Be mindful of what you know.

Progress can be frustrating.

Not in an anti-technological tirade of how humanity is losing touch kind of way, although there’s some merit in that sentiment, more that the progress I know will have been made at some point in the not too distant future has not yet been made by this moment, now. There’s a lot to be said for mindfulness and let’s face it, I’ve said some of and will shortly be saying even more if you get the October issue of Only Peterborough but when you know something ought to be happening but has yet to come to fruition, I think it’s fair to say that progress is, well, frustrating.

A case in point. Learning to learn, that middle road of enlightenment in my journey, is being well received verbally but hasn’t gained traction. Yet. I absolutely know that it will. Without question. It is such a vital aspect of today’s education and qualification system that is missing perhaps because so many of tomorrow’s adults are being taught by so few of yesterday’s children, overseen and over-tasked by the politically inspired so that it is all but impossible to teach any of them how to learn.

After all if Albert of E=MC2 fame defined education as ‘…what is left when one has forgotten all one was taught at school’ then this is hardly a new phenomenon.

We’re all led to believe that proving we know what we know is vital to our progress so that we never really see the end of that road filled with yet another qualification. Fortunately in the UK there is a small move towards accommodating the fact that we learn differently because there’s been a mini return to apprenticeships, catering much better for those who’s preferred style of learning is intensely practical. People who need to move, touch, feel, manipulate and, yes, hit it hard with a hammer in order to learn. People who do things; real things; who make things, repair things. Vital work but insufficiently recognised as vital because it lacks the more highly prized academic badge.

Even here though, there is a need for written proof.Study days. College attendance. Exams and course work. I find myself believing that this is more of a political employment statistics manoeuvre than an understanding of the learning environment. Maybe I’m just a cynic.

Whatever you found you could deal with last time around educationally speaking, there is, somewhere in your future, yet another exam. More study. Usually at a time when you’re trying to hold down and progress a career and have far less time to devote to learning.

In a pressure situation we tend to revert to type. So unless you’ve been lucky and found a new route through the quagmire, you do what you’ve always done. Just harder and for longer and with less free time to give it. In essence, we all study and learn using the techniques we picked up to do homework and tests when we were in our early teens. Often these were learned by accident or if by design, by the design of someone we trusted. We learned to learn the way that our parents or favourite teacher had themselves learned to learned.

We find ourselves sailing in wrong direction, putting up more sails and fighting the wind because we think it will get us there quicker. Instead we drown in the storm of things we can’t remember and don’t understand.

For many this is enough to get by. For a few, it is exactly right for them, the born sailors so to speak. For a significant minority it hardly works at all and they disengage with education, believing that in some way it is their inadequacy. Not a bit of it. The system, entirely because it is a system, let them down. It simply doesn’t have the capacity in its current form to deal with individual learning needs at that level.

It could do. Absolutely it could do. All it needs to do is to recognise the benefit of teaching individuals how they themselves like to learn. Coach them in developing that skill and how to apply this new-found skill to anything they wanted to learn. Anything.

The educators themselves would require a pretty good heads up on what’s going on too. Recall that age-old cry of teachers? ‘Stop looking out of the window! The answer’s not out there!’ Well for some particularly visual learners, that’s exactly where the answer is. Not in reality but in their internal visual recall field. Actually looking in that direction might be exactly where they need to look to allow their memory to ‘see’ the information they are trying to recall. Forcing them to ‘not look’ is the same as asking what’s on page 43 of a book you haven’t got. You’ve effectively blinded their ability to recall.

If the teacher/trainer knew what they were doing, they’d move that student so that his or her visual recall field was at the front of the room. That way, the answers are somehow ‘there’ even as they were asked the question. The student finds themselves already ‘looking’ at the answer whilst still being asked the question. Imagine the confidence that would build. Instead of embarrassment and failure.

This skill, or lack of it gets carried through into adult life where the insistence on written proof continues. Qualifications abound. I sit here at the age of 53, difficult thought it is to believe and my alter ego, the Chartered Financial Advisor is heading off over the next three weeks to train a variety of already qualified Financial chaps (a multi-gender term these days) to even greater levels of prowess helping them achieve the ‘coveted’ Chartered status themselves.

