Saturday, 31 July 2021

The Curse of Catastrophic Thinking


I was left to take charge of a cat for a couple of days recently. The cat stayed in his location and I had to go over and organise the feeding arrangements. 


Here’s a little background information. He was a house cat; he’s become an outdoor cat and he’s developed into quite a rat/mouse catcher. I was not going to stay in a place where I might be presented with such presents. So, I agreed to pop in instead.


The cat was pleased to see me and to accept the treats I always bring (could that be why he is always so welcoming?); I fed him and decided to stay around for a couple of hours so he didn’t get lonely. He left the house through the cat flap minutes after I arrived and only returned as I decided I really had to get going. I spotted him flash by into the house through the porch, just as I was about to close the front door.


I left. I’d done my duty and the cat would be fine for the next 24 hours I hoped.


It was hot and I soon began to have a niggling worry around a “what if” scenario. The worst example of that was: “What if a delivery driver popped a parcel in the porch and, not realising that the cat had popped in, closed the porch door and the cat was left to suffocate on what was turning out to be a boiling hot day?” 


I could feel my anxiety levels rising. Should I go back and check and put some water down just in case? Should I kidnap the cat (he wouldn’t have outside space with me, but a cat litter could be provided) or should I relocate for the time he was alone, cancelling my plans for the sake of something that my overactive mind was telling me might happen. The further I drove, the noisier my mind became, giving me all varieties of worsening scenarios, none of which ended well. 


In the end, faced with so much choice and so little decision-making ability because of the problem, I did nothing. I put metaphorical lid on the little niggle of what might happen and managed to get on with my daily living. 


The next day, shortly before the cat’s keepers returned, I texted them to check all was well. “We’re minutes from home,” they replied happily. 


“Phew,” I said. “That means you can make sure the cat hasn’t suffocated on the porch because he’s been locked in by a driver and has no water and couldn’t get out.”


That silenced them. I later learned (after they’d found the cat safe and well inside their shuttered and cool house) that such a thought had not occurred to them. Then, for the few minutes before they arrived at their home, it became their sole preoccupation.


That is the trouble with catastrophic (ironic in this particular case) thinking. It can take over a person, blocking all usual rational and reasonable thoughts until they’re a mass of feelings and emotions that have built up and flourished way beyond their mental control.


As the cat’s carers illustrate, this is not something that happens to everyone. In my case it occurred because I was taking responsibility for a beloved pet and was fearful of anything going wrong. No doubt that comes from my own background upbringing and fears and worries when I was growing up. 


I am not alone, as can be seen from official reaction to the pandemic of the past 18 months or so. There’s been a lot of catastrophic thinking going on there and it’s by no means all come to pass.


For example, the data experts - scientists we’re told are reasonable and rational and not inclined to hysteria - seemed to become more and more hysterical as the days went on. It is/was a new and particularly deadly virus and of course there were huge concerns. But dissent or “voices of reason” seemed to have been elbowed out. There have been times, during lockdown, when some have felt our scientific experts were less the voices of reason, and more the voices of doom. 


Catastrophic thinking can be catching, you see, and that is why we need to be so careful. It can have a bad enough effect on an individual’s mental health but imagine how damaging it can be as a collective feeling for, say, a whole country.


Take, for example, the wearing of a mask. At the beginning of the pandemic, we were told masks were not necessary. They would not protect us. Then, gradually, the advice changed to using them to protect not only ourselves but others. And so on, until it became so necessary to our alleged wellbeing that one could argue: “If I go out without a mask, I may either die or be responsible for another person’s death.” That, surely, is catastrophic thinking at its worst. And not just for one person but for millions of us. Rightly or wrongly - I don’t know - we have been terrified into submission. 





I take some comfort in knowing that this way of thinking does not have to be contagious, nor does it have to pass down from one family member to another. The key is to become aware of your own thought process. A particular benefit of becoming a thoughtful and aware adult is that you get to choose how you manage life’s unpredictable events.  


