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Elaine's Journal Archive 4

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Welcome to the archive 4

 
This journal discusses the issues that arise in therapy: anything concerning the human condition. I write when I have something to say, normally about two or three times a week, so drop by for new entries. It is not a substitute for therapy. I do not mention my clients as their personal information is confidential. I hope you find my journal interesting. The views expressed in my journal are my own and not those of Richard Snowdon Counselling Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.
 

Hot desking

23:18 - 04|12|2006
 
At work today I have been hot desking and I became aware of not really understanding the meaning of that term, even though I understood that it meant I was having to move from desk to desk. But as I thought about the term hot desking I couldn't think why it was specifically described as 'hot desking'. As a term I realise that it has originated from the dialogue of the 'office'.
 
So hot desking is a common term that has entered into the language of the office. Which means that office life has changed because of this new language. When something new comes into language it is a way of giving meaning to something which has not been known before. So for people to understand why they have to move around an office instead of being at one designated desk the word hot desking came into being, and therefore a reason was given. Without the ability to name a situation there would just be confusion.
 
In the world of the office there could be resentment if the term hot desking had not come into being. If some people do not have a desk of their own, it could cause jealousy and resentment towards the people that do. However if they are all told that their hot desking and that is the culture of office life now, they will no longer resent, but accept the culture as they will now feel as if they are not the only ones without a personal desk. The term is in general use so generally most people hot desk. So the word hot desking brings order into the ever changing culture of office life. Now I just have to find out exactly why it's called 'hot desking'.
 

An ideal Christmas

13:01 - 01|12|2006
 
At the bus stop this morning I bumped into a friend of mine and he started talking about how imminent Christmas was. He then went on to say that Christmas had lost it's meaning.
 
As I think about that statement now, I realise that Christmas has not in a sense lost it's meaning, but it's meaning has changed for my friend. I think this is inevitable, as times change we change and how we thing and feel about events like wise change.
 
So much meaning has been given to Christmas that sometimes it's hard for us to live up to the idea that is Christmas. Perhaps that is what my friend was articulating, that Christmas had changed for him, the way he use to celebrate it, or the way he use to relate to it had been changed by the passing of time, so it no longer had the same meaning for him.
 
I guess the challenge for my friend would be to give meaning to his Christmas, and let go of trying to fit into the ideal of Christmas.
 

Getting along

15:41 - 30|11|2006
 
I was in a meeting today and the discussion was about how groups relate to each other, in other words how we as people get on with each other. The obvious thread of the conversation was to do with working out how we can all get along in harmony so to speak, and it suddenly struck me that I wouldn't like that.
 
We need to have a certain amount of conflict, we need difference. I'm glad that certain people get on my nerves, or annoy me, or frustrate me.
 
So in order for us all to get along we sometimes need to annoy each other, but the trick is not to take it personally. But to recognise the difference and work out ways of managing and accepting that difference in a non-aggressive manner.
 
We can all get along even if we don't get along.
 

The lack

14:24 - 29|11|2006
 
To follow on from yesterdays question about the need to repeat behaviour in order to return to something. The idea seems straight forward enough, we repeat a behaviour in order to return to a feeling of warmth and security.
 
Yet the process of repetition is complicated and the repetition of behaviour can go on for years, perhaps a lifetime. So a life could be spent in repetition in search of the security or warmth that was once felt.
 
When I think about the repetition of addiction, for example drug addiction, I recall how recovering addicts described the first hit and how it makes a person feel, how that leads into the addiction as the person constantly chases down that feeling, the return to the first hit.
 
But what is it about the first hit that has such an impact? What does the first hit remind the person of? Is the need to take drugs actually based in the need to return to something?
 
If the first hit makes you feel as if you are wrapped in cotton wool, as if you are just floating and feeling safe and far away from it all, like a state of bliss. Isn't that the 'something' we all wish to return to? If there is a great lack of security and warmth in the beginning wouldn't a young person or adult look for that elsewhere?
 
Do drugs offer the addict a certain route back to returning to the feeling of bliss that perhaps the addict was lacking and so looked for it in drugs? The drugs offer a temporary solution, the addict in the moment of consuming the drug feels warm and secure, they lack for nothing in that consumption of their drug.
 
Part of overcoming addiction would therefore mean that the addict would have to start facing up to difficult feelings and perhaps reconcile themselves to the lack that we can all experience in our lives.
 

Returning

21:19 - 28|11|2006
 
I was having a discussion over the weekend about how people can repeat patterns of behaviour, and I have written about the issue in my journal before. At one point in the discussion a woman in the group said that repetition was also about a returning. I hadn't thought about that before, the idea that returning and repeating where two similar positions.
 
If we return to something it implies that we had left something behind. Or maybe we felt something was taken from us, be it a a moment in time, an object, a place, a person. If we wish to return to this something it also implies that it meant something to us, perhaps it was a feeling of security, of warmth, of belonging.
 
So when someone repeats a pattern of behaviour is it because they are trying to find the route back to the original secure feeling?
 

