On the power of good relations
It is an ordinary Tuesday morning and I am on my way to interview two people I am curious about. As I stand outside the door of their office, I suddenly realise that my handbag is gone. The phone is in my hand, so it's still there, but the purse where I have everything and more, house keys, car keys, work keys, wallet, sunglasses, newly purchased mittens, air pods, make-up, pens, notebook, various receipts and so on, is gone. I get a lump in my stomach and sigh deeply. I must have lost it in the crowd, or maybe left it on the bus... "Oh well" I think. But there's not much I can do about it right now. Luckily the phone wasn't in the bag anyway. I quickly block my cards and then ring the bell.
'The idea is that we want to give people their brains back'
David and Niklas co-founded and run the company Remente together. "Our mission is to democratise mental wellbeing" says David. They explain that Remente means "back to the mind", and "the idea is that we want to give people their brain back, instead of giving it away, and we give it away when we put our own happiness in things we can't influence".Remente is also the name of the app that you can find if you search for personal development. "We focus on life," they say, describing the app as a life coach. When you work with life, you cannot exclude anything, all parts must be included.
I have a thousand questions for David and Niklas that pop up in my head, but have chosen to focus on one big question, and that is how much impact good relationships have on us. At work, privately, health-wise, yes, in life simply.
Niklas begins "if we can work on having good relationships with ourselves, we affect both self-confidence and self-esteem, and the two things together also allow you to have a better relationship with other people, which is one of the most important things for us to experience happiness. To do something together with others. We are social animals".
I ask him to describe it a bit more, "what is a good relationship with yourself?"
Niklas explains that our brains have been programmed since ancient times to see danger, as it has paid off historically, in order to survive. In a modern context, however, we don't need to be afraid, "because we don't have a lion coming to bite us in the arse" says Niklas. "We need to be aware of our thoughts", David continues. Many people believe in their thoughts. But thoughts are just thoughts, like clouds, they come and they pass by. 'You're not smart' might have been said to us at some point and we might hold on to that and then those thoughts can limit us. So in that way, we can have a pretty bad relationship with ourselves. There are so many norms, pretend rules, in society today. And these rules lock us in. We are good at looking at what others think instead of thinking about how we feel.
I check that I have understood: "So, working on your relationship with yourself is about paying attention to your thoughts and thinking about whether it is logical or just some norm that I am being tricked into?"
"...but we must not forget that we are emotional, even though we think we are logical."
"Yes", says David, "but we must not forget that we are emotional, even though we think we are logical". He continues: "if you want to change behaviour, one of the most important tools is gratitude to yourself". If you are kind to yourself, life becomes easier and you are more likely to achieve your goals.
I may start to look questioning because Niklas gives an example: "Say I smoke and I don't want to smoke. But why don't I stop then? Very simply, it's linked to avoiding pain and achieving pleasure. In the short term".
"You do what is worthwhile?" I ask and think of dogs that seem to do what pays off. "Yes, you could say that" answers Niklas, "there is a reason why you smoke and what is it? It's linked to your needs, it can be linked to security, or control, anxiety reduction, you link a lot of positive things to smoking and then you can't just remove the smoking, there will be a gap, an emptiness ..." So I know that it is logically right to stop smoking, but the emotional part goes on immediately, and it is stronger than the logical.
I ask "so if you have a behaviour that you want to change, you need to understand the emotions associated with it?".
David answers "Yes, you need to understand that the brain is a survival mechanism where the parts connected to emotions, memory and stress are almost 2 million years old, while the more logical and thinking parts of the brain, as we know the brain today, are somewhere between 35,000-100,000 years old. When these two parts start fighting each other, which one do you think will win?"
Ok, so this is where you have to be kind to yourself. Don't judge. This is how the brain works and this insight and knowledge helps us. As David says "it's about trying to understand it and working with it instead of against it".
"What is so exciting is that there is a very strong link between mood, i.e. feeling good, and the social categories; Love & Relationships, Friends & Social Life and Family."
David talks about the huge amount of data they have collected from almost one million users. And that they can see some very interesting correlations. The app lets you rate how you feel on a scale of 1 to 5 and describe how you feel by choosing one or more descriptive words. You can then see how your mood has changed over time. The app also lets you rate how satisfied you are with eight different categories in your life: Love & Relationships, Health & Fitness, Career & Education, Personal Development, Family, Friends & Social Life, Entertainment & Leisure, and Finances. What is so exciting is that there is a very strong link between mood, i.e. feeling good, and the social categories; Love & Relationships, Friends & Social Life and Family. We could see this based on about a quarter of a million estimates made. "Wow!" I thought, my hypothesis, that good relationships have enormous power, seems to be correct. You may think it's not so strange, we know that our loved ones are important. But you can also see that there is no connection at all between the experience of feeling good and Health & Fitness or Finances. There is also a clear link between feeling bad and loneliness.
"Having a good relationship with yourself can be a foundation and in the relationship with other people lies the power that makes us feel good and happy. Good relationships make our little worries fade away and we feel strong, beautiful and wonderful."
We don't just need the herd to survive, maybe good relationships are even more important than quitting smoking to feel good? Having a good relationship with yourself can be a foundation and in the relationship with other people lies the power that makes us feel good and happy. Good relationships make our little worries fade away and we feel strong, beautiful and wonderful. If you look around, it is also clear that there is a plethora of relationships that are far from good. Why aren't we better at creating good relationships? Take almost any workplace. Why don't companies and organisations put more energy into getting really good at creating good relationships? But I don't have time to discuss this with David and Niklas.
Niklas concludes by saying, "Hey, Cecilia, someone else who lost their handbag just before the meeting might have chosen to go home. It's simply an attitude. You can have a good attitude and a good life, or a bad attitude and a bad life, sometimes it's that simple". Well, I think, it's not really that simple, is it? But it still feels good that Niklas seems to think that I have not chosen to put my own happiness in something that I can't influence anyway.