"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Review: One of Us Has To Go, by Katja Schulz

One Of Us Has To GoOne Of Us Has To Go by Katja Schulz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was curious about this book, as I know a few people with both mild and severe OCD. As it is the true story of the author's life, with a few alterations to respect privacy, I wondered how it would be written: what point of view it would take, where it would begin, how the information would be imparted. It read as an intriguing real-life drama, with elements of suspense.

The author starts at a breaking point for the main character - one of us has to go - and then returns to the past, starting from the beginning to tell the story of Finja and her friend Sonja, who is the one with OCD, moving backwards and forwards between the past and present day until the past catches up.

I found the writing compelling and the story peaked my curiosity, especially with cliff hangers at the end of some of the chapters. I became emotionally invested in Finja's story, and needed to see how it was going to turn out: how she reached that breaking point and what the outcome would be. I wasn't disappointed - in fact it has quite a revelation at the end, with an ending I hadn't anticipated at all and landed the 'wow' factor.

The author puts across the chaos of the OCD sufferer, and also how it affects those caring for them, in a way that is coherent for anyone to understand, even those of us who do not suffer it or come into contact daily with those that do. I was able to understand on a level I hadn't before, and in fact I was amazed at how much the author had been able to achieve in their life - especially living in multiple countries and different cultures. It shows that the illness doesn't deprive the victim of their ability to live, just whether they are able to enjoy the life they were living.

It also highlighted the trauma that is often a root cause for this illness, and how the people that inflicted the trauma are never held accountable. I was horrified by both sets of parents and their lack of responsibility and caring.

The other exceptional part about this book is that the author is not a native English speaker, and this is not a translated book (even though it is edited), and yet it reads as well as any written by an native English person.

I am keen to read this authors second book, and would urge anyone with an interest in understanding OCD better to give this book a read.

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Review: Neurotribes, by Steve Silberman

NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think DifferentlyNeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and How to Think Smarter About People Who Think Differently by Steve Silberman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came to this book after watching Steve Silberman give a Ted Talk about the forgotten history of autism and how the current anti-vaccine movement is still centred around the fear of children developing it.

As a mother of an autistic (Aspergers) son, I am fully aware that vaccines have no connection to autism. My son showed signs of his particular autistic nature within the first days of being born. But I was interested to know more about how this misinformation escalated into what is termed as the 'Autism wars', and this book was far from disappointing.

It also resolved once and for all why there is, what is termed an 'epidemic' of cases by showing that it is solely down to the perimeters of the diagnosis being developed and released through each edition of the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association). The manual was first published in 1974 and has since gone through several revisions, defining Autism and its myriad symptoms more clearly with each issue. It is this and nothing more insidious that is causing this upswing in numbers.

Neurotribes provides the history of Autism, right back to its very first mention in the late 1800's. Silberman uses the detailed case notes of Hans Asperger and his team in Vienna prior to the second world war, describing each individual case and how it was found, talking about specific children and people. He also talks about Eugenics which was heavily prevalent at the time in the United States, and even law from 1909 to 1939 in most states, and how it informed the campaign that Hitler used to rise to power.

It also details the disturbing outcome for the children in institutes both prior to the war and during, and the true horrors that befell them. Back then they were tagged as Feebleminded, and parents were advised to put them in institutes as they weren't believed to be worth educating. In fact in many cases it was only families with money or those that couldn't bear to give their child that kept them at home and who actually turned out as full developed individuals.

He recounts how after the second world war, research into Autism was led by a man named Kanner, in the US - as all of the psychologists and researchers working in this field prior to the war were either no longer alive or living in Europe due to many of them had been Jewish. Kanner's input wasn't positive, as he believed autism was rare and/or caused by toxic mothers. His beliefs about the condition actually created a great deal of the stigma that autism still carries today. It was only from the 1960s onwards when parents started to push back against these ideas and start to come together that more progress was made, and Aspergers initial findings (that it was not rare at all) would return and become part of the diagnostic literature.

In the latter years, Silberman talks about society and cultural influences, and how it is no longer just about children but about adults too. He talks about how a man called Lovaas, a clinical psychologist, brought in the idea that it was a disease that could be treated and even cured with holistic medicine, and the problem that caused for many parents, who instead of accepting and working with their children to nurture and help them grown, it stigmatised people with autism further. And how the organisation Autism Speaks is still promotes these idea.

