Relationships Are Complex

Guest Post by Alison Blackler

And probably one of our biggest challenges. Most adults spend much of their life in an intimate relationship. Relationships are potentially satisfying. They protect us from loneliness and can improve our mental and emotional wellbeing. However, they can be challenging, and many different issues can cause couples disturbances. There are obviously arguments, fights and power struggles, but there are also stress-related reactions to each other, leading to further problems.

Challenges can build up in a relationship over a period of time, increase in frequency or create difficult consequences. The job is to work out what is acceptable and what is not. Each person’s relationship is unique, just like the people in them. Couples can experience turbulent phases, which can lead to much needed changes, or the relationship may become too difficult to continue. Relationships can feel stressful, and our aim is to consider the wider perspective. 

Keep in mind that any behaviour can happen with a varying degree of discomfort, and it is for each couple to decide what is acceptable. For some, it can look like a relationship is easy and natural, although there is usually work and commitment aplenty. When relationships work well, there is give and take, respect, honesty and positive regard. With the right balance of compromise and flexibility, it is vital to allow each person to flourish within the relationship. This all sounds so idealistic, and the reality of life and, indeed, relationships, make this an interesting journey. Life is full of experiences, some of which work well and some not so much. 

Many of challenges can be useful to help us grow and develop. If everything were plain sailing, our personal journey would probably be limited. While we clearly need some time of stability, we learn the most from challenging situations. The trick is to see these as a chance to change rather than as a negative experience. Relationships take work and commitment, though focusing on yourself first is critical. This understanding gives peace and clarity. 

Almost all couples will have misunderstandings, conflicts and disagreements. We will each do things that annoy the other. It is fair to say, ‘all relationships take work’. However, we must not get confused with those that leave us exhausted and drained. It should not constantly feel like hard work. There must be a balance and knowing this balance can make all the difference. Being in the wrong relationship is no one’s fault; it can be an honest mistake. When it is a real challenge is when you and a partner are essentially mismatched. There is no way to change or reconcile — the best thing to do is to recognise it for what it is and get out as compassionately as possible. Challenges and issues may occur within any relationship. There is no judgement as the complexity of a relationship can mean that it will hit challenges. The idea is to look at things from a different perspective to see if there is any need for change, whether that be yourself or both.

Ourselves 

It is right to say that the biggest challenge we face is the relationship we have with ourselves. This then influences any relationship with another person, particularly an intimate one. We are often focused externally and see problems with these relationships, rather than looking internally at ourselves.

When you have a difficult time with your own thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours, relationships with others will be equally challenging. This can be where the root cause lies.   

Most relationships can become like a habit. It is natural and inevitable that the two people become relaxed and settled with each other further into the relationship. While this is great for relationships that have enough good habits, it is very damaging when the bad behaviours have become the norm. 

As humans, we have an innate desire to be liked, loved, fit in, and are not keen on upsetting another person. Our behaviours are often driven by this need, which does not always end well. It is vital to be able to understand yourself first before you can try to decipher how someone else is thinking or behaving. 

It is key to remember that everyone is not thinking and feeling the same as you. Knowing this helps you to adjust your expectations and improve relationships with others. When it starts to go wrong, we rely on our own interpretation of a situation and use this to put meaning onto another. The key to a healthy relationship, especially an intimate one, is to notice your own behaviours, be brave and admit your flaws. Sometimes these are only obvious through viewing your behaviour alongside someone else. As you get to know them, you often learn more about yourself through their different ways of being. When you are aware enough to realise this, it pushes you to change, even though at the time it may feel awful.

We are all unique

Our uniqueness comes from so many different factors, so there is no wonder that we are often on a different page from one another. Through our upbringing, our experiences, our past, we all have our own story to tell, although the way all these experiences are processed makes it even more complex. This interpretation can get in the way when we are communicating with others. As incredible as we are, we have many challenges which are not necessarily echoed in the animal kingdom. We are limited in our ability to truly understand others: why others do the things they do, why others say the things they say and what they actually mean. Some situations, and even conversations, can feel like a mystery. This is because we all process and interpret everything differently. Each person can interpret the same situation in another way even though on the surface, it will look the same. The description of the situation can appear similar; same place, same time, same day, although a different interpretation. There are traits that look, sound or feel the same, although the actual experience is unique.

Interpretations

The human mind is wired to experience the world as we believe it to be. This means that our minds process and store information from a situation and then uses this information to make sense of the present moment. Remembering this helps us to understand why we all interpret differently and where conflict can often lie. The mind is an association-making machine. This means that in any situation, each person will retrieve their associated information stored within their mind in an attempt to make sense of the current situation. Sometimes this associated information is unhelpful and even irrelevant. This explains how the same situation can and will be interpreted differently.

Each person’s memory and interpretation of the situation is 100% right for them, but the problem lies in the fact that each person thinks the same! This is often at the root of most disagreements. With this in mind, we assume that the other person has experienced the same as us. Most people think that we see to believe, but we actually believe to see. The mind has altered the memory of the images to be as we believe them to be, and we then believe that this is what we originally saw. Our minds do the believing, not our eyes. When we each have this happening, this can lead to the chance of a different interpretation.

Communication

All communication has two parts: a sender and a receiver. The sender has a message he or she intends to transmit, and this is put into words or actions which is believed to best reflect what is in their mind. But many things can intervene to prevent the intended message from being received correctly. Given our tendency to hear what we expect to hear, it is easy for people in conflict to misunderstand each other. Communication is strained, and people will, most likely, want to hide the truth to some extent. The potential for misperceptions and misunderstandings is high, which can make a resolution more difficult. With this understanding, we can start to see a different and complex perspective of why communication is such a challenge at times. What we have not mentioned yet is that the part of the mind which interprets information first is the emotional part. It is said this emotional response is five times quicker than anything rational. Immediate responses are often unwarranted or inappropriate. So, when our initial response to everything, literally everything, is an emotional one, and each person has their own model of the world, it makes for an interesting dilemma.

