Tag: Jon Lavin


Everything comes down to our relationships.

It is not the first time that I have written on the theme of the importance of relationships. However, I am inspired by a number of separate and discrete outcomes in the last couple of days that compell me to return to this most important principle of all: We are what we think about most.

The first outcome was a lovely reply left by Hariod Brawn to yesterday’s post. This is what she wrote:

My GSD had hip dysplasia too, Paul – if that’s what you’re alluding to with Pharaoh. He still was able to die a natural death though, as his rear quarters became paralysed with the dysplasia and he felt no pain. There were plenty of other problems resulting from his immobility, but I wouldn’t have traded those difficulties and the incredible communication we shared as a result of them, for anything – his last few weeks were some of the most powerful and precious of my entire life.

Then after my response, Hariod went on to say:

It was a deeply profound time for me, and I honestly wouldn’t have believed anyone had they told me what I experienced, but experience it I did. It was not the product of fanciful imagination, much as it might sound so in words. The communication between the two of us was quite incredible, and which really was empathic in nature, in the deepest sense of the word. We always had great communication and understanding, which all dog lovers do with their charges, of course, but this was another level altogether. Some might call it ‘psychic’, as if that meant something mystical and woo-like, but it just means ‘of the mind’. The question is, does the mind have the psychical power to share in understanding across physical borders? You will doubtless know of J. Allen Boone:

I will return to that mention of J. Allen Boone at the end of the post.

Then later on there was a further reply to the post from Barb of Passionate About Pets :

Thanks for re-publishing Gina’s post here, I found it interesting because Poppy, my little shih-tzu is an old dame now – she will be 17 in two months time. She has developed serious separation anxiety in the last year and if I am working in the garden, she barks for me to get back inside even though my husband is inside with her – she wants us BOTH with her. She is weak in her back legs so her walks are shorter. All these signs of old age make me so sad. Just like you and Pharoah, old age is creeping up on us all.
A special thank you to Hariod for including that video clip of J. Allen Boone’s dog Strongheart and the very special connection they had; he was so wise about Strongheart’s qualities – they never die. It really resonated with me.
Thank you for a wonderful post.

You can see why I entitled today’s post Relationships!

Then earlier on in my day I had a call with Jon Lavin, a friend from my days when I lived in Devon, South-West England. Jon and I still speak on a regular basis and yesterday I was complimenting Jon on a wonderful post he had written on his own business blog The People Workshop.

Jon’s post was about relationships in the workplace, his area of professional experience, and I was struck by how far the messages were relevant to all of us, in all areas of our lives. But just as key it was another reminder of the importance of all of us who express themselves on blogs; both as authors and as commentators. Because those expressions make, build and maintain great relationships.

Jon’s post is republished here with his full permission.


Relationships in the workplace

Posted on

Poppies and sea
Poppies and sea

When you look at how much of our lives we spend at work it’s really quite attention-grabbing. I did a very rough calculation based on 40 years and 40 hours a week – and I took out holidays and weekends. It works out approximately at 4900 hours. That’s a lot of hours, especially if you do lots of overtime and weekends. All of that time, you’re probably going to be mixing with people – usually, quite a large number of people.

We are ‘relationship seeking’, says Eric Berne, originator of Transactional Analysis. So for all of that time, we’re moving in and out of relationships with other people. So here, I’m categorising any interaction with another as ‘relationship’.

Then there’s what happens when we go home, another set of relationships, and where we came from – our parents and families.

So how we are in relationship with others is very important and has a major impact on the results we get generally and particularly in the context of this article, at work.

I hear a lot of talk about ’employee engagement’ at the moment. I believe that for employees to be ‘engaged’, so actively involved in what they’re doing, thinking about it, in the ‘here and now’, they’ve got to be in relationship with their manager and probably, the team they’re part of, at least, if the job is being done properly.

I see it as the role of the manager or team leader that they have the skills and ability to develop these relationships with as many team members as possible, any exclusions being the exception. This requires a lot of self-awareness and confidence, plus the ability to build high levels of trust with a wide range of character types. I think it also requires the ability to see the world from the view point of the other person – ‘putting yourself in somebody else’s shoes’, we say. That’s quite difficult to do in my experience. However, we can donate the time to get to know the people in our team and so increase the likelihood of all of us coming from the same angle.

I think this is about the ability to value the uniqueness of others in all the different forms and approaches that manifests in, and finding ways of harnessing those skills and abilities.

These are not easy things and I am aware of the relatively few, good people managers I come across in my work but it is possible to develop these skills. You need to have the intention to want the best from ALL relationships. Also, to be prepared to use the feedback we all get, especially when things don’t go to plan in a relationship, and be continually revisiting and adjusting your approach so that you get more of what works. This way, you automatically get less of what doesn’t work.

Never under estimate the power of intention.

Stormy seas
Stormy seas


I am now going to close today’s post with those words of  J. Allen Boone that Hariod had in her second reply:

To echo Jon’s closing message, let us never cease our intention of having wonderful relationships; with our dogs, with others and, not least of all, with ourselves.

Inner Thinking: Of dogs and humans.

We are what we think about most.

Today’s post was inspired by something yesterday I read, not for the first time, over on The People Workshop site. (As an aside, I know that many regulars of this place are familiar with the history of my friendship with Jon.) On the page that explains more of Jon Lavin’s approach to his work with clients, he writes:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Thus said Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Intuitively, it strikes one as correct. However, reflect for a few moments on how you think and very quickly it becomes clear that how you think is based on deep-seated experiences and the learnings that flow from those experiences.

As it is for all of us.

Just as relevantly, perhaps more so, is that how we behave is based on those same deep-seated experiences and subsequent learnings. This offers a clue as to why bringing about lasting, behavioural change can often feel like pushing water uphill!

That prompted me to look up a previous time when I had written a post about feelings. It was last December when in a post called Feelings – Of Both Humans and Animals, I wrote this:

There couldn’t have been a better answer to that ponder than a recent video that was presented by TED Talks. It was a talk by Carl Safina about what is going on inside the brains of animals: What are animals thinking and feeling? Or in the fuller words of that TED Talk page:

What’s going on inside the brains of animals? Can we know what, or if, they’re thinking and feeling? Carl Safina thinks we can. Using discoveries and anecdotes that span ecology, biology and behavioral science, he weaves together stories of whales, wolves, elephants and albatrosses to argue that just as we think, feel, use tools and express emotions, so too do the other creatures – and minds – that share the Earth with us.

