The Burned Tea Kettle

Picture of a burnt tea kettle repurposed as a decorative potholder for green ivy, sitting on a desk.
Finding a new meaning and purpose

The Tea Kettle

My wife and I had sat down to watch a recent movie about a family with turmoil and conflict. After the first short segment, we suddenly became aware and jumped up. We had forgotten about the tea kettle on the stove. In my defense, after I put enough water in it, I had asked her to remind me when the high-pitched whistle sounded since her hearing was better than mine.

Significance of a Loss

If losing a special tea kettle can affect us as it did, one can understand the immense toll on people affected with significant losses such as a home or loved one. These profound losses can impose an enormous mental health burden, increasing grief, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Big Story in our Mental Life

The main story, narrative, or core beliefs always dominate our mental life and thinking. The personal inner saga has a developmental history since our birth. It defines us continually in relation to other people, things, or objects seen or perceived as external to ourselves. The mental beliefs and inner story can define and give greater or lesser significance to any external possession, person, or need that may be gained or lost.

Getting Stuck

When mental health issues arise, some of the difficulties are getting stuck, fixed, or rigid with an inner narrative; this can lead a person into areas contributing to pain, suffering, isolation, or problems affecting himself or others. It may be a minor part of the person’s dominant life story or just a segment of the overall beliefs that are causing issues.

A tea kettle is sitting on a red hot flame, which may need attention before it boils over.
Awareness is needed, especially when the kettle is about to boil!

Getting Out of the Trap

The ancients and modern philosophers have thought that we get trapped in dualistic binary thinking — splitting things into good or bad, black or white, safe or not. Being able to separate or distinguish items that come into our perceptual world is an essential working of our brain mental system to avoid danger and toxicity for our survival and safety.

TIPS

  1. Be mind-wise.
  2. Develop the sense and ability for awareness of the larger context in which we live that surrounds us — all that exists beyond our self-interest and needs.
  3. Take part in group sharing social activities, and experience the mutual give and take of human existence and the positivity of giving and receiving the support of others with the realization of what underlies our existence as a mutually interdependent person, society, and world.
  4. If you lack confidence or natural abilities or fear social situations, find support from people experienced with these issues and problems that can provide specific help.
  5. Work on your mindfulness and awareness, as you would take care of yourself with better nutrition and exercise by doing things like mindfulness, yoga, meditation classes, or therapy work.
  6. Find a way of balancing the necessities of focal thinking to meet essential personal needs as with career, care of self and family, with being able to think and act with awareness and spiritual essence — in touch with the all-encompassing world outside our focused thinking. The mind, to have optimal health and well-being, needs a balance between the spiritual and mundane, the narrow and the broad.

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Ron Parks

Ron Parks

Ron Parks, MD, is a physician, consultant, a writer in integrative psychiatry, holistic medicine, and healthcare.