Consider how much time it would save if for the next exam you had to take you could study and revise in a way that, whilst not effortless, would really engage you. Demonstrate results quickly. Prove to you which parts you already knew and which you needed to revise a little more. Focus your attention. In a style such that once you had learned, you would remember. Even after the exam itself was passed long ago (pun intended), you would still remember the information.

Imagine how much less stressful it would be to know that you would learn and recall over 80% of everything you would need to know for your exam. Especially since most exams which rely on recall, that unprompted recollection and application required of the written answer, have pass marks around 55%-65%. Those which rely on recognition, multi-choice to you and me, have much higher pass marks but if you have 80% unprompted recall, your ability to recognise and choose from four or more options is vastly greater. In essence, you are being asked to recognise the right answer, not recall the right answer. Multi-choice is, quite frankly, simple when you know that you know. When you revise for recall, recognition is a walk in the park.

It’s much easier to dedicate time to something when there are tangible results you can see and it just screams out to you that you really have learnt it. (Did you see what I did there? Hands up if it made sense and it sounds as though I’ve got it all covered? (Heard it all before? I did it again… and so on in infinite loop…so I’ll cease and desist before it crumbles)). Apologies if that didn’t make sense. It will once you’re in the know.

So there’s a need for learning-to-learn at every level. In every walk of life. At every age.

I find it frustrating that educators and training departments aren’t biting my hand off. The sales training of my relative youth tells me that there’s more to it than this but I lack marketing experience and drive. Whilst teaching people how they learn is important to me,  I’m not about to try to lead the UK education and qualification system out of the darkness and into the light. I’m more interested in creating change one person at a time. Which is slow to gain traction. Frustrating.

However, I do know that this will work. The future is out there, waiting.

Despite my current work with mindfulness, appreciating the reality of the moment, I find that I am brought up short wondering why that Future doesn’t get off its arse and do something. Now.

 

Learning coach, and Mindfulness

Where to next?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

Related

Only Peterborough Magazine

Hypnotherapy mp3 tracks

 

This needs to be shared

As you all know, sometimes I come across a post which is so good it needs to be shared.

This is one of them.

Dad

I thought I’d try that title.

Dad.

Not “My father”

Dad.

Because that’s what I have in my life. My dad.

You have no idea how hard it is to type the word. To say the word in my head. It’s like every time I do I get a little stab in my heart.

Click here to read the rest on The Moiderer

Meanwhile, back at the beginning…

Helen & I trained at the same time and she’s already found herself featuring a couple of times in this blog. As I recall, she didn’t mind at the time and seeing as she’s happy to appear in the flesh as it were, maybe she’s still content with me periodically lobbing her into the middle of these vaguely relevant ramblings.

This is an article Helen wrote for the latest issue of the Cognitive Hypnotherapy E-zine ‘Perception’. [I’ve added a link to it at the end if you fancy reading more, (or even subscribing). It’s entirely free and written for non-therapists, so it’s brilliantly lacking in jargon. Check it out, you might find you were glad you did.]

Interestingly, (this blog is still trying to get me to use that word I tried and failed to avoid using in a recent post), the weekend she’s referring to is the very same weekend which turned out to be the spur that transformed wishful thinking into the action which became Posts of Hypnotic Suggestion.

Not only that, Helen is the protagonist who featured in that post.

So without Helen, this blog may never have existed.

Thank you.

A Therapist’s Journey

I walked into the Cognitive Hypnotherapy training room, wondering what on earth I was doing there. The previous year I had given up my job as an Assistant Head Teacher of a secondary school when I had given birth to my daughter. In the early months of being a new mother I knew I wanted to work in an area where I could enable people to move forward in their lives. It was an aspect as a teacher I had loved, whether it was helping my students reach their full potential, teachers who needed support or parents who were going through difficult times.

I had come across hypnotherapy whilst I was trying to conceive through IVF and recognised its power to reframe the stories we all tell ourselves which don’t necessarily support us in achieving our goals.  Quite by chance I stumbled across the Cognitive Hypnotherapy website and really liked its approach of recognising the uniqueness behind each person’s issue and having a flexible enough approach to be able to get to the reason behind the presenting issue, rather than just deal with the concern itself.

Within fifteen minutes of hearing the founder of The Quest Institute, Trevor Silvester speak, I knew I had found the right course for me. His words were utterly inspiring, thought provoking and at times challenging. Weekend after weekend we were exposed to new concepts taken from a range of successful therapeutic approaches and slowly but surely the pieces of the jigsaw started to come together and we realised with excitement the potential for deep and significant work with future clients.

