Episode 82: Crucibles are Important for Mental Wellness with Shivani Gupta

Shivani Gupta

Hi everybody and welcome to the AskShivani podcast, where we spend a lot of time looking at how to improve your mental wellness. Today, I'm going to be speaking about this word crucible. And when we look at the crucible, and the different movies and genres of conversations that have occurred around this particular topic, I guess with the first part that I want to start speaking about is the hero's journey. And when you look at the Joseph Campbell model of the hero's journey, where basically the hero is going along, and he or she is going along in life, and then the hero faces some adversity, a really big challenge that comes their way, they don't think that the hero doesn't think that they're going to be able to make through it and get through that particular challenge. However, they persevere, they either learn new skills, or they find a mentor. And they work out how to get out from what they feel like is the bottom of the pit and they can't go anywhere, further and life's pretty dull and horrible to them slowly coming out of that. And again, the hero's skills and journey and perseverance and resilience being tested to then when that that hero becomes successful. So, you can always look at this particular model that has existed for a long time. Great speakers speak about this particular model, storytellers, whether they're in movies or books or on stage, have used the hero's journey.

So, what does this mean when it comes to mental wellness? I guess the question that is here to ask and to ponder on is, do we all need to go through a crucible? Where to improve your mental wellness to be able to get to the other side? Do we all in fact, who've got some challenges around mental wellness need to be in this crucible? And identify the fact that which stage of the hero's journey are we actually on? So, what the crucible is really is and what we talk about the hero's journey is that they discovered that when people go through that moderate level, we're not talking high levels of adversity, where you can basically make or break you. But we're talking about moderate levels of adversity. And that there are some research now that talks about that, that reports that when people work through that they actually improve their mental health, but actually improve their wellbeing and longer life in longer term in life. The overall life satisfaction is greater, rather than somebody that had a lot of very high adversity or had no or very little adversity. So having this moderate amount of adversity, having this crucible this, you know, place to be in where we almost have that transformation of the hero's journey is so important to our wellbeing as well. And so, what does this crucible look like? Well, it's very different to different people.

And so, what does this moderate amount of adversity look like, but for some of us around, it may be around life changing events, it may be somebody that loses their job, it may be that they tried something at work and had a major failure. It may be an entrepreneur that starts a business, and their business fails, it may be a relationship or a marriage that fails. Significantly, it may be that people start to have other symptoms around anxiety and depression. So, it could be a large variety of these life experiences that happen that cause us to then feel a little bit out of control and a little bit out of depth, and not knowing whether we actually ever going to come out of it.

And, you know, for example, we may realize that we need to do some personal work on our challenges, and often our own behaviors and our way of thinking. And so we need this crucible experience to learn and develop reflection and analysis and why it's happening to us and then to be able to work out what happens from there on the other side, I'm not a big fan of the same but there is the same that's been around for a long time around what doesn't kill you makes you stronger songs have been written about it books, movies again. And so, what does that actually mean? And so, what that means is for me is that it is about building that character. It really is about you know, when we are in the depth of that then by having those traumatic experiences that we experienced whatever range that they may in our personal, our work lives, or our health or mental illness, whatever it may be, that it then because it hasn't killed us it has made us stronger. And there are some studies in, or journal called that of management education, which suggests that really, for leaders to form really great leadership habits, they must have had some crucible experiences. Because often it's in those crucible experiences they form who they are. It's, it's where they form their character areas.

For example, you know, you may have experience where something that was really challenging for you, but you really grew as a result of that. And when you're in a leadership role, you may find that somebody else is experiencing something similar. So, a character strength that might develop is something like an understanding or an empathy towards that particular person. So that character, strength comes out as a result of that crucible experience, which you can then actually find that out. So sometimes we can become more empathetic towards others, sometimes we can also become more resilient. And I guess what wisdom is, it's kind of taking what you've experienced, thinking about it, and then putting that into action. And so, it's through that learning, that's where we get wisdom, it's like learning something at a theory level, and then actually being able to experience it, that experience really gives us the wisdom in terms of what we need to do. And so, the other thing that we're crucibles come in very handy is to improve our relationships. So, for example, when we stop, and we pause, and we reflect on what might be working, or what energy and time and love, and whatever character strengths, we need to put more into that relationship, or maybe some remove some things like criticism, etc. Then one of the things that that crucible dials is that it really makes us think about it. I've had, I've been very lucky or to be able to interview some people that talk about death and loss in their lives, and particularly how difficult they found experiencing somebody that got very sick, or that they lost somebody and had devastating that wasn't their lives. But one of the other things that I did, for example, as a result of them as they became more aware of the other people that loved them in their life, and people that were there for them and alive and how to actually translate more appreciation, more thankfulness and gratefulness for actually having them.

