Catriona Futter – Equip For Life Coaching Becoming your best self and living life to the full – 07713 974138

Category Archives: Change Your Perspective

The way we see our lives and ourselves affects how we live. Change your perspective on yourself and your circumstances and you have the potential to live with much greater freedom.

Be aware of the Relationship lie – the first step to change.

Beware the relationship lie

Beware the relationship lie

We only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see. That is where we left off last week, as we consider how to move forward in improving and strengthening our relationships.

Believing a relationship lie is common, and not about guilt or failure. Until we recognise how we see ourselves and our partner, it is hard to move forward. What does that mean for the remaining 3 common lies that can pervade and undermine our relationships?

Relationship Lie No 3: It is my partner’s role and responsibility to meet all of my emotional needs.

  • what are your emotional needs? When you accept that you have them and they are valid, how does that change your understanding of where and how they can be met?
  • when you change your understanding of how many and how varied your emotional needs are, how does that change your expectations of your partner’s ability to meet them all?
  • change your perspective on other areas of life, and other relationships, and other sources for having your needs met
  • consider the behaviour of your partner that you find difficult or negative. If you start to look at how it might tie in with your partner’s needs, how does that change the way you view their behaviour? How might that therefore change your behaviour in response?

Relationship Lie No 4: I am owed by my partner for all I do.

  • if you start to change the way you view who does what in your relationship, how does that affect your need to keep score?
  • try noticing more of what your partner does do, and see how this changes how you view them
  • try changing the way you see your partner to be more in line with what you first were attracted to. Practice being grateful for who they are
  • perhaps try changing the way you see the relationship from a business contract to a loving relationship. Where can there be grace and love demonstrated in doing things for each other?

Relationship Lie No 5: I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make our relationship work.

  • look long and hard at yourself. Who you are now compared to 10 years ago, but also who you want to be in 10 years’ time. Be realistic, honest and fair. What changes would start to move you more towards the future self that you want to be?
  • what if you were to look at yourself and your behaviour traits through the eyes of someone close to you – what would they change? What therefore could you take responsibility for?

If you are going through a challenging time just now, it is likely that a relationship lie or lies are undermining both you and your partner. Change is possible, and part of that is changing the way you see progress or failure, and choosing to be realistic. There will be forwards and backwards movement, frustrations and encouragements. Accept this is a process that takes time.

But the first step is to accept that change is possible. As we change the way we see ourselves, we can take small steps towards changing our situations, behaviour, responses and choices.

The relationship lies that I have covered here I first came across in a marvellous – if hugely challenging – book called The Lies we Believe by Dr Chris Thurman. If you want to explore the whole idea of internal negative scripts and the lies we tell ourselves, in the whole of life not just in our relationships, this is a great book. There is a faith perspective to it, but still hugely helpful whatever your starting point.

I leave you with this thought – awareness of who you are and who you want to be enables you to make choices based on appropriate and positive thoughts, which then leads to responses that build connection between you not distance.

Awareness – choice – response.

How do you see yourself and your relationship? What relationship lie might need uprooted, exposed, dealt with and changed for a positive truth?

To Change ourselves? Change the way we see.

For the past few weeks, we have been working our way tentatively through a series of common lies about Relationships. Insidious views and beliefs that oh-so-commonly work their way into our internal scripts, and express themselves in our behaviour towards our partners.

Change the way we see

Change the way we see

With all of these lies, there is no quick fix. No easy or magic solution. And as we have discussed before, the key is awareness. It is only when we understand what is going on that we can start to make changes.

Awareness of ourselves and our partners is so important. To consider such issues as –

  • we are different and therefore will have different attitudes, beliefs, personalities and characteristics. This is so staggeringly obvious, and yet how often do we make allowances for our differences when it comes to our behaviour responses?
  • it is wrong to assume that our way of thinking or doing something is the best and only way
  • we become more rounded, complex individuals when we are prepared to be challenged about our black and white right/wrong views and see another perspective.

This, I believe is key –

We can only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see.

