Suicide is terrible. Not least for those who take their own lives but for the friends and family involved who can be left with unbearable feelings of guilt, ‘whys’ and ‘what ifs’ that are almost impossible to reconcile. Suicide is not a proportional response to anything. It is a desperate act to escape pain that is seemingly unbearable and unmanageable.
Anger gets a bad rap: what we often experience or think of as anger is something else. Rage is a more primitive and ‘immature’ emotion; it evolves earlier in our development and from a more primitive part of our brain. Whereas anger, in its truest sense (I call it healthy anger), is actually a useful and positive emotion.
We start to experience anger from 18 months to 3 years of age. It is formative in the process of individuation as a child begins the journey of finding their own self, as separate from parents.
Violence begets violence. Abuse begets abuse. As children, up to 37% of boys and 52% of girls are sexually abused by an adult 96 of whom are men. Almost all of these men have poor parent-child attachments in their own childhood (a serious relational trauma triggering a 'rage' or 'anger' cycle), and often have been abused themselves.
Neuroscience and neurobiology are now confirming what we know in our hearts to be true (we don’t need ‘scientific proof’ for everything): that the role of the ‘good enough’ mother in the infants first 3 yrs of life is crucial in right hemisphere brain formation, the development of the ‘self’, self regulation and processing of negative emotions particularly rage (before 3 yrs).
It is absolutely essential to brain development that the infant has a sensitive, responsive mother to help be a ‘container’ for the developing self. This is a limbic brain to limbic brain relationship (emotional/mammalian brain) and if the infant does not get enough of this it is akin to a kind of ‘brain damage’ (mid limbic emotional brain more right hemisphere). This is the concept of the 'good enough' mother - good enough means that we don't have to be perfect or get it right all the time. In fact if we get it right just 40% of the time with our kids this is 'good enough'.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up” (1936)
When I was a 19 year old student with ‘know thyself’ in huge letters on my chemistry lever arch file, I was drawn to this quote. Now in my 40s, I am embodying it more and more, and felt inspired to write a blog post on non duality. For many people, black and white thinking is a key thinking error. We see things as dualities, this or that. We can be too quick to judge something or someone as ‘this’ or ‘that’ – good or bad, odd or normal, right or wrong, an idiot or wise, arrogant or compassionate. Our minds have a need to categorise, understand, control. By coming to a conclusion, making a decision or judgement about someone, we have a sense of control. Order is restored, we can relax. Or can we?
Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind. ~ Thoreau
I live by Thoreau's motto: 'I love a broad margin to my life'. I sort by space! If there's not enough space I feel stressed which tells me to simplify, simplify!
“We were born to be able to be happy in an imperfect world that is endlessly unfolding.” Al Pesso
Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) this year runs from 14-20 May and the focus is on stress and how we are coping with it.
We often get stress mixed up with pressure and use the terms interchangeably. However, they are two quite different things.
It might be helpful to think of pressure as something that is external and stress as something that is more internal. We can have pressure without experiencing stress and actually we need pressure to perform and even to enjoy life. But with too much pressure, we can tip into overwhelm.
Happiness is not what you think! Many of us are trying to make ourselves happy in all kinds of ways. We chase love. We are looking to find ‘the one’ – the one person whom we feel will complete us or make our lives fulfilled. Or perhaps we are busy achieving and doing, collecting goals for our c.v. or collecting material possessions so that we feel better. But as long as we are focused on making ourselves happy, there will be unhappiness. We are focused too much on taking or having or doing.Happiness is not what you think! Many of us are trying to make ourselves happy in all kinds of ways. We chase love. We are looking to find ‘the one’ – the one person whom we feel will complete us or make our lives fulfilled. Or perhaps we are busy achieving and doing, collecting goals for our c.v. or collecting material possessions so that we feel better. But as long as we are focused on making ourselves happy, there will be unhappiness. We are focused too much on taking or having or doing.
It's not hard to imagine that acting is an inherently rewarding profession. It gives the performer a chance to perfect their art, they receive recognition and adulation and are loved by us all after all their performances keep millions of us entertained and offers escapism from stressful lives. However have you ever thought about the strain that acting might put on performers?