The best way to take any decision is through use of the rational and reasonable methods you have - hopefully - acquired in your journey as an adult, adding a touch of emotions into the mix to check what your gut reaction feels. 


Catastrophic thinking is tiring and can keep you in your “freeze” mode long after it’s necessary. It is unhealthy and undoubtedly detracts from the pleasures of life. In the case of the cat and me, what could have been a mutually beneficial exchange was at risk of turning into a dreadful drama. And what would be the point of that? For best results, keep that in mind.






Photo 2 by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

 

 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

If Not Now, When?



Our PM was referring to the opening up of the country after our latest lockdown when he said those words. I've lost count whether it's the third lockdown or the end of one continuous lockdown but, for once, Boris Johnson's words made sense to me. 

If not now, when? A powerful question. A question that has no good answer. 

Clearly, we all have our own views about lockdown. When there was no chance and it looked as though the Sage team were advocating a perpetual lockdown we all seemed pretty annoyed. Now, we seem to be pretty annoyed the other way. “What? Make up our own minds? Choose to self-isolate or go out? Mix with more than one person? Socialise? Noooooo!”


Choices, choices. And no sure answer. If we go out, so we’re told, numbers will surge. If we stay in, surely our resistance to other more “normal” illnesses such as flu or colds will diminish? If we’re not exposed to them, will we become less immune to the bugs we can usually resist? The absolute opposite of Covid, of course, except that most of us are trusting that our vaccinations will protect us to at least some extent.


So, a decision has to be made and it has, even though it’s not quite the final decision we were told we could expect. It looks like our PM may be procrastinating again. Still, in his shoes, who wouldn’t?


But I procrastinate. The purpose of this post is not about lockdown, it is about procrastination. It wasn’t my intention to link the latest lockdown decision with procrastination but it would be foolish not to take an opportunity so graciously given.


If not now, when? 


A few quick questions. Have you finally written that novel you’ve been planning for years? Have you thrown out all your unused/unwanted wardrobe items now you’ve had a bit of time on your hands? And what about that diet and all the exercise you were planning to do when you could just spare the time?


No? If not, why not? The amazing playwright Jack Rosenthal said he would do anything and everything before he sat down to work including cleaning the house from top to bottom and reading the telephone directory. Deadline-itus is something many people can recognise, not just writers. They will put off doing whatever it is that needs to be done until the last possible moment.


But why? Surely, it’s better to prepare for the task, complete it, enjoy the satisfaction of finishing it (Gestalt) and then moving on to the next one. That would seem a good way of working.


It would seem so but, while many of us know this in our heads, we still manage to block ourselves. It’s such a rich source of curiosity that there’s a fair amount of research on it. 


One reason for procrastination may be boredom - the subject matter does not interest you. Or there may be a lack of incentive - is there a benefit if you complete the assignment? Will somebody read it, will you be praised, will you be rewarded? Or does nobody care?


Perhaps you are not confident about the work in hand. You may not know where to begin, let alone where to end. So, by doing nothing, while you may not be succeeding you are most definitely not failing. Nor will you be found out, providing the assignment you’re not working on was not given to your boss, in that case, h/she may expect a response. 


The fear of failure comes into play from the emotional part of your brain: the amygdala that controls the fight, flight or freeze response. It’s very useful as an instinctive protector of your wellbeing - for example, watching out for you while you’re crossing the road and reading your smart phone - but you need to be careful not to allow it to override your reasonability. 


If you only work with your instinct and forget about both your learned experience and your ability to make your own judgment call, you would never do anything. Procrastination would have won.

As I write this, I am aware that procrastination may not be a “dirty” word to everyone. If so, apologies and please continue you as you are. If not, here are some thoughts.  


Researchers in one study talk about the necessity of locomotion in order to get the better of procrastination. In other words, the need for a driver or motivation that will overcome your inertia. Find yours. Ask yourself what is stopping you from taking on the task that most probably came from you in the first place. Is it fear, is it inertia, is it lack of confidence in your ability or lack of knowledge in how to go about it - where to start?


