Log in using OpenID

HOW TO DO - Laughter school

powerful pointers
powerful living
В© Copyright 2004
Perry Akasha Lonsdale
The right of Perry Akasha Lonsdale to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted by her in accordance with Section 77 of the Copyright,
Designs and Patent Act, 1988. She asserts and gives notice of her moral
right under this Act.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means (electronic or
mechanical, through reprography, digital transmission, recording or
otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher.
PAPERBACK ISBN: 0-9546908-0-X
Published by:
EP Books,
Mile Elm,
A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.
Printed by Antony Rowe Ltd., Chippenham, Wiltshire.
About this book
Communication is a minefield
Awareness – the key to change!
Perception: “the world according to us”
A model of communication:
! Adult….
! Parent: Nurturing and Critical
! Child: 3 Suits of Armour: Rebel, Compliant, Withdrawn
! Rebel
! Compliant
! Withdrawn
Indirect Communication
! Humour
! Put Downs/Cheap Shots
! Sarcasm
! Cynicism
! Resentment and Bitterness
! Irritability and Nagging
! Sulking
! Sabotage
! With-holds
The way forward
Emotional Intelligence
Body awareness
Feelings awareness
Mind awareness
The blame game
Change your language
Choice vs knee-jerks
Avoid the drama, stay in the audience
Know thyself!
Worry is pointless
Minimising worry
Break the cycle of desire
Stay in the NOW
Elbow the ego
Stop self criticism
Give up mind reading
Silence is golden
Still the mind
Learn meditation
Dare to dream
Set goals
Transcend fear
! Fear = Contraction
! Welcome your problems
! Abound with abundance
! Love your bills
! Count your blessings
! Take a risk
Stretch your mind
Improve your memory
Dismantle the fortress
Open your heart doors
Find your candle flame
Integrate your shadow
Develop empathy
Court compassion
Look for the Jewel
Actively listen
Communicate authentically
Assert yourself
Learn to say “No”
Praise others
Accept a compliment
Abandon the relationship killers
! Need
! Expectation
! Jealousy
! Guilt
Release attachments
Embrace the positive
! Love/Hate
! Leg it from the negative
! Keep good company
! Develop gratitude
! Cultivate joy
! Create an inner smile
! Give yourself a hug
! Give someone else a hug!
Boost self-esteem
! Accept yourself
! Like yourself
! Talk yourself up
! Honour your body
! Maximise your appearance
Heal Yourself
! Bin bitterness
! Stop resenting
! Forgive
! Anger release
! Laugh
Explore your potential
! Develop creativity
! Follow your intuition
! Trust your knowingness
Flow with the river of life
The physiology of stress
! The good news
Getting through the day
! Morning kickstart
! Travelling to work by car
! Travelling to work by train
! Walking to work
! Working at home
! Taking breaks
! End of day don’ts an do’s
Time management
! Energy log
! Action Planning
! Meetings
“Me time”
! Liquids
! Vitamins
! What vitamins do what?
Concluding thoughts
Finally….a little something more
Some signs and symptoms of inner peace
Guidelines for being human
How To’s at a glance
Recommended reading and useful addresses
About the author
Dedicated to:
World Peace,
The Wisdom of the Heart
My heartfelt thanks go to:
My husband John, who has not only been a constant and willing
support but has offered helpful thoughts and ideas from a reader’s
perspective. As an avid reader of varied literature, I have really
valued his input.
All of those friends who so willingly agreed to read the book in its
infancy. Their comments helped shape the finished product.
Ruth Katz and Tim & Tricia Tucker who gave me a quiet place to
work in the early stages of creativity.
Julie Chimes, who as a busy fellow author, gave generously of her
time, wisdom and encouragement.
Higgi Cox, a special friend who is always so willing to help and if
she can’t …. always knows someone who can.
Jamie Campbell for his technical expertise and endless patience.
The various professionals involved in the production of this book,
especially to Paul Litherland at Antony Rowe Ltd., who never
flinched or sighed, no matter how many questions I asked and to
Philippa Harrison of White House Publishing, who with the know
how of Sheena May, created exactly the book cover I envisaged.
All my clients without whom I would not have had such rich
As with certain of the animal kingdom, we humans are reliant on our
families/carers to show us the ropes and give the appropriate
guidelines for getting through life. Often, though, those same people
didn’t have great training either, so right from the start what they
pass on or what you take on board might be setting you up for
problems. So life becomes a journey of survival, existence and
mistakes, rather than one of wholeness, love and fulfilment. We
“make do”, “get by” and hope we won’t mess up too often. Even
seemingly successful people who appear to have it all often carry
deep doubts, and of course it is in our relationships, after the
honeymoon period, where we really get to play out our unresolved
“stuff”. In fact, we often marry it with the end result being heartache
or resignation or separation or divorce or all four. Not great
outcomes for what started as love.
My experience over the past 30 years, firstly in the business
world and then as a psychotherapist and workshop leader/facilitator,
has shown that nearly all adult issues are linked to poor
communication. By “poor” I don’t mean the inability to string a
sentence together - indeed articulate people can use their ability to
control and demean others - but the ability to express oneself clearly
and authentically. People often know what they want to say, but not
how to say it. They might hold back because they are afraid of
rejection or that they will “hurt” another. All of this goes back to our
upbringing and what we made the world mean to us when we were
very young.
So this book is a journey that starts with Chapter 1 exploring the
Communication minefield and how it came to be that way. With
the insights gained, in Chapter 2 on Self-awareness, you can turn the
spotlight around to see not only how this gets in the way of your life
today, but what you can do to change it.
The next step of the journey is the Mind – which can be a great
friend and support or an enemy and ultimate destroyer. We often let
our minds “run away with us” and Chapter 3 will show you how to
stop that happening. In Chapter 4 we move into the area of
Relationships – not just the love links but all our interactions with
others. It explores more of what gets in the way of effective
relationships but more importantly, what you can do to change it.
Chapter 5 extends beyond just relationships to embrace the
wider areas in Life, those of positivity, self-esteem, self-healing and
potential. Finally, Chapter 6, deals with Maximising Health &
Well-being. Besides what it costs industry, stress costs us even more
in health and happiness. So this chapter not only provides practical
input on what you can do to get through the day but gives
comprehensive guidance on the other influences of relaxation,
exercise, diet and nutrition.
Throughout the journey there are plenty of ! TIPS !, along
with easy and effective HOW TO’s that enable you to deepen your
awareness by stepping into the more experiential aspect, and end of
chapter "PAUSE POINTS allow time for reflection if you
choose. However if you don’t, it doesn’t matter as there is more than
enough to raise your awareness and stimulate your thinking. Even
though I recommend you read Chapter 1 first as it helps to set the
scene, you don’t have to read the whole book cover to cover as I
have designed it in bite-sized pointers so that you can dip in and out.
! TIP !
Try opening it at random and see which pointer you get for the day.
Ultimately though my wish is for you to enjoy reading this
culmination and distillation of, not only my own journey, but that of
the thousands of wonderful people I have had the privilege to work
with over the past 30 years. Their pain, insights, love, wisdom,
laughter and generosity have been a true gift for me, in the way that I
desire this book to be a gift for you.
ENJOY and remember….. there are only 2 certainties in life
1) you were born and
2) you will die
Easy. For those who can see, hear and talk… problem. Open
mouth, speak words, other person hears, understands and responds.
Simple. I don’t think so! Open mouth, speak words, other person
hears, misunderstands, misinterprets and then reacts…..often
inappropriately. “Excuse me, could I get to the bar please” “Who do
you think you’re pushing”… end result: conflict.
Communication is a minefield!
In my 20 years as therapist and trainer I would say that, without
doubt, most issues are down to people’s inability to communicate in
a clear, direct, open and honest manner and that ineffective
communication is usually blamed on others.
“It’s what they say”
“It’s how they say it”
“They wind me up”
“It’s what they don’t say”
“It’s the way they look when they say it” etc etc.
However, whilst other people can be a contributing factor to our
sense of irritation and frustration, we need to become aware of our
part in the dynamics of communication, why we chose that part and
how we go about changing it.
Awareness – the key to change!
If you don’t know what you do and why you do it, how can you
change? Think of people as buildings where, if the underpinning and
foundations are not laid correctly at the start, cracks appear, the
structure gets weaker and eventually the building could collapse.
Determining what shape our building is in today involves
understanding the earliest development of our own underpinning and
foundations and knowing how we interpreted those experiences.
That interpretation (perception) is what governs all areas of our lives
and becoming aware of it is the key to change.
Perception: “the world according to us”
Just like sponges, babies and young children absorb their
surroundings. They soak it all in and then begin the process of giving
it their own unique meaning.
The old proverb “One man’s meat is another man’s poison”
reflects the essence of perception which is that how we view life,
people and relationships as adults is greatly influenced by how our
inner world assembled early experiences. In fact, the “world
according to us” is pretty much in place by the age of 7 and as
eminent 20th century psychologist Alfred Adler said, "Show me the
child before 7 and I'll show you the man".
In adult life, our perceptions manifest in many ways and one
example could be to imagine the possible impact of being bitten by a
dog at a young age. The result might be that you develop a lifelong
fear of dogs, and yet someone who wasn’t bitten and loves them to
bits might not understand this. “Oh, don’t worry, he/she won’t hurt
you…..they wouldn’t hurt a fly”. In fact they might even feel a bit
irritated or hurt that despite their assurances you feel nervous around
their precious pooch.
Or the situation might be more subtle than that. Perhaps as a
child you were frequently called “stupid” or “silly”, so that even
now, with whatever qualifications and life experience you have, you
still find that certain people have a way of saying things that result in
you feeling like that again. People often pre-empt this possibility by
saying “I know this sounds silly but…….,” which they hope will stop
someone commenting negatively.
In my own case, as a young child, I was good at “sums” but after
changing schools I seemed to lose the plot, and because teachers
raised their eyebrows despairingly and were impatient, I wrote
myself off as being “no good at Maths”. This became tricky when I
reached a senior HR position responsible for large budgets and had
no instant computer checks available. Before a board meeting, I
would check, double check, re-check and then check again just in
case a calculation was wrong. By then I knew that I was ok with
figures but the childhood doubt still lurked in the shadows and if
someone questioned something in the budget my first thought was
usually “What have I got wrong?” Invariably there were no
calculation mistakes, just reasonable questions, but if I had not been
so aware of my belief my immediate reaction might have been
defensive justification which would not only have been a waste of
energy but probably resulted in my getting a reputation for being
During my coaching work, Chief Executives have said “I don’t
know what I’m doing here, they’ll find me out one day”. Not
because they lied their way to the top or were no good at their jobs,
but because somewhere inside they still occasionally listened to a
deeply ingrained but out of date belief formed from their early
interpretations of situations and experiences.
Often it can be very difficult understanding and accepting that
feelings and behaviours today are still influenced by early childhood.
“How on earth can what happened before I was 7 matter now?!”, but
it’s amazing what drives us from the murky depths of a packed data
base otherwise known as the unconscious mind.
A recent illustration of this came from a friend of mine. She
told me that a month ago her partner was about to clinch a really
good deal that would mean a much needed and sizeable increase in
cash flow. In her head she started planning home improvements….a
pool, landscaped garden, a holiday, upgrade of car etc. A week later
the deal didn’t happen and she plummeted into upset “all my dreams
had come to nothing”. However, being pretty self-aware she stopped
and asked herself “What has changed?” Nothing! The whole journey
from start to finish had been …… her mind. When she reflected
on the episode, she realised that the upset she had felt was driven by
her need for security – a need shared by her father whose constant
message to them as children had been “Money means security; make
sure you always have plenty”. Whilst a definition of security for one
person might be shedloads of money, for another it’s to wake up
breathing every day. It’s all down to perception.
So to demonstrate the strong link between perception and
communication, let me put this into a framework with a model taken
from Transactional Analysis which presents the idea that within all
of us there are three competing aspects: Parent, Adult and Child with
subparts for the Parent and Child. I use this model because everyone
identifies with it straight away.
A model of communication
Firstly, before I describe any of the above, I want to be clear that we
are never exclusively one part and not another. They are all
constantly shifting depending on who and what we are dealing with
at any given time.
! Adult
Ideally, adult communication is founded on reason, logic, analysis,
enquiry, courtesy, knowledge, respect, consideration and a desire for
a Win/Win outcome. So let’s assume that the following is a
reasonable example of adult to adult interaction.
Adult A: “How is the report we discussed yesterday progressing?”
Adult B: “Very well, it should be ready tomorrow.”
Adult A: “Would you be able to look after the children on Thursday
evening, I’d like to see a friend.”
Adult B: “Yes, that’s fine. Let me know what time and I’ll make sure I’m
No problems here then…..but does it always go like that?. No.
What often seems to happen is that another influence seems to creep
in that resembles either a Parent or a Child speaking. This isn’t
always negative but when it is the problems start. So, to get clearer,
let’s look at those different influences.
! Parent
The parent exists in three ways: (or two if you don’t have
Parenting children
Parenting other people
Parenting yourself
and each of these are either Nurturing or Critical.
! Parenting children
Hopefully most of the time you will be nurturing. With youngsters if
they fall and hurt themselves you’ll pick them up, dust them down,
tell them it’s ok, give them a cuddle…etc and when they get older
you’ll listen to their problems and help whenever you can.
However, recognise any of these?
“How many times have I told you to tidy up”
“You treat this place like a hotel”
“You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t do your homework”
“Don’t just sit there watching TV, do something useful” etc…
I’m sure you get the picture. Now I’m not talking here about the
important boundaries that children need but those “over the top
moments” where we are effectively wagging a finger in their face
and giving them grief just because we had a bad day. Those
moments are when we lose sight of the fact that we are meant to be
the adult! Of course afterwards we might feel horribly guilty and do
some extra nurturing to compensate, which some children exploit
only too well!!
Parenting other people
If you have a friend going through a rough patch, no doubt you want
to help in some way. You might suggest the pub and a pint, a meal
out or a bottle of wine and a good old chat. Perhaps you spot
someone in the office looking a bit low. You might take them aside,
ask what’s wrong and whether you can help. When you respond this
way it is the equivalent of an arm around the shoulder, offering
support and is very much Nurturing Parent.
So if we now put both the Critical and Nurturing Parent into the
earlier adult example, you can see how their influence changes the
Adult A (as adult): “How is the report we discussed yesterday
Adult B (as critical parent): “Well it would be a lot better if I didn’t keep
getting interrupted!”
Adult A (as nurturing parent): “You seem a bit stressed, is there
anything I can help with?”
Adult B (as critical parent): “Well, just letting me get on would help.”
Now this is where it can get interesting. If Adult A stays in
adult mode and says “OK, I didn’t mean to interrupt, I’ll see you
tomorrow” there is unlikely to be a problem. However, if Adult A’s
critical parent wakes up it will push the adult aside and might react
with “Alright, no need to snap my head off!”
So the downward spiral starts with two defensive Critical
Parents battling for supremacy over the other and despite ultimately
both parties feeling they won the end result is actually lose/lose. The
goal of the critical parent is “to be right” rather than go for a mutual
win/win outcome.
Parenting yourself
Let me ask you a question. If you get something wrong or you
believe you got it wrong, do you give yourself a hard time? “How
could I be so stupid”, “I should have known that”, “I must try harder
next time”. Is that a “Yes?” If so, this is your own internalised
critical parent, always watching for you to slip up so that it can wag
its finger at you. Perhaps your parents or carers did that and you
have learnt to be the same, or it could be that based on what you
experienced in your upbringing you decided that the safest survival
strategy was always to get it right. No matter the reason, your inner
driver will be the same: Try Harder and Be Perfect.
Look at it this way. Imagine you have a bag of sticks strapped to
your back. Every time you criticise yourself, it’s like taking one of
those sticks and beating yourself up. Do it enough times in a day and
you will soon be very bruised. One thing is for sure though, the
harder you are on yourself the harder you will be on others because
the internal standards you have set yourself, will be what you expect
from others …….and you could be a hard act to follow.
" TIP "
Watch out for the 3 Critical Parent words:
Listen to how often you and other people use them and
you’ll almost be able to see the wagging finger and the
sticks at work!
Unfortunately, if you are very self critical, it’s unlikely you will
be very nurturing of yourself, by which I mean taking account of
your own needs which might be time to read, be with friends, or
perhaps pursue something you really enjoy and that makes you feel
good. You’ll probably be too busy “trying to do better” at
something. Try some nurturing instead. It doesn’t have to be time
consuming, expensive or wildly self-indulgent. It can be something
quite simple….. just as long as you feel better for it.
! Child
The child exists in four ways:
Free Child
This is the magical, playful, fun child. The part of us that wakes up
full of enthusiasm on a lovely sunny morning. “Oh, what a great
day, let’s go out and do something”. It’s our free child who gets all
excited about holidays “Playtime!”, and who still wants to kick
leaves in the woods and jump in puddles, especially if like me you
didn’t get to do it as a child. Perhaps you think that it’s only
acceptable to be childish if you have children around to act as an
excuse. Perhaps your own childhood didn’t contain much play and
therefore it’s something you have to learn. Not always easy, but
spontaneity is a sure sign you’re getting there. Too often though the
spontaneous side of us gets lost in the daily humdrum of life. Then
play and enthusiasm, which keep us young, seem a million miles
" TIP "
It’s never too late to have a happy childhood!
The 3 suits of armour: Rebel, Compliant, Withdrawn
I call these “suits of armour” because each is a different survival
strategy to take you forward in life. Your experiences and
interpretation will determine which choice you make.
At 7 years old you have already lived a lifetime with whatever
traumas and dramas have occurred around birth, feeding, crawling,
tottering, toilet training, walking, talking, meeting other small beings,
watching bigger ones and engaging in the education process.
However, as I said before, you have been like a sponge until now just
soaking it up without making any rational sense of it. For example, a
young child exposed to arguing parents doesn’t tend to think “Oh
dear, they aren’t getting on again…..all those financial worries are
getting them down”. He/she is far more likely to experience a range
of emotions from fear to wanting to please and make it all better.
So a decision might be:
“If I make enough noise instead perhaps they’ll
stop shouting at each other”
“If I’m good, they’ll like me more”
“If I keep my head down, I won’t get into trouble”
“It must be my fault”
Often our decisions are based on what we witnessed happening
to a sibling. If their rebellious behaviour got an unfavourable parental
response, you might have decided that a different survival strategy
would be safer. As you read the descriptions, I’m sure you will
recognise your choice.
Rebel: Suit 1
We usually recognise rebels because they like to be seen as different.
They may be anti-establishment, dress differently or be part of a
“tribe” culture. Punk Rock and the 60’s Hippies are a good example.
However, they are as likely to be in the workplace, the supermarket,
schools, the church etc. They are usually louder with aggressively
strong views and will often take a contrary view just for the sake of
it. “It’s white”….. “No, it’s Black”. With their motto: “the best
form of defence is attack”, they seem to thrive on being adversarial.
If that’s your stand in life, you will probably be wearing a Rebel suit,
sword at the ready with a goal of “I win, you lose”. Not that all
rebelling is bad. Many worthy causes are driven by rebels wanting to
make a difference in the face of injustice. However, if someone
seems unable to listen and to be heavily invested in their being right
and you being wrong, this isn’t very productive and definitely not
very adult.
Compliant: Suit 2
Compliant people are “Yes” people. Whatever you ask of them,
generally the answer is “yes”. No matter how much they have to do,
they always seem willing to take on more. “No problem, I’ll do that
for you”. “No, don’t worry it’s only my right leg that’s broken, the
left is fine”…etc. All this is usually tinged with an air of martyrdom.
The wistful sigh, the slightly pained smile. Unlike the rebel, the goal
of the compliant person is to be liked but unfortunately in the pursuit
of this goal, they allow themselves to be exploited with an outcome
of “I lose, You Win”.
They are also likely to be what is called passive/aggressive
because underneath the obliging exterior is deep festering resentment
which one day will suddenly explode for apparently no good reason
and all the grudges they’ve been harbouring come tirading out at a
shocked recipient who thinks “What did I do?”… “All I said
was……”. Being around compliant people can be like walking on
eggshells – the face is smiling but their eyes tell a different story.
There is a sense of never really knowing where they are coming
Withdrawn: Suit 3
People choosing this suit of armour just want to keep their heads
beneath the parapet and get on with life quietly. Their early
experience may have been that if they spoke up, they got shot down.
Perhaps they witnessed this happening to a rebel sibling and so lying
low became preferable and safer. Job wise they are likely to choose a
career which doesn’t require too much interaction with others. A lot
of technical people I have worked with wear this suit. They are not
really bothered whether people like them or not. They just prefer to
be left to their own devices. Their goal is the quiet life. In fact
rebellious people will probably stress them out, especially if they
have to deal with them!
