The study of philosophy enhances a person's problem-solving capacities. It helps us to analyse concepts, definitions, arguments, and problems. It contributes to our capacity to organize ideas and issues, to deal with questions of value, and to extract what is essential from large quantities of information.
The problem with philosophy is that it can go on and on and people can begin to believe the ideas they entertain. This is what many call BELIEF SYSTEMS. I shorten this to BS.
DOGMA = DOGMUCK
When we deeply hold that our BS is true, and then whine on about it tediously and fall into what I call 'dog muck' (AKA Dogma). Dogma is defined as a set of principled that one considers inarguably true. For example when a religion believes that it is the 'one true way to divinity' we have a dogmatic belief that is hard to argue against, because people who believe it simply become defensive and irrational - unable to look at evidence or other ideas with a clear, calm and open mind. They even have wars to try and protect this BS or dog muck. Jeez!
USING BS TO HELP ONESELF
My friend J is brilliant and I love him. Part of his BS called Determinism. He uses this as a great point to make to lessen emotional pain and end discussions. We might be looking at a deep emotional issue and then he might say "Yes, but we have no free will anyway, it's all pre-determined, so fuck it."
Whilst this may or may not be true he is using the BS of determinism to wriggle out of looking at his very human emotional pain. Thankfully he knows that this is just an opinion and he doesn't hold these beliefs deeply enough to fall into dog muck, which I'm glad about. I think it's OK and healthy to hide from pain sometimes, because we need time and compassion in order to come to terms with our pain. But it helps to be aware we are doing it, otherwise we risk deluding ourselves and falling into dog muck
FATALISM vs DETERMINISM
In short, fatalism is the theory of 'fate' as in 'fatal' - a focus on the end. The idea that there is some destiny that we cannot avoid, although we are able to take different paths up to this destiny. Death is an obvious example. We know death is our fate, but not how (or why). Although we don't really know if death is the end. Perhaps it's just a point on a journey... hmmm...
Determinism, however, is the theory that the entire path of our life is decided or 'pre-determined' by earlier events and actions. Karma is another word for this. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and we are currently living the result of trillions of prior actions stemming back to... well, um... we don't know. A big bang? But where did that come from?
So we can see they both leave many questions unanswered and so we cannot say they are true 100%. People often worry that these philosophies trivialise and minimise life, because they take away our agency and willpower. This can be very depressing and lead us to dread our existence.. Nihilistic though - the idea that in the end there is nothing and therefore there is no purpose to life, can be a part of this. However, even this BS can be lightly held. I like Kurzgesagt's take on 'Optimistic Nihilism' as a way to
The movie, The Matrix (1999) explored this in a fun and clever way. I copied this comment...
"*contains spoilers* This whole movie is a self fulfilling prophecy: the Oracle tells Neo that he is not the One, that Morpheus is willing to give his life due to his sincere belief that Neo is the One. Neo eventually saves Morpheus because he believes he shouldn't die because of his false belief in him. Along the way he realizes with his exceptional skills that he is the One. Morpheus even says: "she told you exactly what you needed to hear". And that is the crucial scene. If the Oracle never brought forth the dilemma he would never saved Morpheus and realize he is the One."
CAN WE SHAPE THE FUTURE THROUGH SUGGESTIONS?
This scene explores this - where the Oracle (the one who supposedly 'knows' the future (but I think she just knows the likely future and says the right things to make it happen the way she wants - in other words she's very intelligent and can see the potential patterns). She says "Don't worry about the vase" and then he turns to look around and breaks a vase by accident. She then says: "What's really gonna bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I didn't say anything?" Did she 'know' or did she make an educated guess based on her knowledge of human nature? Was she helping him to shape his beliefs and therefore his actions, towards a helpful outcome?
BELIEFS MAKE THINGS COME TRUE
This is where I think the philosophy serves a useful reminder. Our brains are very clever. We create our perception of reality as we think. One's perception is often more important to oneself than the actual reality, because it informs our feelings. We can create placebo effects, overcome pain, sacrifice our very lives based on deeply help emotional beliefs. If one believe our country is great and needs me to die for it I will do that and I will be happy to give my life. Beliefs help us to cooperate in enormous numbers. I highly recommend the talk and book by Yuval Noah Harari. He realised that humans living in a dual reality to help them to flexibly collaborate on a mass scale with strangers through the willingness to embrace fictional stories that create 'networks of cooperation'. Even money is a network of beliefs. We all agree to believe that a coin represents value, even though it is just a story. The belief in the story makes it truth, at least to humans. (see the video at the bottom)
KEEPINNG OUR HUMAN HEART OPEN
So if we don't want to fall into dog muck by holding onto loft BS to much, but we also want to soften our difficult human experience by using this incredible intellect and imagination we can take inspiration from philosophers like Both Alan Watts and Ram Dass (these are two important videos)... remember that both the philosophy that 'life fatal and determined and that is perfect' from the perspective of a higher (spiritual) point of view, but also at the same time life is mysterious, tragic, painful, challenging and emotional from the perspective of a human being living on a complex planet of competing organisms. Both of these philosophers express that if we keep a foot in both perspectives and switch between them we will help ourselves be open and accepting to life, as it is, without falling into dog muck!
And so let's stop going round and round and arrive at a helpful conclusion. It is helpful to realise what beliefs you hold and if they are actually 'true' and if you cannot know then it might be sensible to hold those opinions more lightly and not impress them upon others. At the same time it may be helpful to choose to believe certain things - to find BS that is positive whilst also being connected with the reality of being human. So I'll leave you with the question - can you choose what you believe?
For worries: WORST tool.
For relaxing general judgements about yourself / others: THE WORK of Byron Katie, which I adapted into an acronym.
