Blogs and items of interest

June 24, 2018
nick

Confronting Loneliness

Confronting loneliness, existential, self help blog, counselling Bristol It has been a little while since I have blogged, I apologise for this, but in recent times I have been very busy. I hope you enjoy this counselling blog. If it is interesting to you I would be very grateful if you would share with anyone else that might be interested.  I sit here alone as I write this, this is one of a few ways I put my own individual creative stamp on the world. Whilst writing this I am being distracted from the ultimate loneliness of my existence. Yes, I have a family, I have hundreds of friends on my Facebook friends list, I have work colleagues, neighbours, I also make a point of making my existence known to the people I encounter daily. I smile and make conversation with the people that work in my local shop I always make my friendly presence felt and this morally boosts my existence in the world when I am greeted with a friendly response when I encounter these people on a daily basis when I go to buy my necessities. This part of me most likely exists because my ancestors were hunter-gatherers. You stood a better chance of survival if you stayed in a pack making you less easy to pick off by other hunter-gatherers or say dinosaurs. To avoid being lonely is an in-built survival mechanism to elaborate further on this part of ourselves. Why Can Loneliness feel so uncomfortable? Will Storr explores this concept in his recent book ‘Selfie’ a guy who just happens to be a clinical psychologist is sat in a park eating his lunch on a summers day. 2 other guys are playing Frisbee near him when suddenly the Frisbee lands near the clinical psychologist. So, the clinical psychologist picks up the Frisbee and throws it to one of the two guys. Then the two guys start throwing the Frisbee back and forth including the clinical psychologist in their game. Then without warning the two Frisbee guys stopped throwing the Frisbee to the psychologist. The psychologist sat with the feeling of rejection, why did they cut me off? And why does this hurt so much? The conclusion the clinical psychologist came to was this; when we were hunter-gatherers our survival relied upon staying part of a group. If you were cut off from the group as I suggested earlier, you would either get picked off by let’s say a dinosaur or you would starve to death. Staying in your group was life and death, being ostracised from the group was a life and death problem. Hence the big response internally when rejection happens. Here is another example of the efforts we go to in order to fit in. Have you ever moved to a different district and notice you quite quickly start using local lingo? Or you start spending time with somebody new and you say something that sounds like them? This is your brain working hard to help you fit in so you don’t get looked at as an outsider, your brain wants you to fit in because it has primitive instincts to survive. Do you feel lonely in a room full of people? Do you feel like something is missing even when you should feel contented? Does any of this ring true to you? What if I said there is another side of loneliness that you may not have put much thought into. A something that culturally is not shouted about or looked at in any great detail unless we tainted with its brush. The thing I am talking about is a deliberate attempt to look at the ultimate mortality of our existence, that there is an ending of our life and it could well have and most likely will have a different end time to all the people I mentioned earlier ie friends, family etc. This loneliness cannot be cured by surrounding yourself with people as whilst this at times might serve as a distraction, it can cause more alarm when you start to feel lonely in the presence of others. Unfulfilling, empty and purposelessness are just the surface of how this loneliness can feel. I think in this loneliness we get close to an expression such as ‘No one actually knows what it is like to be me………..’ I don’t think we can get to that either, coming to terms with that, ‘no one knows what it’s like to be me’ is the first steps into recognising that one’s existence is a unique experience. When we get close to what that experience if for ourselves, it is then that we learn that everyone has this battle to fight. It is when we get closer to ourselves we can be around others more fulfilled and less lonely. Irvine Yalom says “I should have become an “I” before I became a “we”.” If we can get closer to who that “I” is then we are more fulfilled and fulfilling in a “we” relationship. For me, I believe that when we look at life as a period of time where this very much could be all that your existence is. This temporary feeling of existence is all that we have as a measure that one has lived, then I believe we are more likely to sit up and take notice. I know there are religious beliefs of life after death etc and whilst this might or might not be the case. For me, I am going to live my life more fully if I do not put that down to chance. If I look at my existence as temporary and I have one attempt at it then I am going to live my life fully. If I am in a room feeling lonely, I will choose to either stay in the loneliness or think what have I got to lose, I will be dead in 50 years (optimistic maybe) My belief is, by building meaningful relationships with the people around us we stand the best chance of making it through to the end of our lives without regret. If I spent my life chasing possessions, at the end of my life when those possessions are long gone, I would question was it worth it!? If I have built meaningful relationships with people the absence of me may ultimately pain those I have touched, but my being will live on through their memories of me. Do I have the answers? I am thinking no! but I know where to start looking. Counselling can be a great place to explore what your existence means to you. What decisions do you make on a daily basis based upon what others life meanings are? For example, if dad had a strong work ethic does that mean you have ultimately taken on that ethic because it is all you have known. I personally don’t believe in working a 5 day week, I choose to work a 4 day week and spend the 5th day working on my relationships. Counselling is a place where you can get to know yourself better and figure yourself out. Whilst I recognise this might sound cliché of the counselling experience. I am humbled by the number of people that get closer to themselves within their counselling journey. They then go on to springboard into their lives with more meaning and clarity. If you would like to embark on the self-exploration process and need someone to help facilitate that, please do get in touch. Nick 07903319318 or find out more about me here www.brighter-pathways.co.uk #  
April 15, 2018
nick

