Saturday, 15 November 2014

Iconic children's TV shows, often recalled with great affection

The arts have a unique ability to transport our mind off to faraway places, to excite our imagination and invite us to enjoy experiences, responses, emotions, we might never get the chance to do, in our day to day lives.  This can be particularly powerful for children.

My childhood was nothing like the idyllic scenes often portrayed in literature and film, but the magic of creative, inspiring, often pioneering kids TV, made life not only bearable, for me, but, at times, thrilling beyond belief.

Here are 3 shows I recall with particular affection:

The theme tune from the original "Belle and Sebastian" TV show actually makes me quite tearful, even now! It featured a little orphan boy and his deep attachment to a (not very scary) wild dog that roamed the mountains, which everyone was always trying to kill. A film, adaptation was released in 2013, but lacked the charm of the 1960s black and white episodes.

Innovative, in so many ways - exceptional writing, which incorporated elements of the eerie supernatural, along with transcendental mysticism, and a cast to die for!  It starred protagonist, Tarot, a heart-stoppingly dishy stage magician with psychic powers, and featured various side-kicks (Mikki, a journalist, and her brother, Chas, a photographer - in the 3rd series).  Running from 1970-1972, with series 3 repeated in 1973, everything about these episodes was cool, from the far out graphics in the title sequence, to the theme tune by Andy Brown and the iconic, stylish presentation. So many hearts broken, when a promised series 4 never materialised, I'm sure this is one show that could be successfully resurrected and lovingly reworked for a modern audience, because it remains, for many of us, the best TV show ever made for adolescents!

A one-off serial, that ran over 7 episodes in 1977, and which combined the sinister world of the occult with some rudimentary cosmology!   While protagonist Matthew Brake, naturally, lacked the obvious sex appeal, charisma and kudos of Tarot, he sort of reminded you of the irritating nerdy kid at school, everyone ridiculed, but you often had strange, secret dreams about, because your subconscious always regarded intellect to be utterly enchanting!   (To this day, if a man says "phantasmagorical" I have to stop myself swooning!)  Writer, Jeremy Burnham published a long-awaited sequel novel, "Return to the Stones", in 2012, which took me right back to being a teenager, and it's surprising, once again, this hasn't been updated, to appeal to a new generation of viewers, because the writing is exceptionally good.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Earth in True Perspective - We need to make the most of this beautiful moment in time

Earth in True Perspective

This taken from baba mail page

Everything is relative. You don't need to be Einstein to understand that. A human is as big to an ant as a building may be to him. However, the world always seems such a huge place; so many countries, cities, forests, oceans, lakes, icebergs. So many animals and species. So much history.

But ever since we developed the ability to look beyond our atmosphere, it became more and more apparent that our blue marble is tiny. Too tiny to even comprehend, when compared to other planets, stars, galaxies and the universe itself. So just to give you an idea of how tiny we really are here on planet earth, here are some visual aids.

Given that there is an infinite (or near infinite) number of galaxies, stars, planets, it is impossible to comprehend that intelligent life, in some form or other doesn't exist, or has never existed or will never exist. Only religion can be true, for that to be a fact, which is something of a contradiction in terms really.

So assuming intelligent life does exist or has existed or will exist on other planets (if religion is not a fact) this means to the vast majority of the universe, I do not exist yet, or have existed and I'm now dead.

We need to make the most of this wonderful coincidence that we all happened to be living here on this single planet, in this single beautiful moment in time, and pool our resources including love, especially love, to make wonderful things happen, even if they are gone in a universal blink of an eye.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

To be Sartrean is to have courage, and the anxiety he talks of comes from knowing you do not have the option to just blame someone else. Every decision you make is something to judge yourself by.

I am a Sartrean, to a large extent, but I think most people struggle with the concept that we are free to make any choice we like, but we have to live with the consequences of our actions and take full responsibility for everything we choose to do (and this is the ultimate autonomy I have often talked of.)

In my experience, most of the people I have known, certainly known romantically, struggle to find the courage to accept full responsibility for the things they do in life. They prefer to blame external factors or blame others or say they were pressurised into things, and therefore they have a lifetime of regrets. I don't think a Sartrean can ever really have regrets. You do what feels right at the time, and have to come to terms with those decisions you made along the way.

To be Sartrean is to have courage, and the anxiety he talks of comes from knowing you do not have the option to just blame someone else. Every decision you make is something to judge yourself by. So being Sartrean requires, I would say, immense personal integrity, to have good judgement in your decision making because your whole sense of self is coloured by what you decide to do.

And that's why most people don't seem to like him, but I absolutely love him. That learning to accept who you are, your limitations, maybe, leads to healthy self-love - and this where JAMism takes over from Sartre's version of existential philosophy.

