Mind Matters – Nicholas Rose on the nature of goblins

Image above: Illustration from The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book, 1933 'Goblin mode - “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations” In a BBC news story this last week I read that the first Oxford word of the year to be chosen by public vote had been announced. Witnessing the arrival of a new word excited me, but reading the article caused my mood to shift to one of deflation and irritation. Notwithstanding the winning word is actually two words being used to form a slang term, I’m just not convinced it offers us the ability to express anything particularly meaningful, adds a

Mind Matters – Do we really need to talk about our feelings?

I imagine and even hope that your response to reading a psychotherapists article on this subject will be sceptical. Our society does and has for a long time routinely expressed a fairly binary view that talking about feelings is good, not talking about feelings is bad. However you might be surprised that my own answer to that question is “maybe yes, maybe no - it depends”. Often, when people are seen to be struggling those around them will say things like ‘they never speak about it, if only they could talk about it, they need to say how they feel’. I see in my work with relationships that pain and confusion co

Mind Matters – Three minute life hack?

Like all professions we undertake professional development activities and I like to mix technical training with a focus; for example over the last few years we have concentrated on psychiatric medications, psychosexual therapy, safeguarding and suicide to name some of them, as well as more experiential events. These tend to be about having a time and space to focus on a particular concern with living, for example change and uncertainty. Whilst we have a wonderful range and breadth of expertise in the UK, I also like to keep an eye on what my colleagues in the USA are doing and in October I was able to visit Tamp

Mind Matters – The art of patience

Image: Library picture of a jigsaw puzzle; copyright Björn Larsson Our regular Mind Matters columnist Nicholas Rose has been away. Meanwhile, Nicholas' colleague Evangelos Raptis has written this Mind Matters blog on his behalf. A forgotten virtue The pandemic took a heavy toll on me – quite literally. In the two years since March 2000, my weight increased by about 8 kilograms, my shirts could barely keep my belly out of public sight, and my five-kilometer run became a struggle. This summer, I decided I needed to shed that extra weight. I started typing for advice on Google, and the first suggestion that came up was “how to lose weight fast”. I clicked and was flooded with recommendations: 12 tips, 9 scientific methods, 3 simple steps, 7 su

Mind Matters – To Know or Not to Know?

Image: The tree of knowledge, depicted in many forms in different cultures Nicholas Rose is away for the month of September and will be returning to write for The Chiswick Calendar on 14 October. Meanwhile, Nicholas' colleague, Evangelos Raptis, will be writing the Mind Matters blog on his behalf. The anxiety of knowledge and what to do about it As a schoolboy, I experienced the first days of September as a period of heightened anxiety: racing heart palpitations, sweaty palms and stomach cramps. Maybe it was the first drops of autumn rain on the windows of our living room, or the transition out of a summer filled with careless play and chocolate ice cream. More ominously, September marked the beginning of the academic year – a time when I h

Mind Matters – Feeling fine or feeling F.I.N.E?

Research out this month showed that the prescribing of antidepressants has reached yet another new record level. From 2021 to 2022 the number of prescriptions rose for the sixth successive year so that now roughly one in every seven adults in England have received antidepressants. Meanwhile Mind, the mental health charity, challenged the UK Government and the NHS earlier this year

Mind Matters – How big is your list of ‘micro oppressions’?

I’ve noticed a tinge of annoyance when reading in the media about ‘Micro aggressions’. Having reflected, I realise it is because it is a concept that encourages us to be constantly vigilant in terms of the behaviour of other people. Of course it can be a relief to have a concept like ‘micro aggression’ to help us make sense of our experience of others and yet at the same time the negativity of the word itself may well result in us feeling less comfortable. I’m not saying