Quest is an amazing institute as it attracts likeminded people. All of us in the room were readily open to the new learning’s that we were being presented with and as the months went by we grew into a supportive group willing to give our time and energies to each other to help move our fellow students through difficulties and challenges, using the new techniques we had been taught.

I went to train to be a therapist, was pretty sure I’d make friends, but what I hadn’t bargained for was the therapeutic journey I would find myself on. One weekend we were taught how to do a specific technique and as always we had an opportunity to practice on each other. As I was shortly about to start another round of IVF I decided to be gentle with myself and not focus on anything too deep and meaningful. Instead I chose to focus in on how working as a therapist I could build in being part of a community into my working world. A fairly innocuous area of development. Or so I thought.

Unbeknown to me the strategy bypassed my conscious mind and went straight to the unconscious and revealed an issue that was so deep I had only had glimpses of it over the years and had never made any connections with a situation that happened when I was 22 months old and my inability to conceive naturally in the present day.

I was born seven years after my mother had last given birth and number three in the family. I was evidently a joyful and long awaited addition to the family. A few months later much to the delight of my parents they found they were expecting again. At 22 months old my sister was born with Downs Syndrome. The shock was enormous for my parents and sent reverberations throughout the family. This was in the late 1960’s when approaches and views about Downs was vastly different to thankfully how it is today. My mother in particular found her condition very hard to cope with and at some point after my sister’s birth suffered a breakdown.

My sister was in hospital pretty much continuously for the first two years of her life. My parents almost overnight were absent both physically and emotionally. Earlier than she had wanted she put me into nursery care as she simply didn’t have time to tend to my needs as well as my sister’s. Understandable when it would take over two hours to just to feed my sister at any given time. My parents whole focus obviously was taken up with the arrival of my sister and at 22 months old, bewildered by my parents obvious absence and lack of focus I began to internalise that I was no longer good enough, that the unit I had felt such an affinity with I no longer belonged to and perhaps I wasn’t as loved as I believed.

As the revelation of how this event impacted through the work that I did at Quest, I was able to recognise that throughout my life I had found myself always feeling as if I didn’t quite belong and that on the whole that nagging sense of not being good enough pervaded so many situations.  In my adult life I didn’t feel good enough because I didn’t have a boyfriend, so I got myself a boyfriend. Then I didn’t fit in because in my mind I didn’t have a good enough job, a good enough place to live, a husband, and the icing on the cake when I achieved all that was a child.

Two rounds of IVF following ‘unexplained fertility problems’ and holding my darling daughter I had a moment of peace. I had achieved what everyone else had so surely I was now good enough, surely now I would belong. To my surprise though that feeling didn’t last long as they returned  when  those around me who had their babies at the same time as me were all falling pregnant with their second baby. Once again the club I belonged to felt as though they were shutting their doors to me, just as my 22 month old self felt when the family dynamic shifted so suddenly.

Trevor had taught us that with a number of issues comes a secondary gain. I wondered what my gain was at being unable to fall pregnant naturally. When I asked myself the question I realised that my inability at falling pregnant kept me separate from others, it created a division which although I didn’t want was so terribly familiar. When we are driven by a negative emotion we tend to create exactly what we don’t want.

  The impact was hugely significant and a few months on and now a qualified Cognitive Hypnotherapist myself I continue on my journey of self-discovery using the techniques we were taught, as well as having regular therapy with another Cognitive Hypnotherapist to help me move into my preferred future world that I want to live in. I am learning to recognise my limiting beliefs and more importantly learn how to recognise that these are borne out of thoughts that simply aren’t true. I also recognise that now I have found this  path my road to peace is much shorter than my 43 year old journey to realisation.

My future is filled with a hope and exuberance which is spilling over into my present day. It’s a wondrous feeling. I have no idea whether my shifts in perception and beliefs will result in me having another baby. Whether it does or it doesn’t almost doesn’t matter because I have a growing sense of confidence that with a significant shift in how I view myself in my world I can only be a happier person, secure in who I am and what I have.  With this realisation and knowledge  I can see what a gift I can pass onto my daughter when she too faces her own limiting beliefs.

