Tag: The People Workshop


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!


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.

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!

20:20 self-awareness.

How something so fundamental as humans talking with each other can so often be mysterious.

When I composed this sub-heading, I wasn’t sure of what word to use to end the sentence.  Some of the words that sped through my mind were: complex, distorted, difficult, obtuse and …. well, you get the message.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw is reputed to have once said!

Today’s essay on the challenges of speaking clearly to another, perhaps better described as communicating in a clear and unambiguous fashion, came out of a recent conversation with Jon Lavin, a good friend from my Devon days.  (Jon offers services for business owners and entrepreneurs under his business banner of The People Workshop.)

Jon was explaining that the number one hurdle for businesses that are managing change, and for so many businesses managing change is practically a constant, is having clear communications within the team.

Seems clear enough to me! 😉

Yet, 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.

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.

Finding one’s true self.

A personal journey

In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before.  Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.

But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey.  So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow! 😉

The fickle finger of fate

I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II.  Nothing remarkable about that.  Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies.  My father was an architect; my mother a teacher.  Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!

In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer.  I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956.  That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer.  To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep.  I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.

My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th.  I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house.  On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!

It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral.  That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.

The good and the not so good.

The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school.  I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.

I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.

From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.

But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful.  If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!

A little more background.

When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors.  My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles.  Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later.  I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.

I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus.  (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)

In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes.  Once settled I took up business mentoring.  In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing.  In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.

One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop.  (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)

Out of sight, but not out of mind.

In time I became married to wife number three.  Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.

Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003.  At the time, I had no idea how important!

Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.
Pharaoh, relaxing in a Devon garden.

On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.

I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!

High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening.  Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!”  I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.

Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin.  However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist.  I pleaded with Jon.  He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered.  Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]

Finding one’s true self after 50 years!

Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died.  And, guess what!

Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection.  Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences.  Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways.  Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.

Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.

In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘  I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia.  It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California.  Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.

One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?

I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June.  Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!

Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably.  “Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas.  Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?

And I did.  And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean.  Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago.  Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.

Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other.  Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos.  So many of those dogs loved me from the start.  It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for.  In such stark contrast to just a year ago.

Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.
Mexican sunset! San Carlos, 2nd January, 2008.

In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico.  Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.

In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.

The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.
The marriage of Jean and Paul wonderfully supported by Diane, maid of honour, and best man, Dan Gomez.

Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.

What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true.  A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her.  Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.

We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.

So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!



Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat.  On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)

Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals.  That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog.  Funny old world.

Sanity anchors.

The importance of staying grounded in the face of the oncoming storm.

A few days ago, I exchanged emails with Jon Lavin.  In the early days of Learning from Dogs, Jon used to write the occasional post, one of which seems highly relevant some three years later.  I will republish it tomorrow.


Jon and I go back a few years and most who know me know that it was Jon’s counselling back in 2007 that opened my eyes to something that, literally, changed my life.  For the better, I hasten to add!

In our recent email exchange, Jon wrote this:

Just started back at work today. A bit of a shock to the old system! Am wondering what to set my sanity sights on for this coming year in the middle of almost total uncertainty.

Of course!  How obvious! The need to ensure that our lives contain anchors of stability, safe places to curl up in, metaphorically speaking, where we can seek refuge from the winds of change.  Otherwise, we run the very real risk of being overcome by the uncertainty of the future.

The resonance with small boats and the sea is obvious, and unavoidable in the case of yours truly.

Tradewind 33, Songbird of Kent

For five years I lived on and sailed a Tradewind 33, Songbird of Kent; my base being Larnaca on the island of Cyprus at the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.  Contrary to the image of the Mediterranean, it wasn’t uncommon to experience some ‘interesting’ weather; there were times when it could turn very nasty!

The comfort, physical and mental, offered by being tucked up in a small bay, listening to the storm about one, while riding securely to your anchor was beyond imagination.

Jon’s comment underscores the incredible importance of each of us knowing what anchors us to a secure place.  So, like any sailor, always keep a weather eye open for those early signs of a storm, and cast your anchor in good time.

Needless to say, having a loving dog or two in one’s life provides a wonderful storm-proof anchor.


Looking down the wrong end of the telescope.

Trying to make sense of the utter nonsense of the Rio+G20 summit.

I share the deep frustration that must be felt by millions around the globe at the outcome of the Rio summit meeting, if outcome is the appropriate word!  Martin Lack summarised his anger in a post last Friday and I’m going to publish an extract from his writings because they so perfectly reflect not only his anger but, I suspect, the anger of millions of others.