As I said at the start of this section, we never behave in just one
way; all the descriptions are interchangeable. A classic example
would be that of the “Henpecked” partner who at home could be
heard saying, “yes, of course I’ll do that for you dear” but at work is
the “Dictator” barking, “do as I say and do it now”. I’m sure you can
think of others. Be assured that where we humans are concerned
nothing is ever black or white and if we listen carefully we can often
hear the changing armour in someone’s tone of voice. It’s as though
if you shut your eyes you would almost hear what is being said
“Don’t want to”
“Why didn’t you…..”
“It’s all your fault”
“If only you had….”
“Please be nice to me”
“I’m sorry”
“I’m a nice person really”
“I hate you”
Remember this though. No matter what suit you see, the
underlying needs of each one are exactly the same: for love, respect
and acknowledgement. Scratch the surface of a rebel and a lost little
soul is usually visible. In the same way too, a cornered bully often
reveals a frightened child.
So I hope this model provides a much clearer picture of the way
interactions can seemingly so quickly degenerate from that of adult
dialogue to parental superiority to schoolyard scrapping and how
they are based on “what we have made the world mean”.
As you read this book, please remember that 80% of the time we
can aim to be a healthy mix of Adult, Nurturing Parent and Free
Child whilst recognising that when we are tired, unwell or under
pressure, we will almost certainly revert to our predominant style:
the remaining 20%. Sometimes, it can feel like you’ve used up your
20% before 8am….every day!! Over time though, what this 20%
margin means is that you don’t overtax yourself by aiming for the
unlikely goal of perfection which, not having been achieved, would
give the Critical Parent a great excuse for an outing with the sticks.
" TIP "
Remember the 80/20 principle
Indirect communication
The next stage of the building block is understanding the power of
indirect communication which can be both verbal and non-verbal.
As I said earlier, it can be lethal and difficult to deal with because of
its unclear and rather murky nature. See if you recognise any of the
following as ways you might use to get at someone with whom you
are upset or angry? Even if you don’t relate to them, I’m sure you
can think of people who do!
Cheap Shots
Put Downs
! Humour
I once heard humour described as “an invitation to dance or an
invitation to cripple”. Too often in my experience it’s “an invitation
to cripple”, otherwise recognised as “humour at another’s expense”.
We know when someone is getting at us using the disguise of
humour. We feel it like an arrow in our guts, which is really the only
gauge we have……because it is often so subtle. If you do challenge
it, the joker is likely to say…. “Come on, can’t you take a joke”
“Where’s your sense of humour gone” “Just joking, I didn’t mean it”,
etc. If other people are around, which they usually are, a sweeping
look is designed to enrol them into the joke too and it takes a very
strong resolve to keep challenging what you know is actually a dig at
! Put Downs/Cheap Shots
These are the “asides” that people chuck out. “Oh, don’t be silly”,
“You’re too sensitive”. They are not as clear as the overt humour
and may feel more like a little dart than an arrow, but they are still
designed to wound.
! Sarcasm
Now this is something I know all about first hand. My mother had a
PhD in sarcasm. People would say “Peggy, sarcasm is the lowest
form of wit”…to which my mother would reply “Only to those who
don’t have the mentality to understand it”!! Ouch…I could see them
visibly recoil. Some would say she was right because sarcasm does
often show up alongside intellect. Oscar Wilde comes to mind. For
many years I followed in her footsteps and still occasionally I feel a
wittily sarcastic retort hovering ……but now I let it go because it
would be at another person’s expense.
! Cynicism
Cynical people generally don’t have much good to say about
anything. If you make a positive statement: “What a lovely sunny
day”, invariably they’ll come back with a negative: “No doubt it will
be raining again soon”.. or “Isn’t life great”, “No, life’s a bitch, then
you die”. A friend of mine suggested that a combination of humour
and cynicism can become a means of binding everyone together,
especially in a difficult situation, and that anyone breaking the rules
by being positive might find themselves under attack. I could see her
point but I feel it’s healthier long term to have the cup half full rather
than half empty. Brimming over is even better!!
! Resentment and bitterness
These two are usually outcomes for people who never say how they
really feel. They link quite well with those who appear compliant.
As I said before….under the surface of compliance is resentment and
after a lifetime of repression, if they live that long, they become the
type of old person that no-one wants to visit. They always seem to
have a complaint of some kind and the feeling is that it’s probably
your fault. Sometimes, their true feelings are reflected in their wills
where, instead of leaving you their worldly goods, a charity inherits
the lot. An indirect two fingers from the grave leaving you with
absolutely no chance to respond!
A more positive outcome might be that they left you a ВЈ1million
as compensation. It might boost the bank balance but can still leave a
lingering sense of unfinished business.
! Irritability
A lot of people wouldn’t class this as indirect communication but it
is. It still means that someone isn’t saying something they really
want to say and it is niggling away at them. They may be more the
Rebel type but for various reasons it might not be in their interest to
lose their temper so they literally swallow it down, but like
indigestion back it comes as irritability or snappiness. When I have
asked irritable people what they really want to do or say…….it
would usually result in a police visit or a large insurance claim for
Another form of irritability is Nagging, which according to men
seems to be regarded as a female characteristic. There is a difference
though between asking that something be done and nagging. The
difference is usually in the tone of voice!
! Sulking
This is seriously indirect. You know there is something wrong but
what, is anyone’s guess. And that’s just what you normally have to
“Is there something wrong?”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure there’s something wrong”
“Well, if you can’t guess, then I’m not going to tell you” !!
That’s if you actually get a response! Often it’s the silence that’s
deafening and it can go on for days. Sulking also seems to be
attributed more to women but I have met quite a few men in my time
who were very good at it.
! Sabotage
In business this can cost big money. IT and production companies
are at particular risk. An employee with a grievance can do a lot of
damage in a short space of time. In these industries, companies often
require that employees who have resigned leave immediately and are
escorted to clear their desk and leave the building. Announcements
of redundancies are often carefully timed so as to minimise the risk.
Imagine too the potential chaos possible in the Hotel and Catering
world….especially the Food Hygiene and Health and Safety areas.
Not to mention a waiter with a grievance towards a customer. I have
heard some real horror stories… but I don’t want to give you ideas.
! With-holds
“Not tonight, I’ve got a headache”, might be genuine……but in
relationships, sex is just one in a long list of with-holds that can
include love, affection, money, attention and co-operation. In other
areas we can display an amazing ability to “forget” to do something,
delay doing it or if we do it, make a mistake “Oh, I’m so sorry, I
didn’t hear you say that was really urgent”.
Forgetting, delaying and mistakes are all a mix of with-holds
and sabotage. I remember a client telling me that she hadn’t finished
completing and posting an urgent form for her husband. When he
confronted her she said she had forgotten, but when he persisted she
came out with a list of grievances against him that went back 10
The way forward
So having set the scene with how perceptions drive our lives and
frequently cause communication problems, we now move towards
the process of changing the underlying structure to replace it
gradually with a stronger foundation on which to build life and create
more effective relationships.
Throughout the book there are practical TIPS and HOW TO’s,
and rather like an actual journey, there are PAUSE POINTS at
the end of each chapter so that you can reflect on what you have been
reading and perhaps make notes on how it relates to you before
moving on.
I referred earlier to awareness as the key to change but selfawareness is the most important. Millions of people seem to go
through life with no idea of the impact their behaviour has on others.
However, in many cases people are all too aware and just don’t care
whilst others know what they do but not how to change it.
Emotional Intelligence
For centuries, emphasis has been placed on academic learning,
qualifications and how intelligent a person was, ie: their IQ.
Anything emotional was encouraged to stay hidden behind the “stiff
upper lip” rather than being acknowledged and expressed. Attending
“the school of hard knocks” was character forming. When employee
training was introduced in the business world, the programmes
focused on areas relating to reason and logic – anything to do with
interpersonal relationships was wishy-washy and classed as soft
However all this is changing and not before time. The advances
in neuroscience and brain imaging techniques have enabled scientists
to confirm what we all suspected – that when we are confronted by
situations that are life threatening or that we “perceive” are so,
reason and logic fly out the window and what emerges is a primitive,
ready-to-fight Neanderthal in modern day attire. The section of the
brain responsible for this instant bypass is the amygdala, hence the
new term “the amygdala hijack”.
So for the first time, the importance of emotions has been
acknowledged. What we need to ensure is that they are appropriate to
the circumstances. We need to develop emotional intelligence,
which researchers now consider to be far more important than
traditional IQ.
Take, for example, a group of senior managers applying for a top
position. They might all have MBAs but who will make the most
successful leader? The answer: the person with the highest level of
EI – the person able to create resonance with others, to display
empathy and be an inspiring leader without being a traditional
Much of the groundbreaking work with EI has been
championed by Daniel Goleman and I thoroughly recommend any of
his books for further reading on this inspiring area.
One of the keys to emotional intelligence is self-awareness and
appropriate management of emotions depends on you being able to
identify what is going on within you at any given moment. This
means at all levels: body, mind and feelings.
Body awareness
Most of the time our bodies are good barometers of what we feel and
they often “speak our minds”. We use body terms all the time:
“I was gutted”
“He’s a pain in the neck”
“My back is killing me”
“I can’t stomach that”
“I can’t get my head round that”
“It makes me feel sick to think of it”
“It was good to get it off my chest”
“I felt dis-heartened” etc etc.
but how frequently do we tune in and listen to what the body is
saying? Try a body scan and see what you notice.
Sit upright. Close your eyes. Take your awareness to
your breathing. Notice the in and out rhythm of your
breath. Settle into that rhythm and then slowly scan
your body from the top of your head, through your
face, neck, shoulders, arms, hands, chest, back,
stomach, hips, pelvis, upper thighs, knees, lower legs,
calf muscles, ankles, feet and finally the tips of your
What did you register? Perhaps you noticed you were wearing your
shoulders like ear-rings or you were so slumped you could hardly
breathe at all. Was there any sensation in your stomach area –
perhaps it felt knotted or churning? Did your back ache at all? Were
your fingers or toes twitching? It doesn’t matter how small or subtle
it was, in fact subtle is good because it means your awareness was
fine tuned enough to pick it up.
Feelings awareness
The first step is to notice the physical level, ie: the knotted stomach,
the second is being able to identify the feeling associated with it. For
Many people just categorise feelings under broad headings such as
anger, happiness or sadness but in order to know how to handle them
more effectively, it’s important to narrow them down. For example,
you might say you feel angry when really you mean irritated. If you
imagined the difference by creating an anger feelings scale, it might
look like this.
Really Angry
White Rage
whilst a sadness scale could look like this:
Bit low
Fed up
and a happiness scale like this:
The purpose of naming how you feel is that once you have clarity,
you stand a better chance of dealing with it appropriately. If
irritation with a colleague was the feeling, then being aware of it
early enough would hopefully stop you reacting in a manner that
might create a negative outcome. If it were upset with a partner,
perhaps you could find a way to express yourself clearly and avoid a
drama. Alternatively, if it was at the top end of the first two scales,
you would need to look at why and perhaps attend an anger
management programme or get some professional input to unravel
the reasons.
If it’s anywhere on the happiness scale, just keep doing what
you’re doing!
Mind awareness
As the whole area to do with the mind and thoughts is so vast, it is
fully addressed in Chapter 3.
"пЂ TIP "
At least once a day take a few moments to do the body scan and really
begin getting acquainted with your physical sensations and naming your
emotional state…….. the following will help.
This is something most people just take for granted. Breathing =
Alive; Stop breathing = Dead. Simple. Not really, because it’s the
quality of your breathing that’s important. And by quality, I mean
how effectively it fuels your body and mind. Most people don’t ever
stop and consider how they breathe, they just do it. In my
workshops, when people focus on their breathing, they usually notice
that it is all in the upper chest area and therefore quite shallow.
However, when I ask the best way to breathe, they nearly all say
“lower down into the stomach”. So how come we know it but don’t
do it and does it matter anyway? Firstly, yes it does matter because
as soon as we get stressed, anxious or uptight our breathing is
affected and is likely to get even shallower with an end result of
hyperventilation, fainting or panic attacks. Just at the moment we
need to be responding to our body’s request to take on board more
oxygen, we take in less. So learning to breathe properly and fully
into the body is actually one of the best stress and selfmanagement techniques you can ever learn. Interestingly it’s
actually a re-learning of what we did early on in life and often still do
when we’re asleep and our bodies are more relaxed. All babies and
young children “belly breathe” until a moment occurs when they get
startled, take a sharp breath in and forget to breathe it out fully once
the moment has passed. Shallow breathing is born!
The brain is also affected by an insufficient oxygen supply and in
extreme injury a prolonged lack of oxygen can result in severe
In day to day terms, if we don’t get enough oxygen to the brain
because of shallow breathing, we might find it more difficult to
concentrate and focus clearly. Add a bit of stress and you could lose
it completely. However, if you start belly breathing at this point,
balance and focus will return quite quickly.
Sit in an upright posture, feet flat on the floor.
Just for a moment become aware of your normal
breathing pattern. Then take a deep breath and what
you will probably notice is that your stomach pulls in,
chest goes out and shoulders go up. As you breathe
out, the reverse occurs with a downward slump.
Now imagine that your belly is a flat balloon. The
“in breath” is going to blow the balloon up and out and
the “out breath” will return the balloon to being flat.
Next, place one hand flat over your chest area and
the other hand flat over your belly. The hand over
your chest is to keep it as still as possible when you
breathe down into your belly.
So now take in a long, steady breath and let it
travel downwards to inflate the balloon. Note that
as you do this you may feel some stiffness in your
midriff. This is because your diaphragm, a strong
muscle separating upper and lower body, doesn’t get
much exercise normally but like any muscle, the more
exercise, the more flexible it becomes.
Once the balloon is inflated, gently breathe out to
flatten the balloon.
Repeat until you feel this new way of breathing
becoming steadier and more natural.
When you first do this it might be like trying to pat your head and
rub your stomach at the same time. If you feel a little light-headed to
start with, this is good news because it means that for the first time in
ages, your brain actually has the right level of oxygen reaching it and
will soon adjust to the new intake. It can take quite a bit of getting
used to because it is so much the opposite of how we have been
breathing for a long time and generally only those who are actors,
singers, dancers and public speakers do it automatically.
Keep trying though, it really is worth it. A great place to use it is
when you are driving or stuck in traffic. Try it if you are working on
something complicated or if the kids are driving you mad. We often
say “stand back, take a deep breath and count to 10”. Very good
advice…… but don’t forget: make it a “belly breath”. Years later
people tell me that learning this breathing technique was one of the
most beneficial things they ever did, so stick with it… really
Benefits of the Breathing Technique
#“Switch off” mechanism
#Enhances clear thinking
#Induces state of calm
#Encourages blood return to the heart
" TIP "
Imagine that to the left of your belly you have an anxiety switch (like
a light switch). When you are anxious and shallow breathing, it’s
off. However, as soon as you belly breathe, the switch flicks on and
immediately a message goes to your brain saying “panic over, return
to normal”. You instantly feel calmer and more balanced.
So having become more aware of the inner processes, let’s see
how that frequently impacts the way we relate to others.
The blame game
“No, honest, the lamp post moved”
“I don’t know why that happened”
“It’s not my fault”
“I didn’t get the information on time”
“It’s nothing to do with me”
“No Sir, not me Sir”……otherwise known as “Passing the Buck”. It
seems we will do anything rather than admit we might have been
wrong or made a mistake. The Blame Game appears to be played
everywhere… between work colleagues, families, friends, politicians
and countries. What this implies though is that we are victims, mere
“puppets on a string” with the strings pulled by everyone else as they
choose. We become the people who are always “done to” and never
the cause or a part of what is happening. Can this be true? No, of
course not. We have to learn to take responsibility for our lives and
how we live them, we have to take some ownership.
This is a much used business term now and I like to split the
word into Own and Ship. Put “Captain” in front and what you
become is “Captain of your Own Ship in charge of your destiny”.
Too often I hear “He made me….”, “She made me….”, “They
made me….” “If he/she didn’t ……… I’d be alright”. We attribute
the whole range of our emotions that we looked at earlier; anger,
sadness and happiness, to others. People in new relationships often
say “He/she makes me feel so good, they’ve given me back my
confidence.” Where was it, in a box?
No-one makes us do or feel anything. “Yes, but he/she made
me angry”. Wrong. “X” situation happened, which generated a
feeling in us that we then labelled “anger” and attributed to the other
person. If someone is rude to you, this might well push your buttons
and without thinking you say “Don’t talk to me like that”. Next
thing, you are engaged in a heated argument (parental superiority or
schoolyard scrapping) and later when you tell your friends what
happened… was the other persons fault….because “they made
you”. This is not the case. Our emotions are just that….ours. The
only real exception to this might be after a physical attack, rather
than just verbal, you could justifiably say “he/she hurt me”.
None of this means that we can’t have or express feelings but
what’s important is owning them and using language that reflects
that ownership.
Change your language
The language of Blame is “YOU”
The language of Ownership is “I”
Have you ever noticed how most people, when talking about
themselves and/or their experiences, use the word “you”.
“When you reached the mountain top, you were exhilarated”
“You feel so happy when xxxxxx happens”
“First you went here and then you went there”
“You just have to get on with it”
These brief examples make it sound as though the speakers are
talking about you, the listener. In fact they are talking about their
own experiences…. so why not just say “I”?
“When I reached the mountain top, I was exhilarated”
“I feel so happy when xxxxxx happens”
“First I went here and then I went there”
“I just have to get on with it”
Here are 2 reasons.
1. “You” puts an experience/issue outside of yourself at some
distance. The “disassociation” means you are in some way
removed from it. If that’s due to a painful life experience, it’s
understandable, although as a therapist, I find the real healing
starts with the shift from “you” to “I”. Most times though it
is just general conversation and everyday events. Listen to
people talking or being interviewed on chat shows….it’s
2. We don’t like “I” because it smacks of big headed. We
associate it with “The big I am”… “I,I,I”, “Me, Me, Me”.
We hate it. We relate it to having a big ego and selfishness
“all you ever think of is yourself”, “always blowing your own
Young children who haven’t learnt the “rules” yet always say “I”
usually followed by “want”, which often gets the adult response of “I
want, doesn’t get”. It’s a real Victorian leftover. Royalty and private
education use “we” and “one”, it being considered vulgar to say “I”!
For heavens sake let’s get real here and look at some positive “I’s”.
How about the following:
I like
I value
I appreciate
I acknowledge
I respect
I love
I understand
I admire
I feel
I prefer
Nothing wrong with these except they don’t get used very much! The
key point here is that if you use “you” about yourself in general
conversation, it becomes a natural extension to use it at others in the
Blame Game. For example, in an argument we might say:
“You’ve hurt me”
“You’re upsetting me”
“You make me so angry”
Confronted by the attack of “you” the other person will start
preparing their counter attack and won’t really hear what you say at
all. Next thing it’s full scale war.
However, replace the “you” with “I”,
“I felt hurt when you..”
“I’m feeling upset”
“I am so angry”
and it’s unlikely you’d feel so defensive on hearing this. You’d still
be dealing with your feelings but if you spoke them in ownership,
you’d probably get closer to a win/win outcome.
" TIP "
Think of it like this. Imagine that between you and the other person
is a table. Using “you” is equivalent to leaping over the table into
their space and verbally bashing them over the head. Using “I”,
however, places the issue on the table where the other person can
look at it, consider what’s there and then put their response alongside
it for your consideration….and so on. Much less threatening and
Choice vs knee-jerks
The underpinning belief of ownership is that “I am responsible for
my own life and feelings”. It means stopping to think about a
situation, making a choice and then taking appropriate conscious
action. We make choices based on the information or situation at
Do we always have a choice? Yes. As long as we are still
conscious and not in a life-threatening situation, we have complete
choice over our thoughts, words and actions, moment by moment.
Do we always act as though this is true? No. What tends to occur is
often reaction not response.
Reaction means that the presenting situation has probably tapped
into a past, buried experience and we deal with it in the same out-ofdate and no doubt inappropriate way we did years ago – we “re-act”.
If, say, as a youngster you aggressively defended yourself against
criticism (real or perceived) you are likely to react the same way now
despite the circumstances. Very unproductive if your boss is trying
to give you some constructive feedback and guidance.
I also call reaction “The Knee Jerk”. Just like our knees
involuntarily jerk when the doctor taps them to check our reflexes,
we do the same. Questioned by the police after a road rage incident
the aggressor said “But I didn’t have a choice, he wound me up”.
More blame game and not true. How many times have you been
driving along only to find that the car behind you is quite clearly
willing you to go faster and particularly if you are on the motorway,
maybe gesturing for you to get out of their way? How do you deal
with it? Do you:
stick 2 fingers up?
slow right down?
slam your brakes on?
move over and then chase the driver? or
take a breath, move over and get on with your journey?
As you may have guessed, the last one is the best. It will also get you
in a lot less trouble and you’ll probably live longer too.
Responding means considering what has been said, seen, heard,
etc.. and then deciding how you feel about it and what the best way
forward is. In the scenario above, even though you might feel
irritated at the behaviour displayed, you notice your irritation but
immediately decide that the best response is to move over because
life is short enough already. Responsibility means “our ability to
respond” and is about exerting choice.
