Blogs and items of interest

May 14, 2016

Bringing The Bounce Back by Sadie Woodward

Please take the time to read this blog about building resilience in young people today, written by a friend and former colleague of mine Sadie Woodward. If you could share among your friends and comment if you wish also. BRINGING THE BOUNCE BACK. Helping Young People become Resilient. Modern parenting & growing up in today’s highly advanced technological world can be scary and can feel full of obstacles and negativity. We cannot protect or shield, destroy or even hope to argue with some of the angry, unpleasant and unnecessary comments and images young people are exposed to on a continual basis through various forms of social media. The way we communicate has to change and we are all trying to develop new ways of communicating within this new sphere. Modern technology has enabled advances in the way we communicate that we couldn’t have imagined twenty years ago. If you are active on social media what becomes apparent is the lack of sensitivity, inhibition and banter/bullying that is prevalent throughout most online platforms, this effects the way we communicate with each other in the real sphere and is contributing to a change of culture internationally. Social media is also a place where you will see sensitivity, empathy and joy actively demonstrated, social media can support and devastate, just like the ways we communicate. I have been the Head of Department and a teacher within a busy city college, I have worked with hundreds of young people from very diverse circumstances. Being successful didn’t seem to be dependent on their individual circumstances, some of the most disadvantaged young people go on to become the most successful in their group, young people who were resilient were also able to become successful. It wasn’t always easy for them but they were able to ‘bounce back’, try again, overcome adversity. They all shared 5 key qualities and although sometimes in short supply or needing practise, having these qualities available to them as internal coping strategies did empower them to achieve their goals and remain balanced in extreme and challenging circumstances. Anonymity, banter & bullying seem common place in the life of a young person and they seem to be more exposed to it than people were years ago, recent media interventions and reports have raised awareness of the complexity of online communications, cyber bullying, trolling & grooming. Educationalists recognise the need to teach online safety to children at primary school and anti-bullying policies are fundamental practices in all institutions. We have yet to recognise that we may not be able to protect our children or each other, but we can inform and empower. The ‘throw away’ or disposable cultural references that appear in many westernised societies also seems to apply to communications, once you have tapped, clicked, sent or pushed your comment, responsibility is absolved and consequences forgotten. For young people struggling to grow up within this environment, exposure to this constant negativity has a huge impact on self-esteem and the ability to maximise their full potential. A recent United Nations report claimed that U.K. children are some of the unhappiest in the world and this becomes more pronounced and even dangerous as these children become teenagers and young adults. We have to help them develop skills that mean this toxic level of communication bounces off and doesn’t soak through, staining them forever. The five key qualities that we can help children and young people learn and incorporate into their lives are simple steps to achieving great things; energy, hopeful futures, flexible thinking, inner drive & strong relationships. Having a positive outlook to health & well-being, understanding healthy eating and exercise are fundamental steps in becoming resilient, this isn’t about conforming to an ideal but developing a positive attitude and respect for your own well-being, physical and mental health, small individual goals and progressive steps should form part of everyone’s development, children learn this skill at nursery and school but are not taught how this skill can be transferable outside of learning. Setting and achieving small goals will help to build a personal resourcefulness that will push an individual to keep going, sometimes in awful circumstances. Enabling a young person to build effective relationships with an element of security, honesty and empathy can also help to build resilience. With effective boundaries young people can benefit greatly from strong relationships that are not always familial. Positive relationships can be instrumental in enabling disadvantaged young people to become successful if the intervention happens at an appropriate time. Building relationships, setting goals and being aware of your own health enables you to adapt and develop a way of thinking that is flexible and empowers you to bounce back when you hit an obstacle or when you are faced with negativity, bullying or adversity. It is fundamental that children and young people can recognise the poisonous and negative aspects of these communications but also to counteract them with strategies that they can transfer to multiple communications and multiple platforms. These could include online gaming forums, ‘Vines’ and the playground, virtual or real. If we can empower them to develop their own individual ways of ‘bouncing back’ we are assisting them to become successful and confident individuals who feel no need to join in with the negativity and anonymous ‘banter’ that has become part of our everyday lives. There is evidence to suggest that empowering young people in this way will help them develop the filters and core schemas they need as they transition through life. Nick Lovelace is a counsellor and life coach and he suggested that some of my ideas were backed up in a book by Phillip Zimbardo, he argues that if young people have ‘success’ online through online gaming or profiling this will tamper with their resilience to succeed outside of this sphere. Nick has published similar articles in his blog. The resilience qualities discussed should empower young people outside of these virtual worlds. Jon Lewis, a mental health nurse who specialises in psychosocial interventions, suggested that; “tangible and real processes need to be in place to help young people use social media.” He recognises the positive and negative influences that social media forums can have and the possibility that if not managed effectively can “set up the seeds of anxiety, depression & psychosis”. We are in agreement that there is a cultural shift happening and the qualities needed to proactively become resilient in a holistic way are vitally important for the holistic health and wellbeing of all of us, especially the future of our young people. By Sadie Woodward If any of the above topics has impacted your life and you feel like you need support with this, perhaps counselling and mentoring services can help.
May 14, 2016

