Say what you mean, do as you say.

I judge you for your actions, not your past, not the colour of your skin, not your religion or your philosophy, or even who you hang around with. Since I can’t read your mind, or see your soul, I can only base who you are on what you do. So think about what you are going to do and realise that this is what is defining you to other people.

Your past does leave an impression and can lead to how I interpret your current actions. If your past actions would be dangerous to me in the present, then I will be cautious with you until your current actions have proven my safety. You may have to prove that for a while, depending on your past. By the same token, if your past has always been safe for me if you repeat that past in the present, then I will be less cautious with you. That doesn’t mean you are inherently bad or good, but that I can only judge your likely present actions by what you have done, and my actions will reflect that. This is about trust. You build or destroy trust by what you do and what you have done. This does not lead to an irrevocable loss or gain. My trust in you changes based on what you are doing now. Consider the trust you want me to have of you and act accordingly.

The colour of your skin is such a stupid phrase. What I really want to say is the cultural group that you come from. Black skin does not define a cultural group any better than white skin does. To have “black” skin could mean your ancestors are from India, Africa, Australia, the Pacific Islands and so on. Each of the peoples from the continents are different from each other as far as cultural practices are concerned. When you examine each of the individuals within the countries, you will find quite different cultural groups within those. So the colour of your skin, the ethnicity that your ancestors come from is quite a useless gauge of who your past comes from.

An English friend of mine pointed out how he had assumed he knew more about Australia than a classmate of his, simply because she had ancestors from China. He pompously tried to explain an Australian custom to her – only to be informed that she was a third generation Australian and knew it far better than he. Bad assumption. I can make cultural practice guesses about you based on your likely ethnicity, but I should certainly be willing to dispense with these pre-conceived notions as soon as I learn more about you. I also must accept the limitations of what I know about your ancestors and the accuracy of my guess.

Religions and philosophical standpoints can unite people against every other group, yet the diversity within each group is huge. Take paganism as an example. I have met the most gentle and peaceful souls practicing what they term paganism, and I have also met drunken, drugged and angry pagans. The religion itself does not define the individuals within the group, it more defines who they aren’t. Pagans believe a huge range of diverse and differing things. What they don’t do is follow a god of the common other religions. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and so on are all pretty much the same. It is more accurate to define what they don’t believe in rather than specifically what they do. The individuals in each religion are as different to each other as the religions are.

Yet the philosophical standpoint you have can give me context to interpret your actions. People who practice Hinduism generally don’t eat cow, so I should consider this in my interactions with a person who follows Hinduism when offering food. It may be that the individual before me does not practice that part of Hinduism, but I am not to know that until I am informed otherwise. The fear of changing my practice based on a knowledge of another person’s stated philosophical/thiestical standpoint is my mistaking the majority for the publicised minority. Or more to the point, mistaking a ethos for the actions of a few who happen to blame their actions on their distorted beliefs, or who happen to correlate to a particular ethos. For example, certain Christians have a stated stance on abortion post rape. This does not mean that all Christians have this point of view, or that only Christians have this point of view. It would be more accurate to see tautology that people who have this point of view are the ones who have it, rather than try to push people into super categories.

I like my friends. Quite obviously, there are not too many of my friends that I don’t like. I don’t like all of my friends’ friends. Nor do I approve of all the activities that my friends indulge in. A good example of this is marijuana. I do not imbibe in this substance. Some of my friends do, and since it is an illegal practice in Australia, they need to source it from less than savoury places. I judge these friends of mine, not on who they hang around, but on what they do when we interact. If the actions of the individual were directly harming another, for example they were beating people up to get the goods, I think I would have to reconsider my position. My view would also be biased if the people my friends hung around indulged in such violent activities. While it is a murky distinction, I judge my friends directly rather than indirectly whenever possible.

It is impossible to know what it is you think, or why you do what you do. You can certainly share your mind with me via the use of words, but your actions speak much louder. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux stated that hell is paved with good intentions. You can intend good, you can intend consequences, you can intend to act. But until you do, your intentions count for naught.

For me it is a simple philosophy.My actions are what affects my world. If I want you to know who I am, then you will know it by the actions I take. If you want me to know who you are, show me with your actions.

With a little help from my friends…

If you can’t see any viable options, it is because You can’t see any viable options. That doesn’t mean that someone else or something else can’t. There are several ways to increase your perception of options, however it is important to understand what options are.

An option is a potential action – that is something that you do or don’t do – that will change your upcoming experiences in this universe. Some changes are internal, some are external. Internal changes are designed to change your perceptions of the world, allowing you to observe and take advantage of alternate possibilities to enable more options, while external changes position events to your favour or disfavour.