Mind Matters – The power of nostalgia

If during the Queen's Jubilee Bank Holiday Weekend, you found yourself focusing on a period of time in the past with longing and affection you will not have been alone. Even if you didn't celebrate the Queen's Jubilee the bank holiday will have confronted you with a changed experience of your daily routines serving to bring into focus times in the past when the machinery of society was behaving differently. It also probably meant that Monday morning brought a jolting feeling as your focus moved to both the demands of the present moment and the week ahead. If you spent the weekend relaxing and enjoying the extended bre

Mind Matters – Considering prejudice

It is natural for us to make judgments in the current moment based in part upon old experiences and information and this means we never enter into a new situation or interaction without the potential for unhelpful bias and prejudice. The word prejudice meaning prejudging, happens when we judge, form opinions about a person and assess a stimulus as positive or negative, without a strong foundation or valid reasoning for those judgements. Prejudice can have a strong influence on how people behave and interact with others. It can happen outside of a person's awareness, without the person realising they are under the influence o

Mind Matters – If you have noticed a new reluctance to do things that didn’t exist before the pandemic then you are not alone

As we emerge from the pandemic there are some emerging differences in its impact on people's lives. For many the end of the pandemic brings a return to normality, for others it's about catching up on missed activities but for others there is a struggle around certain aspects of living. I wrote last time about an increase in people seeking our services and there appears to be a number of common concerns so today's article is about one of these, the struggle many people are having in doing things that were easy for them pre-pandemic. When I say reluctance this might be experienced as anything from a lit

Mind Matters – Looking after the mental health of children and young people

It really is a very busy time for us working in the mental health and psychological wellbeing field. Services for children and young people are particularly strained and we are finding it hard to find team members able to work with children and young people to join our practice. Headlines such as this one: "The pandemic have driven an unprecedented surge in demand for mental health services for children and young people" and this one: "Children's mental health: Huge rise in severe cases, BBC analysis reveals all" summarise some shocking statistics detailing the worsening wellbeing of our young and the pressure

Mind Matters – Is therapy in mainstream drama and TV a good thing?

In the twenty years since I started in the therapy profession, the stigma around counselling and psychotherapy has significantly reduced and over the last few years it has become a routine part of everyday film and drama. You would think that as a therapist I would welcome this move into mainstream culture but overall, when I reflect on what I've seen I am left thinking that all too often therapy remains misunderstood and depictions in mainstream media only serve to perpetuate unhelpful myths and stereotypes. The confusion of terminology doesn't help; for example there is counselling, therapy, psychotherapy, psychology, and

Mind Matters – Finding friendship in Chiswick

I’ve been thinking about how Chiswick, a place thought of passionately by so many as home, offers such a positive opportunity for friendship. Its thriving centre of shops and meeting places, schools, local employment, green spaces and groups, events, activities, its diversity of ages, its location close to the city and the countryside, its mix of old and new and a population possibly unlike any other in the London area. It is as easy to meet someone who has never lived anywhere else and who would happily describe themselves as a local as it is to meet someone who has lived all over the world and comfortably call themselve

Mind Matters – Try strolling instead of scrolling

Tucked in amongst all the latest terrible news streams this week was a reference to something called ‘Doomscrolling’. I assumed that this was something newly created by an eager journalist to attract the attention of an exhausted audience of stressed readers already wondering about the state of their mental health. However a Google search showed that I was late to this phenomenon and that since it’s creation other people had come forward with the potential antidote of ‘Joyscrolling’. Doomscrolling is a term referring to the activity of scrolling through bad news and seems to have originated during the pandemic. Lockd

Mind Matters – Venturing out in storm Eunice

I hope that Storm Eunice did not cause you or yours any harm and that you were fortunate not to suffer any damage, losses or inconvenience? For my part I did suffer some inconvenience and had to change some plans but the most impactful experience turns out to be how I found myself reflecting on my experiences and choices. Watching the Storm Eunice coverage Friday morning reminded me of the pandemic and the lockdowns. In particular that experience of being told what to do, I thought carefully about the wording being used around the red warning and part of me, the tired and nervous part wanted someone to come on screen and tell m

Mind Matters – How to talk to someone who is really struggling

Again in the news we hear there is a huge increase in people struggling with their wellbeing, with anxiety and depression rates soaring. Services are being expanded but it is getting more and more likely that someone close to you might be needing help. Being a psychotherapist people often seek my advice when they are concerned about a friend or family member. In response to this I always start by asking “Do you believe you are unable to help - that you can’t think together about a way forward?” Often I hear the problems appear so big and complicated there is a sense of not being able to help, of feeling overwhelme

Mind Matters – Two years of COVID how are your relationships?