Having done this remarkable course, as well as experienced first-hand the powerful impact this work can have I now know what I didn’t know when I walked into that room almost a year ago. That Cognitive Hypnotherapy can and indeed does successfully help treat a wide number of issues by truly getting to the heart of the underlying issue and gradually and gently making the changes needed for people to let go of their limiting beliefs that have caused them so many difficulties in the past. I can only say that there is a whole host of therapeutic approached out here for people to choose from.

For me there is now only one choice. Cognitive Hypnotherapy has given me a future in so many ways I couldn’t even have imagined before I embarked on this incredible voyage and I thank each and every individual who has been part of it.

Helen Day

Related articles

That's better © Tony Burkinshaw 2013

That’s better
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

If this is more than nothing…

“Anything more than nothing is progress.”

I heard that more than once over the last year from someone who I’d like to think is now a good friend of mine. You know who you are, (as does every Questie reading this).

I read this post today whilst searching for something for the mid-week re-blog and wanted a post that was different from the others. I hadn’t found Valerie’s blog before but this post struck a chord as I have recently been through that blank spot where there just didn’t seem to be anything there. As Valerie succinctly puts it, when you’re trying to get momentum back, doing something, anything, matters far more than the outcome.

I’ve known many people over the years, myself included, who didn’t do that something simply because the first something was bound to be less than good, beautifully missing the point that the first few somethings are not the result, just steps to get you on the way.

Whether it’s getting fitter, eating healthier, writing blogs, overcoming depression or anxiety, sometimes we refuse to take that first step because it obviously won’t be enough to do the job. We don’t think beyond that first step.

The whole point of the first step is that before you took it, you weren’t moving. Now you are.

Anything more than nothing is progress.

Sometimes that’s the most important lesson my client’s learn.

Sometimes it’s the most important thing I forget to remember. But don’t worry.

I’m taking steps.

Click here to read Valerie’s blog

Obvious, I know© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

Obvious, I know
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

Over 1000 views from the UK !

I’ve just reached over 1000 views from the UK alone

Many Thanks, I’m really pleased and grateful for your support! It feels like an early Xmas present and it’s good to get there before the Mayan calendar runs out!

Just so you are up to date:

  • 1712 views in total
  • 38 countries
  • 115 WordPress followers
  • over 200 likes

1712 views38 countries

1712 views
38 countries

In the end, it’s all about me (re-published)

Hey there readers of mine! Yet again good old WordPress has posted on a previous day to the one I actually published on. I know this is probably my lack of technical skill as yet but it does mean I need to re-publish this post to make sure it gets in the categories and tags properly.

For those of you who didn’t see this one earlier….Please follow this link :

In the end, it’s all about me

Isn’t it finished yet?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

In the end, it’s all about me

In a very real sense, it’s all in my own head.

However, as you’ll see if you follow me through this post, this isn’t a self-centric statement because when all’s said and done, what’s valid for me applies equally to you so if it makes you feel any better about the narrative, just think of the you that’s doing the reading as the me I keep referring to. It still works.

Every problem I’ve ever had whether overcome or not, every interaction whether good, bad or inane, only happened inside that part of me that I consider to be me. Everything that’s out there on that external reality that Western civilisation considers to be the real reality but which Eastern philosophical traditions know isn’t actually there at all is, in essence simply how my own mind has interpreted what its sensing equipment has relayed to it. That information is held, sifted prioritised and matched against other prior inputs in order to determine the most appropriate reaction for the preservation or procreation of that previously postulated multi-cellular collective that I’m currently strolling around in.

Strange as it may sound, I’m not reacting to the world outside at all. I’m reacting to the relative urgency of the combined sensory inputs received by the I that is me. I’m reacting to a lightning fast interpretation of the information, not the information itself. I’m two steps removed from what I like to think of as ‘everything that isn’t me’ and weirdly, sometimes everything that isn’t ‘me’ includes the body I’m inhabiting.

If you want to get proper bonkers, then this is the point where you start to debate how we actually know that whatever is out there is actually out there and not simply a metaphoric illusion created by the I that is me in order to manipulate whatever it might be that is the actual source of all that sensory information from ‘out there’. Or maybe even ‘in here’. My brain could just be making all this stuff up. Decidedly possible, considering everything I’ve written previously.