This text is from A Path Travelled – How to Make Sense of Relationships by Alison Blackler

Is happiness more important than money?

An online survey by Today Online, of 1,500 respondents is Asia’s most comprehensive psychographic study in terms of the number of respondents, geographical coverage and insights into 16 key topics: Beauty, communication, education, entertainment, fashion, food, health, kids, love, luxury, media, money, sports, technology, travel and vehicles revealed that 75.4 per cent of people feel that happiness is more important than making money.

So would you rather be rich or happy?

I love surveys like this one because they go to re-prove again and again that… money doesn’t make you happy.

Psychologically most would say that they know this to be true, so why are so many of us obsessed with becoming rich? I have been doing a straw poll of those I have met today and my instant findings are that when people are talking about happiness they mean feeling secure with nothing to worry about. We seem to collectively have the belief that if we had money we would the be happy because at a deeper level we feel that it would give us security and that we would then have little to worry about.

Worrying about money

Well, I have worked with many very rich and very unhappy people and very poor and very happy people. I know you can be poor and miserable and rich and happy. But try this for size…

In the present, in the here and now, at any given time or point, we are both safe and secure. Check it out as you read this. Are you safe, are you secure, do you have anything to worry about right now this minute? I find that people with money are more likely to be worrying about it. The questions I have been asked and this things I have heard include,

‘What do I do with it all?’
‘What happens if I lose it?’
‘Who can I trust? Are my friends only friends because I am rich?’
‘Life is so boring and meaningless’
‘People hate me because I have money’
‘Should I give to the kids or do they need to learn about working?’

Bottom line is that the money that you can usefully use is the byproduct of what you do. It is the doing that gives the money meaning. If you have money for doing nothing then the money has no real value, it is just there to be used. Once we start worrying about what will happen next we will forever have an anxiety syndrome. And money gives us a lot to be anxious about from interest rates to thefts. We can then start craving for what was when we were living a normal life before we were distracted by the money. If we keep worrying about the past and craving for what was we will be in a depressive syndrome. If you do both you will be anxiously depressed. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old, healthy or infirm if you live in the present you can find happiness and being in the now at this very moment does not need any money at all.

Anxiety, control and intolerance

One thing that I have observed about people who have anxiety syndrome is their need to be in control in order to manage their anxiety. People who are controlling are very often suffering from an anxiety disorder that they are compensating for. Many rich people suffer from the this ‘anxiety-control syndrome’. The nest step is that to create and maintain control our tolerance of others and our ability to let them simply be who they are and do what the want or need to do diminishes.

I have met and worked with many wealthy but anxious people who cover up their fears by being controlling and in so doing become intolerant and insensitive to the other people around them.

Of course there are people who are both rich and happy just not as many as we might think..

Live in the present and be happy now

Take care

Sean x

Seduction, the Truth & Politicians

I guess that anyone following UK politics over the last couple of years could not fail to notice the interesting difference between what comes out of our politicians moths and their actions. It is as though there are two scripts running side by side one for us and one for them. In reality the same thing happens in all areas of society from schools and hospital to businesses and institutions. It does make me wonder about Cop26 and whether the action will match up with the pledges being made?

There is a psychological phenomenon known as ‘attitude alignment’, the idea that we, below our awareness, take on the prevailing attitudes of whichever group we are with or we are listening to. When the government decides it is going to the country in a general election the seduction begins. It is for me a fabulous opportunity to watch attitude alignment in action as the various spin doctors and attitude manipulators doing their best to sway us voters to embrace their attitudes. Are we actually being seduced? Well if enough of us are then the spinners get their way. Brexit is the perfect example.

I see both the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and both the advantages and disadvantages of socialism. Though I am not seduced by either. Ed describes himself as a ‘centralist’ and I guess I join him in that. The centre ground is where most people are. In any election the attitude aligners will attempt to sway the centre ground to either the left or the right. So, here we go again, when there is another election. Prepare to be swayed ot seduced.

Both Ed and I are not really politically motivated though we do have the shared attitude alignment in the belief that human beings are best served by coming together as groups in common interest rather than breaking down in ever smaller factions. because of that we were and are both ‘remainers’ though not ‘remoaners’.

For me I know see the real issues of Brexit are now manifesting economically, socially and illegal immigration. The biggest issues I see is breakdown in the development of human consciousness which I see as the reality of evolution. The process of evolution that took single celled organisms to the primates and homo-sapiens of today is not only the evolution of biology, physiology, sociology and psychology, it is also that of evolving consciousness.

Evolution is not something that did happen and then stopped, it is happening right now in you and me and all around us. Evolution continues and ever will do so. The key to understanding evolution will always be the investigating evolution of consciousness. Evolution is the increasing awareness and awake-ness of mind that is expressed in physical form. In many senses evolution is the increasing ability of consciousness to become aware of itself.
Looking back at social history we can show that behaviours and practices that were acceptable a few hundred years ago are now considered difficult, wrong and unacceptable. After all it was only in the 1960’s that women in Britain ceased to be the property or chattels of their husbands or fathers and homosexuals could be imprisoned. In many countries women still suffer inequality with their men folk. I suspect that many women in Britain would, even now, feel that they do not have full equality.

As our human consciousness evolves people’s behaviour gradually develops to be less damaging and more helpful to itself and to all other beings and even the environment and the planet as a whole. With greater awareness we learn to attend to the needs of each other. As I often say my simple life philosophy is that…

…if we all look after each other we will all be ok

Without going over old ground too much social history shows us that the division of countries across Europe and across the world led to the two great world wars. Following the creation of the League of Nations, the United Nations and the European community, NATO and the multi-various trade agreements have all be the expression of the natural desire of consciousness to envelope. That is human beings growing in awareness, coming together and working together.

Division and separation, in the end, serves no one and creates more problems for human being and all sentient beings and the environment on the planet.