Obviously I share his leanings towards Marxism, or my own take on Marxism (not Marx's version or Sartre's version of Marxism, mine can only ever be my reality of Marxist philosophy) and increasingly I find I share his view on the pointlessness of marriage, and a desire to find something which is less about owning another person, and more a cerebral coming together which then manifests itself in physical ways, and is never about feeling obliged to stay, which ultimately most marriages seem to end up being, as far as I can see. 

There is lot of insecurity in most marriages and although Sartre talks a lot of anxiety and despair, ultimately you would not feel insecure or any need to coerce or possess another person, not even your own children. They have to be free in their own right, and you have to be free of them on some level, though of course we have a moral responsibility to them when they are young. But I know so many parents who are hoping their children will grow up to have the parents' values and this is completely contrary to Sartrean thinking. You have no ethical right to want to control what your children might or might not be.

Again, one has to have enormous personal integrity not to need to actively influence one's own children. But it can be done. I think I've achieved a version of this, and people often think I'm a very odd parent. I totally accept my sons' own right to be their own person, I have never once said or even thought they should have one set of values or another set of values. They are completely free, or as free as it is possible to be,to be their own person and to make their own life choices. It has never been my place to pass judgement on them, or them on me...

I can also come across as incredibly pious... but my values are just for me, I don't expect anyone else to have my values.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The 7 Stages of Grief and Loss explained

This is an update of a blog I wrote last summer.

I have been pondering loss a lot recently, watching the heartbreaking carnage and devastation which is going on in Gaza right now.

I've been thinking about how we, as observers, are experiencing the losses our Palestinian brothers and sisters are having to cope with day by day, hour by hour.

I know what it's like to lose a child.  But in my case the little girl was born dead and I had never had the opportunity to develop a relationship with her outside of the womb.  As any mother will tell you though, we certainly did develop a deep bond, through the 8 months I was carrying her, and losing her was almost too much to bear.  I could actually feel my heart breaking as the very lovely male midwife explained there was no foetal heartbeat, the baby had died, and we would now have to go through a very emotional labour and birth, knowing the only conclusion of that experience, would be me saying goodbye to my son or daughter.

So, I know what it is like to lose a child in those circumstances.

But I cannot begin to imagine the sense of abject, incomprehensible devastation of losing a son or daughter, who was alive and happy and well, a few hours ago, and has been killed, perhaps horribly maimed so that he or she is not even recognisable now, because a country has decided to inflict war on your people, misery on your family, extermination on your child.

Who could begin to understand what that must feel like, apart from other grieving mothers and fathers in Gaza.

But of course, I am hurting.  Like millions of others around the world, I feel a gaping wound open up, every time I see another son or daughter lying lifeless in the arms of the mother who cherished them, or the doctor who tried everything they could think of, to try to save them.

In the original article on Grief and Loss, I used a number of scenarios to explain what is going on at each stage of the grieving process. Now I am going to add in, what is probably happening when we are experiencing viewing these awful, mindless acts of death and destruction.

To try and make sense of that which is shocking us every time we see another image.

Many of us will have heard of a theory that states there are 7 stages of loss and grief (some psychologists say 5).  The belief is that we go through 7 different phases of dealing with any loss in our lives, and this theory relates to all kind of loss, from the relatively mundane, such as losing our car keys, to the enormous losses we all have to face in life, such as the breakdown of important relationships and the death of cherished loved ones.

Although these stages go generally in order, we may find ourselves hopping back to previous stages, and if people get stuck on a particular level, this is when there can be a sense of hopelessness, this is often the point at which someone will consider counselling to help move them on.

I will try and explain what is happening when we experience any sort of loss, including loss experienced by someone we care about or feel connected to.  Because the human brain is full of mirror cells, which enable us to empathise and experience other people's pain as if it were happening to us.

Here are the examples then:

  • losing your house keys
  • losing a job
  • end of a relationship
  • witnessing the death of a child in Gaza

The 7 Stages

1)   Shock

You're simply stunned by the event of the immediate loss.
Inability to even comprehend what has happened, senses in temporary shut-down.
"God!!"  "Shit!!"

2)   Denial

Inability to accept what's happened.  "Everything's fine!  "This can't be happening!"

Keys - They're here somewhere, pocket, bag, kitchen table!
Job - They can't sack me, they've made a mistake, someone will come in and take us over!
Relationship - She hasn't actually left me, she'll be back!
Death of Palestinian child - It's not as bad as it looks.  The pictures are all doctored.  There's two sides to every story.  It's more complicated than people think.  Distraction techniques to relieve symptoms of stress, such as watching reality TV or reading celebrity gossip magazines. Using drugs or alcohol to numb the pain.  I don't understand the situation in the Middle East.  I don't like politics.

