Sunday, 28 February 2010

Before I spontaneously combust...

As I might have mentioned once or twice before, I am going take a some time off blogging starting tomorrow. I need to break out of the post-a-day routine to prove that I am NOT addicted (and prove that blogging is not the thing preventing my spontaneous combustion - ha - preposterous idea!). I might take a few weeks off, I might blog on Tuesday....who knows....I'll just have to wait and see.

So then I wondered what I would leave you with before I go on virtual leave to risk spontaneous combustion.

Then my head did it's usual, whizz, whirr, tick tick, fuzz, whallop and said, 'Fact File'. I thought I would 'tag' myself in a slightly self-obsessed way. The file will have to be a slightly unusual one though because there's not much I haven't given away already.


Worst journeys:
•The 40 hour train ride from Vienna to Athens wasn't great but the people we met made it 'interesting' - especially the Austrian knife wielding pig farmer.

•Driving through central London on Boxing day, without a map, with a dodgy car that would only move off if I revved the engine massively (and then not every time - I watched some traffic lights go green and then red again and we hadn't managed to move which did not impress other drivers at all) with a brother sat next to me reading the Tao of Pooh and telling me it was all in the journey, not the arrival man. He was lucky to live (especially as later when we were nearly home we did discover a map in the car, he just had not looked hard enough). I remember stopping and asking someone where the M11 was (after having driven for hours - past Piccadilly, up Oxford Street and near Liverpool Street Station in this ridiculous clown car) and his reply being, 'You wanna be north of the river for a start love.' Brighton to Norwich in nine hours.

•The million hour coach journey from Dorset to Aberdeen to see my sister - particularly the time I was sat next to a hugely overweight man that kept squashing and sneezing on me.

•The ferry trip to Brittany where my chap, my son and daughter all threw up - mostly on me.

•A coach trip from Marrakesh to Essouira in an afternoon during Ramadan. The coach driver's irritability was quite obvious - shall we say!

•I once went on the train with a friend (Jem) from Crawley to Brighton for a night out. I was a student on the Xmas break at the time and it was midweek. We had a fun night out but failed to catch the 1.30 a.m. return train home, so tried to hitch up the A23. We were with a friend of a friend that suddenly turned on Jem (started thumping him!), so we ran away. We decided we would just have to get the 4.30 a.m. train back. We made it onto the train and promptly fell asleep. We awoke in London Victoria - having overshot to the end of the line. We were woken up by unimpressed staff. Jem had had enough by this point (a bit tired and emotional). We got off this train and straight onto a train back to Crawley. I remember the ticket man trying to stop Jem but he wasn't having any of it. He just metaphorically brushed the ticket man away and I simply followed in his wake. Jem must have looked so angry, people didn't dare challenge him. So we didn't pay anything. By now we were amongst commuting passengers. Jem was so worried we would fall asleep again, he kept patting me on the head as if I were a drum. We must have looked like people to avoid by this point! We did make it back just to say bye to Jem's mum leaving for work.

Favourite small food:
•the pea

Party Pieces from the Past
•Being able to do the splits as a child won me some kudos.
•A rendition of 'I will survive' in a broad Norwich accent - with subtitles and actions.
•Hava Nagila sung to the accompaniment of guitar played by extra arms provided from behind by chap used to go down well for some reason.
•Button pressing to divide any group into those that warm to me, and those I repel! (Actually I have toned this one down considerably, improved my social skills and can mingle reasonably well now).

Things I learnt at school that I can still remember.
•The significance of the surface area to volume ration and how it means an amoeba does not need an internal 'system' like larger animals and can rely on diffusion alone.
•'The period of over confidence'. When you first learn something, your performance improves gradually until you become cocky and then there's a decline in competence!
•The equation for solving quadratic equations: minus B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus four AC all over 2A.
•How to throw a pot on a Potter's Wheel and centralise the clay (I think I could still do it after a bit of practice - I was once quite good and still have the first pot I threw.)
•I'm still pretty hot on the past perfect in French! Not overly useful in France to always be in the past tense! I missed a year of French - when they did the present.
•How Oxbow lakes are formed, what an erratic is (strange rock brought by glacier that is out of sorts with surrounding rocks)
•You didn't have to be able to read very well to be good at English Literature.
•Newton's Three Laws of motion (and I liked them!!!!)
•impulse equals change in momentum FXT= MV1-MV2
•You put potassium in water it crackles and sparks. The further down that group of metals on the periodic table you go, the more reactive they become.
•Cellulose is pretty insoluble and in the lab only dissolves in a blue liquid that I cannot remember the name of.
•Lactic acid is produced during anaerobic exercise because the oxygen can't arrive quickly enough to oxidise the glucose and that's what causes the pain in muscles.
•Actually, I keep remembering more facts so I'll stop here! I thought there wouldn't be much at all. I surprised myself.

Favourite swear word
•Bugger (for warmly comical moments)
•All of them in fast succession when only serious bout will do.

Worst experiences at customs:
•When I was travelling back from Thailand I swapped rucksacks with my then chap because my rucksack was so much heavier than his. He was stopped and had to stomach them searching a bag full of not just women's underwear, but women's underwear that hadn't been washed for the last two weeks of a six week holiday!!! I laughed a bit between cringes.

•When I must have looked anxious because I was trying to get on the plane before my sister to get the window seat but they picked up on my facial expression and stopped and searched me and she got the window seat. Boo

•Going into the states for the first humour was actually stifled!

Favourite colour
Purple. Then green, then blue and if we have all three together, we need silver too.

Favourite saying
Be anything....anything....but mediocre.' Anita Roddick

You got any answers for me Blog Gang?

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Thought prompted by my Self Esteem dossier!

Last weekend, I was having a bit of a muck out. This is prompted when I either cannot a) find something or b) move. It's quite ugly to watch. The equation is: slight irritation about lost thing + bullish person + extreme chaos in physical surroundings = irritation, even more bullish person, unsettled dust and nothing achieved. (I appreciate this isn't mathematically sound but I wouldn't risk pointing it out if I were you; I'm still in chaos). I was trying to find the visitors' book that we had in our toilet for many years to share some of the wonderful comments people had written, but failed. Instead I found what I used to call, 'my self esteem dossier'. It is full of newspaper clippings of stuff I have done, special cards people have made for me and various other 'feel good' bits and pieces from a variety of places. A look through is guaranteed to make me glow from deep inside.

As a teacher, I used to invest a lot in developing and preserving pupils' self esteem. I always worked with kids that were mostly from very testing backgrounds (things on their files like 'saw father hang himself when he was 7' or 'had to nurse dying step-dad aged 9 -including nappy changing - while mum went to pub') and felt that this work was really important if we were to ever get to a place where some learning would happen (as opposed to a lot of resistant and/or destructive behaviour). I used lots of 'gimmicks' to try and help kids feel better about themselves (e.g. special days, achievement celebrations, compliment sheets, acts of kindness, touch tunnels..etc) and they grew to love coming in daily to the safe haven we had created together as a class. In the first school I worked in, therefore, I gained a reputation for self esteem (and 'safe haven') work and was asked to lead a training session for the rest of the teachers. I decided to talk about self esteem generally (and showed how self esteem spirals up and poor self esteem spirals down etc) and share some of the gimmicks I used with the children.

