Posted in Weekly Blog

Overcoming Fear of Failure

The word failure in of itself can create quite a negative feeling for people by conjuring up feelings of humiliation, disappointment, smashed expectations and things that went wrong. We explored the difference between what failure actually is, and what it means for us and our identity.

Failure is something which did not work, or something we did not do. When we start to apply failure personally; ‘I am a failure’ we can get into upsetting territory. Maybe if we view failure as something at which we tried but wasn’t for us, perhaps we gave it our best, but whatever happened, we did not succeed, seen in this way we can view failure as something from which we learn, and not something we should make people feel bad for. We talked about not being invested in the outcome, but just being able to be free to be you in the process and encouraging the same in others; if we are not stressed about the outcome we are more likely to be creative, productive and work from a place of joy rather than anxiety.

Group members reflected that not succeeding at something can be helpful for teaching humility, building resilience and quite possibly leading us down an alternative route altogether to be successful in something we hadn’t imagined or set out to do. Derek Redmond and his father did not set out to the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona intent on becoming on of the most inspirational, moving, father and son examples. More likely they set out to set a record and win gold. However, the hamstring injury totally changed what was achieved that day. Failure also teaches determination and not losing heart-look at Edison and his 10000 light bulbs!

Someone in the group suggested that the difference between success and failure is a good story! And Nelson Mandela famously quoted Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

What exactly did she mean by this? Have we sometimes got so comfortable in not succeeding to the point of not trying something different, and we can get comfortable in the negative story that we tell ourselves about ourselves that we wouldn’t know what to do with success and needing to change our story?

Is the fear of failure greater than the hope of success? Has being stuck become more comfortable than the discomfort of risking doing something new?

Group members reflected on changes and successes they have made and observed each other making over time as we have been meeting together.

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.


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

Taking a risk for the better


At today’s group we spent some time seeing how life was for group members. Most group members were going through struggles in their lives.  Being able to talk about these struggles helped them feel better and less alone.  When people are going through hard times in life it can feel really tough to say how you feel.  This may be from fear of ridicule or that you are a burden to others. That is why it is so beneficial to have a safe space to talk.

While in low mood our thoughts and beliefs can become irrational.  That is why today’s group was so beneficial in that it allowed group members the opportunity to explore their beliefs and thoughts in a safe way.  In order to look at beliefs and thoughts we completed a (CBT) Cost Benefit Analysis tool. Using this tool enabled group members to break down their problems into small chunks. Our beliefs are formed from our own life experiences so it can feel such a relief when we realise that a long-held belief we hold about ourselves may not necessarily be true.  Another benefit of the tool is it can aid us to see what changes we may want to make in our lives.  As we have mentioned many times before, change can mean different things for different people.  Some people are able to embrace change,but for others it can invoke a real fear of the unknown.  The thought of change can feel more frightening than actually doing it.  Many of us may prefer to remain in our comfort zone and resist making a change.  At times in our lives when change has been thrust upon us it can turn out to be the best thing that has happened to us leaving you wishing the change had happened sooner.  In conclusion, change can be whatever we want it to be and it might just be the right time to leave your comfort zone and take that risk!

Posted in Weekly Blog

Tell me a story


Listening to a story; we don’t do it so often anymore, but we definitely like stories, it’s why we go to the cinema or watch T.V and we all tell our stories day by day with friends and family, but the art of telling a story or even the art of listening to a story can sometimes be a bit lost among the flashing images and soundbites and 160 characters and concepts reduced to 15 second ideas.  So today we just listened, maybe as we did as children, to a story being read and engaged with the words we heard and the images our mind conjured.

We listened to a children’s story by Dr. Seuss of the 500 hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.  People had a different experience of listening, some wandered at times in their minds but found the space relaxing, others related to aspects of the story and interpreted within their own personal context and found meaning.  People heard a message of perseverance in this story.  And hope, an illustration of recovery and not giving up.

Dr. Seuss himself was rejected by 27 publishers himself before his first children’s book was finally published  before becoming the worlds bestselling children’s author, so maybe the theme of not giving up was an important one for him to share.

One of Dr. Seusse’s themes in his books was about an abuse of power and strongly sticking to angry rules.  In the story we read we see the rules being applied to an unprecedented situation with unjust and unfitting consequences and an authority not earned but built on expecting respect.

Posted in Weekly Blog

Relaxing with birdsong

Relaxation is always popular in the Choose Life Group and over the years we have tried different sorts; breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness and guided scripts.  This time we imagined a walk in the forest to the accompaniment of birdsong from the YouTube video above.  Some people followed the script and enjoyed the forest, others ended up in different places. This is ok it’s your own imagination!  As long as it is a relaxing experience.  Some found it a bit harder to leave the stresses of the here and now, and we discussed that while relaxation tools can be great, if you are in a very heightened state you may not be able to benefit from them at that time, sometimes relaxation can work if you catch yourself becoming anxious early enough to use it.  If you are very anxious it is still worth trying to to take a few long, deep breaths as this will help your body to calm down.

We also found the birdsong very relaxing and calming, what a beautiful thing it is that the birds provide a soundtrack to everyday life.