Blogs and items of interest

March 3, 2019

Why Does Being Cut Out or Feeling Lonely Hurt So Bad, and How Counselling Can Help?

In this article I am going to discuss possible reasons as to why being left out, not fitting in or when we experience loss of friendship groups or loving relationships feels so uncomfortable and hurts so bad. I am a counsellor working in the Bradley Stoke area of Bristol who has helped many resolve feelings of loneliness, rejection and ostracisation. If this is something you would like support with, my contact details are at the bottom of this blog. Think of times it has happened to you Can you remember a time where you have felt ostracised or cut out of a social situation, not invited to a social gathering or when you have been singled out by a bully? This is the feeling that people experience when they are alone at times of festive celebrations such as Christmas or the feeling of being left behind when someone closed to them has passed away. Can you get close to that emotion that arises from this rejection/ostracisation? What does ostracise mean? The word ‘Ostracise’ derived from ancient Greek times where voting tokens were called ostracon. There was a voting process that happened twice a year where civilisations would use ostracon voting chips. Ostracon was broken bits of pottery, the ancient Greeks used ostracon to vote whether to banish someone from their civilisation for 5 years. A modern translation of the word ‘Ostracise is: To avoid someone intentionally, or to prevent someone from taking part in the activities of a group. Why does it feel so bad? The feeling that arises is affectively straight from your survival instinct tapping into your stress response. Big emotions around survival is the likely response, feelings of loneliness, vulnerability and a need for action. If the emotion didn’t feel big, we wouldn’t act upon it as it wouldn’t feel serious enough. We have an internal survival instinct to connect with others, how this plays out is through the attachment to our parents or carer giver from birth. If we decided we didn’t like our parent/carer giver from an early age that would risk our survival, hence sayings like ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you!’ We learn quite quickly that we need others to survive. We are designed to connect with other humans, examples of what this looks like, is the contagious laugh. Those times when someone’s laughter inspires you to do the same even though you might not know what they are laughing at. Another example is when someone yawns it somehow feels contagious, this is actually ‘do I need to gasp for air too?’ So we take a gasp of air and yawn. A key reason we need to be able to read and feel emotions is so we can read the fear in another human. This is a survival mechanism, if we see fear in another it inspires us to ask the question, do I need to be fearful also? If someone was running with the look of fear on their face, you would assess the situation to see if the fear is real for you also. I prefer to be alone, why do I even care? Humans have a very in-ground biological survival trait to remain connected with others due to our Hunter Gatherer days. You needed to remain part of a group because that increased your chances of survival, it meant you were more likely to feed, and less likely to get picked off by neighbouring tribes or animals that might eat you. Staying part of the group meant life or death, your survival depended on it. Not feeling connected to groups and loneliness is at the core of a lot of the counselling work I do. If it is not genuinely feeling cut off from groups or people, I work with people that feel different from everybody else because of their experiences. Existential loneliness, ultimately, we are all alone. I believe another factor of loneliness is no one fully knows what it is like to be ourselves as individuals, we can get close to what that is with empathy, but we can never be fully sure. We are a guest on the earths plain, we enter the world alone and the chances are we will leave alone. We reach out to others and this connection reinforces our existence, without being able to talk to others about things you may have done in the past, our feeling of loneliness perpetuates. Think of the times you have bumped into an old friend and the enjoyment you experience talking about old times. We learn this from a young age when we are children, we say “look at me”, “look what I have done” “watch me”. It is almost as if we are saying ‘I exist, notice me.’ The connection to others as adults is our way of soothing this wound that we exist but without others its harder to grasp what that existence looks and feels like. Another factor in the connection we have with others is our own mortality project. Internationally famous artist Banksy says ‘I mean, they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.’ I wonder if this thinking is with us all? If we are not connected with people that somehow our existence will be shorter lived. How can we resolve feelings we feel when we are ostracised? When you add this thinking with ostracisation we are tapping into a wound that is as big as any we can experience in our lives. How do we heal a wound that’s so deep? I am not good enough, I don’t fit in, why don’t people like me? For me being able to own what we are feeling is the first step to either feeling it more comfortably or choosing to respond differently. Feelings are often our bodies way of giving us the energy we need to respond to a problem. An example of this is if we feel nervous before a social situation this is actually our bodies way of giving us the energy we need to become a bit more energetic and chatty. If we reject this feeling as negative, we are fighting against our body’s responses. We then look at our responses as a negative feeling and avoid it rather than accepting and working with it. I have on many occasions worked with people that feel socially inadequate or ostracised. By talking through the feelings one experiences, together we have been able to facilitate a more practical plan and ownership moving forward. If this is something you would like to address, then get in touch or contact on 07903319318.    
January 20, 2019

Was it Really Fair to Ask Us to Vote In or Out??

