Your Brain Can Be Fooled

How do we know what we are belong told is true?

How do we know if what we believe is real?

We are all told things from the day we are born about life, other people, history and events. Politicians, teachers, religious leaders, advertisers, propagandists, to the covid doom sayers and conspiracy theorists and even our loved ones all want us to share their point of view and to believe what they tell us.

Currently with wars and the climate changing we are facing so many decisions both individually and collectively that will effect the future of planet Earth. How do we know any of it is real? The story below, that I was told many years ago, makes me think about how easy it is for us to believe what we want to hear and not question it’s reality.

The Story Of Two Men

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.

Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats.. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone. Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall. She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

The bottom line is that you don’t have to believe what you are told. Keep an open mind and consider what is it the is behind the words? Why are they being said? Don’t believe everything that you are told unless you have some evidential truth to go on.

Positive discrimination is a powerful skill.

And, by the way, it is okay to enjoy fantasy and fiction. It can be fun.

Take care

Sean x


Nature and Mental Health 

This week we are revisiting our relationship with nature and the effect that it has on our mental health and wellbeing. Finally the rain seems to have stopped and we are enjoying some sunshine. I was reminded of when I was looking out of the window of my apartment in Doha Qatar when I was working at Sidra Hospital.  Below me the City was a busy place and I could see at least a thousand houses. Each house full of people, thousands of people. The roads full, sometimes gridlocked, as all these people rushed from somewhere to somewhere else. All in a frenzied dash that is, for many human beings throughout the world, normal everyday life. I was struck by the overwhelming concept of ‘just how many of us human beings are there living on this planet?’

Ed and I were talking about nature, being in nature and living with nature. He had just arranged a family cycling day which attracted over 300 people who took their cycles on private tracks through a private estate. The families were riding through the woods in touch with nature. Also that day it rained, heavy reason, so a lot of what the day was in a mud bath. This just added to the fun and the sense of being free and in the woods with nature.

It can be hard in a desert, that is distinctly beige, to feel connected to nature. I am used to the European landscapes of rolling green hills and mellow fruitfulness. The sandy colours seem so flat. I also realise that people living in hot countries do not go out side very much. If I walked from here to the store, exactly one kilometre, which would be no big deal in the UK but in 45 degrees at 6pm with 80% humidity it can feel quite a task.

Talking to Ed and looking out of the window now makes me realise how easy it is to lose touch with nature. We seem to have become pretty clever at creating artificial environments to be in. In the Middle East we go from the air conditioned apartment to the air conditioned car. On work days we then go from the air conditioned car to air conditioned office. At the weekends we go from the air conditioned car to the air conditioned shopping mall and all the time we hardly touch nature at all.

This is also becoming true in Europe. We have created our artificial living environments with double glazing and central heating. In one part of the world we have created a way of living where we go inside to get out of the heat while in another part of the world we go inside to get away from the cold. Either way we have ceased to live with nature. And when we do go out we sit in our cars a bubble outside of the nature around us.

I am struck by the idea that should the electricity fail so that we could no long cool or heat our living spaces or run our EVs we would all shortly die out. I suspect that we have become so removed from nature that we would no longer know how to live and survive without the technology that surrounds us.

Technology is really great. It created the iPad that I am typing this on and the recording facilities that we record the podcast on. It will also have created whatever device you read this or listen to the podcast on but, without electricity all of this, all of our lives and our well being would come to an immediate end. With global warming if we all retreated to the woods and lit fires to survive we would just make the situation worse. I agree that we need to get back to nature but we need to get back on her terms not ours. My fear is that we have become to disassociated from nature that we no longer really understand what our relationship should be. The only people left on the planet who would understand this are the Amazonian Indians and other hunter gatherers that live in and with nature very day. Sadly these poor souls, who may have the key to our survival, are being displaced and having their environment degraded and destroyed by the mad rush to clear what is left of the rain forests. 

I have a feeling that decisions about our future on this planet will, if they have not already, be taken out of our hands. Mother Nature is a nice girl unless you cross and then she gets her own back. The loss of the dinosaurs or any of the other mass extinctions that have happened throughout the life of this planet are Mother Nature simply re-establishing a balance. It just might the same thing is about to happen again.

So my message to all of humanity is, do what you can to stop the destruction and enjoy it while you can.

Take care

Sean x

TSHP514: Processing Trauma

What’s Coming This Episode?