As we look at the environmental crisis of global warming, pollution and plastics look out for the aligners.

Look out for the aligners
Who is attempting to align your attitudes with theirs. Each party and each group will be attempting to get your vote. One thing that we need to consider is what people are telling us the truth. Vaccination Vs non vaccination, climate change Vs a weather event, I could go on. Each side have aligners seeking to convince us that they are right. Many aligners are psychopaths in that they act without either insight or empathy and are only concerned in their own point of view and their own importance.

Psychopathic behaviour when applied to politicians is the ability to appear genuine and sincere and then go and do something completely different. When someone will tell us anything at anytime to get the response that they really want we need to be mindful and listen for the sound behind their words, what is it that they really mean? What are they really saying?

If you recall that vast amount of money that was advertised on the side if the UKIP bus that would be put into the NHS which was then denied by Farage when he was directly questioned in an interview. The NHS could really do with all that money right now.

Being seduced can be fun
When I go to replace my car I love that process of the salesperson doing whatever they can to secure the sale. It is seduction in action. There is nothing wrong with being seduced as long as we are mindful of what is going on and that we are seduced with both our knowledge and consent.

So, through this period as we come through Covid and Brexit enjoy the seduction that you are subjected to by friends, family and the media. Be mindful of what is happening and simply ask your self ‘Why are they saying that, what do the really mean, what is the true sound behind their words?’

Take care and be happy

Sean

Let’s hear for the staycation

How do you feel about getting on plane right now and jetting away? The people I am talking to are split both ways. There are those that would grab a bag right now and rush to the airport while others are saying to me that they don’t expect to be going abroad until at least 2023. 

So, one client said to me, just as an aside, “why is it that we go on holiday to get away from where we live and the people who live where we go on holiday are going some where else for theirs? Can’t we all just stay where we are have a good time?”

The idea of needing to get away would suggest that where we are is never really good enough. I get it that the act of taking a break, of doing something different, is stimulating and often relaxing but the question got me thinking about do we really appreciate where are and what we have? Are we able to enjoy the space that we live in.

I am reminded of the amount of the amount of times when we have been driving around europe and have been spellbound by views and vistas. Yet there are many times when we have noted that we have views like this where we live on the Wirral. There is a beach on an island in the Florida Quays that people go to every evening to watch and marvel at the sunset. It does have lovely sunsets. But, when I watch the sun going down over Hilbre Island and the Welsh coast I am stunned on a daily basis just down the road from my house.

The peninsula named Wirral is know as the insular peninsula mainly because people, once they arrive, never leave. I know many people that were born on the Wirral that have never travelled anywhere else, not even for holiday. I note that those that do manage to leave often return after a few years as though they have been drawn back by some invisible elastic umbilicus that will not them truly leave.

Wirral sticks out into the sea with estuaries either side. There is the river Mersey between Wirral and Liverpool and the river Dee between Wirral and Wales. Both estuaries empty into Liverpool Bay and eventually the Irish Sea. At the top end of Wirral there are beaches, and all the fun of the holiday trade. There seems to be a balance here of industry, residential and holiday occupation and accommodation.

Where do you live?

How well do you know your own area? What do you know about it’s history?  Maybe this would  be a good time to get to know where you live? Especially if you are not holidaying abroad fro a couple of years.

I have lived all over the world and only came to Wirral with work and stayed and now I cant think of a better place to live. Like most of the British I feel that the weather could be warmer and that the sun could shine some more but taken over all I live in heaven. In ten minutes I can stroll down to the beach. In twenty minutes I can be in the centre of Liverpool. In twenty five minutes I can be in Chester and in forty minutes into the mountains of Wales. The motorway system that runs through the middle of Wirral connects us to the rest of the UK and on through to Europe.

Once I became interested in the Wirral and began to look around it I found places that are gems. There are areas of richness and poverty, areas of beauty and the not so beautiful. I discovered that Paul Hollywood’s dad has a bakers not far away, that Lillie Savage was brought up here and Wirral has been home to Ian Astbury, Ian Botham, Fiona Bruce,Ellis Costello, Daniel Craig, Chris Farrell, Austin Healey, Paul Hollywood, Eric Idle, Paul O’Grady, John Peel, Patricia Routledge, Harold Wilson, the list goes on forever. And there was a Viking parliament in a place called Thingwall apparently a corruption on Ing meaning assembly and Voll meaning field- Amazing.

Anyway, I digress. My advice to you is to get to know where you are. Don’t become blind to what is around you and certainly enjoy your holidays in foreign parts, once we can safely do them again, but maybe begin to understand why people from other parts of the world might like to come to where you live for their annual holiday.

Take care and be happy

Sean x

Avoiding the winter weight

Have you noticed that people are getting bigger? The joke was ‘are you doing the covid 5k?’, no not the run, the 5k that we put on during lockdown. Most of us will gain weight in the dark months of winter due to increased calories and a reduction in exercise. My fear is that with covid lockdown and winter we could be looking at 10K not 5.

So here we are again the winter is starting. Officially it starts on December 21st but from the point of view of our body the change mainly begins when the clocks go back. The disruptions this causes in your body clock can have an impact on our appetite and here comes that winter weight. We do get the extra hour in bed but we also get an extra hour to eat. The first night we get and extra hour of sleep but the habit in our brain tends to make us wake up at our usual time effectively an hour earlier than normal. It will take a few days and sometimes weeks for our internal body clocks to adjust to the new time. There are several effects that this can have on our bodies, mind and emotions.

Emotion and well being

Serotonin in the brain is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter, it is responsible for our wellbeing. It is effected by daylight. Once the clocks go back and it gets darker the levels of serotonin start to reduce and with it can reduce our sense of well being. Or we might just feel flat and listless though for some this will mean full blown depression.

