Down Town at Downton Abbey

November 9th, 2011 by Alison

Like millions of others I’ve been gripped at 9pm on a Sunday evening by the goings on at Downton Abbey.  Set in Newbury at Highclere Castle, the setting is superb.  Apparently the last episode of series two took the best ever viewings, at 10.7 million, for a drama on TV in the last decade.

So what is it that causes so many of us to sit, glass of red in one hand and cheese and onion flavoured crisps  in the other, goggled eyed at our television sets? For me it’s about the luxurious grandeur of a stately home, the attention to detail with the costumes and the differences in character of the cast, both upstairs and down. But most of all, it’s about relationships: relationships between lovers who seem to bumble from one disaster to the next.

There’s the ongoing saga of Mary and Matthew, why can’t they just get it together? Then there’s Lord and Lady Grantham, just how did he become mixed up with the maid, Jane? What of Sybil and the chauffeur- will love triumph over class difference? And then there’s Mr Bates and Anna- the couple we have longed to see finally tie the knot only for the groom to be snatched away days after his wedding by police.

As a relationship therapist what do I make of this? Surprisingly or not, my work involves helping people just like Mary and Matthew, Lord and Lady Grantham, Sybil and the chauffeur and Mr and Mrs Bates. It also means working with people like Edith who seem to have little success in finding love. Many of the issues clients talk to me about are connected with attachment and connection, misunderstandings around communication and current and past hurts which seem to get in the way of their relationship. The way I work with people varies enormously, there is no magic formula to finding answers, and only a willingness to commit to working together will yield results.

I’d relish the opportunity to work at Downton Abbey; I’d be delighted to see Edith find true love, to help Mary and Matthew sort out their complex situation and to see Lord and Lady Grantham back on track in their marriage, as well of course, to see Bates and Anna reunited. And yet, I can only do so much, the choices always belong to the clients. Whilst I can help people understand themselves, each other and their relationship in more depth, what they do with that understanding is up to them. My role is to facilitate change, not make decisions for my clients. So with this in mind, whilst Mary and Mathew might gain greater insight into why they have such a complicated relationship, the choice to pursue it remains with them.  Or in their case, the script writers!

Soul Sisters

November 8th, 2011 by Alison

The word soul refers not only to the non physical part of womankind but also the physical part.  In its most basic sense,the word soul means “life.” The soul is the center of many spiritual and emotional experiences and is our horizontal view with the world. In essence it is the deep part of our being that connects our inner self with the world around us.  The soul can experience ‘spirituality’ in the form of deep joy such as true love in relationships, beauty, nature, the arts to name a few.  When the spirit and soul are both in unity the results are spectacularly awesome!

If you live at a superficial level trying to find quick fixes, you won’t be able to hear the sound of your soul speaking to you. However, if you quiet your mind, and tune in to that still small voice, you can listen to what it is saying. You might even be surprised at the depth of meaning you hear.  There may be allsorts of thoughts that come to mind about relationships, appreciation of beauty and nature, purpose and meaning in your life.  It is this very profound level of thinking that causes many to avoid listening in the first place.  They are afraid of what they might see; afraid of being confronted with a life devoid of ignificance, aimlessly traveling through time and beyond.

Before you feel totally depressed, let me share the good news.  And what fabulous news it is too. No matter what your current level of fulfillment or life satisfaction, you can choose a higher level.  There is an infinite quota for fullness.  The brain, as already discussed in ‘Mind Blowing’, influences our thoughts and feelings. In relation to purpose and meaning, it is the anterior part of the frontal lobe.  When there is a sense of purpose and meaning in our lives, this part of the brain is active. It is interesting to note that in people with depression, this part of the brain shows little activity.