3)   Anger

Lashing out, losing emotional and physical control, looking for someone or something to blame for the loss.

Keys - Who moved my keys! This always happens when you make me late!
Job - It's the managers' fault for losing contracts!  I blame immigrants! I hated that job!
Relationship - She never loved me!  She only wanted me until someone better came along!
Death of Palestinian child - It's all politicians fault!!  IDF/Hammas are to blame!  Arguing with people online.

4)   Bargaining

Making internal deals with yourself or someone else, or with God.  If the situation changes, the outcome will change.  Pledging to make sacrifices for a better outcome.  Revisiting the physical place of loss in the hope of a different outcome.

Keys  - I had them in the kitchen, they must be there!  OK, I'll pick up your mother, now where's my keys!
Job - I'll take a pay cut.  I'll work longer hours.  Don't sack me, sack them!
Relationship - I'll change!  Marry me!  Let's have a baby!
Death of Palestinian child - Being completely preoccupied with media, in the hope of positive news. Cutting off friends and family who don't sympathise with the suffering. Going to church, lighting a candle and saying a prayer.

5)   Guilt

Taking on all the blame for the loss.

Keys - I should have put them on the hook.  I should have got a spare set cut.
Job - It's because I had time off for my bad back.  It's because I'm 49.
Relationship - I took her for granted.  I mess up every relationship I have.
Death of Palestinian child - I should be there in Gaza trying to help.  I should be more vocal than I am.  I should appreciate my own children more. I should have voted in the last election.  

6)   Depression

Overwhelming sadness, physical and emotional withdrawal from life and family and friends, loss of hope, despair.

Keys - I can't be bothered to look any more.
Job - I'm never going to find another job.  I'm on the scrap heap now.
Relationship - No-one else will ever want me.  She was the only one for me.
Death of Palestinian child - The world is heading towards Armageddon.  All world leaders are corrupt. Ordinary people can't overpower governments.  (There may be a return to the denial phase at this point, distraction with drink, drugs, sexual promiscuity, reality TV, shopping)

7)   Acceptance

Coming to terms with what's happened.  Acknowledging the impact of the loss while recognising life has to move on.  Appreciating how valued the object, situation or person was and ultimately a sense of hope that there will be happy times again in the future.

Keys - I guess I'd better get another set cut after work then.
Job - Let's organise a leaving party, and stay in touch after the redundancies.
Relationship - We had some good times, but it just wasn't meant to be. Joining dating sites.
Death of Palestinian child - Joining groups which share your views and have positive plans.  Co-operating to make an effective protest.  Boycotting Israeli goods and companies associated with the occupied territories. Finding places to purchase Palestinian goods to support their economy. Donating money to a worthy charity. Thinking about practical ways society can be made better, safer, more secure for that region and all children everywhere. Creating a memorial.

Of course, some losses are much easier to come to terms with than others, but the belief is, that we will still go through each of these stages as we process the emotions associated with the loss.  So in some cases we'll go through all 7 stages in one hour or one day, in more devastating circumstances, it will take months or even years to feel like life is moving on.

Sometimes, people might find they always get stuck at the same stage of grief, such as anger or bargaining or guilt, and whether they're dealing with failing an exam, or losing a train ticket, or having an argument with their spouse, or missing out on promotion at work, they just can't seem to process the loss beyond that stage.  And that can be a good indication to get extra support, and go and talk to someone about what keeps happening.  Because if we can't fully process loss, it's harder to commit to things in the future, without this fear of having to deal with an ending one day.  And that fear of loss and endings, might not be conscious, so we recognise what's going on in our minds and hearts, it could be completely unconscious, and we don't even know why we are always the the one who dumps the other one, in relationships, or why we always walk out on a job.

In terms of death and mourning, as a general guide, psychologists and counsellors would expect it to take about 2 years to come to terms with the death of someone close, who is actually in our lives, a parent or grandparent, sibling, partner, child or close friend.  When the first set of anniversaries come around, their birthday, wedding anniversary, anniversary of their death, we can find ourselves back at the anger stage for a while.  By the second anniversary, the sense of loss will usually have lessened considerably and be replaced with some level of hope.  When people are still deep in mourning, 2 years on from the death, some benefit might be gained from getting help with coping with the sense of grief.

As I write this, of course, my thoughts and love are with the people of Gaza.  We continue to apply pressure for a peaceful resolution and a fair future for all Palestinians.  -xx-

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Kelly McGonigal TED Talk : How to make stress your friend

Incredible TED talk given by health psychologist Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal talks about the biological response we know as stress, and how it's been drilled into us from health care professionals that stress is bad for our health, to the point where  so many people are getting stressed about being stressed.

She offers scientific evidence to back up the value of a more natural relationship with stress, so that we are again in control of our bodies.

