Before I get your hopes up, this is not a tutorial on how to win in the UFC. It is more like how to accomplish the art of fighting. However the following quote does derive from Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’:
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
During our relationships and interactions with others, our aim is never to ‘win’, but rather to learn. Although Tzu’s theory is in the context of battle and to produce a rather different outcome than we hope for, it still holds some relevance. Knowing ourselves, and attempting to understand our loved ones is imperative when we argue or fight. If we know what triggers us, what upsets us, we can listen to ourselves.
It is quite difficult to engage in any form of interaction when we are not regulated. And often when we are upset we are not regulated. Our heart rate increases, we feel hot and sweaty, and the need to raise our voices. All of these things happen at a physiological level and are difficult to control. It is possible, however, to realise this before we react.
It’s never a good time to engage in something that may be conflicting when we are not at our usual emotional state. Yet more often than not, it is the exact time we engage in an argument or disagreement, because we feel that sense of injustice and that burning sensation, and we need to fix it!
The neuroscience behind this is quite simple. If our body is not regulated, our brain will try to repair it and bring it to a healthy space - one where we feel comfortable and calm. Rather than lashing out as we often do, we should regulate first, then attempt to engage in conversation. Below I’ve written five tips for ‘learning how to fight’.
Know yourself: From birth, we are social beings. We may have many altercations with many different people in our lives. Knowing ourselves and how we respond and to what we respond, is hugely important for our closest relationships.
Once we know what triggers us: We may still be triggered, so the key here is to recognise the feeling and take a deep breath. Recognise and regulate, before you react.
Once we can understand the certain things may trigger us, we can have a conversation about this with the people around us. This discussion leads to empathy and understanding.
Our aim is never to ‘win’: Our intention is to find common ground, negotiate, understand, empathise, and learn from each other. A relationship with two people willing to listen to each other and attempt to place themselves in another's shoes is one that can grow.
Acceptance and forgiveness: After an argument, acceptance and forgiveness are vital if we hope not to argue about the same thing more than once! If we cannot let go, we have not succeeded in ‘learning how to fight’. Often this might be because we feel unheard, or perhaps we need space and time to reflect.
There is no doubt in the link between the quality of our mental health and our physical wellbeing. In fact, persistent stress is associated with physical ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. For the general public, these medical conditions warrant a trip to the doctor. The stress, however, is more likely to remain untreated.
There are many reasons why people decide not to see a therapist or mental health professional. Finding time in our busy schedules, the stigma associated with seeking support, and the costs of such services are likely candidates for preventing us from engaging. Furthermore, one study found the general public to have little confidence in how effective therapy can be. A shame, since the findings are clear that therapy is widely effective for numerous emotional and behavioural issues.
The purpose of this blog is to look at mental health services from a Cost/Benefit perspective viewing, in particular, what return on investment there is. This fits in with my recent efforts to help therapy clients see themselves as “Consumers” who are purchasing a service with an expected outcome.
The first area worth exploring is Work. In Australia, depression is the leading cause of disability in the workplace. In fact, it is the foremost cause of disability worldwide. It is estimated that over one million adults are living with depression and two million with anxiety. Additionally, nearly eight Australians take their lives each day. The numbers are bleak and not encouraging and investing in our mental health is worth it.
As an employer, I know that wellbeing within our organisation is key. If an employee is struggling emotionally, it is likely to result in less productivity thereby hurting the business. Because depression keeps talented and skilled individuals out of the workforce, it is worth the cost and will likely lead to return on investment.
As a parent of a teenager, it is no different. How can we tell when a child is struggling emotionally? They may be experimenting with drugs and alcohol, disengaging from school, or self-harming. All being a cause for concern, the impact of this path can lead to struggles in adulthood.
Viewing therapy from the perspective of a consumer does involve reviewing the cost and benefit of such services. Different rates of reimbursement exist worldwide, and there are many types of helping professions (i.e. social workers, psychologists, counsellors, etc.) that make it challenging when searching for the right support. If you want the best chance for getting the most out of therapy here is what you need to know.
The most effective therapists achieve results within eight sessions and just under six months. The link between heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in Australia, and stress is one reason to make therapy an option. Effective at reducing stress and anxiety, seeing a competent therapist is an option of preventative medicine. It also works fast.
But how do you find the most effective therapists? Imagine that you’re buying a new refrigerator. You have found two that interest you and you start comparing. Most consumers are not concerned about how the product works but if it works. Now, imagine that you’ve taken the courageous step to reach out to a therapist. Your primary goal is to find a professional experienced and skilled at helping people in similar situations to you. And yes, it is ok to ask your therapist how effective they are. They should know.
Therapy is a collaborative journey. It involves a therapist and participant working together to overcome obstacles, which in turn, leads to a healthier and more productive life. The return on investment is there. For our children, therapy can lead to increased independence, performance, and happiness. All well worth investing in. For adults, physical health, improved relationships, and more productivity in the workplace are all ways we can get ahead in life.
There are many ways to reduce stress and therapy is only one of the many valid options. It is, however, an option worth investing in.
See you on the trail...
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.