Silberman doesn't try and temper the darker more disturbing sides, he solely narrates every detail, providing an overall picture of how the diagnostics have progressed over the decades.

The later part of this book provided some interesting insights into how adult autistic people think and feel, which helped me understand my own son better, and also provides details of organisations and conferences out there not just for me as a parent but for autistic people.

This book has helped me understand how the diagnostic side works, and provided me with valuable information on both the autistic mind and what is available for both me as a parent and for my son.

This is a valuable read for anyone who has Autism touch their lives. I am not surprised it won an award.

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Comparison - how to stop it, and live the life you want

Do you wonder how others do things? 

Do you see it as a failure on your part if you aren't doing things the way others are?

Comparison can be positive when it is in analysis of statistics to gain more information, or in deciding making. But when used to compare ourselves to others, or comparing someone else’s life to our own can often lead to negative feelings like regret, frustration, sadness, depression, even anxiety.

We all get stuck in the trap of comparing ourselves to others from time to time, whether materialistic things or not. We've all coveted a neighbour’s garden, car, or holiday. We’ve all looked at someone’s success and compared it to our own, and been left disappointed with what we’ve achieved.

“The reason we struggle so much with insecurity is because we compare out behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel.”- Steve Furtick

Those are clear cut examples of comparison, but there is a more insidious kind that is almost unconscious. It lies in conditioning within our society and culture, and is when we don’t do what the herd does, or matches what the herd does, and we are ousted and excluded, or ridiculed.

The pressure to stand true to ourselves is hard. If we think differently, take different actions, or desire different things, from tiny things to how you live your day to day life, run your household, do your job, raise your children, to how you respond to people, how open you are, how you see things from another perspective. It can be difficult. 

But the truth is we are not all the same, and not just in likes and dislikes and preferences, but in how we receive information, how we process things, how we respond or react to things. And this can make it so much harder, and cause us to be harder on ourselves.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt

A recent chat with a friend was a prime example of this. They felt they could not meditate, because they weren’t doing it ‘right’, because they were unable to follow online meditations due to struggling with visualisation.

Not everyone sees in pictures, some people see in words. My friend is an incredible poet, but felt limited because she couldn't conjure up the images the person narrating the meditation suggested. She felt she was wrong, or there was something wrong with her that she wasn't able to do this. But I told her that that is not the case; everyone has their own way, and not everyone can visualise and that’s normal. I could the relief in her face.

I see it in books I read on self-help, too, especially those that have a spiritual basis. Some of them define ways you should see/feel/process things. They are written as though it is only that way. But every person has their own way; they process things in their own way. They imagine things and relate to things differently; symbols mean different things to each individual.

These are external small pressures we as individuals often feel, and they can mount up. Small ways we feel we don’t fit into the crowd and are failing somehow.

With some people it can make them angry, and resentful, even causing them to reject an entire community, topic, or convention; wasting time and energy being hateful towards it or complaining about it. Others might view this behaviour as bitter or jealous, yet really it is a reaction to feeling insecure. They might like to be a part of it, but they don’t fit with the expected behaviour/method/thought process. They struggle to adjust to what is required. They haven’t worked out how they can encompass it in a way that works for them. This can lead to isolation, depression, or feeling ostracised.

“Don’t compare your life to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and moon. They shine when it’s their time.” – Abhishek Chauhan

So how do we stop feeling this way? How do we stop comparing ourselves?

We start by recognising when we are making those comparisons, and the negative or limiting impact they have on us. Identifying the areas they show up in and assessing how we feel about them.

When you look at others and what they are doing, and maybe feel anxious that you are not where they are, tell yourself, I’m doing what I’m doing, and I’m okay with where I am at. I don’t need to be there, or doing that. Reaffirm your own goals, and your own steps, as well as acknowledging the achievements you have made.

Only compare in a positive way, in a way that inspires you to better yourself. If you look at what someone is doing, you might think, ‘I want to do that too.’ But rather than then look at it as a failure that you are not,  look at how they are doing whatever it is you want to be doing, ask questions, get informed about how to go about - decide if it really is what you want to be doing, and then make your own way there. Use them as a positive role model.

Don’t let external pressures dictate who you want to be and how you want to show up. Take pride in your uniqueness.

Find your own way. Cherry pick if you like. Find what suits you.

Remind yourself there is no right or wrong way - only the way that works for you.

This your journey, your path, not theirs. 