One such gimmick that the kids used to love is quite commonly used now. It's effects are not long-lasting or overly effective but it does help children to feel less paranoid about what their peers think about them.

Here it is.......

You start by brain-storming compliments - this is to develop compliments beyond 'YOUR NICE'(you never got an apostrophe - despite extensive work on it!). Next, you give each child a sheet of paper and ask them to write and decorate their name in the centre - leaving space around the edge. You then ask the children to leave their sheet on the desk where they sit and you give them the following instructions:
1) Do not return to your own name sheet (as tempting as it is) until I indicate the activity is finished.
2) Wander around the room and try and write something nice about everyone in the class on their sheet.
3) Imagine how you would feel if you returned to your sheet and found something insulting. Please do not write anything nasty. Even if you do not get on with someone, you should be able to find something nice to say about them, even if it is something like, 'you have nice hair.'

An aside: I used to love watching their little faces light up when they returned to their sheets. I used to go and write something on everybody's sheet too, of course. One time, the class secretly put my name on a sheet and got everyone to write on it without me knowing and were pleased to present it to me at the end of the session.

Now as I might have said one or two times before; I know I am not everyone's cup of tea. In my youth, I am preety sure I was even more direct and outspoken than I am now. Those that struggled with me tended to be extreme conformers. I think I rattled conforming cages too much for some to cope with. (Perhaps I am the devilish conscious most have suppressed into their subconscious!!!) Anyway, I did this activity with the teachers (and have since done it with many teams that I have worked in - see picture). I gave exactly the same instruction to the teachers as I have listed above. So when I returned to my piece of paper I was a little surprised to find, 'You have nice blond hair' (written in the handwriting of the teacher of hockey sticks fame:
( ). Clever woman had managed to craftily tell me she didn't like me, in the middle of an exercise about helping people to feel better about themselves. And do you know what? I admired her honesty and cheekiness!!!!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Everything comes to life!

When our kids were younger and we were all bundled in bed together, they always wanted us to bring cuddly toys to life or turn our hands into characters. I suspect parents everywhere do this regularly. We still do this with our youngest. Last night's hand-demonstrated story, for example, was about Harriet the Hippo with the itchy bottom (she searched all over for the perfect scratch) and we have a fat penguin cuddly toy that is trying to learn English but can only really say, heavily accented, 'my nose is like a carrot.' In fact, I don't think there is a cuddly toy without a persona and my hand has played endless roles (no seedy ones). It thinks it is an actor.

The other day, I stumbled across this 'story' that included many of the characters chap and I turned our hands into. The characters became quite developed such that I must have written this down based on them. (I didn't remember writing it!) Our daughter used to nag us endlessly to tun our hands into these characters. Here they are.
This is Algernon and his friend Winston.
Algernon is a black spider. Winston is a white spider. He is also gay. (He quite fancies Algernon).

This is Vivienne. She is overweight. It hurts when Vivienne walks on you. She is a very shy spider and has to be coaxed from under the floorboards.
Vivienne is a single mum. This is her son David with her. David is disabled. He has only for seven legs but he can do all the things that eight legged spiders can do.

David's mum adores Winston but unfortunately Winston does not fancy Vivienne because he is gay.
Algernon fancies Vivienne like mad but sadly, Vivienne only had eyes for Winston. This is a very tragic love triangle. None of these spiders are very happy. Except David.David loves to play with his 'Uncle' Algernon. Algernon can throw David high into the air. This makes David laugh a lot.Algernon and Winston love making webs. Algernon is a web bore. Sometimes David falls asleep when Algernon tells him all about the webs he had made.

This is Grandma Worm. She is very old. Grandma Worm eats sand rather than mud, because she is so course. She says her mud processing days are long gone. Grandma Worm smokes forty Rothman's a day. She has a very gruff voice.Grandma Worm loves to party. She often goes out with her two best mates: Sidney Worm and Ronnie the Tick.

Ronnie the Tick always forgets to take his money with him but it doesn't matter because he is so popular, everyone always buys him a drink. Ronnie the Tick is rumoured to have some dodgy connections.

After a long night out, Grandma Worm often fails to make it home. She was once found sleeping on her keys by the front door. This is very dangerous for a worm, particularly at dawn.

This is Harvey and Daisy. They are Grandma Worm's Grandchildren. Harvey and Daisy are very good at dealing with grandma Worm's hangovers. Often they find her a pint of water to soak in for a while.Harvey and Daisy are boyfriend and girlfriend. They are almost inseparable although they have both agreed that they are too young to be in a serious relationship.

Harvey and Daisy are very busy worms. Often in the morning, one of them is on 'First Worm Duty'. First Worm Duty is where a worm has to be available at dawn to meet the early bird. It is a very dangerous duty and you have to be very brave to do it. So far Harvey and Daisy have been unhurt.

Harvey and Daisy do something every night. On Mondays, Daisy goes to guides and Harvey goes to scouts. On Tuesdays Harvey goes to his trombone lesson and Daisy learns piano. On Wednesdays Harvey and Daisy both go to Canoe Club. On Thursdays Harvey cans worms and Daisy opens them. On Fridays, Harvey reads stories to the blind lady over the road and Daisy helps out with 'Meals on Wheels' On Saturdays, Harvey goes Morris dancing and Daisy watches him adoringly. On Sundays, both Harvey and Daisy go to choir practice at St. Wilifred's of Allotment. Daisy also regularly plays a Sunday afternoon football match with the Wormstead Wrigglers. They are top of the league and have won all the matches so far this season -including matches against the Centre-earth Centipedes, Slightly-Slow Slugs (no surprise - they have never won, even when the occasional snail subs), the Burly Beetles and the Ants United.

Harvey and Daisy are frequently also found out collecting for charity. Their favourite charity is 'Wormfam': a charity which helps parasitic worms overseas.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Equal Opps

A bit serious again...oops...sorry. Will lighten up tomorrow!

In the development of social ideals, there was a time when some people went round saying we were all the same. Woman were the same as men, black people the same as white, disabled people were as capable as able bodied people etc in an attempt to combat prejudice. Those 'same' statements were making a point, at that stage of social consciousness development, that needed to be made. In other words, 'don't assume we can't do something or make assumptions about us because of who we are'.

However, it was soon realised that this was not an overly effective approach in the aim for fairness and thankfully things have moved on. It has been realised that simply treating everyone the same does not acknowledge institutionalised disadvantage and the barriers a person might come up against as a result of belonging to a particular group or minority. In other words, efforts have to be made to ensure that everyone can participate equally in the activities and opportunities that are available. This is extremely obvious when it comes to disabled people, for example.

However to help people consider this idea further in my difference, diversity and inclusion training I use this....

I state that the 'institution' changes from place to place but that this would be typical for a Norfolk country school (people usually nod furiously at this point). And I say, if you are an 'insider', it is very hard to imagine what it is like to be an outsider because all the things that make the outsider feel the way they do, the insider will not even register. It's easy, when you are an insider, to be complacent and dismissive of issues that 'outsiders' might raise, because from where you sit, it is not an issue.

And this is why consultation is so crucial. You cannot make assumptions about 'outsider' groups (that's not helpful as I have already stated, insiders are not in the right place to understand barriers), so you have to ask, to find out what the barriers are.

