All posts filed under: Psychology

Is eternal life possible? Yes, said the immortalists of Wimbledon

At the end of autumn, as the season dies, signs of decay are all around.  Walking down Wimbledon Broadway, the leaves are soggy on the ground.  Shoppers sport red poppies in remembrance of the war dead and, to compound the gloom, a hearse passes in funereal pomp. Life is short, it all seems to say, and then you die. Since time immemorial humans have railed against the grim reaper, desperately hunting for the elusive secret of immortality.  The ancient Chinese sought P’eng-lai, the fabled Isles of Immortality, alchemists tried to formulate the elixir of life and magicians proffered their souls in return for life unending. It hasn’t stopped even now.  We are still trying everything we can to dodge the graveyard shift: from the Nemectron (an orb believed to regenerate brain cells via dangling rings suspended on the ears) to the oxygen diet (beloved of Michael Jackson) or placental implants.  Fads come and go but undertakers are still making a good living out of dying. But some people do live longer, if not perhaps forever, …

Agony Answers: Should I settle for less than true love?

Q: I am forty and never been married or had children. I have been seeing a man for six months who is lovely but I don’t feel the spark I have felt with previous partners. Should I settle and have the family I’ve always wanted knowing that I won’t be unhappy, but won’t be madly in love? A: This is such a dilemma and I really feel for you – and for the man you’ve met too. The fact that you’re even asking for advice rings warning bells – if you really loved this man, you wouldn’t be asking what I think, would you? Equally, if you were twenty, or even thirty, you would know the answer to your own question – you’d walk away. The problem here is that your biological clock isn’t just ticking; it’s ringing its alarm bell. But, of course, there is no guarantee that you could have children – with or without this man. Does he actually want children? Have you discussed the possibility? Then again, there’s the magic spark …

Biodynamic Therapy – rediscovering your ‘true self’

How many of us simply muddle through life as best we can? There’s the job that stifles us, the family who drive us mad, the relationships that grate. Over the years we’ve learned to grit our teeth and put a brave face on it. But while gritting your teeth gets you through the days it is, according to biodynamic therapists, slowly destroying your true self. The “brave face” is a mask that we initially put on as protection but which, over the years, becomes a form of armour, cutting us off from our true emotions and banishing any real sense of joy. Take away the mask and see through the eyes of your true self and the world will become a far brighter place: more vibrant, more intense, more alive. Biodynamic therapists say that as children we live only in our true self (which they call the primary personality) – spontaneous, exuberant, intuitive, really “alive”. But as we get older we gradually learn to hide our feelings from the world for fear of ridicule or …

Unnatural motherhood? There’s more than one way to be a parent.

Let me confess. Before I had James I had never bathed a baby. I had never fed a baby. I had certainly never changed a baby. I had held one once (arms rigid, fixed rictus of a smile painted on my face) but it cried so I gave it back – very quickly. I’m almost proud of my achievement in a perverse way. After all it takes some ingenuity to avoid babies quite so effectively for over thirty years – especially given my sister had five of them, and most of my friends are parents. Frankly when I listened to friends talk about their raging hormones, about having to have a baby, I was bemused. Somewhere along the line I was missing the baby urge gene. I just wasn’t genetically wired to be a mother. Then I fell pregnant. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the moment I sat on the toilet, paper strip in hand, staring like an idiot at that faint blue line. I felt faint. I felt instant morning sickness. My belly …

Floatation meets shamanism

As a journalist and author of books on health and wellbeing I’ve tried pretty much every technique and treatment going. All were interesting but there were only some I fell in love with and made part of my regular spiritual ‘regime’. Shamanic journeying is one of them. Shamanism is not a religion: it’s a practice that is compatible with all spiritual paths. When you journey, you put yourself into a state of trance (usually by drumming or using a rattle) and travel to other planes of where you meet guides (either animals or discarnate teachers) for healing and knowledge. Shamanism treats the whole of the natural world as sacred – and as a teacher. Floatation – where you lie suspended in 10 inches of highly salted water – is another of my loves. So the idea of combining shamanic journeying with floatation was just too tempting for words. Recently I had been feeling a bit stuck. I had taken a gamble and tried my hand at teenage fiction. I wrote a novel about shamanism, Walker, …