Currently the world seems a not very safe place, the news is full of war reports and stabbings in schools. Alongside this are all the reports of violent shop lifting and assaults on care staff in the NHS. More and more counselling clients are sharing their anxious concerns for themselves and their families especially their children. There is an increase in trauma both direct and vicariously experienced.

Enjoy the show, it’s The Self Help Podcast!

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Trauma and PTSD

What is trauma and what is it that we can do about it?

Currently the world seems a not very safe place, the news is full of war reports and stabbings in schools. Alongside this are all the reports of violent shop lifting and assaults on care staff in the NHS. More and more counselling clients are sharing their anxious concerns for themselves and their families especially their children. There is an increase in trauma both direct and vicariously experienced.

Trauma, is a Greek word meaning “wound”. Originally this was related physical injury. With the development of psychology a wound can now be considered to be physical, mental, emotional, financial and so on. The concept ot trauma comes from the idea that the wound, or event that is being experienced, is greater than our resources to deal with it. In that sense we have been overwhelmed. However there is a difference between experiencing trauma and being traumatised.

Traumatised, or traumatisation is when the overwhelming experience/trauma creates an amount of stress that is so great that it exceeds our ability to deal the emotions aroused. This is clearly an emotional issue. Trauma or traumatic disorders are always emotional even if they come from physical damage.

Post trauma is the emotional fall out that stays with us after the experience has ended. It is our time to process the emotions and this may take hours, days or weeks. In most cases the emotional effects of a trauma will be normalised within four weeks and sometimes extends to eight or ten weeks. The important thing is that is does subside as the emotional arousal is desensitised.

Repressed trauma can happen when an event is too difficult for us to deal with in the present and we hide it in the recesses of the mind. When this happens we may have no direct memory of the event that caused the trauma though it may still effect who we are, how we experience the world and, our behaviour. It is assumed that repression developed to protect us from that which was too difficult to contemplate. In repression the victim will often sleep after the incident. In the the post incident sleeping process the R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) part of the sleep cycle, similar to dreaming, allows the memory to be hidden or repressed.

Recovered memory may be delayed by weeks, years, or even decades. Though when it does emerge the original repressed emotions are released as though they have just happened. Therapeutically this release of emotion and memory is termed an abreaction and involves the re-experiencing of the trauma physically, emotionally and mentally. This may occur many years after the original incident.

Emotional responses Although in repression the memory is lost to the consciousness mind it has a constant effect on everyday life and experience and may appear as irrational fears, anxiety, depression, phobia etc. This is described and ‘something within us but outside of our control’.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is when the emotional responses are not repressed but are also not processed. When the effects of the incident remain active after six weeks it is given the PTSD diagnosis. As acknowledged above trauma may take eight to ten weeks to process. This means that definitions and diagnosis of PTSD can be difficult in the first instance. When we are looking at symptoms continuing after months or years we are definitely talking about PTSD.

PTSD Symptoms will vary but will include finding it difficult to forget the incident or event that happened. There may be flashbacks, daymares or nightmares about the incident. Unstable and irrational emotional responses such as anger, tears, anxiety, depression, phobias, disturbed sleep/eating patterns, and so on.

Rumination is the symptom builder. We know that, what we think about we bring about and that thoughts become things. When we continually go over the traumatic incident we are unable to let them go. The more we ruminate on them the more they become intensely embedded in our unconscious and conscious mind because we keep thinking about, and reinforcing them in our mind/brain.

The MindBrain This is where the software of the psychological mind and the hardware of the brain interface. The main aspect of the brain that effects our emotional self is the limbic system in the centre of the brain. Within the limbic system is a little organ call the amygdala. In this organ are templates of cells that relate to out emotional responses.

Let say that when I am young I watch my mother reacting phobic-ally to spiders, I then build a template of cells in my amygdala so that when I see a spider the template cells release chemistry and so I also react to the spiders as a phobia. Over time my spider template will become hotter and more embedded the more I visit it.

All emotional responses are like this, even the positive ones. So, that if I see the object of my love the love template of cells become hot and releases the chemistry that make me feel loving.

It normally takes about five repetitions of emotional experience to set up a template in the amygdala unless it is punched traumatically and then it is created immediately. Once a traumatic template has been established it will remain hot and active and become more embedded over time unless, or until, it is treated.