So back to what inspired today’s post. It was the challenge of really knowing why we behave the way we do, both humans and dogs. With dogs, however, we accept they cannot speak to us clearly. Or as Esme put it in a recent reply to an update on Hazel: “Well you’re getting there, half the battle is diagnosis with dogs because they can’t actually tell us how they feel.” (My emphasis.)

Back to humans. When Jon wrote on his site, “…. how you think  …… is based on deep-seated experiences ….”, what I heard is that for us humans there are many times when we cannot actually tell ourselves what we are feeling. That is why we need the counselling of someone who has the professional training and experience to expose those deep emotional and psychological drivers within us; those drivers that are normally out of sight from us.

In my own case, how my father’s death was managed by my mother back in December, 1956 left an emotional wound that was totally out of sight from my conscious mind for 50 years.  The emotional crisis that I went through back then was discovered by Jon to have its roots back in December, 1956. By a massive stroke of fortune Jon gave me the insight into that mental place of old and a year later I met Jean down in Mexico.

In other words, to return to Albert Einstein:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

The challenge is having sufficient self-awareness to know when an aspect of our behaviour requires the support of the Jon Lavins of this world.

So what would we require from a counsellor, from a therapist, who was working with us to uncover those hidden aspects? In other words, in terms of assessing that therapist what’s the difference that would make the difference?

Naturally, I don’t have the skills to answer that question in any direct, professional manner. But if I look down at our dogs then a form of answer does ‘speak’ to me. Dogs are creatures of integrity, openness and trust. They relate to us humans and other known dogs around them through friendship and love; frequently unconditional love.

A therapist who embraces those values; nay, lives those values, would display that very quickly after meeting with the ‘client’. Any person seeing that in a therapist would be seeing the difference that makes the difference.

Good people, I’m not asking any of you who read this to divulge any personal stuff but, nonetheless, I would love to hear your thoughts on what I have written today!



Two very different expressions of hope and sense about the present era of change.

First off, up until yesterday morning at 6am, I had completely different ideas for today’s post.  But sitting up in bed yesterday morning reading my emails, I saw there was an email from Jon Lavin that included a link to this: Hope for the New Year: some thoughts on emergence, evolution, freedom, love and choice, by Bronwen Rees. Dr. Rees describes herself, as:

Bronwen is a UKCP-accredited psychotherapist with nine years experience and a practice in Cambridge, Suffolk and Hungary. She is trained in the Karuna Institute in Devon in core process psychotherapy, which was the first mindfulness-based therapy in the UK. She adds to this her unique understanding of western and eastern spiritual traditions, combined with findings in new science – to find ways of helping individuals align with their true destiny. She runs retreats and workshops and group work at different times of the year.

I was vaguely aware of the name. Perhaps unsurprisingly as I was familiar with the work of the Karuna Institute at their beautiful location at Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Dartmoor, Devon, some eighteen miles from where I used to live in Harberton, Devon.


Anyway, back to the theme of today’s post. Back to Jon Lavin’s email with the link. This is how that essay from Dr. Rees opened:

by Bronwen Rees on January 1, 2015

In the face of the on-going and now undeniable social, economic, environmental and political crises, there are plenty of seeds of ‘emergence’ that point to a new way forward. These are flowering in the area of sustainability, spirituality, and the reworking of ancient systems of wisdom. They point to a new way of being and relating where, it is implied, one can manifest at will one’s desires.

Whilst there is a distinct truth in much of this, and many examples where this can obviously work (vis the outpouring of new technological companies providing ever more zany products), they are very early developments fostering to individual satisfaction rather than being consciously channeled into the benefits of the collective. The scale of change in terms of consciousness has largely not yet been realized. One of the main reasons for this is the as yet imbalance in the relationship between the collective and the individual, and the lack of a conscious ethical foundation.

I sort of understood the central message but the words were getting in the way.  Take this later paragraph, for instance:

Humanity is at a bifurcation point – a point of irreversible change – where conscious choice determines the future that is created. Neo-Darwinian theorists would argue that this is merely a point of survival, and given the current scientific data about the material conditions – peak oil, energy, economic chaos, severe mental health issues, the conditions would suggest that we are as a species heading for disaster. Balanced between over-population and yet greater and greater individualization with more and more apparent choice – how can the two perspectives be reconciled on this seemingly increasingly small planet?

Indeed, my email reply to Jon, having struggled through the full essay said: “Good day to you, Jon, Yes, what a fascinating essay albeit written in a manner that makes it a very tough read! Nevertheless, I have no doubt that the good Dr. is spot on in her analysis.

The very next item opened in my email inbox was notification of a new post from Sue Dreamwalker: My Dream ∼ Translated I just had to share. Let me, in turn, share Sue’s post with you; with her kind permission, I should add.


My Dream ∼ Translated I just had to share

Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets, for it and knowledge can raise men to the divine.” ― Ludwig van Beethoven

On Jan 3rd I had a Dream.. Please click on the music video below so you can get a sense of some of my experience.. .. Sunday I tried to capture some of the images I had in the dream… So I painted.. But I saw Oh so so much more………

In the beginning of the dream.. She was Me.. As I began to sing.. but then I became the observer.. This has to be the best Dream experience ever… .. So I had to share.. I heard the Music… Music like I have never heard upon this earth… the video music is about as close as I can get to that feeling of being exalted to a higher place.. I am still so excited I cannot tell you the Love I felt within this experience.. If this is the beginning of 2015.. Whoooooh… Let it roll……..

My Dream..

“She stood in a gown that was a rich golden brown. Its fabric shimmered catching the light that reflected from the crystals of natural quartz that sprang up around her. The gown was long and flowing not only did it reach the floor, but it spiralled out around her in a never ending dance as it became one with the sphere of the Earth.

Sue’s painting.


She took a deep breath; here she stood in the centre of the globe called Gaia.

Her hair was so long the wind picked it up to billow out behind her in long tresses. Birds flew in and amongst her strands of hair, Insects and butterflies danced within making it their home.

With breath still poised, she raised her arms like a conductor of an orchestra. She expanded her lungs and she began to Sing…. Her Soprano voice was pure. The moment her voice vibration raised higher the spiral of her gown buried deeper into the Earth. The Grass became part of her gown. Trees sprang forth from the folds of it swaying to her melody of love; Flowers opened their blooms, each petal giving separate notes in a wonderful exotic dance of harmonic ripples.. Love notes rippled like the keys of the piano. The buds on the trees open their leaves their notes sounded deeper like a million cello’s. Birds sang their flute like songs and the butterflies wings danced lighter than bell chimes.

