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Can We Be Too Positive in Life?

Rethink Mental Wellness

Hi I am Dr Annie Chu and I am a Clinical Psychologist. When Giselle shared her vision about this GLOHS Community, I just jumped into it and said “count me in”.  Instead of just sitting in my office and serving a specific group of clients, it is my great honour to share with you my two cents on mental wellness on this platform.

What is Mental Wellness really? Always looking for silver linings when circumstances are unquestionably BAD? Have a strong-as-steel “Don’t Worry Be Happy” mindset? If these work, why are more and more people suffering mental distress (very often in silence) and eventually mental illnesses?

It is our natural mechanism to avoid processing negative, especially extreme negative emotions.  However, there are times when we just need to delve into some negative emotions for a while – failing a test, receiving a cancer diagnosis, in the midst of a bad breakup, losing a child, partner, a parent, a pet, a job, experiencing or witnessing injustice in school, in workplace and in the society as a whole, or when worse comes to worst, several of these happening at the same time in a fast-paced and high-stress city like Hong Kong….. I think we are often being denied sufficient space and time to go through these adversities, and in turn let negative emotions escalate into more serious and chronic mental illness.

I remember I had a patient who suffered from major depression shared with me that whenever people said “You will be fine”, “There’s no need to be so upset , so-and-so is way unlucky than you are”, it only made her feel like she did not even have the right to feel depressed. It is the unhealthiest mechanism one can preach to numb these emotions by promoting face-value optimism, and discourages those in distress to seek help or prohibits their wish to be heard.

I remember when my elder son AJ first started primary school last summer, my husband and I deliberately tried to hype up his morale by buying him a new schoolbag, printing cute name labels, and other cool Avengers stationary –thinking that would ease the anxieties. I told him, “Darling you will be fine, you will enjoy school and make great friends.” And he looked at me all puzzled and asked, “How can you be sure mommy?’ I got taken back for two seconds and then said, “You are right babe. Mommy cannot be sure. There may be bullies, your teachers can be very strict and school lunch may not taste good at all. But I can only tell you that whatever happens, you can always share with us, and we will always listen, and then we can figure things out together ok? ” Then he gave me a smile of relief and said “Ok.”

I hope this platform allows me to promote the same mentality. Life is undoubtedly a gift, but sometimes things get tough (and let’s be real for some people life feels like a series of unfortunate events). Nobody, even those who love us unconditionally and have our best intentions at heart, can safe-proof us from adversities and hardships. I want to share with you the pragmatics tips and simple practices we can adopt to strengthen our “mental immune system” and maintain our mental equilibrium. Let’s learn from each other and spread kindness, hope, resilience, and humour in our community.

Annie Chu

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