Archives For Misc

Therapeutic writing – on identity

Identity is such a big concept that it can be difficult to get a hold of.

We share a human story, but our individual identities are unique and varied.

What does identity mean to you?

It might be the story of your origins, the background to your life. This would include ancestral links, ethnicity, culture, religion, first language, place of birth, sexuality and so on. Already this may throw up several identity leanings that support or conflict with each other.

But there is also a place for how we lead our lives now. Our identities could be linked to our passions and pursuits, who and what we choose to spend time on.

Then there are the people who have helped to raise, socialise and shape us into the people we are today. They have helped us to develop a sense of self. For some this role was done by parents. But for others it could be someone in the extended family, a teacher, a youth leader or a coach or the first boss.

Perhaps we’re still seeking and haven’t settled on an identity.

Join our writing workshop here

Perhaps there is conflict in how we see ourselves and how the world identifies us

Perhaps we’re hoping some future self – slimmer, fitter, kinder, richer – will be our real identity.

Or maybe we are becoming true to our core identity, but the process is uncomfortable and messy.

Whether we think it or not we often tell ourselves stories of who we are and who we’re not.

Where are you and the concept of your identity?

Join me to spend some time thinking and writing about this in my next workshop. Book here.

 

Image by Larisa K on Pixabay

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BalanceforBetter and it stems from a desire for equal outcomes between men and women. Equal achievement and life chances provides role models for others and allows everyone to celebrate the success of the many rather than a handful of women being outliers.

But how do we achieve progress that doesn’t take another 100 years? There’s a saying that ‘if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem’. This seems a bit harsh, but I guess it encourages influential leaders and employers to use their platforms to advance talented people from all genders and backgrounds. Of course, like many other awareness days/months it is helping us to focus on something we need to attend to all year round. Everyone has a part to play and as women our role is to encourage each other to try new things and celebrate each other’s successes. Sometimes we might even need to shield each other from harm.

Last weekend I attended an event looking at healthy female leadership. This used archetypal approaches and biochemistry to explain why, in order to remain healthy, a woman needs to lead through her feminine power. If she tries to lead through acquired masculine energies, she will eventually become ill or face burnout. The many case studies who shared alongside the psychotherapist, coaches and doctor were very convincing. We know so much more about the body-mind connection now that it is not hard to imagine that continuous acute stress will affect our health. If you are leading in any way, be sure to do it authentically and practice great self-care. Superwoman becomes ill.

But the truth is we all need a better way to find balance in our selves. Perhaps we can’t balance everything every day but maybe being aware of how we spend our time will help us. I’ve heard it said that women can have it all just not at the same time. Do consider what stage of life you are at.  There are different challenges and rewards at different stages.

I myself have moved through various full-time combinations of working and study to my current position as a self-employed parent of a small child with a partner and petit business.

What about you? What are your current priorities? Your focus could be on your career; raising children; caring for elderly relatives; discovering the world or understanding your inner world. Whatever you’re doing, enjoy it fully, don’t feel guilty about not doing the other things, this too shall pass. The journey has many twists and turns.

Different life stages affect our capacity to fit in leisure and rest. Like you I am constantly tweaking my schedule to find the right balance between work and play. I encourage you to connect to your real life, what is really on your plate and make the best choices for you. I’m more alert to the fact that this changes over time; be sure to review if you feel strained, depleted or depressed. Small tweaks can have a big impact. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Time to Talk

February 7, 2019

As a practising counsellor I feel I want to encourage people to have better conversations about mental health. But the phrase ‘time to talk’ is so well used now that I wonder what we mean by it.

I remember when I first returned to live in England how I had to concentrate on the person I was speaking to figure out when they were genuinely interested in what I was saying and when they were just being polite. The difference between the two and the subtlety with which it is communicated affects us all.

So perhaps we can: –

Decide that – it’s time to talk

Create space – to talk

Choose a time – to talk

Communicate a desire – to talk

Show up, listen, empathise and not judge.  The people we connect to will appreciate it.

Most of us spend large parts of our day multitasking; at home, whilst travelling, at work, in meetings, with family and with friends.

What if we could create time to listen to ourselves? Is our self-talk supporting us or hindering us?

We too need the non-judgemental supportive space we create for others.

Through one-to-one counselling and writing workshops I try to provide this space for others.