The jump after this, depending on your day job and whether you have a brother with the surname Wachowski, is to go on to create a ground breaking slo-mo camera technique known as bullet-time and surround-freeze the action in a film you decided to call The Matrix. Mind you, you’d need some old fashioned still-camera techniques like time-slice and a techno-creative brain in someone as skilled as John Gaeta to see the potential. So seeing as that’s already been done, at least it has in my reality perception, I’ll content myself with using it simply to illustrate the point rather than develop the teenage-level philosophising any further. I have no way of separating out whether a signal is actually coming from an outside source or is an internal illusion and if it is external, I have no way of proving what’s actually generating it. So without formulating a doom laden hero against machine future, what’s my point?

As it goes, in practical day to day terms none of this matters. Stuff happens. You react to it. It makes no difference whether the external stimuli are actually there, a representational metaphor or even an emergent property of all that is quantum in a world where everything has probability, nothing is certain and matter is just informational potential. Wherever it actually comes from, our bodies and minds develop their individual models of the appropriate way to react and behave based on experiences overlaid onto the preloaded evolutionary software hard-wired into you by the time of your birth. Some of this drives us in a positive direction of growth and some holds us back in a negative fog of limiting beliefs.

If reality, whatever the truth may actually be and as I’m choosing to blog let’s take it for granted that I fully accept the real world is indeed the real world, if it is all down to how I both consciously and unconsciously interpret all the stimuli that come flooding in every minute of every day, then all the control I could possibly need to affect my reaction to the world is inside my head and that’s quite a liberating stance to take. I needn’t rely at all on the outside for solutions because whether anything works or not is down entirely to how that fundamental me interprets it and assimilates it into my model of how to deal with the world. I’m in full control of how I choose to react to the world and all the good and bad it cares to throw at me.

Unfortunately it’s not as simple as that.

You see, the I that I think of as me isn’t the full picture. There’s a lot of evidence that ninety per cent of the decision made by me are actually driven unconsciously and the I that I think of as me, residing in the conscious as it does, that emergent property of multi-cellular collectivism from earlier postings, remains completely unaware of them. My conscious decision-making is limited to how I react to the various aspects of my environment that my unconscious has let me become aware of after it’s done all the checks and balances about keeping me safe.

Now normally this is excellent. It means that if I’m getting stalked by a predatory wolf-pack, (see I told you that famous feline would be retired soon), my unconscious would put me on high alert before I’d consciously become aware of them. Equally, if there were a prospective partner in the vicinity, I’d start strutting around, preening myself in the manner of whatever the locally accepted traditions dictated before I’d actually registered who that he or she might be, setting all the village elders into a giggle of knowing looks and sideways glances at the prospective in-laws.

There is an issue in today’s society, a fly in the proverbial ointment of modernity. Well there must be mustn’t there because it keeps turning up as a recurring theme in these postings of mine. We don’t live in the environment we evolved for. So what’s the issue?

As it happens you’ve all met them. You might even be one of them. Even if you are, everything here applies just the same and the particular effect of the modern environment you experience is this one and yes I realise that I’ve not actually said what it is yet. The issue is, of course, that well-worn phrase, ‘It’s health and safety gone mad’.

Our unconscious safety mechanism is the inner jobs-worth of the soul. It forces you to behave in a way that is socially counter-productive because rules written years ago, for a bygone age, are still the rules. And you know what happens then. Rules is rules, mate. You gotta follow them. They were written for a purpose and if you don’t follow them there’ll be hell to pay. And there’s the rub, as that erstwhile playwright of many centuries past was wont to say.

If you don’t follow the rules, it all goes wrong according to your unconscious, so it forces you to follow the rules before you’ve even realised. Phobia, Stress and Anxiety enter stage left, to continue the theatrical theme. And before you know it, you’re living in your own conscious hell because your unconscious health and safety executive was doing its utmost to stop you breaking a rule which would have put you in danger. Thousands of years ago.

Now, it would be evolutionary suicide to encode specific rules applicable to every situation because this would mean you wouldn’t be able to react appropriately and stay alive in any new situation. So our human evolution-solution was to be able to learn. To assist this process, we all are born with various fundamental ‘programmes’ encoded in our brains. Hard-wired into the very neurons of our brains. Here’s some of them

  • You behave in way that makes your parents keep you safe when you’re too young to defend yourself.
  • Adults are programmed to find a small body, large head and large eyes inexplicably cute.
  • Adults are programmed to be unable to ignore anything that sounds like a baby’s cry. (Co-incidentally, this is why many adults would rather sit next to another animal’s young on a long trip than a human baby. Think about it. If you had the choice of sitting next to a kitten or a baby on an airplane, which would you choose?)
  • When something sudden happens, we jump and flood our bodies with adrenaline and other hormones which get us ready to run, fight or freeze. And your immune system is temporarily boosted to help fight infection from injury. Really.