Identifying the answer to the initial question can begin the process of unlocking. If you don’t have the motivation, then it’s highly unlikely that you’ll complete the task. But, if you find that is the case, get rid of the idea, move on. Don’t allow it to linger in the back of your mind where you always promised yourself one day you would … it’s gone, finished, goodbye.


But if, after that soul-searching part, you decide you do want to continue, make a start and envisage each step along the way. If we’re talking about the novel, imagine writing the first chapter; if we’re talking about emptying cupboards, imagine clearing one space at a time. Imagine how good that will look and how pleased you will feel.


That, in the end, is the whole point of it. Procrastination can gnaw at you, sapping your energy and leaving you with a faintly uncomfortable nagging feeling that you should be doing something but you’re not. Imagine moving past that stage, getting on with what you have chosen to do and imagine the satisfaction and relief you’ll feel after you’ve completed that task.  


Go for it. If not now, when?





By Lulu Sinclair



 

Photo 1 by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Photo 2 by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Photo 3 by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash


Thursday, 24 June 2021

Let’s Hear It For The Quiet Ones


It’s been a hard 16 months and we all have stories to tell about how lockdown has affected us. I'm hoping we’re coming to the end of it now. I'm also hoping that we humans, being generally very resourceful, may find we forget all our visceral feelings more quickly than we’d expect. 

But there’s one group who I’m told have had a better lockdown experience than others. And that’s the quiet ones.


Let me take you back to your childhood … remember the ones in the classroom whose hands shot up at the hint of a question? Yes, and you could probably remember their name too, even now. 


Our PM, Boris Johnson, is a shining example of someone who appeared to have a star-like quality early on. It may not have come easy to him at the start - I’ve read the Tom Bower biography on him and I’m not sure I’d have been that happy with his childhood - but he took the hand he was dealt with and ran with it. And now, some 45 years on, here we are. You can’t get a much higher public profile than Prime Minister.


If we look at previous PMs (with one or two exceptions), they seem to fit the mould of early high achievers who stood out in a crowd. That could almost apply throughout western culture where heads of industry/entertainment/third sector organisations.  


But what about those who kept their hands firmly by their sides and were terrified of being picked to speak up in class? What about those so-called shrinking violets who, certainly in Boris’ time at school, were derided and scorned because of their reluctance to throw themselves forward? Where are they now, we might ask. 


First, there are sometimes good reasons why children hold back. Who jumps up to answer a question when they have no idea what the answer is? Who, unless you’re either slightly lacking in imagination or have great social skills, really enjoys walking into a room knowing nobody and being expected to perform? If you do, lucky you. You are the exception. Or the one whose hand always went up first.


It is evident many children have been severely effected by lockdown through both schooling and the isolation they’ve experienced. We humans are social beings and we need others, even if only to keep away, as I was once told.


However, I’ve now been told that some children - and their adult equivalents - have really enjoyed the non-competitive nature of lockdown. Parents talk of how a child has thrived away from the pressure of the class and the expectations that, in order to succeed, they have to be “out there” from the start. 


In turn, the parents have had time to reflect on their own expectations for their children and are reconsidering their own value judgement system. Could it be that this will be a bottom-up revolution, where the children lead the way? Probably not, but it's a thought.


I am wondering how it would be if those in charge decided to consider what the quiet ones could do for society if allowed to bring their reticence into the group. 


Could we all benefit from a less frenetic way of being, with time to reflect calmly and thoughtfully before we take action, rather than reacting by instinct and then finding out our decision is not that great? I’m hoping you’ll agree it’s bad enough when we rush to judgement as an individual; it’s a lot worse when we do it as the leader of a country. 


Maybe it’s time to consider choosing a leader who doesn’t actively stand out in a crowd. 


It would be harder, certainly, because the one jumping up and down in front of you with his/her hand raised makes it difficult for you to see who else is there. However, in the same way that the teacher may say: “Not you, (insert preferred name here), we’ve heard a lot from you recently. Let’s give so-and-so a turn.” We could look into the pool of potential bosses and see who might have our collective best interests at heart. We might be in for a positive surprise. 


