Sunday, 11 November 2012

I'm back! Has my life changed?

I was horrified to see that the last time I contributed to this blog was in June, when I, at least, thought it was July. But then it was that type of summer and early autumn.

I have missed the weekly musings and there has been so much to write about. Not a week has passed, when I haven't thought, "I could write a blog on that." I'm sure that some of the events of the last five months will surface on the blog over the next few months.

There have been a variety of reasons for my time being taken up elsewhere, but the main ones were, The Olympics and Paralympics. "But that was ages ago," I hear you say. True, but even in the last seven days, the uniform has been worn twice, as I have fulfilled the role of a Games Maker again.

For readers who are not aware, I was a volunteer (Games Maker) at The Olympics and Paralympics.  I also sold a house in the middle of the events, that had been in the family for 96 years. Three grandsons came to stay and I had the family all meeting up in London. The last few weeks I have spent catching-up with matters I should have attended to in the summer, plus the usual activities.

It was an extraordinary few weeks, those weeks in August and September. Many people have suggested that it must have been life-changing.

I could and would call the experiences I had, wonderful, exhilarating, life-affirming, joyful, fun, tiring, inspiring, humbling, unbelievable, unusual, bizarre, thought-provoking and thrilling. But life-changing? No.

I wonder if we think that it has to be a huge event to be life-changing? Of course, life-changing events can be huge, such as accidents, illness, redundancy, lottery wins. But I have been thinking of the events in my own life, which have literally been life-changing. It interested me that the root cause can generally be attributed to such small, seemingly insignificant incidents.

Life-changing events have often been down to noticing an opportunity and following it through.

First husband, children, grandchildren. 1970

I had a bedroom near the one public telephone at college. I couldn't bear letting it ring and ring, so answered it regularly. One call was for a girl who was away. I continued talking to the guy. I married him two years later. A life-changing phone-call. (Wouldn't happen in this mobile phone era.)

Working at Waitrose. 1984

The street collection for Poppy Day. A good, sheltered pitch was in the doorway of Waitrose.  There was a card on the vacancy board for an early morning shelf filler. I walked into the store and applied for the job. Due to moving north into a Waitrose-free zone (at that time), I left nine years later. A financially independent and wiser woman. I had risen, fallen and risen again, up the management ladder. The experiences I had, would inform my future work in mental and emotional health.  A life-changing glance at a window.

My interest in psychology and re-training as a psychotherapist.


The phone again. 11am on a Friday morning. An agency I worked temporally for, as nursery nurse, asked me to attend a case meeting on a local acute psychiatric ward at 2pm. I was to help a mother, with post natal depression, look after her baby. I so nearly declined the job, as a comfortable afternoon at home seemed more tempting. After two days on the unit, the agency work changed into bank nursing for the hospital on the acute unit. No more babies and children, but adults. Adults often behaving emotionally as children. I re-trained in order to become a more effective nursing assistant. In fact, the training left me with a conflict of interest and I left the unit after five years and set up my own practice. Another life-changing phone-call.

The most recent house move. 2007

Five years ago, I visited a new friend 45 miles away from my home. The house next-door was empty and had a For Sale board outside. We didn't have any spare money, only possible prospects sometime in the future. I decided there was nothing to lose, by writing to the owners, telling them this fact. The owners allowed us to rent the house for a year, until we were able to get a mortgage. We moved two years ago. A life-changing acceptance of a lunch invitation.

I have no doubt that The Olympics and Paralympics will have been life-changing for many people. Athletes, Games Makers and Spectators amongst them. Change of relationships, jobs and interests will have occurred solely due to the events of this summer.

My life this summer has been exhilarating. It wasn't life-changing. Though that door hasn't fully closed yet, so who knows...?

It's good to be back!


Friday, 8 June 2012

"What did you learn today?" - Never too old to learn

It's been a little while hasn't it?  Nearly four weeks have passed, life has been lived, events have occurred and I'm probably a little wiser.