For changing pervasive self-critical thought into self-compassionate talk:
SAFER communication with the part that is critical (this is more of a taking tool than a writing tool)
When people feel vulnerable the psyche creates a protector using our powerful EMOTIONS. Sometimes this gets out of hand and it becomes a sabotaging ‘panicked protector’ which inhibits rational thinking to prioritize the immediate safety and survival of the organism.
In order for the panicked protector to calm down and allow a rational discussion, it must first feel a sense of safety. This is achieved by giving the vulnerable person space to share and be appreciated and acknowledged, feelings to be validated, respected and recognised before problem-solving or reconnection can happen.
I do this when dealing with any vulnerable moment in a relationship that I care for. It helps us feel heard, understood and loved. Then we can calm down and communicate openly and honestly. This can also be done SOLO as part of a therapeutic technique called Voice Dialogues (talking to yourself). See the bottom of this sheet for more information.
Make it a habit to change your self-talk and your communication with others using
S: Space: Make space to slow down your speech and breath and listen fully to the other (or to yourself). Sharing openly won’t happen without making space for it. Practice mindful listening (80% of attention on them, 20% on your body and breath), no interruption). Fully allow space for anything that arises, whether it is emotional, challenging, repetitive, loud or quiet. For solo work, I give myself about 3 minutes to be heard. Key phrases here:
F: Feelings: Respect the feelings. Focus on and validate whatever someone is feeling. Get into the feeling tone a little, with them Reflect the vibe of the emotion in your acknowledgements. If you are not sure what they are feeling try and guess. Connecting to yourself can help with this. What do you feel?
When you share, try and connect with how you feel. Slow down as much as you can. You can always ask them if they could acknowledge what you said and felt. After you have both shared you can begin a normal dialogue to problem solve or connect physically to create a loving connection.
DRAMA and EMPATHY triangles
Below is my interpretation of the drama triangle and how it leads into the empathy triangle. The goal is to give empathy to the parts that are alive. When we do this they naturally come down the triangle, through vulnerability, like sand through an hour glass, and we value, respect and celebrate the person, leaving them feeling seen, appreciated and settled. To read more about my Drama/Empathy Triangles click here.
Using this tool SOLO
Working with yourself or another it may be you have to move between parts a few times to reach a point where the vulnerable/emotional part feels calmer and safe enough to have a more rational and solution-focused conversation. Using a mirror can help, as a focus. Try and finish with positive reassurance for yourself - connecting with the parts that are loving, wise and calm.
Morning and Evening Practice: Self-Parenting Mirror Work
This is a practice I do daily, sometimes twice a day.
The aim of all this work is to develop unconditional love which will allow a natural outpouring of gratitude, blessings, generosity, kindness, curiosity, playfulness, motivation, optimism and effective and creative work.
To get there we have to be with what is real, in it’s rawest form, first, then bring in the wise, loving part of ourselves to dialogue empathetically. This requires ‘space’.
© Neil Morbey: Positively-Mindful 2022
As I worked with an anxious client I realised something: Most of my inner work and my work with clients is about unschooling us from the inaccurate and unhelpful narratives they have been indoctrinated into. We have all been brainwashed by well meaning adults before us. They were brainwashed too, it’s not their fault. It isn’t anyone's fault, but it is our responsibility.
IT'S NO ONES FAULT - IT'S OUR RESPONSIBILITY
It’s my responsibility to notice when a thought is negative, that is to say, it depletes energy by arguing with reality. A negative thought is always inaccurate, wrong and untrue. It argues with facts because a part of me is too afraid to slow down and look at the truth of the situation, and because I have been schooled this way by so many people in my childhood and in my adulthood. Our culture is rife with poor quality education. An example from my life is that I was told I was lazy, so many times, and by so many people, especially key people (like Dad) that I started to believe it. In fact the whole concept of laziness is wrong. Laziness is healthy - it is a response to being tired. What most people call laziness is actually fear. We are laden with fearful thoughts and no one taught us how to manage that. In their own mis-education they just called us lazy.
THE TRUTH IS OK
The truth is simple. We are a happening, a process of continual change and sometimes that can be scary, because we are vulnerable organisms. Nothing is wrong with that. It’s all OK. It’s OK to be scared and for things to hurt and for change to be happening. Everything we ‘think’ on top of that is just thoughts, or ‘narrative’. These thoughts are powerful. They shape our experience. Some of them helpfully, others of them cause us to suffer. The key is to notice you are thinking and discern if it’s helpful or not and then to make a choice.
MAKE A CHOICE
Decide. Do you want to be a slave to an unhelpful narrative? Do you want to be liberated by admitting the truth? This too is a process of gradual re-schooling, re-parenting, both to ourselves and to others. If we decide to follow the path of liberation then we are free to choose how to live. We begin to consider what is helpful and important - principles to live by. We naturally find our way towards principles like kindness, honesty, trust, wisdom and corresponding behaviour like slowing down, rooting out bad habits and installing healthy habits and welcoming ourselves and others with love in our hearts.
SUFERING IS ALSO OK
Or we choose to let our fearful thoughts take hold. This is the dark path, which is also part of the process. Stepping back we can see a perspective where this suffering is necessary in the grand scheme of things. As Eckhart Tolle said “We suffer until we realise that we don’t need to suffer any more.”
We all get wobbles. Life is full of challenges and we sometimes feel anxious, worried, frustrated, sad, depressed or even overwhelmed.
When this happens what often happens that makes it worse? and more importantly what could you do to help yourself?
Well we often make things worse through panic thinking. We imagine all sorts of terrible things that might happen, or that 'did' happen (but probably didn't happen the way we imagined). We compare ourselves, or our experience with the ideal image of who / what 'should' be. In doing this we suffer and it can be a vicious cycle of thinking and then amplifying the feeling, then amplifying the thinking... until eventually we burn out.