21st Century Enlightenment

I have wrote this blog today inspired by a video called The 21st Century Enlightenment you can view it here If you wish. I have shared this with large groups of young people in an educational setting and held many interesting conversations.
I have watched this video maybe 20 times and I think now I fully grasp all its ideas so it is worth mentioning that for some a lot of the video will go straight over your head. That is not to say you won’t take some interesting points from it from watching it once, I am in a sense saying the more you watch it, the more you will understand about it and I personally believe this will enrich your thinking as it has done for me.
An interesting point is made early on about higher forces influencing how we should think, for example religion on the one hand for the most part will tell you that god created the universe, science on the other hand will tell you it was as a result of a big bang! (excuse my lack of scientific depth!)
Another example might be, Religion might tell you to help vulnerable people, science might outline the negative impact of not helping vulnerable people. Government on the other hand might see them as an easy target for cuts or legislation may be put in place to outlaw homelessness, as this becomes a blatant showing of its failings as a system.
These conflicting messages can create insecurities within us and we may even get sucked into thinking in a way that is convenient to us at the cost of what is right. An example of this might be in the media if someone is being shamed for their weight. This combined with constant news stories born out of science about the risks of obesity. It might be convenient to mirror this opinion because its more comfortable to share opinion than to oppose it. In reality though this way of thinking creates insecurities in people that might be happy with who they are but public opinion changes this for fear of not fitting in.
The animation says that as a society we are very bad at predicting what will make us happy and even what has made us happy in the past. Abraham Maslow backs this up by saying “It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement.”
This could be born out of the conflicting messages we receive from the higher forces ie, government, science and religion. How many times have we heard of people pursuing something like a career, or certain car or new partner only to find that they are not happy. Whilst I appreciate these things vary quite significantly from one to another, but that is because I believe that the variants amplify the point.
Another really valid point made in the video is ‘we must resist tendencies to make right or true which is merely familiar and wrong or false, that which is strange.’
How I see this working in real society terms is as above if we sexualise young people that are smiling and looking thin and muscular in an attempt to sell products on a wide scale this becomes peoples right and true. This fuels a health and fitness industry that just gym memberships alone was worth 4.3 billion in 2015 (LeisureDB, 2015) that does not include cosmetics associated with the health and fitness industry.
In real terms though people often don’t reach their fitness goals or if they do, they find insecurity in some other characteristic ie skin colour, height or eye colour to name just a few of a long list of things people pick fault with themselves about.
So what happens when we make wrong or false something that is strange? This is the piece of us that as a society we mock or reject something that is not familiar and probably the birth place of discrimination. An example of how this can be blown out of proportion is the story of John Hetherington when he wore a top hat out in public for the first time in the late 18th century. It caused mass hysteria he was arrested and fined £500 for causing a ‘breach of peace’. In more recent times the stigma attached to tattoos seems to be ever diminishing as they have got more and more popular.
In today’s society I think it is difficult to grasp what it is to be a true self as we are constantly influenced by external things. This external influence is not likely to stop anytime soon as we are bombarded by media and advertising suggesting what we should be or what we need to make us happy. I believe the search for happiness needs to come from within after we have lifted off the influences of society. (Yalom, 1980) says ‘ Human beings must face up to the ultimate meaningless of their existence: ‘that there exists no “meaning”, no grand design in the universe, no guidelines for living other than those the individual creates.’
Perhaps if we strip ourselves of all the external influences and ask within without being influenced by anything other than how our gut feeling communicates with us. We can begin to discover what it is that makes us happy as an individual.
One of the slogans Brighter Pathways uses is ‘Helping individuals search for meaning and clarity in society and their everyday lives.’
I believe Counselling can be a way to really explore and get to grasp with who you are as a person, if it was not for the counselling and self-exploration I undertook whilst studying counselling I wouldn’t be the person I am today and I certainly wouldn’t have the self-clarity I have today.
Perhaps you would like to get to know yourself better, or maybe you want to understand yourself better. If this is the case perhaps Brighter Pathways Counselling can help, visit the website today and make an appointment.

May 14, 2016


Here is a talk about shame by Monica Lewinsky. Shame is often disregarded as an emotion, perhaps out of our own attempt to block out shame.

Our mainstream media is constantly aiming to shame, an example of this might be when a photographer takes a picture of a well known female person getting out of a car and you can see up her dress. Or another example maybe pictures of celebrities with cellulite are printed in newspapers or gossip magazines. Or the shame that is attached to people in addiction or are not working.

The problem with shaming things in this way is that it creates a reluctance to talk about these things in everyday life. Shame can be a life altering emotion. If you are controlled by your shame but feel like you have no one to talk to about it, maybe Brighter Pathways counselling can offer you a non judgmental space to help you through it. Make an appointment using the contact links today.

May 14, 2016

Male Role Models for People Today

I want to write today about the lack of positive male role models in the lives of today’s generation of young people.

We live in a society where marriage is fading as a tradition, promiscuous-ness is fashionable amongst young people and we are encouraged to focus on our careers in the early years of adulthood not settling down and having a family.