It is important to understand that opportunities are a mixture of both internal perception and external circumstances. No matter how positive you frame your mind, if the circumstances do not allow for the option you want, then what you want won’t happen. Similarly, no matter how many times the circumstances occur for the option you want, if you do not see it, or can’t move yourself to use it, then what you want won’t happen.

We enter crisis when all of what we know has not worked in solving the problem we have at hand. Crisis allows us to realise that we either have to change in order to solve the problem, or we need help to resolve the issue. Sometimes we need help to change.

We can use friends, strangers and professionals to help us cope, manage and thrive. I personally recommend aiming for thriving. Thriving is where you have created a feedback loop that continues help you develop and grow. Managing means that you are in charge of your circumstances, in that you use the resources at your command to control the circumstances you are in. Coping means that you use the resources at your command to survive the circumstances that you are in. Often we go from coping to managing. What many of us do is stop there, rather than move onwards towards thriving.

Resources are important to consider. Often we are frivolously expending the resources we have in survival. We waste a lot of important resources, such as money, on things that we don’t really need, such as alcohol and cigarettes. These are just examples and not isolated. For example, I can frivolously expend my friendships on lashing out, which burns them out leaving me with less friends.

Friends are handy, because we know who they are, they know us and, since they are friends, they should support us through rough times. Your friends stick by you. Yet there is a limit to how much friends should really know you and how many times they can support you before they start to wonder if their friendship role has changed to carer role. The important distinction is in reciprocation. Friendship is a meeting of equals, an exchange of ideas and resources, such that you both gain from the interaction.

Consider the friends who help you. What are they getting out of this? It must be something, or they would not continue to assist you. I don’t want to suggest that all friends are gaining something nefarious here, however, if you can’t figure out what they gain from this relationship, consider that perhaps they are feeling good about helping you, and if you succeed, they won’t, which can lead to them sabotaging you later. Has this happened? This is called the shining knight complex, or the rescuer complex. The shining knight wants to save you, needs to save you and likes being and needs to be the rescuer. If you don’t need to be rescued, then what is their role in your life? So they engineer a situation to rescue you in. When you are feeling way down, they can be great. As you start to swim on your own, they will heap you with stones so you need rescuing again. Generally we are grateful until we see the pattern.

Not all friends do this. Those who don’t usually start to pull back and distance themselves from you, leaving you alone and helpless. If this has happened, or you can see this happening, it is time to move on to someone who is not a friend. While you can use the occasional stranger to bounce ideas off, this is not generally the best solution. How much do you want random strangers to know about you? Do you know if you can trust the information you give them? What is their motivation?

Professional strangers, that is counsellors, are people who have to take privacy seriously. You know what the relationship is because you are paying them (or someone is, such as the government, your insurance, your work etc). These people have education to help frame the aid they give you, rather than your friends or strangers who are just repeating what worked for them in their circumstances and hope that it will work for you.

Not all counsellors are built equal. There are some good ones and there are some great ones. Yet even the greatest counsellor is no good to you if what they offer is not what you need.

The best way to find a counsellor that is good for you is to first remember – you are employing them. How would you find a good employee? First you check with friends for them or you may advertise. You read their resume. You will always meet them and interview them before putting them on your books.

When it comes to applying this to counsellors, it is similar but a bit different. You can check with your friends to see if they know any good counsellors, however be careful of your privacy. Don’t use the same one if you can avoid it, but check out a different counsellor from the same company. Read information about what style they use, what their values are and modus operandi. Does this sound like it could work for you? Now meet them and interview them. They may think this is their first session, but really, this is you getting to know them to see if they can do the job. This does mean you have to pay for the interview.

The first session usually looks like this:
5 minutes – getting to know them a little as they tell you how this is going to work and how your privacy is assured
30 minutes – you tell them a brief run down of your history and where you are stuck now
10 minutes – ask them if they have experienced similar emotions or comparable situations – do they have experience. They don’t have to give you details, but they need to understand
10 minutes – you ask them about what their plan is to help you in your situation – not how they are going to fix it for you, but how they are going to help you fix it
5 minutes – you ask them if they believe in you and your ability to succeed

If the interview pleases you, you put them on probation.

The primary goal of seeking professional help is
– to have someone help you find better viable options
– to see the world through different eyes
– to get help to change yourself
– to get help to change your circumstances

It is not
– to have someone rescue you
– to have someone solve your problems for you
– to continually talk about the same problem without acting on it

If after 3 more “sessions”:
– you don’t like them
– you don’t like their technique
– you don’t feel confident they understand you
– you don’t feel they can aid you
Then tell them and see what they do. If you don’t like their response, go and find someone else. You know the system, now use it.

Ensure you do not feel sorry for them. They are professionals. Their job is to help you in a way that is meaningful and useful to you. If they aren’t being hired by you, someone else will hire them, so don’t feel like you are leaving them destitute. You need someone who can and will aid you to recover your life and help you to thrive.