A better way is to practice something called grounding. If we were in a storm the safest thing to do is get low to the ground. When people have a panic attack or feel unwell it's often a good idea to ask them to sit or lie on the ground, so they don't fall over and hurt themselves. These are analogies of a set of emotional techniques that help us to feel more safe and stabilize our emotional wobbles. I'll name a few here, which I use regularly.
1. Deep breathing
The first is simple - focus on long, slow outbreaths. Science has shown s that this down regulates the nervous system helping us to feel calm. The important thing is long, slow and smooth breathing, with small gaps. Slowing down the breath slows down the mind.
If you want a structure to follow you can look up box breathing or 7/11 breath or 4-7-8 breathing. I also like ocean breath and sighing with sound. Try them all and pick one. They all share the same quality - slower, smoother, deeper breathing, with pauses, primarily focused on the out breath.
2. Describing things according to the senses
A good way to interrupt thought is to put our attention into our senses. I recently showed a way to do this when working for Marie Curie, to help people grieving. I use this when I work with people who are panicking. Slow down the breath and name 5 things you see, listen for 4 distinct sounds, smell 3 things, touch 2 things with your hands and finally bring the attention inside to feel one inner sensation/location, like the heartbeat. This doesn't solve the external situation, but describing or being with the senses slows the mind and body down and regulate the nervous system, whilst also interrupting any negative thoughts. Now you can think more clearly.
This is a practice of the above - exploring our senses, but with a couple of extra layers. First we observe things for longer, and with a relaxed and relatively still posture, secondly we move closer and closer to the experience, with full allowing, acceptance and curosity, until there is no separation between I 'the observer' and that which is being observed. We become the body and let everything flow through us. This deep state of being can take time to cultivate and the key to it is non-striving, or allowing. If there is resistance, that's ok - be the resistance, inhabit it and allow it fully. The more curiosity we can practice the better, whilst also not reacting. This can cultivate a wonderful sense of openness and trust, gradually, over time. This is not a quick fix.
5. Express it, talk to it, move it!
This final tip might seem a bit odd, but for me it is part of my practice of re-parenting, fooling, parts work and self-love. Imagine these wobbles are parts of you popping up to protect you. They want listening to and so it's important to give them some space to express them. There are many ways you do this:
This final one often involves movement. They say action is the antidote to anxiety - which I find to often be true. Below is a picture of practicing a bit of Yoga in the sunshine. A great way to step out of our wobbles is to MOVE THE BODY!
When to use these exercises
Personally I use these grounding exercises regularly, often before I'm even wobbled. It can prepare us for the wobble and help us sail through challenges. I talk about them and encourage others, They can really allow us to think and act with more calm and clarity, which often makes our problems much more manageable. Try them yourself and let me know how it goes!
If you need help to practice them come and join a group or work 1:1 with me or hire me to teach them in your workplace. Big Love! Neil
Self-doubt, self-blame, self-criticism are normal and healthy parts of being human. They keep us in check. But for many of us, they get out of hand. Our protective parts become 'panicked protectors' and therefore sabotage our plans. When this happens we need to step back, calm the nervous system and practise some mindful reflection. One of the simplest things we can practice is appreciation. This is subtly different from gratitude. Appreciation is to recognise the value of what is present. In this blog, I'll explain why and how to do this.
Sometimes the process of therapy, self-development and working on our goals can feel endless, fruitless, pointless and downright exhausting. In these moments we can get filled up with self-doubt.
Negative thinking is normal
This is the beginning of negative and catastrophic thinking, an old friend of mine. It will always be a companion because our brains evolved to seek problems, even when we are OK. In fact ESPECIALLY when we are doing OK. It protects us from becoming complacent and it is millions of years old. It's primal. You can't outsmart it. You can work with it though.
It basically wants to know that we are OK. So here is what I do:
1. Appreciate your challenging situation - Investigate the situation and your worries in the WORST case - what would you do if all your worries came to pass?
2. Appreciating your struggles as achievements - especially considering your past personal challenges
Appreciate your challenging situation
I came up with this tool a while ago and I still use it today. It was a realisation I had when I was trying too hard to 'think positively' and was just finding myself exhausted and miserable. Then I remembered the backwards law:
'Needing' a positive experience is itself a negative experience; Appreciating a negative experience is a positive experience"
When I pause and do this I often feel so much better and I have an action to move myself forwards, appreciating the negatives are actually OK. So what about a deeper level of appreciation?
Appreciating your struggles as achievements
Even when we are having a crappy time we can pause and reflect on how the struggle is part of the success. We often forget this. We think it's hopeless because we don't take the time to remember our context and just how challenging life is and therefore how well we are doing. This morning I took a moment from my self-critical mind and remembered to celebrate my achievements and milestones more
This week I:
Living life with purpose can be a weekly or daily occurrence. I like to set a mostly intention and track it each day, particularly in bed before sleeping. I ask myself how I did with this today. It accelerates my progress so much to celebrate small victories. In the past I have got better at so many things with this technique including:
My current intention is 'loving self-discipline and I'm tracking this very simple as you'll see by the image below. So I'll leave you with the question - how can you pause and appreciate your challenging situation and your achievements today? Would you like to begin by setting an intention for a small change? What would that be?
Good luck and warm wishes.
Neil Morbey, Mindfulness Coach
Today I am writing about the need to rest. TLDR: It's OK to give yourself rest. To maximise the benefits of the rest you have to allow yourself to enjoy it fully, and relax. This means neutralising the negative talk, amplified by the ‘workaholism’, which will no doubt be barking at you "You need to do work!" You don't, right now. That will come. Listen to your body and slow down.
If you follow my posts you'll see that my intention for the new year is "To give myself the loving discipline that I need" and within that, I posted recently about 'Committing to Your Deep Truth: Your Mission' and 'The Attention Wars - Know Your Enemies'. You can expect more posts like this as I push myself to become better, stronger, wiser and to work harder. However, there are times, like this morning, when my body is loud and clear - you need to rest.
