Hongkongers need more self-compassion in the face of the current social unrest

The Hong Kong College of Psychiatry presented a survey result on 3rd January revealing that about 60% of the young people in Hong Kong suffer from moderate to severe depression in the past three months.  Despite the survey did not cover the major factors contributing to the onset of depression, the college speculated that the current social unrest could be one of the major factors. As many young people in Hong Kong participated in the protests in different ways, their experiences in these activities may cause them to suffer from different levels of emotional disturbances. Even for those who did not participate in the protests, the pressure they faced from their peers may be high.

Before June 2019, Hongkongers are living their lives normally with the expectation that happiness is what one should always strive for. Since the anti-extradition bill protests started, lots of Hong Kong people started to suffer from different levels of depressive mood and anxiety. As many people tend to believe that our happiness depends on our external environment, they try their best to seek happiness and avoid pain. However, in the face of the current social unrest, many people started to feel their emotional pain is unavoidable. This causes them to struggle very hard to try to escape from feeling the emotional pain. What is paradoxical is that the more they try to escape from their emotional pain, the higher level of suffering they may experience.

In the face of unavoidable emotional pain, they need to learn to change our relationship with the pain they suffer. They need to learn to embrace their depressive mood and anxiety which are unavoidable. That is, to feel the pain, being with the pain, without fighting against it. This makes them suffer less as they do not waste energy to fight against them. In this way, they are  less likely to be depressed about being depressed or anxious.

To surf with their emotional pain, they may cultivate curiosity towards their emotions. They may practice mindfulness exercises, such as mindfulness of breaths or bodily sensations, to bring their awareness to present moment experience in the suffering of emotional pain. Then they gradually shift from tolerating their emotional pain to allowing it to come and go. They may notice that their pain is not fixed and it may come and go if they let go of fighting against it. Finally, they may come up with the meaning behind their suffering and be able to embrace with their pain.

Hongkongers are facing an unexpectedly uncertain and complicated social situation. It is inevitable for most of us to feel depressed or anxious in different levels. Embracing our emotional pain to cultivate self-compassion is helpful for us to deal with these unavoidable pain. Be self-compassionate and compassionate to others are important for us to prevent our emotional pain being exacerbated. For those who are currently suffering from depression or anxiety disorders, it is advisable for them to seek proper professional help.

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