Articles



Here are a range of short Articles exploring some of the aspects of human behaviour I encounter when working with clients.

SMILE

SMILE

The first piece of homework I give to my Adult Education Students who come on my Tool Box for Managing Anxiety Course is to SMILE at people as they walk down the road. The majority of the students balk at the idea and often they say – “People will look at me as if I am weird”.

Happily most of them do give it a go and to their utmost surprise most people SMILE back, some even start conversations. I also say to them that if someone doesn’t SMILE back then maybe they too are having a day just like my students experience, this is often a revelation to them that they are not alone in having bad days.

What does a SMILE mean? My Dad used to quote “SMILE and the world SMILES with you, cry and you cry alone”, and many of you will know that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to SMILE.

So here is my definition of a SMILE.

S – Sunny

M – Meaningful

I – Inclusive

L – Love

E – Enjoy

Lets explore this a bit further.

Sunny – White teeth exposed and brighten up the day, an instant feeling of the spirits lifting, and you can’t help but SMILE back.

Meaningful – Someone has given you a moment of their time, they are sending you good intentions, you get the good vibrations from their energy.

Inclusive – a SMILE cuts across all divides

Love – Universal love for the human race, giving a gift without expectation of one in return – remember they may be having a bad day.

Enjoy – The feel good factor, especially when they do SMILE back.

As I write this we are in the middle of a COVID-19 lockdown so you may think if we are wearing masks no-one can see us SMILE. I was in a shop and automatically SMILED at the checkout operative and then said “I am SMILING sorry you can’t see it” and the wonderful reply was “I can see your eyes SMILING”.

A SMILE comes from within, from your heart, and lights up your whole face, reaching beyond your mouth alone. And when you SMILE from your heart you reach into the heart of the person receiving it – even if they don’t SMILE back, inside their heart is SMILING.

So wherever you are, wearing a mask or not ,just SMILE giving yourself and those around you a loving gift.

HEROES

My Grandad (Seated)

When we think of Hero’s we tend to think of amazing feats that make the headlines, we think in terms of one off events, moments in time, however there are other types of Heroes.

They are the Heroes who by the way they live their lives, are heroic. They can be the parents who feed their children whilst going hungry themselves. We have all been celebrating our NHS Heroes who have been daily risking their own health and been separated from families during the Coronavirus pandemic. Or the many thousands of Volunteers for the many hundreds of charities.

Then there are Heroes personal to us, who are not aware that they have made such an impression on us that they become the person we wish to emulate. Who was your first Hero? Who was the person that you admired for the way they treated their fellow human beings?

My first Hero was my first teacher – Miss Doreen Sharples at Baguley Hall Primary School in Manchester – and I am naming her because Heroes deserved to named and applauded. Her patience, kindness, fairness, understanding and guiding hand were felt by every pupil she taught, something they – including me – carried throughout their lives. My best Christmas presents came when I was 6 or 7 – a desk and a blackboard, I wanted to be Miss Sharples!

My second Hero was my Secondary School History Teacher – Miss Margaret Hill at Fallowfield C of E High School for Girls in Manchester. She believed in me, she drew out the best in me. I remember the day I told her I wanted to study A level History and then made a loud “ Ahem”. She asked me what the “Ahem” was for and I said because I didn’t think she’d let me. Her answer stays with me to this day “ Are you going to work hard?” “Yes” “Am I going to work hard” “Yes” “Then together we will do it”. And together we did! I have remained in touch with her throughout the years.

I am sure both of these wonderful women would say they were doing their jobs, however they did their jobs with such compassion, devotion and positivity that they far exceeded any job title. The effect they have had on my life has been profound. And I am forever grateful to them.

How have you emulated your Heroes? I have done my best to, ask my students for the answer.

So notice the everyday Heroes and give them the acknowledgement they deserve.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

I describe your body as your Barometer – it is a measure of your mental well-being. When you are in a good place mentally and emotionally you feel light, and balanced and in good health. If you are in a negative place feeling, down, depressed, anxious, stressed then you will have all number of aches and pains, you will over/under eat, you will feel lethargic, heavy and generally unwell.

The Emotion comes first then acts out on the body. Those of you, especially if you have a chronic condition, may say that it is the pain that causes you to feel negative, that is the next layer. The emotional pain comes first, creates physical pain and then you have negative emotions about the pain.

Often at my yoga classes students will ask me for postures to help them with their physical pain, I ask them when the physical problem started and then I ask what was going wrong in their life at that time, and that’s when I see the realization dawn. Sometimes the symptoms appear after the crisis has passed because the body knows it has to keep going and then after the crisis it can let go ie. Collapse which is how PTSD works.

If you ignore the negative emotion, then the physical pain will get worse until you listen to your body as its screaming “Houston we have a Problem”. Many people feel it is a much easier to discuss physical pain than emotional pain, to say “ I am hurting inside”. There is still prejudice against mental health problems, being seen as weak and lacking as a person. However to admit to emotional problems takes great strength and is to be admired.

When I run my ToolBox for Managing Anxiety Course one of the first steps on the road to recovery is when people realize they are not alone, so many people think that it is only them that feels like this and to discover that in fact they are a member of a huge group gives them hope. To feel emotions is to be human, whether they be positive or negative emotions.

You may find your physical problem only happens in certain situations, sometimes it can help you to get out of situations you want to avoid, or give you the attention you need. So another question I ask my clients is “What does this pain do for you?” And generally they know the answer.