So our hard-wired programmes give us a basic set of instructions and we overlay our local versions of reality onto it and our unconscious learns from what happens as you grow from baby to child to adult. It writes sub-routines which keep us safe. The difficulty is it lays almost all of these down when you are very small and just don’t understand your complex modern social environment and it uses massively out of date programming language. It’s like trying to fly the Euro-fighter, which needs four computers just to keep it airborne, with a Sega Megadrive.

This where we link back to the beginning.

The fact that it’s all in your head, (and body, don’t forget the mind-body connection), means that you have all the resources inside you that you need to deal with any situation where these sub-routines aren’t working. You can’t change the main ones, they’re properly hard-wired. But you can change any sub-routine.

Sometimes, you’ll find that it’s enough simply to become aware that you’re reacting the wrong way. If you’re lucky, the wrong way hasn’t been too tough. I listened to Geoff Thompson speaking yesterday. If you’d like to know what it was like when these things go properly wrong, he’s a great example. He also had enough courage and strength to put himself back on the right track. You could tell by the weight of his BAFTA that he had recovered somewhat. Gritty? More like being buried under rubble.

Most of us don’t find ourselves in that place with enough strength or resolve to change. Often all we see is that we’re unhappy with life. Sometimes extremely unhappy.

There are many potential routes to help you deal with and manage that unhappiness. To help you get back to a state of normality.

I’m beginning to find, as I near graduation from this course, that much of what I’ve learned helps to re-frame those unhelpful health and safety rules that our unconscious makes us follow with the best of its intentions. The people I’ve worked with as clients, (who kindly volunteered to help me practice my new skills), are getting better. It’s affected how they see and react to the world, they’re beginning to get that sense of well-being that we yearn for. Not only that, they’re experiencing reduced pain, better sleep, fewer migraines, one of them even no longer has hayfever. All because they looked at how the unconscious had framed prior learning experiences and then re-framing those same experiences from an objectively adult perspective. They rewrote their own rules.

So if you want to get that internal health and safety department working to rules of your own choosing, you might find that you’re be beginning to get an idea of what to do about it. That you have everything you need already.

Sometimes it helps to have someone to show you which buttons to push.

Isn’t it finished yet?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

Acute Stress Disorder in Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit

Why do we insist on feeding our children’s impressionable minds with stories full of deep and fearful terrors.

Maybe it’s to keep my future career in good supply by subtly promoting the prevalence of stress and anxiety through our most popular children’s books. Most people are aware that many old fairy tales are based on some really quite dark medieval fables but even some of our more recently established children’s authors appear to subscribe to the same underlying themes without us really noticing.

Occasionally, I read posts that make me sit up and take notice and which I think you would like to read too. I’ve decided that if I come across such a beast then I’ll post it midweek as an optional extra. But only if I think it’s worth it, so don’t expect one every week.

This one deserves to be first.

I came across this blog about a month ago and have been looking for the best way to bring it your attention. Peter Galen Massey analysed Peter Rabbit who, it seems, is exhibiting the typical symptomology of acute stress disorder. Check it out, it’s a great read and as Peter (GM, not Rabbit) told me; “that Mr McGregor is a pretty scary dude”

click this link: acute-stress-disorder-in-beatrix-potters-peter-rabbit

Enjoy & I’ll be posting again this weekend. See you then.

.

Just through there…
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

 

and whilst you had your back turned…

You would think that parenting would be the most important role you could have in life. Without parents you wouldn’t exist and if you don’t become a parent, your genes disappear with you and the evolutionary imperative fades away.

Even so, in our modernist, disparate and especially westernised society, we’re no longer brought up in an emotionally nurturing world. The nuclear family unit breaks up as soon as offspring have the wherewithal to leave and in the current economic climate that brings additional pressures of its own as the financial tipping point to move on becomes ever more distant.

