Little Matilda joined our family in early April, following the sad loss of our beautiful Theo to lymphoma earlier in the year. She needed us as much as we needed her - her previous Mum had developed some health issues and was no longer able to look after her, so we took Luna to meet Matilda and they were friends at first sight...
She is, as all puppies are, part little angel, part tiny demon... but as Carl Jung once wrote, "The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites."
"The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites." - Carl Jung
She certainly has great energy, as Luna can testify; they play crazy games of chase together - not caring whether they are in the garden, bedroom or sitting room, and then subside in a panting, happy heap. Like Luna, and like Daisy before her, Matilda knows how to bring the joy...
Matilda of course has no concept of self-judgement - she is fearless! She doesn't worry that she is "not good enough" because she likes to roll in pigeon poo, or that she is a "bad person" because she cherishes secret fantasies of catching one of the voles who inhabit the garden wall... she doesn't wallow in guilt because she was sick on our duvet at 4am... she just is as she is, and accepts herself for who she is because she has no idea that there is any other way to be. What liberation! No wonder she is so joyful...
Self-acceptance is a key aspect in developing wellbeing and rediscovering our own joy. To quote Carl Jung once again, "How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole." When we can accept all of ourselves - the light as well as the dark - then we are liberated from others' judgements of us; we realise that what others think of us is not about us at all - it is a reflection of their own thoughts and being.
It doesn't matter what others think of you - it is what you think of you that is the most important thing. Become fearless and spread the joy!
The difference between a bad day and a good day is down to your own inner world of thoughts and feelings... Here I describe a short technique for interrupting negative thinking patterns so that you can begin to have fewer "bad" days and more "good" ones...
In our world of fast-developing technology, and the need to stay connected with friends and colleagues through texts, emails and social media, the irony is that in our face-to-face relationships with others we are becoming increasingly disconnected. The need to check messages and emails as they arrive, to scroll through social media just to "catch up with what's going on" means that time spent together is often time spent on phones and tablets, and that means we are not "together" at all. In that distraction, we are not being present with our partner or family.
In my therapy practice, I am seeing increasing numbers of clients who are experiencing "relationship issues" for one reason or another...
Relationships are not about “getting it right”, they are about connecting with another person. The most important aspect of connection is the ability to listen… when was the last time you did that? Really listened, with total presence and with no other distractions at all?
Listening is a skill we all possess; it is a natural, innate ability. However, as we grow and develop, we learn different, adapted ways of listening, which require effort.
What can happen when you just listen…? Listen with no judgement, no effort, and without trying to offer solutions. Even if the other person is in a negative place – what happens if you just be with them, and hold the space, with compassion and empathy…?
Put your phones down, people, and just be present with each other... talk to each other... and, more importantly, listen... it's the biggest gift you can offer.
For any couples who feel they would like to spend some time together to reconnect, you may like to know that I offer a very special course... Because it’s only for one couple at a time, it’s tailored for the individuals concerned, and whatever you want to get out of the day. (You may also like to know that there is absolutely no mobile signal in our training and consultation offices at 'Planet Wykeham'!)
Self-Awareness and Relationships is an experiential workshop-style day, with some bits of NLP – understanding how we think, and how we each do that differently from one another; there are also some bits from other psychotherapeutic modalities too, because the day is all about having fun as well as learning about yourselves and each other within your relationship. It’s designed to be very much a future-oriented day, rather than looking back at whatever has happened in the past – it’s all about developing connection and understanding, and creating your future together.
If you'd like to know more, just give me a call and we can have a chat to see if this is something you'd like to do together.
Daisy is a perennially happy little soul. Her beautiful, long tail, as soft as dandelion seeds, is carried high over her back and streams out in the wind as she dances up the garden path; just about anything can cause a wag of this gorgeous appendage. After a haircut, however, Daisy often experiences some consternation when the wagging tail tickles her back, causing her to turn in circles trying to ascertain the cause.