Actors are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as the general population and they report high levels of stress, bullying and sexual harassment as well as drug and alcohol abuse. The Australia Actors’ Wellbeing Study reports that a third to a quarter of actors are likely to be on some form of medication for their symptoms.This is not just about the stressors that inevitably go with the actor's life: low pay (often); long hours; uncertainty of where the next job will come from. But it has more to do with the psychology behind how actors get into roles or, more importantly, how they derole.
Read my article on Acting out: the psychological risks and rewards of acting on Psychologies Magazine LifeLabs Channel.
Coercive, manipulative and controlling behaviour can be insidious in a relationship and often goes unreported. At the turn of this year, a 51 year old woman was shot dead outside her house in Newport, Shropshire, by a man she knew. This type of headline is, sadly, all too common and is often the culmination of a controlling and abusive relationship.
However not all abuse is physical or sexual, there is a far more toxic side to such behaviour in that it is a form of brainwashing that means the 'victim' begins to doubt themselves so much that they think they are losing it or they are to blame. This is now recognised as coercive control and at the end of 2015 a new law came out to protect the (mainly) women who experience it (though of course, men can be victims too).
It will be worth informing yourself of this type of abuse, so that you can recognise when it is happening to you or someone you know.
Read my article on coercive control on Psychologies Magazine LifeLabs channel, for more information.
Have you ever experienced a pervasive sense of guilt or perhaps a tendency to take too much on? Perhaps you worry too much about how others are feeling?
We can have a pattern of being strong or being the one that others turn to, yet this comes at the expense of being able to accept help from others. This can lead to feelings of resentment or anxiety and can contribute to overwhelm and burnout. Yet we can't stop ourselves.
“Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” Thoreau
It seems that I am in good company with my love of kayaking. Jeff Brown, Henry David Thoreau, Ray Mears all appreciate the power of this activity. After waking up today feeling down, I heard a little voice inside telling me I needed to go kayaking (a river and a canal run round the back of the housing estate I live on). After an hour or so on the water I felt so much better – energised, settled and ready for a productive day. I started to wonder what paddling can teach us about life and even business.
The six steps to power, freedom and joy (that I learnt through kayaking):
Did you ever see in yourself, or another, a fear of power? Power has such negative connotations: anger, rage, aggression, controlling, authoritarian. Yet when we are genuinely powerful we are confident, both in our abilities and in our interpersonal relationships; we feel in control of the world around us, our lives and we are more in control of our emotional state. We have high levels of self esteem, we can be spontaneous, we are assertive: we are resilient.
Our fear of our own power stops us from owning our power. When we own our power we are more able to own our vulnerability. We can drop the mask and be fully ourselves. We can both give and receive, we can please ourselves instead of just pleasing others all the time. When we own our power we have healthy boundaries: we can say ‘no!’ so that others cannot transgress our boundaries and bully, abuse or manipulate us.
A true sign of a weak ego self is when someone does not like confrontation or conflict. When we are secure in our self, we are less bothered about what others think, or less preoccupied with others liking us. Paradoxically this takes a strong ego, so we need to build the scaffolding of the ego self (false self) so that it is strong enough to take criticism, dislike and confrontation. But any strength becomes a weakness if it is over used. So at some point we begin the journey of shedding ego to find the authentic self inside.
I have noticed myself saying, these days, ‘I’m not that bothered whether or not someone likes me or not, or what they think of me: if they do, great, if they don’t, so be it.’ I am more comfortable being authentic. Sometimes that means that I upset others; and here I need to tread carefully.
This reminds me of Virginia Satir when she talks about the ‘5 Freedoms of becoming more fully human’:
For anyone in Stafford or surrounding area who needs to learn to relax and calm their anxiety, hypnotherapy can be a good way to start. Anxiety can have many origins. Often we think it is genetic but that is often far from the case. There is what can seem a surprising link between anxiety and anger. If you think about it, we are often afraid of anger - ours and others - so keeping it down, under control can cause anxiety.
According to a 2017 article in The Independent we are happiest in our 50s, the 'nifty 50s' they call it.
It seems the over-50’s are happier, wealthier and more carefree than they ever have been. Personally I think that 'wealth' has a part to play, financial freedom can contribute much towards this chimerical notion of happiness.
