The trouble with Empathy…

Throughout my blogs the general theme is mental health due to its impact on my life and in the way, it has expanded my perspective with regards to personal psychology and what I perceive as the human condition.

I am not the first nor will I be the last, who will emphasise the negatives of living with certain mental health conditions/issues. And I have already shared many of the personal psychological challenges, that have arisen because of distortions in my self-concept; a consequence of my attempts to try to rationalise and understand the sometimes deeply traumatic events and experiences of those I new personally, professionally or via more external sources such as radio, television or social media. When we are trying to understand another individual’s perspective, by imagining ourselves in their position, this is commonly known as empathy.

Empathy for me is a gift with a double edge, and yet it can be an incredibly useful tool when trying to understand another’s’ experience’s and feelings. To be able to imagine how someone else might be affected by certain situations takes a degree of imagination, something I have always been quite good at, hence my interest in psychology and therapy.

But what happens when the empath experiences trauma and the mind become entangled in the others perspective, their over active imaginings becoming obsessive and compulsive, triggered irrationally by anything with a negative element. I will tell you (for me) it resulted, in an anxiety disorder, OCD, panic attacks, and eventually psychosis. Not a pleasant place to find oneself.

In my experience, it can take many years to identify and understand the reasons why we can suddenly start to struggle with acute metal health problems, generally due to the depth of our childhood conditioning. I had quite a few years of therapy to help me to challenge this; and It was my counsellor who first suggested that my ability to empathise might be in part to blame, as I tended towards rescuing people emotionally, which often left me burnt out mentally and emotionally, as these relationships became increasingly unhealthy.

The first time I was introduced to the concept of empathy and really understood its true value within healthy relationships to others was when I was studying for my Advanced Certificate in Person Centred counselling; an approach formulated by a wonderful therapist by the name of Carl Rogers (Rogers C., 1957). Unlike other approaches such behaviourism and psychoanalysis, the person-centred approach was more humanistic, focusing more on authentic interpersonal communication between client and practitioner. At the core of this approach were three of six necessary and sufficient conditions to which the therapist was advised to adhere too. They consisted of Empathy, Congruence and Unconditional Positive Regard (UPR for short). This approach definitely helped me in my personal development and healing, as the combination of core conditions really enabled me to feel valued and accepted in my sometimes painful and distressing process.

The reason for these core conditions was that Rogers believed people struggled in their lives as a consequence of having to adhere to certain conditions of worth and an introjected set of values, i.e. living life on other people’s terms and lacking true autonomy, by rejecting their internal self-regulating locus of evaluation for a more distorted external one.

Sounds pretty straight forward you might think, yet as I have learned it can take years to truly understand such concepts. And I personally felt the need to delve deeper, believing that the past really did impact the present especially when emotional and physical trauma are involved. And being a big fan of Carl Jung (1875-1961), another inspiring empathic thinker, I really valued his idea that the psyche self regulates, by utilising one’s own creative mind which has a compensatory component and can if promoted in a therapeutic way facilitate a greater capacity for self-awareness and healing.

Similar you might say but Jung’s main focus was in dealing with past trauma, which I have found helpful when trying to reconcile my sometimes-complicated self-worth issues. Whereas, Rogers approach focuses on the clients’ feelings as they are expressed within the present, relying on the client to steer the therapeutic process hence the use of the core conditions which promote non-judgement, remaining present to the clients’ process and acceptance.

Personally, I have greatly benefited from using both approaches, with Jung’s less humanistic more analytical approach, I chose to use it in a more introspective way, a tool for my own personal development and exploration, in combination with many of his other theories such as the unconscious meaning of dreams and his use of archetypes (such as identifying the shadow), in relation to the promoting a healthier more balanced self-concept.

Rogers approach I felt was definitely more helpful when within a therapeutic relationship, and with dealing with the consequences of overwhelm brought about by over empathising with others and having very few defined boundaries when dealing with the needs of said others.
Empathy can come very naturally to many, but it is advisable from my experience to really try to investigate the true reasons behind your intentions, your motives, your needs, as you may find that at its core, the drive to help or aid others is actually just a mirror of our own souls’ desire for self-actualisation.