Back to those quiet children of days gone by and the question of where they are now. 


Since Facebook’s arrival and its active take-up by older fans, I’ve been lucky enough to discover for myself how my own contemporaries are doing. Some of them did indeed become well-known and successful faces and I can certainly see some who were noisy team leaders from eight upwards are still pretty vocal. 


But the quieter ones, the ones whose names I’d forgotten, are very much there too. I look at old pictures and see faces decades down the line which are recognisable as those of the young schoolmates I knew. I read about them, discover their stories and learn that their lives have been just as eventful and rewarding as the form leaders of the past.


The only difference is that those same schoolmates have stayed quiet about their lives. They were still doing - and they were still being - but they have stayed true to themselves. They were quiet then, they are quiet now. 


I’ve learned a lot in this lockdown about the need and the importance of managing solitude. You really do have to reach down to your inner reserves to find out the best way to survive and live when semi-isolated from the outside world. It’s been a struggle, but it seems, for once, the quiet ones have come out on top. 


So let's hear it for the quiet people everywhere. Let's thank them for their thoughtfulness, their wisdom and their grace in staying as they want to be. Let's applaud them, but quietly. 




By Lulu Sinclair



Good reads: 


In Praise of Slowness: Carl Honore

The Power of Quiet: Susan Cain

Helping Quiet Pupils to Find Their Voice








Friday, 28 May 2021

The Expansion of the Mid-Life Crisis


There was a time when a mid-life crisis was associated with someone giving up their old family life in exchange for a new and potentially more exciting one with a new partner.  For some people, there’s the temptation to start again and to put right the wrongs that we may have done to ourselves when young. The benefit of hindsight is all. 

For the past 15 months, of course, survival has been uppermost in our minds and the idea of uprooting ourselves from that which is familiar and dear has taken a back seat. It may be that, as we finally come out of lockdown, all the old grievances will return and people will make changes but presently we’re still taking stock.


Strangely enough, I’ve found myself acting a bit more as a life coach than a counsellor over the past few weeks. I particularly recall "meeting" two people away from the therapy room, two people who will remain memorable because of the brave decisions they have taken as a result of lockdown.


The first person’s work was not affected by the pandemic, in fact there was probably more work available than before and they could work successfully from home. The person - who I know professionally but have never met - shocked me by saying they had decided to leave their safe steady employment and go it alone. 


They told me it was a decision that had surprised them too because they had expected to work hard, pay into their pension and retire earlier but with good financial backup. The only drawback was a young child who would see less of them now but would have better financial security later. Now, they were jumping into the complete unknown in order to spend more time with their child because who knew what the future would bring. They did know that the decision would mean having to work harder later in life and for longer. 


The decision was taken in part by seeing the completely unpredictable and previously unimaginable effect of Covid on the lives of work colleagues as well as their own family members. It was, they decided, a price well worth paying.


The other person I met - in real life, for an exciting change - had seen their business collapse as a result of lockdown. That had led to them experienced a worsening of a mental health problem they already had and caused them to reconsider their direction of life travel. This person was still in the process of working out how best to manage the new life but was convinced it was the right decision and there would be no going back.  

I felt privileged to be taken into someone else's confidence and pleased to discover that other's were already making their own plans for what happens after lockdown eases. I've been reading so much about what businesses are expecting that I'd lost sight of the other side of the coin and it was good to reflect it is not just about businesses making choices, we can too.  


We are told some businesses who are keen to save costs will be encouraging people to work from home. 


Some workers will like that. They have become used to working from home and want to stay with that scenario. Others, who have been confined to one-bedroom living and deprived of social interaction for a long time, are keen to get back to the world of work and the water-cooler moments at the very least. For them, these past 15 months have been particularly hard. 

 

Other professionals - legal and accountancy firms for example - say trainees or newly qualified staff learn by seeing how the more experienced staff members operate, a type of learning by osmosis that cannot be picked up by Zoom or Teams meetings. They will be required to return to the office.