Adam Vaughan’s blog from Rio for the Guardian newspaper is not for the faint-hearted.  At 2:07 pm today, [Friday 22 June 2012 12.23 EDT, Ed] he quoted David Nussbaum (WWF-UK) as follows:

“It would have been naïve to pin too many hopes on a single conference, but undeniably we expected more from the outcome document. Entitled ‘The Future We Want’, the text doesn’t live up to the aspirations of the title – it’s more a case of ‘The Future We’ll Get If We Rely On Politicians’. Full of weak phrases, and re-confirmations of previous aspirations which they haven’t realised, the text fails to commit governments to actions, targets, timeframes and finance to which we can hold them accountable….What we have is an agreement within the bounds of what they thought politically possible; what we needed was an agreement to address what is scientifically necessary. This is no way to manage our planet!”

Neither would I recommend George Monbiot’s column today – Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff; unless you are feeling brave:

“World leaders have spent 20 years bracing themselves to express ‘deep concern’ about the world’s environmental crises, but not to do anything about them…Several of the more outrageous deletions proposed by the United States – such as any mention of rights or equity or of common but differentiated responsibilities – have been rebuffed. In other respects the Obama government’s purge has succeeded, striking out such concepts as “unsustainable consumption and production patterns” and the proposed decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources.”

I would like to be able to dismiss this as facile criticism from the liberal left. However, in reality, to do so would be to second-guess the scientists who have been telling us for decades that we need action not words. Our children and grandchildren will not forgive us for failing to act.

BUT a conversation I had with Lew L. here in Payson last Friday afternoon helped crystalise some thoughts that I would like to share with you.

Representative democracy a la British House of Commons

The first is about democracy, or more accurately representative democracy.  Lew pointed out that some US Towns still employ direct democratic processes where all the people who attend a Town meeting vote in person for or against the motion.  The challenge for a representative democratic process is that those elected representatives are vulnerable to a wide range of influences and between elections may be taking decisions that the people would neither support nor approve of.

The idea of direct democracy goes back a very long time, as Wikipedia reveals,

The earliest known direct democracy is said to be the Athenian Democracy in the 5th century BC,

So it could be argued that the fundamental flaw in the Rio+G20 meeting was not the lack of any real progress by our ‘leaders’, but in our expectations, as in the expectations of ‘you and me’, all across the world.  The money and power that must be intertwined in such games of international politics doesn’t bear thinking about.  It was Lord Acton, the British historian, who said: ‘Power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely‘.

So rather than expecting our representatives and leaders to do what we what them to do and being bitterly disappointed, time and time again, there is another equally valid way of bringing about change – create the change you desire by changing yourself.

As my friend Jon Lavin expressed in a very recent email,

People like something solid to relate to in such changing and unpredictable times and a dogs view is brilliant because dogs just are because they are in the present. All that matters is the ‘now’. Most of our problems can be traced back to our lack of ability to be in the ‘now’. Driven by regrets about the past, and a fear of what the future holds, we carry on hoping that all our problems can be solved by amassing material possessions.

Oh, well. The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.

So that leads on to my second thought, the urgency in tackling what is happening to the Earth’s climate.  In Martin’s second angry post over at Lack of Environment, he writes,

Here in the UK, the weather is literally unbelievable. 100mm of rain falling in one day. At the end of June. It’s ridiculous. Just one problem: It is exactly what the climate models predicted.

Global average temperatures are rising. Since the 1980s, every decade has been warmer than the last. 1998 was a very warm year, but global warming has not stopped; it has morphed into Anthropogenic Climate Disruption (ACD). Some even suggest we should call it Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating (HIRGO) but I prefer ACD, because that is what we are experiencing: It will be decades before it becomes obvious that HIRGO is happening and, if we wait for it to be obvious, there will be no way to stop it.

We need to accept that ACD is a reality; it is an inevitable consequence of a warming atmosphere; one with more moisture in it more of the time and – as I said – it is exactly what the climate models have being tell us would happen for decades. That being the case, how is it that our politicians – seemingly led by members of a supposedly left-of-centre Democratic Party administration in the USA – can have such monumental tunnel vision as to offer up the planet itself as a sacrifice upon the altar of the god of Growth?

But do you see the fundamental error?  The idea that our leaders have to create change: “.. how is it that our politicians …. can have such monumental tunnel vision as to offer up the planet itself as a sacrifice upon the altar of the god of Growth?

As Jon Lavin revealed in his email to me, the agency of change is within each of us. It is not a “thing.” There’s a huge amount of information revealed by a simple Google search on change, the change process, change management process, etc., etc., so I’m not going to add to the noise by quoting the experts.  It’s as simple as Jon wrote:

“The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.”

OK, moving on to my second thought, and for this I want to play a little mind-game.

That is what would be the impact if 50% of the combined populations of North America and Europe decided to save the power of one 60-watt lamp, or equivalent, for 36 hours a year, i.e. turning off one 60-watt lamp for less than one hour a day for a year!

Let’s take this a step at a time.

The combined population of the USA, Canada and Europe is 1,090,487,000 people, i.e. a little over 1 billion.

Thus half that population is 545,243,500 persons.

Saving 60 watts for 36 hours a year is 60 X 36 = 2,160 watts.

