Monday, 15 July 2013

Dark Days, Dark Nights

Dark Days, Dark Nights

Even though it’s light, it seems so dark
Darkness is my world, a void of black nothingness
Night becomes day yet the colour does not change
An endless tunnel with no end
A deep hole with no top
No escape from the black clouds that never move

Black thoughts control my life
Black feelings anesthetize my emotions
I do not care, I do not feel
I cannot see and I cannot hear
Blackness surrounds me, clouds all that I do
Dark images envelop me, consuming my life

Where did this darkness come from?
Why does it linger?
Even my dark nights are darker than dark
Stopping me sleeping, even the sheep are black
Nightmares are constant, no meaning, no why
Waking bathed in sweat only to find you are still there
Angry thoughts and angry ideas, it’s just so dark

Not even a single ray of light
No hope and no future
It seems as if I am doomed to live in this place
I’m blinded by the blackness, like a bat out of hell
Where is the light, where do I go?
There is no end in sight, but I still have hope.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Black Dog

The Black Dog

He’s the bain of my life
Always there, always watching
Just sat in the corner causing me strife
Always with me, my constant shadow
Oh, what can I do for me and my wife

Black dog, black dog, what do you want?
Black, dog, black dog, why don’t you leave?
Black dog, black dog, what have I done?
Black dog, black dog, what do I have to do?

I know he’s there
I can feel his stare
He tries to control me
He causes me despair
He celebrates my sadness with unbridled glee

But black dog, I know what you want
But black, dog, you don’t have to leave leave
But black dog, I know what I have done
But black dog, I know what to do

You can be there
But I will pay no attention
You can watch me
But I do not care
You have no power
You are in detention
My emotions are mine
So sit quietly in your lair

Yes, black dog, you have no purpose
Yes, black dog, you are mine to control
Yes, black dog, you are so small
Yes, black dog, put on your lead

Black dog, black dog, where are you now?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Neither rhyme nor reason

Neither rhyme nor reason

Think deeply, think freely,
Where do your thoughts go?
Do they go up or do they go down,
Like birds on the wing,
Following their path,
Inside and outside, no-one knows where they go,
Are they light or are they dark?
Into the space between thoughts to find answers

Neither rhyme nor reason
Nothing seems to matter
Neither rhyme nor reason
Its all incessant chatter

Think clearly, think freely,
You can control where your thoughts go,
Choose to set them free,
Like clouds in the sky following the wind,
Inside and outside you know where they go,
Into the light from the dark,
The answers lie in the thoughts,
Not the spaces between,

Neither rhyme nor reason
Everything matters
Neither rhyme nor reason
Its all just innocent chatter

by Steve Scott, Depression Coach

Thursday, 15 November 2012



The question about how much of  our identity is shaped by nature (our genes) and how much by nurture (our environment and upbringing) has long been one of the hottest debates.   Were we born this way or made this way?

It’s probably a  combination of both nature and nurture that goes into making us who we are.  Outwardly ,our identity is made up of  genetic details like our race, gender, appearance and age, whereas our inner  qualities and characteristics are  developed through  the influence of our cultural background, family beliefs, upbringing and education. 

Recent research  however into ‘epigenetics’ shows that circumstances undergone by our ancestors are ‘imprinted’ onto our  genes and therefore it could be genetics which are responsible for some of our sub-conscious behaviour and characteristics. Perhaps the ‘epigenetics’ theory goes some way to explaining why some men may still feel driven to act in the role of ‘provider’ or ‘hunter/gatherer’ and feel of no value when they are unable to perform this role.   

Although the nature/nurture debate is an interesting one, identity can also been seen as a mix of  how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.  Much of our identity is about the roles and labels we are given by ourselves and others and more importantly,  how we choose to respond to these.

For many of us, the beliefs we have about ourselves come from our upbringing and family background.  If we have always been labelled by our family as ‘the difficult one’ or the perceived by our family as ‘the clever one’ we spend much of our life trying to live up to our ‘label’.  We can also use our label as a means of limiting ourselves to a certain set up of  behaviours and actions – ‘I can’t do that, it’s not the way I’m made’.