Daisy’s tail chasing reminds me of a lovely story I heard… One day, Mother dog comes across one of her puppies chasing her tail and asks her what she is doing. The puppy tells her mother that she has just come back from Puppy Philosophy Class, where she learned that a dogs’ happiness is stored in its tail, which is why dogs wag their tails when they are happy. “If I can catch my tail,” says the puppy, “then I will have the secret to eternal happiness!”. Mother dog smiles, “I learned that at Puppy Philosophy Class too,” she says, “but what I have learned since then is that we don’t find happiness by chasing it. Like your tail, once you get to where it was, you find it’s moved on!” The puppy turns big eyes on her mother. “So how can we reach our happiness, then?” she asks. Mother dog smiles back at her daughter. “You don’t have to try to reach it,” she replies, “you already have it; happiness is always within you. When you know that, then as you move forward in the direction of your dreams, wherever you go, happiness will always follow behind you.”
We’ve had a lot of rain this week here in Scarborough, and the canine members of staff have not been impressed. When we open the kitchen door to the garden, instead of their usual joyful and enthusiastic egress, they will look up with an expression which quite clearly reads, “In this weather? I hardly think so…” and will take mortal umbridge when we insist.
Daisy is particularly funny in this respect – she will wait by the door for it to open, decide she does not like the look of the weather, then continue to wait until we open it again for her – just in case it has magically changed in the intervening 20 seconds or so. When finally convinced that the weather is unsuitable for a Lhasa Apso of her diminutive stature, she will then cross to the other kitchen door, which leads to the car port and, eventually, the front courtyard, and wait there instead – because it’s always possible that while it is dark and raining in the back garden, it might yet be sunny in the courtyard…
On Tuesday evening, it had been particularly wet and, as John was going out again, he had left the courtyard gates open when he arrived home from work – a state of affairs which completely eluded my consciousness when I absent-mindedly let Daisy out of the kitchen side door, at her request… She often likes to spend quite a long time pottering around the courtyard, so we didn’t immediately miss her – and actually it was only when an extremely wet, muddy, bedraggled and very happy Daisy wandered back in through the open gate that we realised she had been on a further adventure than we knew!
It’s that time of year again… enticing cooking smells drift from the Aga, the postman brings parcels to the door (much barking required from the canine members of staff), friends call in for a visit (more barking required – the dogs do take their jobs very seriously), fairy lights abound in the house and, to Daisy’s complete enchantment, a large tree has once again appeared in the living room.
Daisy absolutely adores the Christmas Tree – she wanders slowly around underneath the lower branches so that the pine needles scratch her back; an expression of bliss on her little face. Last year’s tree had an abundance of low branches, allowing her to disappear completely underneath and into the realm of The Presents (to our occasional consternation, as we wondered where she was). Her disappointment when the tree disappeared after Christmas was tempered by her eventual discovery that the two cypress trees at the top of the garden provided a similar effect, with the advantage of year-round accessibility.
This year, however, our tree’s lower branches tend more toward the upright and I was initially worried that with Daisy’s diminutive stature it might prove disappointing. However, immediately after its installation, Daisy discovered that she could still get the full Christmas Tree effect by executing a close circuit of the trunk. As far as Daisy is concerned, her Christmas is already complete.
The other day I came across the following story, from the wonderful author and therapist, Bill O’Hanlon.
Some years ago, at the therapy group practice where Bill worked, a couple had sought relationship counselling. They were very embittered with one another, but couldn’t get a divorce because they had a dog that was the centre of their lives and neither of them was willing to give up even partial custody.
When the therapist worked with them, he discovered that the wife resented her husband’s habit of coming home from work, not even acknowledging her when he walked through the door, but heading straight upstairs to shower. By the time he arrived back downstairs she would be so livid that they would get into a terrible argument.
The therapist asked what the dog did when the husband arrived home, which was different from what the wife did. It turned out that the dog would run to the door, greet the husband and get a nice rubbing in return. The wife would wait in the other room for her husband to seek her out, which he didn’t do.
The husband complained that the wife was not physically affectionate. He longed for her to cuddle up next to him on the sofa while they were watching television, and would complain sarcastically that he must have body odour when she sat some distance away from him.
The therapist discovered that the dog was very assertive when he wanted affection; he would come over, sit next to the person from whom he wanted affection and push his nose under their arm if they were distracted or unresponsive, until they gave him a cuddle.
The couple was given this task: they were to study the dog and make him their teacher and guru. When they saw how he got what he wanted from their partner, they were to model that behaviour and try it out with their partner. They had great fun with this and began to turn their relationship around, no longer wanting a divorce.
For any relationship that you would like to shift in a positive or better direction, Bill suggests that you could think of an animal whose behaviour you could model – or, as he says, let Dog be your co-pilot…
...and the Canine Members of Staff