OCT, The Tormented Mind of The Highly Sensitive.

Many years ago, in 1984, when I was a child of four or five, I was given my first glimpse of a world in which inherent violence was an accepted norm, and where punishing a child with a beating was a recognised discipline within most households.

The first time I ever learned to fear my (step) father was when he picked up a plastic lion from a circus train set i had been playing with and flung it at my face. I am unsure what it was I did to deserve his hostility, and to be honest I don’t really remember, but the consequences of that one act; my swollen eye, my mother’s screams as she rushed to my side, my brother cowering behind me frightened he would be next; it was so traumatic for me as a developing child that I must have repressed it, as I did not remember the events of that afternoon until I was in my mid-thirties., almost thirty years later.

I tell you this story because it was the start of a long path of fear and repression for me, and as I was already quite a sensitive child this only increased my anxiety, along with other such experiences.

These past events give context and shape to my personal demons, as without a little back story how can one relate… and believe me the journey that lead me to finally accepting my condition was a long one, considering. Sounds overly dramatic I know; but that’s because it impacted my life so utterly as to influence many of my life choices leading up to my present circumstances.

OCT is one of the most common forms of OCD, and in my mind one of the hardest to rationalise without external intervention. I hope that by sharing the information below it may offer some help and hope to others who may read this blog.

Below is some information on Obsessive Compulsive Thinking or Anxiety Disorder and the link.

‘Persistent and negative thoughts are one of the most common signs of an anxiety disorder. Anxiety makes it nearly impossible to stop focusing on things that you don’t want to focus on. These thoughts are rarely positive, often related to either your fears or your emotions, and in many cases the existence of the thought causes further anxiety and often leads to more obsessions.

Obsessive thoughts are the hallmark of obsessive compulsive disorder, but there are types of “obsessive” thoughts that are present in a variety of anxiety disorders that won’t necessarily cause a diagnosis of OCD. Below, we’ll look at examples of these obsessive thoughts and how they affect you.

Obsessions from OCD

Obsessive thoughts are required for someone to be diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder. These obsessive thoughts are often violent, sexual, or fearful in nature. The thought may change depending on the situation (more on that in a moment), but once they’ve entered your mind, you’ll often do anything you can to shake it.

Some examples of obsessive thoughts include:

  • Fear of getting sick.
  • Thinking about hurting a loved one or stranger.
  • Focusing on some type of aggressive sexual act (with someone you know or strangers).
  • Need for organization or symmetry.
  • Worry over little things (did I lock the door, etc.).

Notice that some of these are obviously far more negative than others. There are those that have unwanted fantasies about murder or rape, while others may simply constantly fear they haven’t turned off the stove. But one thing they all have in common is that they cause significant distress, and once the thought enters a person’s mind, it becomes impossible to shake without some type of action.

That’s what causes compulsions. Compulsions are the action that the person completes in order to reduce this obsessive thought. When the person fears germs, they may need to wash their hands. When the person fears the door being closed, they may need to lock in 3 or more times to stop that fear. Those that fear something violent or sexual may develop any habit that appears to cause the thought to decrease.

It’s crucial to remember that anxiety genuinely causes these negative thoughts and negative thinking. The way that anxiety alters your brain chemistry makes it very hard to focus on the positives or the future, and so it’s not your fault that you can’t distract yourself from these thoughts or that you’re having them at all.

The More You Try To Stop Them…

Numerous scientific studies have shown that trying too hard to “not” think about something actually causes you to think about it more than if you tried to think about it. That’s because the brain keeps reminding you of the thought in order to remind you not to think about it. It’s a strange way the brain works that makes it very hard for someone that wants to end their obsessive thoughts to actually stop it.

That’s a serious problem for those that deal with obsessive thoughts from OCD. If they experience too much shame or fear over these thoughts they’ll try not to have them, and this will cause them to have the thoughts even more.