The description

15:05 - 27|11|2006
 
We have to describe ourselves in order to allow another person to get to know us, to understand us. For example, you could choose to describe yourself as outgoing, or shy. You could choose to say what star sign you are, you could describe your cultural background. You choose your description and hope the other person will know you and understand you.
 
However there seem to be times when a person can feel as if other people think they are something that they are not. Take the outgoing person, at one point they could say: 'everyone thinks im so outgoing and happy, yet I feel lonely'.
 
The dilemma for us all is that we need to describe ourselves to others, and we then have to fit the description. When describing ourselves there will be a need to be liked, to be a part of a social group. We could feel uncomfortable describing ourselves as lonely to another person because we may fear losing our place in the social group. A question can arise as: 'Will the group still accept me if I'm no longer the outgoing happy type they have come to expect'?
 
We develop our personalites over time, so we need to challenge our own descriptions if they have become too rigid, and adapt them so that we can be the outgoing, or shy person, who also feels lonely, or sad, or angry.
 
 
24|11|2006 - no journal today
 
23|11|2006 - no journal today
 

The vanguards

16:41 - 22|11|2006
 
I read in the news today that a chief police officer is suggesting that heroin addicts should be prescribed heroin. As the story is so new, there have been no comments or reaction to his statement as of yet. His statement makes perfect sense to me and is extremely logical.
 
So that statement will impact on those people in our society who's role it is to be the vanguards of the morality of said society. This section of society has existed since society's were first formed. They are the ones who formulate the law and govern public opinion.
 
The chief police officer based his statements on his personal experience of working with and dealing with the criminal impact caused by dealers and drug users. In order to tackle this the police chief officer feels that by prescribing heroin it will eliminate the dealers and help addicts come of heroin. Once again he bases this in his living experience.
 
What will the vanguards of society's morals base their reaction to his statements in? What experiences I wonder will they draw from in order for them to proclaim what they feel is right for our society, and the treatment of heroin addicts within that society.
 
I hope tomorrow I read the paper and see that they are in agreement with the chief police officer and that there can finally be a shift in attiude by society towards drug addiction.
 

Deliberation

10:32 - 21|11|2006
 
Yesterday I wrote about the anxiety of committing to a decision and I briefly touched upon the issue of rushing into decisions.
 
When I think about that aspect of human nature I can see that it can also be away of avoiding anxiety. By rushing into a decision a person can spare themselves the anxiety found in the moment of hesitation. By not hesitating a person can also avoid the process of wrestling with choices. Quick decisions I think are seen in a more positive light, it gives an aura of confidence and control to the person. Which is in a sense true, and yet a person who deliberates can also be seen as wise and steady. It all depends on the individual and how the actions that follow decision affect their life.
 
It is problematic when a person feels they are continuously making mistakes in life, that person may need to think about the possibility that they rush into decisions to avoid anxiety, but by doing so there lives can become more angst ridden because they have lost the ability to hesitate before committing.
 

Decisions, decisions

19:23 - 20|11|2006
 
The decision making process can be an arduous one because it is based on choice. When we are in the process of choosing there will come a moment when we have to finally commit to the decision. The process of choosing of course can cause certain levels of anxiety, and if it is a major choice, then it is a major decision. Once the decision is made then you are committed to the choice and what follows after.
 
What can happen is that people can find themselves constantly wrestling with choice and yet not coming to a final decision. Because who wouldn't hesitate before making a decision? It is healthy to have that hesitation, as rushing into decisions also brings it's own problems.
 
It becomes problematic when that moment of hesitation begins to cause such anxiety that a person is unable to commit to a decision.
 
This could have the impact of making the person feel as if they were drifting through life, as if things just happened to them haphazardly. Without decision, you are a victim of circumstance.
 

Tension

21:09 - 17|11|2006
 
"All the world is a stage
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and entrances;
Each man in his time plays many parts". Shakespeare.
 
I don't know how many times I've read that, or heard it quoted, but the today the word 'Stage' just struck me. When Shakespeare wrote about each man in time plays many parts, I thought about the stages we go through.
 
Oddly enough, even in one day you can go through numerous stages, play many parts. We are social animals and a part of being in society means we adopt the roles that the society has adopted. There are many aspects to society and hence the many varied roles we play as we go through the different stages in our lives.
 
The tension lies in how we play our parts and the ability to not become the part. As Shakespeare also said ''This above all-to thine own self be true''. Therein lies the tension
 
 
16|11|2006 - no journal today
 
15|11|2006 - no journal today
 

The need

22:10 - 14|11|2006
 
I was crossing the road this afternoon with an island in the middle.As I reached the island, waiting for the lights to change, a man who had just managed to beat the lights and get onto the island suddenly held up a clipboard and asked if I wanted to take part in a survey.
 
Now I have got used to people trying to stop me in the streets to see if I'll join the charity they are trying to recruit members for, but this encounter in that transitory space of the island in the middle of the road just didn't make sense. The lights of course changed and I was back to crossing over the road.
 
