Here at Biomedicanna, we celebrate a healthy lifestyle and, of course, healthy relationships, but both of these essentials do not come easy. We dedicated the whole of February to encourage everyone to love themselves and others in every way possible. Today we invite you to rethink your priorities and invest in the most valuable things despite misfortunes around. Stay safe and experience the fullness of life!
At the second week of February, we offer to read our conversation with Dainius. Dainius Jakucionis is a doctor psychotherapist, who has helped people solve their psychological and emotional issues for several years now. Besides his professional experience, Dainius is a frequent guest speaker in various training and public conferences, where he’s sharing his knowledge with hundreds of people eager to change their lives and relationships for the better.
-Dainius, tell us a bit more about yourself, and why you chose this professional path?
-I knew I wanted to be a doctor for many years, yet I was not sure whether I wanted to be a psychotherapist. The desire to work with the human mind and psyche arose in the second year of medical studies. One of the professors started teaching us about the human mind, how things go there, how some mental illness occurs, and that was so fascinating! It was a eureka moment, - I realized I want to go this way rather than choose to pursue a career in this field; saying ‘career’ doesn’t fit my experience. I was planning to further enrol in psychiatry studies but turns out you don’t need to be a psychiatrist to be a psychotherapist. Due to this, I chose family medicine and worked as a family doctor for about four years. Only recently – well, in 2018 – I started to work as a full-time psychotherapist, and other activities came along, various mental health-related projects and training.
-Psychotherapy is one of those areas that only people with the need to help experience it, and people who don’t have any mental health needs do not know anything. Why did you decide to share the knowledge with the latter group of people as well? Why you participate in various discussions, training, projects?
-To tell the truth that’s a complicated question as no one knows what motivates them for one thing or another. There is one straightforward and superficial answer that everyone often says – they want to help people. Why do they want to help people? It’s indeed the nice-looking answer, and it might as well explain why I consult people about their mental and emotional issues. Another explanation is the desire to earn more as various conferences and training can be worth more than the whole day of consultations. The third answer is that people may be motivated by honour and glory, they want to feel popular and enjoy those rays of fame, and they think they‘re best because everyone is talking about them. All of those arguments interact with each other, and I discovered them already while working as a psychotherapist, attending psychotherapy courses, and analysing myself.
If looking at what helps me decide whether to accept one project and give up another, is self-preservation. After all, you don’t have to take everything, think about everything or participate everywhere, because you can burn out very quickly and then it will be complicated to live. But if you look at what motivates me, it’s like a mission or desire that the children who are now growing up, would be happy and mentally healthy. Of course, these two aspects sort of overlap. However, to achieve this, the parents of the children also need to be mentally stable. My current goal is to help as many people as possible discover their inner harmony, and in the process, children will be happier, and they will not need me or my colleagues’ services. Maybe after a while, I will not have to engage in consulting or mental illness treatments, but everything I do will be prevention and education. The current desire is for people to feel calmer and reach happiness if they want to look for it, of course, and live more stable life.
- Is it more of a goal to help the people now or raise the generation who doesn’t need your help?
-You know, I am a limited person, my validity will expire at some point, and that’s fine. My generation will still need me, just as the current Z generation will need me, but I hope that later generations will not. My goal as a doctor was to engage in prevention so that doctors would do nothing, and all their patients would be healthy and never actually go to the doctors. It’s paradoxical, but I know that it will take a lot of work for both my colleagues and me until we achieve this goal. Despite that, having such a vision is fun, so why not?
-Your words take us to wonder what loving others mean, but before that, how do you understand the love for yourself?
-There are two types of loving yourself. The first is when people say they feel that they love themselves, so it’s more of a feeling, but some people may have it, and some people may not. Those people who cannot feel that sense may not have had as much love in their childhood as they could have, thus stopping them from learning to feel love for themselves. In that case, the behaviour is more important than feelings. I look at love for myself more through behaviour – what do I do to show myself that I love myself? Actions are easier to measure and easier to achieve because when people say they do not love themselves, the only advice we can give to them is to love themselves.
What does it mean to love yourself? I define the love for myself with actions. For me, it is meditation in the morning and exercise, in the evenings going for a walk and reading a book, well, and protecting myself from burnouts. Everything else that happens between – whether it’s activities or work, they do not matter, because the most important thing for me is to perform those morning and evening rituals. They depend on nothing else, only I can control them, and it shows me that I love myself.
-What about loving others?
- When it comes to loving others, I think we should consider turning a love for yourself upside down. If we feel something that might be love, we often find ourselves stuck because we don’t know what exactly love is. Same with happiness, what is it, how can we achieve it? Love for others and love as a word means action – love is to do something. If I love, then I take care of my loved ones, ask them how they live, help them when they need it, protect them from misfortunes, give them something. These all are small things that express warmth, closeness, and they all form love in one way or another.
