Anger can be a useful emotion

We often see anger as a negative force. Though it can be a very creative and useful force. When our anger is stuck out the front of us it is in the way. It becomes a battering ram that bashes into other people and becomes destructive. When it is behind us it can be used as a power pack that positively can be a dynamic force that drives us forward and gets things done.

Preparing this podcast I was thinking a lot about how anger can effect each of us. Anger is really just another emotion, it is an energy. However anger is either a productive energy or a destructive energy. Anger can be described with other words such a passion, determination, assertion, drive, irritation, exasperation, vexation, indignation, displeasure, chagrin, aggravation and so on. Though in the extreme anger can sometimes it can tip over into aggression or even violence. 

When we have an anger response to a situation or event we are usually just reacting. Generally reactions are mindless. When we respond rather than react we think about what we are doing before we do it. 

Reactions are mindless where as responses are mindful. 

When we are mindful we realise that it is not what happens to us but it is how we deal with it that makes the difference. It will make it either good or bad. Simply it is the way that we see it. As Epicticus put it…

…we are not in the least effected by events, 

we are effected by our response to those events…

Each day throughout life we are surrounded by difficult news and experiences. As I write this there are huge flood and deaths across Europe. For many people there will be a reaction to these events that will be anger. The same is true for Covid and it’s effects. The world can sometimes seem to be a troubled place. I guess that we could say that the world is always a troubled place but somehow it can seem to be getting a bit worse. Anger and angry reactions seem to be all around us.

For me the reality of Brexit is coming to pass and I don’t like that and it could get more difficult yet. We have destabilisation across the globe and I don’t like that. Then we have North Korea off again producing missiles and winding up the anger of the USA, I don’t like that. I could go on. It seems like there might be quite a lot to let go of over in the coming months and years

Difficult events in the world can bring back a lot of really big negative reactions with many people. Thinking about this took me back to the Manchester bombing in 2017. At that time I had two families that were caught up in the incident. Luckily none of them were physically hurt though they had all seen people who were killed and they were showing high levels of post traumatic stress disorder PTSD. That scar of these events will remain with many people for such a long time. Yet after this event, amongst all the potential for hatred and retribution there came the love and forgiveness of a collective acceptance and forgiveness in concert of those refusing to be cowed by the terrorism. In a deeply emotional experience Oasis sang…

…don’t look back in anger…  

There are no words more appropriate to this event and to our lives.  

We all look back on life, we have a choice of looking at it positively or negatively. We have a mindful choice, do we ruminate and feed the negative events of life with our anger and allow the negativities to grow in our mind and our emotions? There is another option in life that is to feed the positive events of life with our love, ruminate on those and allow them to grow positively in our mind and our emotions.

Just after I started doing this podcast and blog there has been the shooting of a journalist in the Netherlands. On top of that is the apparent growing knife crime here in the UK with several people being killed each week. Every news broadcast tells us things to be angry about. If we are to move on from our anger about any events whatever they are we need to let them go. In general this is termed forgiveness and that idea makes many people feel angry. “Why should I forgive those people after what the did?”

Forgiveness and letting go

We need to let go of whatever is holding us back, of those things that keep us stuck in the past. These negative emotional attachments to unresolved events limit our ability to move forward, they stunt our creativity and weigh us down. To let go, to forgo, to forgive allows us to move forward unencumbered into the rest of our lives. 

Just as in the Step One, from the Live In The Present course and book, we need to let go of all our negative attachments right back to the moment of our birth. Holding onto negative past is a choice, though we may not realise it. In mindfulness we can choose to be different, to let go and enjoy this wonderful thing called life. If you haven’t already done so then visit step one on the website and complete the exercise focussing on any negativity that you are holding and let it go. That mindful journey begins right here, right now. the option is to let go of your negative emotions and attachments and embrace your positive future.

Whatever your faith, religion, ethnicity, nationality, orientation, or beliefs enjoy this moment. As we move into this strange post Brexit, post Covid world we all need to be as positive as we can possibly be with each other. We will be tested and we will need to let go of negative anger and look after each other.

Take care and have a fabulous life and look after each other.

Sean X

Tame Your Anxiety

Anxiety is a good thing. It has kept us safe throughout evolution by keeping us aware of potential threat and danger. Anxiety disorder is when we worry about things may or will never happen. This is a debilitating disorder that may require medication or therapy.

Anxiety has been identified as one of the greatest symptoms of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is expected that this anxiety will be with many people for many years if not for a generation. The important thing is that it doesn’t need to be. Just as we can be vaccinated against a virus we can also be vaccinated against unhelpful emotions. And, just as we can be treated for the symptoms and effects of a virus we can also be treated in the same way for anxiety. I think of it as taming your anxiety.

In the eastern psychotherapy the mind is often described as a monkey. This is the part of our mind that, if left unattended, can run off and create havoc for us. It is the part of your mind over which you feel you have little or no control. Actually, you can tame and control your monkey, it is just that you need to get to know it. This is called self discovery.

Monkeys come in many, and every, variety. Some are mischievous, funny or playful, while others can be negative depressive or angry. When people loose self esteem and self worth it is monkey business. When people become addicted to drug, religion, moaning or misery the monkey is at work. Whenever the mind plays tricks and does things that we do not want the monkey is out to play games with us. Sanity is when we know our monkey and are able to tame the beast and gently get it back into it’s cage and keep it safe and quite.