Image result for in or out brexit

I am putting my neck out writing this blog because as a counsellor what I think and feel ideally should be neutral to the client in order to not interest or put off certain clients. My thoughts and feelings are mostly neutral to both sides of people who voted leave or remain. However, in this blog I am going to discuss aspects that I think will impact leave or reman based on experiences of people I have encountered, my education and my experience of living in the UK all my life.

I woke up on the morning of 24th of June 2016 did my normal thing, I did nothing different. The traffic was as it always was the weather was pretty much as it always is……………

My first experience of it was when I asked a work colleague “How are you this morning?” His response was “I am really pissed off! Have you not heard?”

It then became clear. Of course the EU referendum result, I asked what the result was although I was pretty sure I knew. Which way did I want the vote to go? The truth is I was not sure. The facts and statistics from both sides sounded way to scare mongering for my liking. Things didn’t feel like they were working politically in the UK but voting for what is inside the mystery box feels pretty scary too. Of course voting in or out, probably won’t change what is not working in any case.

My first thoughts of uncertainty hit as soon as the news was told to me, my next thoughts were actually my community is made up of European people. How does this vote affect them? I experience the European people in my community to be friendlier than those that are from the UK. Of course I am not standardising the friendliness of human beings based on nationality but this is actually a true observation for me.

My Polish tattoo artist who is known across Europe for his work, told me his story in one of the 20 odd hours he was working on my tattoo. He told me that he and his girlfriend at the time had a couple of grand between them and things were not working out for them economically in Poland, so they decided to emigrate to another country and at the time his girlfriend was reading Treasure Island which features Bristol and some of its public houses. Based on this between them I quote they said, “Fuck it, let’s go there!”

I found this story inspiring, I can only imagine how adventurous their lives must have felt at that time. There is something about the free spirit of this decision based on their own ability to trust themselves and their aspirations. I also believe there is something stunning about the fact there was the opportunity to do this. I value and love the travelling I have done in this world and I can’t wait to do more.

I wonder how a voting leave affects them and other people across Europe with similar aspirations? For me, voting leave because of migration to this country is not dissimilar to those that voted for Trump in America because he was going to build a wall! And let’s be honest is that really working out for them right now!

No sooner had the votes been counted social media became the house of commons and people erupted into debate on what had just happened, some even already changing their minds on the vote they had cast. Claiming that they had voted in rebellion to the way things currently were. A predominant theme was for fear of the NHS being privatised.

I have a friend who has worked a hard-manual labour job for pretty much all his life and in his mid 30’s he had worked his back so hard it had given out completely to the point he needed surgery. He tried to obtain this surgery via the NHS, but his wait became so long he was about to lose the job that he had been in for many years. How would this man support his family with no job and no means of income due to the fact he couldn’t work because he has an injury from too much hard labour? He was fortunate enough to be able to go privately (or perhaps not so fortunate as the cost of going private was well in excess of £20000) to see the same surgeon he would via the NHS but the waiting times were non-existent because he could afford to pay.

Shortly after he had booked his private operation, his letter for his NHS consultation came through the post which came through pretty much the same service, the same surgeon, however this letter suggested his back wouldn’t need surgery and physio would do the trick, which definitely was not the case! He needed reconstructive titanium mesh spine surgery!

I wonder how a voting leave affects people in similar situations? I think the answer to that is there will be no change at all, seeing as the Brexit buses were a lie! If anything I could see the need to pay for health care increase due to selling NHS trade to privatised American companies.