When Friendships of the Opposite Sex is All That Works for You

Opposite sex friendships, relationship help, support with bullying, Bristol

We all know that one person that has all opposite-sex friends right?

This blog is going to discuss something that I experience personally but often see in my client work and friendships around me. That is when a person feels most comfortable in friendships with the opposite sex.

Despite my appearance, I feel I have always fallen short of that macho Alpha male status more because of how I felt inside. As a matter of fact once upon a time, I think I went to the gym and bulked up whilst plastering myself in tattoos to perhaps counterbalance the fact I felt more feminine on the inside than I was prepared to admit. As a thirty-something male, this is more acceptable now than it was growing up as a young man in today’s society.

If I was to let this part of me out as an adolescent or young man there is not a doubt in my mind I would have been branded with all sorts of homophobic jargon despite my obvious heterosexuality.

I have always found it easier to form relationships with the opposite sex. At one time I remember sharing an office with 5 women, my manager was a woman and I taught over 100 young women Health and Social care and counselling every week for a couple of years. I was also a Personal Tutor to 80% of them!

Why do I think it worked? I think it had something to do with the energy I felt along with the egotistical boost of presenting myself as an honourable male role model. To them perhaps I presented something of a father figure along with gentle masculine humour. Maybe I was something that did not fit their stereotype.

The negativity involved.

The feedback I receive from a woman who finds male friendships more compatible is that they are on the receiving end of negativity and are called names that relate to the number of sexual partners they have had. This is the complete polar opposite of what a male receives. A male is met with homophobic jargon, a female is met with comments about being promiscuous.

I feel I have experienced a negative side effect of being more able to get on with women than men in that I have a lack of male relationships despite enjoying being in male environments for example my local garage or the barbershop. I enjoy the male banter that happens in these environments despite their negative topics sometimes.

Roles we hold as sexes

So what could be the benefits of enjoying opposite-sex relationships? For me, it has to be that during school years the sexes are so divided that we lose touch with what the opposite sex is. I know we are living in a society where traits associated with gender are trying to be neutralised but for me masculine and feminine traits are valuable, it is valuable to identify and own them also, these are the traits that have kept us alive as a species for thousands of years.

The nurturing, caring maternal nature of the female, the strength and problem-solving capabilities of the male. The females strive to talk out their problems with friends, the males desire to forget about his problems by being humorous with friends.

Men and women understanding one another…………maybe it’s just not meant to be!

I always think of the scene in the film ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ as an example of the polar opposites that exist in the understanding men have of women and vice versa. Gloria and Billy are in bed together and the following dialogue happens.

Gloria: Honey? My mouth is dry. Honey. I’m thirsty.

Billy: Umm… [Billy walks to the tap and gets a glass of water ] There you go. honey.

Gloria: When I said I was thirsty, it doesn’t mean I want a glass of water.

Billy: It doesn’t?