Carbohydrates and Serotonin and comfort food

In the winter our intake of carbs increases quite naturally. In response to the digestion of carbs our brain secretes more serotonin. In effect we eat more carbs in the winter months to makes us feel better. We self medicate with carbohydrates. Sticky puddings, cakes, biscuits, crisps, bread, pasta and so on. It is comfort food and that is real. More carbs, more serotonin, more wellbeing but also…more weight.

Sleep disturbance

Sleep is therapeutic it is the time when our body and mind regulate and rebalance  chemically and physically and also emotionally. With the change in time the disturbance created by the change in our sleep pattern also changes our hormones. Sleep deficiency can lead to a rise in the hormone Ghrelin which is produced in the stomach and is responsible for making us feel hungry. There is also a disturbance in the hormone Leptin. Leptin is responsible for making us feel full so that we stop eating. Once we continually feel more hungry, but have no sensation of feeling full, the weight can just pile on. In general obesity can be a result of the imbalance of these two hormones but at this time of year we are all susceptible to weight gain. 

Comfort and inactivity

The change is in both in our hormones and neurotransmitters that will effect our feelings, thoughts and behaviours including our energy levels. This is why sitting in front of a fire and eating carbs while watching the telly can feel very comforting. However, there are things that we can do to avoid over eating, gaining weight and losing our mood. This is to do with what we eat and when we eat.

Opt for filling foods

Some foods are light and even if they are nutritious can leave us feeling hungry. Foods that make us feel fuller for longer will limit bathe effects of needing to eat more. Pulses such as chickpeas, lentils, and beans are great at keeping you full for longer, as they are high in both fibre and protein. Other filling, high-fibre foods include oats, whole wheat bread, carrots, broccoli, and bananas.

Getting as much sunlight as possible

Even on an overcast day, or in the dark of winter, exposure to natural light is beneficial for your sleep schedule as it sends signals to the rest of your body telling you that it’s daytime and you should be awake. It also gives your body the distinction between day time and night time and when we should be sleeping. If we stay indoor for the majority of time of if we go to work in the dark and come home in the dark we lose the daylight effect. Try to get outside in the morning and at lunch time to help wake you up and to regulate your body clock. Sit near a window if you are stuck inside and, if needed, use some daylight bulbs. 

Get off your butt

Although that sofa by the fire looks very tempting this is really the time when you need to get moving. Raising your heart rate for as little as twenty minutes will make your brain release all the feel good endorphins. It will raise your mood, give you energy and make you feel less sluggish. It may take a bit of will power to get moving but the benefits are huge. Least of all you will be less tempted to eat comfort food and you will also burn any extra pounds that you have gained. I try to run a 5k Monday, Wednesday and Friday and restrict my calories on a Tuesday and a Thursday. I am not persistent every week but as long as I do enough it works. This means that I can then have a nice hot chocolate or a mulled wine and not feel too guilty.

  

Check you weight, not obsessively, be aware of what you put on and what you lose. Be fit, be healthy, be happy

Take care 

Sean x

Some Like It Hot

When George Harrison sang “here comes the sun” it was all about the end of winter and the joy that comes as things becomes both brighter and warmer in the spring and summer. It now seems that we have too much of a good thing?

With a global climate that is getting increasingly hotter year on year we might indeed end up with it being too much of a good thing. The question of the day, indeed a question of vital importance to us all, is “is global warming real”? What do you think? I would say yes.

As far back as 1824 scientist were registering their concerns about the effects of fossil fuels and the effects that carbon dioxide was having and would have on planet Earth.  At that time no one seemed to listen to the science. Scientific research increased during the1970s and 80s. Most scientists were then predicting that our use of fossil fuels will lead to a warming of the surface of the planet and create global warming that could, in the end, become devastating for the planet and for all of human kind and every other living being on the planet. The weather events this year would suggest it is happening right now.

Well, most people seem to agree except for apparent “experts” such as Donal Trump, that well known scientist and climate expert, shouting them down calling them ‘gloom mongers’. 

The one thing that was promised to Britain with global warming and a warmer earth, was cool dry summers and warm wet winters. My experience is that is what we now have. The scorching summers of the 60s and 70s have disappeared as did the British holiday makers as they chased the sun on various package deals to Spain. The cold winters with real Christmas Day snow, often several feet thick, has become an occasional sprinkling of white. This year the staycation meant that most people stayed at home. Perhaps this could be the reinvention of the UK summer holiday. 

The fact that it is getting warmer would seem to to be beyond dispute. The question is why?, is the USA and Australia wanting to re-energise the coal industry suggesting that global warming is nothing to do with human intervention and simply one of the many cycles on Earth’s planetary activity. Just another weather event.

As I understand it we are carbon based organisms living in a carbon based world. Where we are all subject to the carbon cycle. Carbon is used to construct living matter and then when it breaks down it is released back into the atmosphere to be recycled into new growth.  

Everything is on fire

When the pages of an old book are turning yellow they are, actually burning but very slowly. The pages are slowly turning back into carbon, this is the carbon cycle. The carbon was captured in the trees that created the wood pulp that made the paper. Fire is a catalyst that increases the rate of the carbon cycle that is going on any way. Fire releases carbon and energy, in the form of heat, into the atmosphere.

The carbon based system that we live in stores carbon into the growth of vegetation or carbon is held in the natural storage of the seas. This has been, throughout creation, a natural process of living and dying. Plants and trees, that need CO2 to grow, soak it up and turn it into vegetation that is either eaten by animals and turned back CO2 when the animals die, or as leaves fall to the ground carbon is released as the leaves rot down to provide nutrients for further vegetation growth. 

Coal is the fossilised deposit of the forests of the past. As they died and were buried they were compressed into what we now call coal. The coal, just like the forest is full of carbon. This is what is released into the atmosphere when we burn it.

The natural process of growth and decay, birth and death, of carbon storage and release, has been in balance on the planet throughout time. Then the humans arrived and it all changed.  

If the carbon released into the atmosphere is greater than the planets ability to store it the system goes out of balance. The atmosphere of the earth, apart from providing the oxygen that we all breath filters out the effects of the sun. The CO2 creates a blanket in the atmosphere that increases the heat at ground level.