A number of very welcome announcements have been made recently to highlight the role of talking therapies (counselling and psychotherapy) and the range of services available for young people and adults. In this article I thought it worth shining a light on our relationships. The pandemic has brought many changes that have impacted upon relationships - home working and schooling, lockdowns, reduced social contact, fewer holidays, loss and bereavements, more time or less time together - so something that can be said with certainty is that our relationships have experienced change. Having relationships is crucial to our health,

Mind Matters – New year but old patterns of negative thinking?

Rather than write about new year resolutions I’ve decided to write about what usually prevents them from being achieved - negative thinking. Everytime you see a news article about COVID do you think about it in terms of what it suggests might go badly as opposed to what might improve? When the phone rings unexpectedly or when an unexpected letter arrives do you expect trouble? Do you instantly start to think that something bad is happening? If you are feeling unwell do you find yourself checking websites and end up wondering if you have the most serious illness listed? When watching news items about difficulties in th

Mind Matters – Lost and found

In something lost, something is found and in something found something is lost. I don’t know about you but the extent to which the last couple of years and the pandemic appear to have accelerated changes to how I live my life reveals itself to me at the most unexpected times and in unexpected ways. Last week I went to meet with a colleague in Hampshire. I used to think nothing of jumping in the car and heading to a meeting and it was only in the doing of it that I realised how unfamiliar it had become and also how the experience of it had changed over the years. My thinking was that of course with experiences that

Mind Matters – The ‘kind’ communication that really isn’t kind at all!

Since the pandemic I’ve noticed an explosion of public communications that I’m not sure never existed before. Alongside public communications that give straightforward instructions such as ‘Mind the gap between the train and the platform’, ‘Hold the handrail’ I have noticed signs saying things like ‘Be Kind’, ‘Please show respect to each other when travelling’, ‘Respect everyone’s space’. So what? you might say, What’s wrong with kindness and respect? For me the problem with using words like ‘kind’, ‘respect’, ‘responsibility’, ‘careful’, ‘helpful’ are that they mean different

Mind Matters – Mental health: nature or nurture?

This is a question which is probably as old as humanity itself but first credited to psychologist Sir Francis Galton in 1869. Ever since, many studies have been conducted, trying to discover the reasons behind the most common mental health problems. The appliance of scientific study to human behaviours generally serves only to raise more possibilities and lines of enquiry. And whilst much greater understanding exists around the physiology that accompanies psychological distress it is not that there is categorical certainty about whether and which might come first. As psychotherapists our role is to facilitate someone getting to the most helpful understanding of their concerns so that they can make skilful decisions about how to live life. Therapy exists at the point current medical know

Mind Matters – Knowing when to give up

Image above: American athlete Simone Biles Coverage of the mental health of Olympians raises the question ‘should you push on through or step back?’ One of the differences about the Tokyo Olympics seems to be the increased focus on mental health. Sports psychology is nothing new but it seems that the decisions of athletes and their behaviours is causing a lot of debate, some about the existence of mental health struggles but also the way in which people should be behaving. It seems that, as usual, observers feel compelled to take a position, judgements can be seen on completely opposing ends of the same spectrum - some voices saying that the athletes are right whilst others wrong. Some advocate “sucking up and pushing through” others “you must do what you fe

Mind Matters – Being able to talk about trauma

The word trauma is one that is being increasingly used, understood but also misunderstood. Often there is something really powerful when someone realises that the feelings they are struggling with are those of feeling traumatised. Once identified it is possible to find a way forward. In this blog post we look at trauma, ASD - Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In psychology, a PTSD diagnosis is applicable to people presenting symptoms once a month has passed since the traumatic event. A whole range of emotions can be triggered by an event that for many connects to key life concerns such as security, bel

Mind Matters – Talking about vaccine hesitancy?