So, for these final two instalments, let’s recap the lies we have covered, and apply that principle to each one. Perhaps in so doing, we can challenge ourselves to take that first step towards making positive, relationship-enhancing changes.

Relationship Lie No 1: The problems we are having in our relationship are all my partner’s fault.

  • what does that say about how I see myself?
  • if I took the courage and objectivity to see myself as my partner does, how would the way I see myself change?
  • what might that then prompt me to do in terms of what I take responsibility for?
  • what could I choose to do to address my own behaviour towards my partner?

Relationship Lie No 2: A great relationship with the right person should be easy.

  • what are my expectations of our relationship?
  • what if I change the way I see our relationship and have more realistic expectations?
  • if I change the way I view the relationship and how much it means to me, how does that change my willingness to work hard at it?

We only start to change ourselves when we change the way we see. What does that mean for you this week?

Learning to walk in a new behaviour path

As we continue our exploration of common lies that can undermine or affect our relationships, we reach an interesting point.

Putting all this into effect takes

self awareness….courage….openness and honesty with each other….time

…and lots and lots of practice.

We have to learn new ways of responding and behaving – create new patterns. When we are so used to following a certain behaviour path, learning to get off that path and then taking the time and effort to create a new path is difficult.

Learning to take a new path?

Learning to take a new path?

Near us is a meadow, with a very well established, trampled-down-to-the-earth path diagonally right across the middle, from one bordering street to the other. Walking across the meadow, one’s feet automatically follow that well trodden, much compressed path.

The path is there. Right in front of us. No effort is required to follow it. It is something we have done repeatedly before.

To walk a different route would require stopping, stepping off the path, and picking a way through grass, weeds, and possible dog poo. There would be hazards, it would require more concentration and engagement on our part. But if the end point of our newly-chosen path was a good one, and we repeated that new path over and over, we could create an alternative route to an alternative goal.

So too with our behaviour.

Generally, the internal process goes something like this:

  • This negative or difficult event/conversation happened.
  • I feel like this…..
  • I therefore react like this….

In this model, our behaviour is tied to our feelings about the event or conversation in question. And we know in our heads that our feelings can be spectacularly inaccurate. It is at this point that we need a trigger or prompt to get us to stop, pay attention to our feelings and engage our minds to prevent us continuing down the well-trodden path that our feelings are likely to dictate.

To start to try out this model instead towards a different behaviour path:

  • This negative or difficult event/conversation happened.
  • I feel like this…
    • I stop….
    • I recognise this familiar path, what those feelings are and acknowledge them
    • I pay attention to what those feelings are prompting me to do and why
    • I realise that the behaviour path I have learned and am likely to take is unhelpful and potentially destructive
    • I choose to create a behaviour path towards a more positive outcome, based on more grounded and thought-through self belief
  • I react or behave differently, based on my thoughts not my feelings
  • My feelings eventually catch up, as this process is repeated, and I start to replace negative emotions with more positive ones.

Believing that events make us feel and therefore behave in a certain way is to fall into victim mentality. Events happen. They can be devastating or mundane. And this is not to negate the valid and real emotions we feel as a response.

However, our reactions to the events are a choice we make that stem from an awareness of our emotions. This is not easy, and represents a simple explanation of complex behaviour that warrants serious consideration and investment of time.

All I offer here is a starting point, some questions that might create more awareness of the behaviour path we most commonly walk in, and perhaps give us the opening to a new path.

  • What am I feeling here?
  • Why am I doing this?
  • What is most important here?
  • What are my choices in response, now that I recognise how I am feeling?

And, my favourite question, and one borrowed from a Jesuit priest –

Who are you becoming in this decision? More or less like the best version of yourself?”

Relationship Lie No 5 – I don’t have to change who I am

Where is change needed?

Where is change needed?

This is a subtle lie, one that is easy to misinterpret –

I shouldn’t have to change who I am to make our relationship work.

Or, as Gloria Gaynor so powerfully put it, “I am what I am!” Now, I am not saying that we should diminish, hide, or conform who we are to suit our other half. As a Life Coach, my passion is to encourage people to understand who they are – unique makeup, strengths, character traits, values – and embrace and celebrate living as the best version of that person. Not living in the shadow of someone else, or trapped by negative internal dialogues that diminish our true self, or playing the comparisons game to destructive, exhausting effect.

BUT ….

….and it is a big BUT

….none of us are perfect, and knowing and understanding who we are also means accepting where change is needed.

If we believe this lie, that we don’t have to change to make the relationship work, we could be saying one of a number of things:

  • I am who I am and that is it, accept me or tough – I am not willing to change
  • I’m happy with who I am, and therefore all the problems in our relationship are your fault
  • I don’t need to change – either I don’t have any bad habits, or I am quite happy with them and you have to accept them
  • Who I am is as good as it is going to get
  • I know that there are aspects of my character that are not great, but it is too hard to change

As ever, I am polarising things somewhat to make a point and get you thinking. But if we are really honest with ourselves, can we relate even the teeniest bit to any of those statements?

How many of us are perfectly aware of our own character flaws but choose instead to point out those of our partner, to avoid having to do the hard work to change our own attitudes and behaviour?

We might be fully aware of our short temper…tendency to criticise…lack of self discipline…stubbornness…emotional unavailability…[add your own]. But we choose to not address those issues in ourselves because it is too hard, too painful or requires too much time and effort. So we stay as we are, and expect the other to accept us.

If we think we are content to stay as who we are and don’t need to change, we are essentially saying that there is little in us that needs to change. We are completely happy being who we are, including bad habits that we are ok with and therefore expect the other to accept.

This might be seen as perhaps a little selfish, and that we are making unrealistic demands on our other half?

It is important to note that this is not about conforming or becoming a wet blanket to try and please the other. This is about

  • recognising what aspects of our character are hindering intimacy and deep connections within the relationship
  • facing up to and owning that
  • being willing to change.

Being in the right relationship is about being the right person not finding the right person. The question isn’t “should I change to improve my relationship” but

What should I change to improve my relationship?

Expecting our partner to change but not being willing or seeing the need to change ourselves is going to lead to disconnect, discontentment and disaster. Perhaps the bravest question you could ask your partner or spouse this week is

“If I were going to change one thing about me that would make our relationship better, what would it be?”

Dealing with unmet needs in a relationship

What are your unmet needs?It is normal and healthy to have emotional needs. However, it is not healthy, nor is it realistic, to expect all of those needs to be met by one person. This is the Relationship Lie we brought out of the dark cupboard last week. And chances are, we all have unmet needs.

In a healthy relationship, there is mutual commitment to meet each other’s needs as much as possible. The joy of such a relationship is that within it, there is a deep connection, closeness, fulfilment and pleasure in each other.

But it is not healthy for the relationship to be seen as the sole source of supplying all the emotional needs of one each (or one) partner. Think of your own emotional needs with me for a minute –

  • your need for affection, affirmation, appreciation and encouragement
  • your need for comfort, security, support and understanding
  • your need for attention, acceptance, approval and respect
  • ultimately, your need to feel safe…to know you matter…to be valued.

Quite a list – fundamental to all humans I believe, and if neglected, can cause serious fall-out. And fall outs. [Or fallings out, whatever the plural is!]

Where do you look to have your emotional needs met? What gives you significance and self-worth? Who appreciates and respects you? Where do you gain encouragement and support? How accepted do you feel, for who you are not just what you do? Again, I know I am on tricky territory, and seek not to open a painful wound but to raise awareness.

Because it is only when we understand what our emotional needs are, and acknowledge where there are unmet needs, that we can start to take steps forward.

Awareness, as always, is key.

Chances are that if you root around inside your soul long enough, you will come across a few unmet needs. You may not have to look very far. You may find that they are screaming at you, that you crave affection or long to be noticed and valued. My entirely unscientific observations suggest that women particularly need appreciation and affirmation – in a relationship, it is often the woman who does many of the mundane household practical and administrative tasks and keeps everyone’s lives running but is not always noticed and valued for it. Men especially need to be respected – perhaps linked to them being valued as provider and protector.

Consider your own relationship for a moment and think about your top emotional needs, and if you are brave and able to, ask the same of your partner.

Having identified that we have unmet needs –

  • recognise and acknowledge the hurt and the gap – name what it is you need that is currently lacking
  • choose a good, calm time and talk it through with your partner, keeping the focus on how you feel and not on blaming them
  • be as specific and concrete as you can about how they can help – “I really appreciate it when you say….or do….”
  • keep it simple, and stick to one thing at a time; don’t overwhelm the other person with a huge list
  • avoid the temptation to use this as a chance to vomit out a whole load of specific instances of your perceived neglect and in so doing make your partner feel rubbish, got-at, defensive
  • keep it general, realistic, honest and forward looking
  • pay attention to the needs of your partner: ask them what it is that they would most need from you ie affirmation, respect, support etc
  • look outside of the relationship too in a healthy and appropriate way and invest in friends, hobbies and activities that don’t detract from your relationship but fill some of your unmet needs and enable you to be more fulfilled within your relationship
  • create a new, positive habit of asking your partner each week to tell you little ways that you can meet some of their needs, and encourage them to do the same for you
  • be patient with each other, and show grace. This takes time, a new way of thinking and a new language to learn.

We all have unmet needs. But we can learn to acknowledge them, take responsibility for them, and deal with them in a more constructive and relationship-enhancing manner.

If this has struck a chord, and having someone work through this with you would be helpful, get in touch.

Relationship Lie No 3 – Meeting my emotional needs

As we tread carefully amongst the eggshells of relationships, this next lie is a giant ostrich egg waiting to break open and spill its destructive and divisive contents everywhere….

It is my partner’s responsibility and role to meet all my emotional needs.

Um, no it’s not.

This is unrealistic to expect of one person, no matter how much you love tEmotional needshem and believe they are the right person for you. Think with me for a minute – our top emotional needs are for

attention     acceptance     appreciation    affection    affirmation    comfort

encouragement    respect   security    support    understanding

Muse on that list a while….which ones jump out at you as being top of your own list of emotional needs? It will of course vary, depending on life stage, maturity, extent of connectedness within the relationship.

But could you meet all those needs for another person? How much do you seek to supply that for your partner? How would he/she rate his/her own levels of affirmation, respect, support? Before you jump down my throat, or climb onto the guilt bandwagon, hear me out. This links back to Lie No 1 and the risk of pointing the finger of blame at our partner and not seeing – for whatever reason – where we can take responsibility for ourselves and our behaviour. And the growth in character and relationship that can then ensue.

Having someone look to you to meet their emotional needs can initially make you feel important, strong and needed. But over time it can become claustrophobic. You can be left feeling smothered, used, resentful, and suffocating.

No one person can be the perfect meeter-of-needs. Our needs are too numerous and diverse. And as men and women, our approaches and ways of expression vary hugely.

Our emotional needs can only be met through a variety of people and activities.

It is normal and healthy to have a emotional needs. Good old Maslow and his hierarchy of needs (college psychology lectures swim vaguely into memory!) – we were created to be in relationship, not live as islands, and to know that we matter. Security, significance and self-worth would be a summary of our basic needs as humans. One look at the crazy and often dysfunctional world we live in shows us what can happen when we neglect to look out for our own emotional needs and those of others.

I know, I know. I am on hugely complex territory here – the fodder of reams of books, the study of learned theorists and psychologists, the domain of counsellors and therapists. But I add my tuppence worth cautiously with a little basis of my own experience and that of working through this subject with clients.

What to do? The challenge is to identify which emotional needs are not being met, and acknowledge that first. Only then is it possible to start to understand how to move forward, and that will be what we do next week.

Relationship lie No 1 – it’s all my partner’s fault

It's all my partner's faultThe first in our little mini series on relationships starts with a thorny but oh-so-common lie that can fester at the heart of any relationship –

The problems we are having are all my partner’s fault.”

Now, let’s be brutally honest here. After all, what is the point in messing about sticking plasters over a great wound – lets rip that wound open and get right into the core of the mess.

Because when I choose to point the finger at my partner and blame him for all the problems in our relationship, I am essentially stating that I as an individual am totally sorted and have no flaws. That I contribute zippo to the problems, and my behaviour, attitudes and actions are always exemplary. I’m completely fine but oh-you-most-certainly-are-not and therein lies the rub.

Hmmmm….I detect a little uncomfortable shifting about in the seat. I most certainly cannot say this about myself, and I tentatively suggest that you are not perfect either? And yet why do we so easily and so quickly point the finger? Why are we so quick to apportion full blame at the feet of our partners, and abdicate all responsibility for any contribution we might make to the recurring arguments or disconnect in the relationship?

Marriage/partnership is a relationship between two people who collectively pool their strengths, weaknesses, experiences and past histories, and then co-create what happens in the new set up.

There may well be a specific problem that is initially caused by one person, but the other person’s reaction to this – and subsequent choice of behaviour – plays a HUGE role in determining whether things then get better or deteriorate. We all have choice in our responses. This is a key theme, and will repeatedly recur in these discussions.

How willing are we to look at our own behaviour, attitudes, choices, omissions

  • what we do or neglect to do
  • what we take for granted in the relationship
  • what we fail to notice or appreciate in the other person
  • how we blame the other because it is easier/a pattern/habitual/avoids admitting our failings

This takes some honest self examination and a willingness to stop, step back from the relationship and see what is really going on.

To be willing to ask questions like –

  • Am I being as loving as I could be towards my partner?
  • Am I caring for him in a way that makes him know he matters to me?
  • How aware of and supportive am I of her choices and values?
  • How attentive am I when he comes in, or do I make him feel second best?
  • How affectionate am I towards her?
  • How much would he say I understand him?

We all mess up. We all get things wrong.

When we have been hurt by a partner, the temptation is to blame, be angry, resentful, and become cold and distant. A record of wrongs is easily kept. Habitual destructive patterns of blame, hurt, retaliation, neglect, distance, once established, can be hard to change.

But it can be done. I know this from my own relationship, and from working alongside clients helping them break old negative habits and build healthy new ones.

It is important not to ignore or downplay the emotions that surface when there are problems or hurt in a relationship. Those emotions are not going to go away, and if buried are only going to surface in the future in a potentially catastrophic explosion (well, if you are like me that is). But it is possible to learn how to express those emotions more safely, understand what is and is not our own responsibility, and what the emotions point to under the surface. This is always about awareness – key in coaching – and learning to look honestly and bravely at the root of the emotions we are experiencing, at our own behaviour, and at what has contributed to this problem.

We cannot change our partner. We have established that. But we can –

  • look honestly at our own personal flaws
  • take responsibility for our own emotional responses, attitudes and actions
  • choose to not keep a record of wrongs but forgive, let go, admit our own part in the problem, and say sorry.

As a life coach, my emphasis will always be on seeking to move forward from a difficult, stagnant place. To work alongside people to help them understand how they can gain understanding, change attitudes, and move towards deeper connections. To that end, this week why not consider these questions for yourself:

What one thing could I change about my behaviour that would strengthen the connection with my partner?

If I stopped doing/behaving……towards my partner, what would happen?

If I started doing/behaving…..towards/for/with my partner, what would happen?

Perhaps it could help dispel the lie that my relationship problems are always my partner’s fault….and prompt positive action.



What is your legacy this week?

What would your legacy be this week?

What would your legacy be this week?

Legacy. I have started counting the number of times that word is used by news people in the same context as the Olympics. It’s quite a fun game…try it next time you watch the news and see how often the words ‘Olympics’ and ‘legacy’ appear in the same sentence.

What has been my own legacy for this past week, I wonder? With my family, I have been a wife and mum who has been tired, preoccupied, negative and distinctly lacking in enthusiasm for life. Not what I would want to be known for or leave behind.

I am not planning on departing this earth anytime soon. But I was struck by fact that how we choose to react to the events of the day has a huge impact on those around us, and how representative is that of who we want to be, and how we want to be known?

I would much prefer my legacy to be along the lines of –

bringing out the best in folk

seeking to encourage and speak life in small and larger ways to people

an honest, real practical problem-solver who generally sees the hope in any situation

But this week has definitely not seen me living as that person, and – of course – my Nearest and Dearest are the ones who suffer the most.

Nothing dramatic or terrible has happened. But over the past few of months there have been some fairly significant challenges in several major areas of life for both MB and myself (My Beloved as he is known here). The cumulative effect has somewhat worn me down. And in that weariness my response has been to become preoccupied, negative, and serious. And in displaying such characteristics, I see I am negatively impacting those around me too.

Not what I want, not who I am – not my legacy of choice.

I am not proposing a Pollyanna blind optimism approach here – ghastly and really unhelpful, especially for those in seriously dire straits.

But the question of legacy has made me reflect on my own choices of behaviour, and where I choose to focus my sight. Call it mindfulness, faith, gratitude, meditation – being aware of the moment and practising being grateful does shift the focus from trials and challenges onto a bigger, more hope-full perspective.

Many things have fallen apart/broken/fallen off walls in our house in the last couple of months. There are associated frustrations, time and expense ahead which neither MB nor I have the energy or time for. But we have a house, we have great friends and wonderful neighbours. And there are gifted people out there who can fix broken things.

Right now, MB would most benefit from me being emotionally available, supportive and encouraging. He needs my problem solving and proactivity in helping him process and structure some of his work challenges. If we are taking an in-this-together approach to life and career, my negativity and preoccupation with the woes and worries around us will simply bring him down and be entirely counterproductive.

Both daughters need a mum who is available, positive and has a balanced approach (guffaws from those reading this who know me!). They need me to provide stability and loving acceptance in the very wobbly and unsettling world of teenagerness. That is much more the kind of legacy I want – and I am more in control of that than I sometimes would like to think.

I choose how I respond to events, even if I don’t choose the events themselves.

What about you? What is life throwing at you at present, and how are you responding?

And what do your responses say about who you are, what matters most to you, and what sort of legacy you want to leave this week?


Disconnect to reconnect: Is this possible?

Disconnect to reconnect

Disconnect to reconnect

If I say to you: “Why don’t you…”, your age and where you were brought up will probably dictate your answer. Those of you in my (undefined!!) age bracket who lived in the UK as kids will likely reply immediately….

…just switch off your television set and go out and do something less boring instead!”

“Why don’t you…” was on television during the school holidays when I was a child. It’s aim was to encourage children to get outside and do something fun, creative, physical, bonkers – you name it, but anything other than sitting in front of a screen. Now that was 4 decades ago (OK, given it away there) but my, how much we need that advice today.

There is a growing voice on – ironically – social media, the radio, and in print that is talking about the need we modern livers have to disconnect from our 24 hour technology and release and restore our brains. I have spoken about this often, and am increasingly aware of the challenges and temptations to engage in all-things-screen as I watch my children grow up. Technology is not going to go away, and there are some great devices, gadgets, games, apps, out there that have transformed how we live.

But as I say to my children, we choose to control technology, not have it control us. We need to learn to disconnect to reconnect.

As we meander through the implications and challenges of living in a society where burnout is becoming increasingly common, this need to disconnect is crucial. I know of 20-somethings who recognise that they are addicted to their smart phones. I heard of a primary school age child who refused a school residential trip because he could not be away from his games consoles and phone. I know the impact on my brain in the deepest recesses of the night when I can’t sleep and can’t switch off and my head is in a vice and the electronic noise is crushing.

So – how do we learn to disconnect to reconnect?

  • who is in charge – you or your phone? What messages are you giving to those around you about how important they are versus who is texting or messaging you? Consider what is most important to you now – and what you are setting up for the future. Create boundaries around technology use when with family and friends.
  • it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to an original task after an interruption. So imagine at work, constantly having emails ping whilst you are trying to focus on some significant project or task. Research published in The New York Times in 2013 suggested that allowing ourselves to be constantly interrupted by texts or social media – trying to do two things at once – is actually robbing us of brain power. So switch off distractions. Focus on the task at hand, and then once completed, stop. Resist the temptation to revisit it endlessly and fret. Accept when you have done enough and let it go.
  • put time limits on use of social media
  • work out what the life-giving, refreshing alternatives for you are to constantly being plugged in. The more you know yourself, the more you can be in control of choices. A good book, a talk with a friend, exercise or a walk, a hot bath, listening to music, a social activity, craft or hobby. Whatever it is, what restores and refreshes your weary, over-connected brain and allows you to switch off? Unless you have a viable, attractive alternative lined up, it is all too easy in our brain-weary state to feel we have to be available constantly, push ourselves too hard, not let work go, trawl mindlessly through pages of internet.

So this week, I encourage us to look long and hard at when we are connected electronically, to what and – crucially – why.

And what are we disconnected from as a consequence.

What is most important to us? How can we disconnect to the technological world and reconnect to the actual world?





Negativity and numbing – Burnout’s nasty twins

Resist negativity

Negativity: nasty, destructive, insidious and a side effect of feeling burned out. The exhaustion, weariness of soul, irritability, emotional emptiness, and physical symptoms that can accompany burnout have a detrimental effect on our motivation levels and self control. Stress negatively affects our decision making, our confidence can take a battering, and the effort required to pick ourselves up by the boot straps can be too much.

Thus we succumb to temptation more easily, and our self care and mental well being suffer further. It seems easier to self-anaesthetise with activities that numb us to how we are really feeling – why look at the cause when it is easier, quicker and more instantly-gratifying to eat or drink excessively/trawl Facebook/criticise others/watch trashy TV….pick your vice of choice.

Now, food, alcohol, social media and TV are not wrong in and of themselves. But as anaesthetics that keep us from proper rest and restoration and numb us to what is really going on, they can feel good momentarily but are not so in the long term.

I am usually a very positive, optimistic person, with a let’s-see-how-we-can-fix-this approach to life. But I know that when I am excessively stressed, not sleeping, and not caring appropriately for my body and soul I can become very negative.

If you find yourself focusing on the down side of situations, judging others and feeling cynical, with a doom-and-gloom laden heart, negativity has taken hold and action is required.

Don’t get drawn into negativity in conversation with others. Narky, sarcastic, negative, derogatory, gossipy conversation can on the surface seem attractive because of the power we can feel over others, and our desire to be included in the in-group. But this is destructive and life-sapping, leaving us feeling lesser than we are, and losing respect of others and ourselves. As a child, when I complained to my wise old grandfather that someone had been mean and horrible to or about me, he would pull on his goatee beard, nod his head sagely and inform me that

You can always learn how not to treat other people.”

Rarely, was this what I wanted to hear. My injured young heart, in receipt of negativity and nastiness from others, wanted justice for my accusers, and really wanted him to be outraged on my behalf and soothe my soul with sympathy. But now his words return to my mind often, and can serve as a useful check when I am tempted in my weariness to be negative and critical simply because it is easier and makes me feel better, albeit temporarily.

Because that is the point – negativity ultimately leaves us feeling drained, hopeless and helpless, and can seed destructive thoughts that then take root.

Negative thought patterns – criticism, anger, resentment, bitterness, frustration. Pay attention to when they are taking hold, stop and ask yourself –

  • What is at the root cause?
  • Who do you need to forgive, including yourself?
  • Where are your expectations unrealistic?
  • Do you have a misplaced sense of entitlement?
  • Where instead can you look for the positive in your daily experiences, show appreciation, practise being thankful?
  • What steps can you take to bring some rest and renewed perspective?

Let things go and let yourself off the hook, but always be willing to learn from the situation.

Stop overthinking everything – accept what you can do, and learn to let go of what you can’t.

Take responsibility for that which is yours, but don’t carry or shoulder responsibility for the behaviour or attitudes of others.

Get out of your head, and look at what is working and what you do have power to change.

Recognise where you are needing to stop, plan in some relaxation, rest, and switch off – next week’s morsels.

Choose to stand up to negativity and pay attention to the temptation towards numbing behaviour before it consumes you.