When I was a kid my big brother was fascinated by how things worked. Through his open bedroom door I’d see the floor covered in bits of radio, and later on he’d fill the garage with bits of cars and motorbike. He needed to see the component parts and how they worked together in order to understand them properly.
I was the reader in the family, nose always in a book, to the point where my sister and mum would joke they had to remove all reading materials if they wanted my full attention.
Recently I’ve been wondering if we were really that different after all. The way I work is very visual, I use questions to work out how things are working and not working for a couple or in a family and I draw it out in a ‘geneogram’ to get a visual representation of what’s going on and what needs to change. It’s called systemic therapy.
One of my amazing teachers once described the idea of systems theory to me in a way that really helped .. she said:
‘Think of a central heating system. It works great, keeps everyone warm until the day it breaks. We don’t assume the whole thing is broken, we track and check to find which bit of the system isn’t working, and once that’s fixed the whole thing starts running properly again.’
So in a way I’m continuing the good work my brother started, staying curious about how things work, and how to make them work better.
How are you continuing family ways of doing things? How are you different and the same to your siblings?
I love when an email comes through from the BACP media department offering me a chance to talk about my favourite subject, and the one that came through at the start of July was especially welcome.
Since long before I started training with Relate the first section of the Saturday Guardian I’ve turned to has been the Guardian Family supplement, and my favourite bit of that is always Annalisa Barbieri’sadvice in response to letters sent in by readers.
I really enjoyed looking at Annalisa’s reader’s letter and talking it over with her on the phone. We also had a chance to talk about her time doing the column, and how she manages the push back she sometimes gets from readers online.
Do have a look at the piece, and let me know what you think. Maybe it might stimulate some ideas about how you might approach a similar situation in your life?
Like many parents I have mixed feelings about the summer break. On one hand I look forward to family time, but on the other there’s an extra load of managing childcare, managing expectations and making sure everyone HAS LOTS OF FUN!!
Which of course is unrealistic, so when I notice this is happening instead of putting pressure on myself to rush around making everyone happy I’m making an effort to be more mindful about my own self talk, and reaching out to the others in my family to work out what’s possible.
The lovely people at Select Psychology asked me to write a blog post about preparing for the summer holidays, and you can find out what I suggest by having a look at what I wrote for them.
I’m up early again today .. not just to enjoy a beautiful North Tyneside sunrise, but to put my walking boots on to raise money for Acorns, a charity that supports the recovery of children and young people affected by domestic abuse.
I spotted the charity walk in January on the North East Guides website when I was feeling a bit run down and looking for things to get me out. At the time April seemed pretty far away and I had ideas of sauntering along Hadrian’s Wall on a sunny Spring day, enjoying the views.
Well .. it’s looking a bit different now, rain forecast, and it’s pretty exposed up on the tops there.
I know it’s going to be tough. Sitting in a counselling room with my clients is massively rewarding for me, and together we make so many mental and emotional leaps forward that sometimes I forget to physically move enough. I’ve been practising but this will be the longest walk I’ve done in a long while.
I chose Acorns because I know what drives me in work and life is playing a part in making kids lives safer and happier. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realised how much fear had played a part when I was growing up, and that’s what led me to what I do today. Acorns provides a safe and welcoming place where children can make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, and start to recognise what loving behaviour looks like.
We can’t choose where we came from, and often we don’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose where we go from here.
So when I’m wet and cold and I can’t see the end in sight I’m going to put my head up and keep stepping forwards. I’m going to think of all the wonderful people who are supporting me in doing this walk and I’m going to remember that although sometimes life can be tough I am so very blessed in this life I’ve stepped into.
It’s nearly Mother’s Day here in the UK, and I’ve been thinking about Harriet Lerner’s wonderful book ‘The Mother Dance’ that I received years ago from a wonderful colleague, and dip into often. Part of my preparation for this Mother’s Day is going to be putting my feet up with a cup of tea and delving back into this wonderful source of wisdom.
‘From the celebrated author of The Dance of Anger comes an extraordinary book about mothering and how it transforms us — and all our relationships — inside and out. Written from her dual perspective as a psychologist and a mother, Lerner brings us deeply personal tales that run the gamut from the hilarious to the heart-wrenching. From birth or adoption to the empty nest, The Mother Dance teaches the basic lessons of motherhood: that we are not in control of what happens to our children, that most of what we worry about doesn’t happen, and that our children will love us with all our imperfections if we can do the same for them. Here is a gloriously witty and moving book about what it means to dance the mother dance.’
I’m a daughter, a granddaughter and a mother, and recently I’ve been mulling over what this means to me in the here and now, the Russian dolls fitting into each other. My maternal family come from northern France, with the history of upheaval and trauma that entails, through war and struggle. There are family stories of my grandmother having to abandon her beloved red bedcover as the family tried to escape the Occupied Zone because it was attracting attention from fighter planes above.
I’m going to be thinking about the things that happened in my family that continue to affect how I show up in the world and I invite you at this time that is focussed on mothers and mothering to do the same. You might ask yourself:
What are my beliefs about mothers?
Is this different to the mother I was given?
How do I mother the people in my life? (We can all do this, including those who don’t identify as female or feminine)
How could I mother them in a way that better aligns with my values?
It was a great experience, I chatted with the writer for about an hour about research, theory and my thoughts on how sibling relationships are developed and maintained. We talked about how birth order can play a part in this, as well as family patterns and personalities.
She told me a bit about something she wanted to shift in her relationship with her siblings and I suggested some ideas of things to think about that she went away and tried. A week later she told me she’d been surprised at the shift that had happened and that she was planning to keep going with the changes she was making.
I wanted to share with you a great habit that I was taught to carry out at the turn of the year, and which has served me well .. which is reflecting on what happened in the past year and how I handled it.
I love the quiet time in between Christmas and New Year and I made a commitment to myself a while ago to take this time for myself, for quiet enjoyment of the season, the weather, and taking a look back over the past twelve months.
Life has a habit of throwing the unexpected in our way, however well we plot and plan our lives, and often I’ll be surprised at the things that happened that I could never have predicted the year before. Sometimes these are wonderful and sometimes less so: in examining how I responded I find clues to who I am and how I’m showing up in my life and others’
So maybe you’d like to join me. Carve out a little space for yourself in the next few days to ask these questions:
What happened in this past year that I could never have predicted?
How did I respond? Was that helpful to me and those around me?
Who was important to me in the past year?
What one thing would I have liked to be different?
What would I like to do differently in this coming year?
I’d love to hear your thoughts .. do you have any other questions you’ve found useful?