Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Great Pretender

"Oh yes! I'm the great pretender." Or so the song goes, but I do think we're all a bit of pretender at times. I think we're all a bit guilty of piling on the performer when feeling socially awkward, admittedly some of us more than others of course. 
Let’s say you’ve been invited to a Halloween party for instance, and the only person you really know is the person whose party it is! There might be loads of people at the party and they all seem to be friendly. Everyone is having a laugh and a good time; although they all seem to know a lot more people than you do. Obviously no one is interested in you, because they don’t really know you. It's almost as if they can't even see you! So you start to feel like the ghost you came dressed up as. Of course your friend, whose party it is, is busy all night with all the other people. So then you start feeling neglected,rejected and unwanted. Sound familiar?
I'm sure all of us, at times, have thoughts like: “No one really understands me." or "Does anyone actually care about me?", "No one knows the real me . . . and even if they did, they probably wouldn't like me.” or even more dramatically "I wonder if I died if anyone would really notice or even care?" Yes you could be forgiven for thinking "What a drama Queen! Get over yourself!" True, it does sound rather over-dramatic but as pitiful as it seems we all have those moments even if we don't like to admit it.
So what do we do when we start thinking like that? Sadly, most of time we decide the best course of action is to withdraw even further into ourselves, so we can snuggle up to feeling even more miserable and depressed! I suppose the trouble is a lot of people who are considered 'the life and soul of the party' are in fact socially bankrupt on the inside and as self-loathing and over-sensitive as you can possibly get.
So what is the problem? Well for a start, some of us feel like we have to play the fool and become the performer in order for other people to actually like us. Rather than just liking us for who we actually are. Plus we’re all told by the media in one way or another, that to survive in life, you can’t trust anyone. So instead we build up walls, thinking, I'm never going to get hurt if I don't let anyone in. People are never what they seem to be, so I must protect myself by pretending to be something I'm not. Then the little voice that sits on our shoulder starts whispering little lies like "Don’t trust them or you will get burned! Don’t let anyone get inside!"
The trouble with this path is we end up thinking that if people don't care about us, why should we care about them? We begin to think that people only want what is good for them and that our well-being is meaningless to everyone else. Sure, people may tell you they love you or that they're there for you, but it's all a show. They don't really care about us.
The fact is, when we do find ourselves feeling lonely in a crowd of people, we must first try to raise our self esteem. So set yourself some goals and try to achieve them, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time. 
Life is very important and we only get one shot at it. So try to live your life in such a way that you can feel proud of it. Try and be that good example that you wish you were. You ARE a good person and it’s important to know that. So does it really matter if others don’t understanding us? Maybe try to understand their problems and help them, rather than constantly asking for emotional help and hand-outs all of the time. As another song goes, You gonna reap just what you sow. So if you DO start giving, you WILL start receiving.
It might well pay to find out if anyone you know is also facing such a state. Of course for this we have to shift our attention from ourselves to other people. A good start is to actually listen to others. Ask them about their problems. You may well find that there are quite a few others out there who are in the same boat. 
So if you do suddenly find yourself feeling lonely in a crowd, remove yourself. Don't just stand there mentally beating yourself up over it. Simply come to terms with the fact that we’re all different and this particular crowd isn't for you. Don't set yourself up for more stress. Just walk away and look for a crowd that shares your point of view.
It is a sad fact that a lot of us are performers. The trouble is the more we carry on performing, the more prone we are to finding ourselves feeling lonely in a crowd. What this all boils down to of course is the underlying fear of being lonely.
Look around you, if you stopped performing or being the great pretender. Who do you think would actually lose interest in you? Sure there may be a few shallow 'friends' that say “So and so’s really boring and miserable these days aren't they!”. But I also guarantee that there would be much more that wouldn’t. The people who genuinely care are there no matter who we are, or who we are pretending to be!
They see us for who we really are, and still want to spend time with us. Sometimes these people are friends, sometimes they’re your family. Whoever they are, deep down I think we all know who these people are for us. These are the people that really matter. The people that love us no matter how we are feeling. So cling onto these amazing gems of people and you’ll never feel lonely in a crowd ever again.
Look after yourself, and each other.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014