Obsessive Thoughts in Other Anxiety Disorders

It’s also possible to develop types of obsessive thoughts with other anxiety disorders as well. Generally, these will not quite be as severe or overwhelming as the thoughts in OCD, and you’re unlikely to develop compulsions as a result, but there are often some similarities between both anxiety disorders. Your psychologist will be the one to diagnose which problem you have. Some examples of how these thoughts work include:

  • Panic Disorder Those with panic disorder and panic attacks may develop hypochondria or health phobias, worried that something is wrong with their health. They may also fear the panic attacks to such a degree that it is all they think about.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder– Those with PTSD often find themselves obsessing over the trauma they experienced, or the belief that the trauma will occur again.
  • Phobias Those with very severe phobias may start to think about the object of that fear more and more with everything they do. For example, checking your clothes for spiders and having someone look through your house regularly may be a phobia obsession.
  • Social Phobia Those with social phobia may think about embarrassing themselves in social situations. In some cases it may be a thought of something that happened, while in others it may be worse-case-scenario thinking.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)– GAD is a disorder that causes numerous worries. It’s possible that some of these worries persist. For example, worrying that your son/daughter is in danger after they go off to college may be a sign of GAD, and also an obsessive thought.

So while generally an obsessive thought is considered a problem for those with OCD, it is something that can affect those with nearly any type of anxiety disorder in some way.

How to Stop Obsessive Thoughts

You need to take a holistic approach to your anxiety. Don’t just try to target the obsessive thoughts. Try to target your anxiety as a whole in order to properly address the way it affects you and cope with future stresses. However, you can also try the following:

Stop Shaming Yourself

First and foremost, you need to learn to accept your thoughts for what they are: a symptom of your anxiety. You need to stop shaming yourself and stop feeling like you need to push these thoughts away.

Acceptance is crucial. These thoughts are not in your control, and not something you should expect to control. Learn to accept that they’re a natural part of the disorder, and that when you cure your disorder you’ll have fewer of the thoughts.

This is obviously very hard for people, but you need to find a way. Your thoughts are what they are – they may cause you to do silly or “irrational” things, but so what? Who cares if you check a lock three times or wash your hands multiple times a day? Who cares if you occasionally think about unusually sexual or fearful things?

Yes, it’s something you’ll need to cure, but while they’re occurring, it’s much like being sick with a cold. You don’t get mad at yourself for sneezing, so you shouldn’t try to fight your thoughts or see them as a bad part of your personality while you’re still dealing with your disorder.

I hope this small introduction to OCT Anxiety Disorder has offered some insight. Please click on the link to access more info.

NDE (Near-Death-Eperience) For Real or Just Trippin?

Now, in a previous blog I have mentioned some of my early life experiences and how they affected me into adulthood. One of the most disturbing and life changing experiences I endured was after taking one to many illegal substances at a party my friends and I were having; ironically a party celebrating my choice to give up drugs, in favor of being more responsible. As I was tired of living like a drop out pot head with little or no ambition; plus, I could feel my health deteriorating, so I had known it was the right time.

The reason I choose to write about this is not soul because I am self-obsessed or a narcissist, its mainly because this is not an everyday experience and its impact on my life, mental health, family and personal world view was palpable. Plus, in the sharing of such personal events, I may gain greater insight into the phenomenon or offer comfort to someone else who has felt the impact of such events.

I can only offer my personal account of what I experienced on the night in question, something akin to a tangible lucid dream or hallucination. Neuroscientist’s suggest that it is a disturbed multi-sensory experience, that occurs during life-threatening events or when close to death; and would have to agree, as through personal research my experience differs only slightly from the many NDE’s I have read through.

Below is my account of the night, as I remember it. There is no embellishment, in fact I have probably tried if anything, to bring some rational to it over the years, yet I still remember it vividly as though I lived through it yesterday.

The evening started just like any other; my friends and I all gathered in one room drinking beer and smoking joints, eating junk food and playing computer games, it was in hindsight not the brightest idea to mix so many substances together. The only change to our normal routine was, we had used a new dealer through a so called trusted source as we had run out of hash, or as it was called at the 1990’s, Squidgy black, (which was a resin/soap that you crumbled into a joint or smoked in a bong or pipe). Other than bud, this was our drug of choice. This particular night we were given something different and somewhat more potent, something called Gold Seal, which only a few of our group had smoked before and in their opinion was worth the money, so we bought enough to last us the night.

