26 min read

Finding Beauty in Psychiatry

Finding Beauty in Psychiatry

When we think of psychiatry, our minds often conjure up images of state hospitals, straitjackets, and scary treatments like electroshock therapy and lobotomies. This perception has been perpetuated over the years by movies like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Girl, Interrupted. But there's so much more to psychiatry beyond these stigmatized notions. In fact, there's tremendous beauty to be found in the practice of psychiatry, which affords unique opportunities to discover the hidden beauty of persons whom our societies often consider unwanted and would prefer to keep hidden away.

What draws someone to this line of work? How does one discover beauty in the practice of mental health care? What can this form of beauty tell us about how beauty works more generally? And how might encountering beauty in our lives and in our work affect our own mental health?

I discussed these questions and more with Dr. Eloise Ballou, a psychiatrist specializing in psychotherapy for adolescents and hospital-based emergency psychiatry. She received her medical degree from the University of Ottawa in the French stream and completed her Psychiatry residency at the University of Toronto. Eloise enjoys supervising Psychiatry residents in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the University of Toronto, and also works as a locum psychiatrist in Northern Ontario in acute care and emergency room settings. She studied Art History and Psychology at the University of Toronto prior to starting her medical training, and has a particular interest in applying insights from the humanities to her medical practice.

You can watch or listen to our conversation below. An unedited transcript follows.

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Interview Transcript

Brandon: Eloise, it's such a pleasure to have you on the podcast. Thanks so much for joining.

Eloise: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Brandon: Tell me about what drew you to psychiatry. Particularly with your background in art history, what drew you there?

Eloise: My parents are actually both doctors, and so I grew up in a family where medicine was very ubiquitous and very normalized. But interestingly, unlike most doctor parents, my parents never put any pressure on me to go to medical school to become a doctor. They were very supportive of exploring other avenues of my career. So, that's how I ended up studying art history and psychology. I had no intention of going to medical school until the very end of my undergrad.

It was interesting. Because when I would meet other pre-med students, who were very intense and very focused on their grades and getting into medicine, I never felt that much of a kinship with that approach. I think I came to medicine from a very different angle, having always valuing and believing that the humanities and the arts are as important as the science. Again, it's both. They're both equally important — that we need to be scientists and rigorous and logical, but we also have to be creative and open and curious and valuing the unknown as much as the known. So, I think that that's how it sort of came to be.

I realized that there would be room for me in medicine. I think psychiatry, in lots of ways, has been a really perfect fit. Well, because a lot of what we know about the brain, I think it's very limited, right? We have some theoretical understandings. But even things like antidepressants, SSRIs, we don't fully 100% understand why they work, or why they work for certain people, and why they don't work for other people.

So, to be a good psychiatrist and to work in mental health effectively, I think you have to remain open and accept that you're never going to be in perfect control or perfect understanding about what's going on. I think that that has what kept me really interested and why I love my job. I think it's always a surprise. I'm never bored. I think I'm so lucky to have this kind of work that remains really purely creatively, profoundly stimulating, I'd say.

Photo by Milad Fakurian / Unsplash

Brandon: Was it always like that? In medical school, did you experience that process of medical training as creative, or do you find creativity there?

Eloise: Yeah, good question. So, I would say no. I apologize for interrupting because I do feel that that's such an issue with our medical training. I don't understand where we're coming from. We want, again, clinicians to be rigorous and to have a certain capacity to memorize a ton of data. But I think we easily forget that we are still explorers, and we're still ultimately people. We're people helping people.

I always feel like if a machine could do my job as well as I could, then a machine probably should do it. We should probably not have people do this work. The reality, though, is that for the vast majority of medicine, we need humans, right? You want to see a doctor who's a person, who's going to look you in the eye, who's going to engage with you as a person. I think medical curricula are moving more towards that kind of training, but I think that it's a big source of burnout and mental health issues even within the medical training program. Because we often forget that we're training people as well, right? They're not just machines or automatons.

