Archives For Being

 mothersfathers

Like most things in life we learn about love and emotions in our early years.  Many psychologists and analysts have documented the role of the mother in this.  Our mother’s presence or not is critical to our early development.  It can affect our relationships with other women whether we are male or female.  But mothers are not solely responsible for child rearing, our fathers are important too.  It is about recognising the impact these early years have had on who we are now and what we might need to do to continue to develop and grow.  It seems silly to get into old age and still be blaming your parents for the bad start they gave you.  At some point it is up to us to heal our own wounds so that we can move on.  Parents often parent the way they were parented or they may become the exact opposite of their parents.

What sort of parenting did you have and how has it affected you?  If you are a parent, how has it influenced you?

Is there a quality, expectation, thought pattern or behaviour that you need to change because it is no longer helpful to your life even though it was essential in your family of origin?  Are you still trying to get the approval of your parents or siblings or are you now travelling on your own path and being true to who you are?  How does this early environment still affect what you believe you deserve and the subsequent choices you make?

If you feel there is something here to explore then you can arrange to see a therapist.  This is confidential and you do not need to tell anyone.  What would it be like if you could really become your best self?  The real you could be hiding underneath lots of ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’.    You may discover that your whole life so far seems more like a dream than reality.  Do you need to find a new home, job, relationship or purpose?

This is about beginning to live the life that would make you happy not necessarily the one that impresses mum and dad.

love

The Bible says that God is love and sacrificed Jesus because he loved us so much.  William Shakespeare refers to music as the food of love in Twelfth Night.  Sigmund Freud identifies it in Eros as life’s energy force.  Others say love (and money) makes the world go around.  Hollywood tells us that we all want to fall in love, as many times as possible.  Some of us are in love with love.

There are probably as many views of love as there are people on the planet.  Great writing, music, art, film, dance and architecture have been inspired by love and serve as a monument to its expression.  Love is powerful.  Oprah Winfrey says that experiences presents us with an opportunity ‘to choose love over fear.’

Love is certainly part of human need, desire and longing.  Some of us are lucky enough to experience it at some point in our lives, and others are not.  Maybe loving others starts with loving ourselves.  In order to give and receive love we need to be able to trust ourselves and trust another.  Can we love if we know that our feelings will not be reciprocated?  Some people find it easy to love their children, family and friends; others do not.  I have heard parents say that they would be prepared to die for their children: real sacrificial love.

Love may be both about who and what we attach ourselves to. We may have been badly hurt by our earlier attempts to love and be loved.  Consequently we may find it easier to love power, status and material possessions.  We can find ourselves becoming addicted to that which we once loved, or we might assume we love something because we are unhealthily addicted to it.  Love is mysterious and can turn into hate.

Some powerful questions you might want to consider: Who or what do you love and how does that affect how you relate to them?  Does it feel like a healthy love or more of the obsessive kind?  Have you been hurt by loving and need to heal before you can love again?   Do you not love because you are afraid of exposing yourself to the pain of disappointment?  Are you missing out on beautiful emotional connections because you fear it will all go wrong?   Do your actions express what is in your heart?

There is no need to love everything or everyone but to be open to the possibility seems important to me. What do you think?

 

 

Humour is part of what makes life pleasurable.  Smiling and laughing is good for our heart and helps us to de-stress. It does not get rid of the stresses altogether but offers some respite from them and is enjoyable in its own right.  It can make us feel happy.

Psychologists and others have spent time analysing humour and why we find certain things funny.  What you find funny can say a lot about who you are.  If you spend enough time listening to comedians you could see the punch line as it approaches.  That does not make it any less funny.

Laughter

Do you laugh because of what you hear when someone tells a joke or is it about what you see.  Many of the early silent movies are very entertaining to look at.  I don’t think humour is about picking on any one person or making fun of a group of people. That is unnecessary and cruel. Generally I prefer my humour in situation comedy or clever stand-ups with witty word play.  But often it is the silliest things that remain in our memories.

Comedy does not have to be performed for us.  Laughter can come from our everyday encounters with the people in our life.  This can provide many private episodes of riotous laughter. We can always laugh at ourselves too. In surveys women often say that they want a man with a sense of humour although men don’t seem to rate this as important for them.  I do not know why that is.