I also provide such time for myself as often as possible. Whether I am walking between appointments or having a relaxing bath I allow myself space to be mindfully present and listen to what is going on inside me.

Let’s find ways to really talk to each other and to actually listen to ourselves. Each of us deserves to be heard.

 

 

The miracles in nature

(First published in TODAY Magazine, no longer online)

I approach this review with some ambivalence. Like many of you I am exploring ways to live my best life and fulfil my potential. On the other hand, we can ask too much of ourselves and maybe we’re already doing enough. Read this review with your own life in mind so you can take from it what is helpful and leave what is not.

 

In the free video on his website the author speaks of how the financial crash of 2008 brought him to rock bottom and made him look at his life anew. In an attempt to study the lives of successful people, he stumbled upon their top habits. The book is essentially different ways of sharing these habits alongside research and case studies.

 

One of the challenges for me is the linking of these habits to early rising. The idea is that you carry out these 6 habits on rising every day, before breakfast, work or taking children to school! For many of us that requires a big shift in mindset and, getting to bed quite early the night before. Certainly, there are studies that show early rising helps us to be more efficient although late risers point to contradictory evidence.

 

What then are these six habits that you can do every day to help you achieve your potential? The author has chosen the  memorable mnemonic S.A.V.E.R.S. The letters stand for Silence, Affirmations, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. He believes that doing these daily improves discipline, clarity and personal development. He calls these life savers and they can support physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.

 

You may already do some of these. Many successful people exercise daily. Some of us may read from a religious text or another book. Reading is not just about reading on social media but choosing content to help steer our day. Silence can include things such as meditation and prayer. The benefits of scribing – or keeping a journal – is overwhelming and I can explore that another time.

 

Affirmations and visualisations are probably the least known aspects of these 6 habits although we now know that many successful Olympians use both. Affirmations are about replacing fear and worry with more positive thoughts. Visualisations are imagining the positive outcomes you desire. I came across visualisations on my counselling training and sometimes make use of these in individual and group sessions; they can be powerful.

 

The miracle morning is a simple idea. The author wants us to know that after a 30-day trial it will become a habit. One of my cheats is listening to audiobooks so I can listen on the move or whilst doing tasks. I know that one of my fellow counsellors sprinkles the habits throughout her day. You can also experiment in doing it for one minute each to total 6 minutes. It’s just another way to make small changes in your life. How does this sound to you?

 

Shirley Anstis

 

Many people would like to write a book, but few put in the effort to achieve this.  

Would you like to write your book?

Do you have a story to tell? Have you had interesting experiences in your life that others might enjoy reading about?

Have you witnessed things you’d like others to celebrate or avoid?

Do you have a message that you would like to put into the world? 

Writing Your Story

Come and meet local authors who have taken the plunge and written several books. You might be motivated to record your life story and gift it to family and friends or

publish your learnings for sale to the wider community. This could also be a way to demonstrate your expertise. You may want to share your passion for a particular place

or experience. The possibilities are endless, you decide your theme and focus.

Come and join several authors who will talk about their experience of writing their books. Our speakers include authors Una Chandler, Cecily Mwaniki, Keith Seville and

Shirley Anstis. You will also explore the steps you need to take to get your book completed. Join others on a similar journey and be encouraged in the process.

We begin where you are and help you plan the route ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

This week

November 13, 2016
Autumnal walk

Autumnal walk

It’s been a challenging week for so many people in big and small ways. We’re all struggling to find our place in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. This is a good poem to return to again and again.

Desiderate

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even to the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann

I love this time of year as we leave winter and step into spring. The temperature warms up and the sun seems brighter.

As the weather changes I tend to get lots of ideas of what I want to change and improve but I’m never sure where to start. This year it feels right that I focus on creating space by getting rid of what I no longer want, and making space for what I want more of. So often we seek better yet insist on staying connected to the “not good enough”.  Things can only gain hold where there is space to embed and grow.

springtime

If you’re anything like me you’ve probably held on to many more things than is ideal; whether that’s material possessions, people or ways of being. Could now be the right time for a change?

What opportunities are present for you now and what might you need to let go of to make these happen?

Do share your thoughts and ideas – I’d love to hear from you!