Gloria: You’re missing the whole point of me saying I’m thirsty. If I have a problem, you’re not supposed to solve it. Men always make the mistake of thinking they can solve a woman’s problem. It makes them feel omnipotent.

Billy: Omnipotent? Did you have a bad dream?

Gloria: It’s a way of controlling a woman.

Billy: Bringing them a glass of water?

Gloria: Yes. I read it in a magazine. See… if I’m thirsty…..I don’t want a glass of water. I want you to sympathize. I want you to say. “Gloria. I. TOO. Know what it feels like to be thirsty. I. TOO. Have had a dry mouth.” I want you to connect with me through sharing and understanding the concept of dry mouthedness.

Billy:….This is all in the same magazine?

{Billy throws the water in the glass into Gloria’s face and calls her a f@#$ing psycho!}

I always watch this scene with amusement as neither can see the other point of view but has prevalent characteristics of gender in that of the woman wanting to solve her problems by talking and the male using his problem-solving skills to solve the problem.

Let’s accept our differences.

It’s when we are described as having differences rather than collaborative skill sets, that causes segregation amongst the sexes. There is a lot of movement within female rights at present which is a good thing because there are things in society that need fairing up. I do believe however that the male identity is shrinking in the face of this. Masculine traits are not being celebrated as they should and before long I predict a masculine identity crisis. This idea is shared by Phillip Zimbardo in his book ‘Man Disconnected’.

There could be any number of reasons why someone prefers to have friendships of the opposite sex. I am not saying we need to have a reason for this but I am a believer that if we do have reasons to attribute our behaviour, we can be more accepting of it. Perhaps you have relationship issues with your opposite-sex parent, perhaps you were bullied by your same-sex peers so now opposite-sex friendships seem somewhat safer, perhaps it is just who you are.

I remember reading in a Chris Ryan (could possibly have been Andy McNab) novel somewhere that in order to survive to keep warm, training in the army suggested that you cuddle up to a colleague to preserve body heat. If that colleague happened to be of the opposite sex then between the two of you, you would generate something like 15% more body heat. This talks to me about the biological chemistry that can be generated by opposite-sex relationships.

The message I would like to get out there is that it’s ok to be who you are, it’s ok to get on with females more than males and vice versa. On top of that, it is not up to others to judge for whatever relationships or friendships someone chooses to go into.

Could counselling help you?

From a counselling perspective perhaps you want to discover what this part of you is? Perhaps you have been on the receiving end of negativity because of being more comfortable in opposite-sex friendships. Maybe you would like to unpick the relationship you had with your parents.

If you would like to explore any of the topics covered in this blog or any others that you feel would help you live a more resolved life, then feel free to get in touch, find out more here

brighter-pathways.co.uk

 

 

 

February 17, 2018
nick

Senior Wellness: How to Handle Your Grief

Senior Wellness: How to Handle Your Grief

Photo by Pixabay

 

As a senior, you’ve lived a long life, and very few things can surprise you anymore. However, no matter what you’ve been through or how many ups and downs you’ve had, nothing can prepare you for the loss of a spouse. Managing that kind of grief weighs heavily on your heart, mind, and body.

 

Grief takes a serious toll, especially on seniors, no matter how resilient they are. Wellness and coping with loss is an important skill to develop, particularly for seniors who deal with aging, grief, and change. As seniors grieve, it’s vital they have a safe, supportive space to express their roller coaster of emotions. However, some seniors struggle with the grieving process, especially if the death was tragic or unexpected. Here are some ways to manage grief that lasts longer or is more severe than normal.

 

Substance Abuse

 

Sometimes grief makes it extremely difficult to manage your daily tasks. However, when seniors survive the death of a spouse due to substance abuse, they may feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, thinking they could have done more to stop it. Surviving seniors may consider the death of their spouse unfair or could be in denial if the situation was particularly traumatic.

 

In those instances, emotions can be incredibly complex. In fact, sometimes seniors feeling this level of grief might even act apathetic, unwilling to talk about the death or about the spouse. This often occurs with the shame or stigma associated with death of a loved one to substance abuse. It’s important that seniors find a comfortable space to open up, whether by journaling, visiting a mental health professional, or confiding in a trustworthy friend.

