Category Archives: techniques

The advantages of Stoicism

Stoicism is a way of approaching and coping with the world, society and the vagaries of life that brings peace, calm and even joy. It’s a method of being both effective and contented no matter what life throws at us. There’s an awful lot of wisdom in some of those old books, you know. Why not take a lesson or two from ancient stoics like Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius. You’ll be glad you did.

Boring stoics!

Stoics are boring aren’t they?

Oh, no! There’s nothing boring about Stoicism. There’s nothing boring about embracing change, about opposing injustice or about developing self reliance. There’s nothing boring about experiencing life and all it has to offer whilst still maintaining control of your emotions and judgement so you can savour the experience all the more.

Soap operas and small-talk are boring.
Trashy novels and superficial documentaries are boring.
Endless consumerism is boring.

Stoic joy and the wonder of a life well lived is far from boring.

Stoicism isn’t boring – it’s liberating.

I don’t care: Belligerence and behavioural boundaries

Sometimes the only way to protect the therapeutic relationship is temporarily to behave as though you have no concern whatsoever for the other person’s point of view. This seems counter-intuitive and it most certainly doesn’t ‘feel’ good but how we feel is often far less important than what we do.

It’s important not to allow anyone to use our emotions against us in order to influence our therapeutic decision-making. That’s a form of emotional blackmail. It’s also a very common behaviour strategy that people use because it often works.

You probably won’t be able to stop someone using this sort of underhand strategy with others but you certainly can stop them using it on you. The trick is to show them that it won’t work and then invite them to bring something better to your therapeutic relationship instead.

Stoics are boring aren’t they?

If you think Stoics are boring, you’re not doing it right!

There’s nothing boring about Stoicism.

There’s nothing boring about embracing change, about opposing injustice or about developing self reliance.

There’s nothing boring about experiencing life and all it has to offer whilst still maintaining control of your emotions and judgement so you can savour the experience all the more.

Soap operas and small-talk are boring. Trashy novels and superficial documentaries are boring. Endless consumerism is boring.

Stoic joy and the wonder of a life well lived is far from boring.

Stoicism isn’t boring – it’s liberating.

Carers in mind: It’s real for them

Caring for people with psychosis can be both stressful and mystifying. People who hear voices and respond to visions that the carer can neither hear nor see present particular problems and frustrations. It’s distressing for the individual voice-hearer and, for different reasons it’s distressing for their relatives and other carers as well.

“It’s real for them” is a common expression intended to promote empathy and understanding but there are very real drawbacks if that’s as far as it goes. We all know it’s real for them – that’s why they’re distressed, but if we simply accept that without question we give up a vital part of the recovery process.

In this video we explore the positive benefits that can come from refusing to accept that ‘it’s real for them’ whilst still accepting the other person’s experience. We look at the power of attribution in psychosis, especially in relation to hallucinations and consider the benefits of helping people to change their view about their hallucinations. It isn’t trivialising the problem to see it for what it is. A voice has no power unless the voice-hearer gives it some. However distressing and disturbing voices are they’re still only voices.

By helping people to reframe their interpretation of voices they hear we can reduce the power, the distress and the disruption of those voices.

Please feel free to comment either here on the blog or by using the contact form below and let me know how helpful or otherwise this video has been for you. Please also let me know if you’d like me to cover any other issues facing carers and relatives. I can’t promise to cover everything but I’ll do my best to help if I can.

 

Carers in mind: Introduction

Those of us who work in mental health services, be that for the NHS or in social care settings receive both payment and training for our efforts. However, there’s an army of unpaid, informal mental health carers who receive neither, despite the fact that without their contributions the whole system would collapse.

It’s estimated that informal carers save the NHS more than it actually spends each year and that situation doesn’t look like it’s going to get better any time soon.

The ‘Carers in mind’ project is my attempt to help redress the balance by providing information and training in practical ways for carers struggling everyday to hold their families together, often in truly desperate circumstances.

If you’re a carer involved in mental health please feel free to comment and let me know what you’d like me to cover. I can’t promise to fulfil every request but I’ll do my best.

Please leave a comment to let me know what you’d like me to cover as this series progresses or use the contact form below to get in touch privately.

Stoicism 4: My ponytail is ridiculous!

Here we build upon two earlier principles. Epictetus made it clear that we can only control our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours – not those of other people.

Marcus Aurelius taught us the 2 point maxim for dealing with abusive people…
1. Be the best me that I can be;
2. Be grateful that I’m not them.

Here we add another perspective from Seneca. Anger is only possible when the world doesn’t meet our expectations. If we adjust our expectations to reality the petty insults of others won’t hurt us at all.

In this, fourth Stoicism video we begin to show how it’s possible to layer Stoic wisdom, one point upon another to create a robust system of thought and attitude that really does defend us against those who seek to hurt, upset, anger or distress us.

 

Stoicism for mental health 3: Abusive people

Stoic philosophers Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus help us to cope with abusive, contemptuous, disrespectful and mean-spirited people by remembering the distinction between what is ours to control and what is theirs. When others treat us badly their actions say more about them and their lack of understanding than about us. In truth, their behaviour has no bearing at all upon us. It’s entirely about them.

Marcus Aurelius’ 2 point maxim helps us to deal graciously with these people without becoming upset or being tempted to sink to their level. They take responsibility for their poor actions – we have a different standard of behaviour to maintain.

To book training for your staff please complete the contact form below

Stoicism for mental health 2: What can we control?

Today we consider the very first principle of Stoicism as defined by Epictetus in his handbook, The Enchiridion. What can we control and what can’t we control?

This means understanding the difference between problems and facts.

Stoics choose not to waste energy or emotional effort on facts that they cannot change – it’s pointless. Instead they work on things they can change, control or influence. That means they work on (and worry about) surprisingly little.

To book training for your staff please complete the contact form below