    The devil finds work for idle hands

The unoccupied mind will allow the monkey to run off and throw bananas at you. They may be bananas of joy and hope or misery and hurt. In human consciousness the most common monkey that most of us need to deal with is the anxious monkey.

Anxiety is simply the fear of the future

The reason we call what we do ‘Live In the Present’ is because in the now there is nothing but the present. When we bring the unresolved past into the present we call it depression and, when we bring unhappened and feared futures into the present we call it anxiety. Anxiety is the fear of what is yet to come.

The only way to overcome anxiety is to live in the present – LITP

Ed and I meet each week and have our own LITP time, it is the podcast. A while ago we were talking about people who do actually have to LITP. A racing motorcyclist travelling at 200 mph must live in the present or die. A moment of not being present can easily lead to a miscalculation and death. Equally a surgeon with scalpel poise over a brain or a heart must LITP to complete a successful operation. In fact anyone who is focussed on who they are and what they are doing is living in their present. But, as soon as they allow their mind to slip into either the past or the future they are lost.

The Mindful Moment

As much as I can my life is lived in the now. My LITP, comes mainly through the practise of meditation. The focus on breath and body is the experience of the present and the current heart beat forms the present just as the last heart beat was the past and the next one will be the future. 

How do you – or can you – live in your present?

Sad to say but, few people really do LITP. Most people are in the depression of the past or the anxiety of the future. The only way to tame anxiety is to discover your way of living in your present. All that antidepressant and anxiety medications do is to dull our sensations. We get the same effect from the self medication of drugs or alcohol. When the medication, drugs or alcohol have worn off, guess what? Back comes the anxiety just as before.

The bottom line is, if you want to tame your anxiety then engage your consciousness into something that excites you, something that makes you feel good. It might be exercise, a sport, a job, a skill, a hobby, a craft, whatever it is you will be focussed in the now, in your now, and you will no longer need to worry about what was or what will be. You will have created a new habit of LITP and you will have tamed your anxiety and be living in the now.

How will you live in your present?

This weeks resource is the Anxiety self help guide available on the site liveinthepresent.co.uk as a download. 

Take care

Sean x

 

Cyberchondria – (Covid-chondria)

Cyberchrondria has been with jus for many years. I always called it Google-itis. It is when the patient or the client has become so well informed about their condition that they often know more about it, or think that they know more about it, than their doctor or therapist. Sometimes, what they think is information can be ‘mis-information’ as the sources of their information maybe dubious and come from any site or chat room on the internet.

According to Laura Donnelly, health editor (UK) Daily Telegraph, 

 

    ‘”Cyberchondria”  is fuelling an epidemic of health anxiety, with one in five NHS appointments taken up by hypochondriacs and those with irrational fears, experts have warned.’

Well that was written before Covid-19 so I expect that there are many more appointments from people fearing that they have a covid related condition. Or it could be that people are avoiding the NHS for fear of catching it. Having had covid and having, what I assume is, long covid, which is not diagnosed as such, do I have Cyberchrondia? This information about the symptoms that I have been feeling are from other people and from the internet.

Cyberchrondia is the modern digital equivalent of hypochondria that is a fear of illness often morbidly so. Usually seen as delusional, often accompanied by the hysterical development of physical symptoms that are dismissed by the doctor or therapist. Sadly I do see, on a regular basis, those with genuine symptoms and concerns ignored by their physician, who suspect them of hypochondria, only to go on and develop full blow and, sometimes, fatal disease that might have been cured if diagnosed earlier. 

If the statistics are true and that twenty percent of NHS time is wasted, the money spent looking after people who are not ill we have a problem…. But, just hold on a minute, maybe we have this wrong and we do have a problem, just not the one that we think we have.

What takes these people to the doctor in the first place?

Why would someone invest so much of their time and energy in worrying about being ill? Ok, so maybe they do not have a physical medical issue but they certainly due have a issue. It might just be called anxiety. 

In my discipline of psychotherapy we recognise that around 60% of those visiting a general practitioner/physician have an anxiety issues rather than or as well as a physical problem. We also know that when patients do have a genuine physical issue it is often exacerbated through their anxiety and concerns.

This does not mean that these people are wasting NHS time because they do not have a issues, they very much do have an issue it is called ‘Health Anxiety’. In covid health anxiety had increased dramatically.

Health Anxiety

All forms of anxiety happen when the consciousness of the individual is projected into their future. They are not living in their present. Fear of flying, is not fear of flying it is fear of crashing, fear of heights is fear of falling and so on.

You need a good imagination

Any anxiety can be defined as the person projecting into the future and imagining things that may never happen and then living those fears in the present as though they are actually happening right now. The better the person imagination the more intense their anxiety. You cannot be anxious without a good imagination. The person with health anxiety is using their imagination to assume and fear the worst and living those fears in the present as if they are true.

Often phobias and anxiety fears run side by side. So that health anxiety can lead to many phobic reactions and changes in behaviour to avoid a supposed or suspected illness or infection. Because of this health anxiety is often accompanied by OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder, the obsessive recitation of actions or thoughts. in reality the need to visit and revisit the internet to Google symptoms and diseases is also a form of OCD.