'Outsiders' might also not always be registered as such. For example, a single male in a team of females might be made to feel like an outsider but because males are not generally seen as 'outsiders' in society, their exclusion or discrimination might not be acknowledged (such as in the team of social workers that I worked with recently).

You may have also noticed that I have put 'girls' and boys' as outsiders. I do this to highlight that sometimes the institution favours boys and sometimes it favours girls.

N.B. I appreciate I have made several of these points in comments on my posts but it's nice to put it all together!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The normative approach...bear with me, it is quite interesting!

Educators, health professionals, the media and parents/carers tend to focus on the most extreme risk taking behaviours in young people (e.g. early sex, binge drinking etc). This can give us an exaggerated view of young people’s behaviour and make us forget that the vast majority are behaving ‘sensibly’. Furthermore it doesn’t just give ‘us’ that impression, young people also receive distorted impressions about their peers' behaviour.

The normative effect is something I learnt about at a conference a few years ago and despite its proven beneficial influence in health promotion and reducing risky behaviours (it's been heavily researched), its 'use' has not filtered through universally. It’s another counter-intuitive thing (like giving kids sexual aspirations!) that once explained – makes perfect sense.

Here goes……

The normative approach is a model based on the idea that we are influenced so much by our peers – especially when we are teenagers (when we are often at our most 'herding' point in life) - and is best illustrated by example:

If you asked a class of 14 year olds confidentially if they have had sex, 10% might say ‘yes’ (depending upon where you were etc). However, if you ask the same class of pupils how many of their peers they perceive have had sex, their guesses will be more like 90%. The actual norm (reality) is far less than the perceived norm. This misperception is a form of peer influence.

The difference between reality and perception puts a pressure on young people to engage in risky behaviours. If a young person believes that they are the only person who ‘hasn’t’ they will want to remedy this so they become someone who 'has'. One of the most effective things you can tell young people to alter their behaviour is ‘the reality’. For example, ‘did you know that more than half of young people in the UK wait beyond their 16th birthday before having sex’ (a true statistic). This relieves the perceived peer influence/pressure as it helps young people realise that they are actually not the only person who has not had sex.

When the normative approach is applied (and kids are told the true statistics) it shows significant decreases in risk taking behaviour and the most significant reductions are surprisingly in the most vulnerable groups.

Causes of people’s misperception:

Social psychological causes:
 conversation patterns (boasting) – exaggerations from young people
 mental attribution process - see a person doing it once, tend to think it is what they do all the time. E.g. you see someone drunk – you assume that’s how they carry on all the time.

A focus on extreme behaviours
 We, the media, the news, only talk about extreme behaviour and rarely talk about the 95% of people representing the ‘norm’.
 Shock tactics are often used to try and scare people out of risky behaviours. Ironically, displaying the extreme ill fait that you are trying to prevent can just make the behaviour seem more the 'norm' and therefore less shocking! e.g. the advert showing a really drunk person falling off scaffolding. Actually most young people didn't relate to that at all because they knew that when they got drunk, they didn't climb up things!

Health advocacy
 Health professionals tend to focus on the problems in health and exaggerate these problems to get funding etc. This exasperates misperceptions.

This is an example of an advert that was used in the past that exasperates the difference between the actual norm and people’s perceived norm. This advert would be more effective in smoking prevention if it showed most of the fish not smoking and told everyone to be more like everyone else!!!!!

Nerding ceases.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Get a badge!

I didn't mean this to be a long post. I got carried away (see enthusiasm badge).

This is me messing around (forte) with one of the more silly creative thinking ideas from my book Outside the Box (9-11). In the book, I ask kids to make up what a person would have to do to achieve a set of silly badges (much like buy scout/girl guide badges).

Here are a couple of examples that I give....
Great irritator’s badge
1) Irritate three different people in the same day and ask them to sign a piece of paper that will prove you irritated them.
2) Make up an irritation questionnaire that explores what irritates people.
3) Make up three really irritating sounds and irritate at least three different people with them.
4) Keep an irritation diary for one week and list all the things you have seen that have irritated people. You must list at least eight things.
5) Tell the badge collector what you think is the most irritating thing in the world and why you think it is.

And here's one to show you can make up some badge criteria for just about anything:

Pizza badge
1) Learn the toppings of all the pizzas in every restaurant in your town.
2) Use the word ‘pizza’ every time you get cross or bothered for a week and keep a diary of people’s responses to this.
3) Design a pizza that nobody in their right mind would choose from a menu.
4) Persuade your mum/dad/carer to give you pizza for tea three times in one week.
5) Be able to identify three pizzas from their smell alone, at the test.

And here are some examples of the badges I ask the pupils to make up criteria for...(my class loved it!)

•Bossy badge
•Laughter badge
•Steady hand badge
•Sensible badge
•Tolerant badge
•Excuse giver badge
•Compliment giver badge
Now the irony is, despite this apparent love of making up the criteria for made up badges, as a girl guide, I only ever managed to get three badges:
1) Cyclist - which absolutely everyone had
2) Rabbit keepers - which was a farce - I was awful at looking after my rabbits
3) Needlework - I must have had a very lenient judge.

Poor underachieving child in the world of badge acquisition. Bless me.
So that set me off thinking. If I were to design a book of badges for adults to achieve, which badges would I find an absolute breeze to gain? And then I had some ideas:

Away with the fairies badge
1) Try almost daily to get into your collegaue's car that is the same model and colour and EVERY time take a surprisingly long time to realise it's not your car and hope, again, that nobody saw you.
2) When you are painfully self-conscious, not overly confident and a little bit of a social misfit trying to deny that you were one, go to school with odd shoes on. Pretend you meant to so as not to lose face. Lose face.
3) When you are about 15, try really hard to cycle precisely between the two yellow lines at the edge of a road and cycle into the back of a parked car and fall off.
4) Wonder why the grapes taste weird and realise they are olives.
5) Never be able to find anything (shoes, ketchup, bag, keys, gate) without the help of your beloved not-overly-observant-himself-but-great-compared-to-you spouse.
6) Be amazed at those people that can identify a person by a description of what they look like (with no need to say where they stood in the room relative to them).
7) Know that you would be no use, whatsoever to Crimewatch.
8) Cycle on a bike for months wondering why it's a little strange before you realise the handlebars are massively off centre.
9) Wonder why your cardigan is uncomfortable with loads of bunch-up at the neck - for hours - before you realise it's on upside down.
10) When you are 19, walk around Rome train station with your skirt tucked up between you and your rucksack. Wonder why people keep giggling behind you. Realise attire is misbehaving when you arrive at your campsite.
11) Have your purse returned to you regularly via your bank before you have even realised it is missing.

Astounding cyclist badge
1) Survive into your forties despite having been awarded the 'Away with the fairies badge' and cycling everywhere.
2) Fall off your bike in at least three different ways: e.g. looking at the sheet ice beneath you at T junction and debate braking on ice or continuing into busy traffic travelling on main road (choose former), bang revolving pedal on exceptionally high kerb and fly into the middle of the road, give friend a backie starting at the top of a long, slow slope (Earlham Road) when a little tipsy and know that as you gain more and more momentum, it will end in tears and considerable giggling as you scrap yourself off the middle of the road, etc (clause allows point 4 from 'Least observant person in the universe badge' to count towards this badge as well).
3) Be able, in your youth, to cycle all the way up Gas Hill - the steepest hill Norwich has to offer.
4) Surprise yourself with how in the past, even when walking seems beyond you because of overdoing-the-beer-a-bit, you can still cycle home.
5) Cycle round northern Europe and, the following year, Ireland with a tent in your pannier and LOVE it.