In hindsight I probably would have paced myself somewhat, but the pack mentality had sunk in and we were all going to smoke or drink whatever was handed to us. I have no idea how many joints, bongs or pipes I smoked before things began to change for the worse. All I remember was being upstairs in my shared bedroom with four of my mates pulling on a bong that was so harsh that it made my eyes water and lungs burn. Not one of us could pull on it without coughing, and we all had beer chasers.I remember collapsing onto my bed while the others continued; the world spinning so fast I felt as though I were falling through my bed and down into an endless hole, similar in many respects I imagine to how Alice must have felt when falling down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.


I had closed my eyes in the vain hope of regaining equilibrium, but this had just made me feel nauseous. It was a roundabout then I heard the music, ‘Alanis Morrissette’s, Jagged little Pill album’ playing on the stereo. I sat up and looked at the eight bar graphic display and felt the rhythm rise and fall; an strangely it begin to synchronise with my heart beat, or so I imagined.., at first I found it kind of thrilling in the way most stoned people do, until my paranoia set in, then panic, as I felt I was losing it. The music was somehow in control. This was when I got up and left the room, staggering down the stairs hoping that someone could explain to me why my heart was beating so fast, as though I were experiencing a heart attack. I burst into the living room, where some of my friends were playing Mario cart on the Nintendo, doing my best to verbalise and express to them the reason for my obvious panic; yet all they said in reply was.

‘You’re having a whitey dude’, which if I had been in my rational mind this might have sounded very reasonable but considering I had never experienced a panic attack before this was not very helpful. So i staggered back onto a large cushioned chair as I tried to gain control of my breathing., by this time the pain had been unbearable, like red hot fire coursing through my head. It felt as though my head were going to split in two. I remember grabbing my head with both hands for fear that my head would actually split open; then I had closed my eyes and begun praying for it to end.

No one in the room seemed to care. I began feeling really exhausted and yet the pain in my head continued, I remember just wanting it to end, and this was when I imagined hundreds of white beads hanging by threads, and one by one they began dropping into blackness with each of my decreasing heart beats; this continued repeatedly until only a handful remained. The pain was lessening, and I willed the last beads to drop, but as the last beads fell, I knew I was letting go of life. I felt my body slump into the chair and suddenly my perception changed…,

…I was rising towards the ceiling and looking down at myself, and I felt no fear or confusion. I could see one of my friends checking me as I lay slumped in the chair, he began to shout at the others. I rose higher up through the floor and could see everyone in the house, it was very serene, as I continued upwards a strange light engulfed me, and I found myself in a tunnel; the walls had thousands of little blue triangles of various shades, like tiny tiles. I had wanted to examine one and it quickly came into focus without my seeming to move, and then I was in some sort of memory, as though I had just stepped from the real world into a virtual one…

…I was sitting on a rock at the beach watching my friends. Some of the girls were drinking from wine bottles and the lads were attempting to light a barbecue…, it was a memory from my past I realised, one that had been lost in a life of experiences.

The scene faded as I chose to look at another. The next one showed me an episode of a TV series I watched as child called ‘Rainbow’, I watched again as the characters called Bungle, Zippy and George talked about something as I can no longer recollect. As I continued to watch, something unnerving began to happen, a crack appeared across the image, red light against the blue, and with it a sensation of pain, distant and yet it threatened to pull me away.

The image again faded. I chose another triangle…, this time it was nothing I recognized, and I new it was a vision of something I had yet to experience. The red crack appeared in the image again, and this time the faint pain had increased; I think I cried out, ‘What is this’ and in reply a vaguely familiar voice/feeling answered, and I new I had a choice to make, but what it was I was unsure. Another serge of pain, closer now. This is when Bungle the blue bear appeared to me, looking more a grizzly bear then a man dressed in a costume. I felt a certain intensity a concern.

‘What is this’ I remember asking again. And without the bear moving or speaking I heard a voice say,

‘This, I am the Quincy, what comes after’. The pain rolled in again, like the ebb and flow of a tide.

‘And that’ I had replied somehow.