 

Clinical Depression

 

Grief that lasts too long or goes too deep can also trigger clinical depression, especially with a senior who has a history of mental health issues. When grief transitions into depression, the seniors may have trouble sleeping, concentrating, making decisions, or eating. Along with depression may come with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. Grief and depression this deep and persistent might make suicide seem like the only way to stop the pain.

 

If you or a senior you know are showing signs of depression, it’s crucial to get help right away. While some people move through this on their own, studies show that depression in seniors can worsen physical health, as well.

 

Promoting Healing

 

When you’re ready, find ways to acknowledge the loss. There is no one right way to manage grief, but there are healthy ways to encourage healing. First, don’t avoid the emotions of grief—like sadness, anger, and guilt. No matter how bad you feel, stay focused on your health and nutritional needs. Grief can be stressful on your body, so joining a fitness class, taking your dog for a walk with a friend, or taking a cooking class can help you stay motivated.

 

If you want to create a process for healing, consider planting a garden or creating a scrapbook that helps you remember your loved one, while also moving through the pain. Sometimes experiencing grief with your senses, like sight, touch, and sound, can be therapeutic. You may even want to look into online wellness courses for seniors.

 

The important thing to remember is to watch out for the warning signs that grief is growing into something more substantial. Since there’s no one way to grieve or even a standard amount of time, it can be hard to recognize when it’s time to get help. Open up to a strong support network so you can move through a healthy grieving process.

November 26, 2017
nick

Is Self-esteem The Holy Grail of Happiness?

In this blog, I am going to explore is ‘Self Esteem The Holy Grail of Happiness’, along with the concept of what self-esteem is and the reality of how to get to high self-esteem. My first thoughts on the reality of having high self-esteem are when I heard the lyrics of a track called ‘Youth’ by a band called Daughter. The lyrics say ‘We are the wild youth, chasing visions of our futures, one day we’ll reveal the truth, that one will die before he gets there.’

Every time I hear this song I am still mortally wounded by these lyrics despite the fact I have heard it a thousand times. It hits home right in the same place as Irvin Yalom’s ‘Human beings must face up to the ultimate meaninglessness of their existence, that there exists no grand design in the universe, no guidelines for living other than that, that the individual creates.’

It strikes me right in the section of my thinking where I store my failures, it makes me think about what dreams I will fail to fulfil by the time I reach the end of my life, So for me, there is an advantage of thinking about this at the stage of life I am at now. I am not at the end of my life (hopefully) so thinking about these things offers me room to evaluate how I might satisfy my dreams.

One dream I can safely say has passed, is my desire to emigrate to Australia. It was my dream ever since I was a boy, let me play you the scene I dreamed of;

It was warm,

I was diving into a swimming pool,

The coastline was in the distance,

There was luscious greenery all around,

The sunbather nearby backed up how peaceful the scene was,

I felt content and fuzzy and warm inside,

It felt like paradise………………. Then my mum woke me up for school!!

This dream carried on through adolescence as the want for a warmer climate prevailed along with a growth in desire to see more of the world. Then there was the scene of my Uncle Dave a man who did emigrate to Australia with my Aunty and cousins, passing me a bag of maps and a book about how to obtain Australian citizenship. For me, this was like one man passing on his bag of dreams to aid another man’s dreams. Unfortunately, this was to be the last such gesture from a man I just loved sharing company with.

My holdback in my earlier adult years was I didn’t have adequate qualifications and when I did, it seemed that the dream had passed. My family seemed well rooted in their lives and our extended family had grown even more. This for me has taken some processing, some acceptance, my self-esteem felt smashed I took a long time exploring this in my own counselling before I could make peace with it.

The definition of self-esteem in the oxford dictionary is ‘Confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-respect.’

The thought that high self-esteem was a place we should all strive to be was a concept designed to help America out of recession, the mood was low, and productivity was low so there was a need to create a social vaccine to get the economy going again.