My husband told me a true story of a lady, let’s call her Diana, who was on the verge of suicide.  She agreed to see a coach.  As a result, Diana’s thinking revealed that she was entirely focused on what her life was not and the lack of meaning in it.  The coach asked Diana questions which prompted her to think about what was good in her life in the past.  She had been an artist but due to a variety of circumstances she no longer painted. What Diana hadn’t realised was that without art in her life, there was no passion, no purpose, no meaning.  The coach encouraged her to start painting again. With in a very short time, Diana’s whole persona changed.  She smiled more, her step quickened- joy was back in her life.  She began to teach art to students who went on to blossom. Very quickly Diana’s life had moved from despair to delight and then onto significance. Her soul was ‘alive’ connecting with her own essence and giving out of it to others.  There in lies the key to a contented soul-giving.

The soul is awakened when we first recognise our own passions, joys and delights. By being true to ourselves we can connect with the world around us.  It is strengthened and taken to a new level when we focus on giving of ourselves to others from its resources. It is therefore essential to keep our passion for life alive because only when we search for significance in our lives can our soul be truly satisfied.

Mind blowing!

November 8th, 2011 by Alison

Psychology (the study of the mind) is a growing area and one which all of us can benefit from as we become more aware of it.  For many the power of their mind is irrelevant to them, Homer here is a great example! Yet the consequences of not tapping into that information are huge.  Our minds have the power to shape our future and happiness, negatively or positively.  Without consciously tapping into the psychological vitality we possess, we often hop on the ‘negativity’ bus hoping we will end up at the ‘positive’ bus station.  This rarely happens.

Like any law or principal, there is only one outcome.  Think for a moment about the law of gravity- what goes up must come down.  ‘The Secret’ talks at length about the law of attraction. In essence, the signals we give out with our heart and our mind are the people and events we attract back.  If we live with a negative attitude, then that’s what we will get- negativity and poverty in every sense of the word.  However, if we generate positive thinking we will attract a plethora of wealth in every way.  Sounds too simple to be true?  Believe me, it’s not.  As already explained, with any law there is only one outcome.  The power of your mind will attract negative or positive, bad or good, sadness or happiness.

Another way to look at the power of the mind is with the biblical saying ‘you reap what you sow’.  This is another law of nature.  It is impossible to plant a sunflower seed and reap a harvest of potatoes!  Likewise, you cannot sow anger, resentment or jealousy and reap joy, peace and fulfillment.  It simply will not happen.  Sow a lifetime of kindness, compassion and inner strength and you will reap character, meaningful relationships and joy.

The same principal is also true in areas of confidence, self belief and self acceptance for example.  How many of us repeatedly tell ourselves negative statements like ‘I’ll never be any good at… girls like me don’t… I’ll never be rich…Sandra’s better than me… and so on.  This is sowing the very opposite to what we actually want.  How often do we mentally and verbally confess the outcome we do not want and then proudly announce ‘I told you that would happen’ when it has occurred!  A simple case of reaping and sowing or attracting what our minds have focused on.

It is interesting to note that there are physical aspects to our psychology.  The amygdala, which is part of the brain, is responsible for generating negative emotions.  It is vital that this part of the brain is subdued if positive thoughts are to exist.  This can be done by actively focusing on pleasurable or positive thoughts.  Also, by physically keeping busy the amygdala is kept quiet.

In order to change the outcome to what we do want, it is essential that we consciously and subconsciously focus on the direction we want to go.  Remember that the mind is rather like an iceberg with the larger subconscious operating under the ‘water’, without us even thinking about it. Our minds, in harmony with our heart and soul must be channeled to work for us, not against.  Only then can we achieve mind blowing results.

Here are 7 proven techniques to help you strengthen your mind to achieve the results you want:

1. Focus on what you want, not on what you don’t.  The more you think about what you don’t want, the more you will be attracted towards it. E.g. Donkey in Shrek ‘don’t look down’.  Be like the formula one racing car drivers who keep focused on the track ahead.

2. Lock onto all that you desire for your life and lock out anything that stands in the way.

3. Employ positive confessions.  By positively confessing, mentally and verbally your preferred outcome (and the associated emotions), you will strengthen the pull towards it.