My guess is, and it is a semi educated one, I have studied sociology and read much of the works of Karl Marx, nothing will change. On the one side it was suggested that we stayed in the EU for business reasons, for the economy, for security or we should vote out for the saviour of the NHS and closing of the borders. We have since learned the truth of this is, we need a certain amount of migration to do jobs that British people simply do not want too and leaving the EU will not make our NHS any better off.

The vote that would have won for me is not the one that strived for a financial driven economy. The economy is something you know is there, but you also know its exaggerated and don’t quite know how it works. It is also a measure of how the richer end of our civilisation is doing opposed to the poorer half.

It could be argued I have no right to talk about any of this stuff, I didn’t even vote! Yes I didn’t vote. Why? Because at the time of the vote there was nothing set in stone about what impact staying in or out of the EU would have! For me that sets out a complete irresponsibility of the UK’s members of parliament and also the media. I blame them for this mess! I blame MP’s for not communicating with the British public about what the real implications of what the vote was for. I blame the media for filling that vacuum void of information, with bullshit! It is only now a few weeks before we are actually going to leave (debateable!) that we are starting to see what some of the impacts are. Although despite constant reading around the subject I am still not too much the wiser.

So what would I vote for now? I would take into consideration the impact it had on all generations. I would vote for the encouragement to connect to others, one where you are encouraged to speak to your neighbour to smile at passers-by regardless of their skin colour or nationality. That might sound like I am a remain-er but that is not necessarily the case because I believe some of the regulations to come out of the EU are bonkers! I guess the truth still strongly sits with, I do not know enough, and I think that is the same for most, and we are the ones who are graced with the responsibility which for me is unfair.

Regardless of all of the above my vote would have gone towards the side that brought people together, a vote that encouraged us to unite behind the one similarity that we all share and that is what it is to be human, instead of claiming rights to something that is completely circumstantial………….. the bit of land you were born on!

January 12, 2019

A Dying Flame in January, Why is This Time of Year so Hard?

This is an article about some of the low feelings we can feel about this time of year, along with some suggestions about how we can support ourselves.

The days are greyer than any other time of the year, the wind lashes with its own arctic kiss. The light seems to never fully arrive on a day to day basis and those that work a 9-5 barely see any light at all. The shivering temperatures and the cold of the dampness seem to penetrate right to the bones. Somehow this time of year everything feels like it is done as though we are stuck in tar.

The anticipation of the festive period along with the New Year’s celebrations are now a mere memory, the high has now gone low. This can be a low time of year for reasons related to the festive period, people may be lonely or have experienced bad family relationships at a time where the television makes out, everyone’s festive period is perfect. As I have written in a previous blog, perfection is at the core of failure and feelings of inadequacy.

More people die at this time of year than at any other time of the year. Statistics have shown that in the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve in some years has seen an increase of people dying rising by up to 31%. The reasons for this are unknown but it’s thought cold alone is not the defining factor.

According to the Independent the third Monday of every year is considered to be the most miserable day of the year, it is dubbed ‘Blue Monday’. Whilst some mental health organisations feel it is not helpful to have a day considered the most depressing of the year, I feel it would be hard to overlook the fact that there are factors that lead to this time of year being not the jolliest!

For example like I have said, the grey weather, a battered bank balance from Christmas, not to mention the excess pounds gained from over indulging over the festive period. Then there is the possibility that you may have failed your New Year’s Resolutions, I think you get the jest of where I am going, on top of these possibilities, there is the day to day norms which can be enough to get us down. I myself I am not immune to this, at this time of year getting out of bed and waking up feels harder somehow.

(Macmillan, 2011, p. 505) Writes in ‘The Little Book of Life’, ‘In winter everything dies back in the ground, but in spring, everything comes alive again. Year in year out. But there is nothing magical about this, nor superstitious, it is a natural process controlled by our friend in relationship, the sun.’

Some might argue about the magical and superstitious part but for me the sun is what breathes life into everything. Plants use the process of photosynthesises to turn sun light into food, the sun gives the earth energy by offering its radiant warmth to the seas which in turn determines our weather cycles. The sun gives us vitamin D which according to science is vital for our bones, immune system and our mental health. Apparently 10 million of us in the UK about 1 in 6 of us are lacking vitamin D! We live in the UK and lack vitamin D and we have very little sunshine, coincidence I think not!