However it works, it seems like we’ll all need to learn to adapt to some degree. Hugs in or out? Handshakes? Palms together with a polite head bow and a quiet Namaste greeting? Or that elbow touching that seems so last year now?


And what about our physical appearance? The dress code from top to bottom, that is, rather than the smart head-to-waist ensemble that Zoom users favour. Will we be expected to dress up again in office outfits or will the strict delineation of the recent past be one of the first things to go in our new old world?  That might be hard if you’re someone whose boundaries are a bit more elastic than you would like. 


Decisions, decisions. We’ll all have to face them sooner or later, even our politicians. 


But what leaves me with a lasting feeling of good cheer is how some individuals are not waiting to be told how it’s going to work and are making their own decisions. They have used both emotion and reason to mull over the options, consider the consequences and decide what they believe will work best for them. 


I am very hopeful and wish my two mid-life crisis changelings all the very best. 




By Lulu Sinclair



Photo 1: Jonathan Francisca on Unsplash

Photo 2: Christina@wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


Friday, 7 May 2021

Love The One You're With


The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the communication skills of very small children, according to a recent study of some 50,000 children between the ages of four and five.

The survey was conducted for the Education Endowment Foundation, an independent charity, and the findings indicate up to 25% of children in this age category have fallen behind over this past year. 


These figures may come as a surprise to those people who have not had much contact with small children but, to those of us who have, we have been expecting it. 


And while it’s bad for those children at the start of their school lives, I would argue it's as bad for children who are still at the nursery stage of schooling.


My own experience children of pre-school children (and I've observed and spent a fair bit of time with several of them over the past year) is that they, too, have at the very least stood still, if not actually taken a metaphorical step backwards. Those little people who were toddling towards life outside their immediate family have had their learning curves severely curtained. 


The children who were smiling and laughing and beginning to form words and make connections outside their family nucleus up to the middle of March last year have been abruptly pulled back to return to an isolated existence that we who can communicate easily have found very disheartening. If we can talk about and still feel bad, what must it mean for those small humans who are not yet able to get any words out, let alone the right ones.


We know that new-born babies are instinctive and animal-like, sensing what hurts, frightens and angers them and letting parents and carers know what’s going on inside through their cries. They need love, nurturing, attention and comfort and, with luck, they will grow and thrive. We also know, through recent studies, that unborn babies recognise their mother’s voice inside the womb, and they are attuned to it. They are programmed from even before their birth to be ready to respond to the first person they meet. 


For the non-specialist observer, we see that it’s as babies grow into toddlers and small children that they develop and learn from those who are ahead of the game the skills to move them from their own inner world into our infinitely more complicated but potentially even more fascinating world. 


So, what happens if it all stops still as it has for this past year? Who on earth knows? This is the first experience any of us has had of an event like this and we have no idea about long-term effects. We can only hope they will be few for those of this age but, as Babette Rothschild, explains in The Body Remembers, we may well store memories of traumatic events somatically - within our bodies - and, even if we’re not consciously aware of it, they may leave some of us with some scars.


Returning to my own experience, I’ve watched children who, a year ago, ran into nursery without a backward glance become hesitant to move away from those they have been so deeply connected to, while others have very clearly refused to separate. It feels a bit like Groundhog Day and a repeat and relearning of a process we thought we had moved beyond. And add to that the complication of adults wearing masks and you have a real problem in the making.

There is a nursery near where I live and I’m fortunate enough to have been given a bird’s eye view of the what’s going on both past and present. There’s a complete mixture of children with some parents dropping off their children from top-of-the-range cars while others drop off from around the corner, pushing the little ones in their buggies or giving them a helping hand via a scooter.


There’s a delay in the time the children arrive and the time the nursery opens. I see some parents chatting, laughing and chasing their child and/or children’s friends and really engaging in the moment. That’s a privilege and gives me a cheerful start to my day.


Others - I’m afraid I’ve particularly noticed mums doing it - are glued to their smart phones. A child may be walking near a tree or a bit of the garden and trying to point something out to said mother who continues, engrossed, with earpiece in ear, phone in hand and absolute disconnection with child. Gradually, the child gives up the attempt to engage with the adult and seems to begin a withdrawal process. I recognise what’s happening by the child’s body language as it closes in on itself. 