You deserve to be seen. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be known for the real deal that you are. The best place in life is where you’re already okay. Come home to you. It’s where you belong.” - Anne Bechard

Book Review: Mentors, how to help and be helped, by Russell Brand

Mentors: How to Help and be HelpedMentors: How to Help and be Helped by Russell Brand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Russell Brand has grown and changed over the years. He has calmed down a great deal and endeavoured to change his image from reckless wild boy to inspirational speaker. He has used his celebrity to interview and talk to other celebrities and influential speakers from the stand point of his own addiction and recovery, and deeper issues that cover political, philosophical and religious.

My attention was brought to him when he interviewed one of my favourite speakers, Tony Robbins, and after listening to that talk I went on to listen to many more interviews and discussions either on YouTube or his own website where he has podcasts - the new popular format for these interviews - and enjoy the in depth chats and intellectual debate. Russell has a great deal of knowledge on a great many topics, and uses a broad vocabulary and fast delivery, along humour to connect and dissect all them.

Listen to these drew me to his book, Mentors, and as I expected, having a dictionary to hand is useful when reading it (in fact if you read it on a kindle you have the easy option of just pressing on the word, but unfortunately I read the hard back copy). He writes as he speaks, in a fluid meander around topics, making jokes and side comments, which at times had me in stitches.

I enjoyed this book. However, it was more an overview of Russell's life and experiences with people that have supported him than explaining how to be a mentor, as the subtitle might suggest, although he does talk about some of the people he mentors and talk about the steps he used in recovery from his addiction. It is also a dissection of himself and the growth he has gone through as a person.

At times there were events and people he talks about with an assumption the reader will know the background or history on them, or know who the person is, without providing details, which was a little frustrating. Some might see this book as a sort of display of all his connections, showing off his success and how well he has remained connected through all his ups and downs, but he tries to temper that with jokes about his own 'messiah complex' and own failings, and how touched he is by others stories, never assuming to advise people on subjects that are out of his depth.

If you want to know more about Russell Brand and his journey this makes for an interesting read.

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Don't doubt - Do! How to crush self-doubt.

Do you spend a lot of time doubting your talents?

Do you overthink everything you do, until you are not sure about anything?

Do you not know which step to take, so end up not taking any steps at all?

Overthinking and doubting yourself and your talents can keep you stuck in life. I should know, I have been there, and still find myself back there from time to time. Sometimes it feels like being on a stop and start ride at times. It's difficult to navigate out of repetitive negative thoughts and behaviors, and, as is often the case, what lies behind them is lack of self-confidence. 

"When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt."- Honore de Balzac

Not believing in yourself, your talents, or you’re ability to accomplish your dreams, manifests itself in self-doubt, procrastination and self-sabotage, which then leads into further negative thoughts and feelings. 

They are all symptoms of deep seated feelings of lack within yourself: you lack the belief you are worthy, you are good enough, or that you belong.

And although it is worth uncovering where the roots of these feelings begin - what caused them - it's more important to find out how to change them. 

Yes, it is possible to change how you feel about yourself because I've done it.

When I began, I realised that the key thing I was missing in believing in myself was self-trust. I didn't trust myself to do what needed to be done, from small things to big thing. I didn't trust myself to follow-through, be persistent or consistent. I didn't trust myself not to let myself down. 

Trust and believing in yourself walk hand in hand. If you don't trust yourself, you won't believe in yourself.

"Don't believe what your eyes are telling you, all they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you'll see the way to fly."- Richard Bach

So how do you trust yourself? You trust yourself by listening to yourself.

I don't mean the constant stream of thoughts in your head that spin around, asking more questions than they answer, and providing tainted 'evidence' about your self-worth gathered from the outside world. I mean listening to your heart. That means sitting down and just reaching out your conscious mind to your body, feeling every part of it, and settling on the heart. And then asking how it feels about the things you are struggling with, and feel the physical response your body gives. 

Feelings are a physical thing. You feel bad when you feel sick to your stomach, tense your muscles, or feel tired; and you feel good by the opposite: a spark of excitement in your stomach, relaxing your muscles, or feeling energised.

Listening to your heart means tuning into your body, and its response. It is how you connect to yourself. You trust what you know and if you know how you feel about something, you can trust it.

However, it doesn't stop second guessing, or doubting those feelings. The trick to breaking that mental cycle is a simple one: Action.