What struck me about the man who was obviously trying to recruit people, was his inability to see the situation. He had a very set goal. I'd caught his eye when he was on the other side of the road and he just reacted. However it seemed this particular man had become so focused on his need to fulfill the task, that he lost sight of the fact that it was a ridiculous place to try and carry out a survey.
 
This is an aspect of our natures, and can get played out in different situations. There are times when our need for something can become overwhelming, so much so that we lose sight of the individual in front of us and we just look for the way in which the need can be satisfied. We become driven by the desire to get our needs met.
 

An attitude

23:15 - 13|11|2006
 
I watched 'Dogville' by Lars von Trier last night, and it's the first time I've seen an example of the directors work. I thought a lot today about artists and thinkers who have a particularly bleak view about life, and then I did the opposite and thought about the ones who have an up-beat optimistic view, and then I looked for the balance.
 
To look on life too optimistically can deny the real experience of people's suffering. To look too pessimistically on life is to deny the courage of the human spirit to do the right thing.
 
Personal philosophy and attitudes are a work in progress, and we can never really know our attitude to life until we are faced with a challenging situation.
 
Perhaps that was one of the aspects that von Trier was trying to get across in his film, the issue of people reacting to situations in ways that they would never of imagined. The characters all had an idea of how they are supposed to behave, but von Trier then twisted the plot and we see the characters behaving completely the opposite to the set moral idea of small town ideology.
 
This is the truth of our lives, that we are free to adopt an attitude whatever the situation. We create our own morality by the attitude we adopt. It is not the situation that creates the attitude, because we are always free to choose how we think and therefore behave.
 
 
10|11|2006 - no journal today
 

Happy photos

14:23 - 09|11|2006
 
I came across another booklet yesterday, and this one was to do with depression. The wording inside the booklet was very well written, and conveyed the symptoms of depression in and honest and professional way.
 
The only strange aspect to the booklet was the photographs that accompanied it. The cover of the booklet showed a montage of smiling faces, bright rainbow colours, and the theme continued inside the booklet. One photo was of a woman holding a big mug, which could contain tea or coffee, but in fact contained a lovely purple flower.
 
Once again I wonder if this actually helps a person who is suffering from depression, to see all these happy smiling faces in bright rainbow colours with pretty flowers. Perhaps the writers of the book did not want to depress the readers too much and thought it would be a good idea to have happy pictures accompanying the text.
 
I wonder if this comes back to the feelings that can be engendered in people when they experience a person with depression. It can make people feel uncomfortable and unsure, so there is a tendency to want to make it all better. The pictures in the book almost had the essence of saying 'there, there'.
 
Or it could be the case that in recognising the symptoms of depression in the text, the authors wanted to balance that out and convey a sense of hope via the happy pictures. The happy pictures represent the ideal we all want to reach. All of us want to be in a happy photo.
 
 
08|11|2006 - no journal today
 

Reconcile

15:29 - 07|11|2006
 
I was thinking about what it means to reconcile. It is a similar word to acceptance, yet it has a certain connotation to it that could imply a feeling of defeat. I think it is to do with the idea that the word reconcile indicates a conflict. The conflict could be within yourself, with others, or to do with a certain situation.
 
Two opposing sides come together and there is a conflict which is difficult to resolve. In order to deal with it, in order to end that situation there is a need for reconciliation. It can lose that defeatist air then, and become a word linked to acceptance and acknowledgment. We learn to reconcile by accepting and acknowledging.
 

The wall

15:09 - 06|11|2006
 
I have heard people say that you just don't feel anything when you are depressed. The truth is you do. Feelings are very strong and can be overwhelming and so there is a necessity within which makes a person close down their ability to feel. It is almost like a machine going into overload, and in order to stop that process circuits have to be turned off.
 
Our minds can do that to us. If emotions are overwhelming, the mind protects itself by shutting down, so we articulate that by suggesting we feel nothing.
 
It is a lonely state to be in, as all your energy and enthusiasm is used up in having to contain the strong feelings. Even talking becomes difficult, as if there is no language to describe the strength of emotion, as if there is no ear that could comprehend what it feels like to be you. You start to believe there are no words that can possibly be said that could do anything to change the emotion you are feeling.
 
Depression becomes a wall that gets built up around you, a solid wall. When you face the wall understand that it can be brought down, that there are words that can be said, if there are a thousand bricks in the wall there are a thousands words that can bring it down. Find your voice and speak the words, talk the wall down.
 

Grief

17:12 - 03|11|2006
 
I sometimes come across mini booklets, usually to be found in waiting rooms, and as you are waiting you invariably pick them up. I came across one today, it was about dealing with grief.
 
Now grief is such an immense process of emotions to go through, I couldn't help but question the purpose of the booklet. The mini booklet listed the emotions that people go through when they are grieving and it was done in a very simplistic format, just the right kind of format that a mini booklet in a waiting room should be.
 