For many people, a major part of their self-definition is the roles they take on as a boss, a parent, a father or a carer for example. Many people simply define themselves by the job they do. Once these roles are taken away or change they become confused and depressed about losing such a crucial part of their identity,

In my practise as a coach, I see many clients who either consciously or unconsciously relate to identities given to them by others and spend much of their time trying to fit into them. For example, one of my clients was seen by his family as ‘the fixer’ and would always call on him to do DIY tasks.. In reality, he found the tasks really difficult and stressful to do but didn’t want to stop doing them as he would lose the credibility and praise which came with his ability to live up to the role.  When challenged to look at the consequences of  taking on this ‘false’ identity, my client was able to realise that establishing his own identity would release a lot of pressure and tension built up through trying to meet unrealistic expectations put on him by others and himself.

In today’s society, outward labels (literally!) are used to make judgement calls and assumptions about our identity.  How we dress, what car we drive, where we shop, what job we do,  where we go on holiday can be used by other people to label us as a certain type of person.  We can end up shaping ourselves to ‘fit in’.

Alternatively, we can take control of  how we wish to be perceived by others or how we wish to label and define ourselves.  We can choose different labels and different roles at different times dependent on the circumstances and the outcome we want to achieve. By remaining fluid in our identity we can open up a world of possibilities rather than limiting ourselves by  the ‘labels’ we give ourselves.

I used the example of a client in my last blog who only saw himself as ‘depressed’ .  He had become defined by his illness.  It was not until he opened up his perception of himself in other roles like a golfer, a father and a friend that he was able to start to move away from his depression and embrace his other identities which gave him more positive results.  

Our different identities are a mis-mash of  nature, nurture, self-beliefs and the perception of others.  Becoming aware of these different identities, where they come from and what we do with them gives us the opportunity to become responsible for ourselves .  By acknowledging each different aspect of our identity we can take control of  our constituent parts and decide how to best use them – or not as the case may be.  We might not like our role as ‘bossy older sister’, but at least in becoming aware of it and why its part of our identity we can decide whether to embrace it, change it or ditch it. 

So where do the different parts of your identity come from,  who is in control of  them  and how are you going to use them?

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Who Am I? No.1

Some dictionary definitions of identity are as follows:

·      The state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions;
·      The condition of being oneself or itself and not another;
·      Condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is;
·      The state or fact of being the same one as described;
·      The sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time and sometimes disturbed in mental illness.

The origin of identity comes from the late Latin word ‘indentitas’, which means repeatedly, again and again. The synonyms are individuality, personality, distinctiveness and uniqueness.

How do these definitions and explanations of identity relate to you and how do they determine who you are? Another question might be, ‘Where does your identity come from and does it come before or after my character and personality have been developed by events and situations’.

The reason I am writing this article is to explore how our identities can be changed, for better or worse, during periods of mental ill health and how or whether coaching can help individuals understand how their identity can affect their wellbeing.

It is generally true that our capabilities and our identities are inextricably linked. However, it is also generally true that our identity can impose limits on our capabilities and it must follow, therefore, that by expanding or changing our view of ourselves we can increase our levels of capability. For example, if we see ourselves as having low confidence and self-esteem we act accordingly whereas if we see ourselves as having an abundance of confidence and self-esteem we will act much differently. So, as well as being linked to capability, identity is influenced by the beliefs we have about ourselves.

Our identity is not just as a result of how we see ourselves but is also affected by how others see us and how we internalise these, generally, perceptions and the beliefs we then generate based on the inner-dialogue we subsequently have, whether this is true or false.

The most important fact to remember is that we all have the power to influence our own and others identities. But what about when we are mentally unwell, how does this change our identity and what can we do about it? This is a significant question that I am asked frequently when I am coaching clients. Having been challenged myself with mental ill health for over 30 years, I can empathise with the view that just surviving is a major challenge let alone trying to figure out who you are and how you might work on your identity.

The reality is that we will act consistently in accordance with our beliefs of who we are, whether these beliefs are true or not. If we have a belief that we are mentally unwell, there is a great danger that we will assume the identity of being a sick person and this in turn becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you identify with your illness over time the stronger the bond you develop with this belief and the harder it becomes to change.