Brandon: So, did you feel like that when you were going through med school? Contrast your experience of doing art history with being in med school. What was that like for you?

Eloise: I went to a medical school that was bilingual. Ottawa U has a French stream and an English stream. So, I was in the French stream which was a little bit smaller, which was quite nice. It was actually very supportive. I would say, as far as med schools go, it was a good vibe. People were supportive. But I would say that I felt like I lost that creative and artistic focus for sure for those years, just memorizing all the stuff you have to memorize. Say, the fire hose of information. That's how they describe medical trainings.

I would say, yeah, it was definitely a challenge. I feel like the further I've moved into — after my residency, working as a physician, the happier I've been actually doing my work. I feel so grateful that I love the work. I did not love the training, but I love the work that I do.

Brandon: Okay. That's great. That's really great. Do you have a memory that comes to mind of when you knew you were on the right path, or this was the field for you, that psychiatry was really what you should be doing?

Eloise: I thought about this question. Going into medical school and even before applying to residency, I had a guess. I'd studied psychology. I had a guess that probably psychiatry would be the right fit. But looking back on my life, very early on, when I was, I guess, five or six years old, before starting kindergarten, one of my earliest memories, I had to see a psychologist to start kindergarten a year early. So, my parents wanted me to be right the year after my older brother. So, I was assessed by the psychologist.

I don't remember what the person looks like. I remember the feeling of being observed and seen so closely. Not like a scientist looking under a microscope. It was being in a room with someone whose job was to watch me carefully, and try to understand how I think and how I engage with the world. I realized that they did that as intensely as I do that with other people. I was like, wow.

Looking back, again, it felt like a recognition, that this was a way of being in the world with other people of being so, again, curious and engaged and connected, and to want them to understand me and for me to understand them. I think that has really echoed all through my training and, certainly, in my work. That's the feeling I hope to give to my patients — for them to feel held and seen, and that our presence is this bubble of connection that we can create out of nothing.

Brandon: Wow. Would you say that that experience, that sort of formative experience for you of being seen in that particular way, is central to what you're trying to communicate then to your patients? Is it then that your hope? Is that they, too, would continue to — as they leave your practice would look at others in the same way? Is there any sort of desire for that generativity there?

Eloise: Absolutely. I've never actually thought of it that way. I train residents and medical students as well, and I try to teach them that as well. But I would agree, actually, with my patients, too. The analogy that I've been playing with is like when you're wearing glasses, and they're smudged. You have smudges on them, and so you can't see the world. I think a very good therapist or a good psychiatrist helps to clean those smudges, helps get through that relationship to allow you to see yourself and see the world more as it is. The smudges are like our assumptions, our fears, our anxieties that obscure our vision.

As an example, I like doing this work with young adults. I think about a young adult who came in, a young woman, maybe 14 years old. Her father came into the emergency room. She was feeling very angry and anxious, but anger was the main emotion. Her father was feeling very overwhelmed, and he didn't know how to cope. So, they came in together. I always see the young person on their own, and then I'll bring in the family member if the patient is okay with it. That experience was allowing you to understand this young woman why is she feeling so angry. She's feeling misunderstood, and she's saying things. Her dad is just not getting it. He's not understanding what she thinks. There's that smudging again. The dad, same thing, he's trying to communicate back to her. It's not getting through.

By seeing them individually, and then together, I can try on both of their glasses, if you will. Then my own glasses, of course, come into it — which are for sure not perfect. But in that mix, we get some clarity. I help to point out where those smudges are blocking the communication. In this moment, in particular, it was very short. I don't know. Maybe we spent an hour total, in an awful emergency room with noise. It's not a therapeutic environment. But we were all there. We were present. Everyone wanted to be understood and to figure out what was happening. It worked right, basically, through this conversation. The daughter and the father, I could see the bridge being built between them.

My work, at its best, is an ability to create this bridge between them and, to your point, allow them to then hopefully recognize what are these smudges, what are these biases or these assumptions, these incorrect thoughts that they're having are inaccurate. Then apply that to their other relationships.