Love is essentially a word, and some may need to hear it, some may need actions, maybe others need gifts to feel that they are loved. All these are okay, but it seems that if you love someone, you should do something for them, sacrifice your time or instead prioritize it, spend more time with your loved one than others, and thus show that they are essential to us.
-No wonder you mentioned time. Almost a year ago, we faced quarantine for the first time, which was accompanied by huge uncertainty. From one perspective, we had plenty of free time, but from another point of view, we had none. As you relate time management with loving yourself and loving others, how these relationships changed during quarantine?
- It seems to me that nothing is too different, nothing has changed. Quarantine is just a circumstance, a certain twist in life. It’s just like someone would have an illness, experience a job loss, or get a new job. Those twists and turns come and go, and they don’t change anything too much. If people devote their time to other people, they will continue to dedicate it regardless of their circumstances. We could always find some excuse – it’s quarantine, we can’t meet eye-to-eye, but relationships don’t have to be live all the time.
We can stay connected in any way, no matter how far we may be from each other, we still can create a connection. Any kind of reminder of yourself and your relationship is a connection anyway. Some people may feel that communication change as it will be harder for them to keep in touch because it naturally takes time to get used to those technologies. It really wasn’t hard for people my age to keep connections alive, and quarantine did not affect that.
Those people who have taken quarantine as a difficulty to overcome limit themselves and reduce their own freedom of actions. Such an interpretation is neither appropriate nor useful, but it is enough to change the attitude in many cases. If people don’t like the way they are forced to communicate with other now, but that doesn’t mean that such communication is bad or worse than before the quarantine – it just changed a little, so we should not emphasize the change. What is the difference in maintaining the connection through a computer or phone camera? Even though you can’t touch a person you talk with, you can still stay in touch with them. Of course, live chat is much more valuable than online, but times of uncertainty will pass, and we will return to live communication.
Those who used to have a hard time keeping in touch with others will still have a hard time doing then when everything goes back to normal. People who had less social support before quarantine, they redeemed it by work and communicating with colleagues. They may not have had so many friends, but the workplace was the environment people surrounded them, so they naturally received social support. Now that it is impossible to go to work, they can only communicate with those people only on work issues, so it is even more difficult.
-Have you noticed those communicational and emotional changes in your patients?
-Only a tiny proportion of my patients had difficulties dealing with the current situation. There were even those who enjoyed it too because then they didn’t need to go somewhere or interact with someone. However, those were also a small proportion of my patients, so I cannot make assumptions about everyone. There were indeed many people who experienced difficulties, insecurity at work, in relationships, being at home alone, with a partner or with children, studying or working remotely. Among my patients, there are no people whose psychological situation has dramatically deteriorated.
-How was your quarantine experience?
-Quarantine was neither a positive nor a negative phenomenon for me. I adapted to it, got used to having to communicate with patients online. Now a lot of events take place online, which saves me loads of time. I can take part in one event and can consult the patient two minutes later. Before quarantine, I would have needed half an hour to go to the venue, an hour to give out my presentation, and another half an hour to come back to my office or home. Quarantine saves me time, but I miss communication at live events, just because contact with people is different. In consulting patients, I don’t see much difference whether we meet live or online, so I guess my quarantine experience falls in the middle between positive and negative.
-It’s quite surprising you mentioned two points of view, since a substantial proportion of people associate quarantine with the collapse of the established order. Now, we are on the verge of possible falling back to the former and familiar practices. How should we evaluate these two events emotionally?
-No doubt, it became more difficult for people because they have never experienced it before. It was new, and strange things are often considered dangerous and threatening. Moreover, there is also a feeling of uncertainty as we do not know how long the situation will last; we do not know whether the predictions will come true. We are not and cannot be sure that there will be no new strains of the virus for which existing vaccines will not be suitable, and new ones will have to be developed every year. However, I would emphasize the ability to adapt to the various situations because the world is changing, and the feeling of insecurity is becoming the new norm. We don’t know what will happen, and we need to accept it and learn to survive.
-What advice do you give to your patients to improve their emotional health?
-Each of my patients has their own needs and problems, so their advice is quite individual. I would instead look at the general state of how I can help myself psychologically, so that help would come through three things – sleep, physical body, and what we pay our attention. Therefore, to achieve psychological balance, we must first ask ourselves whether we sleep regularly and for the required number of hours a day.
Next comes the question do we use our physical bodies and how we use it, how often we exercise, play sports, go for a walk, etc.? During quarantine, we are forced to work remotely, so we spend even more time sitting down. As we had gone to work before, we literally had to go, either to the car or walk around the offices. There was more movement than working from home where it only takes five steps to go from one room to another. We need to move more because it helps stabilize a person’s psychological state and stimulates various brain processes.