A well known politician said something similar a while ago and got some stick for it. But I am amazed by how we think we know a lot about people we only see in the media and online. Despite my experience of therapy and being a counsellor I’m always surprised by how much I continue to discover about myself. Often we barely know what’s going on in our own lives let alone the neighbour or the stranger. Yet we are often quick with our opinions, good or bad.

For International Women’s Day in 2016 there are so many global issues that affect women. There are women who have chosen to be mothers, there are women who accidentally became mothers, there are women who for physical or emotional or life reasons have not become mothers. Whether or not we are mothers we’ve all had a mother, whatever her capabilities. Many women mother through adoption, fostering or even mentoring. We are all familiar with the African saying popularised by Hilary Clinton that “it takes a village to raise a child” but in reality the village is hardly ever there.

I am thinking of the women who are separated from their children because of migration, ill health, death and divorce.  So many women have been burdened by these difficult circumstances. I think too of   refugee children; away from home and living with very little food, shelter care and safety, the basics for a decent human life. Many mothers may be making a huge sacrifice to give their children a better or safer life and that looks different depending on where you are standing.

Others of us are stressed by trying to be great mothers and using our children to demonstrate this. We forget we cannot truly create a person, it is this wonderful alchemy between nature and nurture. Our children, however we came to have them, are a gift from God.

IMG_5290

I chose the title because I am amazed how much we can judge each other without knowing the facts. I have two recent examples to share here. First, our son is tall for his age so people tend to assume I have brought him to the wrong group. I keep assuring them that I do know when he starts school. On another occasion I bought my child an ice cream at midday and had an elderly lady looking at me as if to say I was perpetuating the problem with obesity in the world! Little did she know that he’s a great eater who loves to be active. Truth is he hasn’t yet realised that we could have ice cream at home as he only gets it when we’re out visiting museums, galleries, garden centres and play parks.

So what she saw as the whole story was only part of it.

If women are going to continue to make advances in the world then maybe we need to care more about each other’s children, judge less, and speak up more on behalf of those who have no voice. It is time too to be gentle with ourselves. We’re all stretched by modern life, whether struggling or just challenged. And yet we are good enough and we can do well to remember this. Does any of this resonate with you? Let me know what you think/feel?

Pam Warren: From behind the mask to centre stage

Meeting Pam Warren was both ordinary and extraordinary.  She has been through such an incredibly traumatic experience and yet she is generally upbeat and hopeful. When I first heard Pam speak at a local business expo I was mesmerised by her skill as well as her content. From the woman behind the mask she is now the woman at the front of the stage. She is now a motivational speaker and campaigner, roles that came out of her experience as a survivor of the Paddington rail crash in 1999.

For a long time after the crash she was a campaigner for improved rail safety. In recent times her campaigning has taken a back seat as the original goals for improved rail safety have been achieved, although she still keeps a wary eye on the railways and commuters have been known to tell her their concerns.

I spoke to Pam to find out more about her life now given that crucial experience in 1999.

DSC01559

So how did you become a professional speaker?

I wanted to get back to work but my health can stop me. I have to make sure work is flexible to allow me to rest when I need it. I trained in event management and project management before bumping in to someone who suggested speaking. I took a year out to be mentored by one of the best and he helped me to make my talk more relevant for my audience.

How are you able to share your story and not connect to the pain of it?

Yes, that used to be hard. I know how to get connected enough to talk about it but not to emotionally reconnect with it. I’ve done lots of work with my psychologist to help me to talk about it with some of the feeling but keep myself together so as not to burst into tears. Sometimes I take my plastic mask to do a talk.

Do people sometimes want to touch it and what is that like, given that it was your face?

What people don’t realise is that my face was so swollen that it shrank back to normal during treatment so I used 3 different masks during my healing. It gives me comfort that if someone touches the one I have, it helps to know that I have the others.

How long have you had a psychologist?

I had my psychologist before I recovered enough for work; 14 years now. He helped me to face forward and aim for new goals.  He still thinks I do too much. I know if I work hard then post traumatic stress disorder (ptsd) and depression could kick in but I’m too aware that life is too short to not do stuff. I am prepared to have 50 weeks when I can do fantastic work and possibly 2 weeks when I’m not well.  I came off the anti depressants 5 years ago as it stopped me from experiencing not just sorrow but also joy. Once off the medication then I worked on my coping strategies.