It had been a rough night, it had taken hours of exhausting clock-watching and an almost unbearable amount of pain coming from the back of his eye sockets, before he'd eventually fallen asleep. Although he would of swapped the inconvenience of insomnia in in own bedroom giving what he faced now. He'd awoken to find himself on the floor of a vast cave.
The air was thick and stifling and there was an oppressing odour of sulphur. The only light was coming from a lone torch hung on the wall sending out it's flickering orange glow across the sheer rock wall that rose behind him with no ceiling in sight. How had he got there, and more to the point, where the hell was he?
Maybe that was actually more accurate than he cared to contemplate, he had been feeling really hot and shivery before he'd eventually dropped off.
Maybe this was it! Maybe he'd actually died and this was what religion warned everyone about, what all men feared . . . Maybe this was hell!
The cave almost had it's own presence as if it was a living, breathing creature. The stench sulphur was overwhelming, at least he hoped it was sulphur, otherwise there was an awful lot of rotting flesh somewhere. 
Then there was a loud voice, it came from inside the darkness ahead of him and bounced all around the cave walls. The voice was rich, thick and silky and it was the kind of voice that made you think of honey being poured over satin sheets.
“Who are you?”, he asked, trying to keep his composure.
“You know who I am.” the thing answered.
“So you're the devil are you?”, He stuttered with a nervous laugh, trying his best to sound he was being ludicrous.
“So, if you are why me? I’ve lived a pretty good life. I've got a clean sheet so to speak. . . . So I'm definitely dead then?” He asked hopefully.
The silence took over the space as his words died out. It seemed like an hour went by before the response came.
“What did you expect?”
The voice was penetrating but patient. “I don’t know . . . I never really believed in any of this stuff”, he uttered before adding “Is that why I am here?”
He nervously continued, “Of course if you are the devil, they say the greatest trick you ever pulled was convincing the world that you don’t exist!”
“No," the velvety voice replied, "the greatest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world that there's an alternative”

Monday, 27 October 2014

Clock off!

It's true I'm afraid, Monday has happened again and as far as I'm concerned it's feeling even more trickier than normal. Now, I'm sure there's quite a few of you who enjoyed, even revelled in having that extra hour in bed yesterday morning – but not me!
The trouble is, just because we all turn back the clocks by one hour, it doesn't adjust our internal clock. The trouble for me is that you could probably set your watch by my brains clock! So yesterday morning, my brain woke up exactly one hour before I would usually wake up, and because it thought I should be getting up, instead of drifting back into a comfortable snooze for an hour, it went into wide awake mode.
So I just laid there for an hour just kind of wishing I could go back to sleep before giving in and getting up. No biggy right!? Wrong! What it meant was, that all day I was just doing everything an hour later than I would be otherwise. So by the time I got to the evening I was eating an hour later, unwinding and watching tv an hour later, then going to bed an hour later and eventually falling asleep an hour later than I would have done. All that stuff adds up and screws with your equilibrium.
Sadly this morning has started in the same vein! I woke up precisely one hour before my alarm was due to go off, leaving me once again very tired. Plus we all know today is going to seem like a very long day, and it will still come as a shock to the system when we leave work tonight in darkness.
What I think we need to solve this problem is a bank holiday Monday on the weekend when the clocks go back. Just to give our brains more time to get used to the winter clock settings. Or failing that, let's just go the whole hog and add a permanent extra day to our weekends over the winter! We could still have a five day working week, but just add an extra day after Sunday. It could be called Sitterday, just to keep the theme of starting the weekend days with an 'S'. So winter weeks would be 8 days long instead. Not a big change, but it would certainly help survive the dark winter months I reckon.
Right, I'm off to start a campaign for introducing Sitterday and send it off to Mr Cameron. Who's with me!?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Learning to let go

