Radical curiosity in the face of the suicide of a loved one, with Jonny Miller – Integrally Alive podcast

Jonny is an entrepreuner who  co-founded Maptia, a living archive of inspiring and impactful stories from around the world (with breathtaking photos). He led the Escape the City Startup Tribes in London for 2016 . He is a podcaster at Curious Humans. He also crossed the English Channel on a stand up paddle-board raising money for a charity.

And he lost his partner to suicide, as he openly shared on stage at the FreedomX festival where I met him last summer.

You know me, as soon as I heard that, I wanted to invite him; I am so grateful that he said yes to share his story and thoughts.

And even more now, as we had a raw, deep, conversation, which was only possible with Jonny’s willingness to show up in a vulnerable and totally open way. This is one of these moments, where I know I’m exactly where I need to be, like hey, I might really be helping to break the silence and stigma around mental health and change things, one conversation at a time.

I hope you guys will be touched as I was. Let me know in the comments: What was the thing that surprised you the most in our conversation? What idea of yours got challenged?

On suicide, mental health, irrational logic, resilience versus being strong, radical curiosity, and this wonderful, exquisite, amazing experience that is life…

  • Suicide is often linked to depression, and the World Health Organisation states that by 2020 depression will be the second health issue worldwide. Yet the silence around it is still huge, and only makes the problem bigger!
  • [3:24] Every story is different, yet they all help to clarify this puzzle of mental health and suicide: Jonny’s experience with his partner Sophie, struggling with bipolar disorder that eventually led her to suicide.
  • [10:02] “Although not professionally trained. A lot of the times, I was just there to kind of hold space for her.” A lot of people battling with mental health have a hard time being heard and acknowledged. “Just” being there, open and willing to listen in a non-judgemental way is already a lot. This is the base for any support, and it needs to be there in the therapy, but also outside, in everyday life.
  • [12:12] Suicidal ideation is surprisingly common for people who even don’t suffer from particularly intense depression. Mental heath issues are almost always related to self-worth. Sadly, it can even go to the point where someone feels like being a burden on other people. At some point, the rational mind is by-passed by emotions.
  • [14:57] In her head it was the most rational thing to do. This is maybe the most difficult thing with suicide: It appears and can be defended very logically, in a way that can be difficult to prove wrong… with logic. Because it is actually the result of an emotional state, leading to a narrowing down into a tunnel vision and the thought that there is only one option; where it is obviously the worst option ever, and there are always other options: It is just a matter of taking a step back and taking a different view on the situation. Addressing the feeling of disconnection, from yourself, and the wonder of the world, coming back to the a sense of curiosity, is a key to change the emotional state, and a more powerful way to react to this decision than using logic and rational thoughts.
  • [23:14] Facing mental health, it is essential to get help, not only for the person struggling directly, also for those who care for her/him. “It’s really scary to see someone you love so dearly not being themselves, and being in this state where they almost have no control on how they feel, you certainly have no control on how they feel, and you feel really powerless, and you feel really helpless.”
  • [26:02] Suicide ny nature is violent, unexpected, suden. It is a shock, and it takes time just to accept that it happened. And in a society who forgot how to deal with pain, it can be difficult to stay with it. Yet it is essential! “I wanted to ensure that I gave myself the chance to feel the depth of the pain (…) sink into that feeling of surrender of accepting the pain. When you allow that to happen, it transforms and turns into a feeling of deep connection and deep tenderness.”
  • [33:09]  Don’t be strong, surrender! What we call “being strong” is  often just a denial of what’s happening and a burying down of the emotions; they always blow up at some point. There is always something that will be stronger than this “being strong”. And it is taking a lot of energy, because it is being in resistance to what is happening. Surrendering is scary, yet we need to acknowledge that sometimes life knocks you down, and it’s OK; and then you will come up again. We need to accept those moments, and a beautiful way to do so is with radical curiosity: the ability to be curious in the face of fear or discomfort.
  • [39:15] Death, and especially suicide is a giant calling into question about life in general. It is not only about grieving someone, it is also about making a new sense of the world now. “We all know we are all gonna die, but we rarely feel it on an emotional level. It really reinforces that sense of fragility of life, and how precious that is, (…) this wonderful, exquisite, amazing experience.” If you are asking for the meaning of life, it is almost like you are asking the wrong question. If you don’t feel it is there, you need to re-orientate your thoughts to some extent so that you can experience it.” It’s incredibly clarifying in reminding you what really matters.
  • [49:06] What makes you alive, such an important question to live your way into the answer to. “Letting yourself sink into whatever is coming up in your experience. Feeling it and knowing that it has something to give to you.

Where can you find Jonny Miller?

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