Posted in Uncategorized

Free Speech

Freedom of speech came to be a topic for this session as people are affected by the political climate as we experience it in certain parts of the world. So for us, in our part of the world, the debates which have raged for the last few years around the referendum for independence for Scotland, and the referendum for Brexit for the U.K can have a significant impact on how people feel about where they live, how secure they feel, perhaps how welcome they feel. Because big media issues can have an impact on the mental and emotional well being of individuals we thought it would be important to discuss it.

It feels very very difficult when somebody disagrees with us! We acknowledged this; none of us like it when someone disagrees with us. Some of us are better at asserting their point of view, others may keep quiet to keep the peace, either way it is uncomfortable. But our beliefs and values sit deeply in us and facing someone who believes opposite to us feels very unsettling. So maybe it would be nicer if we just all agreed about everything, right? No!!

So, what is free speech? Amnesty International define it as:
‘Freedom of speech is the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, by any means.’ Freedom of speech and the right to freedom of expression applies to ideas of all kinds including those that may be deeply offensive. But it comes with responsibilities. We also spoke about the social consequences of freely expressing offensive ideas, you may lose friends, your career and respect.

There can be a real power balance in expressing free speech because society accepts some views more readily than others; there are acceptable stigmas, such as stereotypes of people on benefits, or perhaps stereotypes about the profile of someone who went to Eton. Some people are seen as fair game to be discredited, is this right? Who is allowed to have free speech and who isn’t? We discussed the current debate about universities curbing controversial voices, the group discussed how this could push views underground and intensify their virility. How do you treat a person who has an opposing view to you? It is important to not lose the humanity of the person opposite you, disagreeing however powerfully with someone’s views is not a license to dehumanise or demonise them-as discussed earlier they may face consequences, social or even criminal for their views, but people remain human whatever their beliefs. Free speech moves to hate when it encompasses:
“abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

We considered how people can end up with what we perceive as horrendous views; in a documentary about white supremacists, a black lady interviewed members of a group in America. She discovered that many members were in the group because it was a place where they had a feeling of being connected and of belonging to a group. Through meeting her, and building relationship and receiving education, some members left the white supremacists group as they no longer saw the beliefs and values as valid.

It is helpful then for use to be aware where we generalise, stereotype, stigmatise and discriminate; some would argue that in doing so we are coming from an evolutionary protective system in looking out for ‘our tribe’. However, we are all human and maybe sometimes we need to understand the human in front of us and the reason for their very distasteful point of view, maybe they will even change it if we manage to treat them well at the same time as disagreeing. Or, as someone in the group brought, maybe we are the ones to have it all wrong, and by being open we could learn something from the other.

Posted in Quotes, Uncategorized

Dealing with intrusive thoughts

Obtrusive Thoughts, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Mental Health

The life worth living group met today where the discussion surrounded around intrusive thoughts, OCD and mental health concerns more widely. As always it was a lively, constructive and considered sharing of our own lived experiences and/or those of others.

The first question posed was:

What is the definition of Intrusive thoughts and how might they impact on someone?

It was agreed that whilst intrusive thoughts are almost hard wired into all of us, they are mostly dismissed or filtered out so we don’t even notice them. However when someone is affected by a Mental Health condition these can become a major problem, and are chiefly experienced by people with OCD, Depression, Anxiety, Post Natal  Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Some examples given on intrusive thoughts were:

  • Over analysing our responsibilities and exaggerating the impact were we to fail.
  • Catastrophizing: always imagining the worst possible outcome.
  • Unwanted inappropriate sudden thoughts such as kissing or punching someone when that is entirely against our actual wishes, but driven by a false anxiety alarm.
  • Where we recognise how vital our care is such for a child, we might imagine harmful thoughts when all we are really focused on is care and protection for them.

Sometimes such thoughts lead to compulsive behaviours which may initially seem to offer comfort, but end up making things much worse. These can include excessive checking of locks and appliances to avoid danger or harm to others, and ideas of magical thinking, where the use or avoidance of certain numbers or tasks can either prevent or cause damage to loved ones. People who experience such thoughts know deep down that they are irrational and untrue, but shame and stigma can make these feel very real.

 Recovery

Depending on the extent of the problems there are a variety of treatments available such as:

  • CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Individually tailored help.
  • Exposure Therapy: Gradual exposure to acclimatise to and overcome particular fears, e.g. contamination or social anxiety in busy public places.
  • Personal Insight to learn how to diffuse delusional thoughts.
  • Shared experiences and humour: There can be much stigma to any mental health condition but possibly more so with less understood and frightening conditions like OCD. Whilst sharing these experiences can be daunting, if able to do so, using humour and openness, it can serve to diffuse the power of negative thoughts and help affirm how we’re all affected by mental health and there’s no place for shame or blame.
Posted in Weekly Blog

The trouble with sleep

Ahhh, sleep is an issue isn’t it?  Vastly undermined as to how bad we actually feel after a bad night’s sleep, or run of them, or full blown insomnia, affecting mood, concentration, appetite, libido and serious health conditions both physical and mental.  Affected focus and slower reflexes mean that lack of sleep can be as dangerous as alcohol when it comes to driving on a lack of sleep.

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People spoke about their differing sleep problems, whether that was being unable to get to sleep, or falling asleep ok but then waking up and having a disturbed sleep, or only being able to sleep for a few short hours at a time. Some people also recognised that they can sleep too much and use sleep to escape from facing daily life; we know that sleep disturbance is one of the symptoms of depression.

Some of the reasons for being kept awake are internal such as worries, thoughts and processing the events of the day and problems. Other things are external such as noisy neighbours, children, seagulls or perhaps getting sucked into box sets! For some people it can be the anticipation of unwanted dreams or nightmares and it is the fear of that which keeps them awake. Some people spoke about feeling guilty for going to sleep when they needed to others view this as being lazy.

The discussion moved towards seeing our sleeping patterns as a cultural issue. We have a 24 hour society, people are expected to work late, having breaks can be frowned upon, and people are expected to respond quickly to work emails and messages. There is no space during the day to process what is happening. By the time we lie down at night to sleep, our brains can become very busy processing the day and keeping us awake.

We considered cultures where siestas are a natural part of the day, with an early start and a later finish but with a much more relaxed part of the day in the middle.

Other cultures, or business models recognise that not everyone is productive 9-5 and encourage people to finish when they are done and start when they are ready and this can achieve greater creativity and productivity. It was suggested that perhaps western society has informed our sleeping patterns due to the current business model and the layout of the working day; also industrialisation and digitialisation whereby we are further and further removed from our natural world and we are trying to fit our bodies into artificial schedules.

The group discussed that what might help better sleep is a more holistic approach; trying to find a sleep pattern where we can sleep when we need to-some people find power naps useful for example. Reducing stress overall would be helpful and what may assist this is creating space throughout the day, giving oneself time to process and reflect on the day’s events as they occur.

People gave their different experiences as to what has helped them to sleep, these included meditation, hypnosis, sleep apps and power naps. Interestingly, most people did not remember having difficulty sleeping as children.