It is true that changing these beliefs, the essence of who we are, can be difficult but it is not impossible as most people think. How many times have you or someone you know said “I am who I am, this is just the way I am”. In many cases I have worked on, someone who believes they have depression, for example, will feel depressed because that is who they think they are. I have coached many clients with depression and they all have said to me when I ask them why they have come for coaching ‘ I am depressed’. My usual answer is that they are a father, mother, daughter, brother, sister, son, husband, wife, manager, cleaner, etc., who happens to be feeling unwell at the moment. By giving themselves the label or identity of being depressed this actually precludes them from thinking about alternative identities. Indeed, when I challenge clients thinking and thoughts about who they are I am usually met with resistance or indignation and they can even become defensive. It is almost as if they can excuse how they feel and behave based on their identity they have given themselves. Unfortunately, these clients, on their own, will not believe that they can change, both in the short-term and in the longer-term.

In fact, a shift in our identity will produce new thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It will create new beliefs about who they are and this will produce profound and sometimes quite rapid lasting improvements to the quality of their lives. In order to achieve this shift we have to change our conviction about who we are by creating a new identity, which will shift all their current behaviours from feeling depressed to feeling well. This, in turn, will generate long-term physiological and psychological changes that will be entirely consistent with their new identity.

One client of mine felt so depressed he could not leave his home for two years and yet he really enjoyed his going to his country club playing golf, swimming, having a sauna and using the gym. Having challenged his identity in the first session I encouraged him to look at himself differently and to take on the identity of someone who was fit and well by acting as if. He came to see me on our third session two weeks later to tell me that he had been to his club, played a round of golf, had a swim, used the sauna and the gym. He did admit that it had been really difficult for him but having done it he really did think and feel he was getting better. After seven one-hour sessions he went back to work and has been making plans for a long overdue holiday.

I shall be writing more about identities soon but in summary, identity and its associated beliefs have a powerful influence on how you think, feel and act and yet your identity is a choice. What are you going to choose?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 2

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 2

You might also sometimes be tempted to engage in a coercive style of leadership when it's not absolutely necessary. Remember that forcing others to do things through the use of threats never works, regardless of how you view the situation.

You can probably build a stronger leadership presence by sharpening the skills and knowledge that are vital to your area of leadership. Make better use of the principles of reward and motivation; develop your soft skills to improve your interpersonal attractiveness, etc. This will magnify your influence as the liking of people toward you will surely increase.

Rightful power may be inherent in your role; you may understand the principles of reward and motivation; you may be able to take command when needed; and you likely possess some high-level skills and knowledge.

A leader who takes the time to listen to what others have to say is always appreciated by people. It's very motivational when someone gives you that respect and that respect is usually reciprocated. This is the start of great leadership.

There's always a scope of improving. Stay true to yourselves; learn to be even more outgoing, extrovert and more dynamic in a wider variety of circumstances with a wider range of people as it will help you to improve the leadership skills and your influence as well.

As individuals, you are bestowed with the ability to learn, grow and enhance every aspect of your abilities. By taking full advantage of this, you will make the most of each new day and further your success.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 1

Identify how influential you are as a Leader – Part 1

Your ability to influence others at work, at home and in your community determines the degree of your leadership qualities. The ability to influence is a great tool that can be further strengthened and refined. It requires an understanding of where your power lies and to what degree it matches the situation. After knowing about the source of your power, you can maximise its use more effectively and in the most appropriate way. This will in turn enhance the scope of your influence as a leader.

Noteworthy components of effectual leadership can be summarised as understanding your own leadership preferences, being open to experimentation, assessing your true level of genuine power, defining clearly the goals you wish to accomplish and knowing your audience.

Being in a position of authority is primarily one of responsibility. The level of authority you actually hold, and what type of people you lead and in which type of environment depend on the position that you hold.

You are a senior manager in your company, you have your set of duties to perform and lead the team for achieving the set goals. The questions that might arise are - Are you influential enough to give you the expected results? What is the best way you can influence the young leaders in your organisation to develop into potential leaders? And, are you contented with the way your team looks out to you in times of emergency?