Water trickled into streams, clear and sparking like the strings of the violin.. They swelled in a crescendo in waves that beat the rocks crashing in like kettle drums smashing like symbols into glistening spray..

The Whales joined in her song a mournful lament, while deep in the jungle the elephants gave a low rumble to acknowledge they had heard.. The roar of the Big Cats were heard above the cries of the orangutan’s

As the Thunderous machines of man cut swaths leaving deep scars that screeched like vultures circling over head, to give way to silence………. as they circled over the corpses of everything left dying in its wake..

She paused……………. ready to continue…….. Her arms raised high above her head, she Sang.. her voice becoming a crescendo with the Earth, her breath became the Spiral.. Her Hair became the Wind.. The notes she sang sprang forth from her mouth forming hearts and stars.. Every living creature now joined in her song…

She knew her Song of love was being joined by so many more.. She was ONE with ALL.. She was part of our Earth Mother..”


I hope you enjoyed reading about this Dream and I hope you enjoyed listening to the wonderful music of the PianoGuys

See you all very soon…



In a very strange way, I read the same messages from Dr. Rees and from Sue but presented in such opposite ways: one way so complex and one way to clear. So strongly reinforced by their respective closing words. Here’s Dr. Rees:

Whilst there is real potential for the expansion of consciousness, this does not by any means suggest that this will arise without individual effort and struggle. All the enlightened masters of the past needed to move through this gateway – the difference between then and now is that the conditions are far riper for more individuals to undergo this – and indeed can be seen as a biological necessity for the survival of the human species. Thus as individuals, we cannot avoid this, but what we can do, and indeed as a biological and spiritual imperative, we can support one another and help organize ourselves in dedication of this purpose, in a mutual recognition of each individual uniqueness yet shared destiny.

Here are Sue’s closing words: “She knew her Song of love was being joined by so many more.. She was ONE with ALL.. She was part of our Earth Mother..

However, there is one uniting theme I read from both of them: Hope!

The book! Part Five: Openness

I searched around for some meaning, some idea of what openness was really about. It’s such a quick word to run off the tongue, seemingly so easy to grab at the meaning of the word, that it isn’t until one pauses and asks oneself do I really, truly know what the word openness means, what it really conveys, that the doubt creeps in.

The dictionary didn’t help that much. Openness noun 1. The condition of being laid open to something undesirable or injurious. 2. Ready acceptance of often new suggestions, ideas, influences, or opinions.

No, that still didn’t offer a clear meaning of the sense of openness that I see in dogs, especially our dogs.

Then my eye wandered up the dictionary page to the entry immediately above openness; to open-mindedness: noun Ready acceptance of often new suggestions, ideas, influences, or opinions : openness, receptiveness, receptivity, responsiveness.

Bingo! Responsiveness, receptiveness! Those terms did speak to me. That’s how I saw the openness in our dogs.

Dogs don’t appear to engage in introspection, they don’t seem to worry about who they are. Their emotions are clear to us! One might say that dogs wear their emotions on their paws. They engage with the human world about them regardless of our human moods and more-or-less impartial to our situations or our choices. We call them and expect them to come. Perhaps, ask them to go to a part of the house if we are going out, or to stay in a place until we tell them they can move. Dogs appear simply to be there for us, as if only on our terms. As much as each day is unique and different, dogs offer a constancy, a reliability, that feels unmatched by us humans.
We depend on our dogs, as do the vast majority of people who have dogs in their lives. They calm us down in times of trouble; give us a better perspective of life’s ‘big picture’. We can so openly share a sense of joy with our dogs. Dogs give us permission to be silly with them, to hug them, to rub their tummies, to roll around on the floor with them. It is possible, easily so, to learn something from a dog every single day simply from observing sufficiently close these beautiful animals. Dogs ask only in return for food, water and affection.

The openness of dogs has been celebrated in many ways, in song and verse, for centuries. It is still to be celebrated today, for today that wonderful quality of openness is still vibrant in our dogs. It seems so much more than just the product of some evolution of nature. Reflect on the incredible range of species, on all that selective breeding, on the many differences in the environments in which dogs live out their lives. So many dogs and yet every one of them coming to us, to meet us, to be with us, just as they are, with no apologies and no covert agendas. As the author Susan Kennedy[1] once said, “Dogs are miracles with paws.

I have had a dog in my life, my beloved Pharaoh, since 2003. I have had a great number of dogs in my life since meeting Jean in 2007. As many as sixteen and regrettably now down to nine at the time of writing[2] these words. I can’t imagine my life without our dogs. They truly provide unconditional love and they do so without hesitation. It is a simple yet immensely beautiful relationship. That love that we receive from our dogs comes from their openness. A dog’s openness is a gift. A precious, remarkable gift.

Now how on earth can one translate that across to the quality that we humans have to learn; to learn from our dogs? Are there any practical benefits for us in trying to practice the openness we see in dogs? By using the word ‘trying’ I’m admitting some degree of doubt about answering that question in the affirmative. Not doubting that there are benefits, just unclear about how to describe them. Unclear how we humans could ever match the openness of dogs.

So what I am going to do is to try flipping the issue on its head. Just stay with me a little longer.

I have referred to Jon Lavin many previous times in this book. In his world, his world of counselling and therapy, Jon speaks like this. Namely, that in the world of solutions focussed therapy, the area that Jon practices in professionally, the way forward with the person who has come to see Jon is always to focus “on what is working“. Jon explains that while one would initially allow the problems to be voiced, this negativity would always be a tiny piece of the overall process, say less than 5% of the session. That even if a client’s whole world seemed to be failing, there would always be something that was alright, always a 1% that was working, and that would be the place to start.

No better endorsed by the website of the organisation Good Therapy[3]. I quote [my emphasis]:

Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT[4]) targets the desired outcome of therapy as a solution rather than focusing on the symptoms or issues that brought someone to therapy. This technique only gives attention to the present and the future desires of the client, rather than focusing on the past experiences. The therapist encourages the client to imagine their future as they want it to be and then the therapist and client collaborate on a series of steps to achieve that goal.

Returning to the example of openness that we see in our dogs, maybe rather than wringing our hands because we will never be as open as those wonderful dogs around us, perhaps we should flip the idea on its head. Ergo, not strive to be the same as our dogs, just to follow their lead.