‘It is the Kawasaki, and it is life’ In that moment I new then that I was making a choice between life and whatever was to come after…, I felt so drawn to the peaceful, painlessness of the Quincy… and yet with this clarity and expansiveness came the sudden awareness of so many consequences to my death. I imagined my friends panicking as the reality of my death dawned on them, my brothers despair at finding me dead, my Mum’s disbelief and heart break, my father’s disappointment in me., the list went on…, and with it an element of uncertainty manifested itself in my mind …, and with it came the serge of pain, stronger than before. I began hearing voices, people calling my name, they were begging me to come back and I knew that I had live, and that it was not my time.

The return was sudden and immensely painful, like nothing I have ever felt before. My friends told me after, that they had not been able to find a pulse and were considering calling an ambulance, but then I had just sat upright and freaked out because I didn’t recognise anyone or anything. I remember just seeing colours and dark lines, like a surreal painting, then as things took shape, it resembled more a cartoon the reality. I was exhausted and I my instinct was to find the quietest and darkest place. So, I headed for the kid’s room and found an empty bed and fell asleep for nine hours.

In the morning I woke from a deep restless sleep. I felt different, raw, anxious and emotional. My body ached, and my head pounded. I was unable to communicate with anyone for a while…, I just kept getting flashes, snap shots, like Deja vu every few steps I took., I felt very uncertain and a little scared. When I saw my brother and best friend, they too looked anxious, and it was a good week before any of us could really open up about what we had each experienced that night. I was sure I was supposed to feel differently, given the spiritual nature of my experience…, it’s not every day you make a choice between living and dying. I knew I would never be the same again, and I was right.

For years after I suffered with depression, anxiety, OCT and panic. I am now in my 40’s and I still can’t quite understand the events of that evening. My rational mind puts it down to a drug induced dream state, much like you would have if taking part in a shamanic ayahuasca ceremony. However regardless of the chemical triggers, I experienced death or something akin to it, which left a permanent scar/trauma on my psyche and this basically has greatly affected my life choices ever since, for better or worse.

If you have experienced something similar or merely are curious about anything, feel free to leave a message below.

The Powerful Nature of Dreams

I awoke from a dream at 4am, an uncomfortable residual feeling of panic still flooding through my body. Grabbing my note book from the bedside table I began to write, in the hopes I could purge myself of the discomfort that now nestled accusingly within my thoughts.

The dream itself was not at all nightmarish, in fact it didn’t seem all that dissimilar to dreams I had had in the past (I tend to keep a dream journal as my recall on waking is quite frequently very good), as the basic elements of the dream structure felt very familiar to me, in that sub-conscious sort of way…, but little did I know the impact this particular one would have…

My dream:

I am at a childhood friends house, it is night time and I am sleeping in what seems to be a spare bedroom. It has a single bed, a sink in the corner and an unusual spiral stair case against one wall. I am in bed, but feel I am either unwelcome or do not belong in this place.

I am aware of the need to urinate, when my twin brother bursts in, he is not happy about something and is ranting; something about not having anywhere to sleep, no lights…, ‘they just don’t give two shits about us’, I remember him saying. Then after grabbing the only extension cable in the room, he left slamming the door.

I am suddenly aware and anxious that he could have woken our friends’, so I go out to investigate. Poking my head into every room, hoping that no one has been disturbed. Luckily, they haven’t, but when I see my friends I feel some resentment towards them, possibly even anger. Unable to reconcile these feelings I return to my room.

 I still need to urinate (quite common in dreams I know) so unable to find a suitable place I head for the sink in the corner of the room, my sense of guilt and shame increasing, I feel somewhat trapped as though a kind of prisoner of my own making.

Anyway, then from the top of the spiral staircase appears a young girl around 7-8 years old, blond, in PJs. She is familiar in away reminiscent of one of my best friends’ daughters. She is upset, and I believe she has had a bad dream. I ask where her mother and father are, and she replies ‘upstairs, they are drunk’. I then realize that the reason we are in this house, could be because of some kind of party.