She talks about my favourite hormone, Oxytocin, and its role in promoting physical resilience to stress.

Brilliant lines from her talk!
  • When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage 
  • And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience
  • Stress gives us access to our hearts
  • The compassionate heart finds joy and meaning in connecting with others
  • Under stress, your pounding physical heart, works hard to give you strength and energy  
  • And when you choose to view stress in this way, you're not just getting better at stress you're actually making a pretty profound statement   
  • You're saying that you can trust yourself to handle life's challenges 
  • And you're remembering that you don't have to face those challenges alone

Now watch her talk for yourself, and see if you too, can start to feel differently about stress!

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Secret To Staying With Someone Forever Is To Keep Falling In Love (And Never Stop)

You’re not exactly sure what’s going on. Your heart keeps racing, regardless of whether or not you’re in this person’s presence.

Thoughts flood your mind, making it difficult to focus on anything other than the person in front of you.

This person is there with you throughout the day, keeping you company in your moments of solitude.

You can’t let go of him or her because this person has somehow managed to seep through your pores, fusing and making the distinction between you and this person a little more than shadow.

You’re falling in love, and the world finally just started spinning. The moment you realize what it is that you’re getting yourself into is the moment that you take a fresh breath of life and begin living.

Falling in love is the most memorable moment of your life – each and every time it happens. In life, you should never stop falling in love because the moment that you do, the colors start to fade.

We’re cursed to forever draw comparisons between new experiences and memories.
Just as much as it is advantageous, having the ability to prop two things side by side, compare them and analyze them, is also what damns us to a life riddled with sadness and disappointment.

Accepting that the lows in life are necessary for the highs isn’t built into our nature.
We are creatures who never want to lose. We never want to lessen our holdings, our place in the world and social circles.

We are individuals who fear loss. When we take a look at experiences we’ve had and emotions that we’ve felt, we compare them to what it is that we are feeling at the present moment.

While memories allow us to look back fondly, they simultaneously lessen the pleasure that we receive from what we are now experiencing.

Because we hate losing, we love the idea of always rising higher, always getting more, experiencing something novel and, above all else, improving.

We’re in a constant competition with ourselves trying to outdo our pleasant moments in life with more pleasant and more memorable ones.

All of this, however, is an illusion – a trick that we play on ourselves. And it’s this constant pursuit of that higher high that will make you feel as if you’re constantly on the losing team.

To win in life and to form a successful partnership, you have to learn to appreciate the uniqueness of every moment you live.

Every little thing that you see and experience in life is different from everything else that you have ever experienced.

No two seconds in your life will ever be the same. No two moments will ever taste exactly like another, nor will you ever again live this very minute of your life.

We all live on borrowed time. The person you are this very second is not the person you were the last.

The difference may be minuscule, unnoticeable even. Yet, a difference there is. When looking over a wider span of time, it’s readily noticeable how much we change as people.

This very same principle applies to every person in the world. It applies to your friends, your family, your colleagues and your lovers.

Every moment you spend with the person you love is a moment you will never get back.
It’s a moment in time that ceases to exist as soon as it comes into being.

The time that you have with the one you love is time that you ought to cherish, regardless of how it makes you feel compared to how other moments in your life made you feel.

What you once felt is gone. You can’t live in past, allowing fossilized emotions to influence your decisions. What you are feeling right now is the only time in your life that you will feel exactly that way.

This moment is unique. It isn’t duplicable and therefore it should be appreciated.

Because we take each moment for granted, we lose sight of the fact that love is a living thing that needs to be nurtured.

The secret to loving, lasting relationships is simple. You need to fall in love with the person all over again and do so as often as possible.

We all remember that moment when we come to realize that this stranger we met not too long ago holds great value to us, the moment we realize that we care about this person as much as we care about ourselves.

This magical moment will almost certainly never be as magical as it was the first time around. When you fall in love with someone the first time, the novelty of it all intensifies the experience.

It raises your awareness of both the individual you love and the emotions you’re experiencing.

The first time will always be the most intense of times if only because of that extra stimulant.

This, however, does not mean that falling in love over and over again with the same individual isn’t possible.

All it means is that falling in love with this person will never feel the same as it did the first time around.

It will feel different each and every time and it will be for different reasons, under different conditions and circumstances.

Nevertheless, falling in love continuously over a lifetime with that single person is not only possible, but necessary in order for you to be part of the sort of relationship you’ve always dreamed of.

What you cannot allow yourself to do, however, is to spend time comparing the way that you are now feeling to the way that you felt initially when Cupid struck his arrow.

Doing so will only nullify the emotions that you should be feeling. The past will drown out the present if you don’t learn to love the moment for what it is alone and nothing else.

Don’t run from fear of losing love. You can’t lose it. You can only stop creating it. 