That’s what’s been happening to everyone this past year. Those of us with connections to little people need to keep this in mind. Put the phone to one side, concentrate on who you have in front of you and relearn the language. Make eye contact, use nursery rhymes to help the memory get going again and be there for them. Right now, small children need a very great deal of adult help to reconnect with the rest of us. 



By Lulu Sinclair



First photo: Colin Maynard on Unsplash

Second photo: Atikah Akhtar on Unsplash



 

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Fools Rush In



On Friday, April 9, 2021 at 10.40am, I was proceeding in a north-easterly direction … okay, enough of that.


I was driving across a London bridge going from south to north when a police motorbike outrider - coming from east to west - drove up ahead of me and decisively indicated for me to stop. I did. There was no messing with that man.


Soon after, another outrider came by and, seconds later, a Range Rover passed speedily by, driven by someone who I recognised as a “minor” royal.


If I’d been part of the Twitterati gang, I’d have parked up and done a quick and concise indignant rant about how wrong it was that such a royal was taking up police time and my road space, etc. etc.  


As it was, I just thought it and drove on.


At 12 noon, I was still in the car with my social-bubble permitted passenger and listening to some trivial and fairly bland radio programme. The notification from Sky News came through around 12.06 via my friend's watch. Prince Philip had died. 


I experienced two sudden and unexpected emotions. On a personal level I was surprised and shocked at the news. That surprised me even further when I reflected that I’d known he was ill and he was also 99. The death of a man of that age should neither shock nor surprise me. However, that’s the point with emotions, they are not always what you expect them to be.


Professionally, as an ex-news journalist, I was on it. It was exciting. Breaking news, adrenalin-pumping stuff and a “proper” story, not something extended well past its sell-by date to fill a 24-hour news agenda. 


And how had Sky got it first rather than the BBC (I was listening to a BBC radio station)? A story of such magnitude and Sky had beaten the BBC to it. Impressive. I asked my passenger to twiddle the knobs and see if it was on any other BBC radio station. It seemed not. But, just then, the BBC’s separate airwaves dissolved into one as the BBC announced the news with its own inimitable gravitas, followed by the playing of the National Anthem.


At the sound of the National Anthem, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. As someone trained to notice the emotional reaction of others, I was quick to reflect on my own and, once again, quite taken aback. I’m not a great fan of the National Anthem which has a dirge-like quality to my ears and I’ve never had that sort of that reaction to it before. It was all a little strange.


My journey had some way to go so I listened to stories told about Prince Philip by people who knew him or had some connection. I knew many of them already but some were new and made for interesting listening. I liked the one or two clips they aired of Philip himself talking. He sounded thoughtful and reasonable and far more of a “whole” person than the figure-of-fun I and many others had laughed at as we read about his various gaffes. I enjoyed the tributes and was glad of the time to listen.


Some time later but still on the journey (it was a long, necessary one of three hours), I thought back to the moments soon after we’d set out. The police outriders, the Range Rover, the “minor” royal and companion who were dashing from east to west via the Embankment. 


That was the road to take if you were going off to the M3 or M4. The outriders supporting the driver and passenger were speeding through at 10.40am. Had they already heard the news and were hurrying to Windsor?


I don’t know, I’m never going to know but it is a bit of a coincidence. 


And then I reflected a little more about how I’d have reacted if I’d had that Twitter account to hand. Imagine a self-satisfied, smug outburst with my thoughts on what royals should and shouldn’t do. Once I’d heard the news, I’d have felt embarrassed and, perhaps, a little ashamed.


I was reminded of the Biblical proverb along the lines of: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Reflection and thought before action seems wise.




By Lulu Sinclair




Photo 1 by: Adam Jones on Unsplash

Photo 2 by: Flickr user Steve Punter

 


  

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

In Search of the Other



It feels as though we’re in the middle of a witch hunt. Or witch hunts to be precise. Against anyone and everyone, whoever they are.