Symptom substitution 

The problem for these people is not that it may not be ‘health anxiety’ it maybe that they have ‘anxiety’ disorder. When someone has learned the habit of anxiety, living a supposed future in the present, the anxiety will attach itself to whatever is the latest focus of their attention. So now, with covid, it just happens to be health. If we resolve this obsession with covid the anxiety will simply attach itself to something else. So, now we have fear of flying followed by fear of nuclear war, followed by fear of losing a job, followed fear of becoming homeless. The attachments made by anxiety can go anywhere on an endless list of possibilities.

This is a real problem

This is not a fantasy. For the sufferer it is very real. It is not something where you can tell the person to ‘pull yourself together and just stop worrying’. From my experience as a therapist, and from what I read, anxiety is a developing and increasing problem. We can see from these statistics from the NHS and from the information form the office of national statistics (ONS) that amount of hours and days lost to sickness absence due to anxiety is a growing problem. So, if we are to solve the problem the question is why is it developing and what can we do about it? And, accepting that covid is making this much worse.

Life style changes

The person that was, just a few generations ago, driving a horse and cart is now flying a jumbo jet.  The world has changed, we have not. In the preindustrial, pre-urban society we ate what we could grow, foods that were in season and our expectations were less. With industrialisation and production comes choice and we now know that choice is stressful. Research shows us that if, when we are in the supermarket, we have a choice of one hundred different types of cheese, this in itself creates stress for us. If the choice is limited to less that ten types of cheese the stress much less. Think of the level of choices that we all have in all parts of our life. More choice, more decision making, more opportunity to get it wrong, creates more stress.

From the moment you wake to the moment that you arrive at work or school you will have processed more information than your great grandparents would have processed in several months. Life and news is instantaneous. Most of us are contumely connected. We cannot escape it and simply relax. 

Longevity

With improved living standards, nutrition and medication has come a longer life. In the UK we are looking at female death age in the mid nineties and men in the late eighties. In one sense with more time has come more anxiety. Also with longer life has come more disease. Illnesses that a few generations ago people would simply not have lived long enough to get have now become common place. We probably all know someone who has had cancer. We are now told that 50% of us will get cancer. However, we also told that the majority of us will survive it. The message that we focus on will depend on our anxiety. Those with anxiety disorder are likely  to hear “50% of us will get cancer and die from it”. Those without anxiety disorder are likely to hear “most of us will survive it”. There are other aspects of potential anxiety related to longevity such as pensions, financial support and care homes etc. 

Expectation

Along with increased life has come increase expectation. Expectation of wealth and consumerism, an expectation of things, of stuff. Many of us are no longer prepared to save before we purchase we simply rely on credit. Just like anxiety, credit gives us a way to experience the potential future in the present. From car loans and mortgages to credit cards and store cards we live the future in the present. It is then that we experience the pressure, the anxiety of having to pay it all off. The average UK household currently has about £15,400.00 of unsecured credit, that is before mortgages and car loans. (Guardian)

Media

The development of our expectations is mainly fuelled by the media, advertising and marketing. It serves to convinces us that we need things that we have never known about before. The new phone that appears every eighteen months, the lasted model of car, fashion, bags, shoes and consumables. For many fashion equals stress as we are convinced of those things that we just must have. 

News

Alongside media is the news that is broadcast at us every hour of the day. News rarely  ever tells us anything that is good, rather it fires up the fears and anxieties of the listeners. News is rarely balanced. News is about all the bad that is happening and all the bad that will happen next. It feeds our fear and anxiety, it creates anxiety. 

Internet

When it come to health we have Google etc., that does everything from misdiagnosing our symptoms, to making us envious of those wonderful lives that we see on FaceBook and Instagram, to wanting products from Amazon and other online markets. 

Technology

But, we must not forget our need for the devices that allow us to play with the internet. Phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, smart TVs. I wonder what device you are using to read this on? 

Strangely the word ‘chondria’ comes from the Greek meaning cartilage. So hyper would infer an over focussing on the inner tissues hence the medical connection. If we take chondria, in a modern sense to mean “what we focus upon” Cyberchondria makes sense.

As we come out of covid and refocus our attention let’s try and focus on the positive and use the internet to reinforce what is good in life and not keep feeding the fear of what will happen next.

Take care and be happy and whatever your individual chondria is try and make it a positive one.

Sean x

 

Loving Kindness the Practise of Metta

Scientific evidence shows us the positive effects of doing kind acts for others as well as receiving or even witnessing kindness. Neuropsychology measure the increase of the positive endorphins in the brain that enhance our sense of well bing. Even the smallest act of kindness can change a life and it can change your life. 

Kindness week is in mid February. I am using https://www.twinkl.co.uk/event/international-random-acts-of-kindness-week-2022, as my resource for this week’s podcast. However, I am left wondering why we can’t have a loving kindness year or even a loving kindness life. Back to my mantra…

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

The concept of loving kindness is common in most schools of meditation, known as Metta. Metta or a loving kindness meditation often comes at the end of normal meditation practice, though it can used as a full meditation of loving kindness. In Metta we are expressing caring and empathy for other and even all sentient, feeling, beings. Traditionally this begins with yourself and then, like ripples from a pond, it spreads in ever increasing circles to encompass all of creation.

In this blog I am partly quoting from Bodhipaksa who is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, and founder of Wildmind in 2001. Well worth a visit.

http://www.wildmind.org/metta/introduction/what-is-metta

In the current time we need to be building positive emotional connections with all those around us. For many meditators the cons put of Metta is not limited to meditation practice but is a way of life.

