The Other Side of Reason – Moments of reflection

Since 2013, recognized author and community leader for mental health, David Gibson, has battled the inner world of PTSD to find some measure of hope within. He uses his writing to explore how his journey as a survivor has enabled him to come to terms with PTSD and the new reality of his life. His 'Reflections from the Other Side of Reason' not only invite the reader into his life, but offers insights on how to grow and build resiliency. By sharing his experiences he takes away any toll for others to walk down the same road.

[Moments of reflection]

I’ve seen you,
And once asked if I could help,
As you danced among the sadness that crept into your soul,
I reached for you again,
Drifting into the lost space of time,
And you smiled,
Breathing in the moments of life.
Like the restless change of seasons.
Opening yourself to believing, that possibility is the secret heart of your reflection.

I realize the irony and hypocrisy of writing an article about humility. Just by writing, it presupposes I’m an expert. I’m definitely not. I try to keep confidence in perspective, while maintaining humility, but it isn’t easy. Often I fail.  I’m reminded of this even more so as I turn 56 today, March 23rd.  Wow, how time flies.

But hold on just a second, this post is one of those moments in life that we all have, when we suddenly get it – that we are part of something bigger and we are connected to each other more than we ever realized. Let me explain.

This month I had the honour of attending the Royal Ottawa’s 15th Annual Inspiration Gala.  The event itself was glamourous and glitzy, but more so it was an opportunity to reflect on how mental health issues concern us all in Ottawa.  Among the award winners was the legendary Pat Capponi, a Canadian anti-poverty and mental health advocate as well as an accomplished author.

Among the seven recipients of the Inspiration Award, it seemed to me there was a common theme from each of their powerful stories – ‘by sharing our experiences we take away any toll for others to walk down the same road’.  Each of their stories show all of us our ties to one another and strip us of our differences.

One of the many reflections of the event reminded me that there is something about the way that people can step up and come together to not only protect each other and fight for a common cause, but that we can as well, remind everyone that despite mental health challenges we all have a place in this world.

It is within this context that I found a wonderful sense of humility in the experience I was part of during that amazing night.  This was an opportunity to acknowledge this basic fact – until we can finally see one another in the way we were intended — as complete beings who experience the same emotions and deal with the same struggles, we will be forever challenged to see past the stigma of mental health issues like PTSD.

For all of the recipients that evening, I believe everyone would agree that finding meaning lies when we are deeply united no matter the circumstance, but living with the impact of mental health issues can also help us discover how intricately connected our roots are. 

This theme of our ‘shared humanity’ is the light of hope each and every recipient spoke to and heroically holds onto.  Each of the life stories shared that evening, gave everyone a unique and rare glimpse into an unimaginable world many of us would never dare tread.

Humility is widely under-rated in most Western cultures, it seems to me. It’s also widely misunderstood – maybe that’s why it’s under-rated.  Humility is a kind of liberation, a paradoxical state of freedom from the culturally imposed norms of narcissistic “me-first” thinking.

I am telling you nothing you do not intrinsically already know. It’s not money, power, fame, cars, boats, houses, praises and honors.  At the true heart of humility is a search to feel better, just as it is in the search for self-esteem. The goal of each is the same and the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

In fact, it’s clear to me now more than ever before that one can’t truly exist without the other. High self-esteem without humility is hardly self-esteem at all, but instead a cocky confidence. Humility without self-esteem isn’t true humility either, it’s a disguised insecurity about your own worth.

It’s the mediocre who separate the two in search of happiness. It takes someone truly remarkable to build self-esteem by achieving great things and giving away their recognition for it, understanding that nothing is really achieved alone and getting satisfaction by building others up.

Humility is also about emotional neutrality. It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either. Everyone is your peer – from the most “important” person to the least. You’re just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, no more and no less. It’s about behaving and reacting from purposes, not emotions. You learn to simply disconnect or de-program the competitive reflex in situations where it's not productive.

It took a long time and a lot of learning and personal growth for me to come to this realization, but I’m happy to have the clarity I do now. For that, I really am humbled.

I believe “true humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” This quote by author C.S. Lewis may be the most concise way to describe humility.

Humility is an asset for self-improvement. By remaining humble, you are receptive to opportunities to improve.

Beyond personal success, humility is also a virtue for inner well-being. Frustrations and losses don’t have the same impact if you don’t get your ego involved. If you combine humility with motivation, you have the ability to drive towards successes without letting the failures knock you out of balance.

Humility doesn’t need to imply any particular skill level. Being humble is about being open to the possibility of improvement. While confidence is a scale predicting success, humility is an absence allowing for growth.

The humility is in whether you choose to take the advice, the humility is when you ask for the help.

Sometimes giving help with no expectations involves just as much humility as asking for help. Keep that in mind next time someone needs your help. AND when you ask for help.

Until next time.