" TIP "
Watch out for THE POST MORTEM EFFECT. If you catch
yourself saying or thinking “I shouldn’t have said that”, “Why did I
do that”, “I wasn’t thinking”, “I wish I hadn’t” or “I wish I
had”……then you know you have reacted rather than responded.
Choice applies to all every day situations. Someone in a bad
marriage will often say “I’d love to leave but I have no choice”. The
same might be said about a job. The reality: there is a choice. They
could leave the marriage or the job. The reply to such a suggestion is
usually met with “Oh, I have to stay for the children” or “I wouldn’t
be able to get such a well-paid job and we’d have to move”. I
remember one woman telling me that she couldn’t possibly leave her
marriage because she’d lose her precious Gold Card!!” All these
examples show that actually choice was being exercised - the choice
to stay. We might not always like the choice available but most times
we still do have one. What we choose will often be based on the
payoff involved……bad marriage vs Gold Card!
" TIP "
If you catch yourself saying “I don’t have a choice”, stop for a
moment and really look at the situation. Write down all the options
available even if you don’t like them much…..that way you won’t
feel so much “at the mercy of…….” and you might even reach a
better solution.
We can also choose what goes on between our ears but how
often do you stop and notice what you are thinking about? It can
seem like our minds have their own lives. A thought can take us
from stomach ache to the grave in around 10 seconds flat unless we
get a grip and check it. A request from the boss for a meeting is
likely to find our minds already in the dole office. “A train of
thought” is often more of the supersonic, non-stop variety and we
create all manner of stories in our heads about how people are or how
a situation will turn out. I always think the following story illustrates
this really well.
The Man with the Spanner
On a dark night about 8pm in a remote
location, Mr. X’s car began to slow down and
finally ground to a halt. Under the bonnet he
detected the problem but hadn’t got the right
spanner in his toolbox to fix it. Looking around
he spotted a light in a house a short distance
away. He decided to go and see if they could
lend him the right spanner. As he started
walking he thought “Knowing my luck, they’ll be
He got to the gate “They’ve probably got a
huge dog that’s going to rush out and attack
me”. Nothing happened, he carried on up the
path “If they’ve got that sort of dog, they’re
probably horrible people who wouldn’t lend me
the spanner anyway”. He knocks on the front
door. The door opens “Can I help you”.
“Thanks for nothing and you can stick your
spanner where the sun don’t shine”.
We “set ourselves up” for “upset” in our heads all the time. I
was walking behind a man carrying 3 cake boxes. Suddenly he
dropped one and cursed “I knew I was going to do that”. They say
that “thought is creative”… think it and it happens. It’s called the
Self-fulfilling Prophecy. I am always very careful to hang onto my
car keys if I have parked near a grate. In fact I actively tell myself “I
am not going to drop these keys”. So far, so good.
" TIP "
#Check where your “mind train” is heading and at what speed
#Stop at a station occasionally for a review
#Think before you speak or act
#Step back, breathe, consider …..then respond
Avoid the drama, stay in the audience
Other people’s bad moods and bad days are just that….theirs. Leave
it that way. I call it “being on it” so if someone you encounter is “on
it”, you don’t have to get on it with them. They might want you to
on the basis of “I feel bad, why shouldn’t you” but ….don’t go there.
Imagine they’re out with a fishing line looking for a catch….and
you’re it. They dangle their bait again and again until you bite,
“gotcha”. Then they feel better, put the line down and walk away
leaving you now bouncing up and down on the line. Some people
take great delight in hooking others then walking away… “what’s
your problem”.
Call Centres are great testing grounds. Automated systems and
long waits very frequently result in the caller being totally frustrated
by the time they get a real person on the other end. All that
frustration is likely to be directed at the operator and not only is the
blame game rife but it’s probably interspersed with accusations of
incompetence. All the customer training in the world doesn’t work
in those moments, with the resultant “if you are going to talk to me
like that, I shall have to terminate this call”. More fuel to the fire.
This really is a very good example of the operator needing to stay
focused and not get hooked.
One of the best examples I witnessed of not engaging in other
people’s drama was the reception area of a major US airline. The
flight was delayed by 6 hours and people were reaching near hysteria
trying to get alternative arrangements, call family, get meal vouchers
and demand refunds.
At one stage there was only one attendant on duty dealing with a
potential lynch mob. Over the period of the one and a half hours I
was near the desk, he was constantly polite, clear, calm, helpful,
considerate and empathic.
A rare quality in such taxing
circumstances and a true display of emotional intelligence at work.
However, the closer we are to someone the harder it can be not to
get involved in their issues. We want to help, sort it out, shut them
up or have a go back. Not a great idea. Over the years my husband
and I have juggled with it all but now most of the time, allowing for
the 80/20 principle, if one of us is having a drama the other might
offer a tentative “anything I can do” but when it’s clear the answer is
“No”…..we get on with other things until the moment passes. Much
safer and a recipe for a longer lasting marriage!
" TIP "
When you see someone “on it” imagine they are on a theatre stage
and you are in the audience watching the drama unfold. Be the
observer, weigh and consider how you’ll deal with it but stay in your
seat… because if you join them on the stage, you’ve lost it.
Know thyself
These were the words above the temple of the Oracle in Delphi.
They are as true now as then. Knowing yourself is crucial if you
want to have a more inspired, centred, fulfilling and enjoyable life.
Getting through the armour we put in place can take time and of
course, more self-awareness can bring intensity of all kinds. Some
people say “I’d rather be simple and happy”. I haven’t met many
simply happy people. These days nearly everyone seems to be angst
ridden for one reason or another.
The simplest people I know are those who have taken time
getting to know themselves because simple doesn’t mean stupid …it
means Simplicity. Life can be quite simple when you know how to
do it and that starts with “knowing thyself”.
The mind doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction,
which means that it can be our greatest friend or our greatest enemy.
The outcome of our thoughts is related to the input. You may
recall how in Chapter 2, I mentioned being very careful to think “I
am not going to drop these keys down that grate”, because of being
very aware that thinking the opposite would probably create it
happening, just like the man with the cake boxes who knew he was
going to drop them. So this chapter explores how you can make
your mind work with you rather than against you.
Worry is pointless
I always liked the West Indian song “Don’t worry, Be happy”. Great
philosophy, but how many people really live it? It seems everyone is
always worried about something “Will I lose my job?”, “Will she
like me?”, “Does my bum look big in this?”, Will I have enough
money?” “Will my flight be delayed?”, “Will my meeting get
cancelled?”…etc….etc….add yours to the list. The key question is:
Does worry change anything? No, it doesn’t. Worry is just the mind
running wild. It’s an addiction and a very hard one to cure.
In the past I have watched self-employed friends worry about the
cycle of money and work. If work got cancelled, they immediately
started to worry and even if they recognised what they were doing,
they struggled to stop. However, interestingly, as soon as they said
“Whatever happens, it will be ok”, in came the work. But it never
happened whilst they were stuck in the middle of the worry
cycle…only when they stopped!! So worry is pointless, it’s all
“might’s, maybe’s and what if’s”.
The only time it has value is if it prompts you to take action.
Don’t sit around worrying, do something. If your health isn’t good,
worry won’t change it, go and see someone and find out what the
problem is…..and don’t forget the suggestion that “thought is
creative”, with the danger being that if you worry about something
for long enough it might happen. Now there’s something to worry
!Remember: until it happens, it hasn’t happened
!Notice your train of thought and say STOP very
loudly inside your head. This interrupts the journey
!Do this as often as you need to
!Think of something pleasant or positive instead
Minimising worry
Just in case you can’t stop worrying completely, here are some
pointers for minimising it.
Actions to take
Talk it out – share it with someone else. Others will
welcome your trust
Write it out – it is easier to see it in perspective when it is
put on paper
Shrug it off – raise your shoulders, then drop them. Relax
your body
Breathe it away – inhale deeply and exhale heavily a few
times. Calm your thoughts
Sort it out – list practical options, weigh, decide, then act
Delay it – put aside 15 minutes for a worry session – leave it
until then
Work it off – do something physical. Clear your head, divert
your energy
Reverse it – consider taking an opposite approach, explore
Attitudes to adopt
Laugh it off – lighten it with humour. Be generous with
Distance it – imagine a few years from now. How much will
it matter then?
Balance it – consider the good consequences and feel glad
about them
Cancel it – think positively and don’t let the negative pull
you down
Exaggerate it – picture the worst possible outcome – is it
Win through it – imagine yourself being successful and feel
good about it
Hold it – say “Stop”. Pause and think. Now take a fresh look
• Escape it – look around and notice something pleasant. Get
into the present!
Break the cycle of desire
This is a totally futile cycle leading to frustration, resentment and
disillusionment. It is all about wanting, rather than acceptance and
More, bigger, better
So much focus is put on what we have, how big it is, how much it
costs and when you'll get the next improved model. With technology
advancing at its current rate, equipment is out of date in the blink of
an eye. It's materialism gone mad and is the reason a lot of people
have huge debts. Nobody saves anymore because they must have
what they want, when they want it. Thousands of people are living
with the thought that if they had different lives, all their prayers
would be answered and their dreams would come true.
"When I....... move house, get a new job, get a pay rise, meet a
wonderful partner, leave my marriage, change my car, lose weight
then I'll be happy.”
"If only... ....I could win the lottery, meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, have a
holiday, have children, not have children, be 21 again, have more
friends, then I'd be happy.”
Another example is the lottery. For some winners, life does
change for the better but not for all. For those winners who have
lived their lives from the victim stance of "When I" and "If only",
increased wealth creates more anxiety.... will people just want them
for their money, will they be inundated with begging letters, will the
children get kidnapped, will they be accepted by neighbours in their
new, upgraded area? Eventually, they'll end up as before, pursuing
more needs and wants to make their life complete. So how can you
change it?
Stay in the NOW
It starts with focusing on the present and not some fantasy of how
tomorrow could be. For me, and I am sure many others, September
11 was a wake-up call and a key reminder of the importance to live
now. None of us can ever know what the next moment might
bring….we haven’t got there yet. What matters is making this
moment count. If there is something you want to say to someone, do
it now…you can’t guarantee that the opportunity will be there
another time. Most people’s minds are so focused on the past or the
future, they forget all about the present. Of course it can be great to
remember the past, as well as have plans and visions for the future
….but not if today gets put on hold because of it.
Patients awaiting a major operation often want to say things to
loved ones in case they don’t make it through. Anxious relatives and
friends who don’t want to think about a negative outcome, say “Oh
don’t be silly, you’ll be fine, we can talk when you get back”. They
mean well but in this instance it would actually be appropriate to
think realistically about possible consequences. Instead they are
actually thinking about themselves and not acknowledging that
maybe the other person needs to say what could be their final words.
Then, if the patient doesn’t make it, the devastation felt is not just
loss but regret, which plays on the mind and is much harder to come
to terms with in the long run. So many people in life are filled with
regrets of one kind or another. Don’t be one of them. Don’t get to
your death bed at whatever age and when you look back at your life
be thinking “I wish I had….” and “if only…”. By then the “When I
…” will be too late. Life circumstances may have meant that some
things were not possible but even then what’s important is the
acceptance of a situation rather than harbouring a sadness or
resentment that it couldn’t happen. Those become thoughts to drive
you mad. Be like the song, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again
too few to mention”.
# TIP #
Be Spontaneous
Don’t let moments pass
Pick up the phone and call
Write a note
Send a text
Buy some flowers
Tell someone how you feel
Jump for joy
Smile at someone for no good reason
(who cares what they think)
I really like the following, written by 85-year old Nadine Stair.
If I had to live my life over again, I’d dare to
make more mistakes
I’d relax
I would limber up
I would be sillier than I have been this trip
I would take fewer things seriously
I would take more chances
I would take more trips. I would climb more
mountains, swim more rivers
I would eat more ice creams and less beans
I would perhaps have more actual troubles,
but I’d have fewer imaginary ones
You see, I’m one of those people who live
seriously and sanely, hour after hour, day
after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments…..and if I had it to
live over again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just
moments… after another, instead of
living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those persons who never
goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot
water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute.
If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter
than I have
If I had to live my life over, I would start
barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that
way later in the fall.
I would go to more dances
I would ride more merry-go-rounds
I would pick more daisies
Elbow the ego
Aldous Huxley called it “the sweaty little ego”. I think this is a good
description because it gets all hot and bothered about all sorts of
things that don’t actually matter. “Are they looking at me?”, “Are
my clothes right?”, “I wonder what they’ll think of me”, “Will they
like me?”, “What if I make a mistake?”, “Did I say the wrong
thing?” etc.etc.
Although there are varying definitions of the ego, I see it as a
very close ally of the Critical Parent. The two of them get together
for a good old scrutiny of what you’re up to so they can beat you up
for not getting it “right”. The ego loves “right”. Most people think
of the ego in relation to boasting. Like a peacock with his tail
feathers arrayed to impress the ladies, the egoic person thinks they
are better than everyone else and therefore, by default, are right. Of
course what usually drives this behaviour is an underlying inferiority
complex covered by an exterior “mask” of superiority…….the big “I
However, what surprises most people is that the “ever so
humble” approach like that of the Dickens character Uriah Heap, is
also egoic. “It’s not for me to say”, “I’m no good at that”, “I never
get anything right”, “I’m useless when it comes to….”. The main
driver here is usually a strong desire to be liked and not upset
anyone. If you don’t express an opinion or try anything, you can’t get
it wrong. However, unlike the mask of superiority mentioned above,
their sense of inferiority is on full display.
The key point here is that you don’t serve yourself or others by
thinking you’re either big or small. What’s important is to know
your capabilities, strengths and areas to improve…warts and all.
Marianne Williamson said it very well with the following:
Our deepest fear is not that we are
inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are
powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not
our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves: “Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually who
are you not to be? You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure
around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us. It’s not just in some of
us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own
light shine, we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same. As we’re
liberated from our own fear, our presence
automatically liberates others.
# TIP #
Set up an inner “ego watch” and listen to what you are thinking and
saying to yourself - about yourself
Stop self-criticism
As I said before, we often don’t stop and notice what we are thinking
about but if it isn’t worry of some kind, it may well be self-criticism
where the critical parent is getting to work with the sticks. It does
nothing for our self-esteem and our inner child just feels miserable.
Most of what gets said isn’t true either. We tell ourselves we’re
stupid, we’re inadequate, we couldn’t find our way out of a paper
bag etc… Self-criticism usually consists of sweeping generalisms
like “I never get anything right”, “Everyone thinks I’m stupid”. We
really need to stop the beatings and throw the sticks away.
THE 3 C’s
Catch it
Firstly notice what is going on in your head
Challenge it
Ask yourself “Do I need to think this about myself?”,
“Is that completely true?”, “Am I really that stupid?”
(be careful to notice any comeback and challenge that
Change it
Tell yourself something different and preferably
positive. Change the generalisms to realisms
“Sometimes I do get things wrong, but I also get a lot
of things right”.
Give up mind reading
A lot of our problems come when we try and second guess what
someone else is thinking. We make a “look” mean all sorts and if we
are not very confident the meaning will be that the person looking is
thinking negatively about us. You might wonder whether someone
really likes you or not. If they say they’ll call but don’t, we run a
huge dialogue as to why and then usually, without even asking,
behave in an offhand manner when they do call.
If you see someone looking at you, don’t automatically assume
the worst. They might be thinking you have a great smile or “I like
what they’re wearing”. Of course those wearing a rebel suit might
jump in defensively with “what are you looking at” when the person
might not even have seen them. All this smells of ego…why should
you be the centre of their universe. I’m sure they’ve got better things
to be focusing on….and even if they are looking at you, so what! If
you feel alright about yourself, it doesn’t matter. Not everyone is
going to like you but equally not everyone will dislike you either.
When it’s appropriate and you want to know how someone feels or
what they are thinking….open mouth, speak words…ask them. It
might be a bit risky but it will save an awful lot of wasted brain
power and possible misunderstandings.
Silence is golden
You wouldn’t think so! Modern day living doesn’t encourage
silence at all. Noise is everywhere – tvs, cars, computers, supersonic
music systems, piped music in restaurants and shopping malls. Even
libraries don’t seem to impose the same level of silence. Youngsters
do their homework whilst watching tv and often listening to music at
the same time. The only place I can think of that’s quiet and
peaceful is a Church and the graveyard.
We don’t like silence. If there’s a gap in a conversation, we
jump to fill it or start shifting nervously. We talk about “pregnant
pauses” as if they are to be avoided at all costs. Why don’t we like
silence? My mother always had a radio on in the background, “It’s
so I don’t have to think”. I believe it was more to stop her thinking
about things she’d rather forget. Many of her generation who lived
through war are the same. However, it’s even more prevalent in
today’s world where tvs are left on all the time “as company”. Why
can’t we be our own company? What’s so awful that we don’t want
to spend time with ourselves? It really seems we fear that in silence
we’d be swamped with all the upsets, disappointments, frustrations
and past experiences that we work so hard to avoid. And yet for this
very reason, the mind needs to rest so that we have better mental and
life balance. Whilst sleep rests the mind, an overactive mind at
bedtime will result in insomnia and as the mind gets more tired, we
get more fractious and less able to be clear and focused. It’s a
slippery slope to stress and depression.
Still the mind
This is a silencing technique I use on my workshops. The first try
will probably show very clearly just how busy your mind is and how
strange being silent is. The second try usually has a different
outcome where the mind gets a little quieter. Each time gets a bit
easier and people report that they feel more refreshed as a result.
You will need to do this process twice. Find a way to
time yourself for 2 minutes. Then sit comfortably and
close your eyes for the 2 minutes. When you open
them, complete the following
First time:
How easy or hard was it to achieve a still mind
during the 2 minutes?
What did you notice going on in your mind?
Did it feel like two minutes (or more)?
Second time:
How easy or hard was it to achieve a still mind
during the 2 minutes?
What did you notice going on in your mind?
Did the 2 minutes seem longer or shorter?
With practice this gets easier and even a few moments a day in
silence really helps the mind in all ways.
Learn meditation
Put aside everything you’ve heard about meditation and think of it as
a form of relaxation. The benefits are enormous. I have a video
showing a volunteer wired up with a very unappealing headcap so as
to show the brain image before and during relaxation. At the start the
left side of the brain, the busy thinking side, is bright blue. The right
side, the emotional intuitive side, is pale blue. After approximately
10-15 minutes, the imaging changes and after 20 minutes, both sides
of the brain image are an equal colour. Balance between the right and
left brain has been achieved. This means more harmony between
thinking and intuition, which is good news all round. What also
happens is that our breathing becomes steadier and our heart rate
levels out which makes this a great stress management technique too.
When most people think of meditation they equate it with Eastern
philosophies and worry they might have to sit cross-legged on the
floor for hours chanting the mantra “Om”. This is certainly an
option…..but you might find a chair more comfortable. The purpose
of repeating a “mantra” is that it encourages the mind away from
thinking and …it bores the ego to death. Of course there are much
deeper aspects to meditation but my interest here is to get you started
with a technique that will really help you. “Om” is a good mantra but
you can use “Hovis” if you prefer….anything to get the mind away
from its eternal chatter.
Start with 5 – 10 minutes and as you get more used to it, try and
make it 20 minutes - the optimum time for maximum benefit.
“Where am I going to find 5 minutes a day, let alone 20?”, I hear
you ask. All I can tell you is that if you do find the time, you will
end up with more time. Reason: you’ll have more energy and be
more focused.
Sit upright on a comfortable chair, although not too
comfortable. Have your feet flat on the floor and your
hands resting loosely on your lap. Gently touch the
index finger and thumb together. This is to contain
the energy you generate within the body.
Then close your eyes and using the breathing
technique, take your awareness to the gentle rhythm
of your breathing. Just notice the steady in and out of
your breath.
If you notice lots of thoughts…don’t worry. Just let
them be part of the process. Think of them as fluffy
white clouds moving across a blue sky.
breathing and become a witness of your thoughts as
you watch them move across your mind and out the
other side.
As you continue to breathe steadily, introduce your
mantra. You don’t have to time it with the breath, just
repeat it to suit your own rhythm.
What a lot of people report when they start meditating is “the
shopping list” effect. The mind thinks of all the things you still need
to attend to. If it helps, keep a pad and pen by you in case you recall
something really important. That way you can just open your eyes,
write it down and return to the meditation. Equally, meditation can
also be a time of inspiration and creativity because the busy mind
quietens and creates space for ideas to come through. This is
definitely a time to stop and write things down as otherwise, rather
like dreams, you might forget them by the end. The key is to know
the difference between general thoughts that you want to calm and
those that are coming as gifts from a creative source. This distinction
comes with practice.