In this particular case, the father made a very touching comment. He said he was very, of course, thankful for this interaction. There was a one time. I never saw them again. It was in the emergency room. The magic of what I do, it's like this little pocket of time. Off they go and back into their lives. But he thanked me. He said, these were like a golden egg, laying a golden egg. I didn't quite understand it. I thought that's why it stayed with me, I guess.

But I guess what he meant was that generativity, again, offering a new way of interacting with his daughter that he loves so much and wants to help, and offering him a path, the beginning of a path forward. That kind of thing, I feel so grateful that I get to do that kind of work to help and to have a small but, I hope, significant impact in someone's life.

Brandon: Well, thank you. Let's talk about beauty. This probably resonates with things you've already said. But maybe even before we actually talk about beauty, for those who don't really know what a psychiatrist does, could you just walk us through? What is your work exactly? You wear different hats. Because you're an educator, and then you're also a therapist. Could you tell us about what your work looks like in the day to day, and then we'll talk about what beauty looks like in those contexts?

Eloise: Yeah, for sure. I'm unusual, I would say, because I do a little bit of everything. So, I do a very acute care. People who are coming into the hospital, they are suicidal, or psychotic, or deeply depressed, or bipolar, with the manic episode, so people who have very prominent mental health symptoms. They're in crisis. I will see them and assess them, and determine whether they're safe to go home to have some outpatient services, or if they have to come in to the hospital, sometimes against their will — again, it can be quite intense in that way — then provide care for them in the hospital over the course of their stay. So, that's like one piece of what I do.

Another piece is psychotherapy. So, I do this talk therapy work with young adults or people of all ages. I've trained for all ages. Then I supervise residents as well who do this kind of work. So, it's a meta, a therapist for the therapists, if you will, and helping to teach and guide them in that process. That's another component.

Then I do a little bit of outpatient work as well, prescribing medications. I always do a little bit of that kind of supportive work. I put those into categories. But if I see a patient, and they look sad, I'm not just going to say, "Let's up your antidepressant." I'm going to go try to understand what else is going on in their life. It's, again, to that left brain, right brains with science and art, you can't just follow an algorithm to do this well. You really have to be intuitive and understand the scientific underpinnings of what's going on, but also try to dig in to what else might be playing a role.

A ball of energy with electricity beaming all over the place.
Photo by Hal Gatewood / Unsplash

Brandon: Would you say your training as an artist or an art historian has influenced then your practice of psychiatry?

Eloise: Yeah, absolutely. Actually, one of my own interests, and when I did some teaching as well, is faces. I am fascinated by portraiture and faces. A big part of what I do as a psychiatrist is very closely watch my patient's face. I have to also be aware of my own face. Because, for example, a patient who's very manic, very irritable, and touchy, they will call me out if my face looks a little bit annoyed or a bit surprised. They will either kindly or not so kindly tease me about that. It can be very problematic as well. So, I have to be aware of my own face, and I have to be aware of very subtle cues and subtle shifts in the face of my patient.

The interest that I've had is using portraits, photos, or paintings to teach medical students and residents to pay closer attention to what are these cues, and what are you seeing in a face. When you're looking at a face, how much of that is actually in that face versus how much are you bringing with your own, again, biases, or how you're feeling that day, or your background, or all these things? How much of that is laying on to what you're seeing in that face? I think that this is where the arts and narrative medicine, which is this whole area of using the arts to improve medical care, I think it's a really powerful tool.

Brandon: Wow. Thank you. I think that it's really vital. I want to ask you a couple of questions about beauty. Again, I think you've touched on this a little bit in your previous example of the father and the daughter. But what is an example of beauty that you encounter in your work? Maybe if there's another story that comes to mind that you would consider, "This is what makes this work beautiful."

Eloise: Sure. It's interesting because we think of beauty in, maybe, more simplistic terms — symmetry or aesthetics or a beautiful sunset, granted those things are absolutely beautiful. But when I think in my patient work, what I find really striking in this beauty, I would say, it's often in my work in the emergency room.