So how can we get more vitamin D? Well rumour has it Portobello mushrooms are a great source of Vitamin D, I have also heard if you leave them in the sun for a couple of hours before consuming them the amount of Vitamin D is dramatically increased.

As for feeling grey and glum at this time of year? For me the key to mental well-being is holding healthy relationships with our friends, family and colleagues. I also believe being in a healthy counselling relationship can be a way to finding out what lies under our greyness and get closer to who we are.

I believe at the bottom of every Mental Well-Being Kit Bag there should be a person you can talk to, someone to be there to hear your thoughts out loud (please note this is not advice to put someone in a kit bag!!).

I also believe that internalising our unhappy feelings is the way to perpetuate them. Therefore accessing someone to hear you out in times of need is vital to mental well-being, so reach out, talk to your friends, family members, your work colleagues and where this is not possible seeking counselling could be an option. If you are affected by any of the things mentioned and would like to find out more about counselling you can find out more here

October 28, 2018

How to Move Forward When You Have Experienced Romantic Heart Break

This blog was inspired after being approached by the Counselling Directory to write an article for a third party magazine. This got me thinking about the complexed emotions someone can experience after a break up. In this blog I am going to talk about some of those emotions and how we can move on from them when we have accepted they are there.

Self Care.

In the early stages of a break up, self-care is important, what that looks like for you will vary from person to person. It might be the duvet and hot chocolates on the sofa, getting in touch with your creative side, it could be time with your family, or reconnecting with friends.

I think sometimes our friends around us see the cracks in a relationship long before we do, therefore when the inevitable break up happens they are at a different stage of the change process than you are. This can make it hard for a common empathetic path to exist with the people around us. Friends can be understanding to start with but then fail to see why you can’t ‘get over it’ and move on. I don’t believe this is out of selfishness but more out of they didn’t experience the powerful emotions you experienced in the relationship because it was your journey not theirs.

Should I feel this way?

The question, how long a relationship is before justifying feelings of loss at the end? May seem relevant, but if the relationship offered all the excitement a new relationship often can, I think it is possible and justified to feel the emotions of loss, even if the relationship wasn’t that long. Some of us love easier than others, we have all heard of that expression ‘love at first sight’.


The youthfulness of a relationship.

Falling in love evokes feelings of feeling young again, which let’s face it, can feel great and be a welcome distraction from the normal day to day ‘run of the mill’ existence. The act of ‘falling’ in love is a suggestion we have no control over it, I for one have no control if I fall anywhere!

The feelings of youthfulness may be a welcome distraction from our own inevitable mortality. To explain that a little further, love meets in a youthful place, for example ‘happily ever after’ or giggles and blushes. I feel an add on to this is when we share our existence closely with another this makes our lives seem bigger as you have someone to share our fondest memories with. It is in the break up of such a relationship that loneliness seems somewhat bigger.

When a relationship ends.

Romantic heart break for me is a loss, like literally a grieving process and should be given the due care and attention needed. There is not only the loss of relationship and the person you were in relationship with, but also the loss of one’s own identity within that relationship.

There can be the loss of dreams, possible destinations you were going to visit, or loss of plans of big white weddings. It could also be the loss of future aspirations such as a starting a family or planning to move in together.

One should acknowledge the feelings that come up around these losses.

Feelings of sadness, anger, hurt, loneliness or feelings of being lost could all be typical. One may feel them all at once or one at a time. Some people may not experience any feelings at all in the early stages and experience a period of denial.

When experiencing the breakup of a relationship it may feel like your life is completely consumed with thoughts around the break up. It might feel like it does not seem possible to focus or think about anything else. 

As time goes on.

Over time, after a loss like this our lives grow around the all-consuming feelings. It is then we can reevaluate, heal, recognise the parts we played in the break up, evolve and identify the lessons learned.

It is when we get to compassion for ourselves in the parts we played and perhaps even offer it to the person we have broken up with, that the wounds experienced can start to feel healed. Maybe we might be able to find some resolution in the thoughts that some of the events we may never be fully at resolution with. 