Condiments badge
1) Be visibly anxious if the place that you are eating in looks like it might not have a great selection of condiments.
2) Spend several minutes (even if starving) applying a variety of ketchups, mustards, mayonnaises, barbecue sauce, vinegar, tartare sauce, salt, pepper, lemon juice, salad dressing etc in a surprisingly 'just so' way for someone that's in the main pretty haphazard.
3) Start new bottle before the old one is finished because of a belief that sauce from a new bottle tastes better. (Don't worry there's not waste - chap is good at sauce management).
4)When sachets of sauce are available, squirrel them away to prevent the unbearable situation of having chips in the car without condiments.

Enthusiasm Badge
1) Never do anything by halves, when you get into something.
2) Have your family hear you say, 'I am just popping up to/out to/over to...' and then have them need to send out a search party to retrieve you from absolute embroilment in papier mache, blogging, street decoration making, fiddle playing, top trump card making, etc - whatever the project of the moment is.
3) Blast gush at people, at things, at life.
4) Drive people to the point of irritation with your enthusiasm.
5) Know the equation enthusiasm + tactility = a family that regularly says 'gerroff'!

Myers Briggs Badge
1) 'Type' just about everyone you meet within seconds.
2) Try hard not to say things like, 'that's because you are J and she is P' too often or it won't be long before a sniper is hired to take you out.
3) Love it when you convert someone to the MB way of life.

Warped idea of fun badge
1) Find great pleasure in dressing up as a majorette alongside two men in drag and deliver a pom pom routine.
2) Spend an entire night with a Scouse friend communicating through pretend walkie-talkies so as to carry out a secret mission (that you never got to the bottom of, for giggling).
3) Play hide the sprout in a place where your friend will never anticipate finding it to score a point for the duration of the Christmas holidays.
4) Hand out home- made top trump cards to strangers and tell them, 'this card is to be used as identification from this point on and if you are found without this identification about your person, if stopped and asked you will be nicked' and find it funny for years.
5) Realise that if you disclosed some of the things you have called 'fun' at points in your life you would be at risk from a) arrest, b) sectioning and c) social ostracism at best.
5) Love a good game of sardines.

Other badges I might gain easily:
•Blogger badge
•The faux pas badge
•The can't engage in standard office speak - especially not diets, clothes and shopping - badge
•The I love maps badge
•The random and not extensive trivia that can, if used well, make you look clever badge
•The getting left and right the correct way round is overstated - especially when you are happy to clarify with the point of the finger and say, 'I mean THAT left,' badge.
•The messing around badge.
•The fires lighter badge
•The take the joke to the point where it stops being funny, then patiently take it further still until it becomes funny again badge.
•Verbal unpredictability badge
•The oh I could go on and regularly do badge
•The washing up badge

And you - which would you get easily?

Monday, 22 February 2010

The power of listening

I once was engaged in an activity on a training day where everyone was asked to think of a little life problem that needed to be solved. Nothing major, just something like what to buy so and so for their birthday present or a little inconvenience that we needed to sort.

We than found a partner and sat directly opposite them. We took it in turns to have five minutes opposite our partner just talking about the 'problem' while she or he sat facing us actively listening. By actively listening, we meant giving good eye contact, nodding and saying things like 'yes' and 'go on'.

When we were asked to give feedback. Nearly everyone had solved their problem.

The reason?

If there is a problem, the person with it has most authority over it. They have all the insider knowledge, are the most tuned into the problem and are the person that can work out the most-likely-to-work and palatable solution for their unique circumstances. So unless the problem needs the input of specialised knowledge, the problem owner is the best problem solver.

Funny because when someone comes to most people with a problem, they feel the need to offer a variety of solutions when the best thing they could do in most cases is probably be quiet and listen.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Storms in tea cups

I remember reading an article about happiness some time ago. It identified many criteria that those with a generally happy disposition tended to have.

There were not many surprises. It stated, for example, that severe poverty can have a negative impact on happiness but once all basic needs are met, there is no correlation between increased wealth and an increase in happiness (although many strive for wealth, I assume, with the idea it will make them happier which is not surprising considering the conditioning we receive in the capitalist western world!). It spoke about 'flow', personal 'wiring' and health and so on.

However, the one happiness criteria that stood out for me was, 'the ability to transcend pettiness.' It is remarkable how we can sometimes let something that is, in the large scheme of things, quite insignificant, annoy or upset us to the point of it being detrimental to our happiness and wellbeing.

Which brings me to one of my more serious catchphrases. When a storm kicks off in a tea cup, I will admit, I can become embroiled - like many - I suspect. However, I can find the exit when I re-guage with the thought, 'some parents watch their children die in their arms from starvation.' It's usually all I need to put things back into perspective and feel humbled by my own stupidity!

The fun I have in People Playgrounds

I went to a local real ale pub this Friday and had a fantastic time. I drank a fine real ale and my outlook became a tad chemically altered.

It's taken me years to work out why I like drinking alcohol. It's definitely a social thing for me. Up until recently I would very rarely drink at home (it's still not very common). What I love is the way it makes people more likely to 'connect' with others. In a pub like the one I went to on Friday, everyone becomes friendly and most people are happy to talk with anyone. So to me, the pub becomes one big 'people playground' that I can usually quite freely explore. I suspect there are some places in the world where this would be possible without alcohol.

Originally, I met with friends. They like to arrive and leave early. Thing is, they always leave just as I am about to get going (I usually arrive some time after them and my alcoholic stamina is pretty good). So I bump into people - people I know, those I vaguely know and sometimes strangers. It probably means I encounter people that I wouldn't normally, as we do have so many subconscious filtering processes in sober life that seem to prevent connections quite quickly.

At one point I met a young chap who had lived a long time in the Hague. He spoke about general social attitudes in Britain compared to the Dutch and how much more advanced he felt the Dutch generally were. He also said that when he's in the Netherlands he comes across to others as a macho feller but when he's in Britain, he comes across as the opposite! How interesting! But I didn't get to explore further because he had to leave with his friends.

A bit later, I met a man (friend of a friend) that started nearly every sentence with, 'the problem with women is...'. His friend wasn't quite so misogynistic so I chatted mostly with him. He was quite interesting but his friend regularly punctuated my sentences with, a new 'problem with women sentence.' I challenged a few of his early interruptions, for example, 'the problem with women is they only like shopping and that's all they do.' I replied, 'I hate shopping' (I sincerely do) but he told me I was lying! I showed him my bag as an example of how acquisition did not interest me. (I have had it for about ten years and repaired it several times (re-lined and patched, again and again) and he just said, 'you've just tried to hippierise it.' He was determined to dislike me as the only representation of femalehood within his proximity. He also told me that he hated being single and would love to have a girlfriend. A man that hates women but that wants one. Poor feller.

I became bored of that conversation (it did grate somewhat!) and decided I would go home after a necessary trip to the loo (real ale pints are a lot of volume to process). As I left the ladies, I bumped into some friends of a friend that I vaguely knew: a lovely, warm and intelligent artist and her wonderfully kind chap. I am still processing the conversation we had.....

