A very dense conversation today with Nicole Gibson!
Nicole is an international Speaker and listed in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Most Influential Women.
At 21 she was appointed the Australia’s Commissioner for Mental Health,
and now she dedicates her time uniting communities, shifting corporate culture, and empowering individuals.
She gives a language to the deeper things we feel as a collective and is
fighting to unite humanity through understanding, love and empowerment.
This young lady is an embodiment of love, an unstoppable messenger of love and human potential. She is a fierce ambassador for mental health, innovation and connection after recovering from her own experience with anorexia nervosa through her teenage years.
In her own words: “Mental health is said to be the worlds leading health epidemic by 2020, and suicide is the leading killer in Australia.
It’s more obvious than ever that our current approach to mental health is too rigid, and denies people space to account for their own unique quirks and uniqueness.”
About mental health, depression, isolation, rite of passage, acknowledgement, and more than anything, love.
- [3:00] About the workshops Nicole facilitates: Rite of passage is about understanding that there’s gonna be a perfect time and a space for someone to have a breakthrough, and maybe it’s actually not about getting a breakthrough for every single person. Through flow and in that space some people will have a breakthrough. And we are all connected; so if you can have one person to have that breakthrough, what happens then is everyone sees himself in that person, and may simultaneously have that breakthrough as well. There is power in a community of people. By one person being vulnerable, it activates vulnerability in all the other persons. Vulnerability is: It is just being honest and speak to whatever you’re feeling in that moment.
- [6:15] Bridging the gap between traditional and modern societies, to find again the sense of who we are in the community, and know how to behave, find identity & belonging. We are interdependent. We can learn so much from each other and honor that each other’s humanity has something to bring to the group. “In a world that put so much significance on individuality, there’s actually so much conformity.” The people who are “celebritized” are the most ok with speaking their truth, and they are the most unapologetic about who they are. But we are never gonna get to that level by copying them, we’ve got to find our own equivalent to that.
- [9:30] “If 50% of the west is struggling with mental health, that’s not biological. To me that just screams there is something going on with our culture and there’s something that’s actually hurting us on an emotional level. And it makes sense, right? If you’re exposed to the level of stress and the level of anxiety (…), unless you feel a sense of anxiety, I would actually argue that you are desensitized.”
- [11:00] Awareness campaigns are a good start, yet just knowing that it is a problem doesn’t give us solutions. When “you can be with someone in their vulnerability, then your friend saying he’s suicidal or in a lot of pain, is not gonna make you retract. You can actually be with them in that, and that is the best community intervention that we can have. It doesn’t mean you have to be a qualified therapist or a professional, but to not be afraid, to not let the fear of the situation actually rule, and to be present with people in that.“
- [12:33] How to break the cycle of feeling pain, feeling isolated, shame? “You’re qualified [to help] just because you’re a human being. But often you’ve spend so long rejecting and avoiding your own vulnerability, that you haven’t shown yourself just how powerful you can be in someone else’s own journey.”
- [18:13] We don’t need anyone to fix ourselves. “What we need, to consolidate all of that progress, is acknowledgement, and to feel like we’re allowed to actually become a different version of ourselves.” To break the isolation and the cycle of shame, it just takes one person speaking up. It’s like speaking to the elephant in the room. As soon as you start speaking to it, it starts to get smaller and smaller. And then eventually, there’s actually no tension in the space.
- [21:36] On post-traumatic growth, and how pain can actually be an asset to become we become an asset, if you really allow it and go through it. Do we need to experience pain to grow? Or maybe rather resistance?