I woke up this morning feeling rough. I did a 'Gratitude Snooze' which was lovely and then upon the next alarm, I counted down from 5 and jumped out of bed. I recently read the 5 am club and whilst I'm not up for getting up at that hour, I am m making my wake up time more consistent and gradually earlier. At part of Sharma's theory of 20/20/20, I was up for some exercise, but as I began I realised my body was not feeling good. I questioned if this is a ‘trauma reaction’ and my body responded with a resounding 'No - please I need rest!'.
OK so I would do my normal routine.
With that, I was up and ready for a little movement. I put on my favourite workout playlist and it reminds me to (in the words of Joe Rogan): "Do something, it doesn't have to be a lot, jump a little rope, walk up some hills, just do something. Your body has requirements, it needs to move, and when it does you feel better." So I went for a wee run and then did a wee workout. Not as much as on my plan. I felt better. I felt much better. I had a cold shower, I ate food and I planned my day.
Turns out I can't just expect my body to be better with a little fresh air and exercise. So I started my workday with a nap - listening to Paul Mckenna, hot water bottle on my back and one on my eyes (also cleaned my eyes with saltwater as they have been flaring up a little- a sign that my body is struggling). This was so delicious. Throughout the nap, I would neutralise the negative mind that worried I'm being lazy and should be working. I would have to do this continuously today. Workaholism - the idea that all of our value comes from working - never allows us to rest. We need rest, especially when the body is struggling.
Rest is 'doing something'
Rest makes us more effective and productive in the long run. It is not 'doing nothing' or 'being lazy'. Laziness is often a story we tell ourselves, when really there is some fear present. Rest allows us to listen to the body and delve in to check out the fear that prevents us from moving forward. Often a 'should' and 'need' is the language of fear, which has a counter productive effect on our work.
I post this now in the hope that you are able to tune into what your body needs and neutralise the negative thoughts of workaholism. Good luck my friends.
I'm in the midst of a change of direction and it's bloody hard. As part of this I'm training more, reading more, surrounding myself with positive influences and delving deep into my fears. Three recent books have been helping:
THE MIND ASKS WHY? ANSWER IT!
There's a moment in Goggin's book where he is doing an ultra marathon and he is realising his brain is starting to complain. He calls this 'the governor' (like that on a car to control the speed). He has learned and practices the skill of overpowering and outthinking his governor. "The mind knows all - it knows your fears and your weaknesses. It will tell you your not good enough. It will ask you the hardest question in those moments - Why are you bothering to try this!?" What Goggins realised is that you have to have an answer prepared for that question, especially in those painful moments. You need to remember a deep truth, an intention that you committed to for a very very good reason.
GOGGINS HAS A CLEAR MISSION
For Goggins he wanted to be the Hardest 'Mutha-F**ker God Ever Created'. He wanted to develop mental toughness because he could see that this is all a mind game. So he saw all these physical challenges as positively 'callousing the mind'. He learned to give the pain purpose and this was his answer each time in the dark night of the soul, in the midst of his suffering he responded to 'why bother?' with "Because I don't want to! I am callousing my mind against that soft, weakness of fear. I am becoming the hardest man ever!"
HAVE A SIMPLE MISSION PREPARED
I love that. Though I may not share his mission I can relate. If we can connect to a deep truth - a purpose that touches something profound in us, and we recite it regularly then we are prepared for those moments in life when the mind challenges our resolve. The mind forgets why we started and so its up to us to 'prepare to remember.' To have the answer, the deep truth, the 'mission' etched into our mind, ready to respond when fear and panic tempt us to give up and convince us that we are not good enough. The mission must be simple and clear and inspiring.
NO FINISH LINE
Another part of Goggins race mentality that haunts me is the idea that there is no finish line. Give up waiting for the finish line and embrace this suffering. Wow! What if that's true? What if there is no finish line? What if, even in life there is no finish?
I have used death as a comforter many times. The idea that I will die one day, maybe today, helps me to drop my worries and relax. I'm here to enjoy myself. It's not a race, it's a dance. But Goggins' idea popped my bubble. What if death is not the end? What if the journey continues. More suffering in the next part? Maybe I keep repeating this life forever? OK, or as Goggins says 'Roger That!'
The point is to realise that if I keep comforting myself with the idea of an ending to my problems then I just wait for that to happen, which encourages me to rest back instead of pushing forward. I'm in a point in my life where I have been resting back way too much, because I've been comforting myself, getting soft and it's time to delve deep into my truth and start to embrace the difficult things. In order to do that I'm entertaining the idea that there may be no finish line. This suffering is it. This is life. This is where the joy and growth is. No waiting around for the end. Live, live now. As Jocko Willis says (another hard man) "Fight that ticking clock with everything you got!"
WhN'T JUST GO WITH THE FLOW - FIGHT!
I've lead a lot of my Mindfulness career trying to find the easy path. The least resistance. The way of the lazy guru. This 'go with the flow' attitude has value, because it helps me to relax and I needed that for a time. But it also has negativity. If we are always going with the flow we are not in any control and we are being propelled along by life and by the mind. If there's one thing I know about the mind it is that it has a negativity bias. It looks for problems to solve. It draws us into conflict and drama. It's time for me to wake up and take charge of the boat, put some work in and to go against the flow - take the path of most resistance. Fight that clock and that governor within my own mind. Fight hard and delve deep into my truth.
THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
We all face the dark night of the soul when we do this. The moments where you actually turn and face your fear. We often do it alone. Ultimately we must do it alone, but I am learning now that I can also do it with some additional resources, which have been partly inspired by the way Will Smith surrounds himself with family and friends:
1. Trusted Friends: I've been cultivating a great group of friends. I have often struggled to reach out to them and this morning I realised it's time to call on them for help and support. It's going to be a challenge to overcome my inner resistance there too.