It has been said that “meditation happens when you sit with the
intention to meditate”, so don’t get hung up on the ego’s right and
wrong ways to do it…just follow the above and let it happen over
“Visions become realities” and a great time to start visioning is at the
end of your meditation when you are relaxed and both sides of the
brain are in balance. Remember “the mind doesn’t know the
difference between fact or fiction”…so whatever you are going to
picture, it’s as if for real.
Visualisation has long been popular in the sports world. I
remember Steve Backley, the 3 times world record javelin thrower
describing how much of his practice was done in his head because to
throw a javelin real time puts tremendous strain on the body. So he
goes to the sauna, puts his headphones on, listens to soothing music
and throws the javelin repeatedly. It’s the “mental dress rehearsal”
so that when the real event occurs it’s much more likely to have the
rehearsed outcome.
I used this technique to overcome my public speaking nerves.
With my eyes closed, I’d imagine how the day would go. I’d see
people participating and at the end, together with the sense that all
had gone well, I’d see people smiling and hear them saying how
they’d enjoyed the session. When the actual day arrived, I would
stand up, use the breathing technique to centre myself and off I’d
go…usually just as I had created it in my head.
Visualisation has also been used with some success in illness.
“See the good cells fighting the bad cells and the good cells winning”
is a very simplistic illustration but it’s the same principle. I used it to
disappear some “polyps” that were discovered during an
examination. I was asked to return for more tests a few weeks later
and because I didn’t like the idea of where that might lead, I found a
picture of polyps in a medical book and daily visualised them
shrinking to nothing. All I can tell you is that when I went back
…no polyps. Even a double check by a colleague of the
radiographer showed the same result. Maybe they got it wrong the
first time, who knows!!
Don’t worry if you think you can’t visualise…you can. Some
people see very clear images like photos, others see nothing but get a
sense of it. I’m the latter. Years ago, as part of my training, we were
asked to visualise walking through a field of yellow flowers.
Colleagues enthusiastically described the whole scene in graphic
detail. I kept quiet because I couldn’t picture it at all. Eventually I
spoke up and said that whilst I hadn’t seen anything, I had a very
strong sense of the scene and knew that there were trees etc. I was
told this was every bit as valid and that it didn’t have to be crystal
The following is a very good trial run using a familiar setting.
Get comfortable and close your eyes. Imagine you
need to describe the inside of your home to someone
who hasn’t seen it. Start from the front door and take
them through room by room. If you only have one
room, describe the layout.
Dare to dream
Goethe said “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
Do you have a dream or a goal? Is there something you would
love to attempt but feel you couldn’t achieve? Did you let childhood
dreams die? If you had 6 months to live, what would you change in
your life? What you like to be remembered for?
Imagine that I’m your Fairy Godmother ready to wave her wand
and grant your dream. What would it be?
“To win the lottery” is a popular response. Too broad… need to break
it down into what that would allow you to do.
“Give me freedom”. Too broad…freedom to do what? “Start a business”,
“Travel more”, “Write a book” etc.
“Be happy”. Too general….be specific, what would happy look like in your
world because happiness is very individual.
Now you might feel that your chances of realising a dream are as
slim as those of winning the lottery. Not true. Think outside the
box. Even if you couldn’t realise your dream totally, you could
probably realise its essence – if you want it enough.
My dream was always to write a book and when I was 10 I
submitted my first children’s story to a publisher. They said it
wasn’t long enough and to keep trying. Then life happened and I put
the dream in the cupboard. I remembered it was there and
determined it would come out again one day “when I had enough
time”. As 40 years passed by, I realised I was probably never going
to have enough time, I had to “make time” and “make it happen”.
Set goals
As goals create a structure for manifesting the dream I set some. I
knew that making time would mean leaner living for a while. I set a
2 year deadline for writing and publishing. Then I regularly
visualised my book in the bookshops and I pictured people reading it.
If you are one of those people, you’ll know that my vision became a
reality. So can yours.
# TIP #
Have an overall goal ie: “I am going to write a book and have it
published in 2 years”. Then break it down into bite sized chunks
which is psychologically easier to manage ie:
Between January and March – write two chapters
Between April and June – write two chapters…etc..
As very few people have the luxury of pursuing their dream
independently of everyday life and family, build that time into the
goals otherwise it becomes a distraction and a reason to procrastinate
with the likely end result of resentment and frustration, “what’s the
point, I’ll never get it done”. Focused determination and a clear
vision is key.
Transcend fear
Fear hangs like a heavy mist. We know there is something on the
other side and if only we could see what it was, we could move
forward but what if….. it’s the edge of a cliff?!
! Fear = Contraction
We call it “crippling fear” and for good reason. The term “emotional
cripple” is used to describe someone who is frightened of their own
shadow or totally unable to share of themselves for fear of rejection.
Whatever the reason, it is a seriously contracted place. When we are
frightened, everything shrivels up, including our hearts…literally and
metaphorically. Our blood doesn’t flow as easily and nor does life.
The fear range is enormous from shopping to phobias to spontaneous
human combustion. It paralyses life. Generally though, unless you
are engaging in life threatening activities “there is nothing to fear,
except fear itself”. Most fear is in our heads which is why managing
our minds is so crucial.
When fear gets together with its close friend worry, there
become a thousand reasons not to do something. “What if’s”
abound. End result: No action = no outcome. Susan Jeffers’ book
“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” is well titled because if we don’t
do just that, we’ll be back to the death bed scenario with its
accompanying regrets and missed chances.
! Welcome your problems
“Every problem has a gift for you in its hands”. Not always easy to
see the gift when you are in the middle of the problem but hindsight
is a wonderful thing. Many people who have experienced life
changing events from divorce through redundancy and bereavement
have subsequently reported the positives that resulted. Over the
years I have worked with hundreds of people who at their lowest
points had no belief that life would get better, but it did. Of course if
we only ever approach problems from the victim stance of “why me,
poor me”, then we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to grow. I’m
not suggesting that it’s inappropriate to feel sorry for yourself when
something bad or sad happens, as long as you don’t get stuck in the
groove and keep going round in circles. This encourages fear to
move in, energy to contract and stagnation to start. I think it’s
interesting that the Chinese symbols for “Problem” and
“Opportunity” are the same….makes total sense, because that’s what
problems are: Opportunities.
# TIP #
Whilst you might not be whooping with joy next time there’s a
problem, I would invite you to at least consider what the learning
from it could be.
! Abound with abundance
The reason why abundance is here within the fear section is that
money is also energy and belief in a lack is likely to lead to the
reality. The belief becomes fear, everything contracts and the flow
dries up. People with money hold onto it in case it runs out and
some unkindly say they have money because “they never spend it”.
Even though finances were one of the reasons I kept delaying
writing this book and times have been leaner, it has been incredible
how I have always had just enough to meet my needs from one
source or another. The tightest times have been those where I started
to worry about it, but as soon as I stepped back into believing that
everything would be fine, it was. It works every time. Open up =
money in. Shut down = money stops. Simple.
# TIP #
Keep an “abundance book” and write down all the ways it comes to
you. That way in your moment of doubts, you can look back and feel
! Love your bills
No, I haven’t lost the plot. Paying your bills graciously lets the
energy flow out freely and makes room for it to come back the same
# TIP #
Draw a " or a
on the back of your cheques. At the least it will
make someone smile. Alternatively, you could just write “thank
! Count your blessings
My grandmother used this proverb a lot but how often do we actually
stop and think of all the good things we have in our life. Abundance
isn’t just about money and materialism. It’s about health, sight, fresh
food, clean water, clothing, heat, a roof over our heads, friends,
freedom of speech and fresh air…all things that many people don’t
have. We are very rich indeed if we have them all.
# TIP #
Occasionally make a list of the blessings in your life and spare a
thought or even some practical support for those less blessed. Keep a
charity box and put small change in at the end of the day – it soon
adds up.
! Take a risk
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. Another wise proverb. Don’t
be immobilised with fears about rejection…ask her out. Tell him
you love him. Apply for that new job. So what she might say no, he
might not tell you back and you might not get the job. At least you
did something. No action = no result. You either have an outcome
or your reasons for not having it. Which is better? I think the
following says it all.
# TIP #
See which line jumps out at you….that will be the one most relevant
for you to reflect on.
To laugh is to risk being a fool
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out for another is to risk involvement
To show feelings is to risk showing yourself.
To place your ideas, your dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return
To live is to risk dying
To hope is to risk despair
To try is to risk failure
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk
Those who risk nothing, do nothing, have nothing and are nothing
They may avoid suffering and sorrow
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live
Chained by their certainties, they are slaves
They have forfeited their freedom,
Only a person who risks………… truly free
Stretch your mind
The brain like the rest of our body benefits from a good workout. It
used to be thought that as we got older our brains withered away as
we slid towards a state of inertia.
However, recent advances in brain imaging techniques show that
this doesn’t have to be the case at all. The more we use the capacity
of the brain and work the areas responsible for different functions the
more responsive and flexible it gets, just like our body muscles.
However, as we get older we can get stuck in the rut of just knowing
what we know and not being interested to learn anything new. So our
brains start slowing down and if we don’t continue to use certain
functions, the part responsible for learning could shut down. So we
need to stretch our minds and a good way to do that is to expand the
scope of your life and learn something new.
Dancing of any kind
Theatre groups
Book Group
Do a degree
Do a Masters
Discussion groups
Add numbers without a calculator (as you shop is good)
Other than illness or disease, there is no reason why you shouldn’t
stay mentally active and alert until you take your last breath.
Improve your memory
A poor memory can be an indication that we are very busy and need
to focus more. Often though it’s because we don’t use the memory
part of our brain enough. Everything we need these days is usually
available at the touch of a button, so who needs to memorise
numbers, names etc. Our brain gets lazy.
# TIP #
for remembering names
If you are introduced to a number of people at the same time, look
directly at them and repeat their name back to them. This helps you
anchor their name and allows them to correct any errors of
pronunciation. Some people find that linking an aspect of the
person’s appearance with the name is a good memory aid.
Learn a poem over a short period of time. Learn a
few lines at a time until you know the whole poem and
then recite it out loud to yourself or someone else.
Learn a new language
Join a Drama group
When you are travelling to a familiar location, instead
of going on automatic pilot, see what landmarks you
notice along the way and then imagine giving
someone directions, using those landmarks
Write a shopping list or action list and then see how
much you can remember without looking at the list.
Try and visualise what was on there.
There is nothing wrong with writing things down so as to remember,
it’s just that some of the suggestions above give the brain a better
workout and keep it sharper for longer.
Remember: Like physical exercise “If you don’t use it, you lose
Relationship means any and all relationships; marriage, partners,
family, work colleagues, friends and strangers. Unless we are
hermits, we are relating and interacting with others constantly and
relationships are much easier and more fulfilling when we are openhearted. Simply exchanging a pleasantry with a stranger at the
supermarket checkout or a waiter in a restaurant can make a
difference to them and us.
However, many people find this really difficult and can appear
offhand and unpleasant. Are they really like that underneath?
Probably not. Equally the reverse can be true in that people
presenting a veneer of charm and sociability may be described as
“cold fish” by those who try and get closer. The veneer is just that, a
superficial exterior behind which is suspicion and a lack of trust.
These are the people who have built a wall or a fortress around
themselves which others find impenetrable and behind which they
are lonely prisoners. The rebel will be busy defending the fortress,
the compliant person will seem to be inviting you in but definitely
keeping you out, whilst the withdrawn personality will barely be
The foundations of the wall or fortress, built in childhood and
added to over the years were built for good reasons….to protect our
hearts and stop more hurt. The driver behind the project would have
been the fear that if we are open and vulnerable we will be exploited
in some way, but as we explored in the last chapter fear is a
contracted place and not a healthy way to live. Open-heartedness
and fear are opposites.
Dismantle the fortress
Easier said than done. If it was built as a result of small hurts and
perceptions, it will be easier than if it was the result of heavy abuse,
by which I mean physical, emotional, verbal, mental, or sexual, in
which case it will probably take more than my suggestions to make a
real difference and might actually need professional support.
However, try this process and see how you get on. As I said in
the visualisation section, you don’t have to get a clear photo image,
just a sense will do.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take your
awareness to your breathing and notice the rhythm of
your in/out breath.
Then have a sense of what is in front of you and
around you. Does it feel as though you are outside in
the fresh open air or enclosed in some way? If it feels
enclosed, what is creating that? Is it a wall, a fortress,
What substance is it made of…brick,
concrete, plastic, metal?
Begin to consider whether it’s possible to dismantle
the structure and what equipment you might need to
do it. Would it be an easy or hard task? You might
want to blast it away in one go or it might need to be
carefully taken down piece by piece.
See if you can find a way to make it smaller right
now….even if it’s only a fraction. How does that feel?
You can put it straight back if it feels too much, too
soon. If it feels alright though, you might decide to try
another bit.
Notice how your body feels as you do this. Are you
registering any discomfort or anxiety? If so, notice it
and use the breathing technique to manage it. Stop
at any time if it gets too much.
Remember, you can return to this whenever you like and continue the
dismantling process, you don’t have to do it all at once but bit by bit
you’ll notice the difference. Of course, you may find that the barrier
isn’t that high or that thick after all, in which case it might be much
Open your heart doors
As the dismantling progresses, it becomes much easier to find your
heart doors and open them. It might just be a crack at first but it’s a
start. Our hearts and feelings work together. We have more verbal
expressions about the heart than any other body part. Open-hearted,
hard-hearted, black-hearted, faint-hearted, lion-hearted, brokenhearted. It is the focus of love, hate, joy, sorrow, pain, fear, anguish,
longing, ecstasy and bliss. It has been written about constantly
through the centuries by great sages and poets. So it would seem we
are very aware of our hearts but this is definitely not the case and
many people are totally out of touch with their feelings.
So this next exercise is designed to raise your awareness of what
your heart is feeling and how those feelings are changing all the time
dependent on where you are and who you’re with. Have a pen and
paper nearby.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Turn your
awareness inwards and notice the gentle rhythm of
your breathing. When you feel settled inside, take
your awareness to your physical heart area and rest
your attention in the centre of your chest.
Now imagine that you can chart your feelings on the
heart scale below.
Heart closed
! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
Fully open
Instinctively, allocate a number for how it feels right
now…just trust whatever number comes to mind. Jot
it on your paper.
Close your eyes and return your awareness to your
heart centre and breathing. Now bring in the image of
someone or something you really have strong loving
feelings about. It may be a child, a partner, a parent, a
friend or an animal. Have a sense that they are
standing before you…….and see what number comes
up for your heart scale now.
Before you write it down, really notice how it feels.
Does your heart feel more open? Do you have a
warm, glowing feeling? Does it bring a tear to your
eye? Do you feel overwhelmed by a sense of love? It
may only feel marginally different than before but
different is what we’re looking for. Note it on your
Close your eyes again, let the loving image go and
return your awareness to your breathing. Now, bring
to mind someone that you don’t like or relate to.
Again, imagine them before you. What number
registers on your heart scale now?
Just trust
whatever number comes but notice too what happens
in your body. Do you suddenly notice tension?
Where do you notice it? Just be aware of how
different the experience is to the last one, then write
your number down.
Again, close your eyes, breathe away your image and
return your awareness to your breathing. Notice what
your heart feels like and what number is there now.
Breathe again…. and bring back the loving image
from earlier and notice what happens on your heart
scale. Has it returned to the same number as before
or is it higher or lower? Again notice what happens in
your body and then take a few deep breaths and
return yourself to full alertness.
Jot down the final number and any experience you
want to record about that process.
As I’m sure you realise, what this process does is heighten your
awareness as to how your heart responds when it encounters different
people and circumstances. If it didn’t change at all throughout, I
would encourage you to try again until you notice a shift. I use this a
lot with clients who have difficulty in consciously knowing what
they are feeling. I have never yet encountered anyone, male or
female, whose scale didn’t change when they thought of a loved one.
Those are the moments when the heart doors are pretty wide open. If
that can be developed to be between 7-8 most of the time, think how
much easier and more effective relating with others would be. You
might not “love” everyone and be gliding around like you’ve been on
the “wacky baccy” but equally you wouldn’t have to work so hard to
keep people at arms length either.
Find your candle flame
When your heart doors are more open, it is easier to find your candle
flame. It lives at the centre of your being, in the chamber of your
heart. No breeze or gale can extinguish its light. It may wobble and
diminish but it never goes out. This flame is your essence. So
“don’t hide your light under a bushel”, find it within you and let it
radiate outwards to touch others. It may be reflected in your smile or
in the warmth that other people feel when they’re around you. A
sure sign of its glow is when other people start to smile at you for no
reason. There’s something about you that they can’t quite put their
finger on but they’d like to scratch a little off for themselves. That
moment is when your candle flame is at its brightest.
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Notice the
rhythm of your breathing and then take your
awareness to your heart area.
Notice what it feels like. Is there any tension or is it
just comfortable?
Now imagine you are standing at the top of a flight of
10 steps that lead downwards.
Very carefully
descend the steps, one by one.
At the bottom you find that you have stepped into a
chamber. Have a look around. It may be glorious with
diamond-studded walls or it may be simple stone.
This is your heart chamber and there in the centre is
the candle that never goes out……your essence.
Walk over to it. Look into the flame and breathe
deeply. Notice how that feels.
Stay there as long as you like and then when you are
ready, breathe the flame into your awareness and
letting it fill every part of your physical body, return to
the steps.
With each step up, feel yourself getting nearer to a
full, alert state. As you reach the 10th step, take an
extra deep breath and open your eyes.
Notice how you feel and maybe write it down.
Integrate your shadow
Now before your light becomes bright enough to steer ships away
from rocks, let’s explore the darker side…..the shadow. All of us
have parts we would rather other people didn’t see or didn’t know
about. Partners can be only too willing to share those details just
when we are busy presenting our best sides.
What is really
important is that we know our shadow sides so that we can accept
and integrate them into the “warts and all” package that “we” consist
A very good way to identify your shadow side is to think of
someone you really don’t like and then name their unlikeable
qualities. If you can’t think of someone you know, think of someone
in public life or just qualities you don’t like. If for example you said
“I can’t stand people who are loud and aggressive”, I would ask “and
is there a part of you that can also be like that sometimes?” Usually
on reflection the answer is “Yes”. It might not be to the same degree
but it can be present on occasions.
Equally, if we really have a thing about people being
untrustworthy perhaps we need to have a look and make sure we’re
ok in that department. We might not like the shadow, but as I said
we need to know and accept all parts of ourselves. That way we can
choose the parts we want to have mostly upfront and those that can
go into semi and hopefully permanent retirement.
Earlier, in Chapter 2, I referred to the part of me that could be
sarcastic because I had learnt it well from my mother. I say “could”
because it isn’t an aspect I choose to have present as my way of
interacting with others. However, I’m well aware it’s there together
with my Banshee/Witch. In my younger years, she had a lot of air
time and could be very destructive. I didn’t like that part of me very
much at all and probably only those closest to me would have even
suspected she was there. Gradually though I got to know her and
understand how she had come into being. I realised that in many
ways she had served me well as a protector of sorts - “Don’t cross
me or else”. As I learnt to like myself more and acknowledge all my
positive attributes, she was able to take a back seat and now she’s
slumbering in the background and only comes out very
occasionally….but yes, she does still come out. Remember: 80/20.
So, there is always more to us than meets the eye and we are
much more than just the parent, adult, child. The following exercise
gives you the opportunity to look at both the negative and positive
aspects of yourself in a way that results in ownership rather than
denial. Of course it may be that you deny all the good parts of
yourself….lots of people do if they have very strong inner critics.
You will need to set aside about 30-45 minutes for this. You will
also need:
20 – 30 pieces of paper just large enough to
write a word or two on
and either two different coloured pens or a
pen and a pencil.
As the pieces of paper are going to contain words that
reflect parts of yourself that you like and don’t like,
decide what colour or pen/pencil you will use for
Now start to think of qualities you like about yourself
and put one or two words per piece of paper. Here
are some possible examples: Loving, kind, generous,
good friend, reliable, honest, fun, clever, considerate,
caring, thoughtful…… get the idea. If you get
stuck, think what a friend might say about you…and if
you get really stuck, take a risk and ask your friends!
You might be pleasantly surprised. Write each quality
and put the piece of paper aside to create a small
The second part is to write down the qualities you
don’t like about yourself. Here are some possible
examples: irritable, bad tempered, moody, grumpy,
inconsiderate, loud, aggressive etc etc. Again if you
get stuck, you could ask your friends or a partner. Of
course if you’re really awful, you might not have
any…..but then you probably wouldn’t be reading this
book either. Make a separate pile.
Now take your two piles, mix them together randomly
and then lay them all out in front of you.
Sit back and have a good look ….at the “whole” you.
That way nothing is left in shadow. All is before you
and from that place you can start to make choices. If
you think of more at this stage or later on, just add
This process is equivalent to shining a large torch into the attic or
basement, and then bringing everything out for a good old sort. The
difference is you don’t want to be putting anything back, you want it
all somewhere accessible and not in the dark.