In other words, just be more mindful of the need for openness, to practice openness as a conscious idea, and to develop the habits of openness. Holding our dogs up as a marvellous pillar, as a wonderful example, of the goal of greater openness that we all seek.

1,039 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover

[1] I am indebted to Susan Kennedy’s writings for inspiring many of the ideas in this chapter.
[2] November, 2014
[3] http://www.goodtherapy.org
[4] Solution focused therapy was developed by Steve De Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, and their team at the Brief Family Therapy Family Center in Milwaukee, USA.

Removing the fear of the unknown

This was a post from Jon Lavin back in 2011.

I thought it would be nice to republish it today.


Removing the fear of the unknown

Seeing the light

I’ve been working with most of my clients recently through painful transformations brought about by the economic downturn.

An interesting metaphor really because since the first wave of uncertainty triggered panic, first noticed in the UK banking system, I have been picking up on that uncertainty that feels like it’s stalking the globe and has been for some time. Recent stock market crashes have simply exacerbated this and that, coupled with the riots taking place in major cities in the UK, make for pretty disturbing reading.

Interestingly, I, too, have been aware of an underlying fear that was difficult either to name or source.

It has been rather like a deep river in that whilst the surface feels slow-moving, currents are moving things powerfully below.

So this ‘fear’ has caused a few household changes.

1) We now are the proud owners of 12 chickens. Our youngest son and I have dug up the back lawn and planted vegetables and built a poly tunnel.

2) We have also installed a wood burning cooker. Right back down to the base of Maslow’s triangle really!

Maslow’s triangle of needs

These feelings have brought about such change everywhere and I wonder seriously whether we will ever return to what was; indeed would we want to?

I might not have mentioned it in previous blogs but as well as an engineering background, in latter years, I have focused on how success in business is linked directly to aspects of relationships and how we are in our relationships with others, so things like integrity, self-awareness and the ability to see the point of view of others, and modify our approach appropriately.

To inform this, some 7 years ago, I embarked on an MA in Core Process Psychotherapy, primarily to work on myself so that I could be the best I could be in my relationships, in and out of work.

The point I’m trying to make is that the same panic I notice in many of the companies I work in, and in me, is based on fear of the unknown and on a lack of trust in all its forms.  I’ve deliberately underlined that last phrase because it is so incredibly important.

The truth is that we get more of what we focus on.

So we can choose to focus on the constant news of more difficulties, hardship and redundancies, or we can focus on what is working.

In the workplace this positive focus has been pulling people together across functions and sites and pooling resources and ideas.

When we realise we’re not doing this alone it’s amazing how much lighter a load can feel and how much more inspired we all feel.

I also notice how humour begins to flow and what a powerful antidote for doom and gloom that is.

Transformation is never easy but the rewards far exceed the effort put in ten fold.

So what is it going to be? Are we all going to bow down to the god of Doom & Gloom, fear and anxiety, heaping more and more gifts around it, or are we going to start noticing and focusing on the other neglected god – that of relationship, joy, trust, abundance and lightness?

Whatever the future holds for us all a belief in our inherent ability to adapt and change and focus on the greater good rather than fear, anxiety, greed and selfishness is the only sustainable way forward.

By Jon Lavin

The book! Part Four: Of change in thoughts and deeds

Setting the scene

Well done for getting through Part Three: Mankind in the 21st century, and a number of the challenges of our present times! I don’t mean that to come over in a flippant manner but it must have been tough reading; it certainly was tough writing for this scribe! Then again, from way back yonder from my days of selling during the 70s and 80s, comes that old saw about not being able to embrace a new idea if one doesn’t really understand the issues, as in the strengths and weaknesses, of the existing situation.

Change is a fascinating subject and one that even the briefest trawl through the internet reveals a wealth of material. But the theme of change here in Part Four is about change at an individual level and not anything to do with organisations; let alone countries. And as such, in terms of how we understand the need for change as individuals, it seemed pertinent to offer this personal anecdote as a way of setting the scene.

You will recall that in Part One – Man and Dog, there was a chapter headed Unsettled times. In that chapter I wrote about learning that my previous wife informed me that she was having an affair with another man, this revelation taking place on December 20th, 2006, fifty years to the day of my father’s death on December 20th, 1956.
I also mentioned that earlier on in 2006 I had started mentoring a Jon Lavin as he was going through a major transition in his counselling practice. Jon was living a few miles from where I was living in South Devon and was, and still is, a psychotherapist, or to put it more accurately, a UKCP accredited therapist and NLP Practitioner.

Thus in a state of some emotional turmoil, I rang Jon early on in 2007 and asked if I might be his client! Jon was initially reluctant to agree to that, simply because he and I had started developing a relationship in another context, within a completely different perspective, as in me coaching him in the ways of developing his own business. As Jon made clear, he was worried that our existing relationship might get in the way of a very different relationship; one where I was trying to understand the catastrophe that had just taken place in my private life.

I was pretty insistent on wanting, needing, to see Jon; as you might imagine. Thankfully, Jon did agree after giving it some thought but on the strict understanding that if he was concerned about how the counselling relationship was progressing that I had to agree, agree before we started our sessions, that he had the right to terminate the relationship. Of course, I agreed. Without a moment’s hesitation.

Thus Jon and I started my personal counselling relationship soon after.

Naturally, Jon wanted to learn more about my emotional background and gently, when it felt right, asked me to explain the circumstances of my father’s death back in 1956. That was easy for me for the memories of that time had never dimmed.

That I had turned twelve back in November, 1956 and had started that previous September at my new secondary school; Preston Manor Grammar School. At the time of my birthday in November, 1956, I was only vaguely conscious of my father having been ill for a while. Not ill for months and months but bedridden for a few weeks. My father was fifty-five years old and had always been a gentle, caring father to me and my younger sister, Elizabeth.

Then just a few weeks further on, on the evening of the 19th December, when I was tucked up in bed, next door to my parent’s bedroom, my mother came into my bedroom to say goodnight to me; a perfectly ordinary and routine event. But on this particular evening, there was an unmistakeable sadness about her and rather than promptly coming up to me and kissing me goodnight, she sat down on the edge of my bed, just where my knees were under the sheet and bedspread.

I could still recall so clearly Mum giving a deep sigh, a sigh that seemed to confirm what I feared and, somehow, knew in my heart: that his illness might be serious. Mum turning and reaching out with her right hand so that she could hold my right arm that lay on top of the bedspread. “Paul, you do know that your father is not very well, not very well at all. I’m sorry to tell you that he may not live for very much longer.” Words that have never left me.