I know I am an idealist and I have a picture of how I would love to see the world: connection, compassion, self-awareness, understanding and tolerance, gentleness,'s called Pretty Hippyland. I also know that it's very unlikely that we will ever all arrive in Pretty Hippyland. I do have a little realism going on too! We spoke about the scope of the human condition and how fundamentally, everyone is just floundering around clueless and some of us are trying to find a meaning that probably doesn't really exist. And this friend said she found comfort in the fact this was the reality. And I liked that too. I do sometimes look too hard for meaning and I do want the world to be a better place but I am regularly disappointed! I need to temper my idealism and become embroiled in 'that's just how it is!'

Then I left the pub to find my bike was still locked to the end of one of the wooden picnic benches outside the pub - only the bench had been upturned onto its side for nightime storage and my bike was consequently in the air - a little high for all 5 ft 2 of me to wrestle with alone. I popped back into the pub and asked two chaps to help me with this predicament. They did. I gave then some top trump cards for their effort and cycled off to bedsville. I love diverse adventures in People Playgrounds.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

What I've learnt from a winter season in Blogsville

I have found travelling in Blogsville a very entertaining, interesting, thought provoking, self-awareness raising and enlightening experience. This is not just because of what I have read on other people’s blogs or formulated for my own; it’s also the learning I’ve gained by reflecting on writing my posts, the comments they receive and from commenting on other people’s blogs.

An outline of my key learning….!

1) Writing style
I appear to be able to write in a reasonably clear way, using simple language to convey my meaning. Not bad for someone that could not read at ten and carried a fear toward the written word for years!! I also realise I am the queen (or prevalent implementer) of bracketed tangents and elaborations!!!

2) Blogging community
It’s surprising how you feel connected to your main commenters! It’s a little blogging community. We are all so different and each blogger also brings their uniquely flavoured comments. For example:
Claire - flippant, irreverent and very funny
Nick - intelligent, thought provoking, shares a little of himself, encouraging and downright bloody witty/hilarious
Codgi- thoughtful and reflective
Clipster – I always feel like you come in as a chaotic bundle of randomness and deliver funny, sometimes flippant and warm comments that often make me laugh - with not at – you laughing at me!!! Love it!
Heronster – warm, makes his stance very clear, thoughtful
Mark – intelligent and encouraging
Eric – thought provoking, direct, not shy of challenging and often leftfield
Nikki – we share similar interests so I think we’re often on the same wavelength – your comments show that!
FF – warm, friendly and sparky
Jonathan – thought provoking, shares something of himself and cleverly mocking!
KD – what a lovely fellar – warmth and humbleness!

3) Different types of posts
Most of my followers appear to like little funny stories best. I would have become bored quickly if that was all I had written. Thus my quite diverse posts.

4) Intention and reception altering in electronic transit
The electronic word with no visuals (90% of communication is non-verbal and all that) with no facial expressions, body language or tone to help convey its meaning is easily mis-received. Add in the British tendency towards irony (we do it so much I think we hardly notice) comments can be received as the exact opposite of their intention. I think I have learnt to be more careful but I think we all slip up in places. Further communication usually sorts it out.

5) Stimulation
I enjoy writing comments on other people’s blogs as much as writing my own. I think the stimulus to be had out there provokes opinions you didn’t know you had and sparks off memories you didn’t realise were still rattling around in your grey matter.

6) Writer's eye (or inner eye)
Writing a blog seems to give you a mindset that is continuously on the look-out for interesting incidents, interesting ideas or for logging unusual memories as they occur to you. It has certainly meant I have been thinking about 'stuff' more! I am not sure this is always a good thing. My head rattles around a lot anyway.

7) Challenge
I have enjoyed writing speculatively about ideas and concepts in posts and comments. Sometimes what I have written is evidence based (a lot of work stuff – like SRE is a positive thing) and sometimes it is opinion and/or speculation. When I write opinion, I have tried to start sentences with I think….I believe…etc..rather than writing it as proven fact.

Everyone has different opinions and this is how it should and will always be. But in debates:
• I think some people (I am still learning here) seem to be better at making challenge palatable than others (and therefore their message more likely to be received). It’s a bit like the difference between criticism and suggestion. When people challenge your opinion, some attack your opinion (as if you are wrong for holding that opinion); others put forward their viewpoint as suggestion (with a ‘how I see it, or ‘I think’). Once a person feels under attack, they are more likely to attack back than receive any potential learning. (see earlier post on conflict!!!) Some people don't care if they offend, others do.
• Sometimes people have evidence based fact to challenge an opinion – so there’s always learning to be had –you can’t debate fact. But sometimes opinion is presented as if it is fact. (still thinking and learning about this)
• Wanting to be ‘right’ and fear (?) of being wrong gets in the way of learning. (Childhood conditioning?)
• Some people are more happy to agree to disagree than others.
• Back to the Myers Briggs thinkers and the feelers again! I think these two guys can struggle with each other. I wonder if feelers are happier with evaluative judgements (opinions) and thinkers just want facts to apply logic to. I also suspect feelers find it easier to communicate with feelers and thinkers with thinkers! Thinkers’ search for reasoned logic can appear brutal to feelers and feelers’ idealism can irritate thinkers – for example. (see earlier bang-on-about-it post on Myers Briggs).

8) Public-ness
Writing a blog is a very public thing to do and like artists, musicians and anyone that pushes forward something they have created into a public arena can lay them open to judgement. By this I mean negative opinion judgement not logical evaluative judgement!!!!! (see post on judgement!). When I wrote about my father’s death, I was genuinely touched by the warmth in people’s comments - both people I knew and strangers. In my experience the Blogosphere is mostly a really supportive place. Most people comment with respect, humour and often, warmth. But very occasionally someone would write something slightly aggressive (the best example of this was the woman who told me by email recently that she thought my post had been an insult to her intelligence – which to me would be like watching a TV programme and saying, this programme is calling me stupid) and that can only ever be an unpleasant experience in my humble opinion. And this brings me to:

9) Why I wrote a blog
I am still not sure what it is that attracted me to writing a blog. Some speculation:
• An opportunity to get feedback on one’s ideas and experiences
• A forum that makes you construct ‘essays’ in a way that others might want to read. Thus making you focus on how to communicate your ideas.
• The ultimate extraversion into a potentially huge and unknown entity
• Producing something one day my kids might read because I would not just write these thoughts down on paper to record them.
• To see the dark evenings of winter through.
• To keep me off the streets, because if - I was not occupied in this way- I would be out mugging (see post on catchphrases)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Pet hates

I found this activity in a book that tickled me!!! I was impressed with the list that had been composed. Quite often lists in resources are not as comprehensive as this one!

The activity is used to investigate our own viewpoints, prejudices, judgements and intolerances. I'm pretty sure we all have them.

I defy anyone not to find a single pet hate on this list! You don't have to share if you don't want! You could just say how many you counted so as to prevent offence!