We human beings are having three main effects, I can see, that are contributing to global warming. The first is this issues of putting more and more CO2 into the atmosphere. The second is deforestation that has removed the planets ability to store carbon in vegetation. It is said that the forests are the lungs of the world. Right now the world if suffocating. The third effect is methane.

Methane

Described as the ‘Greenhouse gas’ is said to be more dangerous than CO2, though once in the atmosphere methane does react with oxygen to create even more CO2. The majority of methane in the atmosphere is said to come from ruminants. That is, animals that ferment vegetation as food in their gut and then both fart and burp methane. It is estimated that the 1.5 billion cows and bulls currently on farms account for 18% of all harmful greenhouse gases. That is more than the entire negative CO2 effect of the entire US economy. Apparently a vegan male can produce seven times more methane than a meat eater.

So, number one we have deforested the planet. The forests have been burned to heat humans and fuel industry. And number two, the land that has been cleared of tress is now used to raise cattle for human food consumption. Both actions become a recipe for a warmer planet. I have not even included the effects of burning oils and gas and the love affair that we have with the motor car. As I write this I have stopped doing my monthly plane flight to Qatar mainly due to Covid. When I was flying the planes were often only half full of passengers. I do not have a clue about how much fuel it takes to fly us all there, I do not know what my own carbon footprint has been on these journeys. Though I have discovered that I can do virtually everything that I did face to face thanks to Zoom and Teams etc.

There are things that we can all do to reduce our individual effect on the carbon cycle and collectively reduce global warming. Now, many people will say ‘what is the point of me doing anything, I am only one person, I can’t have much of an effect?’ And yet a lot of people doing the same thing can have a big effect.

The two biggest things that we can do immediately that will have a huge effect on global warming. The first is use less fuel. Walk rather than taking the car and cycle to work and the shops if you can. If you are going to drive try and go electric as a bike or a car. The second is stop eating meat, especially beef, and stop consuming all dairy products. Becoming veggie or, if you can, vegan has an enormous effect of your carbon footprint. The last things is recycle all that you can and where possible buy things that are not in packaging that requires recycling in the first place. Only time will tell what effect we are really having on the climate. The trouble is that by the time that we realise it, it might just be too late. 

I am veggie considering becoming vegan. I have my electric bikes. By cycling with a bit of electric support, I have reduced my carbon footprint without being sweaty at my destination and at the same time getting fitter. Sounds like a win, win. What can you do?

Take care and check your footprint

Sean x 

 

Empty Nest and Covid Fears

This is the time of year when kids are turning into adults and heading off to three or four years at uni. Now most year most kids can’t wait to get away. This years seems a little different after lock downs and working from home many are feeling a bit nervous of going out on their own. I have also spoken with a some who were supposed to be having a gap year and then became stuck at home with no where to go. Most years it is the parents who are seeking help with being able to let go now they are asking me how they can encourage and support their kids to leave and go to uni.

As a parent you spend years developing your family. Your kids have good bits and bad bits. There are times when you could happily strangle them all and times when you love their bones. Then when you have learned to live and even enjoy the madness that is called ‘family’ hey, they go and leave home and go off to uni and become independent. The fact that they have been leaving their junk all around the house, just like a tree shedding leaves in autumn, means nothing, you just want them back. The bird has flown and the nest is empty. Suddenly your role has changed, or maybe even come to an end. This is the time when the answer to the question ‘who are you?’ suddenly changes.

The rites of passage

The senses of the changing role of self happens to us all though it is more so for women. When a woman marries she most times changes her name and as she normally takes the part as of head of the house, often without the man even realising it, she has changed her role. Then the first child comes along and another set of changes begin and each time the answer to that question ‘who am I?’ changes. As the last child is born, as the last child goes to school, as the last child leaves school, as the last child moves on to university, as the last child leaves home. Each stage presents us with a different sense of who we are. For full-time mums the impact of these changes can be much greater.  

We live in an odd world. As primates we would be living in extended family groups. When change happened there would have been a natural stress management provided by the various relatives supporting each other. Even when your our own children had grown up there would be new young ones coming through in the extended family. In our odd little nuclear units of mum, dad and the kids aloneness and isolation can become common place as evidenced in the general rise of depression, stress and anxiety in western society. Though with covid we have seen isolation a loneliness magnified.

We the children do finally leave some of our stress comes from the fact that we do not really understand how to act in this new family situation without them. There is a confusing shift in the roles that we now play. When you have been a full on parent and your child goes off to uni. What contact do we now have with our distanced child? Questions arise..

Who contacts who?

How often do I phone, text, skype, zoom?

Do I wait for them to contact me?

Do I offer the money, resources or wait until I am asked?

What do I do with their room?

Do I keep it as a shrine, redecorate it, let’s other people stay in it….?

What about the family dynamic?

One child moving out can upset the dynamic of the entire family. In some case this can create feelings of bereavement and loss. Some families will even go though a period of mourning. Siblings may become withdrawn or upset. It may effect their performance at school. I am not being dramatic I am simply stating that changes that can effect us all.

Often both parent and child do not fully comprehend the importance of the family unit until it is no longer there. 

‘We don’t know what we’ve got ‘til its gone’.

But hold on, we always knew that this would happen, that this day would come it was just that we have chosen to ignore it. Maybe pretend that it will never happen. The awake mindful parent is preparing them self, the family and the child for their departure. Talking about it obviously helps but it the practical issues and skills that effect a child most. These might include…

Using money

Knowing how to budget and pay bills

Making a shopping list

Basic cookery skills

How to use a washing machine 

The art of ironing

The rules of engagement

Agreeing all the rules of contact and money and doing their washing should all have been discussed prior to the event. As long as they know that they can get you when they need to they will be okay. So what about you? Looking at this change….

 …who are you now?