I am glad I know what makes me laugh and where to find it.  Is there a place for laughter in your life? Could you laugh with the ones you love?

 

 


Kindness is a good quality to practice on our journey through life.  The Bible talks about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.  But there is also something to be said for being kind whilst not expecting anything.   Kindness is simply about saying yes to a request that we can accommodate or offering to do something that we know will help another person.  It could be as simple as picking up someone’s shopping, watering their plants, giving them a lift, phoning to check that they are ok.  It is about allowing someone else’s situation to cross our mind and allowing ourselves to offer to ease their burden without feeling superior or heroic.  It is sharing the gifts and resources that we have.

waterfall

We may also find ourselves on the receiving end of such generosity.  John Donne wrote that ‘no man is an island’ and it helps us to remember that our lives are all connected.   Unfortunately it often takes a tragedy to remind us of this.  Sometimes giving of our time and energy has more of an impact than writing a cheque.   I am reminded here of a television program called The Secret Millionaire, where wealthy people go undercover to discover real needs and later, financially support these.  I know they can get publicity from the show but as they already have a high profile in their field I do not think that is their motivation.  It seems to me that they want to help and to feel the joy of giving.  There are of course many who give of their time quietly through caring and volunteering.

Kindness is not about wealth.  We are all capable of giving of ourselves, whoever we are, wherever we live.  Is kindness something you experience of yourself or from those around you? Would you like to be kinder to yourself and others?

 

Appreciating who you are cannot be done in the time it takes you to read this post. I have included in these posts (and the book) some of the key things I have discovered in my life to date.  This is the result of my age, having lived in three different countries and my experience of three career paths including the study of psychology, sociology and counselling.  So it is an accumulation of my experience so far and undoubtedly part of my life’s journey.

Journey copy

What has your life journey been like so far and have you begun to make sense of it?  Is it all ahead of you or all behind you?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  For me I am grateful to my past and hopeful about my future whilst feeling that my current opportunities are good enough.  It is up to me to make the best of what is available to me rather than focusing on what is imperfect.  (Imperfection is part of the human condition and provides us all with opportunities to be vulnerable).  I certainly feel that I am now on my individual life journey even though I don’t know what happens next.  Do you have a sense of having a past, present and future?

The sense of life being a journey can help us gain perspective.  If we use the metaphor of travel then we can appreciate that sometimes we will like the scenery and other times we really want to get out of town.  Some paths are easy to walk through and others require us to accept assistance.  We may see others on our journey who appear to be having an easier or more difficult time.  Making comparisons can be a distraction to keeping on our own path.  We may feel we are running a marathon or a short sprint, doing hurdles or mountain climbing!   Henry David Thoreau says that ‘what lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us.’

What opportunities do our journeys present for us and for those we meet?  How do we cope with the difficulties and the privileges?  What do we protect and what can we share with others we meet on the way?  Maybe we can only appreciate a journey when we’ve got to the end and reflected on where we have been.  It may be that we have time at the end to do this or it may be that others do that for us.  It does not matter; our journey is ours and no one else’s.

How do you feel about your journey so far – share your thoughts

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

So who are we?  Do you feel you know who you are?

In my work as a counsellor I find that underlying many problems is the sense that people do not know who they are.  I myself have been exploring who I am in a more meaningful way.  Each of us is unique; from the experiences of our early life, our family of origin, location of our early years and the backdrop of world events.  These all have an impact on who we are and how we see ourselves.  Some of this may seem quite random, but imagine being a teenager in Iraq during the last decade.  Whatever the family stands for they cannot remove the impact of the community and the world.  All of our past goes into who we are now.  This may now determine where and how we choose to live our lives, what we do with our time and how we maintain our relationships.  As we get older and the world continues to change we could find ourselves, and our sense of identity, in constant flux.

Our identity is about our sense of self and belonging, how we see ourselves and our place in the world.  For me it is a complex thing that is not fully captured by those who see us from the outside.  I truly believe that only we can explore and own our unique identity.