1. If you receive a blow to the head or hit something hard with your head, do not drink alcohol until a few days later, even a couple of weeks. While I'm fairly up on medical matters, I was unaware of that fact.

I was standing on a train as it was coming into a station. The train wobbled and so did I. I fell across two empty seats and the wall of the carriage stopped the fall, on the side of my head. I didn't think anything of it and went off to the lunch I had been invited to. A good lunch with a couple of glasses of wine and five hours later, I was sitting on the train returning home.  I suddenly begun to feel very unwell.

I didn't put two and two together until pressurised to go to A&E by a friend, where I was diagnosed with mild concussion. The alcohol had made matters worse.

So now I know.

2. The following weekend was my birthday. A quiet, but happy day with hours of sunshine. I can't pretend to enjoy being in my 60s, but, as they say, the alternative is worse. I have too many friends, with families, who have died and do not get the opportunities that I still have, even though I would have liked them a little earlier in life.  I count my blessings almost daily. It's a good exercise to do. Count five to ten things to feel grateful for, however mundane. In fact, mundane can be good. It can stop a slide into a pit of despond.

With age come aches and pains. It's very easy to blame age and not consider anything else.  Just take a few painkillers and carry on. An extremely overdue visit to the chiropractic, now means that my neck and back are much better and I can sit and sleep more comfortably. A relative's aches, pains and other symptoms have been relieved by becoming lactose-free. Both of us should have sought other options much earlier and saved ourselves a great deal of discomfort.

So now I know.

3. I attended a peer support group for some therapist colleagues. I lead an exercise in using metaphors in a therapy session, using a client's resources. I replicated the unknown of a therapy session and used the coffee table in front of us all. It contained the detritus of the meeting. I asked people to choose an object and create a metaphor for life.

My favourite metaphor was from a colleague, who looked at the open packets of sweets, crisps and fruit on the table. She said that all the open packets were liked life's opportunities. We had many open to us, but often chose not to take them.

So now I know.

3. Last week, we went to a funeral of a friend I have known since I was 16. Alcohol played its part in his death. Another life long friend dead, another friend who dealt with their demons with alcohol. Another friend who has missed out on so much. As a teenager, I loved spending time with his family, because it gave me a glimpse of a home life I would have loved. On the other hand, he liked spending time with my mother, because he enjoyed the conversation. Neither of us knew of the distressing undercurrents in each other's homes.  Don't judge a book by its cover. 

So now I know.

4. The Queen has just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and there was a four day long weekend with three days of celebrations. It rained quite a lot at times. But millions managed, made the best of things, made new friends and enjoyed themselves. 

There were moaners, but there always are and I feel sorry for them. Some of them argued that because we're going through tough times economically, then we had nothing to celebrate. Good job our parents and grandparents didn't think that in the early 1940s.

It was an example on a mass scale of how it's not the events that happen to us that create our characters, it's how we manage those events.

So now I know.

And you you know too.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Thinking about it...The Starfish Story

Just not in the mood to write this afternoon. 

Do I have a subject? 


But it's one that gets me down at the frustration, injustice and cruelty of life.

Not one to lift the spirits then?

Not really. I'm feeling a bit defeatist.

Why? Well, so many people, so much abuse in all sorts of ways.

What difference can I make?  What's the point?

Remember that *starfish story you heard on the radio the other day.

Yes, that got under my skin. It keeps rattling round my head.

Am I procrastinating? 

Maybe a bit.

Would I like to be doing something else? 

Yes, I'd like to go back out to the garden. 

Why don't I? 

Because I was out there earlier and my back has to be treated with respect, which is boring.

This weather is getting a bit tedious too. Loving the lush green, but not the chilly wind.

I'd like to read the papers. But those can wait.

I'm hungry. 

Have something to eat then. 

The stew is in the slow cooker and smells good. I'd like to scoff all sorts of things that won't ultimately be helpful in my 'getting fit' for London 2012 campaign. 