I thought about how a person who actually was greiving would react to the booklet, could it be a comfort? On one level it could, but I did wonder because it was so simplistic, whether it could induce more sadness or anger. All the emotions that were listed in the book the grieving individual would feel intensely. They would not have the luxury of just glancing at the booklet as they waited for their appointment, each word would be felt keenly. Could that cause more sadness? Or could the fact that it was simplified perhaps calm down the emotion?
 
I then remembered a line from Shakespeare about grief and when I got home I went and looked for it. It's Constance's speech from King John Act Three, scene I. At the end of the speech she says: 'I will instruct my sorrows to be proud, for grief is proud, and makes his owner stoop. To me, and to the state of my great grief, let Kings assemble; For my grief's so great that no supporter but the huge firm Earth can hold it up (seats herself on the ground). Here I and sorrows sit; Here is my throne, bid Kings come bow to it'.
 
That speech is a recognition of the strength of emotion that grief can bring out in an individual. But once again, would reading that help the person in grief? I suspect that it comes down to the individual and there is no right or wrong, I guess it's a mixture of the two. Grief needs to be recognised, yet because it can be so intense, it also needs to be contained, hence the simplification of the mini booklet. Too much intensity would feed into the grief, but a simple recognition of what the individual was experiencing could help bring some calmness back.
 
 
02|11|2006 - No journal today
 

The stick

18:00 - 01|11|2006
 
My friend's young son unfortunately got a stick stuck in his foot and had to be taken to A&E in order to have it pulled out. The little boy when it happened wasn't that upset by it, it hurt him but the pain wasn't constant. However he started to become distressed because his mum and dad couldn't work out what the stick was or how he'd managed to get it stuck in his foot. They both kept saying 'I don't know what it is'. After hearing this a couple of times the boy became anxious and he started to say 'I don't know what it is' and he began to look fearfully at the stick in his foot.
 
Being on the outside of it all I was calmer than his poor parents at that moment so I could see what was going on. I just clearly said to the little boy 'It's a stick and it's stuck in your foot'. That was all that was needed to calm him back down. The boy knew it was a stick of course, but as his parents were trying to work out what kind of a stick it was, they had confused him by saying 'I don't know what it is'. The boy became anxious because he was now having to question what he was seeing with what he was hearing, and he was confused as to what was now sticking in his foot.
 
Clarity always comes when we can name what it is that is happening to us, when we can name our experience.
 
 
31|10|2006 - No journal today
 
30|10|2006 - No journal today
 
27|10|2006 - No journal today
 

Transition

22:10 - 26|10|2006
 
I've been looking at the trees outside my window today, seeing the change in colour. The dark greens are turning to browns, yellows and reds. The same transition I see every year - the change of season.
 
I allowed myself to luxuriate in the idea of how nice and simple it would be to just flow through a transition like the tree, to know that no matter how hard the winter, spring will come, and the tree blooms again. No worries.
 
Childhood is the time in our lives when we should have the luxury of just flowing through the seasons. As adults we do come into the world of responsibility and we are more aware of time, we are more aware of the responsibility of change, of transition. It is no longer a case of just flowing, adults have to choose direction, to plan a route through their lives.
 
Another part of growing is of course strong roots. As an adult we may not have always had these when we were a child, but part of the responsibility of being an adult means we have the ability to choose for ourselves. We can have a choice about how we can deal with the effects of our past and learn to put down our own strong roots. To learn what will help us grow and help us flow through the transitions that life will always bring us.
 

Unable to speak

16:45 - 25|10|2006
 
I read an article in the 'Guardian Weekend' (21.10.06) called 'Slim hopes' in which women with eating disorders spoke about their lives. I thought about how each of those women had not been able to communicate as children, especially the ones who had suffered the trauma of sexual abuse. They had not been allowed to communicate their feelings and so were left with them.
 
Each one of them explained very articulately in the article why they developed an eating disorder. They spoke about self loathing, but they also spoke about having control of something in their lives, of feeling successful because of that. Others had been in control of their bodies at one point and now they had that control completely.
 
I began to think that the biggest motivating factor for these women was the inability to speak about the trauma because of the censorship that was imposed by the adult. I thought about how painful that must be for anyone who has been through trauma, or is perhaps even now going through something traumatic and they feel they are not allowed to communicate it. That has to be one of the most difficult situations an adult, or child, could find themselves in.
 
Those women did find their voices in the end, they did communicate and are now able to address the eating disorders. Communication is always the key, but I know it is not always that simple, especially if you have to wrestle for control of your key.
 

Adapting

23:02 - 24|10|2006
 
I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine last night. It reached a point where we couldn't agree. This was to do with the fact that we were discussing the advance of the internet as a medium of communication, and how businesses will adapt, because that is the future.
 
My friend did not agree with some of my ideas and I did not agree with hers, and so we debated for quite a while till I suddenly became aware of something I'd read three or four years ago. It was in the book by William James on Pragmatism and other writings. I remembered it last night because he had written a description of what it feels like when we are confronted with new ideas.
 
