I heard a phrase recently in Japan that struck me.
I was talking with someone about depression and suicide. The Japanese people described people who are prone to suicide as “弱い心” “Yowai Kokoro” or “Weak heart”.
That struck me as a strange way to describe suicidal people or those with depression, or some heavy burdens in life who are crushed under dire circumstance.
In the West, we would frame people who attempt, or succeed in committing suicide as having some mental disorder or having some terrible things happen in their life.
Generally people don’t just say, “ah, they had a weak heart”.
That phrase stuck with me all day. It took me back.
It took me back to a time when I didn’t consider my happiness, my satisfaction, my propensity for depression or suicide as a result of having a weak or strong heart. I considered my level of happiness to be based on what I had or didn’t have, on what the circumstances of my life were or weren’t like.
Did I have a girlfriend? Did I have a cute enough girlfriend? Did I have enough money? Was I in a fulfilling career? Was I in a prestigious career? Was I travelling a lot? Did I get to meet my friends and family a lot? Was success in various endeavours coming to me?
Now, these are all worthwhile considerations. And I never assumed that these things would just come to me, that my life would just be filled with happy circumstances as a matter of chance. I knew that to get many of these things I would have to work hard to improve myself or improve my circumstances or my odds of attaining those things.
But I had dark times, dark night of the soul. I had times of deep depression, loneliness and more. I thought that I needed something more. I needed to have a higher skill level, I needed a perfect girlfriend, I needed more money, I needed something more to get to that level of being strong and fulfilled. To me, suicide, depression, sadness and loneliness were always proof that I needed something more.
But the truth was I didn’t.
I needed a stronger heart.
I needed a heart so tough and so strong that it could rip through circumstances and find the good in any set of circumstances and then push through them to leave them behind and create a new set of circumstances. I needed a heart that would shrug off the bludgeoning of chance and would keep me confident, pushing and pulsing with vitality, whether circumstances were good or bad.
Getting things is all well and good. Improving the conditions of your life is all well and good. Having great relationships is excellent and enriching. Improving your skills, your health and your overall self is great.
But toughening up your heart, building it into such a powerful, enduring, strong part of you that you are able to push through and create a better life and yet can thrive no matter what the circumstances are – that is the secret.