That's boring. 


And you worked hard outside earlier? 


Using up lots of calories. 


Go on then...

Oh shut up!

Knowing what to do and doing it are two very different things. 

The log fire, Sunday papers and glass of wine are calling.

But a glass of water sipped slowly would get rid of the pangs.


But that's boring. Oh, there's that word again.

Old 70s music on the radio. 

So much has happened since those days. Another 30 years and I'll be in my 90s.

Oh Joy!

Got to keep going. The alternative is worse.

Why don't you just write down that Starfish story?


An adult and a young girl were walking on a beach. Hundreds and hundreds of starfish had been swept on to the beach and were dying.  The young girl picked up a single starfish and threw it back in the sea. 

The adult said, "Why are you doing that? It's not going to make a difference."

The young girl said, "It will make a difference to that one."

Look, you wrote something.

So I did.


Monday, 7 May 2012

" I thought you meant something else." - Misunderstandings.

It's a public holiday in the UK today. A long weekend. Lots of people, including me,  have been in the garden, trying to fight a losing battle with weeds. (Why has April been too cold for seeds and plants to grow, but hasn't stopped the weeds?)

It's a cue for a real-life story. One I've been saving up for the right time.

Back in 2000, a friend, Sally had a son, Ben, then aged 19. They lived in North Wales. The son and family had gone through a few difficult years, but the future was beginning to look brighter at last. One of the activities which had been a major help to the son's recovery, was when he joined  a local volunteer force, working in the countryside, up on the hills.

This activity had been a wonderful opportunity for the young man to get out of the house, become engaged in outdoor activities and meet challenges, as well as other people. Ben loved it and blossomed.

One day he returned from a day, working hard, high up on the hills. Ben walked in the house and shouted, "Hi mum, I'm home." He then went for a shower and afterwards went on the computer in the kitchen.

Sally was in the garden and shouted back, "I'm stuck up a tree."

Some time later, Sally came into the kitchen, found Ben on the computer and there was an almighty row, about how selfish Ben was. Both became entrenched and neither could or would see the other person's point of view. When I heard about it and being uninvolved, it was all too obvious what had happened.

Unfortunately, when Sally said she was "stuck up a tree", she really did mean that she was well and truly 'stuck', up in an apple tree. She was frightened and only too pleased when she heard Ben come in the house.

What Ben had heard, was that his mother was out in the garden and stuck up a tree, in the same way, that if asked, he would have said, "I've been stuck up on a hill all day." It never occurred to him that his mother was actually 'stuck'.

Why Sally didn't shout more or say "help", I don't know.  But as we know 'emotional arousal can make you stupid'. Fear and irritation can add to the mix.

I'm sure it happens in other languages too, but the English language supplies many examples of one word meaning a variety of things, depending on context, tone and expression. Texts, Twitter and internet forums are notorious for misunderstandings.

Even living in different parts on a small country can cause misunderstandings. In the south of the UK, the evening meal is often called supper, maybe dinner. Tea is an mid-afternoon snack. The more northerly you travel, supper tends to be a late evening snack, dinner is a main meal at lunchtime and tea is the evening meal. Now I live in the North of England, I always refer to the evening meal as tea, which confuses my mother, amongst others, who have only lived in the the South of England.

There are hundreds of idioms, which we say without thinking, but must be a bit odd to a newcomer to the language. Someone on the autistic spectrum can also show bewilderment at things not being exactly as said. 

In therapy, use of metaphors can be very useful, but we were taught not to use them, if a client had a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome.

There's any number of expressions and idioms that could confuse:
' In hot water.'
' Under the weather.'
' Tongue-in-cheek.'
' Costs an arm and a leg.'
' The ball's in your court.'
' Drive someone up the wall.'
' Chip on the shoulder.'

and a great many others.

Imagine using those expressions to someone who can only make sense of the language literally?