What I like about this exercise is that people are usually
pleasantly surprised when they see how many good qualities they
have to outweigh the others. It requires honesty to acknowledge our
negative sides as well as put aside the “ever so humble” aspect of the
ego to acknowledge the positives, but until you can identify all parts
of yourself, it is very difficult to develop this next quality which is
crucial for good relationships of all kinds.
Develop empathy
“Standing in another person’s shoes and seeing, or trying to see the
world as they see it”. This is empathy and lack of it leads to
arguments, accusations, judgements, condemnations, arrogance,
superiority, dictatorship, war and death. Insensitivity to another’s
situation or feelings displays a lack of empathy.
It could be in the workplace with a colleague trying to explain a
situation to you, but because it’s not an experience you’ve had, you
are at a loss to understand what on earth they are talking about and in
fact feel quite irritated that they are even telling you in the first place.
That’s the time to stop and consider what it might be like in their
shoes. You might say “I don’t really understand your situation,
perhaps you could explain it more for me”. Even when it is clearer,
it might not mean you agree with everything but at least you might
not be so quick to dismiss, judge or condemn.
Perhaps you have sponsored a third world child and then send
them photographs of you and your family posing by the cars outside
your enormous house, or so it would seem to someone in say, Africa,
who has to walk 2 miles just to get water and has never seen grass. It
would mean that your heart was in the right place for being a sponsor
but that you didn’t put yourself in their shoes before sending the
photo…..otherwise you wouldn’t have sent it.
Sometimes when we hear what sounds like a similar experience
to ours we jump in with “I know just how you feel”. Actually, you
don’t know and it is often the worst thing you can say. Just because
you lost a loved one doesn’t mean that another person will feel how
you did, despite the commonality of the situation. An empathic
approach would be “I can only begin to imagine what you must be
Empathic people usually have good self-awareness which allows
them to be tuned to what is happening with others around them.
They are seen as approachable and can read and recognise signs from
people’s tones and expressions.
Unaware and emotionally
unintelligent people don’t tend to do this and are usually viewed as
distant and to be avoided where possible. Those who lose control of
themselves in difficult situations, are pretty unlikely to be empathic
with others.
In brief:
No awareness = no self control = no empathy
Self-awareness = self-management
relationship management.
# TIP #
Next time you are having difficulty understanding another person’s
viewpoint or situation….STOP and see if you can get a sense of what
the world is like through their eyes. Each time you do this you are
developing your awareness and your ability to empathise.
Court compassion
Empathy and compassion are close friends. Are you moved by
stories you hear on programmes about children in need? Do they
have you reaching for the phone to make donations even when you
haven’t got much yourself? Do programmes about animal cruelty
and documentaries about courage move you to tears? Do harsh
injustices stir your blood and do acts of terrorism fill you with a deep
sadness for humanity? “Yes” to most of these means good…..not
much wrong with your compassion. Being able to see the world as
another person sees it does not mean that the view is necessarily right
but it does help us to have more insight into why people behave the
way they do.
If the answer is “No” to most, then you need to ask yourself
“why?” Have you been so damaged that you have no compassion for
others? Again if this is the case perhaps it would be good to get some
professional support so that you can learn to be more open-hearted
for yourself and others because, undoubtedly, if you have no
compassion for them you will have even less for yourself.
Look for the jewel
Some years ago as part of an intensive experiential workshop we
were challenged to do something completely out of character and see
what happened. This is what one participant did.
She dressed herself as a bag lady, greased
her hair to make it look dirty and sat begging
outside London’s Waterloo station for three
consecutive days. Most people ignored her
totally and even those who stopped to put
money in her bowl, didn’t look at her. They
just salved their conscience and moved on,
for them she didn’t really exist. However, in
the afternoon of her third and final day when
she was despairing about humanity, a
smartly dressed businessman stopped in
front of her and just looked. She did and said
nothing. Then he said “You’re not who you
seem to be, are you?”. She smiled and said
“No”. He invited her to go for a drink and still
dressed as the bag lady they went to the
station bar where he was completely
unbothered by the disapproving looks of
other customers. She told him what she was
doing and why. He was so impressed that he
enrolled for the next workshop. When he
saw her again she was her usual stunning
The key here is that he took the time to look and see beyond what
was visible. Most people don’t bother. If they don’t like the look of
you in the first 30 seconds, you don’t stand a chance. You will have
been pigeon-holed as x, y or z and that’s probably where you’ll stay.
However, if someone does take the time to get closer, invariably
you’ll hear “he/she is really nice when you get to know them”.
# TIP #
Don’t judge the book by the cover. Stop and look again. There
might be a Prince inside the Frog or a Princess inside the Bag Lady!!
Actively listen
As you can see the above Chinese verb “to listen”, contains the
following components:
Ears, Mouth, Eyes, Heart and Undivided Attention!
Active listening is a skill that engages empathy and compassion.
It requires you to be 100% present with another and whilst listening
you notice body language, skin tone changes, the use of words and
their content as well as the tone of voice. It means that you have
listened so well that, if necessary, you could repeat what you have
just heard, accurately and in sequence. Most arguments are the result
of faulty listening.
A lot of people think they are good listeners but most of the time
when someone is speaking our minds are partially thinking about
something else… “what’s for dinner tonight?”, “what time is it?”,
“how much longer will this meeting go on?”…..or just thinking up
their reply to whatever is being said before they have actually heard
all of it. This is really heightened when the listener doesn’t agree
with a comment or viewpoint and is actually mentally preparing a
defence for when the speaker stops. Have you noticed, too, how
people interrupt each other or finish their sentences. Television
interviewers do it all the time. They ask a question and then don’t
seem to listen to the answer which is why the more assertive are
likely to say “I’d like to finish what I was saying”.
If you want to find out how good a listener you are, you could
try the following exercise with a friend or colleague.
# TIP #
For a quick answer ask your partner and if they say “Oh, you never
listen” maybe that’s a clue. Of course it might just be their
Decide who will be A and B and who will talk first.
Both of you think of a topic to talk about for 2 minutes.
Holidays are often a good choice.
Sit so that you can observe and listen. For
example, I never take notes in my private practice
because if I was looking at a pad, I might miss a vital
body clue accompanying the speaking.
The first speaker then talks about the chosen subject
for 2 minutes. The listener does just that, listens. It is
not a conversation. Even if you are dying to ask a
question, don’t. You can indicate your interest nonverbally by nodding or smiling and being attentive.
Looking out of the window or at your hands, shoes or
watch doesn’t count as attentive!
After 2 minutes of listening, you repeat back as much
as you remember and as much as possible, in the
order it was said. You then ask the speaker to rate
you out of 10 for accuracy and the quality of your
Then swop roles and do it all again.
At the end of this brief exercise you should have a much better idea
of your listening ability. Active Listening demonstrates:
that you have heard and understood what the other person is
the desire to understand each other
your concern for, and acceptance of, the other person
This will avoid a lot of misunderstanding and misinterpretations and
lead to communication that is a lot more effective and less time
# TIP #
“Listen up” by engaging ears, eyes, mouth and ….heart.
Communicate authentically
The dictionary definition of “authentic” contains the words “genuine,
reliable, trustworthy, accurate, true, exact, legitimate and real”. A
popular street reaction to someone talking rubbish would be “get
real” or “yeah, right”. We just know instinctively when someone is
not being genuine or real. It flashes like an invisible neon light. In
Reality TV shows like “Big Brother”, the winners are invariably
those who have been the most genuine “what you see is what you
get” with the least authentic usually the first to get voted out. We
don’t relate well to people “who put on an act”, we have a sense of
not knowing where they’re coming from and this creates a lack of
trust. Sometimes the act is down to nerves or lack of confidence,
which is why it is so important to get comfortable with yourself.
When you like yourself, other people will be drawn to you like the
proverbial “moth to a candle flame”.
So when you communicate authentically, you speak
authoritatively and you are the author of your words. Put simply:
you say what you mean and mean what you say.
Assert yourself
Assertion has previously been a major focus of company training,
often with an emphasis for women who have been considered less
assertive than their male counterparts. However, comments such as:
“Oh, you don’t need to go on a training course, you’re assertive
enough already” reflect that it is often confused with what is actually
either an underhanded or aggressive style of communication, neither
of which are assertive. So here are the distinctions.
Aggressive Communication: (akin to rebel “I win, you lose”)
Seeking to dominate or get your own way at the expense of
This can include:
Overtalking: Talking loudly to drown the other person out
Threatening: “I want that done or else”
Rubbishing: “Any fool knows you don’t do it like that”
Mocking: “Even a child could do better”
Trivialising: “Well, it wasn’t difficult after all” and
Blaming: “You made a complete mess of that”
All of these will be accompanied by equally aggressive body
postures and gestures.
Non-Assertive Communication: (akin to compliant or withdrawn
“I lose, you win”)
Denying your own wishes to satisfy someone else’s
Sacrificing your own needs to meet someone else’s
This usually means saying “yes” when you mean “no” and being
exploited as a result. Attempts to speak up are likely to include:
Frequent justifications: “I wouldn’t normally say anything
Apologies: “I’m very sorry to bother you…..”
Qualifiers: “I know this might sound stupid but……”
Self-putdowns: “You know me, always getting it wrong”
There will be a lot of hesitancy and nervousness in the manner of a
non-assertive person, even though it may be possible to determine
underlying resentment in their eyes.
Assertive Communication: (akin to adult “Win, Win”).
Expressing yourself and satisfying your own needs
Feeling good about this and not hurting others in the process
This means that you take account of others and their needs but not at
your own expense. You work to find ideas and solutions that suit all
Assertion and authenticity are partners. Both are about clear,
direct, open and honest communication which would include:
“I” statements: “ I like”, “I value”, “I respect”, “I
acknowledge” etc..
The distinction between fact and opinion: “My experience
is different”
Constructive criticism without blame: “I feel irritated when
you talk over me”
Seeking other’s opinions: “How does this work with your
Willingness to explore other outcomes: “How can we do
this differently?”
Suggestions without telling: “Would it be helpful if…..?”,
“How about…..?”
Here are some more ideas to help with being more assertive.
Consider what has been said to you or the situation
you are in and ask yourself these 3 questions:
“What do I feel?” ……pinpoint it
(angry, upset, put upon, irritated, happy, frightened,
“What am I thinking?”…….check the train of thought
(“how dare they” , “how could they”, “what a cheek” ,
“how fantastic”, “that’s scary”)
“What do I want to do or say?” ……. notice your gut
The next step is formulating your response which
could contain this structure:
When you……… I was…….. and felt………….. but I
For example:
“When you invited me for a drink, I was very surprised and felt
flattered but as I’m in a relationship, I won’t accept”.
An aggressive response might be: “How dare you when you
know I’m in a relationship, get lost”.
A passive response might be: “It’s really nice of you to ask and
I’m ever so sorry to be difficult but I can’t because I’m in a
relationship and my partner wouldn’t like it”. Another passive
response might be to agree and regret it later rather than give
“offence” by saying no.
Learn to say “NO”
If someone asked you to jump out of a window, hopefully you
wouldn’t hesitate to say “no”. Why then does it seem so hard to
apply the use of such a small word in other areas of life? It seems we
will get into debt, get married, stay in dead relationships and keep on
working until we drop, rather than say “no”. Some people say “no”
but follow it with a heap of reasons which gives a manipulator good
leverage to turn the “no” to a “yes”, “Oh it wouldn’t take long, you
go right past the door”.
Maybe we learnt in childhood that an abrupt “no” to an adult
request didn’t go down well. I remember signs in shops that said
“Please don’t ask for credit as a refusal often offends”. So we end up
believing the myths that “no” is selfish, rude and blunt and that
others will feel upset and rejected or consider you are being petty
over such a “small request”. I wonder how many people have eating
disorders as a result of feeling it would be wrong to say “no” when
confronted by “go on, just have a little more, it’s your favourite….I
cooked it specially”. Here’s what you need to remember:
Saying “no” is refusing a request, not rejecting a person
It’s more likely your fear that someone will think badly of
you if you say “no”, rather than a reality
You have the right to say “No” without excessive apologies
or excuses.
Get together with a friend or even better, a group of
friends. Cut up some paper and each of you write
down a few requests, one per piece. Some examples
could be:
“Lend me a £100?”
“Could you give me a lift to work and back
every day next week?”
“Could you do my shopping?”
“Would you mind taking my car to the
“Could you go to the meeting instead?”.
Then mix them up in a bowl. The first person takes a
request and takes it to each friend in turn. Their job is
to say “no”. No explanations, no apology, just a good
old plain “no”.
See how that feels.
Are you
uncomfortable just thinking about it? I can assure you
that it gets easier with practice.
Sometimes a brief explanation can be acceptable “I can’t lend you a
£100 because I don’t have it” although this leaves you open for
manipulation “Couldn’t you put it on your credit card for me?”,
“Couldn’t you take it from your savings?” etc. They might of course
try the real guilt trip number of “If you were a real friend, you’d help
me”. Which reminds me of the old dating dialogue “if you really
liked me, you would”.
If you’ve ever bought anything that you didn’t really want or
couldn’t afford because you were persuaded by a very skilled,
smooth talking sales person (encyclopaedias, insurance and
timeshares come to mind), then the “broken record technique” is the
one to master. As the name implies, you keep repeating limited
responses no matter what is said to you.
Call from a timeshare company
“Is that Mr/Mrs xxxx” (first mistake is to say
yes instead of “Who are you?”)
“I’m phoning with some excellent news, you
have won a luxury holiday for two in
Barbados, isn’t that wonderful?”
“Are you selling timeshares?”
“Aren’t you pleased to have won this
wonderful holiday?”
“Are you selling timeshares?”
“All you have to do to claim your holiday is to
come to the meeting we are holding locally
where there will be a short presentation we
ask you to attend without obligation”
“Thank you, but I’m not interested in
buying a timeshare”
“But, aren’t you interested in claiming your
luxury holiday in Barbados”
“Thank you, but I’m not interested in
buying a timeshare, goodbye”.
Now of course you might have told them to get lost as soon as
they started because you’ve come across it before but lots of people
haven’t and don’t…they get hassled into going to a meeting where
high pressure sales people who trade on your dislike of saying “no”,
persuade you to part with money you haven’t got or would be better
investing somewhere else. “I wouldn’t be that gullible” I hear you
say…….believe me, it happens.
Praise others
“I don’t feel appreciated”
“No-one ever says thank you”
“They are quick enough to complain when something goes wrong”
Sound familiar? During my workshops, these are three of the key
reasons given for stress. Not lack of pay, long hours or overwork but
lack of appreciation. Why is it so hard to give praise and appreciate
others for the contribution they make to work or home or our lives in
general? It’s as if we still live with a blueprint from a past age when
bosses were hard taskmasters and not only expected their “pound of
flesh” but operated from the belief that “if you give them an inch
they’ll take a mile”.
You might be forgiven for thinking that times had moved on and
that society and management was more enlightened, but
unfortunately in many cases this is still not true and yet it doesn’t
take rocket science or a psychology degree to know how important
acknowledgement is to our well being. Praise doesn’t have to be
lavish, a simple thank you will usually do.
Even when we do give praise it’s often indirect and impersonal.
A throw away comment over the shoulder as you walk past … “that
turned out well” instead of “as a result of all the hard work you put
in, we got a good outcome” or “that was a good job” instead of “you
did a good job, well done”, “that was a nice meal” rather than “you
cooked a really nice meal”, “the film was good” instead of “thanks
for taking me”. In education it now seems well accepted that praise
and encouragement get better results from a child than criticism and
condemnation, so why can’t we do it for each other as adults. People
visibly shine and grow when they are praised and acknowledged.
Even if they might feel a little embarrassed, so what…..they’ll go
away feeling a lot better and will probably work harder too. Lack of
praise can lead to resentment, with-holds, stress, depression and the
divorce courts whilst in business, sabotage and high staff turnover
cost billions.
Make eye contact and be authentic. This is the one
occasion where using the prefix “you” is acceptable.
# TIP #
A thank you a day keeps disorders at bay!!
Accept a compliment
If giving praise is hard, receiving both praise and compliments seems
even harder. People shuffle their feet, go red, mutter under their
breath and generally do somersaults of discomfort. If a compliment
is a verbal gift then often it is tossed straight back like a hot potato. I
find women particularly bad at accepting compliments. “You look
great in that outfit” is frequently met with “Oh, I’ve had it years” or
“It was really cheap in the sale”. Deflected or what! Compliments
are intended to nurture you……so let them in.
# TIP #
Next time someone compliments you for whatever reason, breathe,
smile, soak it up and just say “thank you”.
Abandon the relationship killers
Giving praise, attention, acknowledgement, compliments, gifts,
money or love is wonderful when it is done freely and from the heart.
However the following are relationship killers.
! Need
“I need you to finish the report by 5pm” is a direct and assertive use
of the word need. It saves time and long-winded requests like
“Would you mind…..”, or “I wonder if…”.
However, this is a world away from the need that kills
relationships. This is the need of “neediness”. Have you ever said
“I can’t breathe when they’re around”, “I feel like they’re in my face
all the time”, “I can’t move without them wanting to know what I’m
doing”. Needy people exude an air of desperation which makes
others want to run a mile in the opposite direction. It’s like a
creeping vine that you sense will strangle the life out of you if it gets
a hold.
Many years ago when I moved to a new area, I was invited to a
party and introduced to a number of people. I got on very well with
everyone but there was one woman in particular who made me laugh
loads and I thought it would be good to get to know her better over
time. We agreed to be in touch again but I became aware that she
seemed to expect me to ring for long chats, arrange to go out and
generally devote more time to her than my family and other friends.
I began to feel suffocated and eventually we drifted apart because I
wasn’t meeting her expectations as a friend. In one way I felt sad
because she was very good company but equally I felt a sense of
relief. What I didn’t know until some time later was that, following
the party, she had rung a number of people and told them I was going
to be her new best friend ….and all her energy had then been focused
on that intention.
Most neediness is born from an unfulfilled childhood need for
love, attention, food, comfort and warmth. This deficit manifests
itself on a scale from need to obsession to addiction and we can be as
needy, obsessed and addicted to people as we can be to food, drugs,
alcohol, work, exercise, money, gambling, sex and smoking. So the
key is to build your self-esteem and confidence so that you feel more
secure and self-sufficient. That way you won’t have to try so hard to
make friends or keep relationships because there will be an easier,
more natural flow that will generate freedom for others to give
because they want to and not because they feel pressured to do so.
! Expectation
“I expected better from you”
“I don’t expect you to speak to me like that”
“I expect to be treated with respect”
“I expect you to abide by the rules”
“I expect you to do that, you’re my parent”
“I expect to see you for Sunday lunch as usual”
“I expected us to get married”
“I expected them to win”
“I expected it to be different”
“I expect co-operation”
“I expected to get the job”
“I expected to inherit the money”
“I had higher expectations”
“England expects every man to do his duty”
Expectations are dangerous things
They smack strongly of the Critical Parent and are based around our
view of how life “should” happen. Assuming and taking things for
granted are strong elements of expectation and are usually dependent
on external sources doing or behaving in a way that fits our picture of
life. Christmas time is a key example of heightened expectation.
Everything seems to be geared to the “idealised family get-together”
where it is expected that all will be love and light in a rosy glow.
Advertising supports this myth by showing an exchange of the
“perfect presents” or “the perfect meal”. Now I don’t want to be a
party pooper, but you’ll probably agree that this is rarely the case and
when we don’t get our expected outcome, we feel let down, hurt,
angry, rejected, deflated or indignant. Disappointed expectations lead
to bitterness, resentment, resignation and sometimes death.
However, not all expectations are bad, just the ones that carry the
feeling of heavy disapproval or punishment if not met. They loom
heavily overhead like an executioner’s axe and the seriously missing
ingredients are communication and a willingness to acknowledge
that the world is not just according to your gospel.
# TIP #
Don’t expect and assume. Plan ahead and then take each moment as
it comes. Above all….communicate so as to avoid disappointed
expectations and assumptions
! Jealousy
Jealousy “the green eyed monster”; “green with envy. Why Green?
My theory is that it’s to do with the greeny/yellow substance
produced by the liver and called “Bile” as in “Bilious attack”. When
we generate too much of this heavily acidic substance in our system
we turn a greeny/yellow colour – we look jaundiced and that’s what
jealousy and envy create: a jaundiced view of life.
We jealously guard our possessions; designers their designs;
inventors their ideas and writers their scripts. We “play our cards
close to our chest”. If that all sounds tight and narrow, that’s because
it is. It reflects mistrust, protection, possession and suspicion. It is
about having, getting, desiring and owning rather than giving and
Envy is generally seen as more acceptable than its close relative
jealousy. “They are the envy of all their friends”. “I’m so envious of
her figure”. You could be envious of a friend’s new car and wish you
had one like it. After having a good look and asking all about it, you
say “great car, good for you” and you get on with life. In this
instance you are merely admiring what someone else has and
wishing them well for having it. The danger point would be if
instead of leaving it at admiration or perhaps thinking “I’ll buy a new
car when I have more money”, you created this train of thought.