Mum then leaning forward, kissing me goodnight, and leaving my bedroom, turning the light out as she closed the door. Me falling asleep within moments of the closing of that bedroom door.

My father died that same night: my mother calling the doctor who attended, confirmed the death, issued the death certificate and arranged for my father’s body to be removed from our home.

It all taking place before daybreak. It all taking place as I slept on.

In the morning, my father was no longer part of my life.

As one could easily imagine, the following days were surreal, yet all of my life I have had no recollection of any emotions at all.

Going back to the death of my father, it was thought that my father’s funeral, a cremation, would be too upsetting for me and my sister so we didn’t attend the funeral.

The only other recollection from those times was being teased and bullied at my new school, the one that I had started a few months previously, because I was prone to bouts of crying. I also recall that one day in the playground, surrounded by a group of jeering and taunting boys, I had snapped and gone for the ring leader in a wild frenzied physical attack. Both he and I receive the cane from the headmaster but at least the teasing was brought to an end.

So all of this was spoken of to Jon in those early days of 2007!

Jon gently explored my feelings, wondering what were my emotional echoes from over fifty years ago. I’m not sure I voiced anything particularly revealing.

Then, in a change of tack, he asked me how my own son might have felt if he, my son, had endured the same tragedy at the same age and experienced the death of me, his father, in a similar fashion, and, in addition, not been able to go to the funeral.

It was a straightforward question but one that had me disappearing into my own inner thoughts for some time, Jon sitting quietly in his armchair just next to me, me only half aware that time seemed to have come to a halt. As if for the first time in my life since that dreadful day in 1956 I had the courage to listen to my deep inner voice, to sense my most inner feelings.

I stuttered, “My son would be angry, angry that one of the key events in the life of any person, the death of a parent, no more than that, the death of a son’s father, no that’s still not right; the death of his father, had been denied him.

Jon looked at me, in a way that seemed to connect with me very strongly. Then he quietly asked, “What other feelings might you expect your son possibly to have?

Again, another long silence, and then I said, feeling strongly that something very important was about to happen: “He would feel left out. Overlooked. Denied the experience of something irreplaceably important. He would feel emotional rejection; in spades!

As those last words, quietly and clearly, left my lips, the most incredible sensation overtook me, both without and within me, encompassing me totally, the awareness that for the first time in my life, with me now sixty-three-years old, something that had been emotionally and psychologically hidden from me for fifty-one years, was now out in the open.

The clear knowledge that the circumstances surrounding my father’s death and my subsequent decline in my school performance had left me with a long-term psychological ‘dysfunction’; a certainty that I had been emotionally rejected way back in the Winter of 1956-57. A certainty, for sure, yet an understanding of myself that, hitherto, had been out of sight of my conscious mind, hidden deep inside of me, until this moment, this precious moment, in time.

Jon remained still and quiet as I continued to turn over in my mind this inner discovery. The realisation that, incredibly, for fifty years, my emotional response to my father’s death had remained totally out of my consciousness yet, nonetheless, had influenced me in very real and tangible ways; ways both negatively and positively that came to me almost immediately.

That the negative influence was that I was drawn to any woman who offered me love and affection and, therefore, I was emotionally unable to understand, to judge as it were, whether she had the potential to be a match as a life-long partner, however good a person she might be. I was doing anything to avoid emotional rejection!

The positive influence was that I tried very hard to please others (still do) so as to avoid their rejection, and had successful careers in selling for IBM UK, later starting and building a successful business in the early days of personal computing and, then, when my company was sold in 1986 becoming a freelance journalist and business coach.

So it took a chance association with Jon in those early weeks of 2007 to make me understand a fundamental lesson, one that had its roots fifty years previously, back in those early weeks of 1957. The lesson that we may only fully embrace change when we fully know just who we are. In other words, if there’s the tiniest voice inside you telling you that there may be some hidden nooks and crannies within you, psychologically and emotionally speaking, then some time spent with the appropriate ‘mentor’ will be the best investment you ever made.

There was a second reward from that self-awareness that arose in 2007. Namely, that in the December of that year, while the guest of dear Californian friends, enjoying a Christmas vacation in their holiday home in San Carlos, Mexico, I met Jean. Jean had been married to an American, Ben, for many years, latterly the two of them living permanently in San Carlos. Ben had died in 2005. Jean was born an Englishwoman, born in Dagenham in Essex. I had been born in Acton, North London. As the crow flies, the distance from Dagenham to Acton is twenty-three miles.

Jean and I met on December 15th, 2007. I was now emotionally unencumbered and able to give my full love to her and receive her full love for me. Jean and I were married in Payson, Arizona on November 20th, 2010. Now we live in a rural part of Oregon with our dogs and horses. It is a life together that is everything that any man could ever dream of.

The power of change!

1877 words Copyright © 2014 Paul Handover


It is only right for me to mention that the above is entirely my own work and while it is my best recollection of a series of true events, the chapter has not been previously seen or endorsed by Jon.

Self compassion.

A placeholder just for today.

Yesterday morning I had a lovely long chat with Jon Lavin in the UK.  We chit-chatted for a long time, covering such matters as caring for ourselves, about being compassionate towards the self, and much more besides.

Then in stark contrast, around noon Jean and I went over to “Runaway Tractors” to collect our tractor that had been in for a service.

The afternoon brought along another great conversation with John Hurlburt, he of the highly-appreciated Human arrogance essay last Thursday.  That brought forth a whole bundle of ideas to write about.

The talks with Jon and John inspired a wonderful set of essays in my mind – BUT!

But by the time I sat down in front of the PC to write today’s post, I had simply run out of time to write something of value.  So I’m cheating, well sort of, by reposting something from a little over a year ago. Hope it’s fresh to your eyes and that you enjoy it.


Returning to Nature

The power of serendipity!

Why the choice of this sub-heading?  Well, just because a number of quite separate articles and essays have come together to offer a powerful, cohesive argument for reconsidering the role of Nature in the future of mankind.

Of course, my use of words in that preceding sentence is completely ludicrous; the suggestion that ‘Nature’ is disconnected from ‘mankind’.  Yet millions of us, to a greater or lesser degree, do behave as if we are the masters of the world.

So let me dip into what has been ‘crossing my desk’ in recent times.