If you have been a full on parent the chances are that you have lost the sense of who you are, what your own real needs are and what it is that you want to do with your life now.

Many couples caught up in the rush and business of raising a family lose contact with each other. Often in the silence of the empty nest two people stare across the void at each other thinking ‘Who are you?’ It may have been a long time since we really had ‘us’ time. For many of us this is the chance to get back in touch. Talking, sharing and date nights can help. The question ‘who am I’ extends to ‘who are we’ and ‘where are we going from here?’

I guess that over all empty nest syndrome just like bereavement is not an illness it is a process and the better prepared for it the better we process it when the time eventually comes.

My resource for the podcast is to look at John Bowlby’s attachment theory. Our ability to deal with endings is dependent on what happened to us when we were young and how we learned to attach and detach in our relationships. What we learned as children is played out in adulthood. The good news is that even if you do not like you current attachment styles you can re learned and re frame them so that they serve you better.

The biggest gift that we can give our children is independence and confidence. We have to learn to let them go and allow them to live and make their own mistakes.

Covid has added an extra dimension this year as many of the chicks are feeling anxious about leaving the nest. Okay, so the majority of young people still can’t wait to get back out there and party, party, party but there is a high proportion who are facing the prospect and anxiety and fear which is sad. This is a time in life that should be embraced and enjoyed.

Take care and be happy. If are a anxious potential student try and let go and enjoy the newness of the experience. If you are an anxious parent try and step back and allow your children to leave.

Sean x

Midlife Crisis or Long Covid?

The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, October 10th, is ‘Mental health in an unequal world’. Equality comes when we all show each other the respect that we deserve or as I like to say…

If we all look after each other we will all be okay!

When look at mental health it is important to acknowledge that normal does not exists. In that sense we are all bonkers, just different kinds of bonkers and when we struggling it is okay to admit it and talk about it.

I think that it must be another sign of the effects of Covid but I keep talking to people who are telling me that they are having a midlife crisis. The thing is that the symptoms that they are describing are very like the effects of long Covid. Now, it could be that covid is having an effect or it could be that the general state of the world it taking it’s toll on us all. Then again it could that people are in a midlife crisis.

What on earth is a midlife crisis? What is midlife come to that?

Well, when it comes to timings, in theory at least, the midlife crisis has to be happening later these days as we are living longer. In previous generations people were lucky to live to 60 which would mean that their 30s would have been midlife. Now as we are all moving towards living to the magic 100 the 50s and 60s have become the new 30. In psychotherapy we are now suggesting that the people are about 20 years younger than the previous generations. That is, people at 60 are doing what their parents were still doing at 40. I guess the timing of a midlife crisis is a moveable feast. 

Midlife crisis is a term first coined by Elliott Jaques he suggested that it occurred somewhere between the forties to early sixties. He looked it as being points, or periods of change and transition in life. However, there seems to be little evidence that the midlife crisis in in any way a universal phenomenon and seems more to do with the industrialised and urbanised western culture rather than the agricultural societies of Africa and Asia.

I have a theory that is born out of developmental psychology in the school of analytical psychotherapy. It is this…

… at around the age 3 to 4 most of us have set our gender role and identity. By this age we understand the concepts of male, female, mother, father, brother, sister and so on and we understand where we fit into these patterns. We also have developed internal working models, or inner concepts, that enable us to make sense of our percepts, or what we perceive to be out there. A concept is like a box full of information that explains things. So in the mother box will be all the information that we have gathered about what a mother is. So, when we see those things ‘out there’ we know what they are. We have concept boxes for all things, people, roles, talents etc.

I guess it is fairly obvious that if the things that end up in the concept boxes where mixed up we may have some odd ideas. Let’s say that when we were gathering information about mothers, to fill our mother concept box, our mother was always beating us with a stick, then we are unlikely to be able perceive that woman out there is a mother unless she is carrying a stick and beating people with it. It also follows that when we grow and become a mother we might feel that beating people with sticks is a part of the deal that we have to do to be a real mother. Anyway, I digress.

After our basic concepts have been established at around the age of 4 we enter what is termed the ‘latent’ period. This is where our focus moves from being self centred to attempting build and understand relationships. This phase is also termed ‘socialisation’. It is not until we reach adolescence that the early concepts gathered at 4 years are re-examined, re-evaluated and, if required, re-built.

It is in adolescence that we challenge all the basis assumptions that we took on early in life. This also means challenging the beliefs of our society, religion, culture, family and so on. Often this includes experimentation with various version of ourself until we find one that feels comfortable that we can own into adult life. Growing your hair down to your knees, or dying it green, or hanging your face with cutlery, or getting tattooed, travelling experiencing and experimenting are all a part of the adolescent phase. It seems to me that those people who don’t go through the rebellion of adolescence, those that do not question the current order and challenge their early concepts are vulnerable to a mid life crisis.

 

When people have a mid life crisis, go ‘off the rails’ or ‘lose the plot’ or do something completely out of character are now doing the things that they would normally have done in adolescence. Their behaviour often appears out of place belonging in adolescence not in middle age. We can all be vulnerable to midlife crisis because we all, or at least most of us, failed to do all that we could have done in the adolescent phase. There is the added issues that the current circumstances may be such that we feel the need to regress to adolescence in order to deal with and survive the issues.

I am using as my resource for this podcast an article from the Telegraph ‘The six signs that you could be suffering from a midlife mental crisis’. Not too sure about the word ‘mental’ in this context. It is probably better to use the word emotional. Anyway, the six symptoms or signs identifies are…

1: Two or more weeks of low mood

2: Tearfulness

3: Irritability

4: Sense of hopelessness

5: Memory loss

6: Problems sleeping

As I said all of the above have been reported to me as symptoms of long covid. But if it isn’t long covid how can we avoid the midlife crisis?

