Welcome Friends

Welcome to my funny little world. Sometimes it's a bit sad, sometimes it's a bit mad, but I try to give you some uplifting words every day. And in amongst them I'll give you a little philosophy and celebrate just being. If you like a good bedtime story or you are just curious about your life or mine or you want to be encouraged, then come on in, the water's lovely!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Social Conscience

I have done some interesting work recently, helping adult victims of child abuse. My clients were a young couple in their twenties, with 4 children under the age of 8, who had 3 different fathers. The children were the subject of court proceedings, with the objective of deciding whether to remove the children from the parents "under the category of neglect."

Both parents had been poorly parented themselves so they had no decent example on which to model themselves as parents. The man had been badly abused as a child. So while the court case had been adjourned, Social Services were attempting to improve the parenting skills of the couple in order that they stood a chance of keeping the children. They wanted to show the court that they had done everything possible to help the parents.

Now some would say that if they were incapbable of looking after 4 children, then the couple should lose the children and they should be taken into care and looked after properly and given a better chance in life. I will admit that I had a similar viewpoint. On closer inspection, it is not quite as simple as that. Firstly, it benefits Social Services to leave children with parents because a child in care costs a fortune. To place a single, simple child with no additional needs into any sort of care costs over £400 per week. Yes, per week! Care is VERY expensive for the taxpayer.

The second reason why Social Workers like to leave children with parents is that children in care tend to do badly throughout their lives. Most of the British prison population have been in care as children. Taking children away from parents is a marker for future social problems, which have to dealt with and paid for by the state. So the arguments for children remaining with families are quite persuasive - current cost, future cost and short and long-term wellbeing of the children.

So my role was to help these two parents come to an understanding and an acceptance of what happened to them as children. The aim was that they could move on from the trauma, enabling them to lead easier, happier lives. And Social Services aim then was to help them to learn improved parenting skills, once they had more of a blank canvas to work with. Someone who has been abused as a child has multiple problems and hang-ups that they have to deal with and they can often be quite traumatic.

The man in particular had been through a hell of a childhood and really had suffered, which was affecting him day to day. After several weeks of work, both individuals were feeling much happier and calmer. They both reported a great improvement in their relationships with each other and the children, they played with the children more and were more positive and optimistic in general.

I was absolutely thrilled. To have such a result for these people was fantastic for me and so rewarding. I saw both parents change for the better over time and I loved seeing it. Ultimately I don't know whether they will keep the children. I am just glad that I could play a small part in helping these people to enjoy their lives.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

On Deprivation (and Lent)

My last post was a little spiritual, so I thought today I would follow through, go the whole hog and mention something from the Christian calendar. It is now Lent - the season of deprivation until Easter! Or is it? I have written a lot about weight loss recently and how it is better not to deprive yourself as it only leads to you craving the object of your deprivation. This of course for Christians is a little like self-flagellation. The deprivation reminds Christians of what Jesus went through for 40 days and nights in the desert without food, where surely he would have felt deprivation keenly, to say the least. So feeling deprived is what it's all about. If you don't feel deprived, you haven't chosen the right thing to go without for the 6 weeks. The idea is to feel Jesus' pain. But there is a way of doing this differently.

Many people resolve to give up something they enjoy like chocolate or alcohol but I once heard a clever sermon for Lent which provided a different twist. This minister's idea was to give up on a behaviour or an emotion that has negative consequences. To give up bitching about somebody, to give up always sniggering at the guy in the office with the appalling dress sense, to give up taking undeserved criticism, to refrain from thinking the worst, to give up always thinking that someone else could do that tedious task, when it could in fact be you.

It dovetails neatly into my work because my clients have all taken the decision to give up on an emotion or behaviour. I have been seeing very many trauma victims recently who don't want to carry the emotions around with them any more. It feels good for them to shake off the overwhelming negativity and anxiety that comes from having been abused as a child, been in a car accident, been bullied at school. They are giving up feeling bad about themselves. They are giving up on old emotions that serve no useful purpose.

But it lasts, it's not just for Lent, it won't disappear at Easter. And it isn't deprivation either.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Touching Lives

Something a little spiritual today.

Everyone we meet touches our lives in some way. Even those tiny encounters at the supermarket or petrol station have an effect. Does the assistant barely speak and gives you the change or make some discourse with you. The former could make you feel quite grumpy and wonder what is wrong in the world, especially if you meet enough of them. The person that passes the time of day with their customer may be unaware that he is the only person that that old lady has spoken to in two days. A cheerful few words and a smile could make a difference to someone like that.

So it isn't always the people with whom we have long and close relationships who have the power to touch our lives. A chance meeting or greeting can have a profound effect. Yet everyone holds that power whether they know it or not. It can be worth considering the things we say and how we act because we don't always know their consequences.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Ban the D Word

Yes, ban the "Diet" word. It seems all-pervading at this time of year. But even if you are losing weight, please don't use the D word, it is far too dispiriting, far too negative for my world.

Firstly, it's a bastardised use of the word anyway, which means to eat a specific group of foods. My dog is "on a diet" - a restrictive diet to safeguard her liver. A diabetic is often "on a diet" as is a coeliac. A weight-loss diet however, is just a diet where the food going in is less than before and less than the enrgey being expended. Simple as that.

So don't "diet", don't restrict yourself. As soon as you ban foods or eat too little, all your mind wants to do is seek out the things you tell yourself you cannot have. Have you noticed that if ever you say you have given up chocolate, all you do is crave chocolate? It's because the mind finds it dificult to process a negative.

In order to process a negative, the mind first has to understand the positive before it can twist it into "don't." So to process the command, "Don't drop it!" the mind first has to work out what "Drop it" means in order to understand that it must do the opposite. This takes time and brain power and is more difficult than it at first appears.

The person who has given up something will always notice that thing eg. chocolate and the brain will then think, "Aha, there's the thing I cannot have," thus bringing the forbidden thing to your attention and adding to the craving. Sneaky huh?

Try it with small children. Their minds are still learning how to process language so they are that bit slower than us. As soon as you tell a child, "Don't touch that," the child will touch it. It's only a less well developed cognition than our chocolate craving.

Two lessons here. Firstly, give your children positive messages eg. "Only looking at the breakable china please"

Secondly, don't give yourself deprivation type commands like "I have given up chocolate because I'm dieting" Ugh! How many negative cognitions does that sentence have in it? Tell yourself that you can eat chocolate with a meal, if you are hungry. Trust me, you will barely notice that you are eating less chocolate.