Once I heard a story about some blind men and an elephant.
According to the story, the men were born blind so they’ve never seen an elephant in their entire lives and neither they had a concept of what this animal look like.
They were in an enclosure at the zoo and asked to describe the elephant by touching and feeling parts of the animal.
One man said an elephant is like a tree trunk, for he was holding one of the legs. Another said, it was like like a big flat leaf, as he was touching the ear.The third one told the other two were wrong cause an elephant is a long thing like a hose. Yet another said that everyone had it wrong as he was feeling the little tail in his hands.
When I heard this story I felt like it could be applied to so many diverse experiences in life.
We all have different perspectives, beliefs, understandings according to whatever we have experienced or we are experiencing. The same thing, situation, issue, event etc can be described so differently by everyone depending on what angle we look at it. Our cultural and religious experience, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, migration experience, education, status, employment, family, types of relationships we have, our environment, experiences, trauma etc will surely affect the way we perceive and interpret things.
The same applies I believe to mental health. The way we experience and understand distress, moods, energy levels, sleep, attitudes and behaviors towards ourselves and others it will vary depending on our reality.
I’d like to suggest that perhaps there’s no right or wrong and one approach is not better to another when we are dealing with issues, but, rather, it is different. There are different outlooks that we all have depending on our own unique experiences and the individual way we perceive and respond to them according to our personality, character, idiosyncrasy and background.
Perhaps, a successful way in our recovery journey could be to develop the ability to see and understand another point of view and acknowledge or accept that multiple ways of dealing and managing mental health exist. This may help us to expand and grow in our understanding and develop empathy for others who equally experience similar issues thus, making it easier to share our stories and ‘hold hands’ so to speak in this journey of recovery towards a better quality of life and improved wellbeing.
What’s your experience? How do you perceive the ‘elephant’ in the room?