1) Urban 4X4 drivers
2) Men in white socks
3) Balding men with comb overs
4) Limp handshakes
5) Rottweiler owners
6) Brits abroad
7) Tattoos
8) Fur coats
9) Welsh
10) Dirty fingernails
11) Gnome owners
12) NIMBYs (Not in my back yard)
13) English
14) Socks and Sandals
15) Fluffy dice in cars
16) Hippies
17) American tourists
18) Gum chewers
19) Smokers
20) Irish
21) 'Chavs'
22) White stilettos
23) Sun readers
24) Binge drinkers
25) Scots
26) Men who wear jewellery
27) Flat cap wearers
28) Shell suits
29) Guardian readers
30) Body piercing
31) Karaoke
32) Taxi drivers
33) Animal rights activists
34) Pro-hunt supporters
35) Men with facial hair
36) False nails
37) Noisy eaters
38) non-drinkers
39) skateboarders
40) Designer clothes wearers
41) Dieters
42) Golf players
43) Botox users
44) Bigots

As I read through the list I went from:
*Yes - I have an issue with them - because they offend a to-the-core value
*Yes - I have an issue with them for quite ridiculous and prejudiced views based on a stereotype that I don't like.
*No - because I have consciously shunned the stereotype and I refuse to generalise. (how big of me!)
*No - how could anyone have an issue with them?
*That wasn't even a stereotype I was aware of - and therefore not sure how that group can be a 'pet hate'
*Hey that's me - I belong to that group. He he!

And I bet everyone experiences this list differently.

My poor mother

When I was a child my mum used to tear her hair out with worry about the possibility of me being malnourished. (There's certainly no sign of that now). You see there was loads I simply refused to eat. My most severe repulsion was towards brown, chewy lumps of meat - something my mum seemed to cook every other day. Being the 70s and having parents with war rationing deep in their psyche meant a) it was considered good fortunes to have brown chewy lumps of meat (in the large scheme of things I can see that) and b) everything definitely had to be eaten.

My mother's way of dealing with my refusal to eat was to leave me sitting at the table for hours insisting I could not get down from the table until I had cleared my plate. I would remain at said table chewing the same morsel for what felt like hours. I could usually hear other kids playing out in my street and that would twist the knife a little further. I could, in fact, chew a single piece of meat until it no longer had any flavour. I just could not bring myself to swallow it. I remember my sister once taking pity on me, sneaking into the kitchen and asking me to spit out the contents of my mouth. Brown chunks of meat turn grey after you've chewed them forever. I remember my nan also taking pity on me and once saying to my mum,
'have you seen the state of what is in her mouth, it simply can't have any nutrition left in it.' But it didn't save me. Chewing was my childhood sentence.

This process went on for years.

Then, when I was twelve, we got a dog. My younger brother, who also turned out to be a tricky eater, and I soon realised what a boon this addition to the family would be. My mother's cooking had not evolved much and aside from the odd lasagne (positively exotic in our house), she still managed to regularly serve tough chewy brown lumps of meat. The dining table was sort of 'tucked under' the stairs and pulled out slightly at dinner time. My brother and I sat with our backs to the wall, under the stairs. The table cloth got in the way a bit, but we became incredibly skilled at feeding the dog under the table. I was amazed we were never discovered. Especially as dogs don't tend to worry about making a noise when they eat. I do remember being asked now and then,
"are you feeding the dog?' The answer 'no' and a look of innocence usually prevented any further investigation.

I have to send an apology to my mum into the ether here because I can still muster up some guilt when I think of this one time. My brother and I were sat at the table when she presented us with a meal of cabbage, mashed potato and - you guessed it - brown chewy lumps of meat. She left for the kitchen to fetch her own. Our dad was still in his 'study'.

Almost at the same time exactly, with one flick of our knives, my brother and I scooped the entire meal off our plates and onto the floor. I can remember it splatting a bit on the wall behind us. The dogs (for we used to look after a neighbour's dog too at this point) could then be heard devouring both meals. My mother returned, we must have looked guilty and we were cringing from the noise of the dogs woofing the food down. But all she said was,
'You must be hungry, would you like some more?'

In hindsight, I think she might just have ceased being bothered to care about our nutrition!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Reflective learning - discussions, debates and arguments

Eeee. I do go away and reflect.

A normal distribution

Hey I am going to unashamedly nerd-out today!!!! Especially as my sister has gone on holiday.

When I did A level Maths, half of it was statistics. I didn't much like it but I found it easy. (Have I mentioned I got an A??!!?? - not bad for someone who could barely read. I am proud that I was once clever in a way people wouldn't suspect to look to me.)

However, there was one concept from stats that really stuck with me: the normal distribution. To me, it is a beautiful and simple concept and I am a concept freak!
I am sure lots of you will have encountered a normal distribution (and some of you reacted badly to it that is if you haven't obliterated it from your grey matter) but it basically shows the distribution of any continuous (not discrete) data such as intelligence, height, foot length, etc in our species. So what it means is you get a greater number of people with or close to the mean average of anything. So if the average height for women was 5 ft 4, then most people would be that height. The further away from the mean you go..i.e. really tall or really short, the less incidence of it there is.

I think it also works for attitudes in that there can be a 'mean' attitude towards something. It kind of explains the conforming thing going on. You get more people behaving 'averagely' than not and the more you venture from 'Joe and Josephine' Normal (whatever they are like) the more you will find yourself in a minority. Obviously the mean average can move, and 'conforming' in one era of history will look quite different from another.

I have used it speculatively to question societal views such as attitudes towards difference and diversity. We know extreme behaviours occur in terms of racism for example. I know extreme stories are very newsworthy so we end up with a worldwide distillation of such stories which can put their prevalence out of perspective. But if these stories represent the extreme...where is the mean and in which direction is it moving? (I think it's moving slowly and surely in the right direction in the UK - first sexism started to be tackled, then racism, then homophobia....on to more) etc etc

You still with me?

But the most interesting thing I learnt about normal distributions was through health promotion. In the past people believed that targeted work was the way to stop extreme risk taking when it comes to health. In other words, for example, with substance misuse (drug taking) work was mostly directed only towards those that were addicted to hard drugs. However, what has been discovered is, while that work is worthwhile as those people need support, overall the best way to tackle such issues is to 'move the mean'. In other words, you teach everyone to change their attitudes towards drug misuse so that the 'mean' attitude changes.

When you move the mean, what they discovered was, you move the extremes too.

As I write this I am amazed by my nerdiness. Please forgive me, I can paint nice pictures too.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

I can still cringe!

I have given three wedding speeches in the past and some have been more successful than others. My first wedding speech was certainly a little sloppy?....well you judge for yourself.
My sister and I had just spent a truly amazing week in Istanbul. Rest and healthy living were certainly not on the agenda and we were returning to the UK desperately in need of vitamin C and sleep. My friend's wedding was in the afternoon following the morning flight home. The speech I was to deliver had not been considered at all during my time in Turkey and on the plane, I decided to write a poem about the fantastic couple Jack and Jackie (last name: Frost - no kidding). I can remember the first two lines:

When Jackie first showed me Jack
I thought she was joking

This provoked a ripple of laughter but other than that, the rest of the 'poem' was overshadowed by just four words.