The third aspect is attention management; what information do we use and how much real-time we spend resting? It’s not healthy to work at a computer for eight hours a day and then spend the other eight using the same computer or other smart devices. In such cases, our attention is restricted to one object only, and we are unable or unwilling to release it. To overcome this, we need to learn to relax and take regular breaks from tasks we usually do. It is excellent if we can combine two or more activities into one. For example, when we go for a walk, we focus our attention elsewhere and move the body, but breathing fresh air contributes to better mental health.
We could also add food to these three aspects, but I think this point is already quite essential and well-known. Eating healthy and natural food also contributes to our well-being, so even when we are at home, we shouldn’t eat fast food alone only because we can. It’s okay to eat burger or fries from time to time, but there is no need or value to make junk food part of your daily diet.
-You mentioned exercising and meditating in the mornings. Which of three previous aspects your mornings empower? Attention management perhaps?
-It is indeed attention management, but it’s more about devoting time to spend with myself. It seems to me that most people, when they go to work, think that they are working not for themselves but others, only to make money and buy something that would not inspire them but other people. For this reason, meditation and exercise are for me only; it is not interesting to anyone else; it does not impress them. In parallel, others may feel some benefits. If I meditate or do exercise, I feel more refreshed, but how it is possible to know that it was influenced by my morning exercise, meditation, or because I slept well?
It is more to show myself and my mind that I care for them, that I make a special effort to help and serve them, to show that I love myself. For me, twenty minutes spent exercising and twenty minutes spent meditating is not much, maybe for others that may appear as such, but for me, it is a way to show my love and responsibility to myself. The morning ritual can be fundamentally different for each person, but it is essential to find the most appropriate one and do it regularly, every day. In this way, every day you do something for yourself, and even if you do nothing useful all day, you will have a good and valuable day for yourself, your body and mind.
-You also mentioned going for a walk in the evenings and reading books. Maybe you have some book recommendations for our readers?
-Part of what I read, I doubt it will be useful and understandable to readers. I will share a few book recommendations right away, but I have a few reading tips to share before that. It is always most valuable to read books that are of interest to the person himself. When reading professional literature, it is necessary to realize that it is not a recreational reading, but an improvement, thus, the reading is not for ourselves but more for others. I really like novels, but most recently, I read a few books on writing books on creative writing. I read them, and a fire ignites inside me.
My recommended books are not from self-help shelf in the library, they are interesting to me from a Buddhist perspective, so reading them at least once would not hurt anyone. One is ‘Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality’ by Anthony De Mello; although the book reads as Buddhist, its author is an Indian Christian priest. Nevertheless, the book itself is a lot of fun; it makes you laugh and think, how do the author himself can have such thoughts? Also ‘Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation’ by Bruce Tift; this is a book on Buddhism and psychotherapy, there are many useful connections between these two topics revealed. Another one is ‘Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha’ by Tara Brach; it is a book about the acceptance, the whims of which have come in part from Buddhist thought. It is full of advice on how to accept yourself and those around you, the environment.
If you want more fun and too non-binding literature, during January I read ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert and Seth Godin’s newest book ‘The Practice: Shipping Creative Work.’ Both books are for creators, basically for all people, because the main idea of both is that we all can create; thus, these books are more inspiring, motivating to do that.
-While listening to your book recommendations, I got a clear view of the importance of Buddhism. Whether that influence is visible only when taking a look at your bookshelf, or in other areas of life as well?
-Actually, almost everything we talked about today is coming from Buddhism, which is very strongly associated with cognitive behavioural therapy. In psychotherapy, we emphasize that if there is a problem, we then solve it, and if we cannot solve it, we change our attitude to it. Buddhism also speaks similarly, saying that it is necessary to live here and now, because the more we think about the past and the future, the more we will suffer in our lives. We can choose to feel suffering or not, but who needs all of that?
Of course, sometimes we cannot choose that, I – like everyone – think a lot about what’s coming, maybe I think less about the past. Simultaneously, I need to accept mindfulness, accept the present as good, and Buddhism teaches a lot about that; the second book I recommended sends that message. When we live under the illusion that we will achieve something in the future, we lose today and replace it with tomorrow, losing the chance to feel the moment.
We can look at quarantine from the same perspective – we will not change it, so there is no need to get nervous and pass the anger on to the whole world. We need to accept today because we don’t know what will happen in a minute; we just hope that our wishes about what can happen will come true in a minute, but we cannot be entirely sure about it. We are the people who believe in their ability to control everything, but Buddhism teaches us not to rule but to accept as it is. If we want to change the things going on, we can change them, but the babbling hasn’t helped anyone yet. Trying to change for yourself what is happening around is taking responsibility and eliminating suffering because suffering is essentially accusing others of our failures. Some people are just scared to take responsibility for their own lives, so thinking about everything we chatted today, taking responsibility is similar to loving yourself.
-Thank you, we are more than glad that you agreed to share your experiences and knowledge with our readers.