“Lucky devil, I wish I had a car like that, very
nice for those who can afford it. It’s alright for
him with his city job, loads of money and
posh wife.
What does he know about
working hard anyway, probably got the job
through some old pal somewhere.
chance I have of getting a car like that, no
matter how hard I work”.
Suddenly you have gone from admiring a new car to feeling
resentful and deprived. If it got really extreme, your key might just
happen to scratch it as you walked by “Oops, careless me!” Envy
and jealousy have merged.
Jealousy generally reflects low self-worth. In the above instance,
you doubt your ability to get the sort of job that would generate
enough money for you to fund what you want. If you are jealous of
your partner and fearful they will leave you for someone else, it
probably means that you feel inadequate in some way. You fear that
they will be attracted to someone else who is better than you. You
might want to argue that your jealousy is because they are always a
bit flirtatious with others. If this is what happens then you need to
communicate clearly “I don’t like it when I see you flirting”. If you
have a good relationship, your partner will hear you and might
modify their behaviour. If not, then you need to be clear that this is
unacceptable to you and leave. I understand that this might seem
simplistic but once again I want to emphasise the importance of
knowing, liking and respecting yourself as well as developing your
ability to communicate clearly, openly, directly and honestly.
One of the 10 Commandments says: “Thou shalt not covet thy
neighbour’s wife” which translated means “Stop wishing you had
someone else’s partner”. Quite right……go and get your own
(after building your self-confidence and communication skills of
# TIP #
Next time you notice yourself feeling deprived in some way,
STOP!… think about all the good things you have in your life and
then do something nice for someone else.
! Guilt
Guilt is a very strange emotion to get a handle on. Couples often say
they feel guilty about all sorts of things….not spending enough time
together, not talking enough, not sharing responsibilities, not enough
So what does it really mean because different people feel guilty
about different things. It’s a bit like stress: what stresses one person
won’t even impact another. So it’s very personal. In which case it
must go back to the early foundations of what we decided were right
and wrong ways to behave. Therefore if we don’t behave
appropriately, according to our internal values, we feel guilty.
Having said that, I think guilt can be a good monitor. If you
sleep with your partner’s best friend, hopefully you will have an
uncomfortable feeling about the situation because you have behaved
inappropriately… and the label for this feeling is “guilt”. A guilty
conscience needs no accuser.
However, we often feel guilty for no really good reason. So
what, you forgot to put the rubbish out, ate a chocolate bar when you
were dieting and didn’t phone your friend for a week……in the great
scheme of life, does it matter? We carry guilt around like a heavy
sack and we need to let it go. The bottom line driver of guilt is our
feeling that we have “let someone or ourselves down” in some way.
So the next time you feel guilty, try this.
# TIP #
Notice that you are feeling guilty and then ask yourself what about
and whether you really need to feel that way. Have you behaved
inappropriately, were you really rude to someone, did you
intentionally forget to comply with a request? If the answer is “Yes”,
then you need to put your hands up, own it and take whatever action
is needed to amend the situation. If the answer is “No”, recognise
that it’s probably the inner critic running wild again….. take a deep
breath, relax, let go and tell yourself “I am good”.
Release attachments
Attachments come in many forms. We can be attached to our views
about others and we can be attached to people, places, animals and
objects. We can be attached to the idea of how something should be,
what job we must have, how much money we must earn, what
weight we should be, how someone should behave etc. The feeling
of attachment is akin to trying to keep a hold on the reins of wild
horses. All your energy is invested in holding on but there is the
inevitable sense that eventually they are going to break loose and you
will probably go flying backwards in the aftermath. When that
happens, as it usually does, we get upset, anxious, angry and
resentful. We moan that life is “not fair” and that nothing ever works
out the way we wanted it to.
However, when we consciously notice our attachments and
adopt the approach of “whatever happens will be the best outcome”,
it’s as though we create some space to actually get what we do want.
It allows flexibility to see in all directions rather than be blinkered.
Having a goal or a picture of how you would like something to be is
great… long as you are not so rigidly attached to it being exactly
a certain way as to then miss out on other opportunities that might
present themselves.
Imagine if you had decided that you were going to meet the
partner of your dreams when you reached your holiday destination.
You could be so fixed on that thought, that you totally dismissed the
delightful person you were talking to on the plane as just that “a
delightful person”…. and perhaps a missed opportunity.
# TIP #
Have your goals or ideals be a few brush strokes on a blank canvas
that you keep adding to as you go along rather than as the finished,
framed painting already hanging on the wall.
In this chapter we move up a gear. Previously we have explored the
self and relationships and now we will be addressing how to create
positivity, boost self-esteem, heal yourself and explore your
potential. All of these, combined with the journey so far, are
designed to lift your life to the next level – one of more contentment
and fulfilment.
Embrace the positive
“Always look on the bright side of life” the song says. “Just be
positive”, we are told. Good advice but easier said than done.
However, it can be done and all of the following will help.
! Love/Hate
This process is the quickest way I know to introduce you to the
physical and emotional differences experienced when we are either
negative or positive
Sit comfortably, take a couple of deep breaths then
close your eyes and turn your attention inwards.
Now silently and steadily repeat the word HATE to
yourself about 8 times and then open your eyes.
Consider what you noticed as you repeated it. Did
you feel comfortable? Did your heart beat a bit
faster? Were you a bit fidgety? Did your chest or
stomach feel a bit tighter?
Now let that word go and close your eyes again.
Take a few deep breaths and this time the word to
repeat silently and steadily about 8 times is LOVE.
What did you notice this time? Was it a pleasant
sensation? Did it give you a warm glow? Did you feel
more comfortable and open? Did it perhaps make
you smile or maybe feel tearful?
Consider the differences between your feelings about
each word.
What these different feelings represent are the changes that occur
regularly depending on whether we are being negative or positive. If
you wake up every day saying “Oh no, not another day” your inner
reactions will be similar to repeating the word hate. If everything
from that point on continues to be negative just think how contracted
you are going to feel at the end of the day, week, month etc. Perhaps
this is how every day is for you but it doesn’t have to
be….remember; you are in charge of your mind. However, if you
put some of the following in place, your reactions can become far
more akin to the expanded experience of repeating the word love.
" TIP "
! Leg it from the negative
It’s very difficult to remain positive if you are constantly drawn into
the negativity of others. People seem to enjoy moaning. Frequent
targets are weather, transport, the government, the boss, employees,
the company, family, friends and partners. Moan, moan, moan. Ask
yourself this though. How do you feel if you are constantly around
people who do nothing but moan and complain? What does it do to
your energy levels? Most people begin to feel exhausted after a
while and just want to get away from the source. A friend of mine
says there are two types of people: radiators or drains. Radiators
leave you feeling enthused and alive whilst of course time spent with
a drain leaves you feeling exhausted and the chances are, that having
dumped their negativity at your doorstep, the moaner will feel loads
better! We all need to let off steam occasionally… long as it’s
not a constant way of life.
" TIP "
Allocate moan time
If you have something to get off your chest, give it a time limit.
Allow a maximum of 5 minutes and in that time, really go for it.
Moan and complain as if your life depended on it. At the end of 5
minutes, stop, take a breath and change the subject. The same
applies when you get home from work. It can be very beneficial to
offload, so have a mutual agreement with your partner or housemate
– perhaps allocate a maximum of 10 minutes each, otherwise your
whole evening could be eaten up with negativity that you’ll carry
through to bedtime and the next day. Life is too short.
! Keep good company
What I mean by this is to keep company with those who share your
values, attitudes and approach to life. Diversity is great but it can
also be very tiring. Being around people who are always questioning
what you are about, asking you to justify your beliefs or judging your
opinions can be intellectually challenging and stimulating for a
while, but over time it’s not good for your morale or your soul. You
will probably find like-minded people more nurturing and
! Develop gratitude
Gratitude is another form of counting your blessings. The saying of
grace before a meal was to give thanks for having food in the first
place which many people didn’t and in parts of the world, still don’t.
If you are grateful for something done for you, say so or show it in
some way. If we get really good service in a restaurant, we leave a
tip as an extra “thank you”. Or you could go one further and do what
author Dan Millman does, which is to write a thank you comment on
a sticky label and leave it with the tip. It all adds up to you feeling
good and someone else feeling appreciated. As Anthony Robbins
says “Live every day with an attitude of gratitude”. Even if you
think it sounds a little trite, it’s great advice.
! Cultivate joy
Joy is something that lifts your spirits. It makes you smile, gladdens
your heart and generates a feel-good factor. How many times in a
day do you register something joyful? What was the last thing that
brought joy to your day? Struggling…? For most people just getting
through the day is enough “what’s to be joyful about?!!” Well, lots
of things actually and the simpler the better. Personally, I get a lot of
joy from nature….a blackbird or thrush singing, a sunny day, a
beautiful sunset to name a few. It could just be a smile from
someone, a call from a friend, a piece of music, a meal out, the
company of friends, watching children playing or doing something
for someone else. It doesn’t have to cost money, you just have to be
open to the moments as they occur.
" TIP 1 "
When you experience moments of joy, notice how it feels in your
body and remember it for the future.
" TIP 2 "
Keep a “joy” diary. Have a small notebook either with you or
somewhere to hand and every time you experience joy, write down
what and when it was. It’s amazing how quickly the book can fill up
and then when you have down moments where you feel nothing ever
goes right, you can look at it to remind yourself that it’s not true.
" TIP 3 "
Have a combined Joy/Abundance diary. Write joy from front to
back and abundance back to front.
Joy creates joy. The more attuned to joy you become, the more joy
you experience. Why have a vicious circle when you can have a
joyful one instead?
! Create an inner smile
Feeling joyful creates an inner smile but you can create it at other
times too.
Sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths and close
your eyes.
Take your awareness to the area of your heart and
notice how it feels. Breathe into your heart a little until
it feels a bit softer. Then imagine your heart as a
face. Have a look and see what the expression is.
Then think of something pleasant and imagine that
your heart face is smiling. Notice how that feels and
expand the inner smile. Tuck that memory inside so
that you can call on it again when you need to.
! Give yourself a hug
This is a bit like giving yourself a “pat on the back” but nicer. We
all need physical hugs from other people but this is about you
hugging your inner child to create a sense of warmth and comfort for
you both when you need it. Our inner child often gets forgotten
about so this is a great way to make contact.
Sit comfortably, take a few breaths and close your
Think of how you looked as a young child at maybe 4
or 5 years old or think of a photo you have seen of
yourself at that age and if you can’t do either, have a
sense of what it was like to be that age.
Then imagine you as the child standing in front of you
a short distance away. What is the expression on
his/her face? Maybe you want to hug them because
they look so happy or because they look a bit lost and
you want to give them comfort.
Now, take another breath and imagine that flowing
from your heart to theirs is a golden silk thread. You
can see it clearly between you. Then reach out your
arms, put them around the child and gradually draw
them to you until the point where your hearts have
merged into one but are still linked together by the
thread through which you can send love whenever it’s
needed. Breathe in how that feels and bring the
feeling back with you when you open your eyes.
" TIP "
Another way to keep contact with the inner child is to buy a
soft toy and keep it somewhere visible.
! Give someone else a hug!!
As I mentioned, physical contact is essential to survival. It is well
known that if young babies and children are not cuddled, they
become very withdrawn and may actually die. I remember the
heartbreaking pictures of Romanian orphans whose eyes looked
almost dead. Hugging is essential for physical and emotional well
being. Do you hug friends and family when you see them or are you
from a more formal background where that kind of thing is
considered soppy or a bit alternative, “you’ll have me hugging trees
next” kind of attitude? If so, then you have to learn to hug people
and let them hug you. However, hugging does need to be done with
respect and sensitivity for the other person. If you are the huggy
kind, don’t assume that everyone else is. Instead of just hugging
them because that’s what you normally do, ask permission first “Can
I hug you?” or “Would you like a hug?” Equally you can ask a
friend or partner for a hug. Once you start you’ll warm to it…’s
all part of giving and receiving. (PS. trees are good too)
Boost self-esteem
Low self-esteem or low self-worth is life limiting. If you have a
negative opinion of yourself you will feel less motivated to have a
career, a relationship, a family, fun, friends, holidays etc. Your inner
critic will constantly be judging you and finding fault….. “You can’t
do that”, “Who would want you”, “You’re not clever enough”.
Your self-image will be distorted like those crazy mirrors at
fairgrounds where we all look too tall, too short, too fat, too thin and
generally unappealing. So the mirrors need to go.
! Accept yourself
This means the “warts and all” package that I referred to earlier in
“integrate your shadow”. Everyone has aspects of themselves they
don’t like but in most people the good far outweighs the negative, it’s
usually only us that doesn’t see it because we are too busy listening
to, and believing the inner critic. The way to change it is to listen to
what it says and if it’s negative, practice reframing what you hear.
“I’m so stupid”
“Sometimes I make mistakes”
“I never get it right”
“I get it wrong sometimes”
“Nothing ever works for me”
“Life is full of ups and downs”
“I’m useless at everything”
“I’m better at some things than others”
You will see from these reframing examples that they are designed to
move you away from the “all or nothing” type statements and more
into middle ground expression. Once we accept ourselves more, we
stop making ourselves right or wrong. We suspend judgement and
just notice how we are and what we do. From that base we can work
to change what doesn’t work for us and develop what does.
Reframing neutralises the extremes of our language and exposes the
“make you feel bad” game of the critic. Once we are doing this on a
regular basis the critic’s control is gradually disarmed, and whilst it
will always try and catch you out on a down moment it becomes
more and more redundant.
Acceptance prayer
Let me accept what I can’t change, change
what I can and have the wisdom to know the
! Like yourself
This flows from acceptance. Once you stop beating yourself up by
reframing to neutral, the next step is to think “Maybe I’m ok after
all”. You could then start to think again about your likeable qualities
and focus on them. Imagine storing them one by one in a “Positive”
cupboard, so that if the critic does creep back in, you can go straight
to the cupboard, open the door and take one off the shelf. However,
you need to work to build your reserves otherwise as you fumble in
the cupboard, the critic will smile cynically and rub its hands with
" TIP "
Write all the things you like about yourself on pieces of paper and
put them somewhere handy. Then when the critic comes to visit, go
and pick one at random as a reminder of your good qualities. You
might still have them from the earlier “shadow” process in Chapter 4.
! Talk yourself up
Let me restate: the mind doesn’t know the difference between fact or
fiction. So if you tell yourself “I am a useless, stupid moron” the ego
and inner critic have a triumphant party but the mind just says “ok”.
So, wouldn’t it be better to make positive statements to yourself,
devised from the qualities in your “positive” cupboard. The most
famous example used was “Every day in every way, I am getting
better and better” and was part of an experiment conducted by
French psychiatrist Emile Coue with seriously depressed patients.
Whilst one group remained on medication alone, the second group
also repeated the positive statement every day. The result: the
second group showed increased improvement. So the same can be
true for you.
Something that makes these statements even more powerful is to
place them in the now. So the above example would become “Every
day in every way, I am better and better” instead of “getting better
and better” which assumes a goal to be reached in the future.
Instead, speak “as if” it is already true.
Here are some possibilities:
“I am confident and capable”
“Every day I am more confident in my relationships with other people”
“I am perfect just as I am”
“I accept myself just as I am”
“I love and accept myself exactly as I am”
When I suggest some of these to my clients, they look at me in
disbelief. “Yeah right, I’m perfect just as I am…..I don’t think so”.
And that’s just the problem, too much thinking and listening to the
critic. So I ask them to suspend their disbelief and do it anyway for a
period of 30 days. I also point out that around day 12-15, the critic
will really up the anti because it feels threatened. That’s the point
when people forget to do it or think “what’s the point, it won’t
work”. If they push through that mid-point to the end of the 30 days,
they generally feel somewhat better. In this instance of course, the
affirmation is supporting other work we are doing, but you don’t
need to be in therapy or counselling to use positive affirmations.
" TIP 1 "
To really increase their impact, say them to yourself in the mirror
“eye to eye”. That can be really hard as the “eyes are the windows of
the soul” and it’s like a laser piercing straight through to all the
negative beliefs being closely guarded by the critic.
" TIP 2 "
However, think of it like this. The negative beliefs are sitting inside
you like a solid meteorite and the positive “laser” affirmation strikes
the target every time and starts to diminish it. Eventually, after about
day 15, the critic has to run for cover and you start to feel the benefit.
! Honour your body
Huge numbers of men and women have negative feelings about their
bodies. They want to be taller, shorter, thinner, fatter, more hair, less
hair, straight hair, curly hair etc. Billions of pounds are spent
annually on cosmetic surgery and body building to make us
something “better”. Sometimes it works but usually only if we
already feel pretty alright about ourselves and just want a minor
adjustment. So many times I have heard people say that the hopedfor transformation in their lives still didn’t happen and they feel the
same way now as they did before, even if they look fantastic. In his
book “Psycho-cybernetics”, Maxwell Maltz, a cosmetic surgeon,
writes of just this situation with a stunning model who wanted her
face improved. He couldn’t believe it and tried to dissuade her but
she went ahead anyway. Afterwards, despite being even more
breathtakingly beautiful, she still thought she was no great shakes!!
It really is an inner process not an outer one.
So we need to honour our bodies just as they are. After all, they
work pretty hard for us. How often do we stop and think about how
great our feet and legs are for supporting our upper bodies and how
hard our arms work, lifting and carrying? I often find that disabled
people are much more appreciative than the able-bodied. It seems
that the only time we notice what we’ve got, is when it’s either gone
or temporarily out of use. A broken wrist or leg can seriously restrict
movement and only then do people comment about how they just
didn’t appreciate their mobility before.
Our bodies respond well to care and praise. They like to be
pampered. Our skin glows from a massage or good workout. Body
brushing is also great for the skin and really good for the lymphatic
system which carries toxins for disposal.
" TIP 1 "
With body brushing, always brush upwards towards the heart: hand
to top of arm, ankle to top of thigh etc.
" TIP 2 "
When you have time, use a good body moisturiser and really
appreciate the different parts of your body as you apply it. Enjoy the
sensuality of touch.
" TIP 3 "
For male readers who might not like the idea of body cream, try a
light body oil like sesame as, instead of a greasy residue, it leaves a
lustrous shine. It’s great for mutual massage too!
! Maximise your appearance
When I first met my husband he wore grey suits to work which, with
his silver grey hair, gave an overall image of grey and made him look
ill. Once he switched colours to dark charcoals and dark navy, he
was positively transformed and people kept commenting on how well
he looked. Conversely, if I wear navy or black, people ask if I’m ill
because it drains all the colour from my face. So having had my
colour image assessed, I now only wear clothes within a smaller but
bright colour range, which also saves a fortune on shopping because
I “mix and match” a lot more.
Colour and style matter and particularly in business it can make
a real difference. Not that I’m suggesting you won’t get promotion
or the job if you are not wearing the right colour, but if there are a
number of candidates all equally qualified, it is likely that the one
who looks the best will be selected. Whilst at the ego level too much
emphasis on appearance is to be avoided, it is however important to
maximise your appearance and feel good about yourself.
Heal Yourself
Sorting unresolved issues is really important so that you get the most
out of life. Too many people are run by their pasts and lose out in
the present. Unfinished business needs to be finished so that we
move on and don’t keep dragging excess baggage around.
! Bin Bitterness
Apart from anything else, bitterness hastens the ageing process.
Bitter people create small tight lines above their upper lip because
they have held their mouths as if sucking lemons! The appearance is
that of being “tight lipped”, which might be said to match another
part of their anatomy too. Inside they are holding onto all the
grievances, wrong doings, slights and upsets they believe have come
their way from others. They have not spoken up throughout life and
consequently swallowed “a bitter pill”. Don’t go that way.
" TIP "
Say what you need to say, when you need to say it and in the most
effective, win-win way possible.
! Stop resenting
Resentment is a prison of our own making. We “harbour”
resentments. They sit inside and fester like a disease eating from the
inside out and like bitterness it just leads us down a road of
hopelessness, disappointment and a miserable old age. Families
don’t talk to each other for years, friends fall out and lawyers make
big money. We resent others for having more than us, being more
intelligent than us, being better looking than us – all manner of
reasons. Resentment and envy are first cousins. Stop resenting,
count your blessings and set yourself free! How? Read on.
! Forgive
Forgiveness can seem hard especially when abuse of any kind is a
core issue. However, it is essential to our survival and way forward.
The more we hang onto what happened to us, how bad it was and
how awful life is as a result, the more shrivelled we become. We
lose the capacity to love. Lack of forgiveness keeps us firmly stuck
in the victim groove. We go round and round the same blame cycle.