On the plane my sister had suggested the line, 'Jackie has got elephantitus' and I had written it down. It made sense. Jackie had a huge elephant collection. Everyone of significance in her life - including her future husband - had bought her an elephant. In the primary school she taught in, it was general knowledge that she loved elephants, so at the end of every term she had to make way for yet another herd stampeding into her house. She had elephants on the wall, knee-high ones on the floor, on the shelves, in her kitchen doubling as utensils, in her bedroom and several boxes of the less appealing ones in her loft - no exaggerating. The elephant situation had got a little out of hand. Truth was, however, she actually and sincerely hated elephants and I was the only one with this insider information. She did not understand how she had got herself into this predicament but also felt it would be insulting to point out her dislike to everyone who had lovingly added to her collection. So, I thought I would save her on her wedding day. Yes, indeed, I would be the brave person to stop this whole silly business so she could walk around her house without continually bumping into elephants.

And I did. I started my poem and there were some noises of people being entertained. And then I got to that line,
'Jackie has got elephantitus.' and it was at that point and only that point that I realised what I had done. I remember a thud of silence in the room and my sort of boyfriend at the time looking up at me with a smile - a smile that was kind of saying a painful, 'really'?

You see Jackie wasn't exactly petite.

And then I did some panicked getting-out-of-the-hole digging that failed miserably and I looked like an arse. I was pointing to the banner I had made (that had an elephant on it) and saying jumbled inarticulate things like:
'no...what I mean elephant need you to know she hates elephants.....that's what I meant...arghhh...I wasn't'

Later that evening more people, including my sister, turned up for the evening ceilidh. My sister recounted how she had said to an elderly aunt that her sister had given a speech. The response she received was a filthy look and a turned back!

Fortunately Jackie (who reminds me PERSONALITY-WISE of Dawn French) is the absolute opposite from lacking a sense of humour. I am not sure what she thought I was up to and we only spoke about it in a bantery type way afterwards but she didn't appear to hold anything against me and we remained great friends. Sadly she lives in Cornwall now. I don't think it was this incident that drove her there but it is a long way away.

But the 'story' did not end there. A year or so later, my Tassie mate Louise sent a journalist friend to stay with me for a night - as this friend was over researching her geneaology (this took her to Great Yarmouth). We had a lovely evening together. We shared lots of stories - the elephantitus one being one (her court case up against Stephen Biddulph being another). And being a writer, she went back to Australia and turned my story into a short story -not the wedding bit - the teacher with an unwelcome collection of elephants bit. I believe she had it published in a magazine. She sent me a paper copy - minus the ending - because I guess she was scared I would try and publish it too (she had hand written 'copyright' on every page). I still have it somewhere and I would love to know how she ended it.

Needless to say, I did more planning for wedding speech number two and it went well. I probably over-planned wedding speech three, but it was still an improvement on wedding speech one - but I guess that's not saying a lot!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Outer Hebrides

I have never been to the Outer Hebrides but somehow have still managed to feel a (very) mild affiliation to them on account of the following.

When I was about eleven our dad returned from work one day with the weighty speculation that we might move to Benbecular so that my dad could run the airport there. Apparently the airport traffic amounted to about one aeroplane a day. The move was carefully and seriously considered over the following few weeks. I remember feeling extremely unsettled by this idea and the more I learned about the Outer Hebrides, the more resistance I felt. Aside from being told most island children go to boarding schools on mainland Scotland for their education and that its young residents usually do very well academically because there's nothing to do but study (this really scared me) my main fear was centred around the fact that devout religion on the islands meant people were not allowed to actually do anything on the day of rest: Sundays. I can hear my eleven year old voice saying, what nothing? No walks, no TV, no playing, (no falsely collecting jumble, no trespassing, no starting forest fires) - nothing - not on a Sunday. My dad exasperated my fear by telling me stories of bricks being thrown through people's windows because they had been seen doing something on the Sabbath. I think I cried several times. And I definitely did a lot of begging.

In the end, we didn't move there and I got to do things other than study. Instead we moved from Gatwick to East Dorset and I was relieved. Perhaps it was dad's crafty way of lessening the blow of the news that we were moving - whatever!

A few years later, in my first year at university, I met a chap who was eventually to become a long term boyfriend - all six foot three of him: Roy Macarthur. His father was from the Isle of Lewis and Roy was a little freaked out to find I had a little knowledge of the islands - based on my earlier sniffing out of information about the place they-were-going-to-make-me-go-to-heals-a-dragging. He'd never met anyone that knew anything about the Outer Hebrides and it might have helped me score. A bit. He had been there several times to visit his gran who lived in a tiny not-really-a-place called Crossbost south of Stornoway and he verified the indigestible details about Sundays.

He also told me a story from one of his visits. His family had arrived in Stornoway (via the Ullapool to Stornoway ferry. I have been to Ullapool - another thing to freak Roy out - few venture there - and all I remember was white cottages, fishing boats and Russians). They went into a pub for some food and for the duration of their visit the locals in the pub stopped speaking English and continued in Gaelic. Roy's father, having been brought up on the island, could understand every word but he didn't let them know this. Those in the pub had lots to say about tourists and their terrible ways, so much in fact, that was all they spoke about while Roy's family ate. It was as his father was paying and as they were leaving, that he said in perfect Gaelic,
"The food was fine but your attitude towards tourists is appalling." If I had been there, I would have savoured that moment. Actually, I can savour it from here.

And my Outer Hebrides connection does not stop there. Not quite. What I hadn't realised was, because we didn't move to Benbecular a friend of our family (and a colleague of my dad) went instead for six months. I believe it became a secondment opportunity for Gatwick's air traffic controllers! Lucky them. And this man, Pete, told me this story......

The tiny plane that took him from the mainland to the island was an event in itself. Word got out (he said it wasn't hard - he was the only 'unknown' on the plane) that he was the new controller. He was called up to the cockpit, kids wanted to speak to him and he felt like he had celebrity status.

After a day or so of settling in he arrived at his new 'control tower' and was shown around by a local. This local said, 'we have a terrible problem with sheep on the runway. You will need to be vigilant. If you see some sheep when a plane is due, you will need to ring this number and ask for Ben. Ben will sort it out.'

Several days went by without the problem of sheep on the runway. Eventually, however, sheep did turn up, scattered all over the place just before the day's plane was due in. So Pete did as he was told: picked up the phone and asked for Ben,
'Oh right' said the voice at the other end and put the phone immediately down. Pete started to worry. What did that mean? Was Ben not available? Had that been Ben he had spoken to? If so, he gave no indication of how or indeed, if, he was going to sort out the sheep. He was bewildered and not a little worried. That was until Ben, a border collie, appeared from out of nowhere all on his own and cleared every last sheep off the runway in time for the plane to land. Very 'Local Hero.'

Maybe one day I'll go to the Outer Hebrides if I lose my mind a bit but definitely not on a Sunday. The deep scarring won't allow it.

Monday, 15 February 2010

The subconscious, unconscious or shadow...whatever

Please forgive me, I find this fascinating and need to extrovert it!

I love the work of Carl Jung. O.K. there are places where he becomes a little abstract and consequently different descriptions of his work seem not entirely to be in agreement with each other (particularly around archetypes and complexes) but there's some great and simple learning to be had in his basic description of the Self.

Unlike Freud, who was completely sex obsessed and linked every single human complex or motivation to sex, Jung saw a bigger picture. The part that I find particularly fascinating, is his teachings about the unconscious.