2. Mirror work and reparenting: So what's been helping me is... me. The man in the mirror. I've been making a practice of taking a good quality mirror and sitting with it in conversation. I see in the mirror the father I always longed for - supportive, loving, encouraging, disciplined, kind and emotionally intelligent. He wants to guide me but he also wants me to do the work myself. I can cry in front of him and he stays with me, with infinite patience. I talk to him for about 10 minutes every day and it alwsys ends with a shower of encouragement from him.
It's been amazing and I'm excited to keep this journey going, with no finish line and overpowering my internal governor with a connection to my deepest truth: Because this experience is helping me to become the greatest counsellor and coach to others, so I can empower them to reconnect to their deepest truth and to act from a loving place, rather than the fear of a panicked mind. This is my newest mission and I practice it every single day. I leave you with three questions:
We live in a safer world now (I speak from my privileged position in it). But we still have wars and the biggest war is fought 24/7 - it is the war for our attention. We have enemies in this war and we can use their image to motivate healthier habits. In this blog I'll talk about how I use it to get up early, to stop distraction and to focus on my goals. Let's do this!
I've been enjoying the music of Akira The Don, who makes beats to accompany soundbites from inspiring speakers. In this tune he takes a speech from Jocko Willink - an ex Navy-Seal - to inspire us to use the enemy image to get up early. I paraphrase quips from Jocko here:
Who have you made your enemy?
We mostly use the enemy image unconsciously. We make enemies of our friends, other people and even ourselves. We don't realise we do this and we also don't realise the negative effects it has on our mood, body and relationships. Two examples come to mind:
Modern Enemies Look Like This:
I imagine two main enemies in this modern battle:. I understand these are characters and not 'real' people (who are more complex). The following images help motivate me to thwart the attention wandering.
The truth is: These enemies are inside you
I teach this and I still forget at times - such is the power of the modern trance.
Whenever we create an enemy image it is usually a representation of a part of ourselves that we repress, but very much lives inside. When I consider my enemies - yes there are people in the world like that but the real enemy is my own pattern of distraction and then blaming, whilst ignoring my own body and mind. The real enemy is within.
The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”. - Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
So what can I do?
I take the advice of Ghandi and Jocko (can you imagine these two combined!? What a team!)
Be the change I want to see and Prepare for battle with the enemy. Just like in this video we must recognise the inner parts if we are to tame them. This means discipline and boundaries.
What this means in practice:
If you'd like to learn some of these techniques and develop a healthy relationship with yourself and others please get in touch and do some coaching with me.
Polyvagal theory has become core in my teaching and practice, since researching Dr Porges ideas and then through my trauma healing. It has helped me become more resilient. Here I share practical uses to improve skill in switching states and finding balance.
Polyvagal Theory: Three Nervous System States
find the stuff on the internet needlessly complex. I'm going to simplify it.
Imagine we have three states, or gears:
1. Learning Human: Rest and Digest - The calm and creative 'Parasympathetic System'
2. Activated Monkey: Fight and Flight - The panicked action state of the 'Sympathetic System'
3. Immobile Lizard: Freeze - The helpless, numb, dissociative state of 'Dorsal Vagal System'
AIM: FLEXIBILITY AND RESILIENCE
We are ultimately aiming for psychological and bodily flexibility. To be able to move between states, so we can be resilient to them when they come up. We cannot just stop them from appearing. They call it the autonomic nervous system for a reason. To become more flexible and resilient we can think of it like a muscle. Does our nervous system have good muscle tone or are we weak, because we are unpractised. Yes- it turns out there are many simple and effective practices which, if repeated, make us more agile and able to change our state more easily.
NEUORCEPTION - MINDFULLY BECOME AWARE OF YOUR CURRENT STATE
But first you have to be AWARE of what state you are in. This is actually quite simple - tune in (mindfully) to the body and notice if you are activated into panicked action or frozen in immobile confusion and numbness. To do this however takes some skill. When we practice mindfulness we develop our nueroception -our ability to be aware and even name and describe our internal state.
Shifting state from Immobile Lizard State
OK so you've discovered you're stuck in indecision and confusion, immobile and static. What next? I can numb out so often when I'm overwhelmed and so basically I've learned that in this state we need to MOVE and embrace some discomfort. Here are some ways to help you, starting with the easiest:
Shifting from Activated Monkey State
Once activated you may wish to crack on with work - great. Ideally we want to bring moderation to our action, not just use work to become another distraction from dealing with our internal state of stress. For people who are manic or workaholics this is particularly important (I can be like this). It is best to induce a state of calm learning so we can have an open mind as we move through our day. Calming things might include:
Pro-active practices - prepare!
So we can be ready for this by developing our neuroception and building healthy habits into our lives. These are what I recommend:
Since lockdown in 2021 I notice a gradual ebbing away of my confidence in myself. Self doubt has been nipping at my heels. I've been doing all sorts to try and get rid of it. I recognise it as my old friend 'IMPOSTER SYNDROME'. This part of me tries to protect me from failure and humiliation by forming the believe that I'm not good enough.
Do you have a part of you that does this too?
I trust I am not alone. It's part of the human condition and it's exacerbated by the modern culture. I've been re=reading Mark Manson's masterpiece 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F***' to try and remind me of some things. I'm only up to page 70 and already I'm reminded of a basic thing that culture does:
"All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best and the worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop". - Mark Manson
Mark reminds me that in this odd culture of bombardment 'exceptional' is considered normal and to be average is to fail. He reminds me that in our desire and need to be special and exceptional we will try and be at one end of the bell curve - to be exceptionally successful or believe we are exceptionally bad. This polarising ignores the need for balance, across multiple disciplines, and the acceptance of being ordinary,.