So make friends with your body, thank it for its warning system and pay attention to what it is trying to tell you. It is quite logical – If you have a pain in the neck – who is the pain in the neck – as one insightful client said “I am the pain in the neck”! Or are you carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? As a general rule joint problems are about a reluctance to move forward. I hope this brief insight into Somatic Theory has been helpful.

RELATIONSHIPS AND CHANGING BEHAVIOURS

Liiving Statues Tomar, Portugal

Is there someone in your life that you have a difficult relationship with? A family member, partner, friend, work colleague or acquaintance? Someone who you rub up against on a regular basis, someone you feel criticizes you, or blames you, a person who frustrates you. All would be good if only they would change?

You will never be able to change anyone else’s behaviour, they may well be wishing you would change! So you reach an impasse.

What you do have control over is how you choose to interact with this person, and by acting differently then the response they have to you will change and therefore you create the change in their behaviour you desire.

You may think “Why should I be the one to change?” But if this relationship is toxic and difficult then taking action and making the changes gives you your power back so you no longer feel at the mercy of your feelings about this person.

There was someone in my life who I would give information to only to have it turned back on me at a later stage. So I simply stopped giving the information, as an adult I made adult choices instead of reacting like the child within.

A client recently told me when speaking to the person in her life who she had a tense relationship with, because a conversation would begin and continue with a constant stream of negativity, she simply said “ This is for your therapist to deal with, not me” And the reply was laughter and the subject changed without any reference to the usual negativity. My client took her power back and acted as an adult not a child.

If you find that with this person you say Yes to everything when in fact you want to say No. Be honest – “ I am not available at that time, but can do….” So its not an outright No, it is a compromise.

Be clear about your boundaries, “I am not available on a Wednesday night as its my yoga class”. If you want the other person to respect your time then you must respect it first. Behave like a doormat, get treated like a doormat!

Change will be incremental – the closer someone is to you the more of your buttons they know how to press, so when they find one of them no longer works they will try another one, so if you systematically change your reaction to each one then you gain the harmonious relationship you desire.

FEELING LIKE YOU ARE ON A LONG LONELY ROAD?

Do you think that everyone else has life more or less sorted and you are the only one who struggles to cope with life?

Do you keep the thoughts of panic, stress, anxiety to yourself because people will think you are weak and unable to cope in your work, as a parent, in your close relationships?

Well I have news for you, many, many people also feel like you do!

The majority of my clients think they are the only ones who struggle with day-to-day life. The only one who has all these feelings and thoughts full of self-doubt. That they should be able to manage life like everyone else, as they are assuming everyone else is sorted.

The 2 words that I have highlighted – should and assuming – are the first things we change, as no-one should do, be or feel anything. If you are beating yourself up feeling you should do, be or feel then you are stood in front of the mirror wagging your finger at yourself in a way you never would to someone else.

I was once at an event where we sat at a horseshoe of tables which were quite close to the wall, as one lady was passing behind the people on the opposite side of the room to me I heard her say “Fat Cow Passing”!!!. Then a little while later she went to pass me and again she repeated the phrase “ Fat cow passing” So I stopped her and I asked her “Would you call me or anyone else a Fat Cow” She looked horrified at the very thought and said “ No of course not”. So I asked her why she did it to herself – and saw the light dawning.

I have no doubt at some point someone had indeed insulted her with those words, so now she said it first before anyone else could, not recognising that the one person who had insulted her was in a minority of one. The rest of the world was kind, but by stating this insult out loud she was telling people it was alright to insult her. Yet she was a kind, loving and generous soul. We are so much harder on ourselves then anyone else could ever be – so try letting yourself off the hook.

To assume – makes an ass out of you and me! You cannot assume you know what other people are thinking about you

The world is full of people just like you and like you they are good at hiding it, so they too think you have it all sorted!

LIVING IN THE MOMENT

Living in the Moment – a phrase much used but what does it really mean ?

25 years ago the company I worked for held a Health Week for Staff and one of the sessions ended with Meditation, something I had never experienced. The person leading the meditation took us on a guided meditation I remember ti was to be on a beach. There were 30 of us in the room, and everyone closed their eyes and went on a journey. I however was thinking “This is stupid, I am sat in the conference room not on a beach.”! I became more agitated than I was before we started.

What amazed me was that everyone else was saying how wonderful the experience had been, I was at a complete loss as to how they could feel so relaxed. Who would have believed that 3 yeas later I would join a yoga class and then become the Teacher of Yoga and Meditation I am today.

Meditation is often thought to be just clearing the mind – as if its something easy to do when in fact it is far from it. What we do in Mediation is distract the mind from all the stuff we have going on in our lives and therefore our minds and so we are in the present moment.

Meditation can take many forms, it can be to stare at a candle flame, listen to a guided meditation, walk in nature concentrating on noticing the details, counting ( there is a basis for counting sheep to get to sleep), concentrating your thoughts on your breathing. Yoga itself is a moving meditation because when you are concentrating on the movements and breathing you are in the moment.

It does take practice to be in the moment, yet there are times you are there without knowing it, do you enjoy painting or reading for example and when you carry out these activities are you so absorbed that you think of nothing else? Then you are in the moment.

Your mind may well wander – I must remember to buy bananas on the way home – you then have a choice you can continue the thought – where will be open at this time, how many do I want – or you can consciously say to your mind – I am not thinking about that now I choose to be here. So for example if you are breathing and counting and the mind has wondered just start counting again. You can be in charge of your mind instead of your mind being in charge of you.

The more you practice the easier it becomes and the benefits are many eg. lowering your heart rate (instead of having a racing heart), improving sleep patterns, reduces stress, increases energy levels and sense of calm. Enjoy being in the moment.