The sun blazed down from on high. From the horizon’s shimmering haze a silhouette slowly emerged. Uncertain at first, it grew in confidence until the unmistakable form of horse and rider came clearly into view, while another figure walked patiently alongside. As they entered the gates of the city, father and son looked in wonder at the busy streets, lined with shops and stalls selling all wonder of goods. The father looked up at his young son and smiled. “We are nearly there” he said “and then you can dismount and take a rest.”
But as they walked on they became aware of eyes and tongues judging them. They began to feel uncomfortable, until one shopkeeper was heard saying to his neighbour, “Look at that young lad riding on horseback like a king while his poor father walks. What a lack of respect!” The son was hurt by these words, and the father began to question whether he was too soft on his son. He looked up again, and was met by his son’s loving gaze. “Father” said his son, “Come, you should be on horseback, and I should walk.” The father agreed, and with a sigh of relief both swapped places, while the shopkeepers looked at each other and nodded their approval.
The father felt happy that his son had shown him such love, and a feeling of strength came over the son as he led the horse forward, just as his father had done. But their pleasure was short-lived. Once again, they sensed that eyes were upon them, until one shopkeeper was heard saying to his neighbour, “What kind of a father is this? Leaving his poor son to walk alone while he sits comfortably on that horse. What example of manhood is that! His son will grow up weak with that kind of example!” The father was hurt by these words, the son began to question whether his father was being too hard on him. The son looked up and was met by his father’s loving gaze. “Son” said the father, “Let me walk alongside you”. And so the father dismounted and walked alongside his son, while leading the horse behind him.
The father felt happy that he was walking alongside his son, and the son felt happy that he was walking alongside his father. But their pleasure was short-lived. Once again, they sensed that eyes were upon them, until one shopkeeper burst out in laughter. “What fools these two are! Look at them both tired and walking in the dusty road. Does neither of them have the good sense to get on that horse?”
Father and son both paused, and looked at each other. “Son” said the father, “I think it’s time we decided for ourselves what to do.”
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Up and down the country there will be opportunities to learn about different ways to support mental health. But it can sometimes feel quite overwhelming – unsettling even – to be told that such and such a habit that you have long held dear is bad for your wellbeing, or that some unlikely looking practice from a far-away place is the only way you will achieve personal salvation.
Our advice? Put aside the judgments of others and see what resonates with you – what genuinely makes you feel better or happier in some way, stick at it for a while, and see how it goes. It may be that you are happy just as you are. Each of us is different, and we must each follow the path of our own conscience. Explore, and then decide for yourself what suits your wants and needs. Be bold. Do what’s right for you.
The authors are coaches and co-founders of The Libra Partnership which provides coaching and other performance enhancing services to lawyers, barristers, law firms and chambers. They can be contacted on Twitter @LifeTherapyZita and @JamesPereiraQC