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.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Exploring Mental Health Diagnoses

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We posed the question to people in the group as to whether receiving a mental health diagnosis had been a helpful experience. For those who had experienced a correct diagnosis and accessed the right treatment, this was extremely helpful as they could now understand what was happening and what to do to best look after themselves.  For people where it had taken a bit of a journey to make a correct diagnosis, and where treatment for a condition which was not theirs was given, this was unhelpful and distressing and in some cases caused more damage.  We talked a little about the diagnosis of  BPD-Borderline Personality Disorder, this is a bit of a controversial diagnosis; it suggests that there is something wrong with a person’s personality. Using the term ‘disorder’ can leave people feeling upset and stigmatised.  The diagnosis is confusing and little understood; it is a clinical diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms, which are often parallel to the effects of trauma.  However, it is not an actual defined disease or condition, more possibly a reaction to adverse life events, and therefore not a permanent condition or state of being.  

We talked a bit more about how people sometimes felt stigmatised or defined by some of the words used to describe some mental health conditions:

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People felt that some of these were quite descriptive, sometimes in an unhelpful way leading to assumptions and stigma and a lack of understanding.  Others felt that the not so descriptive terms could be helpful as they had experienced that if someone genuinely cared and was interested they would ask about the persons mental health condition in a way as to understand how it actually affected them.

Receiving a diagnosis can feel helpful and liberating for some while for others it may be another way of keeping stigma and unhelpful terms used in society alive.

Posted in Weekly Blog

A letter to my younger-self

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Today we asked group members to write a letter to their younger-self.   We were very aware of the emotions that this could bring up for people. The benefit in doing this is that it can help us to develop more self-compassion. This can be really useful for people who attach self-criticism to themselves for things happened in the past.  We did not want this to excercise to be a ‘If only I knew then what I know now’ type. It was to focus on a challenging time from your life. When we feel anxious we more often than not go into ‘child’ mode and feel fear which can then manifest itself into irrational thoughts. We all have the inner ‘child’ but we must learn to love it and comfort it just like we would any other child.

In our younger years we deal with life through the viewpoint of our learned experiences. Due to not having a lot of life experience we can grow up blaming ourselves for the way we handled situations but forget that we were only working with what we knew at the time. Sadly people who have been the victims of abuse can often incorrectly attach the blame to themselves and somehow believe they deserved it. It’s worth remembering that nobody can possibly know what it’s like to walk in your shoes and deal with the challenges encountered.

By the end of the exercise we all felt quite emotional but immensely touched by the bravery shown by all involved. Being in ‘adult’ mode had allowed people to show more compassion for their inner child and gave the opportunity to look from the outside-in to see things a bit more objectively.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Equality in Society

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So! We just put it out there today; Equality in society…what does that mean for people?  What were their experiences of being treated equally or unequally?

Interestingly the group went straight to gender inequality, especially sexual assult on women, a topic that is currently headlining most days as society is rocked by the prevalence of this much hidden issue for so many decades which is now surfacing more and more.  It was felt that although policy and awareness had changed, it was attitude that really mattered, and unfortunately there was still a lot of ‘dyed in the wool’ ways of seeing women and men that both genders still subscribed to with many gender stereotypes still being upheld.

In this group we often talk about the language which we use, and that by changing the language we can change the culture.  So as long as men and women, or boys and girls are brought up in opposition to each other this doesn’t help equal relationships.  For example ‘the battle of the sexes’ is language that pitts people against each other.  Phrases like ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘that’s just how men are’ makes acceptable what is unacceptable and what does that mean anyway? Why do we describe men who display sensitivity, nurturing, creativity as being in touch with their feminine side?  Why can that not be seen as being manly.  What is wrong with ‘running like a girl’? Someone suggested that sometimes maybe male violence is not helped by the message that emotions must be supressed because ‘big boys don’t cry’. And as we also often talk about in this group, our culture makes it hard for men to talk about their difficult feelings resulting in suicide in young men under the age of 45 being the biggest cause of death.  Some of our cultural language and attitudes are not helping men to be emotionally healthy and free

We also touched on how having had an episode of being mentally unwell, or having a diagnosis created inequality as people continue to see you as a patient forever after, even in long periods of wellness.  Unfortunately, people have experienced a shame and a silence around being off work with mental illness, it’s just not seen as being the same as being off with a physical illness.

We considered the inequalities of income, particularly in the stigmatisation of people on benefits being seen a scrounging and not contributing to society; which raises the question of whether its only financial contribution which is seen as valid?  If so how do we value the contributions of those who are retired or ill?

If equality is the state of being equal in status and opportunity we considered education and those who do not have equal access to the same learning opportunities, often influenced by income or area or gender.  Malala Yousafzai highlights the importance of education for all:

“I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”  Malala Yousafzai

People in the group were feeling optimistic about equality increasing in future generations, recognising that younger people are more open and accepting and also the media is more open about some of the above issues.  A good example of this is shown in  the LGBT community where the younger generation have played a big part in helping change negative attitudes and inequality which  have been felt by those in the community.

A different way of understanding it maybe to think about equity; responding equally to need, which is different from giving everyone the same.  Equity gives each according to their need as the picture below demonstrates:

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Posted in Weekly Blog

Learning To Be Assertive

 

At today’s group we looked at what “being assertive” means for people.  Some said they found it hard to be assertive due to the unknown response they would receive. Low self-esteem and feelings of not feeling worthy enough to be heard can make it seem a scary prospect. If people have grown up to believe that it is safer to not express emotions they could end up feeling irritable with internal anger as it does not have a healthy outlet. As a result of this someone may go on to experience poor mental health and develop an addiction problem.

Confrontation does not necessarily have to be a negative thing it could also create a resolution between  you and another.  Showing assertiveness does not mean being aggressive. Aggression and assertiveness are two totally different things. Being aggressive can come at a cost to you and others and will make it really hard to reconcile things as in the heat of the moment you may say things you did not really mean.  The reality is that being assertive does not guarantee you will receive the response you would like but it does allow you an opportunity to say how you feel in a respectful and healthy way. This is helpful remember while experiencing fears about being assertive.