I go to help her back up the stairs, but this is when a wash of feelings flood over me, something akin to guilt, shame, anger, frustration, anxiety and panic…I awake with these feelings still very present in my body, I feel slightly confused and disorientated


So, on putting pen to paper in the hopes of finding some understanding, I began to realize that this dream was touching on something deeper, feelings I had been harboring for these particular friends and their families for quite some time, since before early adolescence.

You see my family is very large and we were not well off in my childhood. We just got by on what my parents earned each week. However, the pressure of supporting such a big family and the selfish actions of my then (step) father, eventually fractured our somewhat quiet existence. And as I have mentioned in my previous blog the relationship between my mother and him broke down, leading to domestic abuse.

This left my twin brother and I craving some stability, so naturally we would escape to our friends’ homes, in the hope that they would provide some kind of sanctuary from all the chaos.

But as is the way with small communities, such things never remain behind closed doors, especially when those who have chosen to initiate an affair are connected to those friends you value the most.

As a child I quite naturally assumed my brother and I were judged mainly due to our own behaviors, when it came to our relationships with friends…, but this I am afraid is not always the reality of a situation, it’s never that black and white. Even if those involved are attempting to be accepting and rational.

My dream seemed to tap into these old feelings; feelings relating to what I perceived at the time as rejection, judgement, guilt, shame etc. You see I was always a very sensitive kid, some might say intuitive or empathic, so I always felt or sensed when an adult was upset, angry or hiding something. However, I am now very much aware that trying to understand the feelings of adults from a child’s perspective is inevitably going to be misinterpreted, especially when said child is already overwhelmed by the feelings he had been experiencing.

Don’t get me wrong, I deeply respected my friends and their families, and I know that many of my feelings from back then were projections of my own insecurities and fears; yet I do feel my brother and I were often treated unequally in the wake of such events. And this has manifested itself within my sub-conscious and inevitably expressed itself within my dreams. I say dreams, as Its my feeling that I have been revisiting this same scenario many times; which I am guessing is my sub-consciousnesses way of bringing it to my present awareness, so as to finally deal with such repressed feelings.

Please leave a comment?

Can We Make Our Passions Our Life Purpose. And how do we know for sure what we are passionate about?

For far too long I have puzzled over the question regarding what my ultimate passions might be. I have listened to audio books that promise greater clarity and self-help gurus online who tell me that all I have to do is to manifest through intention…, visualize the ideal outcome, feel my success and then begin to adjust my life accordingly; and believe me I am doing it to the best of my ability…, but understanding your passions, and then living your passion are two very different things. We all know life can get very complicated (and yes, I know it is probably of our own making) and many of us are struggling with a number of personal issues; addiction, trauma, grief, self-loathing, anxiety, depression etc, the list goes on. So where does one start…,

 This may be a long read, as I will write about three of my passions, that I have identified over the years; so, prepare yourself.

Here is how my life currently stands, without giving to many personal details away.

I am a man in my early 40’s (who definitely still feels like he is in his early 30’s and can act like a man in his early 20’s), I currently reside at my parents’ house after separating with my ex-partner; who I still love very much. I have no real debt to speak of, unless you count student loans; which will probably hound me until I die. I work full time, self-employed and yet can still barely afford to rent, due to the rising rental prices and tax increases. I enjoy my work occasionally, but due to its physical nature my body is beginning to feel the strain; and am I passionate about it (my work) …, the answer to that is no not so much!

I don’t own my own home, neither do I own a fancy car (just a second-hand van on its last legs) and I sure as hell don’t have much in the way of savings, just enough really to buy another used van should my current one gives up its ghost.

Some positives are, I have no dependents (children or pets), although I would very much like both eventually. I am basically self-employed, so can choose when I work…, given I have enough work to give me the option. I am currently in good shape despite the very repetitive and physical nature of my work; as I like to work out and stay active in my spare time. I eat very well and pay close attention to what I put in my body, especially as my body no longer appreciates certain foods and is making me very aware of it. All in all, I am a pretty healthy guy.

So, what do I know so far regarding what might be considered my passions, and how do I know they are what I am really passionate about?