An example would be, I often get patients who come in who have psychosis often related to substance use. So, they use things like methamphetamines, or cocaine, or really hard drugs that make them lose touch with reality. They can become very aggressive, very paranoid, or very fearful. When I see them — again, for the first time — they present in this very striking way, in a way sometimes I'm afraid for my safety, or they are afraid of me, let's say, if they're very paranoid.

Again, back to the smudging, it's very clouded. I don't get a sense of who they are. I don't feel like I know them as a person. But because it's a safety concern, we admit them to hospital. Often, they'll agree to take some medications or the substances just wear off naturally. Then within a day or two, it's like the clouds clear. I get to see who this person really is. Suddenly, it's like I am meeting them for the first time. I often tell them this. I say, "Oh, I know we've met a couple of times now. But I feel like I'm really meeting you for the first time today." They agree. They feel that, suddenly, we are two people who are, again, together in this space, as opposed to before that I'm there, but I can't get a grasp of this other person. Again, they're obscured by this mental illness. In this case, luckily, more temporary experience of that losing touch with reality.

I love it when I see it, because it's also a sign of improvement. It means the person is getting better. Usually, within a day or two, they're totally back to normal. They're back to their life, which is so hard to believe. When you see them at first, you would not guess that it can flip. It doesn't always flip. But in this case, when it does flip so quickly, it makes me feel so hopeful. But also I feel, again, I get to meet this person. I get to see them as they are. That, to me, the beauty is that. It's the humanity. It's that true, unvarnished or not obscured. Just the clarity of it, the clarity of the sun, you see that light. That is, I would say, the most beautiful thing about what I do. I actually get to see it quite often, especially in these cases where, again, you would feel easily disappointed or scared in those moments. But you have to find that humanity where you can. That's where I see it.

Don’t let go
Photo by Everton Vila / Unsplash

Brandon: Would you say the beauty is in discovering their hidden humanity or something like that? What is hidden that's being revealed?

Eloise: Yeah, I would say it's just who they are. I would say that when people have severe mental illness, they tend to be pretty homogenous. Meaning, you can't really tell the distinguishing characteristics that make them who they are. It's sort of like a stick figure. It's a sketch of a person. That, unfortunately, is one of the symptoms of mental illness — it's that even just the expressions are often more muted or just more stereotypical. If someone's very afraid, they're just going to look afraid all the time. You don't see that peeking out of the personhood. So, to me, the beauty is just in the person.

If you think of children, for example, there's an idea which I agree with. All children, actually, are beautiful or striking in their beauty, in that energy, in that being in their presence. Why would that be? I think part of it is because kids don't put on this act. They don't put on this polite show. They're not trying to read you for how they're supposed to say or what they're supposed to say, how they're supposed to act. They just are.

To me, the most beautiful thing about people is when they just are, however they are. Sometimes that means they might be angry, or they might be sad. People apologize when they cry, when they get angry. To me, I am grateful that they are showing me exactly how they're feeling, and they're trusting me with their truest self. That is the beauty for me.

Brandon: Yeah, I can relate to it. My mom has been living with schizophrenia for some 35, 36 years. She was unmedicated for a number of years. So, there are very rare moments where she's functional for about four or five hours a day, and there are these occasional moments when we see the person behind the appearance. There are times where she asks questions that are like, oh, wow. That's an original — that's her coming right through. Those are incredibly beautiful moments.

Eloise: Yeah, you catch them, right? Because I can imagine it's hard to notice and pay attention to those moments when many more moments are not like that.

Brandon: Yeah, exactly. There is a theme that we've been exploring with scientists along these lines, in terms of understanding beauty as that hidden order, or inner logic, or something like that that's being revealed. So, you get an insight into, this is how things are. Beyond the beauty of pretty things or patterns and symmetries and so on that you'd mentioned. It's really fascinating to see that connection. Even in psychiatry, just like in physics or biology, you do see this insight into the workings of reality. But in this case, what is being revealed to you as it were is that person, not just an atom or the mechanism, but the humanity of a person, it seems.