Metta is recognising that all sentient beings (including all animals) can feel good or feel bad, and that all, given the choice, will choose the former over the latter. Such contact with feeling implies that there can be suffering for all beings. This is the point where I become a vegetarian. The bottom line for me is that other animals do not have to die in order for me to live and that other animals do not need to suffer so that I can live.

Metta is the solidarity that we have with others, this sharing of a common aspiration to find fulfilment and escape suffering. At this time, dealing with Covid and the aftermath of Covid, we can choose to help others and they choose to help us we could reclaim community. The way that I see it is that if we all work together we can achieve anything.

Metta is empathy which is the willingness to see the world from another’s point of view: to walk a mile in their shoes. When we are consciously awake and aware and switched on we can learn from the experience of other people. When we are consciously asleep and switched off we often have to suffer in order to learn and grow. 

Metta is the desire that all sentient beings be well and are doing well, or at least the ones we’re currently thinking about or in contact with. It’s wishing others well. When we look after others the chances are that they will look after us and wish us well. Creating the positive and peaceful family of community.

Metta is friendliness, consideration, kindness, generosity. Charity is when we offer friendliness and support to others. It may be money though the most charitable thing that we can do I’d to be there for other people when they need us.

Metta is an attitude to action rather than just a nice feeling. It’s an attitude of friendliness but friendliness in action.

Metta is compassion. Compassion means ‘with feeling’. When our loving kindness meets another’s suffering, then our Metta transforms into compassion and we feel and respond to their needs.

Metta is shared joy. When our Metta meets with another’s happiness or good fortune, then it transmutes into an empathetic joyfulness. We feel better and more joyful from having made that compassionate connection with another person.

Metta knows no bounds. We can feel Metta for any sentient being, regardless of gender, race, nationality species, ethnicity, orientation. When trained in psychotherapy we are encouraged to treat all those people that we work with, with unconditional positive regard. We also need to treat ourselves in the same way with unconditional positive self regard.

Metta is the most fulfilling emotional state that we can know. It’s the fulfilment of the emotional development of every being. It’s our inherent potential. To wish another well is to wish that they also be in a state of experiencing Metta.

Metta is the answer to almost every problem the world faces today. Money won’t do it. Technology won’t do it. Metta will.

That last point is so simple, yet is is so true.All the world problems could be solved right now with a little loving kindness. Too often politics and the media go out of their way to reinforce the differences between people. Metta shows how similar we all are, and not just human beings all animals, all of creation.

Have a go at the meditation of loving kindness on the Palouse site and enjoy the other great links, knowledge and facilities offered there.

Here is a link to a full metta loving kindness meditation…    

https://palousemindfulness.com/meditations/lovingkindness.html

Be happy and share your Metta

Take care

Sean x

What is the point?

Turning the covid experience into positive joy 

Following on from recent podcasts this week I want to look at the meaning of life. Many of us see ourselves as not who we but by what we do, which takes me back to the idea are we human beings or human doings. In lockdown, furlough and absence from the work place many people have lost that sense of identity on the basis of, if I am what I do and now I am not doing it who am I? It is a short step from having no identity to feeling that life is pointless. What is the point?

In the work that I do in both private and public organisations the lack of purpose and direction, during lockdown, has created stress that leads to a lack of motivation and feeling of what is the point? Those that feel that they do have a point have managed to maintain a clear direction and purpose, they are more energise and even dynamic. Those that feel that they have a direction and a purpose suffer less from stress related conditions. 

Having a direction is having a purpose.

This can takes us to the fundamental questions of life. When life feels meaningless and we feel we have lost our purpose in life our value can feel diminished. Many people question their own validity and why they are alive.

Question: What is the purpose of your life?

That is a big question and is the one that can create a lot of stress and can lead to… 

Why are we here? What’s is life all about? What happens when we die?

The deal is that we all need to fill in space in between birth and death. We can either find a meaningful way to do that or we can blunder through and try to cope and survive this thing called ‘life’. Often we have no need to think about these deep issue. We are born, we go to work, raise our families and eventually retire. Unless something happens to make us question life then it simply just is.

When we ask the questions why I am alive and what I am supposed to be doing with my life we will get a variety of answers. Biologists tell us that our role is to reproduce. Some scientist tell us that life is just a chance mistake and that we should just put up with it. The religious lobby tells us generally that life is hard and life is earnest and that we are here to learn and grow in a spiritual way and, that if we are good we will get our reward in heaven. One priest told me that we all have “our own cross to bear” and that we should see suffering as a good thing. Hey ho.

It seems to me that life is supposed to be happy thin and that each of us is entitled to our own fulfilment. Suffering to me is a bad thing but there are  those who believe that we all have to suffer. Suffering is a bad deal, I don’t like that and don’t want it, you can keep it.

So, my thinking goes this way. If we are going to live a happy life then we need to devote time to  doing things that make us happy. The question for all of us  is what is it that makes us happy? I guess this is another question point.

Question: What is it that would make you happy?

Despite Covid and lockdown and travel restriction and all the rest of it that will, in all likelihood, go on for a long time yet, we need to find our own happiness.