Originally appeared at Elite Daily
Photo Elite Daily

Monday, 14 July 2014

How can a woman possibly write a play about a homosexual love affair?

"....Number one, Rob - I don’t "fuck" your daughter. And number two - I’d finish with Daisy tomorrow if you asked me to. It’s you I’m in love with, you know it is…."

So, people have asked me, how can a woman possibly write a play about a homosexual love affair... which is a fair question to pose... I suppose...

But it's not a play about gay sex.

It's a story about love.

And in this particular story the two humans who fall deeply and very passionately in love with one another happen to be men.

It's not really a piece of erotica, there aren't great long scenes focusing on the mechanics of homosexual sex...

As far as the play is concerned, sex is sex... love is love...

The emotions we experience when we fall desperately, and very genuinely in love, tend to be the same, whether we are young or old, male or female, trans, gay, straight, bisexual...

The craving...

The euphoria...

The insecurity...

The jealousy...

The ache...

The longing...

The sleepless nights and the desperate days...

The hopes...

The dreams...

The ridiculous fragility of it all...

I know more about love than almost any other subject, or state of being.

I know much of the neurology - The physical architecture of the brain in love

I know lots of the ecstasy - the blissful sensation of achieving totally mutual, unconditional love...

I know even more of the misery - the feeling like a physical tear in your heart when your love is not reciprocated... the torture of unrequited love....

And these are my credentials for exploring and writing about love...

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Thought Field Therapy

Do you suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, stressful feelings when you have to do certain tasks or deal with certain people?  Then why not give this a go!!

Recently, I was offered a session of Thought Field Therapy, by a friend and colleague.  I'd heard that by "tapping" the meridian points, past trauma, anxiety and phobias could be healed in a single short session, typically lasting less than thirty minutes!  

Thirty minutes!  I hear you say!  As opposed to weeks or even months of traditional counselling! Surely this is simply too good to be true!!

But I experienced it for myself.  My own session lasted about ten minutes and took place in my lunch break between running two support groups. I can't explain really how it works, what I can say is, the anger and resentment and fear I had felt for years, when thinking about a particular experience I went through quite a long time ago, appears to have vanished.  I keep waiting for the anxiety to re-emerge, or expecting to have nightmares about the trauma, but three weeks on, it seems to be gone.  

Like most other therapists, I've had hundreds of hours of counselling in my time, mainly through my three year training period, and nothing has come close to the impact of this!  I'm certainly thinking of training in it myself, because there are so many people who would benefit from this sort of, largely non-intrusive, therapy.  I didn't even have to say much about what my own traumatic memory was about, I just had to recall it, in my own mind so that the feelings could be re-experienced.  I went from an anxiety level of 7-8 to an anxiety level of 1-2!

I actually found a therapist who had posted a brief video online, and she talks you through the routine - so do try it yourself.  I found I had the greatest success when I had a therapist actually there with me in the room. I was stunned with how effective it was.

I still am stunned...  Give it a go...

If anyone would like the contact details of the therapist I had a session with, whom I highly recommend, just email me or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter ,

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Gaining deeper fulfilment in life by looking at the things that really matter to you

I read a fascinating and insightful article recently, which sought to explore why so many people in the liberated western world might be feeling so unfulfilled in their lives, when we actually live in an age where there is so much opportunity open to us, far more than was open to generations who came before us.

While most of us have to do some form of work, to some extent we are free to follow our own career path, we're no longer expected to have the same job our parents may have had, for instance or conform to societal norms - men can be primary school teachers and nurses, women can have a full career in the military, or on the sports field, or in the boardroom. Opportunities are still not entirely fair, but the situation has moved on unrecognisably from what people put up with thirty or forty years ago.

Most of us, are sexually more liberated than our parents and grandparents were.  With less anxiety over unwanted pregnancy and less stigma regarding abortion and single motherhood, women and men can choose to have or not have children, to suit their life circumstances.

Thirty years ago, if you believed gay people, bisexual and transgender people should have the right to marry and raise a family together, your views were unlikely to have been shared by most people in your community, but these days, thanks to a lot of tireless campaigning to make society a more tolerant and emotionally richer place to exist, most of the people we live among, do agree with the Equal Marriage bill.

There's less racism, less misogyny less religious oppression, we're free to travel all over the globe and we can go to college to study pretty much any subject that takes our fancy. We can communicate instantly with friends and loved ones anywhere in the world, we can even see their faces as we have conversations with them, we have relatively open access to sports stars, people from the world of music, the arts and politicians alike.

We have access to more information than we could ever need or devour on any issue we're interested in and we can connect with that information at the click of a button, or increasingly, the tap of a screen, day or night and usually for free.

So why do people report lower levels of satisfaction and contentment now, then studies before have revealed?