The language we use and how we say can be only part of the problem. Imagine loading the words with an emotion connected with something in the past and nothing to do with the present situation?

This topic also came to mind this week, with a friend, who thinks that too many women are hiding themselves in black clothing and would love to run a campaign for women to wear brighter clothing. She was thinking about a fun PR exercise for a local organisation with strong international connections.

In all innocence, she suggested calling the campaign 'Blackout'. In the context of a women's clothes, it made sense. But it could never be used, could it? 


Sunday, 29 April 2012

" I didn't know I could do that..." - Hidden Talents

An older couple had lived in a London suburb all their lives. An ordinary working couple, who belonged to community organisations, but had never taken any sort of extra classes. 

An unexpected chance came for them to move to a small town in Dorset. In their early 80s, they swapped their London flat for a Dorset bungalow. They were thrilled to get out of the city. They embraced life in the town and took interest in some of the local classes on offer in the local community hall. One of them was painting. Due to basic schooling, neither of them had been given painting lessons at school. They thought they would have a try.

The man discovered a hidden talent. He could paint water colours and before he sadly died, he was showing them at local exhibitions.

A bittersweet tale. What might have happened if he had discovered his talent earlier?

This is a subject I'm passionate about and will definitely be a chapter in the book.

I have been prompted to write because a new TV series has started this week. It's called Hidden Talents. A brilliant idea. Finding people with hidden talents and giving them a chance of developing them.  An idea, given unlimited finances,  I would love to role out nationwide. Especially with young people.

The presenter, Richard Bacon said on a radio programme, "Most professional footballers are already showing their skills at the age of 8. What about the children who don't have the opportunity to show what they can do? Who knows what they could achieve?" Exactly.

This subject is near my heart for two reasons:

1. In therapy, we like to discover a person's resources. It's their resources that can be turned to their advantage and help them find a way out of the difficulties they find themselves experiencing. It's one of my favourite parts of being a therapist. It's like opening a box of treasure. There are always nuggets of gold and some precious jewels.

Most people seeking therapy, don't think they're good enough in some way. If they're occupied doing something that isn't a particular talent, then it's not going to help their overall confidence. Doing something that comes from deep within and feels natural, may help. It doesn't mean it has to be easy, because we also gain confidence from meeting a challenge.

Twenty-five years ago, I was on a management training course. Something happened in the group and I sorted it out. The trainer asked me, if I'd had to think about what I'd done. I hadn't. It came naturally. Who knew? 

These talents do not have to be creative ones. Bar just one person I have met in the last ten years, every person I have seen with a problem with depression or anxiety has a creative talent too. That is hardly a surprise, since depression and anxiety misuse the imagination, and what do you need to be creative? I bet even the person who assured me they weren't creative, had a hidden talent.

NB: This does not mean that all creative people will have problems with depression and anxiety.

2. The education system in the UK for the majority of children does not appear to give enough credence to 'natural talents'. The focus seems to be in 'testing and 'grading' the natural talents off the educational radar. Cities, towns and villages all have people, who have been 'written off', who go round saying that they're stupid, but are not.

Adversity can bring out hidden talents. The recession has caused difficulties for many people. Some people, who have had to rely on themselves more, have discovered they are capable of doing all sorts.

I don't recommend war, but both the World Wars showed women that they could do so much more than housework or office duties.

When I moved to York, I answered an advertisement in the local paper and a few weeks later was chosen to be part of a chocolate tasting panel. It turns out that I have excellent sensory talents. Just think where that might have taken me from school, had it been known then? But excellence in my school was judged on exam success, so I left, believing that I was stupid. While I'm no academic, I've discovered I'm not stupid either.

Some years later  I had an annual assessment in my job at Waitrose supermarkets.  I was enjoying some success at the job. It appeared it could be attributed to a number of natural skills that I possessed. They didn't have exams in those subjects though. Who knew?

