Monday, 30 November 2020

Careful What You Wish For

You remember when the talk was all about living in the “here and now”, a technique of mindfulness that helped us to focus on the present, rather than dwell on the past or what may happen in the future?

Well, here we are, living the dream. We are well and truly operating in the here and now on every level. It is no longer an aspirational part of our inner world, where we use it as a form of meditation to help us quell anxious thoughts. It has become part of our reality as a whole, as our inner and outer worlds collide. Who would have thought it? 

Pre-March, the conversation was all about Brexit with Remainers and Brexiters still caught up in their particular argument and unwilling or unable to see the other point of view. The problem and the anger seemed insurmountable.


Now, Brexit is almost upon us and who’s talking it about it? It seems so, well, unimportant. It’s not of course. It’s hugely important and significant and may lead to extraordinary complications if a suitable deal is not done. It will have an impact on us long after Covid-19 is done and dusted. However, for all of us stuck in the here and now at present, Brexit is the subject few people are talking about.


I was listening to a recent TV interview where the interviewee pointed out that many people voted for Brexit because they believed it would give the UK its  sovereignty and freedom back. The irony, she exclaimed! Brexit has not yet been fully finalised and here we are with less freedom than we’ve had taken from us during our time within the EU.


She has a point, one that I don’t think I can bear considering right now, so I’ll have to return to contemplating the increasingly limited things going on in my life and what I am - and am not - allowed to do. 

Fortunately, I can still go out to buy food and drink (probably more than I would in normal times); I can go for a walk - I won’t be breaking the habit of a lifetime and taking to running - or I can stay indoors with my Vitamin D and SAD lamp (which mimics the sun’s rays though fairly ineffectively, I fear) while I organise my time into something worthwhile as the minutes turn into hours, days and months and nothing too much gets done.

I could, but of course I won’t. Like friends, family and clients, I am finding inactivity expands to fill the time. I am lucky to still see clients online and I relish the structure and the mutual support. 

Usually, my role as a counsellor is to be supportive to my client who is looking to work through a problem. Now, we’re all in it together. My client still takes centre stage - each session is always about him or her, not me - but I am grateful for what I learn from them. They offer their own insights into how they are managing and it’s tempting to want to incorporate some of their own coping strategies into my own. It’s easy to see how boundaries, unless carefully watched, could become blurred.

Having switched to online work for the moment, I have a wider base of client. Most live in the UK but some are overseas and I have to admit I am slightly comforted when I hear first-hand that other governments seem to be in as much of a muddle about what to do as ours. Slightly comforted, that is, not entirely reassured. 

I’ve also found it important to understand that not everyone is having a difficult time in this period. Some people have expressed a sense of satisfaction in the sense of: “Now you know how trapped I usually feel” and that’s useful for me to discover. Someone, somewhere, may be feeling the benefit of a situation I’m uncomfortable in. 

I’m hoping a vaccine will bring this situation to an end because I don’t think it’s good for most of us. I don’t want to catch the fear I feel I’m being forced into feeling. I certainly don’t want to catch the virus, nor pass it on to anyone else but I don’t want to live (or, rather, survive) in this enclosed, unsatisfactory way. Fundamentally, I fear being made to feel afraid. It’s unhealthy.

For now, I’ll do as I’m expected in the hope that the situation will get better.

But, as I wander, clueless as a cloud (thank you, Wordsworth, for the inspiration), through the next few days and weeks until we all receive clearer guidance about our future direction, I shall heed that old saying more closely: "Be careful what you wish for." 

Living in the here and now may not be quite as beneficial as it once seemed.

By Lulu Sinclair

Photo 1: Katerina Jerabkova on Unsplash

Photo 2: Buchen WANG on Unsplash


Monday, 9 November 2020

Putting On Your Big Boy Pants

The best quote of the US presidential elections surely has to be: "What the President needs to do frankly is put his big boy pants on.

It was said by Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney as he encouraged Donald Trump to concede defeat as President-elect Jim Biden was declared winner.

I don't need to go on. If you have an interest in political affairs, you'll know the rest. If you don't, you won't care. 

But what an expression. What a picture it evokes. I know pants is the  American word for trousers so it’s not quite as much fun in their eyes as in my mind (I envisaged Superman-style pants) but even so it tells it as it is. It is time for Mr Trump to grow up and accept the situation as it is. 

Mr Trump’s presidency has been fascinating because it seems extraordinary that a late middle-aged man (74) gained the highest office in the US while never appearing to be anything but a giant child.

He spoke simply and clearly without the use of big complicated words; his beliefs appeared to be black and white and, if anyone criticised him, wow was he cross! I'm keeping my language simple, as he did. 

He kept everything simple, dismissing North Korea’s President Kim Jong-un as “rocket man”; taking a different view on global warming: “It’s freezing and snowing in New York - we need global warming” and making splendid boasts of his achievements and the reason why he was so popular. At one time, he memorably summed himself up, saying: “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”  

And 70 million Americans still voted for him on election day, making the race much closer than expected (Joe Biden has so far won 74m votes). This man-child that is Trump still has a great deal of appeal.

I didn’t expect him to win first time round. I saw him as the larger-than-life Apprentice show boss with an interesting head of hair and an orange skin tone. He seemed to me to be quite a laughable character, not someone to take seriously.

I was wrong.  

I am still trying to get my head around his appeal as a politician. Is it an aspirational thing - if he can do it, so can I? Is it that his self-belief is almost hypnotic or do people really believe he can do what he says he will do? Building a wall between Mexico and the US, for example, and making Mexico pay for it.

Certainly, he gave people hope when they felt they had none. He successfully appealed to the workers whose jobs had gone as globalisation crept in. Trump was the visual epitome of raging against the machine, I suppose.

He had a fair degree of political cunning, assuring supporters he’d “drain the swamp” and root out the perceived corruption in Washington. In reality, I’m not sure how well he did on that.

He use the phrase “fake news” to great effect and that helped block rational argument. You were either for or against him. A goodie or a baddie there was no in-between bit as far as he was concerned. In therapeutic terms, it's known as black and white thinking and means an inability to see a way of bringing together positive and negative qualities and only able to see in absolutes - there is no shade of grey.

And that is what we expect from children. Something is fair or not in their eyes. If someone is unkind to them, they bear a grudge, they want to hit back and punish the baddie. No surprise there. But surely that’s not something we expect from a president.   

The surprise for me is that so many adults chose to vote not once, but twice for this man-child. If it is just because of his appeal, then I am quite lost. While, personally, I find his utterings and performance highly entertaining, I’m not entirely confident that President Trump was the ideal man for the job. But how can 70 million voters be wrong?

There is a glimmer of hope. 

I read that it’s more complicated - to me as an outsider at any rate - than it may seem. Some more in the know than I, say those 70m Americans who still voted for Trump had a different reason. They voted less for Trump the man and more for the values of the party for which he stood.

I understand calls to “defund” the police and the increasing normalisation of identity politics and the “wokeism” which comes with it played a large part in the decision of those who voted for Trump and against Joe Biden and the Democrats - something about which senior Democrat politicians are continuing to warn.

Phew, that’s a relief. Those 70 million people who cast their vote for the Trump this time around made a reasonable and rational decision and one I can respect.

I was beginning to get slightly worried that the people of the Western world had become so used to a man-child ruler that they wanted him to remain as president. 

Looks like we're all ready to put on our big boys pants.  

By Lulu Sinclair

Photo 1 mana5280 on Unsplash

Photo 2  Dave Lowe on Unsplash

Photo 3 Ian Hutchinson on Unsplash