On May 28th, George Monbiot published in The Guardian newspaper an essay entitled A Manifesto for Rewilding the World.  (The link takes you to the article on the Monbiot blogsite.)  Here’s how that essay opened,

Until modern humans arrived, every continent except Antarctica possessed a megafauna. In the Americas, alongside mastodons, mammoths, four-tusked and spiral-tusked elephants, there was a beaver the size of a black bear: eight feet from nose to tail(1). There were giant bison weighing two tonnes, which carried horns seven feet across(2).

The short-faced bear stood thirteen feet in its hind socks(3). One hypothesis maintains that its astonishing size and shocking armoury of teeth and claws are the hallmarks of a specialist scavenger: it specialised in driving giant lions and sabretooth cats off their prey(4). The Argentine roc (Argentavis magnificens) had a wingspan of 26 feet(5). Sabretooth salmon nine feet long migrated up Pacific coast rivers(6).

During the previous interglacial period, Britain and Europe contained much of the megafauna we now associate with the tropics: forest elephants, rhinos, hippos, lions and hyaenas. The elephants, rhinos and hippos were driven into southern Europe by the ice, then exterminated around 40,000 years ago when modern humans arrived(7,8,9). Lions and hyaenas persisted: lions hunted reindeer across the frozen wastes of Britain until 11,000 years ago(10, 11). The distribution of these animals has little to do with temperature: only where they co-evolved with humans and learnt to fear them did they survive.

I’m not going to reproduce the bulk of the article; just hoped that I have tickled your curiousity sufficient for you to read it in full here. But will just show you how it closed:

Despite the best efforts of governments, farmers and conservationists, nature is already beginning to return. One estimate suggests that two thirds of the previously-forested parts of the US have reforested, as farming and logging have retreated, especially from the eastern half of the country(23). Another proposes that by 2030 farmers on the European Continent (though not in Britain, where no major shift is expected) will vacate around 30 million hectares (75 million acres), roughly the size of Poland(24). While the mesofauna is already beginning to spread back across Europe, land areas of this size could perhaps permit the reintroduction of some of our lost megafauna. Why should Europe not have a Serengeti or two?

Above all, rewilding offers a positive environmentalism. Environmentalists have long known what they are against; now we can explain what we are for. It introduces hope where hope seemed absent. It offers us a chance to replace our silent spring with a raucous summer.

Then further research for this post brought to light an interview with David Suzuki in February.  Widely reported, I picked the version published on Straight.com, from which comes:

In December, Canadian specialty TV channel Business News Network interviewed me about the climate summit in Copenhagen. My six-minute interview followed a five-minute live report from Copenhagen, about poor countries demanding more money to address climate change and rich countries pleading a lack of resources. Before and after those spots were all kinds of reports on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the price of gold and the loonie, and the implications of some new phone technology.

For me, this brought into sharp focus the inevitable failure of our negotiating efforts on climate change. BNN, like the New York-based Bloomberg channel, is a 24-hour-a-day network focused completely on business. These networks indicate that the economy is our top priority. And at Copenhagen, money dominated the discussions and the outcome.

But where is the 24-hour network dealing with the biosphere? As biological creatures, we depend on clean air, clean water, clean soil, clean energy, and biodiversity for our well-being and survival. Surely protecting those fundamental needs should be our top priority and should dominate our thinking and the way we live. After all, we are animals and our biological dependence on the biosphere for our most basic needs should be obvious.

The economy is a human construct, not a force of nature like entropy, gravity, or the speed of light or our biological makeup. It makes no sense to elevate the economy above the things that keep us alive. But that’s what our prime minister does when he claims we can’t even try to meet the Kyoto targets because that might have a detrimental effect on the economy.

This economic system is built on exploiting raw materials from the biosphere and dumping the waste back into the biosphere. And conventional economics dismisses all the “services” that nature performs to keep the planet habitable for animals like us as “externalities”. As long as economic considerations trump all other factors in our decisions, we will never work our way out of the problems we’ve created.


Nature is our home. Nature provides our most fundamental needs. Nature dictates limits. If we are striving for a truly sustainable future, we have to subordinate our activities to the limits that come from nature. We know how much carbon dioxide can be reabsorbed by all the green things in the oceans and on land, and we know we are exceeding those limits. That’s why carbon is building up in the atmosphere. So our goal is clear. All of humanity must find a way to keep emissions below the limits imposed by the biosphere.

The only equitable course is to determine the acceptable level of emissions on a global per capita basis. Those who fall below the line should be compensated for their small carbon footprint while those who are far above should be assessed accordingly. But the economy must be aligned with the limits imposed by the biosphere, not above them.

Quite clearly, if we continue to turn our backs on Nature, the consequences won’t be long in tapping us on the shoulder.

So, going to close it today with this, seen nearly a month ago on the PRI website:


Plant a Tree

Trees — by Kristof Nordin May 27, 2013


Imagine the type of world we could see
If instead of saying ‘pray,’ we said, ‘plant a tree’.
With this one little change so much more could be done
To protect all living things found under the sun.

We could ‘plant a tree’ for our troops sent away into war
So when they return they’d come home to find more.
We could ‘plant a tree’ at our churches with our husband or wife
To praise the Creator through a celebration of life.

We could ‘plant a tree’ for the needy and for those with no food
We could even plant in public without seeming rude.
The government would not have to introduce rules,
And most likely we could ‘plant a tree’ at our schools.

If we took it to task to ‘plant trees’ for the poorest,
We would all soon be reaping the wealth of a forest.
We could plant freely with those of all religions and creeds,
The improvement of earth would be based on these deeds.

We could plant with our neighbours, our family, and friends,
And ‘plant a tree’ with our enemies to help make amends.
If we ‘plant a tree’ for the sick to show them we care,
We would also be healing the soil, water, and air.

We could ‘plant a tree’ to observe when two people wed,
And plant one with our kids each night before bed.
Throughout the history of the whole human race
We find respect for the ‘tree’ has always had a place.

The great Ash of the Norse was their tree of the World,
And on a tree in the Garden is where the serpent once curled.
It was in groves of Oaks that the Druid priests wandered,
And under the Bodhi where the great Buddha pondered.

In the Bible it’s clear that we have all that we need:
‘All the trees with their fruits and plants yielding seed’.
Despite all these lessons that the past has taught
Now days, it seems, we cut our trees without thought.

This is confirmed by the Koran, for in it we read:
‘Many are the marvels of earth, yet we pay them no heed’.
We all have a duty, no matter what nation
To perform our part in protecting Creation.

Just think what we’d have if we had picked up a spade
Every time each one of us bowed our heads and prayed.