Treatment for trauma is a variable feast and will depend on where you live and the therapy that is fashionable at the time. Cognitive therapies such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) are not that good at dealing with trauma in the longterm. They do have a short term effectiveness by putting in place cognitive tools that often repressed the emotion that creates a feeling of relief and the expectation of cure. However, when this happens the emotions are nor process but held in check leaving them to reappear at a later date.

EMDR or Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is a therapy that mimics the rapid eye movements that happen during the dream cycle in the sleep pattern. As the emotional trauma is encoded into the MindBrain using the same part of the system EMDR is surprisingly effective in the majority of cases.

Rewinding is by far my best option as it uses the very same process to desensitise a template in the amygdala a was used to put it there in the first place, this is visualisation. When we revisit a trauma it is through the senses of sight, smell, tastes and touch, none of which are cognitive. During rewind therapy the emotional memories are address directly and desensitised.

Mindful meditation is becoming main stream psychology. Mindfulness is the best prevention for all forms of stress and provides the resources needed at the point of trauma. The process of mindfulness is relaxation, contemplation, concentration and meditation a process that is in itself therapeutic. Consistent meditators become their own therapists and counsellors and are able to overcome many things that overwhelm others.

Medication has to be the last on my list. I am not against medication on this basis, if I have a headache I will do all that I can to get rid of it, as a last resort I will take an aspirin. There are medications that can help with anxiety, depression, panic, high blood pressure and so on. There are also natural alternatives that maybe gentler on the system both psychologically and physiologically. If you do suffer trauma never suffer alone psychotherapy is a good and powerful thing.

Take care and be happy
Sean x

The Barnum Effect – Revisited 

We have been here before. A time when we are being sold many ideas and philosophies emotional and political. The loonies and psychopaths are in the ascendant with the situations in Ukraine and Palestine. In the UK we are facing elections and across the world economic and climate crises. Around all of these issues, and many more, different power blocks and influential groups are attempting to persuade us to support their point of view. I Russia we have Putin strutting his stuff and in America Trumpy is winding up for another go at the White House and ultimate power.  Unless we stay aware and awake it is so easy for us to be hood winked and conned.

This week Ed and I were talking about the effects of persuasion and how people can seem to gullibly just believe anything. I was explaining about the Barnum effect. Barnum was the great circus master who was into the concepts of illusion and fooling the audience into believing that what they were seeing was real.

The Barnum effect, as it is known, can be seen in sales, marketing, politics and propaganda.  My favourite are the horoscopes read by millions across the world. The magic is that because our imagination creates a filter that limits our perception to whatever it is that we expect to experience we will see whatever we want to in a horoscope prediction. Two different people looking at the same horoscope with exactly the same words will both get completely different meanings and understanding from it. This is because we, as observers, dictate what we experience, we create our experience. So that someone who wakes up in the morning expecting to have a bad day will, inevitable, have a bad day because they will pay attention to the bad things and miss the good things. The same is true the other way around with someone expecting the positive and to have a good day.

When we read the horoscope we see what we expect to see. We create the meaning that is relevant to us. We have decided what this is before we read it. The Barnum effect is neutral. We see what we expect to see.

While it might be said that we tend to accept statements  about ourself that resonate with how we feel, it is also true that some Barnum statements are 99% likely to hit the spot. “You like people to accept and like you.” Well unless you set out to create bad impression this is probably true for most people. 

We can all feel the martyrdom of self imposed stress and feel that we are the only person who is really doing the job. “Sometimes you give too much of yourself.”

We like to be popular, we like people to like us, “Sometimes you can be more outgoing and a good people person, but there are times when you prefer be more quiet.”

Very few people really look after themselves properly. “You can be your own worst critic/enemy.”

These Barnum phrases are everywhere. When the car sales says “Well I can see that you are a discerning person, you will really appreciate ….” they are playing to the Barnum effect. With this they seek to manipulate us and use such phrases, often flattery, so that we let out guard down.

But it not all bad. It can be enjoyable to be complimented even when it is not strictly true. My advice is read your horoscope and get what you want from it. At the same time enjoy it when some one is playing to your vanity, just stay awake to what it is that they are really doing and don’t be conned.

Take care

Sean x

What does Easter mean for you?

