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Episode 234: It's Good To Talk


And hello to you, and welcome to the Richard Nicholls Podcast. The personal development podcast series that's here to help inspire, educate, and motivate you to be the best you can be. I'm psychotherapist Richard Nicholls, and this episode is titled, It's Good To Talk. And if you're ready, we'll start the show.

Hey, how's it going? Actually, just think about me asking that for a moment. Imagine we're friends, and you spot me in a pub, or a coffee shop, or even in the middle aisle at Aldi. Standing somewhere between a lawnmower, a Peppa Pig jigsaw and a unicycle. We make eye contact and we smile at each other and we walk towards each other.

So then I say, Hey, how's it going? What do you say? How do you reply? Because I bet you a 35 quid Aldi unicycle that you say, Fine thanks, how are you? Just like that. Fine, thanks. How are you? Fine, thanks. Really? Well, I mean, maybe you are, but if everyone who said they were fine actually was, we wouldn't also have 8 percent of everybody in the UK meeting the diagnostic criteria for anxiety and depression at any one time.

So, not everyone is fine. Yet we don't like to be honest about that, do we? And I get that there's a time and a place. And to be fair, the middle isle of Aldi amongst all the menagerie of power tools and minion toys is probably not the best place to say You know what? I've been better, mate. I feel a bit hopeless lately.

Life's a bit meaningless, if I'm fair. We want to save that for a more intimate environment, don't we? But a lot of people don't do that either. Yet it's no secret that talking about how we're feeling is good for us. Now, if you're listening to this on the day of release, it's the 1st of February, which is Time to Talk Day.

And that was launched 10 years ago today. by Time to Change, a campaign to end mental health stigma and discrimination, which was run by MIND, the mental health charity, and Rethink Mental Illness. Now, after 10 years, have we moved forwards much? I really hope so, because the phrase, it's good to talk, has been kicking around for decades, even outside of the mental health world.

And maybe we can thank the British Telecom adverts in the mid 90s with Bob Hoskins. But we've known since the times of Freud over a hundred years ago that talking about how we feel and exploring the experiences we had that led us to develop those feelings helps us to feel better. Back in 1886, Sigmund Freud was genuinely ridiculed, though, by his fellow doctors for claiming that men could feel anxious, and I'm not joking.

At that point, in Europe anyway, being anxious or displaying hysteria, as they called it, was only a woman's problem. It couldn't be a man's. And that's an idea that had been kicking around for over 3, 000 years, that we know of, literally 3, 000 years, we're talking Ancient Egyptians here, 1400 BCE, with the idea of The uterus was the cause of anxiety.

Hystericus is Latin for of the womb, you see. So all these years later, even in the 1880s, being hysterical, being emotional was a physical problem due to the uterus, which then creates this feminisation of emotion, which has been passed down the generations every 25 years or so, and it is still around today.

So, think about it. Actually, no, don't think. Just react without thinking. If someone says to you, which gender is more emotional, men or women? Where does your brain go? It goes to women, doesn't it? Yet I'm sure you do know that emotions are a human thing. It's not gendered in any way. It's not a feminine thing.

It's just about being human. So exploring how we feel is great for everybody, and talking about it really does help. Freud knew it 130 years ago. And the people who taught him knew it. And in 1995, Bob Hoskins knew it. When he said in those old BT adverts, it's good to talk. But why, almost 30 years later from that, are we still finding it hard?

Well, like I say, existing ideas get passed down the generations every 25 years or so. So maybe the 25 year olds are finding it easier than their parents. But the average age in the UK is 40, so it's going to take a bit longer. And in the meantime, if 40 is the average, that means there are way more people over 25 than under it by a huge percentage.

And even then, the 25 and unders are still going to be getting problems because of the conflict between what they see in the media about valuing emotions and the benefits of talking and so on, and maybe what their parents and caregivers modelled to them about how to be human, about what's right and what's inappropriate.

And if the message that all these people have been getting all their life is admitting you have emotions is bad, then talking about it won't feel safe. But not talking about it means holding the emotions inside and feeling anxious and depressed or inferior and belittled or whatever somebody feels. And it sticks.

Those feelings stick with us until they get hardwired in due to repetition and they become part of our personality. We want to try and avoid that. Now, I may well be preaching to the converted, you may well be all about the importance of opening up, but one, I think a lot of you know it, but still might not feel safe doing it. And two, we need to model it to others.

So that we can dilute down and neutralise any messages that they've picked up throughout their life and childhood in particular that says that talking about your issues isn't safe. We need to prove that it is good to talk. And we can do that by talking, by demonstrating. But that's not always enough. We might also have to actually teach people.

And you don't need to be a therapist to do this. Just having conversations about mental health in general is good. If you're going to sit round a table in a pub and chat to your mates about it, you've got to talk about something, so at least make it useful. You've only got to have about, let's be honest here, statistics do show this.

You've only got to have about four other people in your group to almost guarantee that one of them is struggling with something anyway right now, let alone what somebody might be going through in the future. But we don't need to be in a bad state to hear this stuff. I'd much rather people knew these things beforehand.

Maybe then they don't even get into that bad state in the first place then. So when you sit down with someone and you ask them how they are and they say, Fine, thanks. How are you? And you say, Yeah, fine as well. You know, just plodding on. That's the perfect chance. To bring up the fact that Fine is just something we say out of habit, even when we're not fine.