For me it is about exploring and being connected to all the different aspects of who I am.  So I am a woman and need to figure how I relate to other women, both in our similarities and our differences. Similarly, how do I relate to men generally and specifically?  As a Black Caribbean woman who lives a very British life how do I relate to Black British women of a different background, Caribbean women living elsewhere and British women who are not Black? – I have some similar experiences to all of these.  It’s about being aware of those points of connection.  Add in faith, education, class, age and sexuality; these are all aspects of how I see myself and how the world might see me.  But my internal sense of these observable identifiers may be different from that of the onlooker.

So how about you?  What does it mean to be your specific gender, ethnicity, class, culture, sexuality and age?  Do you have a difference that is hidden (e.g. deafness, epilepsy)?  If you feel you are ordinary then imagine someone different from you in those identifiers.  Do they remind you of someone in your social circle or someone you have never met and whom you may have strong opinions about?  Only by truthfully looking at ourselves can we begin to figure out our identity.  As we look deeper within we will have a better sense of the truth about who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world.

For me it is about trying to connect to all parts of me, good and bad, and having people in my life who reflect different parts of that to me as I do for them. What does identity mean to you?

 

HomeThis brings me to the idea of home:  A place where you care about others and they care about you.  For me that is a more important concept than to say it is the place where you live.  For many it is a simple concept; you grow up in your parents’ home and then you go out and create your own.  A home needs to be more than a house because that is only a limited external combination of location, possessions and function.  It could be about the community or country you feel a sense of belonging to.  Home could be a community of likeminded people where tolerance and cultural exchange are encouraged.  A home needs to offer some heart connection so that those who live there can be fully alive and feel supported.  For me it is more of a sanctuary than a straightforward shelter.  It is a place where I can unwind and I can offer hospitality to others.

Nowadays England is more accepting of different communities who maintain the culture of their home country whilst creating a new home in England; having two homes.  I think of friends who have left England for South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in search of what they believe will be a new and better home for them.  I think of Caribbean friends moving to America, England and Canada for the same reasons.  I myself was born in England and grew up in the Caribbean.  Where is home for me?  Do I need to choose?  In my experience, time spent, key relationships, commitments and sense of belonging all have a part to play.  Both England and the Caribbean have changed in the time I have been finding and creating my adult home.

There are many people without a sense of home even if they have lived in a land for several generations.  They need to find a place that they can call home.  Part of this I am sure is an ability to be at home with oneself.  We would never find home if it is all about an expectation of the world continually welcoming us to some special place.  We need to figure what we need and create that space in the world.

I know for me home is linked to a broader sense of identity and relationships.  This may change over time as I continue to grow deeper into who I am and how I live my life.  Listening to our specific desire for a place of refuge is part of our life’s journey and one we should take seriously – no one can create a home for us.  Similarly we do not need to recreate the home we grew up in although we could consciously choose to include aspects of that which we found supportive and, by the same token, leave out that which we did not.

Have you found or created a home for yourself?  Would you like to or does it seem unimportant?

 

 

Faith fateSome of us have faith and this belief helps to hold us in times of uncertainty.  Others believe in fate and that enables them to take an appropriate stance when making plans for their future.  What are we moving forward towards?

For each of us it is something to lean on and it enables us to have hopes, plans, goals and aspirations.  Neither approach guarantees predictability so we can only do our best and leave the rest up to God, fate or spirit – depending on our perspective on things. ‘Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ Martin Luther King Jr.

For some, mindfulness and being in the moment is the best way to approach life.  If your particular personality gets so caught up in worries about the future that you cannot focus on anything in the immediate present then it would benefit you to develop the ability to be in the moment.  If, on the other hand, you have a healthy respect for the present and can give it the attention it deserves then you might want to develop the ability to have an eye on your future and appreciate how your current choices might impact on your future.  Not in such a way that it paralyses you from doing anything, but just that you weigh up things and make the best choice you are capable of.

When I worked as a school’s careers adviser I remember some of the more academic students being particularly stressed about their future.  They expected so much of themselves that they seemed to want guarantees that, for example, a language degree would get them to the UN or a business degree would get them a career in the City of London.  Neither faith nor fate can tell us what will happen to us in our lifetime.  In The Soul’s Code, James Hillman speaks of life being ‘foreordained yet not foretold.’