The TV programme has put some tests online. Have a go yourself and see what might be revealed. Could be exciting and life changing.

I haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know what I discover.


I haven't done the test yet, but something happened yesterday to remind me of this subject. 

I was in a branch of Waitrose yesterday. A floor manager opened a folder of papers, including a matrix for meal break entitlements. It looked a well used piece of paper. I couldn't help but mention that I had designed it and told them the story of it's inception. "Was it difficult to do?", someone asked. "No," I replied. "It just came to me in a meeting."

Designed by someone, so poor at maths, that I wasn't allowed to sit a maths exam. Designed in 1993 and "not improved by modern technology." I was given a £100 bonus for 'a good idea'.

It is an achievement that I've never thought much of, but now I feel very proud. (I still have all the original design work.) It is a life's achievement that this subject has stirred up in me again. I may not let it lie.


Monday, 23 April 2012

Thinking of others

Yesterday I stood with thousands of people in London and watched while thousands of other people ran, walked, limped and finally completed The London Marathon route. While the elite athletes had extraordinary speed and stamina, it was the ordinary person, challenging their mind and body over several hours, that drew my admiration and respect.

The majority of participants were raising money for charity. I should imagine that most charities were represented,  judging by the flags, balloons, 'T' shirts etc:

As a result, I didn't have time to write the usual Sunday afternoon blog and planned to write it today. I know the subject matter:  Shared experience. But it will now wait for another week. Time is a little tight and a newspaper article has caught my eye. 

I was catching up on the Sunday papers, when I came across the following article, called, The Happy List.

All types of people, in all sorts of conditions using their personal resources to improve/help something/somebody they they are in touch with in their lives.  The result is a level of personal happiness that cannot be achieved by other means.

Please take some time out to read the list and be inspired. 

Therapists often speak to people who want "to be happy". We also speak to many people who:

a) believe they will only be happy by changing the past. This is impossible, so they remain unhappy, while continuing to chase the impossible fantasy.

b) believe that someone else or something else will make them happy. When this doesn't happen, they do not look at themselves for a solution, but blame others.

I believe happiness comes in moments of time and that it isn't a constant state. It can't be. 

I hope that today you find your own moment of happiness.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