We all have wounds from the past but constantly licking them stops
them healing. In fact they get infected and we become poisonous to
ourselves and others. So what does forgiveness mean? I have
always thought it a strange word that people seemed to use freely
without subsequently displaying much evidence that anything had
changed. “I forgive you” means nothing if you continue to behave in
a way that is punishing and full of resentment. The dictionary
defines it as “cease to feel angry or resentful towards……”. Then
some years ago I heard this definition which immediately resonated:
Forgiveness is
a) fully letting go of resentment and
b) giving up your right to punish
Bingo! Easy! Not really, but it’s a starting point. So how to proceed
from here?
! Anger release
Before we look at the approach to forgiveness, I want to say
something about anger. The first point is that anger is a visible
defence mechanism and actually covers the real hurt inside. The
more anger you feel, the bigger the hurt waiting to be released. If, as
you are following the forgiveness process below, you feel so angry
you either want to scream or hit something, then I suggest you stop
and do just that….but read how first.
problems Either scream into a pillow or out loud if no-one is
likely to call the police. Hitting something does not
mean yourself, someone else, the door or the wall.
You need to make sure that you are safe. Bashing
the bed is good because it’s usually pretty solid and
can take the impact. A rolling pin or a foam baseball
bat works well. If you don’t have either, then clasp
your hands together (but don’t interlock your
fingers…they might break!)
Caution: Don’t try this if you have back or neck
Kneel upright by the bed and put a support under your
knees if you need to. Then grip the pin or bat firmly in
both hands. Hold your arms straight up above your
head and whack down on the bed in a single stroke.
Repeat this and use your voice as well if you can.
Either vocalise your thoughts or make a
sound…..anything to release the energy that you have
been holding onto for too long. When you feel a
natural sense of exhaustion or release…..stop and lie
on the bed or floor on your left side, to drain released
toxins away from your heart. By then you might find
you are crying from the release, so have some tissues
nearby. When you have recovered, if you still feel
angry do it all again.
Keep coming back to it until you feel the process is
complete but also really work on forgiveness as it is
the ultimate freedom from the hurt inside.
The following format allows you to get clear who you want to
forgive, the cause of your hurt/anger and the % of feeling up to 100%
that you have about the person/issue before you start. Once you have
written the letter, record how you feel and then again after you have
burnt the letter. The whole process can be done all in one go or it
might take you weeks or months to do it. Just go with what feels
right for you.
Name of
person(s) to
% up to
% of
% of
The above is probably self-explanatory but to confirm:
1. Write down the name of the person you feel
bitter/resentful/hateful towards
2. Then the reason for that feeling
3. Out of 100%, allocate the % of feeling right now
4. Next, write them a letter. This letter is not to be posted so
you are free to write anything and everything you want to say
to them. Use as many profanities as you like….only you will
read it.
Note: What you may find as you write is that your mood and
feelings change from anger to hurt to sadness and perhaps back to
anger. Sometimes maybe even happy or reflective. Go with what
comes to you. Don’t censor or edit. Just write. It may take you
several days or weeks or just minutes and it can be anything from
half a page to novel size. Let your instinct guide you rather than
your mind and ego.
5. When you have finished, consider what % you feel now and
write it on the chart. You may never want to re-read the
letter, having written it might be enough. It doesn’t matter
whether you do or don’t.
6. When you feel ready to let go, choose a safe place outdoors to
burn the letter. Fire is ritualistic and a symbol of purification
so burning brings a sense of release and is much more
powerful than just tearing it up and putting it in the bin. Like
the “phoenix from the ashes” we can feel a new sense of
being alive and free.
7. As you watch it burn say “I forgive you and I am reclaiming
my life”. Really immerse yourself in the ceremony of
forgiveness. Afterwards, I recommend that you wish the best
for the person you have just forgiven as it’s powerfully
healing both for you and them at some level.
8. Complete the last % on your list……and get on with life,
maybe even have some fun.
! Laugh
Speaking of fun, when was the last time you had a really good
laugh….one of those side-splitting, belly laughs that leaves you
aching and collapsed in a heap of relaxed exhaustion? Can’t
remember…..pity, because as Robert Holden writes in his book of
the same name “laughter is the best medicine”. It’s a great healer
because it works the respiratory system, various muscle groups and
releases “feel good” endorphins to the brain. We like to be around
people who make us laugh, it’s a heart-opening experience and is
infectious. I remember a workshop where, after a lot of painful
emotions had been released and people were lying down recovering,
the assistants would gently start to laugh. First one person, then
another. Gradually, the laughter got louder until the participants
started to join in. Eventually, everyone….no matter how intense the
previous experience of pain had been, started to laugh. It could go
on for hours and eventually when it subsided everyone felt so much
better and in many cases even saw some humour in their dramatic
Humour can be a lifesaver in many respects from actual physical
illness to everyday life and I have clients whose saving grace is
definitely their ability to see “the funny side”.
" TIPS "
To ensure regular bouts of laughing:
Hire or buy copies of your favourite comedies.
Go to the library and find books that make you laugh
Track down a copy of the very old song “The Laughing
Policeman”. I defy anyone not to get caught up in the
laughter at some point
Remember; “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people”.
(Victor Borge).
Explore your potential
Many people have a sense of wasted potential. “I’m not making the
best use of my talents, skills, brain, abilities etc.” The overall feeling
is of not making the most of life. Don’t be one of them. If you think
you are in the wrong job but don’t know what would suit you best or
are seeking a job for the first time, invest in consulting a career
analyst. After you have completed a series of questionnaires to test a
range of abilities, they will feed back where your strengths lie. They
won’t give you a list of jobs you could do, but the results provide a
good framework within which you can look. It can also save a lot of
time otherwise spent pursuing an inappropriate route for your
“Thinking outside the box” is another way to explore what else
you might be capable of. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut of familiar
comfort even though we have an uncomfortable feeling inside. We
limit ourselves by thinking we can’t, or we don’t have what it takes.
If you have a passion, allow yourself to think how you could pursue
it. Using an arrowgram as shown below, sketch out all the
possibilities, no matter how impractical and outlandish and then start
to seriously consider them. Maybe you need to undertake some
additional training, so get the information you need and see what you
can do to make it happen. It may be to do with leisure, not work, but
the same principles apply. Have some friends round too and enlist
their help…….many minds etc!
Have another read too of the
section on Dare to dream and Set your goals.
The idea of the arrowgram is to free flow with ideas
relating to your passion. Put down anything and
everything you can think of, no matter how seemingly
impossible or unattainable. That way you begin to get
a sense of what you might need to move forward and
gradually you can narrow it down to what is realistic
and attainable – which might be more than you would
have thought.
! Develop creativity
It used to be felt that creativity rather exclusively belonged to those
who worked in “arts” or “crafts” of one sort or another. For example
we don’t often think of scientific research as creative because it
appears to engage the more left brain functions of reason, logic and
analysis and yet there is a lot of creativity within it. In fact it is often
in the moments when the left brain is relaxing, that the greatest
scientific breakthroughs occur. So what is creativity and is everyone
creative? I believe the answer is yes. Most people are operating
creatively a lot of the time without realising it. There is even a
suggested structure for it:
Take for example the process of writing a report or a
presentation. Firstly, you need to know the subject you are writing
about and to jot down ideas on the areas that you want to cover and
their sequence (preparation)….you could use the arrowgram for this.
Unless you are filled with creative flow at that moment, the next
thing to do is to put it aside and do something different. The mind
will still be working on it at some level (incubation). At some point
what you need to write will become clear to you the “aha” moment
(illumination) and you then return to the report and write it with
relative ease. The final part of course is checking it over to make
sure that the information presented is correct (verification).
It took me years to realise that this was the process I needed to
follow. On many occasions I sat staring at a blank piece of paper
waiting for inspiration that didn’t come. However, I began to notice
that once I gave up and did something else, suddenly there would be
a “eureka” moment and the flow would start. Since I realised that, it
has saved hours of angst and wasted time. It’s a bit like trying to
remember someone’s name, it’s only when you give up that it comes
back to you!!
My feeling is that people with a natural creative talent are more
right-brained, ie working more from the emotional side of the brain.
So the key to developing creativity if you believe you are not
“naturally creative” is to make sure that you work with both sides of
the brain. If you do tend to be more on the analytical side, it’s
important to take time to doodle and daydream otherwise you could
end up with a severe case of analysis paralysis as well as a headache.
Part of my recommendation to a scientific research team was to take
time out for daydreaming. As you might imagine it caused much
hilarity, as gazing out of the window doing nothing is generally not
encouraged (remember school days!). However, they took it on board
and combined with team building and think tanks (free flow of
ideas….a bit like the arrowgram) there was a noticeable increase of
! Follow your intuition
Sometimes called “a hunch”, “a notion”, “a sixth sense”, “a sneaking
suspicion”, “an instinct”, “a gut response” or “a funny feeling”,
intuition is our “tuition from within”…..our own “internal expert”.
That part of us that knows everything we need to know and do to
fulfil our highest potential. Yet do we listen rapturously to its
wisdom? Not enough. How often have you ignored a hunch and
afterwards said “I knew it was x, y or z”. Driving and directions
come to mind.
Intuition is a subtle felt sense. When we meet people for the
first time we often get a sense about them. We can’t really explain it,
it’s just there. That sense can be good or bad. Many of my clients
have told me that when they first met their future, and now expartners, they had a sense that it wasn’t right but as the saying goes
“love is blind” and they bypassed the inner expert’s opinion – often
at their peril.
We will also know intuitively if we are in possible danger of
some sort. If you stray into an area that’s not safe, the hackles on the
back of your neck will feel like they are standing on end - that’s
intuition in its heightened form and we need to take heed of it.
" TIP "
Practise listening to your intuition especially when you are making
Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths. Let your
mind wander a bit and then ask yourself clearly “what
would be the best decision on this occasion,
would it be a)………… or b)………….?
immediately you will get a response. Make sure you
listen to the very first thing you hear. Any time lapse
and your mind will take over; it needs to be instant.
Remember too, that you might not hear it as a voice, it
may just be a strongly felt sense.
This next idea might seem really trivial but maybe you’ve done it
too. Sometimes, if I just can’t make up my mind about what dessert
to choose, I’ll toss a coin. If I have allocated “heads” to the
chocolate and “tails” to the lemon and it falls on “tails”, I know
instantly if I really wanted the chocolate all along! It can be applied
to all manner of things involving choice. So as I said before, we
know everything we need to know if we just listen.
! Trust your knowingness
I put “knowingness” at a level above intuition. Sometimes we just
know what seems beyond knowledge. It somehow just has a
resonance of truth that can’t be ignored….so don’t ignore it. Trust.
Flow with the River of Life
You might have seen the pictures of salmon making huge leaps
upstream once a year so as to mate. They use all their huge strength
to battle against the tides of water torrenting towards them. They
eventually arrive at their destination exhausted. Some recover and
reach their goal of furthering the salmon population, but others die
from their efforts. Humans remind me of salmon.
We spend a lot of time pushing against the natural flow of life,
struggling to get uphill. Often it’s fear driven, the sense of “if it
doesn’t happen now, it might never happen”….the eternal “what
if’s”. Or we build large wooden dams across the river as barriers
against whatever our fear is, and whilst the river will still flow, the
more dams, the more chance of just a trickle at the end.
I always recommend flowing with the river. If I am trying to
achieve something, contact someone, get somewhere and it isn’t
working out, I recognise that in that moment, I am “pushing water
uphill” and immediately stop. That way I don’t get frustrated and
irritable. I just trust that it’s not the right moment for whatever reason
and try another time when interestingly it usually works straight
" TIP "
Don’t waste your precious life energy “pushing water uphill”. If
“X” isn’t working out, stop and try later.
In many ways the whole of this book so far has been to do with
maximising health and well-being. Previously the emphasis has been
more on the mind and emotions than the body. However, because
living a healthy and fulfilled life requires a holistic balance between
all three, this chapter combines comprehensive guidance on the
influences of stress, relaxation, exercise, diet and nutrition with
practical input on getting through your day.
An important place to start seems to be with understanding how
the physical symptoms of stress are usually driven by mental and
emotional pressures. The crucial point here is the link straight back
to what you have already been reading which is that the mind
doesn’t know the difference between fact or fiction. What this
means in terms of stress is that we have far more control over our
health and well-being than is usually suggested. What frequently
happens is that just the symptoms are treated, rather than the cause
and the general advice is often no more than to “take it easy and
So my aim is to bring clarity to this confusing subject, because
even though we are told that it now costs industry ВЈ340m a year in
absence, litigation and health bills, for most people the links between
stress, illness, heart disease, depression and death, still seem very
The physiology of stress
When we are confronted by a real or potentially life threatening
situation, our bodies prepare us for what is called fight or flight ie:
we are supposed to be presented with the option to either stand and
fight or run like the wind. The external physical symptoms we
experience at this point are likely to be some or all of the following:
Racing heart
Rapid Breathing
Feeling Sick
Need for the toilet
The reason for these is that internally a sophisticated warning system
has been activated leading to the immediate release of a “chemical
cocktail” containing adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol, with each
performing a different function within the body to enhance the speed
of our reactions to danger, and determine our choice of fight or
The following gives an indication of what is happening….
Blood thickens
Liver releases:
-sugar, cholesterol +
fatty acids into
blood for increased
energy supply
Heartbeat races
air supply
Digestive tract
Pain killing facility
Digestive tract
shuts down ie:
- bladder
- bowel
- stomach
- intestines
Thyroid hormone
speeds metabolism
to burn energy
and the following chart shows you which cocktail component
controls which function and how, although these reactions are
beneficial in a real life threatening situation, they are not great on a
daily basis.
Life Threatening
Day in/day out
Blood thickens
Less likely to bleed to
death in the event of
Constantly thickened
blood could lead to an
increased risk of heart
problems and
Racing heartbeat
Very good to speed
the body’s responses
to deal with danger
Dependent on the
regularity of an
increase, this could lead
to heart problems.
Increased air supply
Helps the blood flow
more efficiently
around the body
When we are stressed
we tend to shallow
breathe and therefore
are doing the opposite
of what our body
requires. End result can
be hyperventilation,
over breathing and
panic attacks.
Immune responses
Energy is needed for
other areas so no
problem for immune
system to go on hold
in the short term
We need our immune
system to defend us
from illness. If our
systems are constantly
“on hold” they get
depleted and we don’t
have resources when
Life Threatening
Day in/day out
A morphine like effect
that stops us feeling a
high degree of pain in
the event of injury.
Linked with the
experience called
“Runners High”….the
elated feeling of
breaking through a pain
barrier. Also the “buzz”
element of exercise and
workaholics. Long term
it reduces the
effectiveness of our
senses which need to be
heightened when we are
faced with danger
Tells the liver to
release sugar,
cholesterol and fatty
acids into the blood
for intense energy
supply. This is when
super human feats
can occur, like women
lifting cars from
children. The body is
at its most powerful at
this point.
Day in/day out this
process is still occurring
to some degree or
another. Combined
with the sugar,
cholesterol and fatty
acids we ingest through
food, we literally end up
“stewing in our own
juices” with possible
end results of clogged
arteries, diabetes, heart
problems, obesity and
Pain killing facility
Heavy duty steroid
Now, as I’ll repeat again, the mind doesn’t know the difference
between fact or fiction, so if your “life threatening situation is the
stress of work overload, domestic problems or financial worries,
your inner responses will be exactly the same.
For example, imagine that you can chart your responses on the
following scale where 0 means you are relaxed and calm whilst 10
means climbing the walls.
Severe Stress
! 10
Where you are on that scale will depend on what you make
situations mean. If, for example you are not bothered having a huge
amount of work and then being asked to take on more, your rating
would probably be 0-2. If however you already felt stretched to
breaking point, this would probably take you close to 10.
! The good news
I said earlier that we can have a lot more control over our health and
well-being than is often suggested and the following explains why.
As you might suspect, the mind plays a part.
Let’s use the example of a pending holiday. Even though you
may be overloaded and having to work longer hours to clear work
before you go away, you do so willingly because you know that at
the end you can relax. You might feel exhausted but it’s a healthy
exhausted accompanied by a sense of achievement. In effect what
you did was have a word with yourself to say that you needed to get
everything done in time and your body responded by letting you keep
going until you had finished. This is known as a self generated
response and is what happens when we feel we are in control of a
On the other hand, an imposed response is what happens when
we feel swamped by a situation, don’t know how to handle it and
therefore feel out of control. We become burdened by the “I have
to’s” or “I can’t escape from”. Effectively our emotions take over
and we experience the amygdala hijack I mentioned right at the start
of the book. The effect of that hijack is the production of less
adrenalin and more cortisol ie: sugar, cholesterol and fatty acids,
with the long term increased risk of heart problems. With the self
generated response we produce more adrenalin and less cortisol.
So the solution is learning to manage your emotions, handle
your pressures and communicate effectively by utilising many or all
of what you have read so far and combining it with the following
practical tips for getting through your day. That way your cup stands
a better chance of being half full instead of half empty.
Getting through the day
! Morning kickstart (possibilities)
• Exercise…….. wakes the body up
• Meditation……..calms and focuses the mind
! Travelling to work by car
• Breathe!
• If you like to listen to the news, this is the time to do it.
• Listen to upbeat music (preferably not rock or heavy metal as
it’s linked to creating aggressive feelings)
• Listen to motivational cassettes/CD’s (in the car or at home
as you prepare for your day)
• Listen to talking books on cassettes or CD’s.
• If you like a gentle start to the day, listen to more peaceful
• If you drive to work through lovely countryside, notice it for
a change
• If you like to think ahead to your day, have silence
Travelling to work by train
Meditate (see Chapter 3)
Look out of the window
Plan your day
Read a book/paper
Listen to motivational cassettes/CD’s, books, upbeat music,
peaceful music
! Walking to work
• Breathe! (not too deeply if there is heavy traffic)
• Listen to motivational cassettes/CD’s, books, upbeat music,
peaceful music
• If you have pleasant surroundings, walk in silence and enjoy
• Plan your day in your head or use a dictaphone
! Working at home
• Breathe!
If you have young children, none of the above will be particularly
helpful. If you don’t, any number of them could be.
Taking breaks
At some point in the day, get out and have a breath of fresh air even
if it’s only 5 minutes. Meditation is also good if you can find a quiet
place. When I worked in an office, I used to go and sit in my car for
10-15 minutes and felt much more refreshed afterwards. Have a
light lunch, and then if you’re hungry by mid-afternoon and don’t
have a nut allergy, snack on almonds or walnuts, peanuts are too
acidic. If you do have a nut allergy, try a banana.
The same format can apply if you work from home but again it
will be a lot more difficult, if not impossible with young children,
unless you are fortunate enough to have some home help.
End of Day
Some Don’ts:
• Don’t listen to the news on the way home from work or at
the end of the day. It over stimulates what is probably
already a tired mind and if it is negative news, which most
of it is, you carry that into your evening.
• Don’t watch violent programmes too close to bedtime as you
take the images into your sleep state
• Don’t work on the computer (even playing games) too close
to bedtime; it over stimulates the mind
• Don’t eat too late in the evening if you can avoid it as there
will be insufficient time to digest the food before sleep
• Don’t drink too much alcohol; you’ll feel rubbish in the
• Don’t go to sleep on an argument, row or upset
Some Do’s
• Do any office work you might have brought home, after a
short break and before you eat, because afterwards, when
your body is digesting the food, you will become more
• Do talk to your partner if you have one
• Do spend some time with your children if you have them
• Do drink some water during the evening but not too close
to bedtime for obvious reasons
• Do have a relaxing bath if you have time. A few drops of
Lavender oil will help you sleep better
• Do try and relax before you go to sleep
Work through all the areas of your body from your
head to toes, stretching and releasing. With each
area; neck, shoulders, arms, legs etc, do the following
1 Maximum stretch, hold and let go
2 Medium stretch, hold and let go
3 Minimum stretch, hold and let go.
I recommend stretching and releasing rather than
tensing and releasing because it is much harder to
release fully from tensing than it is from stretching,
especially if you have a fairly high level of tension held
in your body to start with.
Another option: If you have a partner: make love. If
not, try self-love!
Time management
Try these.
! Energy log
Are you a Lark or an Owl? Is your peak energy first thing in the
morning or in the evening?
We all have different highs and lows of energy throughout the
day and recognising yours can make a real difference. For example,
if you are a Lark with pretty high energy first thing in the day, do the
work that requires brain power. More men than women tend to be
Larks and often start work very early for that reason. It will usually
be men who suggest a 7am breakfast meeting rather than a woman
who might suggest lunch. I am definitely an Owl and often do my
best work from 10pm onwards when my husband, who was “up with
the lark” is falling asleep. Begin to notice when the regular dips
occur. Traditionally, it’s often been around mid-morning and midafternoon which is how “elevenses” and afternoon tea came into
being. However, with the increase in flexible working and shift
hours this may not be true for you. At some point in the day, most
people have a noticeable downturn in energy. This is a good time to
tackle the more mundane things of your day.
Mon Tues Wed Thurs Friday Saturday Sunday
Mid am
Mid pm
"" = very good " = good ! = low and !! = very
low. You could also jot down the times of the double
ticks and crosses so as to pinpoint it even more.
