Guest post: Words are tools of healing by Vivienne Tuffnell

41Z6WYh-WXL._UY250_Our thanks today to our guest blogger, writer and poet Vivienne Tuffnell, author of a number of wonderful novels, including Strangers and Pilgrims, The Bet and one of our favourites, Away With the Fairies, all dealing with the human condition in a mystical and spiritual way. Her short story collections are full of mystery, with supernatural elements and a deep questioning of what it means to be human. She has written and spoken of her own struggles with depression and has just published a fabulous selection of her prose pieces from her popular blog Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking. These essays challenge, question and nourish the spirit, offering support to others in mental and emotional distress. Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking is available from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

Just words

No one listens to me.
But then I have nothing to say
I have not said a thousand times before.
I’m dying for someone to hear
My silent screams
And offer help.
I’m searching for the words:
The right words
The magic words.
They’re just words;
They hold no power
To save or damn me.
Just words: no more.

I wrote this poem about ten years ago and I would say now: I was wrong. I wrote that poem before I discovered quite how powerful a tool the written word can be for self-healing. The process of reading and the process of writing have effects that I believe are much greater than we’re prepared to imagine.

I began writing almost before I could read; I used to sneak in to use my father’s typewriter, trying to write down my stories, believing that somehow the hitting of the keys would magically reveal the words. And words were magic of the finest kind, because they could transport you from a dull bedroom on a rainy November day when it’s too cold and wet to go out and play, to, well, anywhere in the entire universe. From being read to as a tiny tot, to trips to the local library twice daily during the long summer holidays, I devoured books. I started trying to create them too, from a very early age; I wrote my first novel when I was ten. I read English and Latin at university, which was so sobering I didn’t read much at all in the first year after graduating and it was another two years after that before I tried writing fiction again.

The other constant in all those years was depression. I experienced my first brush with it when I was about six. You might extrapolate that so much reading and so much writing were the cause of the depression, but it was more that they were the result of it. I read and I wrote to escape the yawning, gaping maw of the void that is depression. The times I experienced the most severe bouts of depression were ones where I could not (for whatever reason) read or write.

Recent advances in science have allowed us a sneaky peek into the human brain without slicing off the top of the skull; this means it’s now possible to have some clue about how our brains react to certain experiences. Most curious are fairly recent studies that involved MRI machines, volunteers, and sequences of words and pictures or sometimes other factors. These include  The emotion potential of words and passages in reading Harry Potter – An fMRI study and
Love, Pain, Money, Cocaine Light Up Same Area of Brain.

What is clear is that there are things going on in the brain that are beyond what we had previously thought. It gives great scope for pain relief and other beneficial results.

In the original version of the film Total Recall, memories are planted in a person’s brain to give them the illusion they have had a wonderful holiday. It’s a matter of an hour or two to create weeks’ worth of memories and the associated benefits on a person’s well-being that a great holiday would bring but without the need to travel or take time off. That’s what a good book can do, too.

As a reader, I crave books that can bring me relief from the inner darkness, but not by providing me with unremitting sweetness and light. There is something obviously false and unsatisfying about books that contain no conflict, no peril, no risk, because life isn’t like that. Some demand to be able to buy books with a Happy Every After guarantee (generally romance) but I doubt that this is a wise choice. Knowing beforehand a book will have a happy ending robs the reader of the experience of literary catharsis, of suffering with the main characters without being certain of relief. It’s the experience that brings the changes in the emotional state, not the outcome.

As a writer, I use my writing to explore how I feel and think, and the expression of my inner life in stories is one way I cope with my own sometimes fragile mental and emotional state. Yet there is both catharsis and a kind of creative synthesis that goes on, largely unconsciously, in the creation of a novel. When I write, quite often I don’t know how the book will end until it comes to me during the process of actually writing it. I often don’t know what the main themes of a book are until it is complete, and sometimes not even then. The feedback from readers sometimes brings me insights into what the book is about that I had no conscious clue about. One of the things I have found most rewarding as an author is that readers have found the books have affected them in profound and positive ways. It could be said that the books have been agents of healing and of comfort. It’s something that makes the process so worthwhile, doubly so, for the writing of a book is a process of catharsis and of inner healing for me; to know that it has this effect on readers enhances my own experience

613N30NIieL._UX250_Thanks once again to Vivienne. Do check out the links to her work and let us know how you feel about the ability of words to comfort and heal…

Vivienne’s Amazon page

Zen and the Art of Tightrope walking

Advertisements

Building a relationship with reading….

downloadThe title of this post really has a double meaning and is inspired by the radio show Talking Books on 10Radio in Somerset. The guests today were in the relatively early stage of their relationship – newly engaged and very much in love. Clearly, they were not in need of our couples counselling, or Shaping Anger for Couples workshops but it was refreshing to hear that they were cementing their bond in a thoughtful and intelligent way. They had set themselves a challenge, a brave one, and it was something we thought you, our followers, might be interested in as a way to share ideas and subjects that are important to you with someone close.

Each person in relationship chooses five books for the other to read. It is as simple as that. Any genre, for any age. Yet it is so much more complex in reality. By choosing those books you are making a number of decisions and taking interesting aspects of your personality and relationships into account. Do you pick books you think will make you look clever? Or do you choose books that you grew up with and which remind you of key times in your life? Do you look over your shelves for books you think the other will enjoy? Or are you trying to trip them up? Are you being honest and authentic in your choices?

When you consider these points you can see it is not quite as easy as it first seems. How will each of you respond to the other’s list? What if a book that is your favourite is loathed by the other? Are you prepared to defend your choices in a constructive way? Or do you fear an argument? Have we put you off even considering this as a way to bring you together and offer opportunities for fascinating conversations?

We have, on this blog, often highlighted reading as a way to relax and to take you out of a stressful day. We have a page on the Local Bookshops site (see the link to the right) with a list of our favourite titles (we are always looking for suggestions) and our poetry for mindfulness posts are very popular. But we thought this was an additional way to make reading part of your whole life and at the same time learning a little more about someone you are close to. It doesn’t have to be a life partner – it could be a friend or work colleague for example. But we think it is a really interesting way to take you out of the routine of the day and into a conversation with a difference.

In fact, you could do it with music, or films. It will get you talking, and relationships are best nurtured by finding ways to communicate and make sure you are really understood and known by people who are important to you.

What do you think?

Guest post: Living a real life again – on giving up a twitter addiction for Lent…

Brooke Sheldon

Today we are pleased to welcome Brooke Sheldon as guest blogger to let’s talk! Over the coming weeks we will be offering a variety of writers, thinkers, therapists and anyone interested in well being the opportunity to talk about something of importance to them and to give their thoughts on how we can support our own emotional and physical well-being in our increasingly fast paced world. Here Brooke writes of her decision to leave the twitter-sphere for the 40 days of Lent, and the results – some surprising, some less so –  of her experiment. Social media addiction, affirmation and validation can be replaced by something far more meaningful….

social-media-addictionIn February, on my blog, We Are the Books We Read, I wrote a post about giving up Twitter for Lent. I decided to take a break because it had become an all-consuming vacuum, a fake symbiosis. I truly believed that those who ‘followed’ me were as absorbed in my life, thoughts, exaggerations, petty complaining and bitching.

Result One. The first thing I noticed after logging out was the increased time I had every single day.  Very quickly, I had literally hours to fill. Where once I updated the feed every few seconds, I now had time to look at a draft of the book I’ve been working on since 2011. That’s right, 2011 and while I’m still not finished all these 40 plus days later, I have completed more editing in this time than in the last six months. I had wrongly believed Twitter to be as reliant on me as I on it and that I needed Twitter to be a validated as a person.

Result Two. I started thinking again; ideas, realisations, sentences, comments, interactions and experiences all materialising in forms greater than 140 characters. The world opened up. I noticed the life around me and I revelled in the mundane.