Avoiding a midlife crisis

Most people that I see who are in a midlife crisis are those feeling stuck in their current way if life or circumstances. They are seeking change, a relief from the present issues and are looking a foe new or enlightening experience. The mother when the last child leaves home. The man in his mid fifties who still have a mortgage to pay and children at Uni who need supporting. Doing the same job for years has become Groundhog Day and you feel that you have had enough. Often it is those who have had enough, that have run out of steam, motivation and energy often driven by frustration. Over all they need some fun, excitement and new experience.

To avoid the midlife crisis make sure that you are enjoying life and experiencing new things and having some fun. When we learn to express ourself and if we are enjoying who we are and where we are, then the need to do something drastically different tends not to happen. And, if it does we can do it cooperatively with our partner, family or friends.

The trick is be happy and have fun

Sean x

The Joy of Pets

I couldn’t let this one pass. Last week Ed and family acquired a lovely little dog call Cooper. I think we should insert a picture here Ed. I know that Cooper is and will be loved, you just have to see the look in Ed’s eyes when he is talking about him, a real positive addition to the family. Dogs really can be man’s best friend. Sadly man is not always a dogs best friend.

So many people have dogs as companions and friends and there are many help and support dogs. I have clients who have hearing dogs to help with their deafness, seeing dogs to help with blindness and even seizures dogs who can tell their owner that they are about to have a fit before they realise it so that they can get to a place of safety. All animals are wonderful though dogs have lived with us throughout most of our evolution and have a special place in our hearts.

One day I was running with my trainer Conrad. As we ran down the road I notice a brown dog ahead of us. She saw us coming and stopped to allow us to catch up with her. As we passed Conrad and I both naturally greeted her and she fell into step running between us. She seemed a perfectly nice and happy person very comfortably joining in with us. It led me to wonder what was it that was going in her mind. Did she feel that she had joined the pack? Was this the natural instinct of a pack animal off for the hunt? Perhaps she thought ‘two mad humans here running around, I wonder where they are going? I’ll go with them and see’, perhaps she thought, or didn’t, think of anything that I, as a human, could conceive or even begin to understand.  I wonder does Cooper now feel that he is a part of Ed’s pack or even that he a little human?

We often treat animals anthropomorphically, just as I did with the brown dog, and we project our own feelings onto them and assume that we know what it is that they are feeling or thinking. The worst thing that I ever hear is when a human projects a lack of feeling and emotion onto an animal in an assumption that the animal has no feelings at all. Fishermen tell me that when they stick a hook through the mouth of a fish, and pull it by the line from the water into the air, something that is suffocating for the fish, that the fish doesn’t feel a thing ‘because they are cold blooded’. Interesting thinks I.

I find it strange that we divide up the animal kingdom into different emotional categories to suit our human selfishness. 

Nature

There are those animals that live in the wild that we cam admire. These might include primates, the large cats, lizards, birds, elephants, rhinos, zebras and so on. We humans make documentaries about them and wonder at their life styles and antics, their social connections and disputes and their various mating rituals and habits. Over all we love them and pay a lot of money to go and see them in the wild or in the captivity of zoos and parks.

Vermin

Vermin are those animals that we as humans have decided have no use for us, not even as objects in documentaries. Those that we decide should be removed from the planet. So we trap them poison them and kill them in any way that we can. For householders these might include rats, mice, spiders, ants and so on. Non householders might include the coypu, mink, snakes, foxes, badgers, crows, magpies and so on.

Food

The animal group that we have defined as food, that is they are there for us to eat, varies from one country to the next and we can all share our disgust at each other’s habits. When a country eats frogs, dogs, or horses Brits can become very angry or disgusted. A while ago horse meat was found in British mincemeat which upset a lot of people, yet the French will happily take our horses from Dartmoor and Exmoor for their dinner table while we will take their cows for ours. The staple meat diets of the western world has been cattle, sheep and pigs plus the occasional goat. We will eat chickens and ducks but will be disgusted by those that eat song birds. We make the distinction between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky Fried Rat, though they would probably taste and feel very similar once the spices had been added to the coating. For some rabbits are simply four legged chicken while for others they are cuddly bunnies and venison may be seen as strong beef or the murder of Bambi.

Fashion

If you wear a leather pair of shoes or a leather belt you are wearing an animal for fashion. The reality is that there are many alternatives to leather but if you eat the meat I guess that you might as well wear the skin. However, this does not seem to hold true in the case of fur. Would a fur coat be more acceptable if we ate the meat as well as wearing the skin? The British army has spent generations wearing bear skin hats, I doubt  that they ever ate the meat. 

Pets

Pets are animals that we assume like to be with us. We use animals without really understanding what it is that they want or need. Before a horse allows a rider to sit on it’s back it has to be ‘broken’. This means that it’s will to resist, and simply be a horse, is stripped away from it until it will tolerate the rider and respond to being directed by a piece of metal in their mouth, often kicked in the sides and being beaten with whip. We put birds in cages to prevent them from doing what is natural for them, flying. We take the doggie-ness away from a dog until it believes that is a part of our human pack.

The symbiotic connections

We hear stories of the dolphin who appeared in the sea and held a human up in the water until help arrived or they had taken them to the shallows so that they could then stand. There are those moments when an animal and a human just connect. Many dogs do have a symbiotic relationship with a human being. Their intuitive connection allows them to know and understand the humans feelings and to respond in a sensitive manner. This may also include bereavement at the loss or death of a human that they are close to. We see this as a wonderful example of how a dog can have deep feelings for a human. Perhaps we should realise that this is how dogs live in their normal situation and that the deep emotion that we see, and assume are for us, are really the emotional power that keeps the pack together. Just as dogs belong in packs, horses belong in herds and were never designed to live on their own or with just a few other horses or human beings. 

Unless an animal comes to you willingly, just like the dog who chose to run with Conrad and me for a while, are we simply interfering in it’s naturalness to make it be what we want it to be.