I enjoy Easter, the indulgence, the family meal and the egg hunt. Though Easter means much more to me than that. For me is is a time of newness and renewal. I had a strong Christian childhood and the passion of Christ dominated this time of year. The amount of people aligned to the Christian faith is currently in decline. 

In the 2001 census 71% of the British population claim to be Christian though as little as 5% attended a Church each week and around 15% attend once a month.

“Almost 80 per cent of children do not know the true meaning of Easter, with a quarter thinking it is to celebrate the Easter bunny’s birthday, a poll has found.”

I even heard of a child who thought Easter was the celebration of the invention of chocolate and, in many ways I guess it is. Children will indulge in an average of more than two-and-a-half kilograms of chocolate over the Easter holiday – taking in nearly 13,000 calories and 650 grams of fat, a survey found and that is a lot of weight on. That is also true for adults as the indulgence begins.

A poll, by mystery shopping company Retail Active, found a typical 200g Easter egg has 990 calories and 50 grams of fat, with youngsters aged 10-14 eating an average of 13 eggs, many of those first thing on Easter Sunday.

So ok, what are we doing here? Where does it all come from?

Before the Christians hijacked the Pagan Anglo Saxon festival of ‘Eostre’  spring time was all about renewal. Some sources suggest Eostre originated in Greece where Eos was a God. In the Germanic cultures the festival at this time of year was known as ‘Ostara’.

The image of the Bunny and the Egg are both representative of the newness of life and the celebration of spring and the new life to come. The Christian story of Jesus and his rebirth from the tomb is representative of the same concept, accepting the Christian message of Jesus suggests that he died to save us all, which is also the idea of new life and renewal.

We seem to currently be in a time of strife on planet Earth. At all levels socially, economically, politically, environmentally, we are facing, potentially, huge changes and in many ways life may never be the same again. As I keep saying whatever happens…

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

Whoever you are and whatever you believe, be you Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, Spiritualist or none of these, enjoy the spring. Look out the window and see the green shoots of spring and the new life to come, be happy and enjoy the summer ahead. Life is to be lived and enjoyed.

Take care and remember to live in the present and look after your self and each other.

Sean x

Gossip, rumours and conspiracy theories 

Social media is full of conspiracy theories. Currently those about Katherine Princess of Wales are rife. There is great interest, in certain groups, as to whether the stories about her abdominal surgery and public appearance and photograph are real or fake. The thing that interests Ed and I is why is it so important? What is it about gossip and rumour that we all get so hooked up in?

In evolutionary psychology it is suggested that the development of language and the depth of language across the world was developed by women. The men were out either hunting or fighting or the like. Such activities require simple language to convey action such as ‘forward’, ‘back’ or ‘go that way’ and so on. While the men were out the women were back at the home, or the cave, and were conversing in a more nuanced way. There conversation were about what was going on between the different groups in the tribe on the basis of ‘us’ and ‘them’. The women needed to know what was going on. It is assumed that this talking, sharing or gossiping required and greater depth of language that was more descriptive than the make simple commands to action. It is also likely that the process of gossiping and considering rumours kept groups or even whole tribes safe. The women knew what was going on or at least what was suspected was to be going on and could pay attention to and respond to it.

Historically when a pregnant lady went for her ‘lying in’ as she was in or coming up to labour she would invite a group of women to accompany her and help her through the experience. The profession of midwife came from this sort of process. However, so did gossip. The women invited to the lying in were known as the ‘gossips’ and attending a labour was known as ‘gossiping’. It was one of the few instances when women were able to be truly alone together without the men and could say and discuss whatever they wanted or needed to. It was from this that the word gossip moved from the simple title given to the participants of this lying in to the concept of people sharing things behind someone’s back. 

The people most effected by this gossip were the men who were excluded from the birthing event and therefore the women were able to talk about them without feeling restrained or the men knowing. Eventually the word gossip was taken to describe this talking behind someone’s back and was seen by men as an exclusively female thing. If you listen to the podcast you will hear Ed admitting to gossiping with his friends. The reality is that all people, men and women, gossip. That is they talk about other people without that person knowing what is being said about them. It is maybe good to mention at this point that gossip, in the sense of what is spoken about someone without their knowledge, behind their back, may not be negative. It could be true or false, positive or negative. People might be talking about someone’s good points and their good qualities. 