Eloise: Yeah, absolutely. I think you wrote about this, the idea around Thomas Aquinas and his theories around beauty where he mentions clarity. Again, the clarity of the person and the coherence of the parts of who they are, and how they fit in the balance and symmetry of the unique way. It's like a snowflake. They are unique, and yet universal. Again, it's all these paradoxes. So, I agree with you. Why would that hold together, even though we've talked about a person? But it does. You recognize it when you see it. You recognize the absence of that when people are unwell.

When I see a patient, I'm wondering, again, "How concerned should I be? Do they need treatment?" I try to seek out. Am I seeing that clarity and that coherence and that balance in that person? Or is it confused? Is it muddied? If it's muddied, that makes me worried. That justifies in my mind, "Well, we have to keep looking. We have to do more treatment because they're not there yet." That crystallization, that clarity, is not there yet.

Then when it's there, I recognize that the patient recognizes it. That's how we know we're on the right track. So, it's almost like a cue. Not that it's ever taught this way, to be clear. But that's why I think the beauty, this idea of looking at it as beauty as an almost therapeutic marker, an indicator, I think, is extremely valuable.

Brandon: Wow. So, let's talk about obstacles to beauty, then. Are there challenges to encountering this beauty in your work?

Eloise: Yes, for sure. The biggest one is probably the nature of healthcare. I mean, I work in Canada, but I think it's the same everywhere. There are pressures around time and money, and all the things that make it hard to stop and be present. Because I think that noticing beauty requires a mindful state where you're not trying to do something, you’re not trying to solve a problem. You have to just pause and be with this person in this space. You have to have in the back of your mind, of course, there's a goal. You're not going to sit there endlessly with no outcome in mind. But you have to hold that goal very lightly and be present, and just see what emerges.

Again, the challenge is that everything conspires against that. Everything aligns to make us rush and focus on checklists, and focus on the highest acuity risk. If that's not met, then move on. Let them languish to who knows what other mental health services they might have, which is often none.

So, I would say that I can get into that mind space where I want to — I know there's 10 other people waiting to see me. So, more time here means less time for them, or they're going to wait longer. How do I balance the idea of being present while being efficient, while providing the care, even the interaction, that it should be therapeutic to sit with me and be with me? Even if I don't prescribe any medications if nothing is different at the outcome, just being with me, I would hope, would have some positive effect. I think when I'm in my best state of mind and in the right situation, I think that that can happen. So, that's what I had to keep coming back to. It's to slow down, and remember that there can be an impact in just being with the person, with my humanity and their humanity in that moment.

Brandon: So, talk about then what it might look like to — I don't want to say infuse beauty into the healthcare field. Maybe even in training your residents, or even in hospitals, or even for scientists more generally, what do you think it would take or what would it look like to cultivate the conditions for this beauty to emerge or this attentiveness to beauty to emerge?

Eloise: I think the biggest thing is to actually talk about it openly. Before I came across your work, I had never really thought about beauty in my work, especially as a psychiatrist, especially as I do the work with the scientists. So, I think that there's this bias of like beauty or brains, right? Either you focus on the aesthetics and then you're an artist, or you focus on logical science, and then you're a rational scientist or a physician. I think that saying and being very overt about it, it's not a dirty word to say that looking for beauty in your work is necessary.

I actually think to the point about burnout — with physicians, in particular — the stressors, I was mentioning earlier, the time pressure, and feeling that I'm unable to make everyone happy and inevitably going to have to cut corners that I wish I didn't have to. I think that by valuing in myself that I need moments of beauty in my work to continue to do this work, to teach that to my trainees as well. If you are in an environment — either in your personal life or in your professional life — that you can't see that beauty, you can't stop and make space for it, then something has to change. Whether that means taking some time off, getting therapy — I, myself, have been in therapy for many years.