The survey, which did look at 50,000 people, attributed the happiness of the over 50s to their taking up new hobbies, travelling and having a gratifying sex life. Which might explain why they also felt 10 years younger than their actual age.
The common theme was that they seemed to be having more time for personal/leisure activities.
Depression has a range of meanings from a general sense of unhappiness and meaninglessness to persistent changes of mood and feelings, to psychosis (Hale & Davies, 2009). Depression is classed as an affective disorder involving a prolonged and fundamental disturbance of mood and emotions (Cross & McIlveen, 1996) which is associated with changes of behaviour and physical symptoms (somatisation) such as backache and headache (Hale & Davies, 2009). Whilst depression can have a deep impact on our lives, it can be helped with therapy.
We need men! On Sunday 12 November, I’m offering men the opportunity to learn how to listen to the wisdom of their bodies, change unhelpful, emotional states or patterns in their behaviour.
I will be running a free personal development workshop (What the Body Knows) which will help delegates understand what their bodies have to teach them, how to let go of the past and live a more fulfilling and happy future.
Have you ever realised what a crazy monkey your brain is? Have you ever been still enough to realise what tricks it gets up to and what considerable energy it uses? Constantly commenting on this or that.
Putting interpretations on things, making judgements – good or bad, right or wrong, like or dislike, nice or nasty. This constant need to comment, to judge is the default operation of our minds. It gives us a way to make sense of the world, gives us an illusion of control.
Our bodies know more about our experiences and the things that have happened to us in our lives, than our conscious minds are aware of. We may notice tension or tightness, and have no awareness of what's triggered it.
Our faces and other areas of our body hold onto negative experiences and emotions. Without knowing it our expression may show a subtle sadness, anger or fear. Certain areas of our bodies are more highly enervated than others: in particular the face (eyes, jaw, and throat), hands, abdomen (diaphragm), feet, and pelvic area. They are very quick to tense up and slow to release.
Many of us, from time to time, question who we really are. We may have moments where we feel we are truly being our ‘self’ and other times where we sense we are putting on a mask or a front. If we are more able to be true to our self we will generally feel less anxiety and more pleasure and peace in our lives.
Our bodies and our minds are intimately connected and how we use our bodies has an impact – positive or negative – on our mind. If we are suffering from anxiety, depression or symptoms of trauma such as numbness or dissociation, practising standing postures can help to ground us and bring us into our bodies in a way that is beneficial to the mind.
We’re made to be able to be happy, in an imperfect world, that is endlessly unfolding, and we on earth are the local agents of that cosmological unfolding“ ~ Al Pesso
Relationships are one of the most important things in a person’s life. As human beings, a sense of connection is one of the ‘fruits’ of a happy life, vitally important to our happiness. No matter how much we might try to kid ourselves that we want to be alone, we need contact and connection for our very survival.
The time of the year in which most people are happiest is summer, because of the brighter blue skies, warmer temperatures and longer days.
Back in 2015, nearly 150 adults aged 18 to 74 participated in a revealing study, which asked them to reflect on their own personal happiness over the course of the seasons and looked at times of the year when they were happier. Results showed that January and February were the least happy whilst summer months shot straight to the top of the scale.
I tend to think that we are living in a world that fosters addiction. We are addicted to our smart phones, to social media to TV, to exercise. Addiction serves a purpose: it keeps us out of our feelings, it keeps us safe. In addiction we are being controlled (by the substance or process) but we are out of control because we are at a loss to stop it. There is a stigma attached to much addictive behaviour that increases our tendency to deny it and not seek help.
We sleep to restore and rest the body and mind. The brain organises and integrates memories during sleep. And dreaming sleep can be an important way for the unconscious to process events and difficult emotions. Lack of sleep can affect our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite and immune system.
It’s an old adage from neurolinguistic programming (NLP), and it was Richard Bandler, the co-founder of NLP, who said it: “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” It was controversial at the time; and of course we are entering the realms of magical thinking if we think we can change the past…
Have you ever watched ‘The Sound of Music’? I hadn’t. Until today. I had sat down to write a blog post and got completely absorbed in this wonderful film which, for years, I had avoided because I thought it would be a predictable Hollywood-esque love story with no depth…