Individual, family, and corporate financial wealth is seen as the accumulated physical and intangible assets of worth, absent debt and liabilities, with the goal of adding to our bottom lines. In like manner, emotional or mental wealth can be seen as the full amount of always available and poised psychological energies used as relational capital that individuals can access to negotiate challenging, difficult, often complex, and at times, traumatic, situations and circumstances.
What does emotional or mental wealth look like? It is the sum of all of the emotional vitality which all persons are always in possession of, even if they are unaware that they possess these gems of inner strength. A sample and non-exhaustive list of these gems include: confidence, will power, self-pride, self-respect, self-preservation, self-awareness, sense of personal agency, persistence, stamina, commitment, dedication, ability to develop options, curiosity, integrity, humility, authenticity, gratitude, acceptance, honesty, passion, vitality, creativity, being a visionary, happy, focused, having sense of perspective, abilities to be reflective and insightful, and tapping into talents to care about and for others.
Emotional or mental wealth is also seen in the abilities to see, acknowledge, and accept that life offers trials and tribulations, some of which can feel quite overwhelming and adversely all-consuming. While these often unexpected, off-the-radar life challenges can feel scary, confusing, and unrelenting, they inevitably lead persons to discover that they have levels of “survival genius” and untapped emotional, mental, and physical tools they can use to free themselves from the clutches of despair. They can hit the reset button, and find their way forward with a renewed sense of purpose, direction, and optimism.
These unanticipated discoveries are akin to tales heard in some communities about grandparents and great-grandparents hiding secret stashes of cash under the mattress. This “savings and investment” strategy was used as a way of reconciling elders’ mistrust of traditional banking institutions with the reality that they may need a rainy day fund to depend on in times of financial need. In a similar way, every person has emotional reserves or “stashes” of psychological strength and tools the levels of which are often unknown until faced with trials and tribulations. Life’s challenges invite individuals to withdraw their heretofore unbeknownst emotional savings in order to transact their way free from both current and sometimes complex circumstances as well as indelibly etched invisible tattoos of past trauma. Furthermore, the harder the challenge, the greater the emotional bounty.
Seven keys that unlock the treasure chest of healing gems are hereby offered for consideration.
The first key invites individuals to resist urges to take the “good times” for granted. There are days when everything (e.g., work, friendships, family relationships, great fitness workouts, compliance with nutrition regimens) seems to go right. On these days, lapses into complacency or beliefs that all is and will remain in order, are not uncommon. Individuals often don’t realize how good they have it until life throws the proverbial curveball that forces confrontation with a different reality. Enjoying each moment with acute awareness and intentional resolve to appreciate and value the experience unlocks emotional wealth in the forms of enjoyment, gratefulness, thankfulness, and abilities to savor life’s satisfying complexity.
The second key comes in the form of an individual’s readiness to acknowledge and then confront the emotional disruptions that are occurring and that have occurred in the past. What’s true is that the past does not hold on to people. Rather, people hold on to the past. Resistance to facing overwhelming and sometimes painful lived experiences is often viewed as both a “bad” thing and as an invitation to open Pandora’s box of dread and fright. Nothing could be further from the truth! The flip side of this resistance coin exposes the notion that managing difficult memories, even to points of denial, is self-protective which is a “good” thing. So, in short, the only question on the table of real change is, does the individual want to self-protect differently and in more emotionally healthy ways?
A third key involves learning how to practice “stillness,” not just slowing down but intentionally allowing yourself to be still, quiet, and reflective. Being still allows a person to listen to their body differently, in physical, emotional, even spiritual dimensions. Know that the key to maximizing how to LISTEN surfaces when the six letters are rearranged. The heretofore hidden key is the word SILENT. Practicing “stillness” or “silence” positions people to take different levels of ownership over the circumstances and situations in which they find themselves. It also allows them to hit the reset button, and ultimately reclaim their inner strength.
A fourth key comes in the form of identifying a small group of people in whom the survivor has trust and confidence. In short, it is better to have four quarters than 100 pennies. Both forms of currency add up to the same amount, but each coin in the former is 25 times the value of the latter. Traveling the road of emotional reconciliation of current and past hurts is best accomplished in the company of wise and respected counsel. Along the way, it would not be surprising for individuals to discover that emotional wealth also comes in the form of exoneration, absolution, and forgiveness.
A fifth key is about implementing the variety of strategies that are suggested by trusted sources. Select the one(s) that feel best for the situation that feels most challenging. Be mindful that changes in circumstances across time may occur so be open and flexible when forced to consider new or updated strategies. Related, resist the urge to look for the “quick fix” or turnarounds and trust the process! Slow and steady wins the race.
A sixth key comes with discovering lessons that are guaranteed to be embedded in the current and past confusion, chaos, and controversies. Even though not immediately or even remotely obvious, know that there are guaranteed treasures in every trial, and ways of turning life’s tests into personal testimonies and transforming life’s mess into personal messages.
A seventh key comes in the form of choosing to recite a mantra, a simple and catchy phrase or sentence on which to meditate. A mantra triggers inspiration, hope, and reminders about ‘controlling only the controllable. Examples include:
- FEAR means either Face Everything and Run’ or ‘Face Everything and Rise!’
- I have hope in what can be!
- If I can see it, and believe it, I can be it!
- Life is a question … and how I live it is my answer
- Today, I will cancel my subscriptions to everyone else’s issues.
Repeat your chosen mantra multiple times a day, memorizing it to the point of forgetting. Forgetting is defined as your repeated mantra becoming so deeply ingrained in your spirit that you do not have to think about it; it becomes a part of who you are and how you “roll.”
Tough times can feel like people are being robbed of their joy, sense of purpose, direction, confidence, self-esteem, motivation, and will power. However, the toughest of times paired with the most extreme, even horrendous circumstances, cannot rob any individual of their ability to choose. And you can take that to the bank!
Until next time …
By William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP, Professor of Counseling
William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP
Professor of Counseling
William D. Parham, Ph.D., ABPP, is a professor in the Counseling Program. He has devoted his professional career to teaching, training, clinical, administrative, and organizational consultation venues.