The following interview is part of a “future of mental health” interview series that will be running for 100+ days. This series presents different points of view about what helps a person in distress. I’ve aimed to be ecumenical and included many points of view different from my own. I hope you enjoy it. As with every service and resource in the mental health field, please do your due diligence. If you’d like to learn more about these philosophies, services, and organizations mentioned, follow the links provided.
Interview with Gail McMeekin
EM: You believe in coaching, empowerment and success. What do you see as the relationship between personal empowerment and emotional and mental health?
GM: Healing our emotional wounds is essential to living a happy, productive life with positive relationships. Poor emotional and mental health interferes with our ability to actualize our potential and to find meaning, love, and fulfillment. Empowerment is about feeling self-confident and being able to communicate with others. We then link our thoughts and desires to initiate positive actions in the world.
People who are suffering from trauma, abuse, or limited functioning often feel powerless to envision and create what they want in life. They need skills, support and community to release the past, learn new mind-sets and coping skills so that then they can proactively create a better future. John F. Kennedy had the vision of community mental health services for all, which included prevention as well as treatment and community support systems. I was a Director in two of those centers and worked with children and families in many areas with a focus on prevention, such as Early Intervention, coaching teachers and educators how to help kids with learning and adjustment problems, and running parent training groups, etc. before those centers were closed. Teaching empowerment was a core principle of this work.
EM: Successful people are not necessarily emotional or mentally healthy people. Yet a lack of success isn’t good for emotional or mental health either. Can you tell us a little bit about what you see as the relationship between success and emotional and mental health?
GM: Success is a loaded word in our culture, especially in this era of celebrity adoration. The word success simply means “positive outcome.” Fame, wealth, notoriety, etc. are all possible by-products, but certainly not goals for everyone. I talk to people about what I call personal heartfelt success where you make positive choices in your life that fulfill your body/mind/spirit/heart/finances.
I include money on this list, as we need money to exchange for goods and services in today’s world and for safety and security, as Maslow would say. There are emotionally healthy, well-adjusted, and kind successful people and then there are successful people who are emotionally unstable, abusive, passive-aggressive, tyrannical, and narcissistic. I hear stories all the time about CEO’s and managers who are angry and cutthroat and treat people like trash, but get away with it, at least for a time.
We also live in a time where making a porno movie for the Internet can be the ticket to millions, as with Paris Hilton and others. What kind of emotional issues lead attractive women from a wealthy family to choose that self-defacing path to fame? We each must discover and define our own definition of success and if we meet our goals and preserve our passion and integrity and do not harm others, then hopefully we feel successful in our lives which enhances our emotional health and well-being.
EM: You take a particular interest in successful women and what makes them successful. What are some of your top tips or findings on what can help a woman be successful?
GM: In all my research, writing, and coaching with women, there are some key ingredients for manifesting success. In alignment with my definition of people finding their own heartfelt personal and professional success, there are some common elements.
Women who own and express their creative gifts (we all have them, not just genius folks) and honor and live their life purpose, are happier and more successful. As women in this culture, we get many messages to focus on others first and ourselves last. Successful women have to heal these self-esteem issues and tackle their fears of being disliked. We need to learn new mind-sets and models for courage and proactive actions, and create avenues for fulfillment, using both our intuition and our analytical/financial skills.
Women who try to do it all burn out in huge numbers and we need to make self-care a high priority and ask for what we need and want—not stifle ourselves. Successful women who take calculated positive risks will fail—all successful people fail if they are willing to try new things. The trick is to fail, forgive ourselves, and then get back up as quickly as possible and move ahead, armed with new knowledge. The inner and outer saboteurs, many of them rooted in the patriarchy, must be offset. Lastly, empowerment for women is about the freedom of choice. Women need to bond together with other women and stop undermining each other.
EM: You also take a particular interest in the creative process. What in your view is the relationship, if any, between manifesting one’s creativity and emotional and mental health?
GM: One of the reasons that I wrote my first book: “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor” was to provide women with role models, stories and steps for women to dare to use their creativity, and let go of the myth that all creative women were starving artists, raving mad, totally selfish, and had terrible relationships with men and women.
In other words, I wanted to destroy the notion that women who devoted time and energy to their creativity would end up alone and emotionally unstable. In fact, many women who do not own and express their creative urges can be angry and irritable and emotionally difficult to be around. Many women in my generation had mothers who were told to get out of the work force after World War II and stay home and let men have their jobs. For many women in that era, not working outside the home was dis-empowering and caused depression, etc. and that unhappiness was communicated to their children.
Today I see a theme which I call From Caretaking to Creativity where many emotionally healthy women in mid-life, after they have cared for spouses, elderly parents, and children, etc., are re-vitalized and tap into their creative dreams and finally make them come true. They have no interest in retiring, which is causing the divorce rate in people over 60 to rise, for women who do not have supportive partners. The freedom to be creative is great for emotional health and happiness.
EM: If you had a loved one in emotional or mental distress, what would you suggest that he or she do or try?
GM: I would try to be supportive and help them to come up with some positive life choices to soothe their body/mind/spirit/ and heart. Even minor changes like exercising, eating well, enjoying leisure or creative activities, meditating, going on retreats, talking to a trusted friend, reading self-help books, etc. can set a person on the right path.
Counseling or coaching can be extremely beneficial. Some people choose to talk with someone at their church or spiritual community or a family physician first and/or attend a stress management class at work to get them started on understanding their emotional “pain.” Due to the decline in community mental health centers, people need to seek out counselors at hospitals or in private practice, or possibly online, or attend 12 step programs or other community support groups.
There are so many resources available for people that they can make choices about which models would be best for them. I would encourage this person to try different things or people until they find the right fit. In the meantime, I would try to regularly reach out to this loved one and offer encouragement and new ideas for them to consider.
Gail McMeekin, MSW, LICSW, is an executive/career/creativity coach in Boston and the best-selling author of “The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women” and “The 12 Secrets of Highly Successful Women” as well as a deck of “Creativity Courage Cards” and an app for GPS for the Soul at the Huffington Post. She works with clients internationally to help them to discover their life purpose, access their inner muse, and make positive life choices. She is a frequent guest in the media and her work has been featured in the Sunday New York Times, Redbook, Health, Women’s Day, and Boston magazine, etc. Her website is http://creativesuccess.com
Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is the author of 40+ books, among them The Future of Mental Health, Rethinking Depression, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Life Purpose Boot Camp and The Van Gogh Blues. Write Dr. Maisel at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit him at http://www.ericmaisel.com, and learn more about the future of mental health movement at http://www.thefutureofmentalhealth.com
To learn more about and/or to purchase The Future of Mental Health visit here
To see the complete roster of 100 interview guests, please visit here: