Vinnie the Bouncer

Imagination and the Bouncer

Like many of us, I have a passion for writing. Many writers hope that some of their sayings will become quoted by others – something we call a “signature quote”. Like the “Just Do Its” of the World – our sayings can become part of our brand – part of our legacy. One of my favourite sayings is, “‘Reality’ leaves much to the imagination.” I’m hoping that’s deeply profound! And I hope it captures your imagination!

This saying reflects not only my experience but also my understanding of perception. The brain ‘makes up’ a lot of information in order to make sense of World about us fast enough to make split-second decisions. We ‘fill in the gaps’ in what we really sense in order to function effectively.

This works amazingly most of the time, but sometimes we can have an over-active imagination. Feeling low, is often an aspect of over-imagining that happens to us – and what will happen next. We use imagination to fill-in-the-gaps and extrapolate our assessment of circumstances into possible future scenarios – few of them happy ones! We make up meanings too!  [You know the kind of thing, “When they look at me like that, that means they don’t like me!”]

It’s almost impossible to stop this but I’d like to introduce you to Vinnie, The Bouncer (or Boncer?) Vinnie, modelled on Vinnie Jones, is the Bouncer in my Bonce. Sometimes I have to throw out some of the imaginations from the Nightclub of my Mind. Vinnie acts as an interrupter of unhelpful thoughts. He says, “Oi! You! That’s not my thaut! [tought], get arrrt! [out] of me ‘ed!”

Of course, this is ridiculous, but it’s actually the interruption I’m after – to interfere with an unhelpful pattern of thinking. And it works.

Vinnie’s for hire. If you’d like to borrow my Bouncer and let him allow only best-dressed thoughts into your mind, go ahead, be my guest!

Sow Before Bedtime

Sow before bedtime

“Ah, the seeds of dreams!” I thought to myself as I laid there in the bed, exhausted. I had spent the night wandering through a distressing dreamscape disturbed by nightmares. Now, I was wondering why the unconscious mind seemed to fixate on so many negative imaginations – its creative genius perverted to divert me from a good night’s sleep.

There was some comfort in tracing the seeds of those dreams back to the activities that had planted them that day. As I get older, hairs grow inside my ears – a ridiculous if somewhat bemusing state of affairs. I can perceive no purpose for them there. Penelope has a passion for removing them, so she had spent a happy ten minutes deforesting my own miniature Eden project biomes! This seed became a dream about going deaf – very unpleasant, but I could see the link. The other nightmare was about my studio burning down – guilt, I think, because I hadn’t checked on it when I was down in the town that day. Clearly, I sowed the seeds. My unconscious was the gardener. And emotion played her or his part in the direction of growth.

I don’t like nights like that. So I revisited an age old question: can we direct our destiny? Even if this is only partially true, it offers hope. Here, I had the ‘evidence’ that my own activities, emotions and thoughts had played their part in the drama that had developed.

So before bedtime: sow before bedtime. I will deliberately seek a happy emotion to be my resting state before sleep (and, believe me, I know how hard that will be at times – but I will ‘seek’ it.) I will load some wholesome thoughts that I purposefully choose – perhaps through reading some poetry or inspirational quotes. And I shall act as Director even if I cannot play the full role as Producer. I shall be very direct with my inner Producer and suggest that he should create a pleasant masterpiece in the Theatre of the Night!

Dream on!

Ten Good Friends

Ten Good Friends

I am active – feeling full of energy

I am enthusiastic – showing eagerness

I am alert – being quick to notice and act

I am interested – wanting to be involved in something

I am attentive – paying close attention

I am inspired – feeling the desire to do something

I am excited – looking forward to things

I am determined – being resolute, showing determination

I am strong – feeling able to cope with difficulties

I am proud – feeling a real sense of achievement today.

Saying these out loud simply feels good.

I am sure we all recognise these ten good friends. If you are a fan of practical psychological tips, you’re likely to have come across several experiments where hearing positive words and phrases has improved the listeners’ mood and state. When surrounded by positive words, there is a tendency for humans to behave more tolerantly and to be more generous.

I’ve been told, “Be careful what you wish for!” But far more fundamental is, “Be careful what you think about!” What we think about has a habit of expanding until it consumes our attention… and everything we think about has an emotional charge associated with it. Our ten good friends have a positive charge, and they work well together. They are worth thinking about often.

So I got thinking to myself, “What would have to happen for all ten good friends to join me today?” It will be different for all of us, but it’s a fun exercise which I am recommending to you.

To feel full of energy, I certainly would have to have had a good night’s sleep – one undisturbed by bad dreams or too many loo breaks! A good shower and an excellent coffee would allow my child-like curiosity and enthusiasm permission to emerge. I’d also be naturally alert – especially in the morning – my best time. So, assuming I wasn’t aware of anything boring or horrible in the day ahead, I’d be off to a great start with at least three good friends. And knowing how positive friends, like birds of a feather, are likely to flock together, I’m sure the other magnificent seven would check-in somewhen during the day!

I wonder what would jump-start your day in a positive way?

Would you share?

 

Worrier or Warrior?

Worrier or Warrior?

Oh what a difference a couple of vowel movements can make! Swap an “A” for an “O” – and change begins to flow; then a final “E” for an “O” and off we really go!

Two words with the same framework of consonants and one shared vowel in the same place: W-rri-r, but what a different outcome! Of course, the vowel they both share in the same place is the identifying letter, “I”. “I” is the decision-maker!

I’ve been a professional Worrier for years – paralysed by fears.

But I’d rather be a Warrior, ready for action. And I think that this is the difference that makes a difference: taking action. When I focus on worrying, I become frozen and inactive. Everything seizes and ceases. But if I seize the moment and take action, everything changes.   Sometimes gradually; sometimes dramatically.

I can’t pretend to be brave, but perhaps being courageous doesn’t require one to be brave?

Perhaps the courageous person is the one who takes action when other people hesitate?

Through the eyes of my inner Worrier, I have some impossible challenges before me – 50 years of clutter and mess to sort, save or shed.

Through the eyes of my inner Warrior, I have a plan: one box at a time, one shelf at a time, one cupboard at a time. It’s not a battle like so many dear people are having to face for their future at the moment – I am not in dire straits, so it’s important to have a sense of perspective. But emotionally, it is a battle for me.

We are all in a tug of war between our Inner Worrier and our Inner Warrior. Today, I would appeal to your Inner Warrior and simply ask, “What’s the first physical action you can take?”

I wish you a courageous day!

I Long for Structure

I Long For Structure


If you are of a certain age, you may remember “boring Sundays”. In the UK, when and where I was growing up, most business pressed “pause” on Sundays. There were no shops open, save for a few Newsagents. Everyone, it seemed, rested.

Whilst I now believe this was a good thing, as a child I thought it was boring.

Why? Well, there was “nothing” to do. My time was not structured for me.

I can vividly remember regularly going down to the tennis courts, where the guardian of the key to the courts watched benevolently with his pipe and Red Setter. My sister is four years younger than me, and, at that time, deferred to my seniority, even though she is a great tennis player and knew more about the sport than I did.

So, we would begin to knock a ball back-and-forth, to-and-fro, monotonously.   Boring! Then one of us would wake up!
“Hey!” they’d say, “Let’s play a game!” Suddenly there would be a structure to our Sunday – a purpose.

Where time dragged and energy flagged before, passion would be ignited and the time would fly by. We even say this cliché: “Time flies when you’re having fun!” My sister and I discovered the truth in this.

What we experienced satisfied what is stated as a basic human need by psychologists. Apparently, we crave structure – especially structured time. We may resist a standard 9-5, Monday-Friday routine but it gives us a rhythm to the week.

My Father is now loving the routine he has in his retirement. He finds comfort in structure.

Because of known rhythms to our week, we can have beginnings and endings, and a sense of closure.

As someone who directs my own time, I too often lack this structure, and, as you can well imagine, it causes a lot of stress. Nothing seems to have an end to it. There’s always more to do.