As a young adult, not only have you just dragged yourself through an education system focussed on targets and results and fought off the trauma unintentionally imposed by the underlying system-message that anything less than your best is the same as a lifetime of failure, despite the best efforts of some of the teaching profession, you now find yourself at the point where you simply can’t stay any longer but your bank balance chains you to your parental home. You find yourself standing emotionally apart from your parents, as is right and proper.

It’s one of the main drivers in any species, urging the adolescent young to move on and out. It’s the primary source for conflict with parents. Over a surprisingly short space of time, that well-feathered nest becomes way too small to have all those nearly adult egos in one place. Fighting with parents is just nature’s way of managing scarce resources, ensuring maximum chance for genes to go get themselves propagated and telling you to get the hell out of there.

As soon as you’re old enough to want to start genetic mingling with who-knows-who and occasionally who-knows-what depending on parental viewpoint, then all of a sudden it becomes too much to tolerate any form of interference. It doesn’t matter one iota whether that apparently constant nagging is in fact well-meant advice and guidance. It grates like hell and the outside world beckons with open arms and other limbs.

It’s time to move out, move on, carve your own path in the world. Turn your back on the household of your youth and become your own young adult. Make your own mistakes, graze your own knees and fall on that well-padded backside of your youth, standing tall, better for all the confusion that comes with learning from what later on might appear to be really rather daft decision making. It’s how we learn to properly grow up.

And then miraculously, as if from nowhere, with no warning, rhyme or reason those antagonistic parents suddenly transform into rational human beings whilst you had your back turned, almost becoming friends although that might be pushing it a bit. Whilst you weren’t looking they started to make sense, actually having some sound advice on those difficult problems you find yourself facing.

Now obviously this change can’t possibly be anything to do with your own journey into hard-won maturity, they’ve just started to accept that you are now an adult and therefore deserving of respect. And all of a sudden, without really meaning to, you find yourself giving that respect back. Welcome to your twenties.

Obviously it depends on whether your viewpoint is that of the freshly freed parent or the recently matured offspring as to who’s moved furthest and who changed the most. The reality again is good old Mother Nature flapping her evolutionary butterfly wings and ensuring the best chance of survival of the genes. After all, who better to guide you through your own parenting quagmire than those who enabled you to make such a good job of yourself, (always assuming that you were fortunate enough for that to be true and if not, it illustrates a key area where modern society can fall short).

We evolved to live in extended families, in village or tribal communities where everyone knows everyone. Looking out for each other is what we do best and is probably the fundamental basis of that trait we love to hate, gossip. If we all take a close interest in each other’s affairs, albeit that it has intrusive and irritating nuisance value, then as a group we end up taking care of our own, usually whether it’s wanted want or not. Oh, and it sells newspapers and magazines by the bucket load.

Now, I’ve never been a fan of gossip. I never really saw the point so I opted out. I liked to think it was because I was a self-sufficient, (arrogant?), adolescent and always assumed that others were the same. If they wanted to share or ask for my advice, then they would just go ahead and do that very thing wouldn’t they, just as I would. Except that I didn’t. I let that AD companion of mine chunter away for years trying to help me fix my own thoughts.

As I’ve moved through life, I’ve become self-aware enough to recognise lame excuses when I see them, even if that means taking a long hard look in the mirror every now and then. As it turns out, the main reason I don’t do gossip is because if I do then, according to my logic, I become fair game and somewhere deep inside that somewhat convoluted internalisation of mine I’m quite concerned about what I might hear. Hand in hand with refusing to participate in gossip went that unconscious acceptance that much of my sense of self-worth was derived from what those around me reflected back. As always with avoidance motivations, not taking part precipitated exactly what I was trying to avoid. If you don’t participate, you exclude yourself and being excluded automatically makes you fair game.

Strangely, all this brings me to social media.

In our diverse and spread out global village, as the press love to call it, we have lost touch with those nearest and not quite so dearest who used to form the basis of our chatter laden village of the past. The geographical availability of work, together with the drive to earn and the ease with which we can travel not just to other parts of our own country but throughout the world has led to the localisation of relationships breaking down in almost all cases.

There are still cultures where family is everything and the core values of life surround it. Some are matriarchal others patriarchal, yet more revere the elders, hanging upon their every word, (at least, once the young get old enough to realise that one day they too will become an elder, if only they can avoid their innate cheek being the death of them).