One suggestion, is that people are trying to meet internal needs by fulfilling external goals. If I have a newer car, another pair of shoes, the latest iPhone, a prettier girlfriend, a richer husband, a better paid job, a nicer apartment, a thinner waist, a fuller bust, I will accept myself more, I will admire myself more, I will be happier. Well that is the belief.

But our deeper needs, as human beings, are emotional, not material. Self-acceptance and respect can really only come from within, who you are and how you feel about yourself, not how you feel about a new BMW.  You can't relate to a motor car, only do something with it or to it. A slimmer body or a new nose will not necessarily make you more desirable to the opposite sex, or the kinds of people you wish to be attractive to. Anxiety about needing to look a certain way might even change your natural personality and actually make you less desirable to some people. Promotion at work and a higher salary can bring added stress, longer hours and so on. If the money was the main attraction, which it often is when it comes to work, you might come to realise time with your family or friends was actually more valuable to you and start to resent the new job and bigger pay check.

It is hard, if not impossible to achieve those deeper levels of satisfaction and fulfilment which give life meaning to you, from external factors, whatever the advertisers may tell us. But it is possible to look at the things you are focussing on, the physical goals and desires, and you can look at what emotion within yourself, you are hoping the object or new situation will evoke within you, and find different, deeper, more meaningful ways to achieve that need.

A need to leave a relationship, might be more about a sense of internal entrapment. In what ways are you stopping yourself from feeling free, for someone else cannot enslave us, we carve our own prison bars.

We can travel the world or study the universe and yet never understand ourselves, as if we are always searching for an answer out there, but the question is deep inside, so we're constantly trying to solve the wrong equation.
Some people are so busy making plans, ticking off lists, too busy to stop and experience life in the present because everything is about achieving something in the future. The problem with searching for satisfaction in the future tense is, the future only exists as a concept, you cannot live in the future or love in the future. As soon as your perfect future has arrived, it's the present momentarily and then it is the past.  As soon as the goal is reached, if often becomes meaningless.
And others seem driven to try to find a state of being which is only ever happy with no darker emotions like disappointment and anger and irritation or guilt. But real lives are interactive and constantly changing from one second to the next. We cannot possibly control all those variables out there, which some endeavour to try to, we can only learn to accept the negative with the good stuff and to not mind that we had a row with the boyfriend when we were both tired or we arrived at work five minutes late because the bus broke down or our child was sick this morning.

We have to learn to live with and love our bodies, the chances are, if we are a relaxed happy person our lover will adore our bodies and be too busy enjoying time with us to think for one moment about whether our breasts are exactly symmetrical or whether the woman next door is two dress sizes smaller. If he is so shallow he is more turned on by the label in your dress than the curves that hug that dress, perhaps he should start chatting up the women next door, he doesn't deserve you! You need to be with a man who loves you, the real you, that might mean your curves.  For all the studies show most men don't actually fancy skinny women.

It's so easy, in these shallow times we live in, to convince ourselves we can only find lasting happiness through somehow perfecting ourselves or our lives.  The sad reality is, many people spend so much time charging towards the end of the rainbow, they're simply too busy to lie in the grass for a while to marvel at the warmth of the sun and the deepness of the vast blue sky.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Happy hubbies make for wedded bliss, finds Chicago survey

While the following findings are probably, broadly speaking, true, it is a little simplistic and unfair to simply blame men for marriage break up.  We would have to look at why husbands don't feel positive about their marriage and why they find it difficult to express positive feelings about and towards their wife.  I suspect upbringing plays a large part in it. I also suspect most couples could benefit hugely and grow much closer just spending time relaxing together and talking, rather than the long hours at work and the busy social life that leaves little opportunity to just relax and enjoy being with this person you adore.

There are times in any relationship when the going gets tough, that is in the very nature or love and life, but relationships (and individuals in those relationships) grow, far more working together to get through the bad times, than they ever do just enjoying the honeymoon period...

Does the man make or break a marriage? Recent research suggests it may be so.

See original article  here.

A team of researchers from the University of Chicago claims that the health and personality of the husband may be the key to avoiding conflict and maintaining a happy marriage.

Published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, the research surveyed older adults who participated in the National Social Life Health and Aging Project. It compared and contrasted the characteristics of husbands and wives whose marriages had lasted an average of 39 years.

The results: When the husband showed a higher level of positivity, the wife in a couple reported less marital conflict. Moreover, positivity levels had no effect on the husbands' reports of conflict.

The nature of conflicts examined centered around whether a spouse is perceived as making too many demands, perpetually criticizing, or getting on the other's nerves.

This particular study examined individual marriages, as opposed to married couples in general. This allowed researchers to obtain reports on individual traits as well as the quality of the marriage from each participant.

Is there a worthwhile point to this study?

