Well, up until now John and I have been building the blog as a kind of extended gentle conversation on whatever comes to our minds relating to mental health. I’m sorry – but I want to take a small step off the path for long enough to just get something off my chest and out there…. It’s always been my intention that what I write in the blog should hopefully benefit other people. This one I’m writing for my own benefit. Sometimes it just helps to share stuff with the wind and hope for a useful reply….
Recently, my best friend met my godmother on a bus in town. I haven’t had contact with my godmother for years (for reasons I won’t go into now), but she sat with my friend and asked how he was doing. She lowered her voice, and asked after me. Then she said:
‘so sad – such a terrible waste of a life’………….
OK – there aren’t enough emoticons in the world for how I’m feeling about this, but my immediate reaction is shock mixed with real genuine marvel that someone actually said this… possibly the biggest ‘wow’ moment I’ve had in my life. Those emotions came first – complete incredulity and a need to keep rolling the words across my tongue because they’ve just set up such a weird and ugly and unexpected space in the world….. my life is a ‘terrible waste‘??? And I’m repeating the words back to my friend just to confirm that they exist in the world, and I’m laughing because the situation seems so ridiculous. No – that’s wrong – I’m actually laughing because I find her so ridiculous……
That was yesterday. Today is more complex. For this reason I think. We are social animals, and we rely on feedback from others – all the time and mostly subconsciously – to modulate our behaviour, and make sure we remain part of our human groups. This is fundamental to our feeling of safety in the world. We monitor other opinions all the time – at work, home, on TV or social media, and adapt our lives – generally – to best fit in with those around us. This keeps us comfortable in the world. The advertising industry is a multi-billion pound industry designed to convince us what opinions we should hold. It understands how powerful is the compulsion to belong.
What I’m saying is really simple – opinions really fucking matter. Even if we can quickly rationally dismiss the ridiculous opinion of an ignorant person, on a more subconscious level that opinion will have its effect anyway. We will have to consider it subconsciously whether we like it or not. And I fell asleep last night running a check on my whole life – weighing it up against this new information. Wondering if I really have made a ‘terrible waste’ of my life……
It might be best to be careful with our opinions. Re-evaluate often. Be careful how we express them – or if we express them. Actually, after this episode I’ll go further. Don’t deal with opinions at all – they’re too damaging. You’ll feel less secure and comfortable if you don’t have strong opinions to back yourself up, but you’ll do less damage in the world. Opinions create distance between people and can cause great damage – it would be better to ask me a question about my life and learn something than have an opinion on it and learn nothing.