A few other choice reminders from the book:
This is just one of the ways that helps me to overcome the imposter syndrome. What about you? What helps you remember what is important, what is real and what to give less f***s about?
If you'd like help figuring that out hire me to coach you. First session is free!
Yet if we were to take a pet (like this cute Kitten, Mo-Mo) to a vet we would ensure the pet completes it’s full amount of medication or exercise. If we were raising a young animal or human we would encourage it to live life with freedom and joy - to choose what they do and not worry about others’ expectations. We would love them unconditionally.
Part of my work is helping myself and others learn to love, care and nourish ourselves, as if we were another - to embed the responsibility deep into our bones. To remember everyday that your job is to love this one, as if you had just been handed a beautiful baby and told to look after it. How do we do this? First we must realise why we don’t...
We continue these mechanisms even though we are the ones we now need care from So the first step is to understand our traumas through discussion, meditation, investigation with a trusted therapist. If you’d like to begin that work contact me here.
Within my work I help people heal the body and train the mind. Here are some of the main ways in which we do this:
Reparenting the nervous system - Healing the Hurts
We need to bring in these principles when reparenting ourselves. Reparenting is a way of healing ourselves. In my work this includes teaching people with:
Re-schooling the mind with Healthier Habits
We were taught maths and English in school, but no one taught us how to live well. They didn’t really teach us to challenge our own thoughts, channel our emotions. These are some of the skills I teach:
I've had a depressing week. I've been comparing myself and letting my mind drag me into a low mood by believing (or not challenging) the stories of comparison, regret and self judgement:
This kind of thinking is responsible for so much despair in my life and so many other people's. I coach people and have the privilege of helping them to escape this endless loop of misery and internal drama. But that doesn't mean I can always escape it myself. In fact I notice how I often post all the nice bits of life on social media - then other people can compare themselves negatively to me! Oh dear! With practice I'm getting more resilient to comparison. What is the practice?
I'm fortunate enough to have access to some pretty awesome friends and therapists and this week I've been taking a look at my inner critic in more detail, as well as the vulnerable inner victim. In the paradigm of 'parts work' (AKA internal family systems, voice dialogue, fooling etc) we recognise there are many parts at play in our internal landscape. There parts are like people of their own accord. If you pay attention to yourself you'll notice your energy levels, voice and posture change when you are 'playing out' different parts.
In one recent therapy session I took time to go into my sad 'I don't know what I'm doing' part and really empathise with him. I was able to link it back to a 12 year old version of me that had trauma when entering secondary school. He felt (and still feels) deflated, small and depressed at the challenges of 'big-boy school'. My posture become hunched and my voice is squeezed. I feel this today whenever I encounter setbacks, particularly related to my work or areas where I demonstrate I'm a capable and intelligent person.
I also played out the critical parts of me - the thinkers and judges. These parts embody a more confident and even aggressive energy and posture. These relate to parents, bullies, teachers and... myself. They were necessary parts of myself that helped to protect me.
The purpose of giving these parts space to express themselves is:
What does this look like?
This morning I gave a lot more space to the critics - who really had some good advice (albeit delivered with some anger and judgements). I took a mirror and placed it in front of me and I began to lay out all the criticisms - full throttle, for 10 minutes! I went through what I should do and how I have been so wrong. Turns out I really do want to be more successful, prosperous and have more ease and fun and if I listen to the advice and weed out the condemning judgements.
I was only able to do this because I've given each part that needed it some space. In my therapy session the vulnerable victim cried - a lot! That cathartic grieving left space for me to hear, understand and appreciate the advice of the inner critics.
The beautiful side effect of all this is that the comparison mindset vanishes (along with the despair) and is replaced with a more appreciative mind - that sees the present moment as a gift - an opportunity to live! Now is wow! Today I've been exercising, working, reading and enjoying nature. It's not perfect and I still get the symptoms of 'compare and despair' occasionaly, but now I can recognise it and meet it with understanding , compassion and some really good 'self care'.
If this sounds like something you'd like to explore let me know and we can do some coaching together, I'm offering a free 1 hr intro session from October 2021. Book here.
In reality, however, these ‘negative’ emotions can be helpful. The negativity comes when we try to fight them via:
These are the basics of our learned coping mechanisms or conditioned reaction, which are largely unconscious (meaning we are not aware of them, or in control of them). They developed during childhood, when they were perceived as absolutely necessary reactions, to receive attention, love and/or safety when we needed it most. We carry these deep in our nervous system.
Something happens that ‘triggers’ past pain, and activates the mechanism. It can be anything, from a specific type of person, environment or even a raised eyebrow to a shouted word. The reactions triggered can be severe, like a full-on panic attack, or more subtle, like anxiety and a tight chest. For myself I notice that I sometimes get very sleepy and tired during emotional conversations with my partner. I realised this is a mechanism learned from childhood to unconsciously help myself avoid conflict and forced emotional dumping and enmeshment with parents). I have since learned to pause when I yawn, and name this as a 'conditioned reaction', which often stops it. Which leads me into the next step...
How to heal our conditioned reactions
The methods I work with involve multiple therapies to work on grieving, accepting and revaluating past interpretations and coping mechanisms in both the mind and the body. I also advocate for self healing through self awareness and self love and coach myself and others to do this in everyday life.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ― Rumi
We can do the healing work moment-to-moment by utilising these so-called negative emotions. First I remind people to ‘celebrate the catch’ - to recognise that there is a power in being able to recognise an emotion and se it could be valuable. Each powerful emotion is a clue to help you learn about yourself, to understand your patterns, mechanisms and past pains. I encourage people to become fascinated with these moments, like they are gold. Feeling the body as we ask ourselves these key questions:
This understanding is the first step in the STOP technique, which is one tool that I teach to my clients.