An open letter to Olympic protesters

Dear Protester
There is nothing wrong with protesting. It’s great to have a passion about something. If that something is a wrong that needs correcting, then to highlight it, is important. To motivate others to join the protest can be exhilarating and powerful. To move out of one's comfort zone, make other people take notice and change, is okay by me. I support your right to protest. Sometimes, I’ll join you.
But there is a difference between protesting and sabotaging. 
An expression or declaration of objection, disapproval, or dissent, often in opposition to something a person is powerless to prevent or avoid.
The deliberate destruction, disruption, or damage of equipment, a public service, event,etc, as by enemy agents, dissatisfied employees, general public...
The Olympics
It was early morning, Saturday, January 15th, 2012. I arrived at Wembley Park tube station. A cold and sunny morning, but snow was forecast. As I stood at the top of the steps leading down to the old Wembley Way, I felt emotionally overwhelmed by the mass of humanity that met my eyes.
Hundreds and hundreds of people of many races, ages, creeds, social status and colours were walking with purpose towards Wembley Stadium. There, they would turn right to Wembley Arena. The arches stood in front of us and the sun was rising. It was a spine-tingling moment.
What were we there for? A football match? A music festival? A religious gathering? 
None of those. It was the first meeting for some of the 70,000 volunteer London 2012 Games Makers. 10,000 people were booked for each of the weekend’s half day events. Though this was slightly disrupted by the heavy snow later in the day, which changed so many people’s plans. Lesson One for a Games Maker. Be adaptable.
I stood at the top of the steps and watched the sea of people. Thousands of people with the sole purpose of helping others enjoy a once in a lifetime event. I felt humbled. No personal or financial gain. In fact, a noticeable financial loss and personal inconvenience. Everyone putting their ego aside and working towards the greater good.
Four hours later I came away greater understanding as to why the big corporates have had to be involved in London 2012, whether I like it or not. Over 250,000 on line applications for Games Makers from around the world have been sorted, around 100,000 interviewed on the phone and in centres up and down the UK, 70,000 were now being trained and clothed for their various roles. Someone has had to pay for all of this. Only the corporates can afford it. 
I have had to question my principles. Do I take no part as a protest to some of the corporate involvement or did I look at the bigger picture? I have gone for the latter. I couldn’t make a positive difference doing the former, but I can with the latter.
In the same way, the security measures have to be extreme, because of the extreme behaviour of a handful of disturbed individuals in the past. 
I have been moved to write this open letter, after reading about some plans to protest at The London 2012 Olympics and one person’s sabotaging of the University Boat Race last week. The person was said to be protesting about the elitist universities. It proved not to be a protest at all, but the sabotaging of a sports event enjoyed by thousands of ordinary people and the shattering of the hopes and dreams of a few. It will change nothing about university entrance.
Many words were spoken at the Wembley event. Lord Seb Coe’s were amongst the words that I've remembered...and he knows what he’s talking about.
The Games Makers were asked to remember that when we are/if we are, mixing with the athletes, that they will probably have spent over half their life preparing for taking part in London 2012. I'd never thought of them like that before. Our work will about the competitors' comfort and security and that of the spectators. It's not about us.
That’s it. Simple really isn’t it? 
Protest perhaps, but please do not sabotage. You won’t make the slightest difference to the corporate community, but you may just deprive someone of their dreams. Athletes and spectators. That is just plain selfish and immature.

Thank you.


Monday, 9 April 2012

Gardening Leave - a story.

Happy Easter Wishes to you all.

I'm not writing a full blog this week. Family are visiting and the garden needs attention.

It made me think of a few things:

A warning about illusions becoming delusions.
Quote: The grass is always greener on the other side.
Mostly true. But how often does the green turn out to be weeds of a different type?

This is one of my favourite stories. Traditional, well known and translated into many cultures. 

I thought of it because my watering can has sprung a leak.

Taken from a website: 
but relevant for everyone, whatever gender, race or creed.

The Cracked Pot: A Story For Anyone Who's Not Quite Perfect
crackedpot origA water bearer in India had two large pots, one hung on each end of a pole, which she carried across her neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it. While the other pot was perfect, and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the mistress's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.
For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to her master's house.
The perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream: "I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologise to you."
Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"
"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your mistress's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in her compassion she said, "As we return to the mistress's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some.

But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologised to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side?

flower pot2“That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them.

“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my mistress's table. Without you being just the way you are, she would not have this beauty to grace her house."

Moral: Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots.

But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. We've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.

There's a lot of good out there.

I hope you are able to find some hope, enjoyment and contentment

as Spring bursts out of the darkness of winter. It's raining here at the moment.

"Life is like a rainbow. You need both the sun and the rain to make
its colours appear." Anon.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

"It's not my fault" - Blaming others. Personal Responsibility.

What do these following incidents have in common?

1. My neighbour leaving candles burning in a candlestick on the antique dining room table and not going back in the room until the next day. Miraculously, only the table was severely damaged. 

2. A man chasing his dog across the ice on a pond and falling in. He drowned.

3. A friend reversing into a tree, causing damage to their new car and yelling at the people inside the car.

4. Me, many years ago, allowing my 10 year old son to swim across the River Thames with his older sister and friend, after a lovely picnic lunch.

5. A woman pouring petrol from one container to another, in her kitchen, near the oven, which was reported as being switched on.

6. A 21 year old student sending eight racist messages on Twitter, when he was drunk. He's now in prison for 56 days. 

You......... well, what have you done that was, in hindsight, very silly?  Did you take the blame or blame someone else for your actions?

