What psychological insights can we take from St. Patrick’s story?

Every year at 17 March is St. Patrick’s Day. You might be well familiar with Saint Patrick’s story, but in case you don’t know, here you go…

In the 4th century, Patrick was born in Roman Britain into an affluent Christian family devoutly believed in God. His father was a ministry and his grandfather was a priest in the Christian church. With this rich Christian background, Patrick had already contained strong beliefs in God.

But the “tempting fate” would always try to interfere with this. At age sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders and was held captive and slaved to Gaelic Ireland. During those six years when he was in the hands of the Irish, he was working as a shepherd. Though circumstances were not in his favor, one thing hadn’t changed for him. Patrick had a habit or ritual to pray during all those times when there seemed to be no hope of returning home. Nothing ever wavered his strong belief in his faith.

Then the day of hope came, he fled unnoticed to the coast, where a ship rescued him and the captain promised to take him back to his homeland, and so he did and reunited with his parents soon. After this miraculous ordeal, Patrick went on to become a priest and later a bishop to serve God and his people. And that’s not the end of the story…

Surprisingly, Patrick went back to where his suffering all began, Ireland, to spread God’s message and love to Irish people. His lofty ambition and noble deeds had eventually converted thousands of people to Christianity.

Today, it is believed that the shamrock signifying Ireland is a symbol that Saint Patrick used as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity.

Now that you know more about St. Patrick, let’s get back to our topic today!

What psychological insights can we take from his story?

1. Hope is everywhere.
When I say this, I mean it. Even if the situation seems hopeless, more often than not it is rather that you feel that the situation is hopeless. Our feelings/emotions often obscure the reality. St. Patrick didn’t lose hope though being held captive from far away his homeland. He still had hope in returning home. It is hope that gave him the courage and will to live by and find ways to escape.

I have always believed that life doesn’t operate or run in linear. Life runs in cycles. When you are hit hard to the rock bottom, that’s where you can say to yourself, “Nothing could get worse than this”. It is a metaphysical law, what gets down will bounce back. It is just a matter of time. And the most creative and inspiring ideas always come up when you least expected. The most life-changing element will pop up when you are right at the lowest point in your life. It’s just how life works. Successful people all experienced their lowest point in life, and they took the lessons from it, reconstruct their own beliefs and build their own empires. Look at Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, all those great folks in different realms of expertise. If they give up hope so soon when their biggest obstacle struck them, would they still be able to present proudly their ideas, concepts and masterpieces? Absolutely not.

In psychology, hope is considered one of the resilience factors that help us pull ourselves together fighting difficult time. If there is anything that keeps us alive spiritually and mentally, it must have to be HOPE. With hope, everything is possible. Everything seems more tolerable and easy to cope with. Our ancestors knew this secret long before, conjuring up the story of Pandora’s Box which we are so familiar with still in modern days. It is not a coincidence that hope is said to be the only thing positive that left in the box, that keeps human positive.

In fact, in cases of depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), to be more specific, the most needed element that is lost is the feeling of HOPE. Without hope, it is hard to get people with depression initiate any activities, even those that they have always loved doing in the past. The conviction that nothing good will come, or simply the word NO is contradictory to HOPE. Any therapy treating Depression, be it Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectal-Behavioral Therapy (DBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), has one main goal: to give people a different perspective of interpreting situations. And that creates HOPE in turn. When you take a different lens, the situation could be inversely put in perspective. Something good may be extracted or learnt then. All these constructive processes at looking at things differently give us HOPE.

From this moment on, Take the hurdle of life, jump over them many times. You may slip over them but remember, as long as there is hope around, you can stand up again and finish your run in life!

2. Hold Strong Beliefs.
If you read Ireland’s history, you will know that it’s not a Christian country. It’s a country of Celtic origins.

So how could St. Patrick convert so many into Christians? It should be an impossible mission. There is no right or wrong when it comes to religion. No one religion is better than the other if you believe in the freedom in faith. And that’s also true about our beliefs, whether they are religious or not.

Have you come across times when somebody told you that you can’t do something?

“You won’t be able to do that.”
“You’re just not strong/intelligent/[insert any positive adjective here] enough to take this responsibility.”
“Your idea won’t work!”

Hearing these defeating words is annoying, and even debilitating.

When you hear those words, there’s one way to strengthen your own will.

Remind yourself that those are OPINIONS OF OTHERS, not the TRUTHS WRITTEN IN OUR LIFE SCRIPTS.

What drives us and motivate us to our success is sure enough not other’s mere words/opinions. Remember, our beliefs build our own success.

I remember a life-changing dialogue between Chris and his son in the film the Pursuit of Happyness that ultimately becomes my mantra.

“Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re gonna tell you that you can’t do it. You want something, go get it.”

That tells the truth. When people can’t do something, they are going to convince you that you can’t do that too. It makes sense because it is what get them stuck in their belief system. It’s so deep-rooted, not that they are heartless, but instead they really believe that no one, and sure enough not even you, could ever complete that mission. No one is to blame here. It’s our belief system working in place.

So always hold strong beliefs about yourself and what you could do. If it’s not a breakdown, it’s a breakthrough. Click To Tweet Not sure where I heard this phrase, but it sure enough speaks the truth!

3. Compassion Wins It All!
St. Patrick didn’t take revenge on those once kidnapped him as a slave. He didn’t turn his vulnerability in suffering to hatred towards the Irish. This doesn’t just make him noble, but also a successful bishop with compassion.

How would the situation be like if he strived to take vengeance on the Irish? He won’t be honored as a saint for sure, and he won’t be able to share God’s messages of love to his people.

Instead of returning suffering and hatred to the country that reminded him of his suffering, he responded them with love, sharing what he always believed in — generosity, love, compassion, forgiveness.

It is fairly easy to show our compassion to our family, friends, or loved ones. When it comes to our enemy (let’s assume if we really have one) or someone who has hurt you before, our door to compassion seems to shut itself away from those people. I must say showing compassion to those against us is even harder than holding strong beliefs in yourself.

But there’s always a way and beginning step to everything.

One simple strategy: Empathy.

Stand in their shoes and try to figure out what experiences or history builds up their personality today. Try to imagine what could have developed who they are today. What are their benefits by transgressing over you? Maybe it’s financial benefits or it has to do with their ego issues. This is not to make sense of their hurtful deeds or giving them excuses to do so. It’s rather a helpful exercise to train our ability of perspective taking and understanding others, humanity and ultimately ourselves. Because who others are and what they do more or less reflect some parts of us, of humanity. Take reminders and lessons from others make our inner psyche stronger and wiser. It also lifts up your burden of being angry towards others.

When you engage in empathizing with other’s experiences, compassion towards self and others will grow gradually. The inner wisdom resulted will nurture our soul, making us indomitable and poised in facing hardships and criticisms.

So here are your insights taken from St. Patrick’s story!

#1 Hope is everywhere!
#2 Hold strong beliefs!
#3 Compassion wins it all!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone😊

Share your thoughts on what you’ve learnt from St. Patrick’s story below!

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