Further Reading:


See you all tomorrow.

Quarts into pint pots …

Don’t go!

We have good friends arriving today to spend a week with us and I knew time would be tight for long, introspective blog posts.

Then yesterday, around 2pm, we dropped everything to race up to a farmer at Wolf Creek, just a dozen miles North of us, to inspect some hay that was for sale.  It was great quality and at $5 a bale the deal of the century.  So by the time we had loaded up some bales onto the trailer and returned, unloaded them into the hay loft, organised a bigger trailer from neighbours Dordie and Bill, and I had recuperated under a shower, there was no time at all for today’s post.

I took the ‘executive’ decision to republish what was presented on Learning from Dogs four years ago, to the day.  Trust this is fresh to the majority of you.


A Way Forward?

Removing the fear of the unknown

by Jon Lavin.

June 10th, 2010

I’ve been working with most of my clients recently through painful transformations brought about by the economic downturn.

An interesting metaphor really because since the first wave of uncertainty triggered panic, first noticed in the UK banking system, I have been picking up on that uncertainty that feels like it’s stalking the globe at the moment.

Interestingly, I, too, have been aware of an underlying fear that was difficult either to name or source.

It has been rather like a deep river in that whilst the surface feels slow moving, currents are flowing powerfully below.

So this ‘fear’ has caused a few household changes.

We are now the proud owners of 9 chickens. Our youngest son, Sami, and I have dug up the back lawn and planted vegetables and built a poly-tunnel.

We have also installed a wood burning cooker. Right back down to the base of Maslow’s triangle really!

Maslow’s triangle of needs

These feelings have brought about such change everywhere and I wonder seriously whether we will ever return to what was; indeed would we want to?

I might not have mentioned it in previous blogs but as well as an engineering background, in latter years, I have focused on how interpersonal success in business is linked directly to relationships, integrity and vitally, self-awareness.

To inform this, some 7 years ago, I embarked on an MA in Core Process Psychotherapy, primarily to work on myself so that I could be the best I could be in my relationships, in and out of work.

The point I’m trying to make is that the same panic I notice in many of the companies I work in, and in me, is based on fear of the unknown and on a lack of trust in all its forms.  I’ve deliberately underlined that last phrase because it is so incredibly important.

The truth is that we get more of what we focus on.

So we can choose to focus on the constant news of more difficulties, hardship and redundancies, or we can focus on what is working.

In the workplace this positive focus has been pulling people together across functions and sites and pooling resources and ideas.

A farm evening

When we realise we’re not doing this alone it’s amazing how much lighter a load can feel and how much more inspired we can be.

I also notice how humour begins to flow and what a powerful antidote for doom and gloom that is.

Transformation is never easy but the rewards exceed the effort put in ten fold.

So what is it going to be? Are we all going to bow down to the god of Doom & Gloom, fear and anxiety, heaping more and more gifts around it, or are we going to start noticing and focusing on the other neglected god – that of relationship, joy, trust, abundance and lightness?

Whatever the future holds for us all a belief in our inherent ability to adapt and change and focus on the greater good rather than fear, anxiety, greed and selfishness is the only sustainable way forward.

By Jon Lavin


How quickly four years flow by!

How strange that, as far as the broader world is concerned, how little seems to have changed.

Celebrating Who I Am.

The journey towards knowing better who we are.

This may seem like a bit of an ‘odd-ball’ after Celebrating Ben and Ranger on Monday and Celebrating Pharaoh yesterday.  Indeed, when I had in mind those two posts, writing about self-awareness was nowhere on my mental horizon.  Then along came Shakti Ghosal after Monday’s post who left this comment:

Hi Paul,

Just came a visiting and was halted by these glorious photographs. Horses embody such great qualities of trust, grace and power don’t they? What is it that makes them such a great friend of Man, I wonder? Specially when the latter species, as we know it (and we should know!), can choose to behave quite contrary to those Equine qualities above….


As Shakti was a new visitor inevitably I went across to his blog site, ESGEE musings, and then to the About page. Where I read, in part,

About Shakti Ghosal


Born in New Delhi, India, Shakti Ghosal is an Engineer and Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Global trends to Human Psychology & Development.

I was intrigued and starting reading some of Shakti’s posts.  That is how I came across The Audacity of Who I am and a day later had been offered permission to republish it.

However, before going on to Shakti’s post let me recap a little from yesterday’s post Celebrating Pharaoh.  This section:

The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years.  Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together.  Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)

So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me.  No, more than that!  From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, and experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self.  Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return.  As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.

I will speak a little more about this but, first, to Shakti’s post.


The Audacity of Who I am

“High above the noise and fear mongering of critics and cynics softly speaks your true self.”

– Mollie Marti, Psychologist, Lawyer & Coach, USA

The other day, I watched the Bollywood movie Queen. In it Rani, a girl from Delhi, travels to Europe after being spurned by her fiancé. The movie then goes on to explore Rani’s ‘World view’ as dictated by her Indian middle class values and how that alters, as her biases and prejudices fall away, as she is confronted by radically different value systems and perspectives. A journey of self discovery in surroundings where she is no longer weighed down by others’ expectations and diktats. As she morphs, she confuses and pisses off many people including herself. Rani emerges from this crucible of experience as a more authentic human being. As she chooses to be ‘who she is for herself and for others’, she symbolises courage as well as resistance. Walking out of the theatre, I could not help but acknowledge how Rani’s awareness and acceptance of ‘who she is for herself and for others’ left her more empowered and in control of her destiny.

Kangana Ranaut in Queen
Kangana Ranaut in Queen

Who I am for myself and for others? How many of us are willing to make this query a daily practice as we loosen the constraints imposed by our world-view, let go of who we believe we should show up as and embrace who we really are?

What is it that makes me avoid being who I am for myself and for others? I can see this stemming from my desperation to be admired, liked and looking good. My life experiences have conditioned me to avoid being straightforward and veer towards being diplomatic if I perceive it is the latter which makes me look good. I have also been guilty of the corporate lie. On occasions I have stretched the truth about my company and its services, hidden what could have been embarrassing. On other occasions I have manipulated situations and people. All this to succeed, be admired, look good.

I muse. Have my efforts to gain admiration and look good empowered me to greater heights? Have I succeeded in engaging in my life from a place of worthiness? I remain increasingly unsure.

So if avoiding ‘who I am for myself and for others’ has not worked for me, how could I embrace it? As I think of this, I begin to see what being who I am for myself and for others could mean for me.