Autogenic Training – ‘mental circuit training’ to control stress

NOTE: I wrote this feature some years back, before mindfulness was such a buzzword.  If you can’t seem to get on with mindfulness – or meditation – then this might be worth a go.  Like most people nowadays I suffer from stress. In fact, juggling career, family and a farm without mains services would be enough to send most people into stress overdrive. But, when the going gets tough I simply sit down and start muttering: “My right arm is heavy.” It sounds as if I’ve finally cracked, but in fact it’s the first step in a series of exercises in Autogenic Training, possibly the most potent stress relief technique in the Western world. The benefits of meditation have long been recognised in fighting stress – but resistance to “mystical mumbo jumbo” has been too much for many people. Autogenic Training is the answer. It gives all the benefits of meditation without any of the lotus-position and leotard connotations. Simply speaking, Autogenic Training (AT) consists of a straightforward series of mental exercises designed to switch …

Art therapy – painting the unconscious mind

When we were children we used to paint and draw with pleasure and delight. For a few short blissful years we could do no wrong with our paints and crayons – we were free to explore, imagine and create. Then we began to be taught what was “good” and “bad” in art: those of us who were “good” at art started trying to perfect our skills while those of us who were not “artistic” simply threw away our paintbrushes. And that, say the art therapists, is a crying shame. Uninhibited art, they explain, has the power to heal: it offers a clear, straightforward route to the unconscious, to the hidden depths of our psyche. Rediscover the joy of art and you could put yourself back in touch with repressed emotions and long-buried hurts. You could even start up a conversation with your very soul. Art therapy is most definitely not about painting or drawing “properly” – the aim is not to make pretty or lifelike pictures but rather to let go of any expectations and …

How fit is your relationship? Take the Love MOT Quiz

If your relationship were a body would it be fit and toned, in the peak of health; or would it be fat and flabby, barely able to run for the bus? It’s relatively straightforward to find out how fit we are in our bodies, but it’s often not so simple to road-test our relationships. After all, even relationships which appear to be in tip-top condition often have an Achilles’ heel – be it communication hiccups or the commitment abyss.  Hence this –  the ultimate fitness regime for couples. Firstly a questionnaire which really puts your relationship through its paces – just like a gym assessment it is designed to highlight your strengths and uncover your weaknesses. Having found out which areas of your relationship are seriously out of condition, suggestions follow on how to bring your relationship back to peak performance. If it’s already running well, you’ll discover how to make it even better. After all, why settle for jogging along when you could be breezing the marathon? THE QUIZ If you join a gym …

Vitamin D – the health and happiness vitamin. Are you getting enough?

Are you getting outside and getting your vitamin D?  If not, why not? Vitamin D affects a vast array of organs in the body. It also plays a vital role in switching genes on and off (one of the reasons why it’s so vital pregnant women get enough). Medical researcher Oliver Gillie (healthresearchforum.org.uk), a foremost authority on this hormone-like vitamin, warns that we don’t pay it enough attention. ‘A deficiency is already blamed for the reappearance of rickets in the UK,’ he says. ‘But evidence is emerging linking low vitamin D levels to a rise in a whole host of diseases.’ Optimum levels of vitamin D can help prevent many forms of cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, menstrual problems and raised blood pressure. It could also be a surprise best friend if you suffer from the blues or find it tough to lose weight. Telltale signs of D deficiency include head sweating, aching bones, depression, weight gain, frequent colds and gut problems (IBS, gluten sensitivity). ‘To be honest, most people in the UK are deficient,’ …

Agony answers: What is a beach-ready bikini body, really?

Q: I dread summer. I’m overweight and every time I look in the mirror I feel sick. The idea of wearing shorts or – shudder – a bikini fills me with total dread. What can I do to feel better about myself? A: I think, if we’re honest, few of us dance around with delight at the prospect of baring flabby pasty flesh after a long winter of thick sweaters and furry boots. But I hate that you’re beating yourself up about your body. Are you really overweight? We’re fed this ridiculous size zero image of the ‘perfect woman’ which, frankly, is insane. Bodies come in different shapes and sizes and, truly, there is no such thing as ‘perfect’. Even supermodels have parts of their bodies they loathe.  And please remember that pretty much every image you will see in a magazine has been tweaked and photoshopped. I’d love you to focus on having a strong, healthy body – rather than a thin one. If you really are overweight (taking into account your height and …