According to Will Storr (2017), The idea that we needed to raise self-esteem in people in order to create a thriving economy came about through a research project done by Carl Rogers. He was researching the effect of high self-esteem had on people. An American Politician got hold of this idea also and whilst Rogers abandoned the quest as it became unfounded, the American Politician continued with the research and he found that if you measure self-esteem in young people that had good exam results, they all had high self-esteem.

The first idea was that good self-esteem equals good exam results, not good exam results equals’ high self-esteem. The American Politician was able to force through the idea that high self-esteem is the Holy Grail to happiness and success rather than holding that self-esteem is merely significant. High self-esteem is great but ‘it’ alone is not a saving grace for success.

How we work with this concept growing up is when we receive messages of praise for the things we have achieved. ‘Well done that’s a fantastic picture.’ ‘Look at your pretty dress.’ Don’t you look smart and handsome in your new clothes?’ We tell our children ‘You can achieve the world if you put your mind to it, anything is achievable.’

From a young age our value is determined by the praise we get either from our family members or school teachers. This has translated into I must have a good career and dress well in order to feel good about myself.

Some parents myself included having chosen names outside the normally prescribed names of our culture in order for the child to stand out.

There are things we as individuals can’t achieve or at the very least find extremely hard to achieve. I for example will never become a Calvin Klein underwear model, but I can be assured if I tried to become one I would get pretty miserable in my failure of trying to get there.

I hold that it is more beneficial and less demanding to assert that there are things we are good at and things we are not. I can’t achieve everything and my skillset is variant from other peoples. If I try my best at something, I know that is the best I can offer it, if that is not enough at least I tried.

I am wondering if it is at all healthy to look at self-esteem as a measure of our well-being particularly if what we believe we have to achieve in order to raise our self-esteem is either too hard to achieve or won’t improve our self-esteem at all. As a matter of fact, the hunt for the things that raise our self-esteem could create huge disappointment and send our self-esteem the other way when we realise that it is either unobtainable or did not improve our well being at all!

Will Storr (2017) goes on to suggest that we are products of our environment and of a political system where it is of benefit to society if we are led to believe we can achieve absolutely anything it becomes the fault of those that find themselves in poverty if they end up there. We become less empathic if we believe we are all capable of reaching the stars to those that don’t. We then use the same measure of punishment on ourselves when we don’t reach the stars.

What do I mean by reach for the stars I guess it’s the conditions we put on ourselves, to own our own homes, to have nice cars, to dress well, eat well, be a good parent, be a good friend, have the perfect body image, have the perfect social media image, have a noble career, be successful to name just a few of the conditions we may place upon ourselves.

We look outwards at the success stories we see on a day to day basis if it’s not through our mobile phones and social media, it is through advertisements, it’s via the celebrity-obsessed tabloid papers and magazines. We see these success filled examples and strive to be that, I think this is partly the point Carl Jung (1968) was trying to make in Man and His Symbols. We are products of the world we see around us and we sift through the information that we process and make a choice out of what these things we want to become.

In a world where everyone is trying to trick the world from seeing the real versions of themselves due to hiding behind snap chat filters, high-end German motors and Ralph Lauren clothing the version of the world we see around us is false. Therefore the standards are unobtainable and I believe this is part of the reason mental health statistics are rapidly rising, suicide and self-harm statistics are through the roof. How do I believe we make these statistics go the other way?

I believe we need to recognise that we can’t be everything to everything, there are some goals we just will not reach. So stop trying to fit square pegs in round holes and look at what things we are good at and let this be the trade-off for what we are not.

Disengage with social media, not completely if you don’t want to but limit the time you spend plugged in.

When accessing social media or looking at newspapers or listening to how perfect someone’s life is have your bullshit filter fully engaged! No we don’t have to call anyone out on it, but just being aware of the artificial glaze that is applied to most things we see today especially via the media and social media.

I hold that self-exploration within a counselling setting, identifying who you are aside from your cultural and societal influences can be a step in the right direction towards clarity and life fulfilment. It can be a space for you to explore what are realistic life challenges and sift through what expectations are put upon us.

Finally and most importantly pay attention to the relationships you hold around you, your family members, your friendships, your work colleagues. Give these relationships your full attention because believe me when I say the key to mental health and well-being is holding good relationships with the people around you.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog, you will find many more at brighter-pathways.co.uk as well as contact information for counselling if this is something you would like to pursue.