So why do we gossip? The assumption by evolutionary psychology is that creating a small gossiping group was a way of bonding the group together. The gossip would normally concern people outside of this small group who would be open to criticism. Yet, we can also be a part of the group and still be the subject of gossip by the group when we are not there. Have you ever walked into a room and suddenly it goes quiet and the question in your mind is ‘what were you all talking about before I came in?’ With the advent of social media the scope for gossip becomes huge and extends beyond a small group in a tribe to include a global or international community.

Is gossip a good thing? 

Over all I would say ‘yes’ but with some caveats. The first being that you need to be aware of is the source. A good source provides us with real and true information. A dodgy source can create negative and untrue conspiracy theories that may cause greater levels of disquiet, conflict and strife.

Gossip can also be an informal stress management. 

If in the workplace we have a colleague or a manager who’s behaviour is difficult, but because of their position we feel unable to challenge their behaviour, then gossiping with colleagues can be active informal stress management. This enables us to let off steam, to off load and deal with the stress and frustration that we are experiencing.  

Yes, it would always be better if we could talk to the manager/colleague directly and give them feedback about their behaviour. This would give them the opportunity to change and that would be a good thing for the entire organisation. Being honest to someone’s face about their behaviour is feedback and doing it behind their back is gossip. It would seem obvious that the feedback route is the more positive but not always possible in which case the informal stress management of gossip does have a valid and useful role. Often it is the positive ethos of the organisation that encourages feedback and a negative ethos that creates gossip.

A couple of years ago during my cardiac illness and hospitalisation Rie and I were the subject of gossip both positive and negative. The problem for those gossipers sharing negatively was that the people that they gossiped to came to us and told us what had been shared about us. This is the one big problem with gossip. It only works as a stress release and informal stress management function when it is kept within the gossiping group. As soon as it leaks out of the group it can become destructive and can even wreck families, relationships, organisation and even governments. 

Social media can be an even greater problem in this regard. We had what was termed The ‘Wagatha Christie’ trial all based around who said what on social media which eventually led to a very public court case. Both in workplaces and in family relationship I am dealing with more and more cases to do with damage caused by what has been said or implied on social media. 

In an online world that has become so immediate it is important that we learn to be more aware of what we are saying and what we are sharing both verbally and on social media. I would include all forms of trolling and accusations or innuendo in this as well. These posts can be the start of an untrue trail of gossip or lies that is shared and then re-shared until it is believed to be the truth and then lives can be completely ruined.

My resource for this podcast is that you re-visit the first three steps of the live in the present course and consider how you see yourself and other people and decide if you need to adjust your behaviour. Remember:

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

It may also be a useful exercise to review and examine your own current relationships both personal and professional. Which of these relationships are conditional? Do you have to act in certain ways for them to be maintained? Such as agreeing with the other person’s views? That may mean that you may need to be seen to agree with gossip about people that you know to be untrue? However, you may need to agree anyway in order to maintain the relationship. In so doing the rumour mill is powered up and the information that you have shared is then shared again and again until it grows into a conspiracy that is then believed as being the truth. 

Perhaps the only counter that we have for negative gossip is to call it out. Now on X you are able to post ‘community notes’ that …

… “aim to create a better informed world by empowering people on X to collaboratively add context to potentially misleading posts. Contributors can leave notes on any post and if enough contributors from different points of view rate that note as helpful, the note will be publicly shown on a post” …

I guess that we could all respond in the same way to posts on any app that we know to be incorrect. We do have a choice as to how much we are controlled by gossip if we call it out.

Going back to where we started I don’t really see what right we have to know anything about Kate’s abdominal surgery or need to know why she was playing Photoshop with her own photograph. And, in the unlikely event that she was using a body double this would say more about us than her! Why would she need to use a body double, not that I think she did, other than to avoid the negative speculation of a negatively gossiping public and press.

Let’s all just play and live nicely.

Take care

Sean x

Good things about where you live

Nanny Pam has just come back from Dubai having had a wonderful time. Now every one is talking about going there. 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 appreciate where we are and what we have? Are we able to enjoy the space that we live in.

I am reminded of the amount of time when Rie and I have been driving around europe and have been spellbound by views and vistas. Yet there are many time when we have noted that we have views like this where we live. 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 was a lovely sunset. But, when I watch the sun going down over Hilbre Island and the Welsh coast I am stunned on a daily basis.