My life is simple I am happy when I have a supportive family and I can playing music and work with people. Working with people is a large part of my life, it is something that makes sense to me out of the mad things going on in life…

If all look after each other we will all be ok

Working with other people because it makes me feel good, it makes me smile and it gives my life a sense of purpose. If I got more joy from collecting stamps, being in the army or being a mortician I would be doing those things instead. 

As I talk to people as we are going through the Covid experience I see that the change in the way we have been living has made many people question their life. I have seen relationships created or  strengthened and damaged or destroyed. I have seen people create their purpose and start, or plan to start, new projects and businesses. It is as though the suffering and stress of the covid experience has shaken people into making decision and facing up to life.

The extensions of joy

Right now in this Covid madness it is good to take some time to consider your life purpose and meaning and decide what you are going to do with it. The weird thing is that when you do connect with your purpose it really is exciting and creates joy and  inspiration. 

What ever you decide to do with your life let it be joyful, and it is wonderful if the life that you are now living creates your purpose and your joy, cherish it.

Take care and be happy.

Sean x

Truth, Lies & Frustration

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”

George Orwell

George Orwell author of Animal Farm described a political landscape that I am starting to see all around me. I see laws and rule being created only then to see them not being  followed or totally ignored by those people who created them in the first place. The obvious is the fiasco of Dominic Cummings and the Barnard Castle affair.

‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’

In the Orwell story the pigs are the political leaders of the farm community, a bit unfair to pigs but I get her point. The leaders start off by staying that all the animals on the farm are equal. Over time, as the leaders fail to uphold the very rules that they had created they decided to change it slightly. So now, ‘some’, being them, were more equal than others.

Today I have been listening to a business person who is incandescent with rage with our leaders. This is because the restriction rules, that have not ever applied to any of them, are now to be further extended. This is now seen as their intention all along and that they are all a ‘bunch of lying bleep bleeps’. This person who I have previously seen as a mild mannered person is now on the edge of direct action and sounding almost mutinous. Then they quoted Harv Eker at me. Harv Eker is the author of the millionaire mind which is both a course and a book enabling people to reach their desired potential.

‘No one ever changed the world by watching X Factor’

Harv Eker,  famously said this quote. In reality I suspect that no one ever did anything while watching X Factor. Marx once said that religion was the opiate of the people, the thing that kept them quiet and kin their place. I suspect that religion has now been overtaken by the various forms of media that fill our lives and often have the effect of stopping us doing things and being creative.

How many hours do we spend each week doing nothing other that being intoxicated by the media on our phones, tablets and televisions?  Often we watch other people, that the media present to us as icons of success, many of us watch and wish that we were  famous or as rich like them. Yet when we are watching the box we are not doing the things that would give us the very things that we desire. If religion once served to keep us the people quiet acquiescent and in order has television and the media now have taken the place of religion as the social drug that numbs the senses of the public so that most of us do very little and just accept a lot?  

The business person that I was talking to was saying that have all become an apathetic bunch of yes people who now just do what we are told and never question anything. Least of all BoJo and his team.

In a very real way the world is changing. The climate is changing. With Brexit economically and politically things are changing. With Covid 19 plus variants everything is changing.

The only constant thing in life is change 

Heraclitus

The universe that we inhabit is subject to constant the change. We call it evolution or decay. Nothing ever stays the same. However, most change is gradual. Occasionally change is sudden abrupt and intense.

The person who has been sharing their frustrations with me is talking a need to actively do something about the situation. This quite shocked me because they would be seen as a pillar of the community and a part of the constant unchanging landscape of life supporting the status quo come what may. If they are getting in the mood for rebellion, then, I see society in trouble and at a much deeper level that people can imagine.

We seem to be at a point where big change is coming. The problem is that when change happens creatively and productively we move forward together. When change happens without a coherent plan and is imposed on us it can be both devastating and difficult.

Maybe it is not quite the time to man (person)  the barricades but it might not be that fare off.  As I keep saying…

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

Whatever happens with lockdowns and easing the issue will always be the same. We all need to survive this thing called ‘life’. Success at any level of life takes commitment and time and consistent and persistent action. Time to be persistently and consistently kind and we might just make it.

Take care

Sean x

Creating your safe place

At times of stress we all need somewhere to go that is stress free to relax and rest our system. This reduces stress hormone and blood pressure improves mood and makes us happier. At the present time the need to get away from the stresses of everyday life have rarely bee greater.

If you are lucky you have a physical place that you can to and just chill and relax.  It might a special place near where you live. Or it might be somewhere like a room in your house. It could simply be chair or a special corner of a room.

Using a mobile safe space

However if you can’t find anywhere around you there are other options. It may be difficult to create a safe place while you are at work. At home have kids or family to look after. Or you might be in a situation where there is no place to go or nowhere in your home. It is then that you need a mobile safe place that you can access at anytime, anywhere in any situation. This is when you need to go within yourself and create an internal safe place. Then you can simply close your eyes and just go there. The more you visit your safe place the easier and quicker it is to get to.

Safe place and your brain

Right in the centre of your brain is the amygdala. This is a tiny almond shaped organ that is responsible for the stress response that is called ‘fight, flight or freeze’. The amygdala becomes aroused, for reasons often below your awareness. These could be unresolved emotional issues, you may need therapy, or current stressful situations. Then stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released in the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. These are designed to keep us safe as a common reaction to threat and stress that allows us to respond. When the system is often activated in this way we call it anxiety. If the activation is continuous when no real stressor remains present it is described as generalise anxiety disorder or GAD. However the pressures of everyday life can lead to a continued level of stress hormones in our body and brain.