Maybe some comfort can be taken from the fact that that person you loved so dearly may shape you in some way in your life moving forward. Whether it be because you have learned a valuable lesson in your evolving with this person, or you valued something within your relationship that you will take forward into the next one.

In time I hope you heal and learn you can love again.

How counselling can help?

Counselling can help you work through this process by talking to someone that has no agenda other than helping you work through what your experience was for you. It can be a way of exploring your feelings in a non-judgemental way, a counsellor won’t tell you to ‘get over’ your feelings but help you acknowledge them explore what is underneath them and identify the drivers that fuel them. It can also be a way of recognising the parts you played in the relationship and together with your counsellor you can work towards finding compassion for the drivers that serve these parts of you. Counselling is a place we learn to acknowledge and accept all parts of us, so we can make active choices in our lives going forward.

Thanks for reading, please share with someone who you think this might be relevant to. You can find out more about counselling services and a range of other blogs similar to this by clicking the link below.

October 14, 2018

Do High Profile Suicides Hold Clues to its Prevalence in Society Today

Do High Profile Suicides Hold Clues to its Prevalence in Society Today

Its been a while since I have blogged my creative flair has left me a bit in recent times as it so often does. A topic that shows clear in my mind right now is the rising cases of suicide that are either on the news or shared on social media.

The statistics

I have written a blog before where I have highlighted some statistics, but these statistics are vitally important, so I will present them again. These statistics I have easily turned out with a google search and says;

In 2017 there were 5,821 suicides in the UK

Men are 3 times more likely to take their own lives than women

The highest suicide rate in the UK was for men aged 45-49

Whilst two of these statistics are directly related to men I don’t want to deter thoughts about female suicides as they happen too. I also want to highlight that nearly 6000 suicides a year is more than 3 times the amount of people that die from road accidents each year.

Changing attitudes to suicide

I remember as a young boy hearing about suicide on the news a couple of times and having a grand curiosity to its meaning. I had a great resistance to asking my mum its meaning, I thought it was perhaps a word a young person shouldn’t know, or I might get into trouble for saying it. I find this interesting as I wonder what behaviours I had seen to influence such thinking.

My later thoughts towards the subject were later awakened with Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994. I was a fan of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and I also share a birthday with Kurt Cobain, information I learned from a girl who used to live across the road from me.

There is an ever-growing list of musicians that have taken their own lives, ‘Queen of the Night’ singer and ‘The Bodyguard’ actress Whitney Houston, ‘Linkin Park’ singer Chester Bennington, ‘Sound Garden’ front man Chris Cornell, Swedish DJ Avicii, this really is just a handful of a pool of names within the music industry who have taken their own lives.

I wonder if the ever-rising amount of names from the music industry whom chose this tragic route out of life hold clues to why the number of suicides is ever growing.


Studies have shown that there could be a link between suicides being shown on the television or via other media outlets or written literature, and people taking their own lives. This theory is believed enough that there are guidelines in media as to how they can portray suicides. Have you ever wondered why when there is a high-profile end of life via suicide that the media is not clear on the cause of death? That is because they must withhold that information due to the media guidelines set. Here are some of these guidelines;

‘Detailed descriptions of methods of committing suicide or deliberate self-harm should not be given, nor shown in fictional portrayals, since these will demonstrate possible means for those who are suicidal.’

‘Simplistic psychological notions, such as ‘pressure’, should not be used. Many people have such pressure, but few commit suicide, and such references belittle the complexity of the situation. Similarly, simple motives such as ‘getting even’ or ‘becoming famous’ should be avoided.’

‘Extensive or unnecessary repeated coverage of such episodes should be avoided.’

Whilst I can see some relevance to these guidelines, there are more but I picked out the most poignant, I cant help but feel there is something cold about them. Do we really believe that if someone wanted to end their life they could not figure out a means of doing so? This also sounds like, ‘we will talk about suicide a bit, but not much!’