When we have done something silly, without thinking our actions through, it is very easy to blame someone or something else. It is not always easy to to accept personal responsibility, especially if we've done something that, in the cold light of day, was just plain stupid.

Those of you reading this in the UK, will probably know what has prompted this blog. The incident at No:5 happened this week, not too far from where I live. Not only has the incident been heavily reported on national TV and newspapers, but locally too. 

I am genuinely sorry for the family and have compassion for the woman, with the terrible injuries she has suffered. The consequenses of her trying to help her daughter, while cooking a meal, will be with her for the rest of her life. Many of us could have made a newspaper story, if our stupid actions had had such awful consequences. 

But I was frustrated to see it reported that the family was blaming the Government and a particular Minister. This is not about party politics. This is about taking personal responsibility. One might as well blame the union that was threatening to strike.

The woman was in the kitchen alone. How is that someone else's fault?

We can all blame others for our own actions. It absolves us of any blame. But we lose control of our lives, if we do. Often, it doesn't make us feel better either. We know the truth.  Maybe there is a legitimate reason to blame others for something that has happened to us. But if we carry on doing that through life, we give control of our lives over to that person, even if they died decades ago. 

I doubt there is a therapist who hasn't heard blame for some action in the present attributed to parents, teachers, friends, siblings, neighbours, partners and colleagues from the past. But couldn't everyone do that? But they don't, do they?

Remember my negative role model?

If people continue to blame others for their actions, they are not going to learn by mistakes or become emotionally mature. They have given up their life to someone or something else.

I've covered this subject before in a blog on addiction:

There's another emotionally immature type. The person who goes through life thinking everything is their fault. They may have received an adult's blame when they were younger and unfortunately take it into adulthood. These people may as well have have 'Dump your c**p on me' written across their foreheads. They tend to be emotionally vulnerable and therefore attractive to manipulative people. They may be 'people pleasers' and can easily be taken advantage of.

I used to be one of those. Used to be.

Emotional abuse not only happens in close personal relationships, but in school and the workplace too.

I have mentioned before that 'Emotional arousal can cause stupidity.' The emotional brain is separate from the logical brain.  We can become extremely focused and logical when we need to be and there is little room for emotions. For example, studying. We also can be highly emotional aroused and there is little room for logic. For example, making love. Being emotionally balanced is a good state to achieve. (Generally not achieved by medication, but by attention to thoughts and behaviour.)

(In the Coroner's Court in the UK, a Coroner will usually describe suicide as being, "Taking their life while the balance of their mind was disturbed.")

We can become emotionally aroused very quickly. To behave in a less than stupid way, with an eye on the possible consequences of our actions, we can calm down and allow the logical brain to help us out. 

Children with immature brains, find this difficult. It is something  we learn as we grow up, as the brain matures. But we're not perfect. So when we do do something stupid, we need to own up. Embarrassing? Possibly. Honest and mature? Yes.

Remember the student at No: 6? He didn't own up initially and tried to say his phone had been used by someone else. This weekend, a politician has tried to use a similar excuse.

Politicians are the finest example of blaming others. It's probably why the behaviour of a collection of politicians is often likened to that found in an infant school.


Sunday, 25 March 2012

"It's too hard" - Cravings. Addiction. Emotional Growth.

Last week I wrote about losing weight, or achieving some success with my Olympic Training, as I prefer to call it. There was one sentence in the middle of the blog, which summed up dealing with cravings. It was almost a throwaway line, as if cravings were of little bother.

"Emotionally, I've also had to manage the comfort eating feelings. Eat for the future, not in the past." 

Oh, if only it was that simple. One simple sentence that explains most addictive behaviour and causes more grief and distress in people's lives than anything else, including war.

The immature brain will attempt to hijack, with its, "I want it and I want it now!", but I've had to grow up emotionally.