Cardiovascular responses

When our system is in continual stress response of fight, flight, freeze the stress hormones negatively effect our cardiovascular system. The first thing that happens is raised blood pressure. With this come the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Hi blood pressure often underlies many diseases. The second is the with continual levels stress hormone, adrenaline and cortisol etc, can lead to a hardening of the arteries which further increases the incidence of heart attack and stroke. It can also be the cause of vascular dementia. In reality stress hormone is probably the biggest cause of heart attack, stroke and vascular dementia above all other causes.

Relaxation 

In our society many people are doers not be-ers. The ability to just ‘be’ is an art form. When we give more value to what we do and what we achieve rather than how well we can relax and simply just ‘be’ then life goes out of balance. Creating a safe place rebalances the system and teaches us to learn ‘be’ rather than continually doing.

Meditation and a safe place 

The ability to meditate can be part of creating a safe place. Meditating is not doing something though it is actively doing something it is being. To learn to simply ‘be’ through the process of meditation will transform your cardiovascular system and your psychological mood. Making you happier and healthier.  Meditation is a technique, there are many techniques, and creating a safe place is a method using a visualised space that you create in your mind. Both meditation and visualise safe place have beneficial effects on health and mood.

Finding your safe place

If you close your eyes, relax and visualise a safe place where would it be? It could be somewhere that you have visited such as a park or a wood. It might be your family home or a room. It could be complete a fantasy that you have created in your mind. It is somewhere where nothing can hurt and nothing can harm, where all you need to do is to relax, free from the stresses and anxieties of your everyday life. When you visit that space you are completely and utterly safe and secure.

Come to the beach

On the Live In The Present website in the mindfulness toolbox you will find a recording called The Beach. This a guided relaxation/meditation for you to visualise and create your own safe place. You construct your own beach. It might be one that you already know or one that you could imagine would be your ideal, perfect beach. 

Essentially a visualise safe place is somewhere where you can go in an instant at any time where nobody wants anything and nobody needs anything. Where you are completely and utterly safe and completely secure. Where nothing can hurt you and nothing can harm you al you have to do is relax and simply just be. Regular, even daily, use of an inner safe place can be life transforming to the point where people may ask you what is different about because you seem so different and calm.  When you learn to use your safe place you will find that the things that once made you feel stressed and anxious now make you feel calm. This is because they no longer have a negative effect on your amygdala and your levels of stress hormone are now drastically reduced. Pretty good for the investment of twenty minutes a day, and you might even life a longer, happier and healthier life.

Be happy stay safe and enjoy your safe space

Sean x 

Look Back, Let Go, Be Positive, Move Forward

Just take a step back to the same time eighteen months ago, what were you expecting of 2020/21? I doubt that you were expecting was what has actually taken place. As we and our communities are starting to get moving again we need to take the time to stop and do a quick audit so that we can really move forward physically, emotionally and mentally.

Now is time to review.

Our work is all about living in the present so the idea of looking back may seem odd. Yet we often only have a sense of the now because of our awareness of what was in the past. The trick in living the present is to let go of the emotional ties that bind us to the past and then we are able to create the future that we really desire.

Looking back and letting go
So, questions first and then we need to let it go…

1: List all the things that you really didn’t like about the last eighteen months
2: Identify anyone who hurt you made you angry or upset
3: What was the worst things that happened to you?

Letting go
Now write a paragraph about each of the events above stating what you truly feel about them. Light a bonfire or Bar-B-Q. Focus on each of the idea, thoughts and emotions that you have written on the paper, you may need to read each one out loud and then one by one burn each piece of paper while you consciously let go of all emotional attachments that you have to each event.

What is, is over, what was done is, is done. The last eighteen months have past and it will never come back. Let it go, let it pass, and allow yourself to be in the now. If you ruminate and relive negative past it is as though it is happening all over again, all the time, in the present moment – let it go.

Be positive
Look at things the other way around. What positive things happened last year?

1: What was your most positive moment of the last eighteen months?
2: Who was the most positive person?
3: Who helped you the most?
4: What was the best thing that you achieved?

Now, get the journal habit, write down your answer to these positive questions in your journal, and any other positive things that you want to remember about the last eighteen months. Keep your journal with you and add ONLY positive things throughout the rest of this year.

Move Forward
Living in the present, unencumbered by the past, allows you to create the future that you really want, a future the serves you well. Because we know that what you think about you will bring about and that, thoughts become things and, what you feed will while grow and what you starve will die, the power of positive intention allows us to create what we want. All we need is persistent consistent focus and determination.

So, questions, what will you create for yourself in the rest of this year?

1: Imagine it is New Years Eve 2021 and someone is saying a few words about your achievements over the last eighteen months, what would they be saying?
2: if you were to write an affirmation that would support you being able to achieve what you want, what would it be?
3: what will be your greatest challenges that you need to overcome to achieve what you really want?

Journal time again. Write the speech, create your affirmation identify your challenges. Use your journal throughout the year and refer back to it on a daily basis. Allow your ideas, dreams and plans to grow and develop, refine your affirmation, record how you overcame your challenges and, every time something good happens to you record it in your journal so that in a years time you will have a record of all the positive events that you experienced to look back on that will help creat your positive.