Well through a great deal of self-reflection and personal exploration I believe our upbringings can shed light on this, as on some level I feel we are conditioned by events, family, peers, environment and culture; as well as stresses, traumas, and turbulent family environments etc. All of which impact our experience of the world for better or worse, and generally colour the things that bring us joy or happiness.

And… given that I was once a kid myself maybe it’s a good place to begin.

My life was pretty good for the first eight years almost perfect, so good in fact I can only remember happy things, but then reality found its way in as my brothers and I became both witnesses and victims of domestic violence, this continued on and off for some time, with some pretty traumatic situations, all of which effected my brothers and I differently.

It did not stop there, my mother married three more times after that and all but the last brought more pain and upset into our lives.

Now given the world we live in and the statistics which indicate that one in four children in the world suffer some form of domestic abuse in early childhood, I am quite confident that most people can either relate or empathise with what happened to me and my family.

My reason for sharing this is twofold, one; I enjoy sharing as it enables us to connect on a deeper less superficial level, and Two; if I hadn’t experienced these events then I would not be the man I am right now. (Shit…., maybe I should invent a time machine) just kidding.

To survive and cope within such an environment, I like many other children who are too young to really comprehend what is going on, developed coping mechanisms and my personal preference was to become hyper vigilant, analyse everything, predict danger and avoid it like the black plague. Over the years I honed this skill like a piece of the finessed forged steel, a precision tool and it did keep me safe, or at least gave me advanced warning if and when a situation arose, but as the saying goes, it had a double edge to it. You see with my hyper vigilance came a certain sensitivity to stressful situations and over the years I became more and more anxious, suffered with OCD and eventually had a break down which culminated in depression, which has affected my life ever since.

And how might this specific issue lead to a passion I hear you say…, well I was just coming to that. Given that over the years I had formed a pretty unhealthy mistrust of people, especially men, and I realised (after accepting help from a counsellor) that I was also mistrusting myself; mainly by rejecting the more masculine aggressive elements, in favour of the more altruistic feminine qualities I believed to be less destructive.

This self-discrimination caused me to experience a great deal of inner conflict, not to mention the struggles I had within relationships, given that to many my conflicted nature was pretty obvious. Especially when I irrationally started to question my own sexuality.

I realised pretty quickly that the only person who could truly help me was myself…; with of course the support of a professional counsellor, and my trusted friends and family. So, in short, after many years of self-exploration and personal development I began to gain a passion for psychology and the conditioning we are all subjected to from birth, which make us on some level, who we are; but not necessarily who we could be potentially.

Over the years I have made steps towards manifesting this as a profession, as I trained and qualified as a counsellor…, yet once again something just didn’t feel right. Given this realisation, what is missing, what other passions could make this work more fulfilling?

So, on yet more reflection I realise that other than choosing hyper vigilance as a form of protection against the realities of life, I also used the most common form of childhood defines, escapism.

I can quite confidently say that we have all used escapism at one stage or another within our lives, whether it be watching cartoons, movies, Netflix or playing computer games, using creativity, music or playing team sports or even hiking up a mountain alone; it can be very healthy as a tonic to lives many challenges.

For me this went one step further however as with my twin brother, and those I formed the closest of bonds with as a child i.e. my best friends; we created worlds within our imaginations. Expressing our worries, fears and anxieties through role play, D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) a collaborative adventure game that relied upon one of the players to act as dungeon master; he/she would use a specific fantasy world setting in which to stage an adventure, tell a story and play the role of all of that worlds inhabitence, including adversaries. The others would create and play specific characters, generally, human, elf, dwarf, Orc etc. These characters would be chosen randomly and grow in power, skill and attributes as the game progressed, providing the players rolled well when asked to. This was how my friends and I spent many of our rainy days and some sunny days.

We eventually developed our own style of role play, given that we began to favour particular characters we had created and were fed up with them dying when we had had a bad game (the loss had become very personal); and as a consequence, these characters eventually evolved alongside our own personal evolution, becoming almost direct reflections of our own inner yearnings, desires and aspirations. I realise that those who come from a more grounded mindset might say ‘we were truly living in a fantasy world’ and that this as we matured, could be seen as unhealthy. But disagree, as I now understand these characters and the world they lived in to be an alternate reality, in which a group of children/teens could escape the sometimes-traumatic circumstances of their personal lives.