A few days into Lent I wrote in my diary, the trees are budding with flowers and new leaves. Life is coming back into the park by the bus stop. A few days later I wrote, the storm last night has blown the flower petals all over the ground. They look like snowflakes against the dirt. Observations like this have been out of character for me in recent years. Sad but true.

Result Three. Increased time to read, to watch films, to engage with creative mediums. Don’t misunderstand, I never stopped engaging with these activities but there was always the tug of what was happening on Twitter. The need to see what everyone else was doing, thinking, emoting etc. debilitated the enjoyment.

Result Four. On Twitter nothing has changed. The same conversations are happening, the same arguments are repeating, the same causes are being fought for, the hatred of various people is maintained – the continuity is familiar but falsely safe, disappointingly prosaic and invidiously narcissistic.

What I find curious is the numeric stability of followers to my account. There has been fluctuation yes but not as much as expected considering the only Tweets appearing were those automatically generated via my blog. Inconsistently, the unfollowers have mainly been those who assert (allege), in their biographies, that they are followers of Jesus, belonging to Christ, and other variations. These are people (accounts) one could expect to understand the path I had taken.

This brings me to Result Five. Did anyone who follows me, notice I was gone? Did they open the app, or the website and think, ‘gee, I haven’t seen Brooke around lately, I wonder where she is?’. My bio states my intention, but was the message read? Was anyone interested?

Initially, I vainly wanted the email alert saying someone had “DM”’d me, I wanted the email saying someone had mentioned me in a Tweet and not one came. I can honestly say this was a problem. Yes I said where I was going but no one said ‘hey, good choice’, or ‘good luck, see you after Easter’ and I felt let down. I felt like no one cared.

What I’ve realised is that in the reverse, I was (am) the same when people stop using Twitter. I wouldn’t notice they were gone until someone asked about them. We, as humans, are so wrapped up in our own concerns we take little time to be the shoulder to lean or cry on. We spend excessive time putting our happiness in the hands of strangers who communicate in 140 characters (or less) and we allow the control of that 140 characters to determine our worth. Honestly, I am happier without that little blue bird smothering me.

I was going to write “there is no way to avoid Twitter these days” but this is what social media types want us to think. Those who seek to saturate us with various social elements don’t want us to realise that smiling at someone in the street, giving up a seat for a pregnant lady or picking up a piece of rubbish is a social act. The ‘socialverse’ wants us, nay, insists and forces our engagement, through screens big or small and tell us that to not do so is unnatural, deviant.

On day one I thought I would be desperate to open the app and pick up where I left off. Now I realise, like any addict, I wasn’t in control and the desire for Twitter manipulated me every minute. Twitter is a tool to use and this had become reversed. The biggest realisation from this experience is that I am okay as I am. I don’t need validation via 140 characters.

Our thanks to Brooke. Do check out her lovely book review blog We Are the Books We Read .                                                                                                                                                                                                      

A ‘let’s talk!’ book recommendation: Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

download (4)Occasionally, here at The Terrace, we like to suggest books, films or programmes that we have enjoyed and which we think you will find interesting and thought-provoking. So today we have a review of Emotional Geology, written by Linda Gillard and available in paperback or on Kindle.

Following the lead character, Rose Leonard, as she runs from events in her troubled past to take refuge in  a small cottage on the island of North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, the book is described as a  ‘passionate, off-beat love story’, but it is much more than that. It deals, in forthright terms, with the terrors of mental ill-health and Rose’s struggle to come to terms with her past. It examines the power of memory; discusses with great honesty what it means to be ‘mad’ and takes you to the very edge, literally, with descriptions of mountaineering that would put any non-adrenaline junky off the idea of climbing for life. In fact, mountaineering is a metaphor for Rose’s life in many respects, as she too has a tenuous hold on on the solidity of what passes for ‘normal’  life.

Another key theme is Rose’s love for textiles, and the stories that are woven in the fabric of the landscape translated into poetry and into her art works. Her art reflects her life and the new love offered by Calum, a fragile younger man. He is a poet who struggles with his own demons, and  their relationship, along with the difficulties Rose experiences in her role as mother to a troubled daughter, are central to the story.  But there is a real warmth at the heart of the book, as the community of North Uist embraces Rose and her work, and without giving too much away, offer her healing and a way forward.