Morning all fellow strollers of life's autumn leaf strewn footpath. Well last week I was talking about forgiveness, and how a big part of which was learning to let go. I think we’re probably all guilty of hanging on to things that hurt us, even if sometimes we’re not even aware of what it is that we’re hanging onto. How many times have you thought about letting go of some form of emotional baggage, thinking 'when I get this sorted, things going to be different, things will get better!'? The sad fact is that most of the time we don't actually get round to letting go of whatever it is, so we never get to escape from it.
The reason 'letting go' is so hard, is because most of the time what we have to let go of is not a person or a situation, but the part of ourselves that emerges when we think about that person or situation. The trouble being that it's not normally us who are in control of that particular person or situation. The only thing we are in control of is ourselves and how we deal with the emotions that go along with those people or things.
Real letting go begins with a kind of unraveling, where we start to recognise that what actually we need to let go of is the part of ourself that believes without that person, or without that situation we will somehow lose a part of ourselves and the stuff that makes us who we are. 
Of course that’s the trouble with the human brain; our opinion of ourselves is often given to us by the people we surround ourselves with and the situations we find ourselves in. The trick is, to know what you really need to hold on to and what parts would be better with a bit of pruning.
A lot of the time we feel at a loss, not because something or someone has changed, but because we don’t know who we are without that person or situation that we seem so attached to. So in a way that person or situation was controlling us and defining our sense of self and purpose. From there, we have to try to learn how to give up the way we think about those things if we want to actually give up the pain or the problem that we have because of them.
Ok, so we understand our minds are sometimes wrong to hold on to things that are hurting us, but how do we actually go about getting rid of it? Generally speaking it’s never a good plan to hold a grudge. I doesn’t matter what anybody said or did to you, going around hating people or letting past experiences drive your future about is never going to solve anything.
Let's say you had a suitcase; and everywhere you went, you took your suitcase, and wherever you put the suitcase down, it unclipped itself and out sprung a large mechanical hammer and hit you on the head. Pretty soon you would want to get rid of that suitcase wouldn’t you?! Emotional baggage is exactly the same as that!
That’s exactly what we do! Emotional baggage is a part of us that we carry around, everywhere we go. We all have those idle moments where we thinking back on things, looking at situations, then judge ourselves and others by it, and all the time, whatever we do, without exception, we get another smack around the head by the content of our past.
All we need to do to start letting go of something, is to begin to realize that if we’re suffering by holding on to it. Squeezing it even tighter is only going to make the situation worse and really isn’t going to help. 
Whatever it is, if you find yourself thinking “I hope this happens” or “I want things to turn out this way,” we are subconsciously putting promises in our head that if things work out the way we want everything will be fantastic! What we can’t see, is that the more we hold onto the idea of how things should be, the more we struggle with events as they might turn out.
Actually being aware of the things that we're hanging onto is only really the first step towards letting go of them, because if we are continually looking at situations and go over them again and again in our heads we’re not going forward at all. We’re just continually living over and over again in the past.
Day after day, if we think about it, we can see that the things we’ve been hanging onto are less and less important in the grand scheme of things. It’s a very long process because generally the amount of importance we attach to something is the degree to which we’re punishing ourselves with it! So let's start today by mentally shaking off those things that are holding us back, put them into perspective and look forward to a better tomorrow.
Do look after yourself, and each other.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Forgive and Forget.