"An inch of movement will take you closer to your goals that a mile of intention." - Steve Maraboli

If you take action based on your true feelings you start building something that is past the questioning stage, something tangible. You are supporting your feelings by doing something. You are following through. And the more times you do that - take action based off your true feelings - the more you will trust both your feelings and yourself. It supports belief in your feelings and creates trust for the next time and then the next, building a rapport with yourself, a history, and a connection.  

Yes, it sounds easy, doesn't it? But no, it's not. You have to believe you are worth it, and take the time for you. If you honestly want to change how you feel, you have to make time for you and your feelings.  You have to get to a point where you tell yourself, I am worth my time. 

And what if those actions don't work out, or fail? What then? Then the cycle begins again. 

Consider what didn't work, or what you need to change to make it work, and try again. As long as you stay true to how you feel and take action that is committed and wholehearted and not doubting, you will at the very least learn something that will help you try again and be successful.  

This is not a one time only deal. You choose to give yourself a second chance every time. You choose to decide you are worth it. Life is trial and error. But until you stop listening to the doubts and actually take action, you will never know. 

Are you worth the risk? The longer you dawdle over the answer, and don't take action, the more room you leave for self doubt. 

So don't doubt - DO!

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”– Tony Robbins

Are you really listening? How to actively listen

Do you ever walk away from a conversation and can’t remember what the other person has said?

Do you ever leave a social gathering & realise you didn’t ask the questions you wanted?

Have you ever had a friend say they told you something important but you don’t remember?

I have. 

I’ve had this happen multiple times. And every time I realised I wasn’t listening properly. I was so busy forming my responses, or telling them about myself, I totally missed what they actually said. And although they might have thought otherwise, it was not intentional.

If people keep asking me questions about me, it doesn’t occur to me that they might just be being polite, I get lost in talking about whatever they are asking me. And when they are talking about something, I find myself searching for a situation in my life that I can relate to it and respond with.

But when a friend said she had told me something personal and I had no recollection of it, I started to worry about this. And then when I walked away from social gatherings a few times and realised I hadn’t asked about someone about something that was going on with them, I realised I needed to make a change. 

I needed to learn how to Actively Listen.

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” - Bryant H. McGill

I am a big talker; I can talk on any given topic for ages, and I have to be careful not to interrupt others or talk over them. It is something I have had to train myself into. 

And what triggered my understanding of why I incessantly talk — especially in situations where I am nervous — was when someone said ‘you weren’t listened to as a child, were you?’ It stopped me in my tracks, because it was true.

My childhood was not an easy one. I am a child of domestic violence and for the latter part of my childhood we moved around constantly. I had one parent interacting with me on a daily basis, in neither a positive or nurturing way. They weren’t really interested in me, they were very focused on themselves and their situation. They certainly had no interest in anything I had to say (and that hasn’t change into adulthood).

I began to realise I was always talking, trying to either impart my opinion and/or receive some kind of response to it. I used talking as a way to try and make a connection, be accepted and approved of and also gauge if my thoughts and opinions were ‘normal’, because my isolated childhood meant I had no gauge. 

My inability to listen was because no one had listened to me. Fortunately this was something I could change.

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” - Ralph Nichols

There are four main ways we show we are actively listening to someone. They are:

Eye contact
Looking at the person who is speaking to you in the eye, keeps your mind focused on what they are saying, rather than looking away at people around you, or at the clock. Looking at everything other than the person indicates you are not interested in what they have to say and are just waiting for them to finish. 

Body language
Much like the eyes, body language denotes engagement: facing the person, legs crossed towards them, staying still and not fidgeting. 

Verbal response
In person, but especially when on the phone with them, making sounds is important, it shows you are listening and paying attention to their words. It can be just a simple acknowledging sound, like ‘uh huh’ or it can be a word relating to what they are saying, or to prompt them to say more, like ‘and?’ or ‘and what happened then?’

Asking open questions that refer to what they said and waiting
Asking questions about what they have told you is a definitive acknowledgement of what they are telling you. But waiting for a response to your question, rather than using it to lead into something you want to talk about, is also paramount. You get to hear what they have said and hold onto it in your mind. 

“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” - Larry King

Learning to actively listen has also helped me be a better parent and make sure my children feel heard too, as my own experience has shown that it’s a necessary part of parenting. Whenever I found myself modeling my own parent’s behaviour I would remind myself of three things to help me: 

·         Put down or stop what you are doing 
·         Bend or crouch down if they are small children, so you are on their level 
·         Keep the tone of your voice low when asking them what they want to tell you

When going through this process I also maintain eye contact and repeat back to them what they had told me to confirm that they have been heard.