Remember, your employee must always perform on average. Always review your interviews with your employee. Did it go well? Did you gain from the experience? If this is so, then keep them as you are gaining from the interaction. Allow for a single bad session out of every couple. Bad sessions (so long as they aren’t too bad) push you to see things differently. One of my mentors said to me “as a counsellor, if you aren’t making your clients uncomfortable, then you aren’t doing your job”. When you feel discomfort, you are prompted to change your patterns. No change is comfortable. So allow for uncomfortable and frustrating sessions. Just ensure that on average you are gaining from the experience – gaining insight, understanding and making changes.

Hearing Voices – How do we measure effectiveness?

Hearing Voices Networks can be found in many countries with many structures. The basic idea is to interpret the hallucinations as something useful rather than mindless. If it is useful, it can either inform you about something important (although that can be subtle) or can be negotiated with.

A literature review showed that there is no good evidence to believe this is effective. There is also no good evidence that it isn’t. What is evidenced is that groups are spreading and people keep attending them.

The author of this article seems to imply that this approach is not a good one. If this is the case, I disagree. This approach is not measured, so it could be good or bad.

What is needed is a means of measuring the impact that these groups have on participants. That can be done quite easily with the following measures:
* Comparing medication taken prior to attending any groups, medication taken after attending
* Surveying support groups (family/friends/carers) for differences in the individuals ability to cope and manage (there should be some good scales out there)
* Employment of before and after groups
And comparing these to those who do not attend any groups.

More study needs to take place to find out if this is an effective strategy rather than ruling it out because no study has been performed.

How paradoxical is saying “I am speechless”?

Habit and a Change

On average, the difference between a lifetime of habit and a change you want is a few days of consistent effort.

After that, your desired change is the new habit.

Changing your life

The Present
What are you happy with in your life? What aren’t you happy with? Is a change necessary, and if so, a big change or a small one?

The Past
Figure out what factors lead to you life being where it is now. Separate the things you chose that lead to this, and the circumstances that happened. Learn from both, how you can change the choices based on the circumstances.

The Future
What do you want your future to look like? Approximate this, since if you become too specific, you are not allowing change, circumstances or learning. So how do you want your future to feel? What feelings do you want to change now? Is the realisation of this future worth the effort of changing now?

Creating a Plan of Change
Land marks
From your approximate future discussed above, work backwards to where you are now and notice the things that need to be done to be on a path that leads to that future.

For example, if in 5 years I want to be feeling X, where do I need to be (not necessarily a physical location, could be a state of emotion, or a job position, or all sorts of things) in 1 years time to make that 5 year goal feasible? Now where do I need to be in 9 months time to make that 1 year sub goal feasible? Where do I need to be in 6 months time to make that 9 month sub goal feasible? What do I need to be in 3 months time to make that 6 month sub goal feasible? Where do I need to be in 1 month to make that 3 month sub goal feasible? Where do I need to be in 2 weeks weeks to make that 1 month sub goal feasible?

This can be likened to working out the route through a maze, or on a road map. Rather than defining the path exactly, we are defining the land marks you will find along the way.

Creating the path
Now work forwards – what actions need to occur to ensure I get to those places? This is like working out the turns and the path you need to follow to get there. Initially, it will be quite specific (especially the first 2 weeks, more general in the next 3 months, approximate for the rest of the year). This allows for you to change your sub goals, circumstances beyond your control and for you to avoid procrastinating into oblivion rather than act.

Checking your plan
Is this road map feasible? Do you have the resources to start it, and are you likely to get the resources to continue it? Is getting those resources part of your road map?

Is this what you want?

Beginning the Plan
The plan has already started. The trick is to consciously take actions. Change is not automatic, in fact change is pretty much the opposite of automatic. It is a conscious systematic change of your actions from your habits until these new actions become your default habit. If you do not choose to change, then you will not change as you want.

So, follow the plan and do the actions. No change occurs without an act.

Review as You Go
Every week or so, check to see if you are still on track towards the next big goal. Remember, as you come close to achieving the next big sub goal (in the example above they are 3 months apart), create a new detailed map of the next 3 months (next few days, week, fortnight and month).

Always ask this question – is this what I want? Is this effort worth the end goal?

Have I formed any nasty habits that are interfering with my goals?

Am I doing this for me?

It is easy to make a snap decision and decide that this is what I want. It is hard to persist in taking actions to lead to what I want. We humans are potentially highly adaptable creatures. The ones of us who survive and thrive the best are the ones who adapt the best to both the circumstances we find ourselves in, and the design of our future that we create for ourselves.

Everyone has this potential. The idea of this post is to give you an idea about how to get there.