At schools we were taught mostly by women and having worked in a college myself recognise teaching is still very much a female occupation. Our kids reach out to what’s available to them and that is often not what would be desired. This can often be musicians promoting gang violence and the use of drugs. In recent times David Beckham was often considered a good male role model and more recently Anthony Joshua is paving the way of what it is to be a gentleman first and a sportsman second which makes a refreshing change.

A large number of families today are spearheaded by a woman, it feels like questions need to be asked about where some people today attain their male influences from. Once upon a time in the absence of a father perhaps another family member would have stepped in, however in today’s society with long working hours and the distance that is now present in families today this is not as common as it once was.

I am by no means suggesting that women can’t raise children by themselves. Often you witness single mothers doing a fantastic job of raising her children despite having no male figure present. I am however a believer that both female and male presence is important. For example if a male is absent maybe bonding with males may become difficult. As a father myself my children come to me for different things than they go to their mother for and vice versa. I am not necessarily saying male influence has to be a father but I am promoting the importance of a male influence.

So what can we do as a society to fill what some people consider to be a gap in the day to day lives of many young people today. Can there even be an alternative?

If you don’t agree with my comments which is of course ok, I write to create thought and ideas not to offend and I apologise for this. I still value your opinion even if it varies from mine.

I do offer a mentoring service and counselling to males although it is not a strictly male service, but this is not the reason I have wrote this blog. I’m interested, interested in how we can better our society, but most of all I am interested in people. I thank you for reading and please do comment if you have anything you would like to contribute.

All the best


May 8, 2016

Positive male role models

Russell Brand

Today I would like to talk about Russell Brand, in my previous blog which can be viewed here
I spoke about a lack of positive male role models in todays society. I feel that Russell Brand is somebody that should be taken into account here, now I know he is not every ones cup of tea to offer that typical British metaphor. Brand has a past with addiction himself, which some might consider less admirable, however his stance on how addiction is treated in society today is absolutely spot on. Russell Brand being as unflinchingly characteristic as he is, even got parliament to sit up and take notice in a debate on how addiction should be treated today in no other than the house of commons! This can be viewed here

Russell was all over the media when he was married to Katie Perry and glamorised as a, A list celebrity he was also given lots of media coverage when his marriage was on the rocks. However now the message he promotes is more positive the only time the media tend to mention him is to criticise him. I myself have to be honest and say I really was not a fan of his when he was considered a Hollywood actor, however in recent times since talking about his own battle with addiction and supporting an East London protest against the eviction of 93 working class families. You can read more here…/russell-brand-saves-93-famil… .

This combined with his recent book Revolution which is an attack on capitalism and todays society I have to say if more people of Russell Brands charisma and determination were to surface I think we would see a revolution. I think it’s interesting to acknowledge the lack of media coverage on Russell’s positive ventures compared to his more negative ones (ie marriage break up and drug addiction). Is it that the public are only interested in reading about someone’s misfortunes or is this selective reporting in the face of newspapers capitalist interests?

To spell out the sort of impact Brand has made in recent times he was called ‘A joke!’ by Prime Minister David Cameron because of an interview Brand did with Ed Miliband. At this point I would like to make reference to the type of role model David Cameron is himself. He recently criticised Jeremy Corbyn’s Jacket he wore in the House of Lords whilst Cameron himself has been rumoured to wear suits in the region of 2000 pounds. see more here…/david-cameron-launches-persona… .

When you consider that many households do not see that amount of spare cash in their homes a year, it is hard to see how someone whom behaves in such a way could become a positive role model. I personally as a parent tell my children not to criticise people for the way they dress, I would like to think the Prime Minister would have seen it more professional to not employ playground bullying tactics to make his point.

This brings me back to Russell Brand he was recently quoted as saying “How we define the vulnerable is how we define ourselves as a species.” He openly admits to being a person who meditates and lists yoga as one of his interests. He has taken his stance of creating no harm even further by being vegan which is quite the opposite of former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson who once said “I’m not interested in eating anything unless it once had a face!” I am not about to suggest that Clarkson is the male role model society needs any time soon.

Russell Brand on the other hand seems to have an equal balance between his own masculinity and femininity which also strengthens his case for being a positive male role model. This same balance is not so common in young men today. The slightest lean towards femininity is often scoffed at and leads to taunts about sexuality. This could be part of the reason there is a lack of male role models in society today. I think Adele’s recent visit to Disney land where she allowed her son to wear a Frozen dress for the day, was a real positive example of parenting, her reasoning for doing this was to show unconditional positive regard and allowing him to be whoever he wants to be,I think there are lessons to be learned from this. . Read more here…/adele-takes-her-son-disneyland-dr…
So am I suggesting that the youth of today look up to Russel Brand as their role model? I think he would be a good place to start. What I think is more important than that though, is that we encourage teenage boys to be in touch with their feminine side. To talk about their feelings, that it is ok to show affection, its ok to have girls as friends, its ok not to follow the crowd, its ok to be who they want to be and show them unconditional positive regard but most of all its ok to care for others and show it…..

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