- [23:07] The problem with identification in mental health: “If you break your leg, you’re not thinking I am a broken leg, and identifying with the fact that you will only a broken leg and that you’re always going to be a broken leg and that becomes the center point of your identity. No, if you break your leg, you go to the doctor, you go to the right physical therapy, and you can go on with your life. Mental health and challenging times are exactly the same.” “we have to feel the pain. You know, if, in order to heal your leg, when it’s broken, you’ve got to go through those steps of learning to walk again. And if you didn’t go through those steps, then you’re never going to be able to walk on your leg, you’ve got to go through that same process when it comes to emotion. And once you’ve proven it to yourself once, whatever that pain point is in your life that you would love to work through, I dare you to go on the journey of healing, and seeing who you are on the other side of that, because once you’ve proven that to yourself, you will never be held back by pain and emotion ever again. When I made the decision, and it was a decision, to overcome the eating disorder, and des-identify with that eating disorder, on the other side of that I knew I was unstoppable, that no amount of failure and set back and emotional hardship was ever going to get in my way of self realization.” “The amount of pain that you feel on your healing journey is equal to the amount that you’ve abandoned yourself.” And the process of healing is actually coming back to yourself.
- [28:04] Why is it so difficult to feel the pain in our society? The problem of “fake marketing” in social medias and the imposter syndrome: “When you’re only sharing the best moments, you then have an identity and an image to uphold. So when you really need to be vulnerable with people around you, it increases the amount of fear you experience
- [31:41] Spiritual bypassing and mental health: “The doing is not the being. If you’re trying to hijack all good thoughts and just think positively, but you’re not actually emotionally investing in those positive thoughts and you can’t feel them, then it’s not going to change your reality. Because we attract what we are not what we want to be.” “If you really are in that dark place, things like positive thinking, do have an effect. Don’t expect it to be the magic wand though. It takes time, and it takes practice, and most of all, it takes commitment. You’re going to make a commitment to yourself:”I commit to changing this narrative in my mind”. And every single day when you are practicing, really be present with it really with sincerity and intention. And eventually this intention, depending on how much pain you’re in, will shift your focus from the negativity and the pain and help you look at life in a different way.”
- [34:34] The tendency towards being ego-centered when facing a mental health issue: “The significance is always looking at the world through the lens of self so when you’re in a mental illness, that self orientation means that you are only thinking about your pain and every interaction you have, you’re thinking about “How is this person going to see me? How am I going to do with my pain today?”. And when you focus so much on the self, especially when you have a significant pain body or you made that pain pretty significant it’s very trapping.” How Nicole shifted that focus and became less self-oriented, was a major step on her healing journey. “then the second great thing about that was, I started to realize that I could actually be a someone value to other people.”
- [37:00] “We can’t heal, what we can’t reveal. Don’t wait till you have the perfect way of explaining something to start the conversation.” Validation vs acknowledgment: If you can start to be comfortable in yourself, and actually start to go on a journey of self love, then you’ll naturally be vulnerable, because you have nothing to hide and I can just be myself because my self esteem doesn’t rely on you. I’m not seeking validation in order to feel okay.
- [40:35] Acknowledgement circles and the importance of practicing receiving acknowledgement. Some of the behaviors that you’ll see when someone can’t actually receive is wanting to give it back to that person, or diminishing, or laughing and making a joke about it. These are forms form of deflection. Instead, actually just breathe it in. And for a moment, stay present to that, and be grateful.
- [43:14] What makes you feel alive… Or what are you willing to die for? Going back to rites of passage and the many virtual death we experience within our lives: we experience many cycles of identity. “What are you willing to let go of, in order to become the next iteration of yourself? How much commitment is within you to actually die as you are today for that next phase? That would be the thing that you can live for, that will fully making you feel alive, that will give you the best quality of life.”
- [45:50] About suicide, respecting the pain, and sovereignty; the tragic irony of the tunnel vision: seeing suicide as the only possibility to end the pain. It is easier for us external observer to see a part of this person that is not receiving love, and to feed love into; they might still be rejecting it but on some level it begins to shift. “I challenge you even when someone is massively vulnerable and in pain, try to see the part of them that isn’t that pain, try to speak to the part of them that is beautiful, and free, and sovereign and talented.”