not just that day, but through my life.
As people move through the process of overcoming a mental health struggle at the Alive Health Centre, validation is at the core of the program. This validation comes from establishing engaging relationships. This is a big part of what we teach and train people in. True validation always occurs within the context of a healthy relationship and is a powerful tool in overcoming a mental health struggle. A client once said to me:
“My time at Alive taught me how to engage people. I can’t believe how long I have been wandering around this world, feeling disconnected from the human race. My adverse childhood experiences taught me that people are not trustworthy, but today, I have learned that I can trust certain people and engage with them. This affects the chemistry of my brain which is nature’s way of healing my mental health issues.”.