It may be helpful to understand how important a man's attitude and level of positivity is. In fact, I can safely say that after 25 years of counseling and coaching, in my experience women are much more likely to be positive and connected in relationships than men are. Also, when a healthy, positive man is in the mix, it is rare that there are serious marital difficulties. That's because the majority of women reciprocate the positive attitude.

I can't say the opposite is true, however. It is common for a healthy, positive woman to be stuck with a negative, emotionally unavailable man who isn't interested in making any self-improvements.

Still, what's the point? On a practical level, this information might not be that valuable. The point is, does your relationship respond well to an infusion of positive energy?

Here is a good test to find out where you stand:

1. Without reservation, invest your conscious effort over time (at least a month), focusing on your partner's positive attributes, giving warm feedback, showing generosity and appreciation and being a GREAT person to be around. (If you simply cannot do this, then you know where to begin - with your own attitude or psychological attachments).

2. Notice what happens. Most likely, one of the following scenarios will occur:

A. Your partner will respond well, increasing happiness and fulfillment in your relationship. This is a great sign. You now know what you can do to increase your mutual joy and create positive loops in your relationship.

B. Your partner will ignore you, not respond, or pretend not to notice your efforts.

C. Your partner will actively resist your positive efforts, becoming even more negative or troubled. He or she may even try to sabotage your good will.

If you know you've been a great partner, yet cannot create a positive emotional connection, then there are deeper issues to look at. For example:

Boundaries and respect

Are the boundaries clear enough to honor each individual in the relationship, or are you trying to control each other?

Self-Sabotage and negative psychological attachments

Self-Sabotage compels people to do the opposite of what makes the happy. It is driven by psychological attachments to old, familiar states of misery (like rejection and humiliation) that we are not strong enough to let go of. We unwittingly sabotage our happiness and chances for success by subconsciously clinging to an old story, a familiar misery or what we've always known.

It could be that you and your partner are simply not compatible. In other words, it is nobody's fault. You just don't see life the same way, yet expect each other to do just that. Of course, choosing and clinging to an incompatible lover could be an perfect example of individual self-sabotage.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Introduction to the Idealist Temperament - Teacher, Counselor, Champion, Healer

Having recently taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator Test, which is based on Carl Jung's typological theories, I learned I was an INFJ - one of the rarest of the 16 personality types, said to account for between 1% - 3% of the population.

Classified as The Counselor, in the psychology book "Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types" by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, INFJ personalities are part of a group they categorise with an Idealist Temperament.

This group includes:

ENFJ - Teacher
INFJ - Counselor
ENFP - Champion
INFP - Healer

Take the Myers-Briggs test here and discover what Personality Type you are!
Learn more about the four Temperament Types here.

You can learn more about those with an Idealist Temperament in these compelling little fact packed videos!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

"The Celestine Prophecy" revisited, at fifty.

Although Christmas was a bit hectic this year, I managed to make time to re-read "The Celestine Prophecy", a transcendental novel by James Redfield, which I first read back in 1994, when a friend passed it on to me.  His neighbour had just brought it back from the States, and passed it onto the friend and his wife, and this is very a much a tradition with this particular book, which seeks to help the reader gain insight into the deeper levels of his own personality, and to the wider culture we live in. Inevitably, we used to spend hours discussing these new revelations, with the small community of close friends who had also read the novel, and in that sense, I guess we were like many groups of friends who found themselves engrossed in the unfolding story.

It's often reviewed as a life-changing book, and in some ways it was for me to, back then.  Although I had been interested in psychology since my twenties, and had been writing a personal development journal for a few years, (prompted by pregnancy and motherhood) this was the first time I found a really compelling explanation of how our past - particularly our childhood and our experiences of being parented - moulded our personalities and our lives and relationships with others, in the present. And it did feel empowering, to finally have a good understanding of that, for from that point on, I could recognise an Intimidator, an Interrogator, a Poor Me and an Aloof person.  I realised I was aloof, not as a way to feel superior to people, but as a way of protecting myself from the aggression of others - if you don't let them in, there's a limit to how much damage they can do you.  In a way, that served me well for years, but re-reading the novel over the holidays, I realised I had matured over the subsequent decades, and had become more confident, less of a victim, perhaps due to becoming a mother for parenthood seems to have an incredibly grounding affect on most of us. But it still takes me a good while to feel comfortable on a deeper level, with new acquaintances, many months in fact, as I gradually weigh up how genuine someone is, how dependable. I tend to feel more comfortable with people I have known for many years, I trust my own judgement, much more than the recommendation of others, and that was something I realised quite profoundly, as I re-explored the chapters and insights, one by one. As I reached the end of the book, I suddenly remembered I had promised myself, back then in 1994, I would take a trip to the rain forests of Peru, for my fiftieth birthday, right up into the Andes, to see the ancient Machu Picchu ruins for myself.

