Making sense of life; things, people, sensations, emotions, situations- you name it, it’s not easy is it, for any of us. There is not always sense to be made, or sense is elusive as life is intrinsically complex; human beings even more so.
If I could extract the contents of my mind right now in one heap, like a perfectly formed ball of dough that I could slap down on a oiled wood butchers bench, and gently ease it all out in preparation for rolling, the contents would not make for a good **pizza/loaf/quesadilla *delete as appropriate. My brain mush is both too lumpy, and too watery. It is too hard, and also watery and substance-less.
I am too much, and not enough. I am here, but also very much there. I am in the future AND the past, and sometimes the present, but usually you’ll find me skipping unhappily back in time, or visualising myself with a far better and more fullfilling lifestyle than I currently have at my disposal.
I guess you could say I am suffering from a terrible affliction known as “lack”, as do many of us with mental health conditions.
Lack is essentially about inferiority, hopelessness, fear, emptiness, hollowness, a lack of contentment and needs that remain un-satiated. It is pretty much about what we don’t have and what we would wish upon a dream to have. We want to defeat our inner sense of lack by filling ourselves up with whatever we are missing, and we do that by praying silent prayers to whatever all powerful deity we are conditioned to hope may ease, or even better, ‘cure’ that deep and innate sense of miserable lack.
The opposite of lack is abundance. Abundance is about possessing an overflowing accessibility to all the things that make us feel warm, happy, loved, fulfilled, satisfied, confident and whole. Abundance is what we all wish for, because a sense of abundance is what we think will offset or even entirely remove our sense of lack. We cannot be feeling lack, if we are overflowing with a sense of positive abundance. Lack and abundance don’t co-exist. We are usually in a psychological state of lack OR abundance. It’s either/or.
Abundance is usually thought of in materialistic terms; ie. the ability to buy whatever we want as a consumer, but that is faux abundance. Real abundance is widely seen as being a matter of spirituality rather than consumerism; a spiritual connection to something bigger and better and more evolved and more peaceful and brilliant than us mere mortals. We are taught by spiritual ‘practitioners’ how we can manifest abundance via the Law of Attraction. (Thoughts creating energies enabling the attraction of what our thoughts/energies pick up, via our interactions with others, who apparently sense those energies and respond by giving the person what it is that they expect and think they will manifest).
The law of attraction is something that jars with me as a concept for whatever reason, BUT what I know is that regardless of a person’s spiritual orientation (OR non-existent spiritual makeup), some people seem to characteristically feel more of a sense of lack than they do abundance, and others tend to, more often than not, feel in a psychological state of abundance far more than they do a sense of lack.
So, is this about being a glass half empty/glass half full person? Is that all we need to know about this? Are general tendencies towards lack versus abundance simply correlated with how optimistic/pessimistic you may happen to be? How grateful we are? How much you are inclined to see the bright side rather than being drawn to the darker side?
I don’t know. I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions.
I had a conversation with a blogger friend yesterday about mindset. I posted a ‘describe-your-mental-health-in-five-words’ Twitter hashtag challenge, and I think it was fairly clear that across the cross section of replies that a dividing line exists relating to lack versus abundance.
Lack and abundance is not only a personality-related tendency, and maybe it is not at all and what I’ve written so far is bollocks! as I also know that we vary from day to day in terms of how we feel and think about our mental health. Some days (the shit ones) I’ll be concentrating on lack, yet on my stronger days, I’ll be in abundant mode. There is no judgement, it is merely a difference I’m pointing out here, as I wonder if being aware of the difference can get people to modify their thought patterns somewhat, so they feel better about themselves and their lives. I bloody hope so.
Let me explain…..
If you are currently (or usually) lack-centred, you might focus on the three D’s; difficulties, despair and (personal) deficits.
If you are in a psychological state of abundance (currently or usually), then despite your very real struggles and pain, you will be better able to maintain a mental philosophy of positivity and mastery. In other words, feeling you are in control of your illness, because you possess all the coping ability in order to tolerate your distress.
It is quite possible that focusing on difficulties despair and deficits will either CAUSE pessimism, OR be an EFFECT/a reflection of a deeply ingrained pessimistic outlook. It is also possible that if you adopt an outlook of gratitude for all you have and a sense of optimism that you will be able to master your illness better and better given time, this will CAUSE you to make hopeful and optimistic predictions of your future.
Here are examples of what people said in response to the #MyMentalHealthInFiveWords prompt….together with my interpretation of whether they fit with the philosophy of LACK or ABUNDANCE.