He writes: "The process was always the same. The individual has a stock of old opinions already, but he meets a new experience that puts them to the strain. Somebody contradicts them; or in a reflective moment he discovers that they contradict each other; or he hears of facts with which they are incompatible; or desires rise in him which they cease to satisfy. The result is an inward trouble to which his mind till then had been a stranger, and from which he seeks to escape by modifying his previous mass of opinions."
 
James continues to elaborate on the struggle the mind goes through as it attempts to graft the new opinion onto the old. This was the experience of last night, and was why I recalled William James, because it is such an adept description of what it is we go through when we are confronted with a new idea or truth, which is in stark contrast to everything we thought we knew.
 
To take on a new idea or truth can cause anxiety, because it can mean you have to let go of an idea or truth that had never been questioned. Perhaps it had helped you feel secure and safe in the knowledge that 'this is truth'. Yet knowledge is forever expanding, so I guess we just have to go with the strain and adapt to the new without feeling that we lose our security by letting go of the old ideas.
 

Acknowledge

14:28 - 23|10|2006
 
How do people deal with stress? Because it seems that in today's world stress is something that we have to deal with. It would be nice not to of course, but there it is: 'the stress of modern day living'. Perhaps because stress has become a matter of fact, we no longer question how much stress we put ourselves under. Stress is just a part of life.
 
In order to deal with stress the first thing is to acknowledge that you are stressed. Dismissing the feelings with the idea of: 'Oh well this is normal' will leave the stress unmanaged. The key words are, 'stress management'.
 
Even society has recognised that we were not managing our stress and so there has been an introduction of stress management courses, and a plethora of alternative remedies to help manage stress. The only way a person can access this support of course is to first recognise and acknowledge they are stressed. My question is: Why do people tend to take so long to acknowledge they are stressed?
 

Processing

11:14 - 20|10|2006
 
The process of processing emotion is not always that easy, especially when you are beginning to experience a difficult emotion forming. The emotion could be brought on by having to face something you'd rather not, for example a job interview, or an exam. These situations always elicit emotions which can make us feel uncomfortable, so we have to process them in a way that is manageable in order that we are able to do the interview, or exam. Part of that process is to recognise that the situation would make you feel nervous or anxious, and therefore what you are experiencing is 'normal', so you just take a deep breath and do the interview or exam.
 
Yet there will be times of such difficulty that a deep breath is not going to help calm the emotion. Two processes can then take place, either the person can sit with the very difficult emotion and bear it and go through it, or the person can not bear to sit with the emotion and so will avoid it, by distraction and denial.
 
Counselling is the process that helps people who find it difficult to sit with strong feelings, which means they are left unprocessed. Counselling becomes a safe place in which to explore the emotion. When the difficult feelings arise they are not left alone with the unbearable, but can reach a place where they are able to understand why it feels so unbearable.
 
 
19|10|2006 - No journal today
 

Balanced thinking

23:01 - 18|10|2006
 
There is a balance to thinking. I have often heard people say to others: 'Oh you think too much'. Perhaps a better way of putting it could be: 'Try not to think about it so much'.
 
The first statement is a request for the person to stop thinking, it could also be seen as a criticism. However the second statement is a recognition that the other person may be spending a lot of time thinking about something and perhaps they need a break.
 
The first statement could close down a person's thinking and leave them feeling uncomfortable as if they had done something wrong by 'thinking' to much.
 
The second statement leaves an avenue open for the person, based in the recognition that yes, perhaps they are thinking about something too much, but also recognising that thought is required to solve whatever it is that the person is spending a lot of time thinking about in the first place.
 
If we fill our minds up with many thoughts it is hard to discern what it is we really need to be doing. So thinking has to be balanced. If a person were to find that they were unable to stop thinking about a certain problem then they would need to communicate it to people that allow them to keep thinking, but in a clearer more balanced way, rather than the ones who tell them to just stop thinking.
 

Trust

14:46 - 17|10|2006
 
I read a quote today from Goethe's Faust, 'As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live'. I can understand that quote, it is easy to read, but is it as easy to do?
 
Learning to trust ourselves, to trust our judgments, is based in time and experience. On one level you need to be able to trust others. If you had bad experiences with others you may begin to feel you cannot trust anyone and begin to doubt your own judgment.
 
But making mistakes is a part of life and it is how we learn from our experience that counts. Having a bad experience and maybe realising you cannot trust the person you were relating to does not mean you have to lose trust in yourself.
 
Another quote by the Roman poet Virgil also sums it up when he said in the Aeneid, 'Trust one who has gone through it'.
 
Understanding our difficult experiences and trusting ourselves to make sense of them is how we perhaps keep the trust both for others and for ourselves.
 

Snakes and ladders

21:20 - 16|10|2006
 
When we go through life there are many emotions or states of being that we would generally like to avoid. I almost visualise it like a game of snakes and ladders.
 
Some emotions make us feel happy and so we can go up that ladder, so we go through life hoping to land on the ladder.
 
But it is inevitable that at certain points we may land on the snakes. One of the snakes we would hope to avoid is the one where we can make other people unhappy.
 