4. Be everything you want to attract in others.  The law of attraction states that they will come to you.

5. Visualise your desired outcomes.  This is an incredibly powerful tool to harness the dynamic effectiveness of the mind.

6. Surround yourself with those people and things that create a positive/ creative/peaceful (etc) influence on your life.

7.  Adopt values which enhance your life and that of others e.g. holding an attitude of gratitude.

 

Heartbeat

November 8th, 2011 by Alison

My favourite all time drama is ‘Heartbeat’.  Filmed and set in North Yorkshire, it recreates the lives of village folk during the 1960’s. It was originally based around a newly married couple, a female doctor and a bobby on the beat.  Hence the apt title ‘heartbeat’.  Sixties music and interlacing long term relationships produce convincing story lines, enjoyable television and of course, invoke my own fond childhood memories.

One of the reasons I have an enduring soft spot for the programme is its title ‘Heartbeat’.  I resonate with the synergy between life and heart.  And let’s face it, without a heartbeat we simply wouldn’t be alive. Yet so many of us live life, simply existing, without allowing our hearts to beat fully and experience all the emotions they were designed to feel.

It may help to think of your ‘heart’ as that part of you that feels, or experiences those aspects of life that invoke great emotion. That part of us which takes us into the realm of the indescribable and sublime. For example, the feeling of falling in love, the joy of bringing a child into the world, the pride and satisfaction of gaining hard earned promotion and the excitement of white water rapid rafting.  It also means that the heart is capable of undergoing much pain and suffering. This too is part of what makes us feel alive and separates us from living robotic, mundane lives.

Perhaps you did give your heart permission to be free once, and got so damaged that you vowed never to do it again. For others, it may be the case that by following your heart you ended up in a whole heap of trouble!  Unforgiveness may have a strong hold on your heart, leading to bitterness and resentment. Many people live their entire lives allowing their heart or emotions to rule.  This is reflected in most ‘soaps’ on the T.V. screen,  jealousy, vengeance, anger and an unfathomable need to be loved to name a few.  All these situations and a host of others are possible. It is therefore highly important that we guard or protect our hearts at all times. This does not mean we keep it so tightly locked that nothing is allowed to go in or come out.  If this happens, we do just exist, life without warmth, exuberance or purpose.  It does mean that we are careful about who and what we expose our hearts to. A balance between experiencing life in its fullness and keeping our emotions under control is vital if we are to master happiness. Maintaining a healthy heartbeat by dealing with situations as they arise, and then laying them to rest is essential for our wellbeing.  It is imperative to learn from past mistakes and circumstances which resulted in heartache of any kind. Employ a filter system that allows people and situations in that match your value system.  Use that same system to give out of your heart to those who will benefit from it.  This is a great opportunity to reassess your value system.  Check that you hold beliefs which will enable you to develop your character whilst maintaining the purity and integrity of your most important life principles. In relation to heart they might include values like:

  • My own personal development/spirituality/health/ well being is a top priority in my life
  • I choose to work through painful episodes, forgiving myself and others
  • Having fun/enjoying myself, for a part of every day, is vital
  • Appreciating my blessings is a daily practice
  • Having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is my ethos
  • Giving of myself to others whenever I can

Maybe your value system is based around protecting yourself because of past hurt.  I know people like this.  They are living incredibly restricted lives based on fear. This is so sad.  And yet, what would happen if they did open their heart to the fullness of what this life has to offer?  How does being hurt in the past mean that they will be hurt again in the future? And even if they are, they can learn how to handle it to become stronger and bigger people.  Surely the potential benefits outweigh any pitfalls along the way.

Perhaps if we focus on these potential benefits it will help us to give our hearts the freedom they need to do their job-beat! So, what do you stand to gain?

  • Fullness
  • Happiness
  • Peace
  • Joy
  • Contentment
  • Confidence
  • Self acceptance
  • Wholeness
  • Good health
  • Potential fulfilled

With these benefits of a fully functioning heartbeat, why choose to live with one that’s pulsating poorly!

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