! Action Planning
Action planning is essential for an ordered and less stressful life and
this applies whether you are in an office or at home because if you
don’t know what you are doing and when you are going to do it,
chances are that you’ll end up with severe overload and confusion.
Make your plan during a peak energy time so that you can
remember everything necessary.
Create a Master Plan
This is your “umbrella” plan and contains everything
you can think of that needs doing in the long and short
$ TIP $
Write this in blocks of 10. That way even though it might be long, it
won’t feel as psychologically insurmountable.
Monthly Plan
Break the master plan into a monthly plan and again
don’t put more than 10 items per block.
Weekly Plan
Same as monthly
Daily Plan
With the daily plan, write it in no more than blocks of 6
$ TIP 1 $
End each block with a reminder to breathe, smile, take a break personally, I like smiley faces and hearts!
$ TIP 2 $
Plan ahead for deadlines and prioritise accordingly
$ TIP 3 $
Allow some time for interruptions but don’t always be available
$ TIP 4 $
Occasionally put the phone on voicemail, but allow time to return
$ TIP 5 $
However long you think something is going to take, double it
$ TIP 6 $
Cross out each item when complete, it’s a visible sign of
$ TIP 7 $
Carry forward unactioned points to the next day and put them at the
top of the list
! Meetings
More time is wasted in meetings than anywhere else but it doesn’t
have to be.
$ TIP $
If someone requests a meeting with you, ask them how long they
want to schedule and ask to receive an agenda for the items to be
discussed at least 2-3 hours before the meeting is due. That will
focus their minds and help you to decide what you need and how
much time to allow for pre-meeting preparation.
$ TIP $
Mentally schedule an extra fifteen minutes “just in case” but keep it
to yourself.
$ TIP $
When the person(s) arrives for the meeting, restate how much time
has been scheduled, then take off your watch and place it on the
This last tip might seem a little aggressive but again it’s a great
mind focuser and people will become used to your way of operating.
If you have to go into your “mental 15 minutes”, remind people that
time is up and suggest rescheduling for another occasion, otherwise
all your good efforts will be wasted and people won’t take it
seriously. We need to “say what we do and do what we
say”………set and keep boundaries.
“All work and no play makes us dull”. So create time to relax and
play. Relaxation doesn’t have to be passive, it means doing whatever
makes you feel better which can range from playing with your kids,
doing a regular sport, meeting up with friends, spending quality time
with your partner, going clubbing, eating out….etc. You’ll know
what it is, you just have to make time to do it. Think outside the box
occasionally too and do something different, after all “variety is the
spice of life” and “nothing ventured, nothing gained”.
“Me time”
Anyone in a relationship will know how important it is to get some
time for themselves. Where there is more than just a partner to
consider, it’s even more important to negotiate this otherwise, if you
just take the time anyway, resentment will build. Both parties must
have some time to do what they want, even if it’s only for an hour a
$ TIP $
If one partner looks after the children all day, there will usually be a
strong desire to hand them over as soon as the other partner walks
through the door. This is actually not good strategy either way as the
incoming partner needs to adjust and if they take over the minute
they arrive, they may be there in body but not in mind or spirit. If
you are the incoming partner, negotiate for a 10-15 minute
breather. Take that time to be by yourself and collect your
thoughts. At the end, you can then do whatever is needed with a
more willing heart, which will ultimately benefit all of you.
My motto: A little of what you fancy does you good and all things
in moderation. So a Gin every evening is fine as long as it’s not the
There has been a mass of health promotion work over the past
decade and I believe that most people have a good idea of what is
healthy and what isn’t. Whilst I could virtually write another book
about nutrition, I’m going to limit myself to a few key pointers that I
hope you will find useful.
! Liquids
Coffee/Tea: Coffee is a stimulant. If we feel tired, a coffee
injection may indeed wake up for a while when the sudden rush of
adrenalin kicks in. However, very quickly, we will dip again and
feel more tired than before. The recommended daily intake for
caffeine (WHO*) is not more than 600 mgs which won’t mean much
until you know the caffeine levels of different drinks. Here is a
Fresh brew coffee: 125 –150 mgs (cup) so max: 4-6 cups daily
75- 85 mgs (cup) so max 6-8 cups daily
as for instant coffee
Note: The caffeine from one cup of coffee stays in your system for 6
hours, so the more you drink, the more of a knock-on effect you’ll
experience. One outcome could well be poor sleep because your
body is still swimming in caffeine!
Note: You could switch to decaffeinated but again use moderation
as some of the processes used to remove the caffeine involve
chemicals used for paint stripping and dry cleaning.
$ TIP $
If you drink well in excess of the above recommendations and want
to cut down… just that….cut down, gradually. DO NOT just
stop drinking coffee as the withdrawal effects are pretty unpleasant
and can include severe headaches, shaking, sweating, nausea,
dizziness and heightened irritability.
Alternatives: Herb or Fruit Teas, diluted low sugar fruit juice. Plain
water….preferably still and not too cold.
Chocolate: Chocolate is another energy booster but like coffee, it’s
a short term fix. Whilst the chemical “phenylethylamine” might
make you feel good (that’s why chocolate is linked with love and
comfort), it is usually very high in sugar and generally not good for
your body, heart etc. The purest chocolate is that which has over
80% cocoa.
Alternative: A banana, provides slow release energy, which is why
it’s a favourite with long distance runners. It also contains
potassium which aids clear thinking and assists in reducing blood
Fizzy drinks: Again not great as they are usually very high in sugar.
I have read that one well-known brand is used to clean car engines
and blood from roads after car accidents… I don’t imagine it
would be great for our bodies.
Alternative: as for coffee etc
Boring for some, essential for all of us. Daily
recommendations are 6 – 8 large glasses or between 1 ½ - 2 litres. It
sounds a lot and you might think you’ll spend most of your time in
the loo. You might initially, but the body is amazingly adaptable and
your kidneys will quickly adjust.
Note: Lack of water is the No.1 trigger for daytime fatigue and even
mild dehydration will slow the metabolism as much as 3%.
Key Note: 8 – 10 glasses of water a day could ease back and joint
pain. WHY? – because when the body is dehydrated, it scans
internally to see where it can get liquid from and one place is the
fluid between the vertebrae of the spine and our joints!!
! Vitamins
There are varying views about the need for supplements. One view
is that if you eat a healthy balance of food, you don’t need additional
vitamins. The other, which I subscribe to, is that so much food is
tampered with in the manufacturing process, that it doesn’t contain
adequate nutrition. Also, busy lifestyles often mean that we eat on
the run and therefore don’t always achieve the right balance.
If you consider buying supplements a good combination would
probably be:
An all round multivitamin and mineral (timed release)
Additional Vitamin C (1000mg)
Omega 3 Oil Capsules
Or alternatively, if you feel you are very stressed and tired out:
An all round multivitamin and mineral (timed release)
B Complex with added Vitamin C
Omega 3 Oil Capsules
! What vitamins do what?
Needed for our immune system which gets depleted with
$ TIP $
If you feel a cold coming on take between 3000 – 4000 mgs.
which will give the immune system a boost and might help
deter the cold from taking hold.
CAUTION: If you suffer from indigestion or an acid
stomach, avoid Vitamin C other than through
fruit/vegetables, because Vitamin C is ascorbic acid and will
irritate your condition.
The “B” Group vitamins (B complex) are a particularly
important link in stress management as they are needed to
support our red blood cells and our central nervous system.
B6 is reported to help with pre-menstrual syndrome and B12
gives additional support for vegetarians.
NOTE 1: Don’t take B Vitamins at night as they could keep
you awake
NOTE 2: Don’t be concerned that your urine will probably
be bright yellow
Omega 3
If you eat an oily fish 2-3 times a week (sardines, fresh tuna
(canned can contain mercury), salmon and mackerel) you
won’t need a supplement. If not, it could be beneficial as
omega-3 fatty acids help prevent heart disease and assist
brain cells to communicate. Just like a piece of machinery,
we need to keep ours “well oiled”.
$ TIP $
If you buy supplements check that they are naturally compressed as
opposed to synthetic which will lack the same impact.
$ TIP $
Avoid vitamins with a glossy coating as it means they have been
baked at more than 100 degrees C. and again will lack impact
So those are a few key vitamins but if you want to know more, there
is recommended reading at the end of the book.
Only do what you enjoy. The recommendations are 3 – 5 times
weekly to achieve mild sweating and breathlessness. The aim is to
build strength, stamina and suppleness for which the best exercise is
Whichever exercise you decide on particularly if it’s cardiovascular (raises your heart rate), you need to know the safe working
range for your heart which varies and changes according to your age
and fitness level. So start by taking your pulse.
The best way to get an accurate pulse is to count the
beats for 10 seconds and multiply the result by 6
which gives you the beats per minute (bpm).
The two key pulse areas are a) across the inside of
the wrist just above the wrist joint and b) the carotid
artery (located on your neck slightly to the right of
your upper jaw. Don’t press too hard as it will block
the blood flow and you won’t feel the pulse).
Now you know your pulse, you need to know your heart rate range
which will be dependent on a) your age and b) whether you exercise
regularly or irregularly. It is very important to make sure you know
these ranges before you start any exercise routine.
For beginners or those who take irregular exercise
Lower heart rate range ( LHRR )
Lowest !
Calculation for
the lowest level
of this range:
200 minus your
age, minus 40 =
Calculation for
the highest level
of this range:
200 minus your
age, minus 20 =
Example: If you are 35 your LHRR will be 125 –
145 beats per minute.
For regular exercisers ie: several times a week
Upper heart rate range ( UHRR )
Lowest !
!! Highest
Calculation for
the lowest level
of this range:
200 minus your
age, minus 20 =
Calculation for
the highest level
of this range:
200 minus your
Example: If you are 35 your UHRR will be 145 –
165 beats per minute.
The final safety stage before you start your exercise programme is to
test your cardio-vascular abilities. This can be done at a gym but you
can do it yourself.
Have your LHRR details and a timer to hand.
1 Start by gently jogging on the spot until you feel
slightly breathless
2 Take your pulse and check that you are within your
LHRR range
If you have exceeded the maximum
level…….be very careful. Do not sit down unless you
feel dizzy, just keep gently walking on the spot for
several minutes. Then stop and check that your pulse
is now 30-40 beats lower than your maximum level. If
it isn’t, keep walking on the spot and re-checking until
it is. I would then suggest that you check with your
doctor before you undertake more exercise, just to be
on the safe side.
3 Keep walking on the spot for one minute and then
check your pulse again. A good recovery rate is
indicated if, within one minute of your first check
after stopping jogging, your pulse is between 30-40
beats lower. If so, then you can repeat the process.
However, if it is higher, keep moving slowly and rechecking until it reaches the 30-40 beats per minute
lower before starting again.
Once you have done this a number of times you will then be ready to
undertake whatever workout system you have decided on. Don’t
forget to check again from time to time so as not to overtax your
heart and remember that with every birthday, you will need to recalculate your ranges.
The following summarises what are considered to be the key
components of a successful stress management package.
Mental relaxation
Physical exercise
Social interests
Work/life balance
Time Management
Positive mental attitude
All these areas are of course contained in this book so as to provide a
comprehensive and balanced set of guidelines on “how to do life”.
Concluding thoughts
I referred to this book as a journey and as it draws to an end, I want
to say that everything I have written in this book really works
because not only do I “walk my talk” but it has been shared and
tested by huge numbers of the wonderful people I have worked with
over the past 30 years. However, like anything worth having in life it
usually requires some input and commitment by us, but with the
world the way it is, I passionately believe that an emphasis on
personal responsibility is not only essential – it is the only way
forward. Blame and intolerance between people, cultures and
nations is the root cause of problems everywhere and the inability to
communicate effectively is a prime cause of global conflict.
That conflict could be avoided or dealt with if people were more
willing to open their hearts and minds to others and see that those
whom we believe to be wrong are often just mirrors of the shadow
inside us that we’d rather not look at. We want them to see the light
when we are not willing to look at our own darkness. Ultimately, at
another level we are all just different aspects of the same whole and
this is witnessed during those times when we transcend the smallness
of everyday life and give to others in the most amazingly generous
and compassionate ways. These are often times of crisis when the
world pulls together and for a short while sets aside its differences
and prejudices.
If what you have read in this book makes sense and you take on
board just one aspect that makes a difference to you, then you will
make a difference to someone else – and the knock-on effect of that
is to make a difference to the world because “the whole is greater
than the sum of its parts”.
However, it starts with us. We all need to look within, see what
we do and why we do it. Only then can we take the necessary steps
to be more emotionally intelligent and create effective, positive,
fulfilling and harmonious relationships in all areas of life, be that
with partners, families, friends, in the workplace or between nations
because inner peace = world peace.
Finally …….a little something more
The following might be a useful check to see how you are doing
from time to time.
Some signs and symptoms of Inner Peace
A tendency to think and act spontaneously rather than on fears
based on past experience
An unmistakeable ability to enjoy each moment
A loss of interest in judging other people
A loss of interest in interpreting the actions of others
A loss of interest in conflict
A loss of the ability to worry (This is a very serious symptom!)
Frequent, overwhelming episodes of appreciation
Contented feelings of connectedness with others and nature
Frequent attacks of smiling
An increasing tendency to let things happen rather than make them
An increased susceptibility to the love extended by others as well as
the uncontrollable urge to love them back
and….I also thought that these could be a useful reminder for quick
Guidelines for Being Human
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it is yours
for the entire time you are here so it’s best if you love it.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full time informal
school called life. Each day in this school you will have the
opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them
irrelevant or stupid.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial,
error and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a
part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works”.
4. A lesson is repeated until it is learned. A lesson will be presented
to you in various forms until you have learnt it. When you have
learnt it you can then on to the next lesson.
5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does
not contain its lessons. If you are alive there are lessons to be
6. There is no better place than “here”. When your “there” has
become “here” you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again,
look better than “here”.
7. Others are reflections of you. You cannot love or hate something
about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or
hate about yourself.
8. What you make of your life is entirely up to you. You have all the
tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you.
The choice is, and always has been, yours.
9. Your answers lie inside you. The answers to all life’s questions lie
inside you. You already know all the answers. All you need to do is
to look, listen (really listen), and trust.
10. You will forget all this.
THE 3 C’s
Chapter 1 Communication
The Transactional Manager
Working it out at work
He says, she says
Men are from Mars, women are from
When your kids push your buttons
Parenting Teenagers
How to talk so kids will listen and
listen so kids will talk
Enlightened management
Abe Wagner
Julie Hay
Dr. Lilian Glass
John Gray
Bonnie Harris
Bob Myers
Adele Faber and Elaine
Gerald Swanson &
Robert Oats
Dealing with people you can’t stand
Brinkman & Kirschner
The influential manager
Lee Bryce
The one minute manager
Ken Blanchard
Body language
Allan Pease
The individual psychology of Alfred Adler H & R. Ansbacher
Chapter 2 Self-awareness
Emotional Intelligence
The New Leaders
Emotional Smarts
Awakening the leader within
Leadership from the inside out
Your body speaks your mind
The body-mind workbook
Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman
June Donaldson
Kevin Cashman
Kevin Cashman
Debbie Shapiro
Debbie Shapiro
Chapter 3 The Mind
The Power of Now
The Stillness of Now
What’s on my mind?
Positive thinking
Eckhart Tolle
Eckhart Tolle
Swami Anantananda
Vera Peiffer
How to stop worrying and start living
All in the mind
Use your head
Creative Visualisation
Creative meditation
The heart of meditation
Mind over matter
The power of creative intelligence
Speed reading
Harnessing the para-brain
Dale Carnegie
Bran Roet
Tony Buzan
Shakti Gawain
Richard Peterson
Swami Durgananda
Ranulph Fiennes
Tony Buzan
Tony Buzan
Tony Buzan
Chapter 4 Relationships
The essential Mars & Venus
Embracing ourselves
Embracing each other
Beginning to heal
When I say no, I feel guilty
Toxic parents
Obsessive love
Assertiveness at work
Developing Assertiveness
Assert yourself
A woman in your own right
Dare to Connect
John Gray
Stone & Winkelman
Stone & Winkelman
Ellen Bass and Laura
Manuel J.Smith
Dr. Susan Forward
Dr. Susan Forward
Ken and Kate Back
Anni Townend
Gael Lindenfield
Anne Dickinson
Susan Jeffers
Chapter 5 Enhancing your life
Everyday Grace
The intuition handbook
Boundless Love
How to mind map
Making Friends
Being Happy
End the struggle and dance with life
Marianne Williamson
Judy Hall
Miranda Holden
Tony Buzan
Andrew Matthews
Andrew Matthews
Susan Jeffers
You can heal your life
Anatomy of an illness
Anatomy of the spirit
The Camino
The Celestine Prophecy
The work you were born to do
Laughter – the best medicine
Radical forgiveness
Practical aromatherapy
Take yourself to the top
Take charge of your life
Unlimited power
The way of the peaceful warrior
Silent power
Confidence works
The Path of Transformation
Louise L. Hay
Norman Cousins
Caroline Myss
Maxwell Maltz
Shirley Maclaine
James Redfield
Nick Williams
Robert Holden
Colin Tipping
Shirley Price
Laura Berman Fortgang
Louis Proto
Anthony Robbins
Dan Millman
Stuart Wilde
Gladeana McMahon
Shakti Gawain
Chapter 6 Maximising health and well-being
Your body’s many cries for water
Optimum Nutrition for the mind
Total stress relief
Managing stress
The book of stress survival
The joy of stress
How to live longer and feel better
Simply brilliant
Vitamin vitality
The Ultimate ACE Diet
The vitamin bible
Dr. F.Batmanghelidj
Patrick Holford
Vera Peiffer
Ursula Markham
Tom Crabtree
Alix Kirsta
Dr. Peter Hanson
Linus Pauling
Fergus O’Connell
Patrick Holford
Janette Marshall
Earl Mindell
For Men
Fire in the belly
Sam Keen
Angry men, passive men
Iron John
The secret life of men
Marvin Allan & Joe
Robert Bly
Steve Biddulph
For Women
Opening our hearts to men
Women who run with the wolves
Men who hate them and the women
who love them
10 Stupid things that women do to mess
up their lives
Susan Jeffers
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Dr. Susan Forward
Laura Schlessinger
A few of my personal favourites
A stranger in paradise
The way of the peaceful warrior
Living in the light
The wheel of life
Life lessons
Love, medicine and miracles
Simple abundance
Man’s search for meaning
Full catastrophe living
Useful addresses:
House of Colour (Image Consultants),
0800 318 526 or
01923 211 188
Amazon Books,
Julie Chimes
Dan Millman
Shakti Gawain
E. Kubler-Ross
E. Kubler-Ross
Bernie Siegel
Sarah Ban Breathnach
Victor E. Frankl
John Kabat-Zinn
Cygnus Books,
Tel: 0845 456 1577
Institute of Optimum Nutrition,
Tel: 020 8877 9993
The National Register of Hypnotherapists and Psychotherapists,
Tel: 01282 716839
The British Association of Counselling & Psychotherapy,
Tel: 0870 443 5252
Professional Speakers Association,
Tel: 0870 330 0504
The International Stress Management Association,
Tel: 07000 780430
The Samaritans,
Tel: 08457 90 90 90
Siddha Yoga Bookstore,
SYDA Foundation
UK: 020 7278 0035
USA: 001 845 434 2000
Ever since childhood, I have had a thirst for knowledge and an
interest in people and what makes them tick. At school I seemed to
be the one that other children would share their concerns with and
throughout my life virtual strangers seem compelled to tell me their
life story. Combine that with my own upbringing which was a mix
of drama, violence and emotional turmoil and it’s probably no real
surprise that my two main career choices have been human resources
and psychotherapy. My own healing and development journey has
been through therapy, body work, workshops and inspirational books
and every year I participate in some form of personal growth as well
as regularly practising Siddha Yoga meditation. All of these assist
my journey and at the same time, help others on theirs.
So everything in this book is an offering from my own experience
and that of my clients – which is why I know it works. There are no
hollow words or shallow sentiments – just a heartfelt desire to
contribute to others’ growth and well-being. If only one person reads
this book and it makes a positive difference to them in some way,
then my vision is attained.
Perry has two grown up stepsons and lives with her husband, John GlosterSmith in Wiltshire. Together they are partners in The Empowering
Partnership which offers a range of services to business and individuals.
They regularly facilitate a number of psycho-spiritual self-development
workshops throughout the UK and Europe.
Perry has also recorded a relaxation CD to replace the cassette previously
Full details of all their work are available on their website:
Perry is a member of the National Register of Hypnotherapists and
Psychotherapists; the International Stress Management Association (UK); the
Professional Speakers Association and as an individual member of the British
Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy she is bound by its ethical
framework for good practice in Counselling and Psychotherapy and subject to the
professional conduct procedure therein.
File Size
2 515 KB
Report inappropriate content