So again, being in that crucible of having something so horrible happened when you've lost somebody that you really love, and how can that translate into something really powerful around mental wellness. And sometimes the other thing to think about is that it also just helps us sometimes a principle to have better insight. So, they put things into perspective, they put a bigger picture of life into perspective. And so, for example, I know through COVID, one of my businesses was really challenged financially. And as a result of that, and going - Okay, so what's the worst case that could happen here? The worst case was that we might then have to sell our home or pull our kids out of their schools, and downsize and a whole heap of other changes, and we start to go - okay, well, if that's the bigger picture, we're still together, and we haven't caught COVID. And we all healthy and we are, well, then now I've got a big a bit bigger perspective in terms of what I might need to let go for the safety and wellbeing for my family. So having that better insight into yourself how you behave, what you would do, and crucible can give us some of that really, you know, really extraordinary thing.

So let me just jump a little bit into, you know, a couple of my favorite crucible, first of all moments, when I look at, and I'm just going to talk about things that are fiction for a moment. And you know, I have always loved the Star Wars character, Yoda, because I often saw him as that character being one of wisdom, and where he was sharing that wisdom to other Gen eyes, in Star Wars, and really helping them with the crucible that they were in. And so, when they were in their darkest moments when they were in their darkest times, and they think that there was no more hope. One of the things that that character does is provide some of that wisdom for them to get a better insight into themselves, and really helps that hero's journey from complete loss into resilience into making things a little bit different and then making changes in terms of their mental wellness. The other example that I just wanted to, to speak about is, you know, a personal example where I had a dear friend that passed away, and she was only given about a year to leave from them. meant that she found out that she had stage four cancer. And for her, one of the things I saw her do was probably all of the above. So, she in this case, knew that she wouldn't survive this particular cancer after having looked at a lot of different ways of getting treatment.

So, in the hero's journey, what her hero's journey wasn't about survival in the end, but it was about how does she find each of those different things now, so for example, one of the things she did was, you know, she really developed a character, she got very clear about what she wanted to achieve. In that year, she got very clear about who she wanted to spend time with. She had deeper conversations with people that were around. And it was a really beautiful year, very sad journey to watch her, you know, say her goodbyes to people, including to me, and how extraordinary her character still was through to the end. And, just the insight that she had, I remember her sharing a particular story with me that she used to really hate doing the washing and hanging it up. And she said, you know, now knowing that there isn't a lot of time, I try and take a lot of joy in each of those moments. And so now when I'm hanging up the washing rather than sit in this, I really dislike it and why am I doing it? And why do I have to do it. She really tried to relish it and enjoy it and live in the moment of maybe not the washing, but perhaps being in the sun, or just the ability, the fact that she had a washing machine and other things and having great gratitude for what she had. And so, her journey I know, seeing her hero's journey, and seeing her in that crucible really impacted my crucible, and me also starting to reflect very things deeply on these things.

So, when we speak about mental wellness in, in this particular podcast, one of the things we want to do is look at, you know, and this particular podcast is about that adversity, which some of us are inherently as humans, we want to avoid our Why don't want to go through this really, really hard period, I would just kind of want an easy life. I don't I get it, I get it. I don't need to go through this crucible to be able to get that but often it isn't until we're in this crucible. It isn't until we go through this hero's journey that we spoke about with Joseph Campbell, that we really learn the skills and the reflections and the insights where we don't have a Yoda around to help us. And we find that inner Yoda within to be able to have those reflections and make those changes in terms of what we do and build our character strengths around that and improve our relationships around and get that insight around that so that we can continue to move through into becoming successful into that hero's journey. Thanks for listening.