Posted in Weekly Blog

What books mean to me

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So not quite a book group today! We chatted about what we like about reading books and what we get from them.  Books are great for escapism and people talked about enjoying being able to get absorbed into another world, another place, and how amazing it is that all these typed words on a page can so transport us.  We can switch off from everything and not notice the time passing as we can almost experience other smells, sounds and sights and feel strong emotions for and about the characters with whom we travel for as long as it takes us to read a book!

People appreciated a well written book, and sometimes a writing style which is quite minimal and stripped back, leaving aside lavish description, focusing on the raw emotion of the characters which could make for an intensely emotional read.  The group liked books about humanity, coming through adversity and finding hope.  Also important is humour, and at times an easier book, when life is challenging enough sometimes its good to be able to have as someone described it; ‘chewing-gum for the eyes!’

People in the group enjoyed a mix of genres; fantasy, history, romance, inspirational biographies and learning about our deeper selves in the spirit, soul and intuitive places.

We chatted about some of our biggest learning in life that has come from a book, such as realising that you can’t change the world, but you can take action right where you are; to trust intuition; someone had seen a quote that said something like;

“Everyone behaves according to their world as they are experiencing it”.

This generated a bit of discussion about how we tell ourselves a story, in this group we are mindful that we all tell ourselves stories about what’s happening, about who we are, what’s happening to us and what other people think about us.  For the most part our initial thoughts on these subjects default to the negative.  However, we can learn to be aware of this and better manage our own minds and behaviours.  Group members had active experiences of doing this and have managed to move themselves from very troublesome anxiety, dread and doom to taking power and control back from those destructive thoughts by noticing the thought, acknowledging the emotions but then making a decision to behave in a self-caring way.  We won’t get rid of negative thought processes and it’s not as simple as thinking positive thoughts instead, but our awareness and subsequent decisions about what to do next can dramatically improve our experience of life and our mindset.

Another book which generated a bit of discussion for it’s concept was about a spy who put out a lot of propaganda during the war.  Although the spy did not believe it himself or agree with it, he had to do this to maintain his role.  However the propaganda he disseminated caused a lot of destruction and incited hurt to many people.  So the discussion ensued that values and beliefs are very important but mean nothing if our actions or deeds don’t follow.  If we act in an opposite way, that is what is visible, not our inner beliefs.

People in the group maintained a fondness for the classics; The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice.  Interestingly Enid Blyton may not have stood the test of time in the same way as only those of a particular, ahem, generation had heard of her.

Mr. Bennett of Pride and Prejudice was noted for his observational quotes:

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours, and laugh at them in our turn?”-Jane Austen.

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Posted in Weekly Blog

What’s Funny?

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We very often come back to laughter in this group. We know that laughter helps us on many levels physically, socially, emotionally and mentally, hence the saying; ‘Laughter is the best medicine’.

So, we had a more playful group today, actively thinking about things that make us laugh. Group members amused each other with funny stories and the re-telling of favourite comedians jokes.  It worked; we laughed!  We worked our way through the following questions which a group member had kindly brought in as an exercise we could do:

Funniest thing that’s happened to you?

Funniest thing that’s happened to your best friend?

Funniest person you know?

What they do or say that makes you laugh?

Favourite comedian, your favourite comedy thing they do?

Maybe as you consider some of these it may provoke a smile.  People seemed to find themselves funny in some of the more slapstick calamities which sometimes occur in life; like going to the toilet in the middle of the night in an unfamiliar place, only to discover in the morning that it was not the bathroom that had been visited at all, falling into water unexpectedly or turning up to the wrong wedding, or funeral.  There was a range of tastes of comedians, Leslie Nielson, Monty Python, Lee Mack, Michael MacIntyre, and Russell Brand amongst others.  People were remembering Airplane quotes:

From “Airplane!” (1980):

Dr. Rumack: Can you fly this plane, and land it?

Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.

Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley!

Rumack: You’d better tell the Captain we’ve got to land as soon as we can. This woman has to be gotten to a hospital.

Elaine Dickinson: A hospital? What is it?

Rumack: It’s a big building with patients, but that’s not important right now.

Lee Mack [Not going out]

Lucy: “Have you been snooping in my wardrobe?”

Lee: “I was looking for a lion and a witch.”

Lucy: “I don’t want to hear your crappy jokes, Lee, it’s none of your business.”

Lee: “Actually it’s Narnia business.”