The payoff is that now my children are older, they feel they can approach me when they have something they want to tell me or speak to me about.

“Listening shows kids they matter, we love them, and their words are important.”

For more information about learning to actively listen, here’s an article by Tony Robbins on the power of deep listening that I found useful.

Mindset - Growth vs Fixed: How to literally change your mind

Do you believe you can only do things one way?

Do you believe that there’s a limit to what you can learn?

Do you believe you are only capable of doing certain things?

A common term these days is ‘Growth Mindset’. It's the new thing to be and to have, but what exactly is it? 

Mindset simply means the way you think or view things. Your mind is set a certain way; you think about things a certain way, or see them from a certain perspective, and your actions are dictated by what you think.

A ‘Growth Mindset’ means you are able to change your perception or view point and expand it to take on new ideas, concepts, and ways of doing things.

“If my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I know I can achieve it.” - Jesse Jackson

In contrast the term ‘Fixed Mindset’ means you are limited by what you believe you are capable of achieving or thinking - you are fixed in your thinking.

If you believe in certain ways of doing things or there is a limit to what you can learn, and are rigid in how you do them, and/or don’t believe there is another way for you, then you have a fixed mindset and you find it difficult to conceive that you could change that. This fixed thinking means you can’t grow or expand in what you can achieve or learn - or at least you don’t think you can.

“Limitations live only in our minds. But if we use our imaginations our possibilities become limitless.” - Jamie Paolinetti

In life this can either help or hinder, and it shows up in different ways.

You might have a dream about something you want to do, but if you don’t believe it is actually possible for you to achieve it, you won't take action to make that dream happen. It restricts you, and this can leave you unhappy, depressed, even anxious. You might even think there is no point in your life, leading to even darker thinking.

How we think about what we can and can’t do is affected by what others say and tell us, whether it’s parents, teachers or peers. It’s also by what we experience and what meaning we attach to that experience - whether it is something positive or negative – and this in turn can change the decisions when we make future choices.

“Growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” - Carol Dweck

A mindset is a dialogue in our heads. We create this dialogue through our experiences and our feelings, and through what we hear and see externally; through how people treat us and respond to us.

If enough people tell us there is something wrong with us we might then believe it to be true, restricting and treating ourselves accordingly. If they tell us we can’t do something enough times, we might believe it.

But we can stop believing it by literally changing our minds. It’s all down to our internal dialogue. Nothing externally can change that, only we can.

“Change your thoughts, change your life.” - Wayne Dyer

A lot of the ways we limit ourselves are based in fear and comes from low self-esteem and self-doubt. If we are strong in our sense of self and who we are, and trust ourselves and listen to our hearts, we can be more open to change how we think.

We can start this by remembering these three things:

1.) You are not your thoughts

Thoughts are your minds way of processing your day, you don’t need to let them dictate how you feel. You can choose which thoughts to engage with and which ones to discard. But the thoughts you think the most in your conscious mind will feed what your subconscious repeats and delivers into the conscious mind, so the more you interrupt negative thoughts by challenging and replacing them with accurate, ‘true’ thoughts, the more you will train your subconscious into only throwing up helpful, supportive thoughts that will help you open up to what you really want to achieve.

2) You always have a choice

You can not change or control anyone or anything outside yourself. You can only control how you choose to react, and that is always a choice, whether you are aware of it or not (often we are not). You also don’t have to justify any of your life choices or actions either – a common misconception in our society. Only you need to be sure about what you are doing, and leading from the heart. If you are confident in your choices, those around you will be confident too.

3.) What you believe is how you live

The word 'believe' has two other words in it: 'be' and 'live' so what we believe is what we be and how we live. The world is open to you if you believe it is. You can achieve anything you want if you believe you can achieve it. You are only limited by what you believe is possible, and that is fed by your mind and thoughts.

Our internal dialogue can limit us if it is negative: we won’t believe we can do all the things we want to do, no matter how much someone else says we can, or what we witness others doing. Only if we believe it ourselves will we be able to achieve it.

We can feel restricted or we can feel limitless, the choice is ours.

Thus our minds are either fixed or growing - the choice is ours.

Whether you believe you can, or believe you can't, your right. - Henry Ford

Personally I like to believe we can change the stars!