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.