I think for most physicians and most people, if they're open to it, I think it would help them, again, to work on your own inner life. But then, to tell clinicians and scientists that "Yes, beauty is important. You're not wrong. You don't have to hide it. You don't have to feel sheepish about it. This is as important as the science that you do," it's recognizing that you need beauty and you need meaning, and that they are not mutually exclusive.

Brandon: Right. Thinking about what medical training looks like then, do you need something else from the humanities or from the arts, some other form of education that needs to be part of medical training then for this to happen?

Eloise: Yeah, I think medical schools — I mean, certainly, even since I've graduated — have included a lot more of this narrative medicine or focus on mental health of their trainees and of their staff. I think that there's a movement towards that. But, again, there's always more knowledge to be learned. There are always new medications coming out.

Unfortunately, the first thing to go is the subjective. We think objective is valuable. If you can measure it, if you can rank it, then we know what's good or bad. But things like beauty, like meaning, you can't put on a Likert scale. You can't put an objective metric to it.

So, it's easy to say, "Well, that must mean it's not important if I can't measure it." When we say what gets measured, it's gets done, right? We can't measure beauty or meaning. So, we tend to forget about it. If anything, I think we have to be extra diligent about paying attention. It's just like mindfulness. How often could you take five minutes to be mindful during the day? Most days, I don't. I know it would make me happier. When I've had periods in my life where I was more consistent about it, it had a positive impact. But it's the first thing that's going to get pushed out of the way with all our to-dos in our calendar. So, I think it's a mindset. I hope that we can shift more towards the idea of the experience, and this subjective as being equally valid to the objective.

Brandon: Well, my study is trying to put beauty on a Likert scale to try to measure it.

Eloise: I'll be curious to see how you do that.

Brandon: I don't know how successful we are, but at least in terms of how frequently scientists experience it, the different types of beauty and so on. But it's not very deep. I mean, it tells you something, and then you have to really talk to a lot of people for a long time to understand what those things mean.

Eloise: Well, I would say it's a good point. Maybe the better way to frame it is that we don't know yet how to measure these things, the same way we don't know how thoughts appear in the brain. It is just neurons firing. Ultimately, it is an objective structure. But we use analogies, and we use these shorthand ways to frame it. Unfortunately, as much as I say this, I think the world will always value what is measurable. So, maybe the way to start by measuring it, to say that it's important, to find ways around it gives that at least a ranking or a place within all these other measured things.

Then maybe we can look at the subjective aspects of what we think is also purely objective. We talked about pain. Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10. That's a Likert scale. Also, as physicians, we say, "Is the pain sharp? Is it dull? Is it electrical? Is it throbbing?" People will either say it's like a chill, or it's like a burning. Those are more subjective terms, but they're equally important. If I'm asking about someone's pain, I want to know more than just 1 out of 10. It's going to help me far more. So, I am curious to see if we talk about beauty, what would be some objective ways to look at it that can complement the more subjective?

Brandon: That would be great. I think as I have these conversations, as we've had even conversations with scientists, if we could go back and redo our survey, we might try to rethink some of these questions. It's challenging because you have to give people a set of forced categories, and then they have to rank things. Finding the right categories is always immensely challenging with an issue like this. I think there's something there to making it. As we talk about beauty mattering, it would probably be important to figure out how do we know if we're doing it well. What are the indicators of success there? So, we'd have to figure out some way there. I don't think we're there yet.

We've talked about your experience of beauty. But what about for your clients, for your patients? Are you trying to get them to be attentive to beauty? Does beauty matter for their mental health? How does that work, that part of it?

Eloise: Yeah, it's interesting. Again, I've never really talked about it overtly. But since talking to you, reading and writing, thinking more about these things, I would say that there is absolute value in having them think about beauty. In the way that I mentioned paying attention, paying attention to how they're feeling, paying attention to others, the other people around them. I would say someone who's depressed, one of the symptoms of depression is anhedonia, which is lack of pleasure, inability to feel pleasure. An inability to experience beauty would be one of those. Someone who is an artist or a musician who says, "I don't get any pleasure anymore from these things that I used to enjoy," that's a signal. That's important to pay attention. They're not bad or wrong for not feeling it. It's that there's something. Again, something in them is out of balance and has to be corrected.

I think that that definitely has a role. Also, I've had moments for example. Another anecdote is, I had a patient I saw as a resident actually who was bipolar, who was in a manic state at a hospital here in Toronto, that has this beautiful — the unit is on the top floor and overlooks Lake Ontario. So, it's spectacular. It looks like the ocean.

Photo by Berkay Gumustekin / Unsplash

So, he would wake up every morning and watch the sunrise over the lake. He told me about this. I was really struck by it, because I had never noticed that there was this incredible view right outside my window. Even though he was ill, he was not in a good state of mind, he was seeing something that I was missing. I think there's a lot of research around the gifts of mental illness, if you will, of the perspective that it can bring in this patient. As he got better, as his mania was resolved, he was not watching the sunrise anymore from the window. He was back to his life and not to pay the rent, and what am I going to do for a living, and conflict with his girlfriend. All that stuff came back.

So, it's not as simple as health equals beauty. I think that sometimes there are insights that can come from seeing things differently. I was grateful to have that experience because now I pay attention on that unit. I noticed it. I'm never going to not see it again. I hope I won't. That was really, really special. It was a bit bittersweet to see that shift as his mental health improved.

Brandon: Well, leave us with one piece of advice, perhaps, for those of us who are scientists or professionals, academics, other listeners who are perhaps trying to figure out what does it mean for me to encounter beauty in my work, or what can I do to be more attentive to it, or prevent it from misleading me? Are there any tips you could suggest?

Eloise: Sure. I think that one of the ideas that I come back to a lot is the idea of the dialectics. This is a term we use in psychiatry. That means holding two opposing ideas at the same time. I think I've talked a bit about this today, that you can be logical and emotional. You can be rational and impulsive. You can love someone and hate them at the very same time. So, I think to become more comfortable within yourself, you can have opposing ideas, that you don't have to choose and stick to one.

So, the idea is not to have no emotions or to always have emotions. It's to have them come and pass through you. Like a wave, it sort of goes through. Then you're back to some equilibrium. Thinking about beauty in that same way — that it's not about there's one either way to look beautiful, or to notice beauty, or that it's a goal in itself — it's really an experience.

The experience is going to be a constant, dynamic equilibrium based on your life and what's happening in the world. To be patient with yourself and patient with the world if you can be, and to just accept it with that equanimity, which is another great mindfulness concept, but that it doesn't have to be one or the other. To be curious and open, and to just see what happens. I think that it's a challenging point of view, because everything pushes us in the direction of pin down an answer and decide and check the box. Decide who you are and what you're going to be, and what's important to you. But instead to keep it open-ended and to trust that even if you remain open and curious, you will still find some solid ground, that both are going to exist, and that it's not dangerous to let go, that you will be able to find grounding as well.

Brandon: Wow. Thank you. Eloise, thanks so much. This has been really fantastic. Any other thoughts before we close? Anything else that you want to add? Anything that came to mind? Anything I missed that you want to share?

Eloise: Well, thank you so much. No, this has, as I said, just been so thought provoking. Again, I feel like in mental health, in particular, I think there's so much room for this idea of thinking about beauty and taking the word back, if you will. I think there's a lot of challenges around the word itself and the assumptions around that word.

I would be very excited and curious to see where this goes in terms of helping people's mental health. Because we are in a time where this is universally needed. I think this is an avenue that we haven't really explored yet. I'm very grateful for the work that you're doing, because I think that it has the potential to really help. Ultimately, that's why I'm here. It's to help people. I think that this is a really powerful and novel way to help. So, I'm really grateful with what you're researching, what you're doing.

Brandon: Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Eloise: Thank you.

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