How is your relationship with your family?

Family and friends now come first. If work conflicts, then I’ll weigh up what is more important in life. The choice is not materialistic or about money but who matters most in the greater scheme of things.

How do you cope with stress given what you’ve experienced?

If anything stresses me now I ask myself two questions-

  • Has anyone died?
  • Is anyone injured?

If the answer is no, as it often is, then I realise it is not that important in the whole scheme of things and can refocus and deal with the problem.

What’s exciting for you at the moment?

Because of my experience in the crash I realised that I can’t take stuff with me when I die so I want to see the world and enjoy life. Travelling has become much more important to me and I am genuinely interested in other countries. I sometimes connect with university students learning English and see a completely different part of the country than if I just stayed in the tourist areas.

Where have you travelled to?

Malta, Russia, Egypt, America, Canada, India and Tunisia to name a few.

What is your family background?

My Mother is from Fiji, got married at 21 and moved with my biological father to Singapore. She left when I was 3 and came to England. However, my birth certificate says I was born here in Andover so it’s a little confusing. From age 8 I’ve lived around Reading with my mum, sister and step-father but growing up I always felt out of sync with my family. I explored some of this in my book and when my mum read the first draft she was quite upset but I think it has helped us understand each other better. I am used to getting on with it and that’s how it feels with the crash. I have rebuilt my life. Teenage Pam experienced lots of angst from not knowing who her dad was but it doesn’t matter anymore.

Is it hard to be in a relationship?

I am open to relationships but not yet found ‘the one’ to complement my life in any meaningful way.

How does it feel to be a role model?

I am delighted if people see me as a role model. I was and still am, very aware to stay clear of the celebrity thing. I refused offers to appear on shows that were vacuous when promoting my book. I still don’t expect people to recognise me and feel no different to anyone else.  I don’t like PR but I am happy with public speaking. I remember when I was in primary school I had a good speaking voice so every year I was the narrator for the school play. Also there was a lot of speaking during the campaigning – making a point, giving media sound bites and speaking to the audience in the room – all helped to prepare me for a speaking career.

Someone once said “when the time is right the teacher will appear” and that fits with me. It’s important to not think you know everything.

Tell me about your charity work

The Healing Foundation Charity fund university research into medical breakthroughs for disfigurement. This could be from cancer, war veterans, burns victims like me or the exciting possibility of growing back a limb. I have been an ambassador with them for 16 years.

I also support the Children’s Burns Research Centre in Bristol. Children’s burns are currently treated the same as adults but they will grow and face the challenges of adolescence. The Bristol unit is the first one in the world and being observed globally.

I support the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust – they help disadvantaged young people by using retired sports people as mentors.

How did you get involved in the DKH Trust?

I was introduced to Dame Kelly Holmes by my friend Sir John Madejski and she is one of my heroes so I offered to support her charity straight away. I believe in the vision of the Trust. I remember the first graduation evening watching the kids and how they had grown in confidence in one year – I saw their transformation.

I try to support local charities when I can and Reading is close to my heart as I consider it my home.

Were you always a career woman?

Yes, I was working very hard and doing pretty well as a financial adviser pre crash. My company turned over £1.5 million a year. I was sad when I lost my company after the crash but in hindsight I’m quite pleased I’m no longer a financial adviser. Looking back on the crash it has been a painful sometimes bitter experience but but life is better.

How do you look after yourself now to stay well?

I eat healthily and have a personal trainer. As I have a touch of arthritis from burn damaged joints, he designs exercises for me. I try to get enough sleep and will have a half-an-hour catnap in the day if I need it.  Fitness helps me to fight off infection.

Pre-crash Pam saw family twice per year now post crash Pam sees them at least every 3 weeks. My family includes my sister who nursed me after the crash, my step-father who raised me, my mother and both my mum and sister’s husbands. They were a constant source of strength during all those years of recovery and I love them dearly. Plus, I am really blessed to have a network of close friends – my safety network – they kick in if I am unwell and I like to support them too. For example, I need to take special care and find distractions coming up to the crash anniversary and they help me through this hardest part of the year.

——————–

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Pam Warren: the lady behind the mask. She is a survivor in life and in business.

Pam’s book From Behind the Mask is available from Amazon, major bookshops and for an author signed copy check out www.pamwarren.co.uk .