Why self-development is the new way of life
Founder of The Circle Line, Phillippa Richardson, writes about the ground-breaking site and their video therapy offer for our Mental Health Mentors series.
Corona is not making life easy (not that life is always easy anyway). So when The Book of Man approached us to take part in a mental health initiative we thought it a great way to shed some light on therapy, extend the conversation around it, and offer a taster of this life-changing process.
What is Mental Health?
The topic of mental health has been misunderstood and stigmatised for centuries. We’re working to change that; to help people discover the importance of mental health in reaching our potential.
Even the term “mental health” is loaded. Even though we all have it. For some it conjures images of illness, craziness or depression. Of problems and conditions, rather than natural human experiences.
The reality is we all have a brain and a heart. We all have thoughts, emotions and behaviours that are to varying degrees helpful or distressing. It’s part of being human. The extent to which our mental health helps or hinders our life is a question of degree; mental health is a spectrum, or a circle, just like physical health. It fluctuates. And it’s essential to us fulfilling our potential.
How can we maintain good mental health?
In our secular society we no longer turn to religion to explore our inner lives – so what have we replaced it with? What do we have now to help us evolve our selves?
There are many humanistic ways to work on our “inner” selves. Meditation, yoga, reiki, massage are some of the plethora of “self-care” options becoming increasingly popular. These help us calm ourselves but they don’t help us understand ourselves. Books and journaling helps with that; clarifying our thoughts and perhaps our feelings.
Yet, crucially, we are social creatures and none of these options address our universal need for positive relationships, a need that is hard-wired into our DNA. Our survival as a species depends on it.
As pre-eminent doctor and psychotherapist Dr Van der Kolk said:
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score:
This throws therapy firmly into the limelight as a prime candidate for dealing with the relational part of life. Relating to a therapist is safe. They won’t judge. There are no consequences. It is the only conversation that is designed for you and only you.
The connection between mental health and “the talking cure” is starting to be known and appreciated. Therapy is an established, proven method, and one that our friends over the pond in the US have appreciated for years. Now in the UK too, we’re beginning to see the benefits of working with a therapist.
What is “therapy”?
Psychology is a relatively new subject; can I trust it? Can it really do anything for me? Will the therapist go digging into my past or ask private questions about things I don’t want to discuss? Do I have to lie on a couch?
From experience, I can say yes and no – yes it can do something for us; no you don’t have to lie on a couch. You are in charge. You find the person you click with. You don’t have to do or say anything you don’t want to. And you go at your pace.
It’s like having a trained orienteer walk beside you through the forest, not telling you which path to take, but pointing out all the interesting things you might not have seen that will help you navigate with your own map. A therapist can help you see both the wood and the trees.
And deeply listening without inserting ourselves into the conversation is a skill which takes a lot of self-awareness and practice: a therapist has no interest in splattering their ego all over your life.
Why The Circle Line exists
When I started talking about the idea of a modern self-development community fit for the 21st century, I was told by many, especially by men, that the idea of therapy is excruciating: sitting in a room with a stranger talking about feelings. Urgh. It seemed hard to access, hard to afford, and hard to understand.
So I created The Circle Line to take the world of therapy online, making it more accessible and less expensive, opaque and exclusive. We help give therapy a trustworthy and normalised place in our lives.
The Circle Line is at heart a platform for professional talk therapy and self-development. It matches you with a suitable therapist by asking simple but insightful questions, and when you’re ready you book, pay and talk – all online.
The Circle Line is run by a small team of passionate individuals, including some therapists, who understand that the idea of “starting therapy” can seem daunting. We also understand that some people would just like a session or two right now. And our approach is always to make working with a professional as affordable as possible.
So, throughout May we’re offering taster sessions with trainee counsellors for £1. At only £1, this is not about the money. It’s a chance to dip your toe in the water and see if therapy might be for you.
It takes some bravery to take a look at yourself and your life. It is also an enormously enriching process – one that is so fundamentally human that once you’ve started it you may well wonder how you survived for so long without it. For when you’re ready, self-awareness, self-development and yes, self-care, become a way of life. For you are your life.
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