I often see pets who are not experiencing joy, the joy of pets is all on the part of the human who ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ them. As I sit in my studio I often hear two dogs in the gardens around me. One is very unhappy and cries a lot at being abandoned by it’s human owners. The other howls in a desperate attempt to call to other dogs as though it is playing out some strange memory of the pack. As it howls other dogs, even distantly, respond and on the air they have a conversation that I will never understand but I keep hearing the plaintive cry of ‘tell me I am not alone’. Perhaps I should call this ‘Howling Dog Studios’.

I am sure tha Cooper will have a happy life where he will be loved and be able to love his new family. I keep saying it but…

If we all look after each other we will all be okay… 

…in the ‘all’ I would include all animals be they food, pets or vermin.

If you have pets, eat meat or wear skins have a think about the joy of pets and other animals. Is the joy one sided? Is it all played out for the good of human beings? Do the animals have feelings and if they do are we responding to them?

Food for thought!

Take care and be happy

Sean X

Anxiety, Panic and Shortages

Anxiety and panic are on a spectrum mild to severe from simple fear or apprehension through to full panic attacks. This is what we have been seeing during Covid with our tendency to panic buy. It started with toilet rolls and pasta, moved onto holidays and now we have moved on to fuel for our cars. It is probable that we will have more to come as we face the expected food shortages at Christmas.

A lot of what we are panicking about is socially and based in both Brexit and Covid as we tend to act on rumours in the news and on social media like sheep. In this blog I will try to explain a bit about the brain and our emotions and the different forms of anxiety that are effecting us at the moment. At a scientific level our understanding of the neuropsychology and anxiety has come on leaps and bounds. 

When we are queuing on the garage forecourt we may well be experiencing a very real anxiety as fear that we will not be able to get to work, tend to a sick relative, get the kids to school and so on. What we need to understand is that all anxiety is not about what is happening right now it is about what we fear will happen next, in the future. I can be worrying now, in September, about not having food for Christmas dinner to feed the family as I had intended or was expected to do. Do I now start to panic buy to ensure that me and my family will be okay for the festive season? The key here is that actually it is not happening right now. Right now, in the present moment, we have food, our bellies are full and we have nothing to worry about.

Now it maybe that we will not have the food that expect or that we are used to this Christmas however, evolution has given us an amazing tool that we can use right now. It is called creativity. This means that we can creatively solve any problem that life throws at us if we are positive and creative and don’t become swamped in the fear of what may never actually happen. 

Panic and fear based anxiety is emotional

Fear is an instinctual response, often a reflex, in the amygdala in our brain that may lead to the physical, even violent or, fight, flee or freeze responses that are activated in the brain stem. This process tends to be highly emotional, often below our awareness. When people have an anxiety/panic attack it is a fear reaction. They will be temporarily out of control. Once they have calmed down and the cognitive brain is back on line they may be filled with remorse and even be shocked or horrified by their previous instinctual behaviour. 

The amygdala is a dual almond shaped organ, one in either hemisphere of the brain though usually termed in the singular. The difference between the two amygdalas, which has not yet been studied in the west, is in Ayurvedic neuropsychology recognised as a part of our intuitive function, that sense of knowing without knowing why we know. As such it’s function is both above and below our awareness. When it is functioning above our awareness we call in intuition. When it functions below our awareness we see it as the primal response of instinct. It is these instinctual responses that create the hoarding behaviours that we are seeing at the moment. This is panic, fear and panic buying.

Panic

A dictionary definition of panic is a sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour.

Do we really need this fuel? Or, do we need this much fuel? Do we really need a Turkey for Christmas?

The Mayo clinic defines panic as…

“ …a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying”.

Both anxiety and panic are normal emotional responses that as such have no logical connections. When cognition balances the emotion of panic the system is in balance. In balance we can plan in panic we simply react.

Worry Based Anxiety is cognitive and leads to as plan

Worry based anxiety is completely different to emotional based panic anxiety. The anxiety that is experienced in the cognitive brain is completely different to primal amygdala responses in that it is experienced as a reasoned response based in logic. 

The reasoning and the logic may, in reality, be faulty but it is experienced by the person as factual. People will say “it is a known fact that…” when it is nothing of the sort. Worry based anxiety also comes from the person not living in the present moment. They have projected themselves forward into ideas and experiences that may never happen but they are living them in the present as though they have. The tools of worry based anxiety are obsessing, which may lead to obsessive compulsive disorder or OCD, rumination, ‘dog with a bone syndrome’, where we cannot let it go and tend to go over and over the same issue again and again. 

Ayurveda

In Ayurveda worry based anxiety, in the cognitive cortex, is seen as part of the process of the imagination. People with a poor imagination do not get worry anxiety because they have difficulty imagining negative futures to become anxious about. Cognitive anxiety is dealt with by Tantric therapy, which is not all about sex it is about dealing with and controlling the imagination. Worry in the amygdala is dealt with in the Raja therapy which is mindfulness and meditation. 

Tantric therapy is based in using visualisation to create future images that are positive and do not have the worry attached to them. The habit of attaching worry anxiety to a particular thought or image is replaced with new positive images that are the new worry free habit. Raja based therapy as mindful relaxation and meditative practice reduces the levels of stress hormone in the body system reducing the instinctual feelings of fear. 

I am never keen on the ideas of control but ion this case I am. When we take control of anxiety we are not overwhelmed by it. We are in control of it and it is not in control of us. Sometime we will need some therapy to equip us with the skills to deal with our anxiety.

Therapy

If your anxiety if based in logical reasoning seek out a cognitive therapist they will be great for you. If your anxiety is fear based find therapist skilled in emotional work they maybe psychodynamic, cognitive analytical (CAT) or Mindfulness based stress reduction MBSR, therapies and courses and you will get what you need.

Most importantly none of us need to suffer anxiety, If you do then please do something about it.

Two resources

1: An eight week completely free MBSR course at palouse.com

2: A book: Rewire Your Anxious Brain By Catherine Pittman and Elizabeth Karle

Take care, don’t panic and be happy

Sean X