How balanced are your seesaws?

How balanced are your seesaws?

A little wooden seesaw sits on my desk. Carefully picked out from the furniture set belonging to my daughter’s old play house, I didn’t realise when I bought it what valuable lessons about life it would teach me, and how useful I would find it in my work as a counsellor.

Most teenagers, and now even adults, who come to me for counselling end up analysing themselves to answer my question, “How balanced is your seesaw?” It sounds like a strange question. But it isn’t all that strange when you think about it.

In an ideal world, if a seesaw represents each of your relationships with others, then for most relationships (other than the parent/ child, teacher/ student and boss/ subordinate relationship) the seesaw should be horizontal. That means each person on either side of the seesaw should be considered equal. This would imply that both people are equally worthy, capable and competent.

It is, however, not an ideal world and people’s seesaws end up being tipped in one direction or the other. I decided to look deeper into this phenomenon to see how it has an impact on mental health.

We have beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, which result in generating thoughts in our mind. These thoughts are the basis of our feelings and emotions. If the feelings are positive, we feel energised. If the feelings are negative, we feel drained. These feelings result in our behaving and acting in a particular way, which results in consequences that reinforce our underlying beliefs and thoughts.
It sounds quite complicated but it’s actually simple and straightforward. It means that if you change your underlying beliefs and the consequent thoughts, your feelings will change.

Let’s look at this in the context of the relationship seesaw between children. Ram (name changed), the child who came to me with very low self-esteem, had a belief that he was not good enough, worthy or capable. So, when he tried to make friends in school he always thought, “Am I good enough to be their friend?” As a result of his self-doubt, he felt insecure, inferior, inadequate, anxious and confused. He felt drained of energy and motivation. This resulted in his behaviour towards potential friends being tentative, submissive and unsure. He was willing to do anything to gain acceptance into the group. The “others” in his mind were a powerful and superior bunch of kids. Ram did not realise that he was the one giving them all the power! Anything that Ram did was dictated by the “others”. This further reinforced his belief that he, indeed, was not good enough. With each passing day he ended up feeling worse about himself. His relationship seesaw had hit the ground and stayed there.

After counselling, Ram’s side of the relationship seesaw gradually started rising up, which naturally meant that the other side — where the other kids were — automatically started equalising itself and coming down. Not because of anything that the other kids did, but because of the changes that Ram was making within himself.

When Ram started believing that he was good enough, worthy and capable, he started asking himself a different question: Were the other kids good enough to be his friends? His belief in himself made him feel secure, energetic, confident and comfortable. His positive feelings generated positive energy that made him behave confidently and helped him stand up for himself when required. His actions stemmed from the belief that he was equal to the others. He felt more in control.

Imagine the power we give to other persons over us, by allowing our side of the seesaw to sink! They become powerful not because of who they are (over which we have no control) but because of who we are (over which we have total control).
When our side of the seesaw hits the ground, they appear to become a looming power over us. When we regain our balance, they become just one of us. We can then look beyond them, and explore other friends, newer pastures and newer possibilities.
How balanced are your seesaws? It is time for all of us to think about this question. Perhaps, we need to work on some rebalancing before it is too late.

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