by Arunima Basu
Ever since the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, more people are focusing on mental health. Apart from the countless social media posts where people urge their social media friends to open up to them, many people have reached out to me to ask about my overall well-being. Honestly, I have been putting on a fake smile while chatting with them.
Why? The reason is simple. None of them are therapists, nor am I one. Since my childhood, I have been a patient listener. Often, my own anxiety and depression would get triggered by listening to other’s problems. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to maintain a safe distance from certain issues for my emotional well-being. Now, the question is, are those people who urge others to open up really worth opening up to? Are they really empathetic listeners? Can they help me analyze my dark thoughts, insecurities, and fears? Can they help me transform my anger or frustration into creative energy? Unfortunately, they can’t.
Most people aren’t empathetic listeners. Therefore we need professional experts and therapists. In India, we have countless self-proclaimed mental health experts. Unfortunately, they are not the ones we should trust with our lives. To understand the work of an expert, we need to analyze how a patient’s mind works. On many occasions, people have been seeking answers to one particular question: Why did someone choose not to live anymore? Dr. Pallavi Preetinanda, a medical practitioner from India, gave a candid response to this particular question in her suicide awareness video. According to her, a person who has decided to take their life is completely unaware of the options they have to survive through the current mental or physical crisis. Under such circumstances, only a certified professional or an experienced therapist can help untangle their minds.
Empathic listening can do wonders for patients who have created unique support systems. Apart from my regular medications, I have created a support system; a handful of friends and my father. My mind has automatically set up a default response with unwritten rules and boundaries for other family members or outsiders. My reason is simple, I have realized that I am sensitive and any casual comment or judgment that can trigger my depression or anxiety is certainly not desirable. No matter how close the person is to me. My support system and medicine help me think rationally and see through different perspectives. As I said earlier, the role of empathetic listening in curing mental health problems can never be overemphasized.
At times, speaking candidly and fearlessly about our problems automatically helps us solve the problem. Going through the pros and cons of a current situation a couple of times can help the human brain decode new problem-solving methods. Even writing down problems can help a person miraculously figure out what works best for them.
In most cases, people try to be Genie. They want to suddenly show up, do all the wishful thinking, and even lecture you about your well-being. But, they will never listen to you empathetically. These types of unpaid therapists are the ones you don’t need!