Linda is the author of seven novels, but Emotional Geology is her first. She lives in the Scottish Highlands, and in Emotional Geology, the landscape of the Scottish island of North Uist is a key character in the story. She has a website www.lindagillard.co.uk and an author page on Facebook  at www.facebook.com/LindaGillardAuthor.

So do take a look. Emotional Geology is a book that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

 

Keeping our kids safe – the adolescent brain

Here on ‘let’s talk!’ we are committed to bringing you news and views on the challenges young people face as the move towards adulthood.

Our under 11s are taught about ‘stranger danger’, have their first lessons about sexuality and begin to take their first, independent trips to shops, school etc. Essentially however, they are still ‘ours’ and more ready to accept the boundaries we place on them as parents.

As children become teenagers these rules are there to be tested and boundaries challenged. Research suggests the changes in behaviour are not simply ‘raging hormones’ but due to profound changes in the young adult brain, and if that is the case, ensuring the safety net is there for them when temptations and peer pressure bombard them from all sides becomes ever more important. Behaviour an adult sees as irrational won’t strike a young person as such and that leads to challenges in the home, as the ‘you think you know everything’/ ‘you just don’t understand’ arguments become toxic and ultimately lead nowhere.

We have written on here before of the peer pressure of ‘neknomination’ and substance misuse, as well as the dangers of ‘sexting‘. Since then we have found out as much as we can; understanding the dangerous craze of using nitrous oxide and other so-called ‘legal highs’; the use of e-cigarettes; the dangers of on-line grooming by paedophiles. For parents these are terrifying issues to face, and to discuss with our children without the seemingly inevitable clashes.

Communication is key, and we have therapists here with expert knowledge of the best ways to ensure healthy relationships with our kids. However, there are steps you can take before mediation and therapy become necessary.

We have a booklist on localbookshops.co.uk and are seeking recommendations from readers of this blog. We have heard recently of the book ‘Brainstorm:The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, written
by Daniel Siegel. He talks about the book in the video below. It is a long piece but fascinating. He explores exciting ways ‘in which understanding how the teenage brain functions can help parents make what is in fact an incredibly positive period of growth, change, and experimentation in their children’s lives less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide’.

Have you read a book that has really helped you retain a loving bond with the young adults in your family? Are you a professional with a bookshelf full of fascinating and accessible studies of teenage behaviour? Are you a teen with a book that tells you how to manage your relationships without conflict?

Do let us know by commenting here, or on our Facebook page or our twitter account, @terraceclinic.

 

 

Inspiration on your bookshelf: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared…..

100yroldmanAllan Karlsson is sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home on his 100th birthday as preparations are made for a party he hates the thought of, to be attended by a mayor he does not want to meet and reporters he doesn’t want to talk to. So he decides to take control, and climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. …

The One Hundred Year-Old Man is written by Jonas Jonasson, originally in Swedish and now translated by Rod Bradbury and what a wonderful book this is; heart-warming and fun and full of joy. Allan Karlsson is the perfect hero/anti-hero as his getaway becomes increasingly surreal, involving as it does criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and endlessly incompetent detectives.

But even as we enjoy the adventures of the present day, and as Allan enjoys his new-found freedom, we learn that he is not any ordinary man. His earlier life, told in flashback, is a parade of encounters with famous people during famous times as he helps to make the atom bomb, befriends presidents and dictators and quietly influences important twentieth century events.

This isn’t just a funny novel, it is a tribute to the joy of growing old disgracefully and living every moment to the full. It is a prompt to us all to take life by the scruff of the neck and ride it, rather than allowing it to trample us underfoot; to fly, and to make the most of every opportunity presented to us, turning negatives into positives.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Is it simply a black comedy, funny escapism? Or can we learn something from Allan Karlsson and his determination not to let what is left of his life be ruled by the demands of others?

We would love to hear your views…