In reality the emotions are not just about the situation, but more about our ‘thoughts about the situation’ (stories). Most stories are rooted in the past - a conditioned judgement about how we should react, internalised. so much that we use them as expectations; not just for ourselves, but for others. Shame, anger, anxiety and even sadness became tools to make sure these hidden expectations are met as children, but of course they are ineffective as adults, in the present context.
The work of healing begins by admitting these hidden stories of expectations to ourselves internally. As we do the work of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), we learn that it’s OK to have judgements and feelings, and we can find more helpful ways to act that are aligned with what we value and want. For example, if I realise I’m holding an expectation for another person to ‘calm down and sort themselves out’ then I can start to give that to myself, giving me a chance to help them and also achieve what I want: calm, loving connection.
The real gold is in the process of helping ourselves; finding our power through admission of what we really feel and think, instead of fighting and repressing the emotion. We can turn a so-called ‘negative emotion’ into a powerful and positive force to help us heal, grow and create the outcomes we want, instead of perpetuating the outcomes we hate.
So try these questions today: if you feel ‘bad’, STOP and ask yourself “what is so bad about right now?” By admitting the truth we are set free, even if we are a bit pissed off first. I hope this helps you.
If you’d like any help finding more inner freedom and empowerment please call me today.
I believe we can generate unconditional love through a practice of loving connection, which helps us feel more love towards everything and everyone. How? Well just did a lovely practice with the Monday group, that I really enjoy. I call it the ‘I love you’ Meditation. It does what it says on the tin. Many meditations use visual imagery to create a loving feeling, but this one is even easier. It uses the power of repetition. Just repeat the thought “I love you” over and over, silently, on the outbreath. Here’s more detail:
"Practicing love turns you into a love unicorn"
I have also found self love helps create ease in giving love to others - we exude love and it becomes easy and familiar to love. What’s your experience? Try this guided meditation now and find out. Also available on YouTube.
I am changing my practice to make love the centre of everything I do. This is as part of a more trauma informed practice that I am bringing into my work, after fascination with the work of Gabor Mate, Peter Levine and Nicole Lepera. If you would like to do some coaching work and get more love in your life contact me, or come along to the Monday group sessions.
In this short BLOG I'm sharing a slide from session 2 of my course 'Mindfulness and Emotional Resilience', where we focus on habits. I'm doing this because I am currently using this process to begin a habit of more frequent online sharing and blog writing. this is week 1 for me and I hope it inspires you to begin a new habit today.
1. STOP judging yourself with ‘shoulds and needs’ (use the STOP technique) and develop a loving attitude to your new habit
I believe that self judgement is our worst enemy in the creation of a habit. If we use excessive 'shoulds and needs' then we are using fear to motivate. This is a primitive and short lived motivator that will only make the bait feel heavy and stressful. Your willpower will give way. Instead try and address those 'shoulds and needs' using a tool, like the STOP technique (which we teach on the course) and develop a positive and purposeful attitude towards your actions. As Tony Robbins says: "use inspiration not desperation!"
2. Take time to consider why first, then what, when, where. Write it down
The book 'Start with Why' by Simon Sinek details how developing a clear WHY allows you to be selective of the advice you take on board. You need to make sure that WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY. A WHY provides a filter for decision making which differentiates his quote: “Achievements comes when you pursue and attain WHAT you want. Success comes when you are clear in pursuit of WHY you want it.
3. Reduce the amount to its minimal - start with tiny steps. One habit at a time. You can increase and habit stack later
I learned a lot from Seth Godin , author of 'The One Thing' who reminds me "The hardest move in Yoga is rolling out the mat'. In other words the starting energy is the difficult bit. So make it small, REALLY small. You can gradually improve and the early habit can act as a sequence starter that you can stack more habits onto.
4. Share publicly and/or with an accountability buddy / contract
We have a brain that is constantly worrying about what others think of us, and is trying to be efficient with resources. Use it to your advantage - include others to check on you and include a contract to make it have consequences, if you like that My contract uses Stikk to add a financial consequence if I don't stick to the habit!
5. Place positive triggers (notifications, posters, images, props) at home/on phone. Remove negative ones.
I find it so helpful to have my trainers out ready if I'm intending on going for a run and I also like to record a positive association reminder on my phone and/or YouTube (and recite it daily ) to keep my intention in mind. I have removed distractions from my phone and environment and I continue to do this as an ongoing process. For me my calendar provides the most useful prompts.
6. At the end of the day review how your commitment went well
Make the pattern pleasurable and purposeful by adding rewards and self celebration. I find the end of the day a great time to do this as it puts my mind into a positive place before bed time. We humans are great at denying our achievements. Stop it! Celebrate yourself!
7. If you don’t manage it one day activate your inner curious compassion. Journal about what stopped you, how you feel and what you imagine. Begin this list again...
We are imperfect - you will fail. That is good. It shows you are trying and discovering the blocks. This is a time to really become fascinated with the blocks and use the techniques I teach to help you. These seven steps are an iterative process - I repeat them to refine my habits.
Can I help you to start a new habit? I currently have a group beginning a habit of meditation and journaling. I can work with you one-to-one or in a group (new ones coming soon). Please get in touch to find out more.
The real reason I posted this is because the three videos at the bottom blew my socks off. If you want just skip to them - they are worth it!
I recently began a formal qualification in Counselling and I'm loving it. I've been a trained coach and mindfulness practitioner for years, but often I found the biggest shifts occur in people when they were given space to express repressed emotions and all I had to do was counsel them. In this short blog I'll write about the main skills and styles in counselling.
Self Reflection and Personal Development
We all have blind spots and as 'helpers' we must work on becoming aware of our own, so that we are capable of holing the counselling space and not accidently end up being counselled by the client. Blind spots could be a belief that some character trait is bad, or a leaning towards certain relationship styles, or a slight prejudice against a certain type of person. Self reflection helps us see and understand ourselves.