A human being needs to relate to another human being, and we are generally happy if others are happy. Yet to become an individual means that as you move through life you grow and change and perhaps the ones you have been relating to do not feel happy about the changes you need to make, and they can voice their disappointment.
 
You may try and avoid disappointing people then by not changing and moving in the direction that you feel would be good for you, you can become stuck in keeping others happy.
 
So ironically in order to reach the ladder you are going to have to stand on that snake and feel the difficulty in order to move on up.
 

Toothbrush

20:38 - 13|10|2006
 
I watched the comedy programme 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' on BBC2 last night. There was a sketch about a group of advertisers dreaming up another way to sell toothbrushes.
 
One character thought that they just had no more ideas on what else they could do to a toothbrush to increase sales. But another character had an idea, he suggested they tell people they have to brush their tongues. His colleagues thought it was ridiculous but the character kept pitching it, saying they'll get a woman in a lab coat in the advert telling people how much bacteria there is on their tongues and so they must buy the newest improved toothbrush which enables them to brush their tongues.
 
The sketch really made me laugh because I realised I had in fact seen those toothbrushes, but I had not really questioned the validity of tongue brushing. The comics Mitchell and Webb had picked up on that part of our natures. The fact being that if someone we perceive to be in authority tells us something we tend to accept it. So if an advert appears on the tv with an actor looking like a medical professional and they start talking about bacteria on the tongue, we buy it.
 
If you can see how easy it is for us to buy into the advertising, it can make sense of how we sometimes buy into the ideas other people have of us. If a child is taught negatively by an authoritarian figure, the child will begin to have a negative view. Equally so if a child is constantly told what to do and what to think it will be difficult for the child to grow into an adult who can think and discern for themselves.
 
Perhaps the comedy sketch was demonstrating how we can all too easily fall into the trap of believing what someone tells us we need to do, just because they seem to have the authority and knowledge.
 

Misunderstanding

23:01 - 12|10|2006
 
I had a conversation last night about living with depression, and it became difficult for the person I was talking with to be able to understand the fact that depression can stay with a person. The person assumed that you could maybe become depressed if things got a bit difficult and lots of events happened to you at once, but that it would only take a couple of months to deal with being depressed, and once you decide to see a counsellor it really should only take three months to get over it.
 
It was a very safe naive view I have to say. It can be difficult and uncomfortable for people who do not have depression to really understand and empathise with the depressed individual. Living with depression means that the individual needs to understand the reasons for the depression - this takes time. But that is only the tip of the iceberg. Understanding the depression can make it more manageable, but it cannot undo the event or events which lead the individual into depression.
 
This is where the poets talk about depression haunting them, and I have heard it many a time in the counselling room. The depression is just there with them. Sometimes it is abated other times it seems to cover everything grey.
 
Being depressed does not mean you are weak or useless, it just means you think and feel differently from those people who seem to be able to go through life easily and just deal with problems as they occur. Those people however should not make assumptions about depression, and that a person should just deal with it and get over it. It would seem that a lack of knowledge can lead to a lack of empathy and understanding.
 

Pacing

16:46 - 11|10|2006
 
I found myself at a local athletics club last night, and I was watching and listening to the coaches training the young athletes. There are a lot of techniques to running, the athletes would have to swing their arms in a certain way, they had to learn not to run so flatly and to bring more of a spring into their running steps. They also had to learn about pacing themselves depending on the length of the run. It is of course obvious that the 100 meter sprint is going to be very different form the 800 meter race.
 
So athletes need to learn how much to give at the beginning of the race and how much to hold in reserve for the end.
 
This pacing of oneself is so important in everyday life, especially when we take on something new, whether it be a new job, a new relationship, or new studies. If we start out by pouring all our energy and enthusiasm in to the beginning of the task we may find that half way through we have stretched ourselves so far that we run out of that reserve strength to see us through.
 
It was interesting to see at the athletics last night how the youngest and newest group, the 11-13 year olds, all started their races by sprinting like crazy at the beginning. Yet you could spot the children who had been running for a while as they paced themselves and of course overtook the enthusiastic newcomers. Those newcomers did not have to lose their enthusiasm or drive, they just needed to understand the art of pacing oneself.
 

Ivy

21:23 - 10|10|2006
 
I was cutting down ivy yesterday. Ivy is an amazing plant once you get to know it. It is the most difficult thing to cut down I discovered, because underneath the dark green leaves there is the vine, and that vine becomes so thick and it twists its way around everything, even itself, it ties itself up in a big protective knot. The smaller vines wrap themselves around anything in their path and when you pull them off the wall they leave their imprint, it looks like a prehistoric fossil. But determination paid off and I was able to help my friend get the ivy tamed, and there was so much more light in her garden, which meant more light shining through her window. We both agreed that of course the next time she won't leave it so long to prune it.
 