Forgive and forget I say! The thing is it’s fairly easy to say it – although actually meaning it is quite a different thing. Thankfully quite a few of us can just about manage the forgiving part but struggle with the forgetting! 
The trouble is, to forgive someone properly you have to let go of whatever the wrong was and not hold onto it. Just saying the words is only a small part of the solution, you have to actually mean it. Everyone can relate to carrying a grudge that's gone on for far too long, this is just how we're built. The truth is, that as long as there are relationships of any kind in the world, there will always be a need for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing, even though sometimes it gets mixed up with its close cousin, acceptance, which while important, isn’t quite the same thing. For a lot of people, being able to forgive someone properly actually allows them to truly move on and get over the pain that we were feeling. Basically, a life lived without forgiveness is a life of real pain for all those involved.
Forgiveness has a place for everyone, regardless of your age or level of hurt. Everyone probably has something that they can be forgiven for and indeed that they must forgive. So how can we take that step forward, even when deeply hurt, to take charge of our lives so it's possible to forgive?
One way to look at it is seeing the past as the present, and the future too, because past wounds, from any source, can infect our present and the way we carry on in the future. If you were hurt by someone, you may carry a grudge, even if you not overly aware that you are or be so hurt that you are psychologically ready to be hurt again and again.
Someone says something that they consider not very important, a throwaway comment if you like, but you can't help but interpret it as yet another dig at you! You're the walking wounded, and the past becomes your present. Yes, you're hurt, but that wound will carry on hurting you all the time you leave it open. If that person is aware that they've hurt your feelings and says sorry, it makes it easier to let go of the hurt. It's easier to let go because that person has done half of the healing work for you. But, what if that person doesn't even know that they have hurt you? It may be in your interest to find a way to forgive them anyway – and let it go. 
Sometimes it’s best to actually go up to that person and let them know that they have hurt you (at least from your point of view). You may well get some understanding from this or, on the other hand, over defensiveness – or maybe even something in the middle. But you still need to find a way to let it go and move on. Doing something is better than doing nothing and letting the situation fester.
So what if you discover that a person is purposely trying to hurt you, and won't stop? At this point you may need to forgive yourself for letting that person get under your skin so badly to begin with. There are tried and tested ways to handle a bully, but it is difficult to be effective if you're feeling hurt yourself.
We're all wounded by people and words in some way at some point. You'd be surprised to hear of all the wounds that everyone carries around with them every day from the past. Many of these wounds can actually determine how people feel about themselves for their entire life. 
So, how do you break free? There is no easy process but, who wants to be held down by the past? Forgiveness, like grieving, has stages. You go through denial, bargaining, anger, depression and finally you come to acceptance. Forgiveness is a lot like grieving. The important things that we need to forgive don't come easily.
First, you have to acknowledge that you have to forgive. Carrying old wounds is simply a burden that steals the pleasure from the life that we have now. Let’s face it, we are not on this earth forever, and sitting around being a victim all your life it not anyone’s idea of a good time.
Knowing that you have a hurt that needs healing is only a first step. You also have to deal with real feelings of anger and resentment. I often think that the word ‘FAIR’ is a four letter word, too many people can't get over just how 'unfair' life is. Such pain, what’s the point!? Life IS unfair at times, but let's not forget, it's also filled with love and happiness too. 
Forgiveness is ultimately a gift to yourself. It allows the wounds to heal. Ultimately you have to forgive yourself for holding on to resentment for so long. Sometimes we have to actively go and grab the moral high ground for ourselves. Even if this means forgiving someone who doesn’t even think they need forgiving. 
When you accept what has happened, vow to try to not let it happen again, forgiveness is possible. There comes a point where we have to draw a line in the sand and say it’s times to let go of all this hurt and anger that i’m feeling. Even if it means we sometimes have to say sorry ourselves to the person who we feel has caused us the hurt! Surely it’s better to do this and get the boulder of forgiveness rolling, rather than just letting it crush us, because we aren’t prepared to budge our opinion on who was right and who was wrong in any given situation. Not only that, but forgiveness can also give you a massive sense of release, it will make you feel utterly free so you can better enjoy this life and move forward in a better state of mind.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

You gotta laugh haven't you? No really you must!