And to finish, as we about to head into the 2018 Edinburgh Festival, here are the jokes rated funniest last year:

The top 15 funniest jokes from the Fringe

1. “I’m not a fan of the new pound coin, but then again, I hate all change” – Ken Cheng

2. “Trump’s nothing like Hitler. There’s no way he could write a book” – Frankie Boyle

3. “I’ve given up asking rhetorical questions. What’s the point?” – Alexei Sayle

4. “I’m looking for the girl next door type. I’m just gonna keep moving house till I find her” – Lew Fitz

5. “I like to imagine the guy who invented the umbrella was going to call it the ‘brella’. But he hesitated” – Andy Field

6. “Combine Harvesters. And you’ll have a really big restaurant” – Mark Simmons

7. “I’m rubbish with names. It’s not my fault, it’s a condition. There’s a name for it…” – Jimeoin

8. “I have two boys, 5 and 6. We’re no good at naming things in our house” – Ed Byrne

9. “I wasn’t particularly close to my dad before he died… which was lucky, because he trod on a land mine” – Olaf Falafel

10. “Whenever someone says, ‘I don’t believe in coincidences.’ I say, ‘Oh my God, me neither!”‘ – Alasdair Beckett-King

11. “A friend tricked me into going to Wimbledon by telling me it was a men’s singles event” – Angela Barnes

12. “As a vegan, I think people who sell meat are disgusting; but apparently people who sell fruit and veg are grocer” – Adele Cliff

13. “For me dying is a lot like going camping. I don’t want to do it” – Phil Wang

14. “I wonder how many chameleons snuck onto the Ark” – Adam Hess

15. “I went to a Pretenders gig. It was a tribute act” – Tim Vine

(From BBC Website)

Posted in Weekly Blog

Safe Cards

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safe card

Several years ago in the group we developed a safe card.  This was a tool for people to draw on in moments that felt difficult, overwhelming or unmanageable.  The idea is to fill it in when feeling in a more positive place.  First of all in the group we thought about the types of situations where it may be helpful; times of crisis, or being very down and self-critical of oneself.  Sometimes when we fall into a very negative place it can be hard in those moments to bring to mind a more positive outlook or a different possibility of how things might turn out.  It may be that in those moments we can’t get there at all by ourselves so we might be reminded of someone we can go to who is able to remind us which is  why there is a space for a supportive person’s number and crisis phone line numbers.  The kind of things that the group knew to do to look after themselves were to go for a walk, eat something, exercise, talk to someone.  People found quotes that were helpful to them too, that made them feel better, things that reminded them to embrace the vitality of life and that troubled times change and pass.  People cited the serenity prayer:

serenity prayerWe chatted about the value of acceptance of situations we can’t change rather than fighting against them, because we have power to change our feelings, thoughts and actions.

What we can also find sometimes too is that we have ‘paralysis in pursuit of perfection’ in that we don’t even try new things or new ways because they may not go perfectly but that’s ok!!

other serenityThere seems to be a power of writing important reminders down and then sticking them up. Remember that our brains and thoughts default to the negative, and we need ways to remind ourselves of the other ways of thinking, a different story and other possible outcomes.  So this is where a safe card can come in useful.  We also chatted a bit about the last section of the safe card; a vision for the future.  For some people this was about identifying and realising things they had maybe not put into words before, and others at different stages in life were ready to start looking for a new journey to find a new passion.

When you are feeling anxious it is so important to have strategies to cope. To this end using a safe card can provide a safety net to hold and ground you.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Strengths

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“I don’t see what others see in me”.  This is a saying that we can hear a lot of in society throughout all walks of life. Is this a default position we go to or are there cultural reasons for it? Certainly here in Scotland and the rest of the U.K. there does seem to be more of a tendency to play down our strengths as to do otherwise could leave you feeling uncomfortable. Is there a fear that by acknowledging our strengths we may be seen by others as ‘getting too big for your boots’ or ‘playing your own trumpet’. Does finding the fine line between confidence and arrogance play a part in our fear? You only have to look at celebrities who are universally loved by people all over the world who also can struggle and use self-depreciating comments such as; “What if I get found out, and am not as good as people seem to think I am?” This may seem like a silly thing to say given all the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that  they are only human and can have insecurities like anyone.

Group members shared their own experiences of how they found acknowledging their strengths. Some people actually felt that it would be much easier to list their short comings.  We then did an exercise where we asked people to write down the strengths and qualities they saw in one other and pass it back to the person so they could see the qualities others saw in them.  While people found it nice doing this they still found it a challenge to take in and believe what people saw in them.

Today’s subject felt very relevant as this group is very much based on helping people build up their sense of worth.  The hope being that through doing this it can play a part in being able to acknowledge their strengths without totally dismissing them.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Fear Of Failure

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At today’s group we looked at the fear of failure.  Although our fears come from a protective place they can ultimately leave us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in parts of our life. If you’ve suffered disappointments in life it feel such a risk to try something new and it not working out. To avoid these disappointing feelings people may decide it safer to stay in the situation they know. In this case the fear of failure can feel more powerful than the possibility of success. It can feel so scary to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Group members gave examples of how they overcame fears and how it became the making of them. The thing to remember is that even if you try something and it does not work out you can always try something else. This of course does not take away the feelings of disappointment but it certainly does not make you a failure. We are learning all the time, particularly in the hard times.  If we think back to being a toddler and learning to walk we do fall at times but we get back up and gradually learn to walk. Below is an inspiring video of people who have faced disappointments but managed to keep on trying new things.