Be happy and live n the present and make the next eighteen months better than the last eighteen months.

Sean x

The Importance of Failure

In the last podcast we were looking at people’s fear of returning to the workplace and imposter syndrome. Alongside these fears is the fear of failure. I have been trying explain to people that what we see as failure may not actually be a bad thing, how else do we learn? As my American friends say…

…we don’t have problems we have learning opportunities. 

If we can change the concept of failure to being a learning point then our previous experience of failure can become a positive and not a negative. After all had we not had we not had the experience we would not have had the opportunity to learn the lesson.

The opposite of failure is an attitude

We live in a world of opposites that are totally dependent on each other, one cannot exist without the other. Hot and cold, high and low, rough and smooth, light and dark, happy and sad, positive and negative, rich and poor, good and evil, the list is endless. Yet each of these symbiotic twins are relative to each other. Though they only ever a relative concept. For example something will only seem cold if it is at a lower temperature of what we have labelled hot. Just as something will only seem hot if it is a higher temperature then what we have labelled cold. The difference between these twins is never an ‘actual’ measurement it is a ‘relative’ measurement.

Compared to the ceiling the floor is low. Compared to the sky the ceiling is low. Compared to the moon the sky is low. Compared to the Sun the moon is low. Compared to Alpha Centauri the Sun is low. It is all just the way that we look at it. Our concepts of success and failure have such a profound effect on our self esteem and our ability to function happily in our life. Even if you are on benefits in the UK, you may feel relatively poor but, you are actually in the richest 10% of the worlds population. I worked with someone who felt a failure because all the houses in their street has two cars and they only had one. This type of attitude os known in psychology as relative deprivation. Because it is a relative relationship our experience and beliefs will vary. 

My concept of success might be your concept of failure. 

Let’s say your success is to have one million pounds and for me five hundred pounds would be my success. You may then experience my success as a failure. When the average wage was about £18k I remember being told that is you did not earn £40k you were not even on the first run of the ladder. the ladder was their relative concept of success. Life is not a competition it is a journey. I is not what we have it is what we do that is important.

I have often said that I see competition as a senseless wast of time. My example is that if nine people embark on the 100 metre dash only one person will experience success while eight people will experience failure.

It is taking part that counts not winning

Competitive types tell this is the wrong way to look at it because the eight that didn’t win the race will be driven on to do better next time and become winners. The person who continually comes fourth managed to come third so this is a success. Or one runner improved their time and felt success. In my world to have competed at a high level meeting at all and to come last might be experienced as success and one not to be missed.

Failure could be the mother of invention 

I am reminded of Eddison and his quest to invent the light bulb. His problem was finding the right element that would glow without burning out that would create light. He tried over 200 different elements before he found tungsten that worked. That is over 200 experiences of failure, or was it. I have often thought about his tenacity. At what point would I have conceded failure and given up. Was it that each element that failed spurred him on to try the next in his determination to succeed?

Remember both success and failure are our own individual concepts

I suspect that it is our concept of failure that is vitally important to our achieving our concept of success. Just as there is no up without down, and there is no success without failure. The point from which we start anything is the down point and the goal that we are aiming for is the up point. When we look up to where we want to be we are setting our goal. Achieving our goal is our success and this is often tied up with our self esteem just as not achieving our goal is our failure and leads to a loss of our self esteem.

Learning from our failures

My experience, both personally and working with others, is that that the pain of failure is the spur that creates the energy that drives us towards success. A business person can learn from a bankruptcy so that it never happens again, we come out of a failed relationship with the knowledge that allows us to succeed next time, the injuries that we experience in training enable us to adapt to succeed in our sport.

When failures become learning points we learn and grow

So, I want to challenge the concept failure and the idea of success. In this world of twinned opposites we need to continually learn from one to achieve the other. So, I prefer to think of “failure” as an opportunity. We don’t have failures we have learning points that, if used consciously and creatively, enable us to move towards our success. In that sense there are never problems only opportunities.

Planning our success

Ok, so if we have a starting point and we have a goal we need to make the journey from one to the other. Most people set the goal too high and then don’t reach it. This is then allows them to label themselves self as a failure. To make the journey it needs to be broken down into achievable steps that create the path to success. 

Forward Base you success

Forward basing is an exercise that I use with individuals, couples and teams who need to achieve a goal. You can do this right now in your kitchen, If it is a team I am using a gym hall. On one wall I stick a big sheet of flip chart paper. On this I write where we are up to in the NOW. On the opposite wall I put another sheet of paper. On this I write where we want to get to, this is the GOAL. The next job is to put sheets of paper on the floor that become the stepping stones from where we are now to the goal we want to get to. This is the plan. Each step is set at an achievable distance so that with each step there is the feeling of ongoing success. Once the steps have been set out we then can create a timeline along the wall so that we have the steps that we need to take set in a time frame. This is a plan.

None of this is set in stone. The time frame can vary and the steps can move. If one step is not completed we go back to the previous step and either try again or adapt or change it. The point of forward basing is to create a flow of continued success that builds self esteem and drives us on to our desired goal. When we forward base we are able to use success rather than failure as the drive towards our goal.

1: What do you consider to be your failures?

2: How can you turn these into useful learning points?

3: If you were to forward base what would you write on the NOW sheet and what would be on the GOAL sheet?