PHILOSOPHICAL PHURSDAY: How many times have you been up to your eyeballs with stress, feeling like your last straw has been broken by a wayward camels back? You find yourself juggling so many things and trying to keep them all up in the air at the same time. Or You've got so much on your plate, you just want to scream, throw it all up in the air and just run for the hills?
It's quite common you know, we all have those moments. Quite often in fact, and of course the last thing you want at a time like that is for someone to come up to you and ask if you're alright? Or even worse utter the words "Just calm down". Well I think I have the answer.
It was subject that was touched on by myself and a couple of work colleagues, on the way back from bowling night on Monday. (Oh and for those that know who I was in the car with, Yes it's possible for us to has a sensible conversation!) Anyway, when it comes to relieving stress, the more more giggles and guffaws you can squeeze into your day the better. I could probably draw you a graph if you like showing the amount of laughter directly reducing the levels of stress.
Sure, a good sense of humour and a few giggles can't cure all ailments of course, but there are a whole raft (No I've never understood this saying either) of positive things that laughter can do.
A good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. It stimulates many of the organs and so actually enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air. It stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins (No not dolphins) that are released by your brain.
Once these dolphins are released, (yep I'm going with dolphins) they activate and relieve your stress response. In fact a rollicking good laugh actually fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure at the same time. The result of which is a good, calm and relaxed feeling. It soothes tension and stimulates circulation and aids muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.
But it doesn't stop there! Oh no! Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up. It's also really good for you over the long haul. As it also improves your immune system. The trouble is that negative thoughts set off chemical reactions that affects your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. On the other hand, positive thoughts and having a giggle actually releases things called neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially even more-serious illnesses.
If that wasn't enough, it's also a fantastic pain killer! Laughter actually eases pain, because it causes the body to produce its own natural painkillers. It can even break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders. True fact! On top of which, a good hearty laugh always makes it easier to cope with difficult situations. It helps you break from the situation that is causing the stress and helps you connect with those around you.
Plus of course it generally improves your mood. I'm not saying it's a cure for long-term depression, but it may well help lessen the load, and if only briefly chuck out the anxiety and make you feel happier.
So no matter how stressful and panic-ridden you day may be, make sure you try and squeeze in as many laughs, chuckles, giggles and guffaws as you can.
Do look after yourselves, and each other.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Autumnal blues

PHILOSOPHICAL PHURSDAY: Has your zipperty vanished? Have you mislaid your doo, and lost your dah? Has your normal zing seemingly been replaced with a muted clump. Fear not my friend, it happens to quite a lot of us at this time of year. We can't escape the feeling that summer is gone, the party is over and now there’s nothing to look forward to. The feeling that all we’ve got to expect is progressively colder and grottier weather and days that are just getting shorter and darker. The only thing on the distant horizon is Christmas, and that’s still months away! (Even if for some people Christmas is actually on their list for things to dread). 

It’s all to easy to start feeling that life has lost it’s sparkle and start spiralling into that dark whirlpool of hopelessness and once you’re there, take it from me, it’s almost impossible to get back out again.

The key here is to find your balancing point, the middle of your see-saw, the crest of your own personal wave if you like, and try to stay on it for as long as you can. Don’t try and compare every day to the memories of what has been, or indeed try and predict what you think life has in store for you in the future. Just learn to be happy where and who you are right now.

Don’t get me wrong, great memories of sunshine and celebration are fantastic things to look back on, but comparing that feeling to the everyday and wishing that life was like that all the time is a dangerous thing to do. 

I’m pretty sure we’ve all been around the block enough to know that our future is very rarely how we predict it’s going to be. Life always has a tendancy to throw a curve ball at us and pull the rug from beneath us, when we are least expecting it. I’m not saying all these curve balls and pulled rugs are bad; sometimes amazing things or amazing people come our way that we weren’t expecting either. The fact is we don’t know what the future has got in store for us, so there’s really no point painting yourself a gloomy picture of what you think might be.

The important thing is to stay focused on one day at a time, and just be thankful for all the things that you do have right now. Turn your attention to the little things that we all take for granted, which are generally the things that really make a difference in our lives. If it helps try making a list of the things that you know make you smile. Things that have given you that spark of excitement and made you happy and make plans to do more of them!

Remember, life isn’t always a party but that doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic anyway. There is still so many things in the every day that lift our hearts and keep us on the top of our waves. Achieving a goal, no matter how small, or finishing a project that you actually feel proud of can always give us that extra little lift we're looking for. Let's not forget that most of the time our family and friends, and even our pets, if we have them, constantly do things that put a smile on our faces. 

Just have a good look around you, believe me there are probably so many people that actually think you’re pretty amazing, even if you're not aware that they do. So hang on to those facts the next time you’re feeling low and start thinking is this all there is, because actually what you’ve got is pretty damn awesome.

Do look after yourselves, and each other.