So my suggestion today is to embrace routine like a long-lost friend. Seek structure where it does not currently exist, confident in the knowledge that your psyche longs for this. Add a rhythm to the day.
And, to be utterly specific, break your day into 45 minute segments with a micro-break in-between. Find tasks that can be completed within 45 or 90 minutes. Get closure. More than this, there is s surprise set of benefits awaiting you. Taking a micro-break that involves a shift in posture will “reboot” your lymphatic system, leading to more energy, more creative insights, and a surprising boost to your immune system!

You don’t have to believe me, just test this for yourself!

Then share with me your results!

Life to the Max

Life to the Max?

[Audio version: Life to the Max]

I’ve got a little friend called, “Max.” Max is my neighbour’s dog. He looks like “Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy” if you’ve ever seen the Lynley Dodd books (or care to Google the image).

Max is an enthusiast. Nothing is held back. I have known him try to draw me through the garden fence by the power of his nose suction alone. This little black, wet nozzle of a snozzle finds a tiny gap under the fence and inhales as if his life depends upon it… His wagging tail causes a small tremor that can be felt through the ground… he is truly inspirational!

I think it would be fair to create a verb in Max’s honour: to be Maxed. To be Maxed means to be enthusiastically ‘assaulted’ by an energetic bundle of hairy love!

I’m pretty sure Max’s love is unconditional, or perhaps indiscriminate. It still feels nice – if you’re not wearing your posh togs.

Walking to the shop the other day, I saw Max in the distance, and thought to myself, “Today, I do not wish to be ‘Maxed’!” I wondered how I could politely avoid being pounced upon without offending him or his owner. My concerns were unnecessary. Max was ‘elsewhere’. He had found some fascinating scent along the bottom of another fence and was busy pursuing this trail. Nose down, he was blissfully unaware of anything else.

Max had found joy and freedom through single-minded focus. One thought, one purpose, one pursuit. I don’t think he has many worries, but if he did, he wouldn’t have been troubled at this time. His mind was absorbed.

Could you find joy and freedom in single-minded focus today? Could you make a promise to your brain that you’ll come back to the other stuff it’s fretting about later but in the meantime just focus enthusiastically on something lovely and absorbing?

Live life to the Max.

 

A Walk In The Park?

Robin

A Walk in the Park?

[Audio version here: Audio version of the blog]

There are many strange clichés in all cultures. English has its fair share. How about this one, “Life’s a walk in the park!” This means that life is easy and pleasant. This is a wonderful state that we’re all supposed to aspire to. Apparently.

Well the more people I get to know – really know – the more I realise that I don’t know anybody for whom this is true.

Scratch under the surface a bit and you find that all people or their friends and families face battles against poverty, ill-health and all manner of sorrows. None of them have a life that is a walk in the park.

So, should we abandon the dream? Yes, I think we should! The exaggerations of marketing professionals, fashion gurus and media moguls set us up to expect the unrealistic. When the unrealistic is continuously unattained, disappointment and disillusionment can set in… and even despair. Far better, then, to choose a better path – a path of realism.

The path I recommend is a path through the park. Not a walk in the park, but a walk through the park. By this, I mean the conscious decision to take time to enjoy the park each day. The ‘park’ can be anything you take pleasure in. Your loyal and adoring pet. Art. Music. Nature. Whatever your ‘park’ is, is must be cherished each day, at least for a few precious moments.

One of my parks is the park! There’s a recreation field at the top of our cul-de-sac. There, with space to grow and be itself, is a young oak tree. I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from pausing and just looking at how well it is developing this year. I haven’t seen a single other person pause and enjoy this feast for the senses. For many, it seems the park is an interruption between where they are now and where they are seeking to get to.

May I recommend a walk through the park? And when you do take up this recommendation, may I suggest you pause and drink in the sensory feast prepared there for you? The clouds, the trees, the grass, the birds…

My desire is that, in taking a walk through the park, you find that your life might just become more like a walk in the park.