Integration of blind spots
Our job then is to 'integrate them' so that we are less likely to fall into automatic reaction. Integration is the process of maturity, where we discover parts of ourselves that we repress or abandon and bring them into our awareness and make them more cooperative towards our values and goals (This is my definition. There are many others). An example for myself is I know my mind is critical of 'weakness' (because of my past conditioning) and I integrate that by priming useful reminders for myself and I use mindfulness to see a person as they are, not how I think they should be. In a session now, if I notice my critical mind I will thank it and take a breath, remind it that it's OK, and bring my full attention back to the present moment. This could happen within a single second.
Styles of Counselling
Everyone has their own style, based on their own understanding of how the psyche actually works. Here is some basic history of the main influences. The three videos below are incredibly useful in showing three main styles used today. We begin though with two big pioneers from the early 1900's:
The three big modern styles - check out the videos!
These practitioners from 1960-1990 are shown in striking contrast on the videos above.
My counselling and coaching offer
I work with all these modes in my work, alongside more goal oriented coaching. This blog talks about the difference . If you feel drawn to a particular type of therapy contact me and let's work together. We can all use a little help to discover our repressed patterns of thought and behaviour and integrate them to become more empowered and fulfilled people.
TLDR: The main insights of this blog
MY RECENT EXPERIENCES
I wrote this blog as a reflection of three distinct experiences recently:
WE EVOLVED TO MOVE, BUT NOW WE INHIBIT
What these showed me is that I often want to pause and notice my emotion and sometimes 'move with' with it' to get clarity. I realised that us humans are basically monkeys with more brains. Like any animal, or monkey, we live on fear and libido - survive and reproduce. We train our instinctive reactions through past experience. Painful past experience is our main trainer. Modern humans have these issues :
INTUITION AND INSTINCT - SOURCES OF POWER
When you think about it our bodies have more than one brain and more than one mode. We have:
THE LANGUAGE OF THE BODY - FEELINGS AND URGES - DON'T LET THEM DRIVE THE BUS
Imagine the conscious you is like a driver of a school bus, except the bus is full of child monkeys!
When things are in balance we are 'happy' and the bus is on track passengers remain quiet. When the passengers sense a potential threat or desire they make noise at the driver (via emotions). They are trying steer you towards desired outcomes and sexual partners and away from pain. The more fearful emotional feelings and urges could be:
When passengers feel more threatened they react quickly, to avoid danger, trying to take control of the bus for a moment. It might not be an actual danger though. It's likely that the current event reminds your nervous system of a past painful experience and the instincts automatically activate a reaction mechanism to avoid the pain. This could be something along the lines of:
Be a SANE driver
So the driver needs to maintain control, to listen and acknowledge, but not to buy into the emotional reaction. It may be necessary to allow a physical response to channel the instinctive urges before the can calm the bus down. One method is a strategy I teach, called 'SANE':
PLAY: ENCOURAGE YOURSELF TO MOVE & EXPRESS
The best bus drivers will have a healthy relationship with the passengers and will be interested in their feelings and needs. This driver will occasionally realise that monkeys need movement, reassurance and PLAY! Here are some examples of playful expressing activities I do regularly, to meet the need of my inner child/monkey like passengers:
IF STUCK, USE A TOOL
If you are really stuck and can’t access your playfulness, then here is a practice of recognising the interpretation that is setting off the instinctive reactions and playing with the words. I do this with myself and my clients for about five minutes. It is inspired by Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT):
MOVING ON AND THINKING MORE CLEARLY
The aim is not to stay stuck in the feeling, but to allow the feeling to be expressed and then move into clear thinking, so you can see viable options move forward and feel the motivation to act. This works so much better when you connect and move first. If you would like help with this coach people specifically to think, feel and express themselves and I teach SANE strategies in my latest Mindful Relating course. Register now if you’d like to learn how to tune into your intuition and channel its power to be helpful instead of inhibited. Or do some private coaching with me.
“I’m a mindfulness coach, I’m not supposed to feel miserable! Why the hell am I so low?”
These were the words uttered by my brain this morning, as I woke up and laid there, thinking. That was rubbish so I avoided the thought with a solid 45 minutes of phone time, until…
Clap! (this is actually a tool I teach!)
“I’m better than this shit!”
I got up and made my bed and decided to go outside. I remembered some of my sources of inspiration that cheer me up:
Break the lockdown - give myself permission to EXPRESS MYSELF.
This I remembered is the main reason I feel crap sometimes. I am creating my own personal lockdown, because I judge myself. I compare myself to some imagined standard of how I should be. It’s not safe to be myself, to express myself - my brain won't allow it.
It's not true that it's not safe. If the STOP technique (another tool I teach in collaboration with Mark Dunn) has taught me anything it is that the brain talks a lot of shit. But we can’t just tell ourselves that. The self judgement keeps us locked in to a spiral of shitty habits. So what can we do?
Give yourself permission - allow!
Think about it. If judgement, resistance and comparison is at the root of our suffering and the perpetuation of our stuckness then stop fighting it and allow it - just for 10 minutes even! You can then short circuit your lockdown blues. For example:
I’ve found emotions don’t last long if I give them permission to be here. If I EXPRESS THEM without harming anyone else. Personally I like to play with them, play the fool. This is a result of my clowning and fooling work with people like Holly Stoppit and Jamie Catto, but also my intuition. When we play we are giving ourselves permission to live life as ourselves, without the 'personal lockdown'.
So if you want to break the personal lockdown blues can you play with them? How can you express your blues today? (or whatever else you have inside)
If you want some help with this let me know. I'm offering some reduced price sessions for people in the lockdown struggling with money - check out my Coaching page or email me: email@example.com for a callback chat
Neil Morbey is a meditation teacher, group facilitator and inspiration guide for Positively-Mindful.com
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