Most Westernised nations have all but abandoned this ancient and evolutionarily secure path. It’s very much a sweeping statement based only on the facts assumed from my not that extensive travels and therefore no more reliable than other meanderings but in my no-so-humble opinion, lack of close family ties as a fundamental societal issue bears a close relationship to the concentration and reliance on fast food outlets. (Co-incidence or Cause and Effect?). Think about it. If Family were an important part of life, then a direct consequence is large family gatherings at which the central feature tends to be food. People got to eat.

Now, despite what those commercials may want you to believe, a home cooked feast sits higher up the scale of gastronomic satisfaction than a cooling burger or apparently freshly cooked chicken bits, coated in highly secret ingredients. Isn’t it fascinating how ‘for God’s sake don’t tell them what’s in it’ gets gift-wrapped as ‘Secret Ingredients’. Hooray for Advertising. (Unless of course you’re Rachael, in which case, please substitute the following sentence; Advertising is a vital part of any venture and essential in ensuring that quality products and ideas are able to stand head and shoulders above less reliable pretenders to the purse of the common man, woman or sexually ambivalent human of your choice).

Swiftly getting of that particular soap box and back on the track of the day, it’s my contention that despite its obvious and well publicised drawbacks, social media has become the Village of our age. It is because it is so necessary for our well-being to be able to indulge in casual chat about the non essentials in life, (as well, of course, as the deep and meaningful), and on occasion deliver those gleefully spiteful remarks, that technology has charged to the rescue.

Social media has escalated exponentially since its inception back in 1980 with the launch of USENET. (Social media a recent phenomenon? No way! It’s been around for thirty years or more). All that’s happened since then is that technology has broadened its accessibility and dramatically enhanced ease of use. Via whatever media suits you best, you can now reconnect with a network of individuals and post, read and receive comment about whatever you like, whenever you like. We re-access that automatic support network we don’t really ask for but can’t avoid the urge to indulge in.

The healing basis of gossip is that if everything is on view and trivia is automatically dealt with, then when something important turns up as it surely will and you start to struggle as you surely do, those closest to you will notice no matter how hard you try to conceal it. Before you know it your online community has folded itself around you and either wrapped you in a nurturing blanket to help you get through it or exposed the self-doubt and told you to get over it, usually in fairly explicit terms.

The downside of course, is that the younger you are the more your social media community tends to be a narrow slice of society and this lack of diversity and experience leads to insular views which haven’t  yet developed the experience to handle unbridled critique. Emotional content is injected by the unprepared and socially sensitive reader in the absence of any meaningful body language. Posts are automatically overlaid with the highly personal self-doubt of the reader. That can hurt. But the older you get, the wider your audience becomes in age, geographical and social background. You’re able to give and receive comment from a wide variety of motivations and cultures. Social media comes into its own.

As a result of this thought process and unintended journeying of mine, I’ve taken two of my most prevalent avoidance motivations and reworked them. Throughout my career, time off has been precious. Family is at the core of what I do. After being made redundant last year, a prime objective was to work less often so that I had more time off. I succeeded but still felt as though this time was not yet, well, free. The paradigm shift, (wonderful phrase – I couldn’t work out what it meant for years), came about a month ago. I was so concerned with having time off, days when I wasn’t working, that I was defining them by what I didn’t do. I was marking them by ‘not working’. You can’t judge whether you’re ‘not doing’ something unless you constantly check your success by measuring up against the thing you’re trying to not do.

In effect I was spending all my free time thinking about work. In a jump which was much harder to do than it sounds, I simply changed to having days where I now do whatever I choose, whatever that may turn out to be. And yes, occasionally those days do involve work but only if I choose. I now work two or three days a week. The others are totally my own. Don’t tell Gill.

My other avoidance motivation is the one where I didn’t put my head above the social parapet. In my desire to sense worth by avoiding the potential for negative reflection, to ensure that I only got positive feedback, I missed out on that very thing that gets you accepted. Ten weeks ago I climbed the ladder, raised my head and peered over the top, putting my thoughts down in this blog and waiting to see what happened.

I think it’s a measure of where I now find myself that I am starting to realise a previously unfounded conviction that I could write. Even more so that I’m doing it through the world of social media.

At the tender young age of 52, I’ve finally joined in.

what’s down there…
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012