Within our group alone, which consisted of 12 individuals, 7 boys and 5 girls; there had been experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, parental addictions and grief (loss of a parent or sibling), many of which we were very aware of but didn’t acknowledge until later in our teens. I believe that D&D acted as our way of supporting each other without directly challenging the pain we were all suffering, and without it many of us may have found escapism in perhaps more unhealthy ways/outlets.

And I believe our characters were also away of us challenging the sometimes-conflicting morals, values and principles we each had inherited from various sources i.e. our parents, siblings, schools etc. Imagine being given such values and then witnessing them broken consistently by those who had taught you them; not an easy thing to reconcile as a child believe me.

So, you could say my next passion is storytelling, mythology, creative thinking and imagination, and how this influences the personal development of young people, their mental health and their social/cultural values.

The third of my passions is connected to faith. And my faith is something that has evolved over many years and has helped me through some very challenging times; and given that faith can be very personal in its conception, I have only chosen to share it with a select few trusted individuals, as many people who know me, including some within my family and my friends, find my particular way of viewing the spiritual a little fantastical; even if I choose to believe that much of what I believe has a scientific rational to it.

I personally believe that my early experience attending Church and Sunday school directly influenced my personal values, as well as creating a deep curiosity for the mythical and magical. I was brought up C of E (Church of England), and very much enjoyed the biblical stories I was told in Sunday School that had involved angels, superhuman acts, miracles, and other equally inspiring events; yet could never really connect with the dogma. I believe this was mainly due to my Mothers influence, as when I was young I was brought up with many animals, mainly domestic pets, the usual suspects such as dogs, cats, rabbits, horses (not quite domestic, but common enough)         I was also obsessed with David Attenborough and anything to do with the natural world; I grew up in the countryside, which was great, as it was a safe place to explore and experience life, where everyone knew their neighbours and no one locked their doors. And this connection to the natural world seemed at its core to connect with me on a very deep level, influencing me in ways I never really was aware of until i reached adulthood.

When I was a teenager life offered another perspective, which manifested as I began to experiment with drugs, and lost myself to altered states of reality, via hallucinations and bad trips. Eventually as is inevitable when abusing such substances, I overdosed and experienced what some now call an NDE or near-death experience (:to be discussed another time)

There were two reasons that prevented these events from completely overwhelming me; one, was my family and friends. And two, being in close proximity to nature and animals, as they offered me some grounding, else I fear I would have lost my mind. Which you might say I did for a time, given that the consequences of near death left me fighting for my rational mind, as anxiety and depression set in.

However, from this traumatic event came a deep curiosity about life and how nature impacts each of us, how many of us co-exist on this big blue planet, and yet seem so disconnected from the world around us. This lead me to study Theology and philosophy in university and read books about religion, mysticism and spiritual practices. I delved deeper and deeper for a meaning, trying to gain some new insight into the more abstract concepts (which often left me on the verge of breathlessness). It wasn’t until I came upon James Lovelocks book Gaia; (which proposed that Earth was a complex self-regulating system of interactive organisms.) That any of my developing ideas and philosophies really began to make sense.

You see I have never been one to believe in something just for the sake of it. I believe myself to be a very open-minded person and yet I have a very healthy scepticism with regards to many of the more farfetched theories expressed by the modern free thinkers. And yet it would seem in this new technical age, that a great many things are now being given credence as science and scientists develop new ways of measuring such things as quantum theory, synchronicity, auric fields, chakra energy systems, spiritual healing practices etc. All of which hint at something just out of reach of the human ability to conceptualise.

And i guess this is where my faith lies, in my passion for expansive thought within the realm of the unknown, and the great mystery that is our universe; which is ever revealing its secrets to us as we ourselves evolve and gain greater self-awareness. And given time we may all learn to trust in this; not always easy with all the dreadful things that happen in the world, but hell that’s exactly why I believe faith to be necessary.

So, by sharing this with you am I living my passion…, is the very act of writing this blog in some way purposeful? I would very much like to believe so! What do you think?