#THROUGH STRUGGLES WE DEVELOP STRENGTH [abundance]
#SURVIVAL CONSUMES ALL MY ENERGY [lack]
#HANGING ON BY MY FINGERTIPS [elements of both- life is tough, but managing, even if only just]
#STANDING ON THE CLIFF EDGE [could be interpreted either way]
#LOSING THE WILL TO FIGHT [lack]
#JUST ABOUT KEEPING IT TOGETHER [neutral]
#HATE FEELING SO BLOODY TIRED [lack]
#WONDERING WHY I EVEN BOTHER [lack]
#ONE TWAT AWAY FROM INSANITY [this one is just funny!!!]
#DETERMINATION WILL MEAN I OVERCOME [abundance]
#BETTER WITH GIN AND TONIC [funny!more abundance]
#THOSE BASTARDS WON’T BREAK ME [abundance]
#FIGHTING SURVIVING TIRING HIDDEN PAIN [both]
#WHY IS LIFE SO HARD? [lack]
#UNPREDICTABLE BUT I FIGHT IT [abundance]
#DARK DAYS DO GET BRIGHTER [abundance]
#ALWAYS TRYING TO BE VALIDATED [both]
#IT AIN’T PRETTY IT’S BRUTAL [neutral]
#TRAUMA MADE ME BE THIS [neutral]
#NOT ALWAYS AS THINGS APPEAR [neutral]
#I STILL HAVE A SPARK [abundance]
#I AM PROUD I SURVIVED [abundance]
#I’VE NEVER BEEN SO DETERMINED [abundance]
Those are my interpretations, and as you’ll realise, some statements are more difficult to categorise as describing a sense of lack or abundance, as they contain elements of both.
I have asked for permission from my friends to share all these, and I need to emphasise I am not aiming to make derogatory judgements towards anyone who came up with a statement that I would interpret as displaying a mindset of lack. A couple of the lack statements were actually mine! and on a bad day, lack statements will flow far faster from my lips than on better mental health days. Whether you are oriented towards lack or abundance will also vary according to where you are in your illness. If you are becoming ill, experiencing a downward spiral, or if you mid way through a truly horrible period in your life, no one would expect you to think in a mindset of abundance. But if you are in recovery, and you have already survived your rock bottom and now feel back on the way up to healthy functioning, that is when abundance can start to creep into your thinking patterns. I think that a well timed conscious and determined effort to perceive your illness through a rosy filter of abundance can make your recovery speed up even faster, as your thoughts are supporting your recovery, rather than undermining them.
Lack statements, however understandable and natural they are for the reasons I’ve already described, are not likely to add anything positive to our sense of confidence and mastery over our illness. Lack statements indicate defeat and struggle and despair, rather than the triumph and mastery of mental health descriptive statements that indicate abundance.
I have been told by my mental health team that the reason I am faring a little better than what might be expected, given my incredibly traumatic childhood history, is because of my mindset and determination to overcome all this. Research proves that cancer patients who are optimistic have a better chance of survival/living longer than their pessimistic counterparts. That is not just my opinion. That is a clinically and empirically proven fact. So why should it be any different with long-term mental health conditions?
I am unwell, but I try and remain as positive as I possibly can.
I feel shit a lot of the time, but I try and milk the non-shitty/nicer bits of each day and appreciate and relish them, rather than them passing me by unacknowledged.
I try not to drain my friends too much. If someone asks how I am I will say quite honestly that I’m feeling shit, but I’ll follow it up be saying “tomorrow is a new day and I hope to be feeling better tomorrow.” I say that as I do believe I possess good ability to pull myself out of the depths.
I am stubborn, in the best possible way. I want to have a life that is way better than anyone would expect. I don’t want to be a suicide statistic, I want to thrive. I want to change how people view those with personality disorders so they stigma can reduce. I want mental health to be a topic people are comfortable discussing. I want to use my experiences for good. I want to use my skills and not waste them. I want to be successful. I want to overcome this and live a good life. I don’t want to give up. I don’t want others to give up either. I want to INSPIRE people. And there is njo way I can do all this if I continue to describe my mental health in terms of what I am lacking, rather than all the inner resources I have at my disposal to fight this bugger and successfully come out smiling.
To do what I want; to survive and to thrive. I can NOT think in terms of lack, as I’ll just give up. I HAVE to think in terms if abundance. That is the only way I am giving myself a chance of achieving all the ambitious goals I have.
If you have a mental health condition yourself, or even if you don’t, consider are you a lack oriented person? or do you feel a sense of protective optimism enhancing abundance? These are important things to think about, as they could impact on the path your illness takes you on. Do you want to be driven along by your thoughts of lack? Or do you want to be behind the wheel, driving yourself forward by focussing on the abundance of all you already have.
ABUNDANCE WILL GET YOU FURTHER