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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Take a 'fortunate' view to eliminate ego from the equation

Rika Kayama (Mainichi)

I meet a variety of people in my work as a psychiatrist, and lately, I've noticed something. There are people who use the phrase "Okagesamade," which means "fortunately" or "thanks to you" and those who don't -- and it's not related to age or gender.

    "Were you able to get to sleep?" I might ask a patient.

    "Fortunately, I've been able to sleep well for the last two weeks. It's probably because the heat died down a bit," they reply.

    In this conversation, the patient in many cases isn't using the Japanese term to express gratitude to me as their doctor, but is using it to mean that they are thankful.

    It probably doesn't have a very profound meaning and is almost like their favorite phrase, but when I think of the faces of those who use the expression often, they all have hardworking and kind personalities. Their tendency to say, "Things went well because of the help of others and good luck," even if they work hard and accomplish something, probably naturally leads to the word leaving their lips.

    It made me think about what I was like. I probably have almost never said the word "Okagesamade." I get the feeling that I tend to say things like "I did well today," or "It was only me who came out on the losing end," always thinking in a self-centered way about every little thing. Even when I enjoy a delicious meal at a restaurant, I end up thinking, "I made a good choice!"

    However, living with such a self-centered point of view can bring about your own stress. This is because anything that happens is your responsibility, and if there are failures, it is you alone who suffers damage.

    When you are exhausted by this kind of stress, how about at least trying to think that you are "fortunate" or "grateful" occasionally to separate yourself from these egocentric thoughts? If you go on a drive and see beautiful scenery, don't think, "I was right to have picked this route today. I'm amazing!" Instead, it's better to think, "Fortunately, I got to see this beautiful view." When you have gotten through the week without injury or sickness, say "I fortunately made it through this week safely," rather than, "I'm a health management pro!" Considering yourself as being fortunate is probably a magical solution to eliminating ego from the equation of everyday life.

    Come to think of it, the people who naturally say "Okagesamade" look pleasant in my consultation room, and even if they are struggling with insomnia or depression, I have the feeling they are able to manage their disorders faster than others. It's probably because they don't focus too much on themselves, and they don't suffer as much emotional exhaustion as a result.

    If you are the type of person who tends to be dissatisfied with something in your life and blame yourself, saying, "I should try harder," you should murmur the magic word "Okagesamade" every once in a while -- though of course a single word can't solve everything. I think I would like to give this approach a try. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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