Thus 545,243,500 people times 2,160 watts = 1,177,725,960,000 watts.  Which is 1.178 trillion watts. (rounded up)

 I say again: 1.178 trillion watts.

How can one get any notion of what that means?  The best I could find from a web search was this:

The U.S. electric power industry’s total installed generating capacity was 1,119,673 megawatts (MW) as of December 31, 2009—a 1.0-percent increase from 2008.

Ergo, in 2009 the USA had the capability of generating 1,119,673 megawatts.  A megawatt is one million watts so 1,119,673 megawatts is 1,119,673,000,000 watts, or 1.119 trillion watts.

Wow! switching off a 60-watt lamp for less than an hour a day would save 1.178 trillion watts, more than the combined generating capacity of the entire USA in 2009 of 1.119 trillion watts.

I suspect that the current USA generating capacity isn’t that much different and, of course, one can’t run away with the idea that all of that is generated by fossil fuels.

But if I have done my mathematics correctly (and do please check my sums), the simple expediency of turning off one 60-watt lamp for 36 hours a year, if done by just half the populations of North America and Europe, would be the equivalent of saving 105% of the total US generating capacity!

So think about the change you want in your life, and  the lives of your children and grandchildren, and get on with it.  Turn out that light!

“The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.”

And I can do no better in terms of reflecting on the power of our minds, than courtesy of this fabulous video which Christine of 350orbust had last Saturday:

Remembering Fred Rogers.

Final thought!  If one thinks of the way that we trust the Internet for so much these days, and the huge number of people that are now ‘wired’, it doesn’t seem to be beyond the wit of man to come up with a reliable, secure method of direct voting electronically.  Wonder why that hasn’t caught on?

The art of relaxation

Yesterday’s article reminds me of something fundamental!

In Patricia’s guest post of yesterday, she wrote about Chloe, her dog,

Chloe was born knowing. She knows about joy. She knows about living a life in balance. She knows about forgiveness, trust, exuberance, a passion for learning and the power of a good nap.

I was speaking with Jon Lavin a few days ago about the effect of anxiety on memory.  Jon confirmed that as we get older even low levels of anxiety can play games with our mental focus.  He described what many of us know – of walking into a room, for instance, and suddenly realising that you didn’t have a clue as to why you had come into the room!  In a very real sense anxiety is the body’s manifestation of fear.

Jon went on to say that practicing ‘letting go’ for a couple of 10-minute sessions a day is wonderfully therapeutic for the mind.  In fact, when Jon was a guest author for Learning from Dogs he touched on the subject of fear in a post almost two years ago to the day; Dealing with the fear of the known.  Indeed, I’m going to reproduce that article in full – here it is,

Jon Lavin

Can we ever conquer fear?

In a recent article I discussed the fear of the unknown, linked to the down-turn, redundancies, etc.

Per Kurowski, a great supporter of this Blog, posed the following question. “Great advice… but how do we remove the fear of what is known?”  A simple, and slightly flippant answer would be, “Develop a different relationship with it.”

What I’m saying is that when we are facing the known, and I’m assuming that it’s something unpleasant, our choices are limited. It’s going to happen, so the only thing we can do is change the way we view it.

This brings us back full circle to developing a different relationship with it. Let’s take the word, ‘fear’.

All fear is an illusion, walk right through“. I heard Dr David Hawkins say on a CD. Granted, a great trick if you can do it!

Here’s another description of fear: Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

Fear is generally future-based. We tend to use the past as a learning reference to inform us of what to be afraid of in the future. So human beings live their lives trying to predict and prepare for the future, limited by their past experiences.

Unfortunately, the only way to work with fear of the known is to live in the present!

Our whole society is geared up to look into the future. We are forever worrying about or planning something for the future.

To begin focussing on the present, try this.

Simply, to start off, become aware of the breath and sensations in the body. This will slowly start to remind us to be present, or embodied, in our own body. Problems, fear and spiral thinking, often at 3 or 4 in the morning, are generated in the mind. Thoughts occur randomly, although we call them, “Our thoughts“, and refer to, “Our mind“.

By dropping out of the thought processes into the awareness of our breath and our body, the noise stops, even if only for a moment.  Here’s the rub: So very few people in the world will have even the slightest inkling what these words mean!

If more of us got used to coming out of the mind before making an important decision, and simply sat with the question for a while, the answer would probably present itself.

This will probably raise more questions than it answers but that’s not a bad thing.

By Jon Lavin

Difficult to add anything to that very sound advice save to try it out yourself, and if you own a dog or have one as a friend, just look much more closely at how he or she behaves and remember why this blog is called what it is!  Or as Trish wrote,

Chloe was born knowing. She knows about joy. She knows about living a life in balance. She knows about forgiveness, trust, exuberance, a passion for learning and the power of a good nap.

Ah, the power of a good nap!

Puppy Cleo enjoying a good nap!