On the whole, I don't like to categorise people, either personally or professionally.  Human beings are complex creatures, there's good and bad in all of us, and ultimately it simply comes down to whether our own particular personality can embrace someone else's or whether it clashes with it.

There continues to be a growing interest in transpersonal psychology material, as people are starting to question the culture we live in, which is so heavily focussed on work, and material possessions and achieving financial success and professional status, very often at the expense of relationships and family life.

I was fifty last year, a lot of my friends and colleagues are in their fifties, and perhaps middle-age is a time when, having achieved a certain amount, in terms of our careers, and raising children successfully, we begin to seek a more deeply personal, psychological, maybe even spiritual sense of fulfilment. Gone are the days when a fifty year old man would suddenly feel the urge to sell the family Volvo and return home with sporty little TR7, on the whole, men have become much more enlightened, more self-aware in the past twenty years.  But for most of us, men and women, there is something about reaching this point in our lives and realising that many of the dreams we had in our teens and twenties, got discarded along the way, as life required us to be sensible, responsible, reliable.

With our children maturing and starting to make their own way in the world, and a genuine sense of achievement and contentment from the role of parent, perhaps we can reconnect now, with that passionate soul we used to be, indeed, perhaps we should.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Six of the best - inspiring, powerful short films you really should watch...

Lasting anything from fifteen seconds to forty-five minutes, short films can be a great way to perfect your craft and many are surprisingly powerful.

Here are six favourites, be warned, the last three contain distressing scenes...

Sunday, 12 January 2014

In this age of media and social and government oppression we need a coherent Arts movement, to unite a new Beat Generation

When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars... So sang The 5th Dimension in the song "Aquarius" back in 1969.  

For a few years in the 70s, there was a genuine sense of a growing counterculture as young people rejected the restrictive views and values of their parents' generation and seemed to want to create a more tolerant, more humane, more peaceful society. But aside from a few protests in favour of Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War, it largely came to nothing really, because sitting in a field naked and stoned ultimately doesn't challenge the establishment, it just sort of wastes a load of time and drugs tend to fuck with your mind, rather than focus it to get organised and embark on a credible programme to achieve genuine lasting change.

The Age of Aquarius is supposed to liberate us all, so that we might cast off the shackles of conservative conformity in our quest to discover the full joys of being human, the freedom to express ourselves, to fulfil ourselves as individuals, to connect with our fellow man and our environment.  In this actual age of sexually transmitted diseases, some of which are known to be resistant now to antibiotics, presumably no-one would really be endorsing free love as the 70s hippies were.  No matter how enlightened and psychologically liberated I became, I cannot imagine shagging all the gents and half the women in my community, with no consideration for physical or emotional commitment, some things are just clearly a very bad idea!

Most people seem to subscribe to the view that the Age of Aquarius hasn't actually started yet and won't do for a few hundred years, but some claim it began in 2012.  If it did, there certainly doesn't seem to be any feeling of liberation so far.  The vast majority of us still seem to be living under a cloud of extreme social and political oppression, more so than ever in my lifetime really.  Those who don't conform to current social norms are portrayed in the mainstream media as deviant - for which read eccentric if you're rich or a threat to the lives of decent hard-working families if you don't happen to be loaded.  

We also live in the Age of Litigation, where the full might of the law is frequently used against anyone expressing a view which really challenges government and the corporations who fund political parties, and this has inevitably seeped through into popular culture, art and drama.  Seldom will you discover a TV drama or radio play with a negative message about the establishment.  Not so long ago you might have been able to watch a prime time UK drama which portrayed government ministers as corrupt, specifically identifying the characters as corrupt Tory politicians.  That seems much less likely now, as programme makers err on the side of caution, at the expense of compelling, gritty drama to get public debate going. And even more worrying, documentary series actively demonise anyone not conforming to the established model of family life and those horrid, judgemental, voyeuristic programmes frequently attract high viewing figures.

But there must be an enormous number of writers and artists, musicians and actors and poets and dancers, who certainly don't share this narrow Daily Mail definition of what life should be, and we perhaps need to establish a coherent movement to challenge the intolerance and bigotry the viewing public has become used to sitting in front of, without questioning any of the messages they're being fed, night in, night out.

Scotland has the National Collective , a movement for artists and creatives prepared to challenge the political establishment, in this case, united specifically in their support for Scottish independence, and we could perhaps be inspired and encouraged by that to form our own Arts movement for people who seek to challenge the status quo in a broader sense, a bit like the Beat Generation of writers in the 50s and 60s.

If you already know of such collectives please feel free to post links to these groups in the comments section below and perhaps we can start to join up a few of the dots, and build something meaningful and lasting together.