So do you have faith in anyone or anything?  How do you keep hope when the evidence is not always visible?  Are you so scared of being disappointed that you believe in nothing and no one?  How does that affect your day-to-day choices?  Is this an area you would like to explore in more detail?  Leave a comment here and have the conversation with the people in your life.

 

DeathSadly for all of us dying is an aspect of living.  It is inevitable, regardless of our attitudes, behaviour or caring.  None of us are infinite.  Death comes, whether slow or fast, gentle or chaotic, expected or shocking.

So how do we live with this certainty?  For me, this is something that has changed over time.  Although I have always known that young people could die, the experience of my family and friends has always been that one got old and then one died.  Then my youngest sister passed away very suddenly.  What is that about?  What does it mean?  What am I here for?  What shall I do with this time?  This was my specific process in facing my newfound conscious awareness of my future death.  Of course, we will not mourn our own death, others will.

What would you like to offer to the world, to leave behind before that fateful day?  Now is the time to start thinking about this.  For me it does not mean being depressed or particularly serious but recognising that we cannot take our life for granted so we need to prioritise what we would like to do and try our best to live the way we feel called to – our soul’s unique journey.  Maybe we have a special gift for the world and whilst we waste time trying to copy everyone else our gift is not being used or seen but remains hidden.

Here is a quote that encourages us to explore our individual gifts and the impact that has on us collectively:

‘Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.  If a man’s gift is in prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.’

Romans Chapter 12 verses 3(b) to 8 in the Bible (New International Version)

It would be wonderful if we could all offer our gifts to the world before it is too late. Together we can have a big impact on our world.

If you consider that you will not be alive forever how do you feel?  What would you like to do with your time here on earth?  Are you concerned about what happens after death and does that impact on how you view your life?

 

If you are anything like me you may not have followed Damien Hirst’s career but you might feel you know all about him.  I decided to see his exhibition at Tate Modern and really experience his work of more than 20 years.

Beautiful,amore,gasp,eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering

Yes there are dead fish in display cabinets and the notorious dead shark.  Being able to see a dead shark so close is quite an incredible feeling and it did bring me into contact with my own fears.  At the same time it feels strangely empowering because the shark is powerless to cause harm despite looking so deadly.

Seeing the inside of a dead sheep is not something I have ever done but it did connect me to my own bodily awareness.  Our bodies communicate with us all the time but we are not always listening, seeing a baby sheep cut in half made me stop.

There is a lot on the medicalisation of life in the exhibition and I’d be intrigued to find out how that connects to his autobiography.  The surgical equipment sent a chill through me as it was meant to.  What seems like a vat of cigarette butts presented me with two immediate responses.  As a non-smoker it seemed that there were enough cigarettes there to make someone very ill and that was sad.  But then I wondered what my addiction would be.  I may start collecting my foil wrappers from my fair trade dark chocolate!

There are several cabinets of pills but they are presented as incredibly desirable luxuries, at one point the use of lighting made them look like diamonds.  He refers to the lullaby effect of sleeping pills on adults.  It’s that moment when art holds up a mirror to society.  I know through my counselling work, contacts and official figures that many people are struggling with insomnia.

But it’s not all about pills and death.  Flies are very much alive as they gorge on a cow’s head in enclosed glass.   Life is also present as butterflies are being born during the exhibition and plants are growing. This is in a strange and intriguing room –almost like a greenhouse – after the straight, clear and clinical looking glass cases.

The Anatomy of an Angel

But my favourite room is the final one when it feels like we’ve been through earth and hell and now we’re in heaven.  Beautiful butterflies and religious motifs are everywhere.  I am not sure of the theology of seeing the human organs of an angel but it is very gripping to see. There’s also a dove suspended in mid flight.

I appreciate the creativity that takes me on a journey inside myself and out again.  It’s about how I connect to it.  My favourite image is the one above, done in 1997.  The name says it all “Beautiful, amore, gasp, eyes going into the top of the head and fluttering.”

 

I would love to hear from you if you’ve been moved by anything creative recently? Did it connect you to life, death or anything else?