So talk about that. Laugh about that. Even if you are actually fine, say that. Say, fine, fine, plodding on, but hey, doesn't everybody just say that they're fine out of habit even when we're not? And then you talk about it. And if someone then says, Well, I find it really hard to talk about how I feel. It's just how I was brought up.

You know that even if you said nothing else, you've already achieved something. You've already made a difference in that person's life. Just in them saying that, just in them admitting that, means they've got the ball rolling. I mean, you've got the opportunity here for a lot to happen and sometimes it will do and sometimes it won't.

It's context dependent, isn't it? It depends on the circumstances. But on those occasions where you are able to say, Well, I was listening to this bloke on his podcast and he said, Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You can then have some amazing conversations. You can talk about how it's normal to feel awkward talking about things that make us uncomfortable.

That we're overriding a lifetime of belief about the dangers of vulnerability. But it makes absolute sense that being vulnerable is scary. Whether that's vulnerable to prey or vulnerable to ridicule. It's scary, and that's okay. We need to feel the fear and say it anyway. We all need to know that social interactions will strengthen our ability to process our problems.

Feeling connected to the people around us boosts our sense of value. Being heard, being listened to, being understood. It pushes a button in the brain that says, I'm safe. And the more times that button gets pushed, the easier it gets to push it again and again. Now, this button here, you know, it might be a bit stiff at first.

It might have got a bit of dust and muck in it from years of not being pushed at all. But each time it's pushed, it frees it up that little bit more. So feeling safe gets easier and easier until feeling safe is second nature. It's just part of your personality to be okay with vulnerability and differentiate between genuine life threatening things and the things that make us anxious

but are actually perfectly okay in the big scheme of things. It might take time, but you've got to remember, we're literally rewiring our brains here. That does take time. And alongside that, we've got to deal with the stigma of having a mental health problem. And I know it's getting better, but it's still out there.

In fact, in one study from a couple of years ago, 9 out of 10 people who were struggling with their mental health problems said that they had to deal with stigma and discrimination because of it. 9 out of 10 people. And 60 percent of them said that the stigma and discrimination were equally as damaging, or more damaging, than the symptoms of their mental health problem in the first place.

And over a third said that the stigma had made them give up on their ambitions, made them give up on their hopes, their dreams. And almost all of those said that the stigma had made them want to take their own life. The stigma of having mental health problems. Not the depression itself, but the stigma of it.

All because, when they were struggling, and they told their boss or whoever, the people around them did not know what to do. Didn't know how to talk to them about it. Stopped inviting them out. Stopped chatting with them. Stopped treating them like a human. In a confidential UK survey from 2009, 56 percent said they would not employ somebody with depression, even if they were the best candidate for the job.

They would not want to work with them. Now, you fast forward 15 years, and those same 56 percent of respondents, they're still out there. They might still have those same beliefs. Maybe they're being diluted down by a generation of podcast listening legends like yourself, but they're still out there. And one in four of them will have developed a problem in the last 15 years.

Well, I wonder how they handled it. Because they had a belief that someone with mental ill health had less value. Couldn't be trusted. Was gonna let people down. Well, heads up for the self fulfilling prophecy, folks! We've got a lot of work to do, still, and it needs to continue, and it genuinely can be done!

Just by chatting to your friends about the importance of chatting to your friends. So, that's your homework for this month. Whether that's Face to face, via WhatsApp, or even just supporting some random stranger on Reddit, or a Facebook mental health group, or something. Or If you're a patron of mine, the community tab on my Patreon page, I must keep reminding everybody about that.

That'd be a lovely place to share what's going on, and the more people that do that, the more common it becomes then for all my patrons to go and check and see if anybody has posted anything. And then the more support everybody gets. And if you're a patron, then you get full episodes every Monday morning, too.

Not just the, you know, those little bonus episode snippets that I stick out there on a Friday. You get a full proper episode every Monday. And if you need it, um, and you're super quick, there is actually one space left on the Patron supported tier on my Patreon page, where you just have to pay the Patreon fees, which is like, I think it's 2 a month after VAT.

And then somebody else pays for your access, another patron of mine. Someone just signed up on the pay double level a few days ago, you see. The patron funded level is for people who are struggling, not just with their mental health. But also struggling financially as well, and it is anonymous, nobody knows who's paying extra, nobody knows who's on the lower level, and nobody knows, nobody knows anything really, and you have to share all that sort of stuff, but you don't need to do that.

So, if you value what I do, and maybe you're feeling a bit flush, you could always join up on one of the higher tiers and help somebody else out as well. That'd be nice, but only if you can afford it. You can't save everyone. We need to be okay with just doing little things. Doing little things is fine.

Even Superman would end up getting a cat out of a tree from time to time. And apparently, he could break the speed of light and travel back in time. Although no one likes mentioning that. Anyway, I shall love you and leave you. Because I'm in danger of overrunning if I'm not careful. Have a great February.

Open up if you have to. Talk with your friends, but more importantly, listen with your friends as well without judgment and with nothing more than respect and care and you'll be amazed what a difference it makes. I think I'll make a Patreon episode about that next week actually. That seems quite important if I'm honest.

Anyway, take care folks. I will speak to you again very soon. Bye for now.