We live on a peninsula named Wirral. It is known as the insular peninsula mainly because people, once they arrive, never leave. I know many people people 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 the sea so that 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 it is a good time to get to know where you live?

I have lived all over the world and only came to Wirral with work and stayed because of Rie, 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 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 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

It’s Valentines Day – Can you feel the love?

Well this week it is Valentine’s again, the day of love, how is it for you? we often have talked about mood boosts and love, feeing loved, being loved and sharing love they are right at the top of positive mood, self esteem, raised energy and wellbeing. The magic is in ‘feeling’ loved. Someone may love you desperately but unless they love you in a way that works for you the you simply will not feel it.

In eastern approaches to personality, psychology and the person the various and individual drives of both giving and receiving love are seen to be described as personality types often termed the chakra types. When we share love or use the word love we all mean different things. What do you actually mean when you say love? To use the word ‘love’ in say, “I love you” or “I’d love a cream bun” have very different meanings.

How do you know that you are loved? 

What do you want your partner, or lover to mean when they say “I love you”? 

Is love for you a simple one stranded thing or is it multi-faceted?

How many strands does it have?

What are they?

It is so strange that someone can love you truly, madly, deeply but unless it is expressed in just the right way so that you are able to receive it then you will simply not feel it, you will not feel loved.

I sit down with many couples in relationship therapy and commonly at some point in their past they both shared their love for each other. The problem, that only came to light later, was that they did not understand what each other meant when they used the word love. They both felt that their partner meant the same as they did. Later they discovered that they were wrong.

Love, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

It is not being loved that is important

It is feeling loved that counts

Example: A common problem

Woman: “I feel unloved and hurt when you fail to put a X on the end of a text”

Man: “That just feels like you are trying to control my emotions. I only put an ‘X’ there when I am really feeling it. It is meaningless if I always put it there because in the end it just means nothing.”

Therapist: “How about if it is important to your partner to see an ‘X’ and if you do love her and care about her would the act of simply adding an ‘X’ be something that you know would make her feel happy and good. Is it therefore not worth doing?”

Sometimes showing your partner that they are loved isn’t egocentrically based around your need to be honest it is about ensuring that the person that you love feels it. To go out of your way, to put yourself out, to get something or do something that you know will make your partner happy is an expression of love.

If your response to the above is something like, “Well, my needs are as important as their’s and if I need not to put a ‘X’ at the end of a text and they love me then they will respect that”, then you are either emotionally immature or need to be in another relationship.

Once you get into relationships it often happens that love becomes a demand and not an act of giving. Success in relationships come from both people giving it is and that both feeling that they receive it. If both people expect love without giving then neither of their needs will be met.

Who is right?  

If it becomes a battle it ceases to be love and becomes acts of possession. Think about your relationship and how you both share your love.

Do you need to be told that you are loved? 

Do you tell your partner?

Do you feel that by saying it too often that you will wear it out and that it becomes meaningless?

Do you feel that by saying you are re-affirming your connection and positive feeling?

Do you do things, that may seem silly or meaningless to you, because you know that it will make your partner happy?

Do you feel that you should only act in love when you feel the love?

In relationships we sometimes need to fake it to make it. Maybe your partner has really cheesed you off for some reason but you still arrange their birthday party and rise above the difficulties. If your partner loves you in the same way they will do the same for you. It is to do with whether or not your love is conditional and demanding or unconditional and giving. In a world where there really is no right or wrong, where there is only a consequence to your action, you need to take responsibility for who you are, for what you do and how you show your love.

I guess I should add that if you pour your love, time and energy into someone who does not love you back is like standing in an ice cold shower tearing up twenty pound notes. Not to be recommended.


How about you ask your partner “How do you know that I love you?”. Or you could get more direct and ask them if there are things that they would like you to do so that they would feel more loved.

There are  two sides of this coin. You might also share with them that when they do certain things they make you feel loved, unless you tell them already.

Think about this for a while. How do you express your love? Not just for your partner but to the other people close to you. Do your parents, brothers, sisters children, friends, community, country, humanity feel your love? 

Love is the magic glue that holds the whole world together just as hate forces it apart. It may be expressed as the law of attraction, as gravity, in the relationship between particles and atoms, it might be in the caring for the sick and needy or it might simply be in a bunch of flowers.

However you share you love, I hope that Valentines Day confirmed the love that others have for you.