I believe reasons behind the rise in suicide rates is down to the ‘pressures’ that the media said was not allowed to be mentioned in their guidelines. That the pressure of being the best versions of our selves that we can be, is detrimental to our mental health. We need to be the best son/daughter we can be, the best student, get the best grades we can, then be the best friend, the best boyfriend/ girlfriend or husband/wife, the best employee. Then we need to have the best online profile, our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all need to represent that we are living ‘our best life’. The pressure is immense and if we don’t meet these pressures to the standards of our inner perfectionist this can bring up feelings of ‘not being good enough’ or failure, and these feelings lead to feelings of shame. When you consider the watchful eye musicians are under I think this could be a real point in to the direction of what lies underneath the problem.

Shame is a powerful emotion that ties into embarrassment and translates too in simple terms I don’t want to exist! We go into ourselves and would prefer not to be seen. Underneath shame and embarrassment is a driver of wanting to fit in, to be accepted as another human. The stress response involvement to feeling shame and embarrassment is an alarm system to the individual that there is a risk of being singled out. This, in the era of the hunter gatherer would have offered very grave dangers that pointed to life and death.

What can we do to change this?

First, we need to move away from jargon that tries to shut down how we feel. Examples of this are ‘get over it’, ‘man up’, ‘cheer up’ and ‘stop being silly’. I also believe that conversations should be held by GP’s with patients who seek anti-depressants that medication will help you suppress a feeling you are avoiding but is not a permanent fix.

If you know of somebody that has tried to take their own life, stay in touch. I believe a saving grace can be the connection that we have with others. Give them a call out the blue, tell them you can be there for a coffee or a chat, stay connected.

In recent times a young lad who lived about 10 doors up from me took his own life. I could not move away from feeling how tragic this really was. I never saw the lad but I knew it happened. This got me thinking that young people need to be shown problem solving skills when it comes to their mental health in schools. A mental health awareness week is not enough. As a teacher and a counsellor, I believe mental health and well-being, needs to be a core part of curriculum in schools. I believe by doing this we set young people up with the skills for life about coping with mental illness.

(Williams, 2014) Offers some statistics about how many people visit their GP before committing suicide and up to 40% of people who commit suicide visit their GP in the month before death. I have witnessed the massive loop holes within our mental health care system. This is not a swipe at GP’s but it is a call for more adequate mental health services to be readily available, this responsibility lies with the conservative government in office now. I am not talking being put on a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist 6 month waiting list. We need to be offering people choices about therapeutic services that are available there and then. I can usually fit someone in within a few days, because I recognise when someone is accessing support they want it as soon as possible.

We as people are expected to live up to the pressures of living in today’s society but there is not adequate support to help us cope with these pressures when they become too much.

What Can be learned from these high profile event?

I believe the pressures of being in the public eye are highlighted and perhaps more under the microscopic eye with high profile musicians. The need to generate enough material to keep a fan base interested, the pressures that come with promoting this creative material which include being in the public eye and touring to promote music via music events and this combined with, these humans have families and normal lives to lead as well. This sounds like a tremendous amount of work life balance that needs to be orchestrated accordingly.

How does this compare to my life for example, I remember when I was studying, trying to earn a living as a teacher which is a very high-pressure job. This combined with trying to lead a normal life as a father and a partner as well as trying to satisfy my own recreational needs which for me around this time was learning to play the guitar, I remember it being hard, really hard and at times all these areas of my life suffered, which left me with my own feelings of failure.

This has gone down for me now as life experience and I remember from my own counselling and support from people around me, I got through. In counselling I got to

‘You cant be everything to everything.’

‘My experience is what my experience is for me, regardless of what other people’s misfortune is.’

‘You can only do the best you can do at that time’.

I can say that this time of my life was tough, but I grew and evolved and today I can safely say I work hard at my work life/family balance. I remind myself that my own self care is of paramount importance and talking about my struggles is crucial.

I would just like to round up here by saying, I can categorically state that in my experience of working with suicidal clients as a counsellor. Talking therapy has always helped people move away from wanting to take their own life. The connected-ness that a therapeutic counselling relationship offers, a space to be heard, a place to discover the drivers of the pressures that sit on top of our thinking. I believe doing this offers the best chance of relieving the pressures of a suicidal mind.

I would like to just finish up here by offering the three points I offered in my last blog on this topic and that is;

Suicide is forever

Thoughts are temporary

Life can change in an instant.


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