Take care, Nick

 

 

September 9, 2017
nick

Standing in The Way of Suicide

Affordable Counselling Bristol, suicidal thoughts, depression, relationship help

I have in recent times been shocked by the suicide of Chester Beddington, I was equally as shocked by Robin Williams a short time earlier. These are the suicides we hear of, there are many people who commit suicide with barely any mention at all.

I live in Bristol not too far from Clifton Suspension bridge which is a bit of a suicide hot spot, it was the site where Shirley Bassey’s daughter met her demise, also 127 people jumped to their death between 1973 and 1986 (93 male 34 female) a fairly easy search turns out another 17 people between 2008 and 2013. If my memory serves me correctly there have been 3 people this year (2017) alone.

An interesting story to come out of this little bit of research was the story of Sarah Ann Henley, a local girl (Easton) who had a blazing row with her boyfriend, then went to Clifton suspension bridge and jumped off. Miraculously, her dress acted as a parachute along with strong winds cushioned her fall. She survived with some minor injuries. Sarah Ann lived for over 50 years after this event.

A 2006 judgement by the Swiss Federal Court ruled that anyone of sound mind, irrespective of their medical condition, had a right to determine when to end their lives. Approximately 1000 people every year now go to Switzerland to end their own lives. Whilst it would seem a large portion of these people are terminally ill, it is fair to assume that some of these people are not ill.

I believe a focus on our end as opposed to a focus to get there can be a life-changing experience Confucius an ancient Chinese philosopher said

“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realise we only have one.”

 

It would seem for many a real existential crisis is required before we reach this realisation. What do I mean by an existential crisis? This could be a near-death experience or illness, seeing someone from your past and seeing their ageing process, the loss of someone close to you, a birthday or anniversary, estate planning or possibly even a dream.

We live in a society where we are not open and honest about our own mortality only if it is a passing joke about how old one is getting. For me, I think the only thing I can safely assume is that my demise will not be traumatic for me because I will know nothing about it. I will return to the same state I did before I was born. If there is a state of consciousness after death then that is potentially a bonus. My assumption that there is not, is a wake-up call in the here and now. If life is temporary I need to stand to attention and make the most of the life I have got.

Was this the thinking of Sarah Ann Henley when she jumped off the bridge? Probably not, but I wonder if this replaced her thinking when she survived it, after all, she went on to live over 50 years afterwards. I believe for many who have committed suicide have chosen a painfully permanent solution for temporary thinking. Our mental health can be so complex it would be naïve to think a whole lifetime can pass without a single thought of wondering what life would be like if it wasn’t.

Real honesty is needed amongst people, life is hard, it is full of challenges, challenges of acceptance, conflict, survival. I would be lying to myself and all around me if I said that I have never wondered if death would be easier than life.

Suicide may be the option for some and as much as that is not my call, it is not my right or anyone else’s to take that from anybody who genuinely has decided that they want to end their life. I would hope though that the people who feel and think this way, have had real and open conversations in the past where discussions about the permanency of suicide have been made clear as well as how temporary thoughts can be and the swiftness that life can change.

I write this blog with the belief that we all aspire to be the best we can be, sometimes we get lost along the way. All we need is faith in ourselves that we can be the best we can be, sometimes a little help believing in that faith could be all that is needed when faced with thoughts of suicide.

In our society today mental health services have been stripped bare. In order to access the mental health crisis team, I have known of a few occasions that accessing this service has meant people in mental health crisis having to go to A&E. We need real conversations with people hopefully before a mental health crisis happens so we can be prepared for it when it does.

Do I think this blog alone will make people at the mercy of their own lives think twice, no? I would hope that it lights something up somewhere about the tragedy that is suicide. I want to just end with the message.

Suicide is forever

Thoughts are temporary

Life can change in an instant.

If anyone has been affected by suicide or indeed have suicidal thoughts, please reach out to your nearest and dearest, where that’s not possible maybe I can help, get in touch.

www.brighter-pathways.co.uk

 

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