Chatting with Phyllis Serene on Emotional Fitness

I had a wonderful time chatting with Phyllis here at Mestizo in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. We discussed a wide range of applications, all grounded in healthy emotional fitness.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this talk. Can you relate? Am I missing anything? Do you agree with how relevant I think this is for all of us?

Turning 53

It’s my birthday today!

Since I don’t have my familiar peeps around me to have a big birthday bash, I’m going to share myself as fully as I can hear. It is what I would be doing at a birthday bash, being myself, being open, telling my truth.

… being Me to the best of my ability.

To that end, I love you all, the very best I can.

Hopefully this share will work as intended… I made a lengthy playlist last night, giving as full an update as I could.

With gratitude, and my deepest appreciation, to far too many people to tag…

Short version: I’m alive. Fully alive.

Emotional Health is Key to Mental Health

This article at Men’s Health fired me up! I absolutely agree with the article, but it’s essential that we address our emotional health as well.

If you’re interested, here are some freebies to consider for your emotional health: https://burtlo.info/offerings/the-emotional-development-series/

 

The Case Against Grit

Inspired by this article at The Atlantic, I had some further thoughts on The Case Against (and For) Grit.

The Case Against Grit

I absolutely concur with the premise of the article, that it’s a challenge to know whether the first passion in a person’s life has sustainability; I put that word in italics because it’s relevant on numerous levels.

Sustainability can be considered on the personal interest level, which is what the article’s premise discussed, but it also has to be considered on a financial level, a social impact level, and others relative to the pursuit. A young child may not realize the financial difficulties of being an artist, yet that’s a challenging thing to be conclusive about with a budding talent; they may truly be able to earn a livable income, or not care if they don’t, difficult to say with such a young human.

On the other hand, there’s so much benefit and growth when focusing on a singular pursuit, and that’s hard to find. Dismissing a young passion because of fears of practicality may miss a tremendous growth opportunity for the child, and can impose self doubt and insecurity depending on how the child interprets the guidance.

When To Reconsider?

I also know that there are times for adults where they feel stuck, overly obligated, to continue a path that no longer inspires or fuels them. This is such a personal choice, to apply grit and stick it out for the payoffs of maintaining said obligations (i.e. being a provider for a family), that each person has to make their own decision.

Regrettably, this quality of grit is often lost or diminished because of cultural expectations. I believe many men are struggling with their sense of masculinity because circumstances like these provoke feelings of emasculation, confusion, or loss of identity, when considering changing their role as provider.

Note: I’m describing a very narrow, albeit common, manifestation of circumstances. In no way am I trying to make broad statements on all providers or all situations of obligation.

How To Make Changes?

Making changes to established structures in life can be challenging, but certainly do-able. Communication is key, and conveying emotional content is very important.

Sharing how you feel as you consider, or act upon, changes helps those that might be impacted to understand you at a core, human level. Sharing openly amongst those that can easily be supportive is important as well, so that you feel supported in this potent, personal decision.

Feeling supported in also important, because it’s likely that you’ll encounter resistance and opposition from those that will be impacted. Whether you allow that resistance to dissuade you is a personal choice, but when you already have support, you can feel more relaxed and able to hear and receive the impact of your choice from others without feeling defensive, without simply feeling the need to cave into the desires of others.

The Takeaway

Simple steps, but often challenging in application. Change is absolutely possible, and care is often required while making it. It’s your personal decision whether it’s the healthiest thing for you to continue applying grit, or to change course because circumstances no longer serve you.

On Sobriety Challenges…

Please consider this, that the point of removing vice is to get clearer about your core being.

I’m not talking about your core physical being, I’m talking about your core existential being, your spiritual self.

What’s the opportunity of getting sober?

Inspired by this article on vice.com, I was moved to express a more complete consideration of giving up vices.

The exercise that can be played with is noticing the filters that are added, or not, with various substances. Spending weeks, months, or years using alcohol on a regular basis, and fundamentally alter your perceptions and your interpretations. Same is true with any mind altering substance or process. Sex, overworking, gambling, are all processes that alter your mentality, and whether that’s past an unreality threshold is up to you to decide (though it’s highly recommended to consider this with a healthy, objective advocate).

It’s up to you to determine whether or not that affect is beneficial to your life or not, but a period of sobriety can give you a chance to compare and contrast how to affect you. The same as with any other substance or process, take work versus vacation as a simple example as well, and compare and contrast the difference of your being in each of those different activities.

A greater, more fulfilling payoff

It seems to be trendy and exciting to simply remove vices, but the opportunity presented is much greater than just getting through a 90-day challenge of not partaking.

Thus, I propose a distinction between “sobriety” and “recovery”. In recent personal research, I found numerous alternatives to AA being listed as “Top XX Ways To Get Sober”, but the distinction with AA is that a fundamental part of the process was to reconsider how we were moving through the world, what type of character we were living with.

My time of sobriety was the most transformative of my life, and I can only wish others to experience the same depth of transformation that I had, or that I’ve seen in others that have seriously explored sobriety, or more specifically, recovery.

What are your biases towards “mental health”?

When you hear, or think of, the term “mental health” (or “mental illness”), do you jump to conclusions, or do you have a simple attitude of “all mental illness is bad”?

When I was diagnosed with clinical depression, I didn’t really know what to think at first. It was a shock, it was something I had to sit with and let sink in. I couldn’t easily see how my actions, behaviors, and choices were symptomatic of clinical depression.

It took some time, but I was struggling already, and if this got me a step closer towards not feeling so crappy about myself and about life, then I was going to investigate this as open-mindedly as I could.

How severe are mental disorders?

I had this thought, recently, that mental illnesses and disorders come in all shapes and sizes. My depression, in hindsight, was like a really bad case of pneumonia, stubborn, took me down hard at times, but in the end, was curable or manageable.

There are plenty of disorders or illnesses that are far more severe, but in the end, it’s a matter of seeing it as clearly as possible, and choosing the most effective way of managing/treating it. It’s likely not always as easy as taking a pill, that wasn’t true for me, and sometimes it’s difficult/impossible to treat all the manifestations of a disorder. Also, there are times when multiple disorders are in play, and they have to be broken down to understand what symptoms are manifest from which disorder.

But, in the end, with patience, care, and healthy support, most everyone I’ve ever known with mental disorders/illnesses has been able to treat or manage their condition(s) well, and able to live fulfilling lives.

How does this relate to spirituality?

Our perceptions and interpretations can be grossly distorted by mental illnesses and disorders. It could be as simple as affecting how we hear things, or what thoughts they bring up.

“With our minds, we make the world”, is a Buddhist adage, and if we’re contemplating distorted perceptions or thoughts, then our emotional responses will be affected, as well as our world view. You can imagine that our thoughts about ourselves would be affected as well, and this can impact our self esteem, self image; anything egoic, really.

So, from my experience, part of getting clearer in our spiritual path is to humbly and honestly consider our mental health.

The Takeway

Like I started, it’s important to have a more educated attitude towards the scope of mental disorders, to not simply lump them all as one-size-fits-all, which it terribly dehumanizing and causes nothing but harm.

Just like you would care for your biology with a regular physical exam, do the same for your mental well being. Find someone you trust, someone that has a breadth of education and experience, to be able to give you some healthy, honest feedback. You might simply get a clean bill of health, or you might become informed about something you couldn’t see objectively.

In the end, it’s about optimal health, so that you can live your life as fully as you desire.

Blessings!