I realise how the pruning of that ivy reminded me of the sensation of working through a problem. How sometimes without realising it we can let our problems grow up around us and on the surface we think we can solve it easily, and then we encounter the twisted knot. It may be easier to try and forget, and to try and ignore it and let the leaves cover it up again. But it will just grow stronger. So you have to cut through it, you just have to keep working hard and remain determined. Because at the end of the task the light is able to shine through once more and you are finally able to truly relax
 

Breaking bread

22:01 - 09|10|2006
 
Words are what I spend most of my time dealing with. I spend time thinking about how I will write words. I spend time on the words I choose when I respond to what I'm hearing at work. On Friday I found myself in a moment where there were no words anymore, speech became inadequate.
 
I was with a friend of mine who has and is going through challenging events in her life. We had spent most of our time talking as I had not had the opportunity of seeing her for many months. So we spoke. Then there was the moment, the recognition of everything my friend was going through and that's when I lost words and just took hold of her hand and she then placed her hand on mine and we just squeezed each other's hands. No words, no sound, just the recognition of it all held in our hands.
 
As people we need that recognition, especially when life is most difficult. We need to be able to have that communication in order that we don't hold the pain by ourselves. That holding it to yourself can be a lonely business and can lead to depression. It is not how it is communicated but the fact that it is communicated, that it is allowed expression in order that the pain can be dispersed. Just as in the same way we break bread in order to share it with one another, we can break pain too by sharing it with one another.
 

The critic

22:12 - 06|10|2006
 
Criticism does not always have to be hard to give or hard to take, it just depends on the form. There are two types of criticism, positive criticism and negative criticism.
 
A positive criticism is designed to help an individual grow. It is a guide to help the person understand how they can improve themselves by pointing out where they are going wrong, and by giving them ideas on what they think they can do to change, in order to help them reach their potential. The Criticism is designed to help the individual feel more positive about themselves. The person who is giving positive criticism is usually motivated by a desire to help the person, to support them and enable them.
 
Negative criticism is of course the opposite of this. It generally makes the individual feel less motivated to change, it implies that the individual is wrong, is useless, and can never get it right. Negative criticism undermines the individual and hinders them from progressing. It stagnates the individual, plays on feelings of doubt, and change can can become a thing to fear.
 
I think it is a common reaction that when we are facing criticism we naturally feel defensive, which is why the delivery of the criticism is so important. It is also quite common for us to feel nervous about having to criticise, and once again it is all about how we deliver the criticism.
 
However the individual who is imparting a negative criticism will not be so discerning about how they deliver it. When receiving negative Criticism it can be a challenge for the individual to firstly be able to discern the difference between negative and positive, and secondly if the individual feels uncomfortable with the way the criticism is being levied.
 
It is much more difficult for a person who has been brought up in an negative environment to be able to discern the difference. When a person is badly criticized at a young age, they begin to internalise the voice of the external critic, they begin to believe they are what the critic tells them they are.
 
The process of letting go of internalised ideas is often complex. It cannot happen overnight. It will take a lot of time and a lot of work for the individual to accept positive criticism and to be able to finally silence the internalised negative critic that resides within.
 
 
05|10|2006 - No journal today
 

The gem

15:52 - 04|10|2006
 
Today I was thinking about joy, more specifically about those moments when you have a feeling, a joyous feeling. That feeling can seem to spring from nowhere, it's not like happiness, happiness can stay with us for a time, just as sadness can stay with us for a time. But joy jumps out at you even if you are in those times of sadness and melancholy.
 
You can be in a moment and then perhaps you hear something, a sound, a sentence, or you see something, maybe the way the sun shapes the colour of the sky that day, or a night where you can see the stars so clearly. It could be a moment with friends, when the room is suddenly full of laughter.
 
Joy, there is no reason for it, just a gem of an emotion.
 

Susi

22:28 - 03|10|2006
 
London underground produces poems on the underground, which I always enjoy reading. It's a nice break from all the bland advertising. This morning there was an absolutely beautiful poem that caught my eye. It was called 'Susi' and it was written by Lavina Greenlaw. It was a very pure simple poem of about ten lines, yet it in those few lines the poet had managed to convey the immensity of time and of going through adversity.
 
I became intrigued by the word Susi. It's a Finnish word, and translated it means persevering through adversity. I decided to find out more about the intriguing word and I discovered that Susi is a unique Finnish concept, the word represents a philosophy of what must be done will be done. Susi to the Finnish is a special strength and persistent determination and resolve to continue and overcome in the moment of adversity...an almost magical quality, a combination of stamina, perseverance, courage and determination held in reserve for hard times.
 
Susi, a word so small yet containing so much, a good word to hold on to.
 

Stepping back

23:11 - 02|10|06
 
In Shakespear's 'Twelfth Night' the character Viola finds herself in a situation where she has to dress up as a man. It then gets even more complicated for her when she has to send a message to a woman from another man, and then the woman begins to fall for Viola, as the man. Viola sums it all up in this one line in Act 2 scene 2: 'Oh time thou must untangle this not I, it is too hard a knot for me to untie'.
 