Local news reports show that Hounslow has been recording higher than average COVID infections whilst vaccine rates have been lagging, so “vaccine hesitancy” is something coming up in many conversations. It is only natural that many of these may feel uncomfortable - so I am being asked about how to approach these situations. And of course it is really important that people do feel able to talk about something as important as this. Sometimes it’s because help is needed in reaching a decision whilst at other times relationships suffer if important subjects are avoided. What prevents conversations from occurring can be fear of judgement, anxiety, embarrassment or shame, worries about making things worse, wanting to avoid conflict, feeling ill equipped or possibly thinking somethin

Mind Matters – Recognise your vulnerability to stress

Feeling the pressure to get back to "normal"? Recognising our vulnerability to stress is essential. One way of getting a sense of how you are doing might be to pay attention to your feelings and thoughts as you read this post. Under pressure we tend to have less patience, want quick answers, feel irritated and critical as opposed to calm, patient, curious and accepting. So just your reactions to something as simple as a post on psychological well being can provide vital information on how you are doing. And that is important because? Well not managing stress and pressure has a direct impact on our health, how people experience us, our relationships, enjoyment of life and can lead to a downward spiral. So putting off dealing with stress and pressure is a flawed strategy. On one hand w

Mind Matters – How do you deal with disappointment?

As we get used to the fact that we are not yet free of COVID-19’s restrictions it may be worth taking a moment to think about the feeling of disappointment. Disappointment is a feeling that becomes more and more familiar to us as we get older, we learn that disappointment is a natural part of living but that familiarity can also mean we fail to pay attention to its impacts on us. In Buddhist teachings students are encouraged to work towards a life with an absence of desire - although paradoxically that sets up the desiring for an absence of desire - but anyway our western societies are not a comfortable fit for a life without striving and expectations. Left unaddressed, disappointments can sit unresolved resulting in a mounting sense of disillusionment with feelings of bitternes

Mind Matters – Can we change our lives in just a second?

It seems that as we emerge from the various lockdown restrictions many people are finding themselves struggling to adjust, with accounts of relationships under strain, unhealthy patterns of behaviour around food, alcohol or other substances, anxiety disorders and anger management problems. But times of change can also bring opportunities for us to change in positive ways too and I think that now is a great time for us to consider addressing those things that make us feel less than happy about ourselves. This week I

Mind Matters – How are things in the world of you?

It’s spring, more restrictions are lifting and there is a sense of things improving or moving in the right direction - yes? Mental health awareness week brought a raft of news items; most of which brought concerning news about the impacts of the pandemic on psychological wellbeing across society. I will save you the details except to say the main findings all carry one central message - the need for us to focus on self-care - for ourselves and for others. The increasingly scientific and technological sophistica

Mind Matters – Don’t let it stress you out…

Too stressed to notice that April was Stress Awareness Month? April was Stress Awareness Month and yet with so many stressors in our lives at the moment I think we can be forgiven for not being aware of it? However, I have been thinking about how many of our clients are routinely impacted on stress that comes from work, either from the pressure of the work itself and or difficult relationships at work. And too much stress can so easily hav

Mind Matters – would you know if you were having a panic attack?

Do you know how to recognise anxiety, would you know if you were having a panic attack? Last week I wrote about re-entry fear and anxiety and because a few people have commented on the article and shared their experiences I have realised that it might be helpful to write further about the experience of anxiety and in particular panic attacks. Research suggests that around 13% of people have experienced a panic attack. If you experience a panic attack then it is quite likely you won’t even know that is what is happening. In fact what is most likely is that you won’t feel well, you won’t be able t