4: From this you can create your steps and your timeline.

Failure, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder only you can define your failures and acknowledge your successes. In my own life I have had many learning points. The only failures that I would Identify have been when I didn’t attend to the learning points and then needed to repeat the lesson. I also acknowledge that I have had many, many successes and that makes me a happy person who feels successful.

Take care, be happy and successful 

Sean x 

Do you feel like an imposter?

Self doubt seems to be the new lockdown lurgy. 

I have working with so many people who over lockdown that have lost their self confidence. The fear of going back to the workplace can make people feel vulnerable. Their role and the position they have held in the organisation, often for many years, seems daunting to the point where they feel like they are an imposter or a fraudster. For some this has not only been about doing their job but now simply living their life. This is the seed of anxiety that can lead to them becoming over alert and vigilant leading to feelings of anxiety. When we develop anxiety it can get us to the point where are now beginning to make the mistakes we were fearing we would make in the first place. It is that age old principle that ‘thoughts become things’.

What we think about we bring about

The feeling of being a fraudster or an imposter is much more common than we realise. I deal with it all the time as people feel that they are living and unreal or dishonest lives. Right now as we are trying to come out of lockdown it is on the increase. I have seen GPs, consultants, surgeons, directors, chief execs, actors, performers and worriers in a variety of industries feeling that they cannot do whatever it is that they have been doing for many years. There is an internal conflict and inner doubt. It is as though logically they know they are okay at their job but emotionally they feel that they just can’t do it any more.

Self doubt can be destructive and is often intimidated by other people or circumstances as we have seen from the effects of online trolling and domestic abuse. It can happen after redundancy, divorce or even retirement. The prolong absence from the workplace in lockdown has, for some, had a similar affect. However it is not all bad.

Some self doubt may be a good thing

I believe that a healthy level of self doubt is not only a common thing but, I would maintain, is a positive things. It is powerfully useful to question what we do so that we can review and improve ourselves. It is that mindful magic of being able to observe ourselves positively, not critically, and respond and change as is appropriate to be a better version of who we are.

Arrogance is not confidence

We can mistake the ‘knobby know it all’ for someone who lacks self doubt. However, when someone feels that we are always right some people can then see this as confidence. Sadly, those that need to be always right usually lack the confidence to be questioned or to question themselves. It can be short journey of confidence to arrogance. Once we feel that we know it all we have no where to go and nothing to learn. At that point we become emotionally and mentally stunted and tend to disconnect from those around us. If I believe that I know everything then you have nothing that you can tell me or show me therefore whatever you say is really meaningless.

Of course there are people who are genuinely confident and people who do genuinely know a lot of things. The truly confident person is secure enough to question themselves and to allow other to question them without feeling insecure or reacting emotionally.

Are you confident?

Where does your confidence come from? Or where does you lack of confidence come from? For me, I think that in the first instance it is down to the parents and our upbringing in the early time of life. This is when we establish the foundation of who we are. Unless something happens to make us review and reprogram then we just carry on the same story line for the rest of our life.

Reactive anxiety

We may lose confidence in who we are or what we do at any time in life. This is often a reaction to an event. It could simply be that after a car accident we now question our ability to drive, or for a surgeon following a patient death, an actor who get bad reviews, a sales person who fails to hit their target, a mother who can’t stop her baby crying, the list is endless. The stimulus will vary but it happens when what we thought could always do, or when the things that we did without even thinking are called into question or simply no longer work.

This sense of failure happens to most of us at sometime and then we question our own ability and that is when we can then feel like an imposter. Everybody else sees us and the situation as business as usual and they do not see what is going inside us. If we dare to share with other people what we are actually feeling we often get a ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘don’t be so stupid’ message. ‘There’s nothing wrong with you’. This does change how we are feeling.

Emotion and mind

A developing sense of imposter syndrome can develop from a conflict between our thinking and feeling. The thinking self knows that we are qualified, experienced and capable but the emotional self adds in just that little pinch of doubt. It is then that we can begin to feel like a fraud, that we stupid, incapable.

Mindfulness

I am in danger of sounding like ‘mindfulness fixes all’ though it is usually true. When we have imposter syndrome it is an anxiety and we know that anxieties are learned behaviours which if left alone become our habits. We may begin to learn the concept that we are a failure or that we got it wrong through direct experience or from other people that are influential in our life such as parents, partners, bosses and so on. When we engage in mindfulness we can observe what we are thinking, feeling or doing and we can decide whether or not we want to feed this idea with our attention or starve it by letting it go. 

‘What you feed grows and what you starve dies’.

Perhaps most importantly in mindfulness our observer self can observe our thinking self and our feeling self. Also it can observe what other people are saying to us and how we react to it. It is this observer self that gives us the ability to choose to respond rather than to react. We can then decide whether or not we want to own the feedback that other people are giving to us. Most importantly we have choice.  It is when we have choice that we have the potential to change. If we cannot see the choice then there will not be any change.

In the extreme when we feel unable to shift the negative feelings that make us feel like a failure or an imposter we may need to see a therapist or do a mindfulness or self development course. Most importantly we do not have to put up with it we can change it.

If you are going back into the workplace try and go in with an open mind and pre-empt what might happen. Remember that most of the workforce will be feeling exactly the same things and may need our support to get back into it.

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

Take care, be happy and be yourself.

Sean x