This week I am extending the subject of cravings, or as I called them last week, "comfort eating feelings." It's those emotions that hijack our attempts to give up anything that we may do in unhealthy excess or using addictive behaviour. From alcohol, sex, eating, gambling, porn, cigarettes, shopping, fitness regimes, medication, computer games, drugs, stealing, introspective thinking and so on. Notice that some of those activities are fun and okay in moderation. Some are illegal and risky.

And as I sit here on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, my mind could drift to a refreshing alcoholic drink, savoury nibbles or several of the Mother's Day chocolates, without any problem. Indeed it is doing just that. Can't write it down and not think about it can I? (Think of a pink elephant. Don't want to? Maybe not, but the majority of readers will now have an image of a pink elephant. It's why advertising works so well.)

I have to battle against those thoughts with other, stronger thoughts which will mean I won't succumb to the cravings. Well, not at the moment. "But it's hard." Yes, very. But worth it.

Use your brain and the 20 minute rule. In the majority of cases, cravings will pass in 20 minutes. Use distraction techniques. That's what I'm doing at the moment. It works with eating too. The brain needs time to register that the stomach is full. Eat slowly. 

The subject of this blog is emotional growth. It's about recognising that at any adult age,  feelings experienced today have their roots in the past. These past feelings can hijack our present thoughts. The good news? These thoughts can be changed. "But it's hard." Yes, very. But worth it.

(I am writing here about a person who has the usual range of cognitive abilities. Not someone who has experienced brain damage in some way.)

Everyone has different triggers or something that "pushes my button." I cannot write for others and expect my thoughts to be same. They won't be.  But I can give some personal illustrations, that may  remind you of something in your life.  Yes, you. You don't think you have any addictive behaviour to be addressed? Hmmm, I wonder...


Adult thought: Something sweet is comforting 
Childhood experience: "Have a biscuit, sweet, make it better"

I was ill and on a restrictive diet. The family went into the garden. I went to the cupboard and 'stole' a Lemon Puff biscuit. Bliss. This may have also triggered my future stealing behaviour. Stealing = reward.

Adult thought: "The kids are in bed, now to sit down with a drink, I'm knackered." or " It's been a horrible, rotten day. Let me have a drink."
Teenage experience: Relax with a drink. 

Socialising with friends in the pub = fun and an escape from the day's work and domestic hassle.

*My parents introduced alcohol to me in a responsible way. The problem was that it was cider, which they thought was an innocent, refreshing drink. My worst behaviour excesses were triggered by cider. As a result I stopped drinking cider around 23.

Adult thought: "Buy that, you deserve it."
Teenage experience: The freedom to buy my choice of clothes and shoes.

After wearing my mother's choice of clothes as a gawky 13/14 year old, I went shopping with my first earned money as a paper girl at 15. I can still see and feel the pink dress and the joy it bought me.

Adult: "I'm bored." or "I don't want to do this job."
Childhood experience: Eating food as a distraction. Helping others.

Probably my strongest trigger. I'm an ace procrastinator. Finding, making, eating food uses up time. I also used to find any excuse to help others in school, rather than do my own work.

Adult thought: "I'll just taste this/finish the leftovers/see what's in the fridge."
Childhood experience: Post-war mantra. "Eat every thing up on your plate." "Think of the starving children in Africa."

As I said in the last blog, my most challenging time is 5-7pm. I can recognise so many triggers from 1968 onwards. From preparing children's meals and eating the leftovers.

I could write more, but you have enough of the picture to try some CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) yourself. 

1. LOOK! At yourself. Are you about to use an unhealthy behaviour.
2. STOP! Name the feeling you are experiencing.
3. THINK! About the first time the first time you experienced that feeling. Go backwards through your personal timeline.
4: LISTEN! To yourself and your self justification in carrying on with that past behaviour in the present day.
5: GROW UP! You are not that child/teenager anymore. Let your emotional age increase to the present day.

"But it's hard." Yes, very. But go on, you deserve it. 

Now where's that glass of wine?