Challenging Times

Recently I happened to pop into a coffee shop for a coffee and a sandwich and got into a conversation with a fellow male customer.  As our conversation developed he told me that he was unemployed, had high blood-pressure, high cholesterol was depressed and was experiencing insomnia.  His G.P. had prescribed medications for his blood pressure and high cholesterol and had also put him on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets.  He had previously worked for an accountancy firm, but due to the recession, had been laid off with no future prospects of being re-employed.  He told me he was really struggling financially and now did not have the cash to go to his G.P. for monitoring of his medication.  He is awaiting a medical card and has been told that it will take months for his application to be processed.  Neither is he able to afford the different medications and he had decided he would stop taking the medications for his high blood-pressure and high cholesterol; he had also stopped taking his anti-depressants, but had maintained the sleeping tablets as these gave him some relief from his overwhelming anxiety and sense of helplessness and hopelessness. 

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There Is No Blame

I would like to say without ambiguity that I deeply regret any hurt that has arisen for parents in my attempt to open up debate about ways of responding to children – and their parents, teachers and other concerned adults – who have been considered to suffer from a “disorder” called ASD. It seems to me that the hurt has arisen from confusion between “blame” and acknowledgement of influence. I understand that this may seem just a matter of words but, in truth, there is a profound difference between the two; a difference I am seeking here to clarify.

Blame implies intention; it implies a knowing of the effect on the other person; it implies lack of care. My track record as a clinical psychologist over 30 years, as the Founder and Director of the Diploma in Parent Mentoring, and as an author, clearly shows that blame has no place in my response to difficulties in life experienced by any person, in any setting. But it is important to acknowledge the reality that our lives are lived in the context of relationships with one another and the nature of those relationships has a huge influence on the quality of our lives.

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The Challenges of Teaching

There has generally been little consideration of teachers’ psycho-social readiness to teach and, indeed, of students’ psycho-social readiness to learn.  It appears to be the case that not many professionals – not just teachers – are conscious of the fact that their individual interior worlds hugely influence their professional practice.  The truth is that personal effectiveness determines professional effectiveness and affectiveness is the bedrock of effectiveness.  Current programmes for training of managers put personal effectiveness on the top of the training agenda. Sadly, some teachers and managers – albeit unconsciously – can act as if teaching and managing is a series of instrumental actions that have little or nothing to do with relationships and the wellbeing of individual students or employees and, indeed, of individual teachers and managers themselves.

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Each Person is an Island

The saying ‘No man is an island’ masks a deeper and, indeed, an opposite reality – each person is an island (I-land). When a person knows and occupies her own island she brings a maturity and independence to a relationship – to partner, friend, colleague, child, neighbour and service provider.  This reality is contained eloquently in Martin Buber’s (German philosopher/psychotherapist) words:

             “Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique.  It is the duty of every person....to know and consider....that there has never been anyone like her in the world, for if there had been someone like her, there would have been no need for her to be in the world.  Every single person is a new thing in the world and is called upon to fulfil her particularity in this world. Every person’s foremost task is the actualisation of her unique, unprecedented and never recurring potentialities, and not the repetition of something that another, be it even the greatest, has already achieved.”

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Falling In and Out of Love

In the words of the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke it appears that ‘for one human being to love another is the most difficult of all tasks’, and this is true for parents and children, friend and friend, lover and lover and husband and wife. For the purposes of Valentine’s Day I am going to focus on adult relationships. In the USA, 60 per cent of marriages breakdown and, poignantly and significantly, 80 per cent of second marriages end unhappily. Those statistics do not take into account the high percentage of intact unhappy marriages. It is a real conundrum that if, on the one hand, love is the greatest power on earth – the force that sustains human life – how, on the other hand, is it that many relationships are a near-certain prescription for unbelievable pain and emotional devastation?

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