Shakti 2

It would mean the audacity to show up as the ‘imperfect me’ that I am and the willingness to be vulnerable.

It would mean the audacity to let my hair down and allow myself to truly belong with the folks I choose.

It would mean the audacity to be compassionate and loving even when I hold the fear of not being good enough.

It would mean the audacity to be authentic about my own inauthenticities.

Am I committed to being this audacious?


“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse.’ It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Excerpt from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ by Margery Williams

In Learning….. Shakti Ghosal


Now Shatki’s post is spot on.  But it assumes one thing.  That is that each of us has sufficient self-awareness “to show up as the ‘imperfect me’”.  Sometimes, as in my case, that ‘imperfect me’ was well-hidden from the self.  Stay with me a little longer.

My father died of cancer in 1956.  Just 5 days before Christmas, 1956.  He was 55 and I had turned 12 just 6 weeks previously. I had completed my first term at the local (Preston Road, Wembley) grammar school.

For many reasons that do not need to be shared here, the effect of my father’s death and my subsequent decline in my school performance, left me with a long-term psychological ‘dysfunction’; namely a feeling that I had been emotionally rejected.  But that feeling was deeply hidden from me.  In fact, that hidden belief remained with me until 2007 when Jon Lavin brought it to the surface. (Jon is a UKCP accredited therapist and NLP Practitioner).

Reflect on that for just a moment.  For the thick end of fifty years, this psychological characteristic remained totally below my consciousness yet, nonetheless, influenced me in very real and tangible ways.

The negative influence was that I was drawn to any woman who offered me love and affection and, therefore, was emotionally unable to understand how good a partner she might or might not be for me. (Jean is my fourth wife!)

The positive influence was that I tried very hard to please others, to avoid their rejection, and had successful careers in selling for IBM UK, starting and building a successful business in the early days of personal computing and, later, when my company was sold in 1986 becoming a freelance journalist and business coach.

So back to Shakti’s essay.

I agree one-hundred-percent with what he says. With the proviso that in certain cases, spending time with a qualified counsellor could be your best investment ever.

How to round this off.

If you have been influenced by any of this then do give yourself time and space to counsel yourself.  Let your inner person reach out in peace to your outer person.

If that inner person suggests you could be a happier, more peaceful person then reach out to someone properly qualified to hold your hand as you open up to your inner feelings.

Which is why loving a dog and being loved in return by that beautiful creature means so much.  For in that private bond that animals offer us lays the truth.

I can do no better than offer this personal reason why being audacious about who you are is the supreme ‘investment’ of all in yourself.

A few months after Jon Lavin brought my fear of emotional rejection to my conscious surface, I met Jean in Mexico, Christmas 2007.  I have never loved a person as I love Jean.  I have never been loved by a person as Jean loves me.

Jean, Father Dan and yours truly. St Paul's Episcopal Church, Payson, AZ. November 20th, 2010.
Jean, Father Dan and yours truly. St Paul’s Episcopal Church, Payson, AZ. November 20th, 2010.

Being at peace with who you are is the most important celebration.

Say no more!

Having yourself as your best friend.

The power of having a great friendship – with yourself!

Today’s post came as a result of some poems published by Kimberley over at Words4jp’s Blog.  She and I follow each other’s blog and each often stirs the other’s emotions.  There was a sad post published by her on the 23rd April called within.  Part of the comment that I wrote to that post read as follows:

Oh, it pains me to read your post. You are such an open, honest person; well that’s what comes across through your writings. Knowing and loving ourself is the only worthwhile journey of our life. For without being at peace with who we are, we will struggle to be at peace with others.

Kimberley published another post the following day, friend and foe, that again struck me as being sad.  Read it and see if you agree with me.

it is said

to keep one’s friends close


to keep one’s enemies closer


could this explain


when i look in the mirror

i find

i am becoming less of a friend


more of an enemy –

to myself


After reading both those poems I ‘threatened’ Kimberley that I would write a post on becoming friends with oneself.

Here it is.  Adding immediately that I’m drawing heavily on a conversation that Jon Lavin and I had a few months ago; Jon’s background can be looked up over at The People Workshop. Jon is the professional psychotherapist – I am not!


Knowing who we are.

On the 24th January last, I published a post under the title of 20:20 self-awareness.  Included in that post was this:

What we hear and what we say are both modified, frequently unconsciously, by past events, experiences and trauma. That being the case, then it is key, critically so, that we achieve the best possible self-awareness. Because it is only through an understanding of our past that we come to learn of our sensitivities and our associated ‘tender spots’ and their potential for ‘pulling our strings’. Here’s a personal story.

In 1956, when I was 12, I experienced a trauma that was interpreted by my consciousness as emotional rejection. By the age of 14 that sensitivity to rejection had descended into my subconscious. For fifty years, that sensitivity remained hidden yet continued to influence my life in many unseen ways, not all of them negatively by a long measure. In 2007 a period of counselling revealed that hidden emotional rejection; brought it to the surface. It changed beyond imagination how I felt, how I behaved, how I was. Nonetheless, that sensitivity to rejection is still there, albeit now visible. Thus when I hear or experience something that tickles that sensitivity I still react. But because I can now see and feel myself reacting, I can sidestep the emotional strings.

OK, but what does better self-awareness not achieve?  Knowing better who we are delivers no cleansing of our past, no removal of the capacity of that past to cause pain.  Those psychological hooks and impulses are still alive and well!

So what’s the point of knowing better who we are if that greater self-awareness doesn’t remove those hooks and impulses that have the capacity to cause us pain?

The answer to that last question is this.

Greater self-awareness brings about control by the self of the self! We are able to start the slow process of gaining trust in ourselves.  Trust; as in emotional trust. Being able to emotionally trust ourself is a central theme in psychotherapy solutions.

When we trust the emotional person that we are then we have achieved a liking for the person that we are.  Bringing to mind the truism that you cannot like another if you do not like yourself. Like = Love, of course.

So two things to offer to close the post.


The first is that if you have any suspicion, or know for certain, that you have experienced trauma in your past life, especially in your formative years then the book Waking The Tiger by Peter A. Levine is a valuable resource.  You can learn more about the book including reading the first chapter on the Somatic Experiencing website.

The second is to repeat the short film that was included in the 20:20 self-awareness post.  This is how it was introduced:

The following is a short, twenty-minute, documentary film about fear. Do watch it. The message that we are so profoundly a product of our past is beautifully presented.

Take good care of yourself!