Those that continue to keep their conscious and unconscious separate for the duration of their lives describe feeling flat and listless and feel a sense of dissatisfaction. This is because they, in effect, remain significantly less than the full person that they really are. To 'receive' Jung's teachings does take a mindset in the first place that I suspect many won't want/have - which is fine - we are all on our own journeys after all.

The unconscious in a goes.

When we are a child we start to develop a persona. Our persona is what we present to the outside world. In order to be accepted by our parents, our friends and eventually society, our behaviour and our attitudes have to be palatable to those around us. Every society (and also every parent) has unwritten rules about what is acceptable and what is unacceptable and therefore what will be received with approval and that which will receive disapproval. What happens, therefore is that we (our ego - the 'inner manager' of the SELF - does all this sorting for us) tend to push acceptable behaviours into our persona ('those for show') and the unacceptable ones become hidden or repressed and therefore end up in the personal unconscious. i.e. they are still in there, just squashed in where we are not aware of them.

The fact our unconscious (filled to the brim with unacceptable-to-us stuff) still exists, means it is still very much a part of us. The unconscious exists like a shadow in our lives. Furthermore, because we usually shoved the stuff into our unconscious because of feelings of shame, fear of rejection, disapproval, guilt and/or feelings of unworthiness, there is a strong force keeping its contents there. So we are usually in absolute denial of this part of us - so much so that our ego goes to great lengths to prevent us from seeing it. We really don't want to be aware the 'badness' in ourselves and all the shame that put it there.

This is why projection happens. Projection is where we accuse others of traits we have pushed into our own unconscious and therefore traits we refuse see in ourselves. That's why we are generally a species blaming others for any inadequacies. This is all done unconsciously of course and therefore prevails as 'just how it goes.'

Paranoia, for example, comes about by projecting the unconscious. In feeling paranoid a person can disown their own persecutory and hostile feelings (towards others) and project it onto others and then feel like they are being persecuted.

Hitler 'cashed in' on mass projection - getting a country to project its shadow onto the Jewish population. That's an example of how dangerous the unconscious can be. You don't have to look far to find other examples.

This is not to say that every observation we make about a person's behaviour is projection but if there is a strong repulsion, irritation (or even attraction) chances are there's some projection going on. (We do also make conscious decisions to accept and reject key messages from our upbringing - but they are different simply because we are aware if them of course!) The kind of things I have heard people say that I have suspected of being projection are:
•S/he's a terrible flirt
•S/he takes everything so seriously
•S/he hogs the conversation
•S/he is very competitive
•S/he can never think independently
•S/he is not a team player
•S/he is really negative about others
•S/he never sees things through to the end
•S/he is a control freak
•S/he is self-obsessed
•S/he is so over-the-top
•S/he needs to stay within her comfort zone and s/he doesn't like change
•S/he is tight with money
•I am not at all like her/him

But we don't just project. Our ego has many ways of keeping the unconscious in its place and keeping us unaware of its existence while at the same time making its presence known to those around us. Our ego really does not want us to be aware of the 'unacceptable' within us but that 'unacceptable' regularly turns up throughout our lives without us being conscious of it. Could I paraphrase this any more?!?! Sorry.

Some of the other interesting 'caused by the unconscious' behaviours are:

Fantasy - things our subconscious is hungry for but we have no intention of carrying out. These can prevent us getting on with 'real life' and can therefore become self limiting.

Acting out - impulsive behaviour that comes from a raw emotion inside us that we cannot handle - that can be destructive.

Passive aggression - avoiding direct conflict but somehow still managing to put a spanner in the works (being late, moaning)

Hypochondria - using illness as a get out clause because we cannot face up to the aggression or demands we would like to show to others.

Intellectualisation - over analysing and objectifying everything rather than facing up to the emotion.

Displacement - we redirect our unacceptable feelings at someone or an object that is less frightening than whatever aroused the original feeling.

....there are more, some more 'mature' than others...(these are from the Rough Guide to Happiness by Nick Bayliss)

I also find it interesting how every individual will have pushed their own unique set of behaviours and attitudes into their personal unconscious - based on the approval and disapproval they received. What we perceive as acceptable will have come from our upbringing and will indeed look quite different for everyone. One parent's idea of unacceptable will be acceptable to another. But Jung was one of the few psychologist that acknowledged development beyond childhood - so there's hope for us all! Jung also acknowledges that good stuff gets squashed into the unconscious as well as bad stuff - so that could be released too!

And clues to what's in our subconscious? Our nearest and dearest will know things about us that we are unaware of. Ask them. Jung also said the unconscious usually turns up in dreams as the same gender as us but with other noticeably different characteristics. Look out for her/him!

I could go on and on but I suspect few of you have even read this far!!!!!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

My Valentine.....

This post won't be for those of you delicate of stomach. As blogging seems to have become my medium recently - how could I not use it to be gooey about my Andy Chap.

A small sample of the things I love about my Andy Chap.........

1) He's my life support system. Before Andy came along a tomato and a few prawns regularly sustained me. Now I eat real, beautifully cooked food. He's a great nurse too - medical and psychiatric.

2) He's my 'put things in perspective' rock. He has a magical, to the point, way of summing things up and filtering out the stuff that doesn't matter.

3) His sense of humour. He giggles a lot. Sometimes with me, sometimes at me, sometimes at himself, sometimes with himself, often at things few would find funny and many other times. And when he giggles, I have to giggle too.

4) His hat wearing. It's something to behold.

5) His wearing of female attire is even better. He'd have made a good woman.
Would-be female genre: Lady Di coyly looking out from under her flicked fringe.

6) He thinks I am great. Just as I am. Imagine that. I found my minority. It's him.

7) His capacity for the THE SILLY and THE BIZARRE is fantastic - city scapes made out of things from the skip, smell museums, pistachio nut spiral in wax, absolutely nonsensical humour to be found in his home-made cards, a musical chair, Christmas cards made from rotting leaves(!), the human noise making machine name just a few.

8) His 'projects'. Wine making, cider making, music writing, conserving, growing stuff, strange things constuction, bread making, mass kidney bean soaking, many things DIY (shelf building, kitchen fitting, painting, bike fixing, etc). He says that I should really do these things as we are role-reversed. I say I'm too pretty.

9) He is the single most tolerant and patient man in the universe. He's nurturing and humble and kind and warm and cheery. He is Super-Easygoing-Man saving the universe by calming the waters and keeping the storm in the tea cup. Our children and I have been sent to test him. So far he looks set for a distinction.

10) His guitar playing is AWESOME (I reserve that word just for his guitar playing).

If you haven't heard it and would like to, some can be found at:
Andy Kirkham Guitar on Youtube

11) His unpredictability. From the music he plays (very varied: Eno, Rachmaninov, Dylan, Farke Touri, choral works, Fleet Foxes, great steam trains of the 50s - no kidding etc etc), from what he says (whether he's talking to himself or actually to someone), his next project, the next book he's going to read, an idea about where he wants to go, what he wants to just cannot be predicted.

12) The fact his general knowledge makes up for my lack of it. He reads newspapers properly - carries on through the distracting pest in the room attention seeking.

13) When his hair is all 'John Noakes'. To have a husband that reminds you of Blue Peter's hayday is pure bonus.

14) And of course I love his stickability and stamina. He married me and he still loves me. He will get sainthood status surely.

My card to him......

His card to me -breadcrumbs on a squashed takeaway tin - what more could a lass want?