Take care

Sean X

The power of your smile

Following on from last weeks look at the potential of global conflict. A listener reminded me of this and asked

‘why don’t we just encourage everybody to smile at each other?’

I love research but when it matches the Ayurvedic theories that I studied in my early training it does make me smile. How is it the the Rishis (scientific researchers) thousands of years ago knew things that we can only now verify with brain scanners. The ancient Ayurvedic science of Mudra explains how the structure of our bodies expresses who we are and the nature of our personality. It also explains the emotional and cognitive relationship between stance, expression and gesture.

Their research explained that when you are in a good frame of mind your brain responds by releasing positive endorphins. This process initiates a neural muscular response that results in you smiling. The muscles in your face around your mouth and eyes respond automatically. Smiling is common to all human beings of all races in every country across the world. Smiling is a universal response.

Smiling also has a social function in that it tells others that we are friendly and not aggressive or that we are going to kill them. As a social signal smiling bonds groups on two levels. The first is cognitive recognition that things are alright and the second is the collective out poring of positive endorphins in the group brain and the corresponding warm emotional feelings that are produced.

Smiling it would seem has been with us throughout evolution as both an expression of inner feeling and as a social signal of group bonding.

The importance here is in the realisation of the synchronicity between brain and face muscles. The relationships is based in that when the brain produces positive hormones the muscles of the face smile. What we now know is that if the muscles of the face force a smile the brain responds by releasing positive endorphins which can make us feel better.
Fake it to make it

Even if you are feeling really down, sad and blue your face looks sad. When you force a smile the nerves and muscles in your face send a message to your brain telling it that things are good. Your brain then begins to responds by initiating the secretion of happy endorphins.

Your brain is unable to tell the difference between whether something is actually happening or if you are only imagining it or, in this case, forcing it.

One physical aspect of a smile, that is so important, are the eyes and the forehead. When someone only smiles with their mouth and not their eyes and forehead it is not a real smile and often feels insincere. For a smile to be real and have the required effect the eyes open wide producing laughter lines in the corners and the fore head crinkles creating lines.

Enter Botox
Consider this relationship between the muscles of the face and the endorphins in the brain. The way it works is as though they are either end of a tube, you can’t have one without the other. Positive brain smiley muscles, smiley muscles positive brain.

Now, what happens if the brain wants to smile but the muscles of the face are damaged or paralysed? The system breaks down. As much as the brain want to create a smile the feedback from the muscles is that the is no smile to be had. When people use Botox they are paralysing their muscles so that there is limited feedback between the muscles and the brain either way. Positive endorphins in the brain cannot create a smile and a responsive smile in the muscles cannot tell the brain that there is something going on to make it worth releasing some positive endorphins.

So now we have Botox induced depression.

As with any addictive type behaviour the problem addiction tends to increase as the effectiveness of the substance diminishes. With Botox the drive is towards creating more positive endorphins, the just person wants to feel good about who they. So perhaps, someone is feeling a bit down about how they look and decide to have some Botox to make them feel better. The drive to feel better is the common emotion behind all addictions.

Because of the muscular paralysis there can be no positive feedback to the brain, the desired effect fails to be achieved. There can be no feedback between the muscles of the face and the brain. In fact it ends up having the reverse effect making the person feel worse not better. They have invested time and money in this procedure to improve the way that they see themselves and their mood.

The standard response in addictive behaviour in such a situation is to try more of the addictive substance because that is what we belief will make us feel better. This is called chasing the dragon in opium dens. The reality is that the more if the addictive substance we use the less is its effect and more we need, or think that we need. This is why all addictions get worse over time. With botox the more that is used the more the problem increases. If the Botox is the very thing that is stopping the positive feedback between muscle and brain we now have what might viewed as Botox induced depression.

For me the self induced disfigurement of Botox, fillers, lifts, piercings and tattoos is a huge sadness. The human form has a natural beauty that emanates the positive feelings and attitudes from deep within us. To mask this natural beauty with what is seen as adornments is so sad and represents yet another way that we use to avoid facing who we are in the drive to make shortcuts to our happiness. But, then as someone who has never been able to get my head around why people need to wear makeup I must own to being out of step with modern social thinking, I have an anachronistic point of view.

Whoever you are and however you choose to present yourself ensure that the end result is increasing your own happiness.

Resource has to be go to the mirror and smile. It will make your feel better.

Take care

Sean X