This quote from Shakespeare made me think about times in our lives when things can become very complicated and because of this we can become confused as to what tactics we use to solve the issue. The quote could imply that Viola is trying to avoid the issue, like another famous heroine Scarlet O'hara who constantly said 'I shan't think about that today, I'll think about it tomorrow'. Is this avoiding the issue? I could retort with: 'don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today'.
 
So we can feel a pressure to get things done, to not put things off. But we must recognise that the complicated knot needs time to be untied. Viola is not refusing to deal with the situation, she acknowledges it, and so is not in denial. What Viola does is she takes a step back from the situation and does not become enmeshed in it. This means Viola is better able to cope, by stepping outside she gives herself a breathing space.
 
This is a very useful technique to use when you find yourself in a stressful event and you begin to feel overwhelmed with dealing with the task. Acknowledge the situation, acknowledge what it is possible for you to do in that moment, and then allow time to play its part in unraveling the knot. We can't always do it in a day, so I'll leave it with Scarlet once more, when she questions how she can possibly go on, she says: 'After all tomorrow is another day'.
 

Duality

17:18 - 29|09|2006
 
Yesterday I wondered about why we may be scared of hypocrisy. I realise that we all have a duality within us, we have emotions that we may define as good or bad.
 
Good emotions could be empathy for others, we care, we consider, we help, we guide, we act within the laws and morals of our society, we are calm and collected, we debate. Bad emotions could be selfishness, being inconsiderate, careless and misleading, having no regard for laws or morals, being angry and rage.
 
Each and everyone of us has all of these emotions, and they are all necessary. We would be out of balance if we did not have this emotional duality.
 
We can become scared if it seems that a person has too much of the bad because of the violence that can be produced from feeling strong negative emotions. We do not become scared by someone who is demonstrating too much of the good, but ironically a person who is seen to be to good can lose the respect of others around them and can be taken advantage of easily.
 
If we are able to accept the good and bad there is less of a conflict within us. Problems occur when we try to deny an emotion, or we try to deny the emotion of another.
 
As we grow in life part of the journey is to face up to those difficult emotions, to reach an understanding of why the emotion or emotions were suppressed, and to learn to accept our unique duality.
 

Hypocrisy

20:07 - 28|09|2006
 
I wonder what it is that makes someone hypocritical? It is a strange behaviour because by definition it requires that the individual is a person who pretends to be what he or she is not, to claim to have standards or beliefs that are contrary to one's real character or actual behaviour.
 
What would drive a person to this relinquishing of themselves? The definition of a hypocrite is oddly enough the same definition of what the craft of acting is, an actor pretends to be what he/she is not, they play a role. An actor however is motivated towards entertaining us with a performance, it is also a form of creative communication. Good actors of course are looked up to and adored.
 
A known hypocrite is never going to be looked up to or adored, their behaviour will never be entertaining, they are viewed and judged with distaste. So who would want to be a hypocrite?
 
I can only assume that hypocrisy is born out of a desperate state, perhaps the individual has always had to fight for survival in a hard society. They cannot be themselves because perhaps they feel too vulnerable and unsure of how to compete in society as just themselves.
 
In order to get on they become one thing for one person and another thing for the other person. They are no longer able to speak the truth because they have lost the ability to be true to themselves. Out of this must come feelings of self loathing, and loss of self respect. Or maybe there has been a loathing of the society and a lack of respect for it's inhabitants that drives an individual to hypocrisy.
 
The hypocrite must have to cut off the relationship they have with themself and the relationship with others. This cutting off of emotion is perhaps a way of protecting against vulnerabilities. In order to not get hurt by anyone one is it safer not to feel love, to not relate, to pretend not to have emotion, to have no values or ideas. This is why it seems to me to be a desperate state to be in.
 
I wonder what it is about hypocrisy that elicits such strong feelings and judgements? What is it that scares us about hypocrisy?
 

'It'

15:48 - 27|09|2006
 
I overheard a few seconds of conversation this afternoon as two women passed me in the street. What I heard was one woman saying to the other: 'Sometimes we just have to put ourselves through it'. Her friend in return said: 'Yeah'. Then they were out of sound and I was just left with the resonance of the words: 'We have to put ourselves through it'.
 
It seems to be a true statement, as if a part of being able to learn about ourselves entails us having to put ourselves through it. What is 'it' that we have to put ourselves through?
 
That of course is an entirely individual matter. It would seem that in order to make sense out of life, in order to grow through changes and to progress, risks will need to be taken. Hence the sensation of having to go through with it, or putting oneself through it.
 
The degrees by which we put ourselves through 'it' will of course be shaped by our conceptions of who we are, how we feel about ourselves. It can be the case for the individual who is struggling with depression and low self esteem, that the putting of oneself through 'it' is a heavy burden, in fact their lives can be dominated by that 'it'.
 
We all go through 'it' in life, but for some the easiest way to get through, would be to not shoulder it alone but to share the experience of the difficulties of 'going through' that 'it' entails. Those two women in the street were not going through it alone, they were sharing the experience by having a dialogue about 'it'.
 
 

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