The most recent cause is the allegations against public schoolboys. I imagine it’s particularly about boys at those schools because they’re single sex and often boarding schools so you have rampant emotions (I’m saying that rather than hormones because we humans are more than the sum of our parts) in a confined space. A bit like lockdown really.


First, I need to do the disclaimer. Of course sexual harassment and abuse is unacceptable at any time. There is never any excuse for it.


And now we come to the “but” and it is a very big “but”.


Is it right that schoolboys who, if under the age of 18, are still regarded in law as children, should now be facing the same sort of stigma that the adult men from the #MeToo movement have, when convicted, rightly faced?


Head teachers, afraid of offending the strident social media brigade, are threatening to name and shame, suspend and do whatever it takes to keep their school’s reputation intact. And so we instantly lose the presumption of innocence principle, one of the key tenets of our law. And then what?


Well, that’s where the comparison with the witch hunts come into it. At that horrific, unjust time, women and girls were the victims, as they have been so often in history. Some might argue that it’s time the boys/men learned what it’s like to be a victim but surely it’s not okay to revert to a primitive and unlearned style of law just because we presently seem to be led by the witchfinder-generals of social media.


I’m wondering if the problem is connected with the “other”. That which we do not recognise - or wish to recognise - within ourselves, we put onto others. 


The “other” carries the can for the qualities we disapprove of - we would never act inappropriately with a man/woman/girl/boy but the “other” would. It is a convenient way of forgetting that we all have a dark side and sometimes do things we would not like our loved ones to know about. 


By joining in the baying of the crowd, we can disavow unwanted feelings within ourselves and push them into the “other”, distancing ourselves from our own darkness within.


This is not new; it is only human to want people to think the best of us.


What is new is the speed at which rumours and accusations circulate and quickly become accepted facts. Less than a month ago I had no idea such things were happening. In a month, unless I remember I’m a logical and rational adult, I will be taking these stories as fact.


I am concerned that we are so busy living in the parallel universe world that social media has become that we will begin to believe it is the real world. It is not.


Meanwhile, the young men and boys targeted will be at risk of being stigmatised as they go through life while the witch finders have moved on to another cause. How will that help us in our future society? I remember some years ago, a famous person was rightly chastised for saying: “All men are rapists”. Now, it seems to me at least, some groups in society are almost ready to accept this as true. Again, it is not. 


For society to work as well as it can, men and women need to find a way of getting on together. At a very basic level, we need each other in order to have children and bring up the next generation. Humans work best in a group and the first group we all know of is the family one. Fortunately, in our western world, many of us manage that but my fear is the virtual world is encroaching too much on our reality.   


Before this blog turns into despondency, I’d like to offer some positive thoughts. Perhaps parents could stop trying to be their children’s best friends and remember they are the responsible adults. They need to teach their boys to respect and like girls and women, acknowledging their differences and not seeing them solely as objects of desire or fantasy. I know that’s a big ask when it comes to teenagers but, hopefully, the inner cautions and considerations will remain in place.  


As for the parents of girls, our society is very keen on women being compliant and feminine - think of the tough adjectives used to describe successful and uncompromising women and you’ll get my drift.


If we really want women to be strong and assertive, we need to respect and accept them as they are, not try to return them to the girlie mode with which we may feel more comfortable.


We need to allow and encourage our daughters to say “no” and to respect the girls when they do. We are sending out mixed messages all the time. We tell our girls they can be anything they like, they are equal to men. Great. That’s fine. But the problem is that we don’t like assertive women who we may be inclined to describe as “bossy” when it suits us. How can we expect them to say no with confidence and certainty that they will be respected if we don't show them that same level of approval from a very early age?


Our children - both girls and boys - need to be taught to respect and appreciate the “other” from a very early age. And they need to know we have their backs.




By Lulu Sinclair



Photo 1: Hannah Troupe on Unsplash

Photo 2: Bilal Bozdemir on Unsplash

Photo 3: Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash