Why you need to start writing …

 

 

 

Ok, so today was National Writing Day!

Did you know there was such a thing? I didn’t! (Face of shame)

I’m so glad this one is a ‘thing’ though  ( rather than, say, National ‘Tidy your Cutlery Drawer Day’. That one wouldn’t happen in our house.)

I’ve not talked much on here about writing. But I’ve talked about stories, re-writing our own stories, (when the stories we or others tell about our lives are tying us down, disempowering us or holding us back).

That’s the fuel in my heart. That runs deep.

But if we are to tell our stories – new, powerful, healing stories, or just funny, quirky, unique stories – and these stories are to last, and be passed on (like torches into the night), then we’d better get comfortable writing them down. Nor let anyone discount us, or tell us that our story doesn’t have value or isn’t somehow important enough.

Because, yes! it absolutely IS! Your story is a chapter in life’s book.  Without it, the book makes no sense.

Some years ago, when I was training as a therapist, I noticed that some people who came to counselling could only share the most difficult parts of their stories if they wrote them down first, and (when/if they were able) shared them with me. Many of them found this really helped them. So when I went on to do research, I explored the two big questions I had:

Why were they writing?
And how was it helping them?

I didn’t know what would happen when I began, but pursuing those questions kind of took over my life!

I left work in the end to chase down the answers. I completed my research.
I was fortunate enough to be able to share my findings at a national counselling and psychotherapy research conference. I shared them through many workshops. And after much editorial blood, sweat, tears and ink, I published them too.

It was a long hard but rewarding road.

And this (in short) is what my research participants taught me…. precious lessons for you and me too.

*Writing helped them to ‘offload’, to get painful and difficult thoughts and feelings out of themselves, onto the paper.
*It gave those thoughts and feelings ‘physicality’, so that they could be explored, processed and understood.
*It revealed parts of themselves that had never felt safe to ‘show up’ before.
*The writing became a place where they could ‘capture’ what they were learning and integrate it.
*It became a place where they could ‘re-story’ their lives and find themselves and their unique voices.

Writing worked because on the page they had control. They had a private space (a ‘room of one’s own’ almost). They had choice (what to write, if to write and if and what to share). They gained confidence.

They were able to find their voice (in private) before they tried it out in public and often they discovered identity and purpose too through their writing.

 

Treasure beyond price indeed!

 

So why am I sharing this on allthingsquiet?

Well, not just because today is ‘National Writing Day’, but because part of the original motivation behind this blog for me was to explore ways to help us, as quiet people, to ‘find our voice’.

Writing is the ideal introvert platform. To experiment, to craft, to explore…. to ‘re-story’.
It’s a prime weapon in our arsenal. A secret tool in self-discovery. A confidential friend along life’s highway.

So, have a go today, try some writing. Pick up your pen. Set up your laptop, and here, for good measure, are some good, accessible places to start:

‘Expressive Writing’ James Pennebaker
‘The Right to Write’ Julia Cameron
‘Journal to the Self’ Kathleen Adams

Maya Angelou wrote that writing ‘puts starch in your backbone, so you can stand, so you can compose your life’

So, go forth and compose!  And if you’ve time, aside from all the writing, let me know how you’re getting on too…

Blessings, til next time..

Lynne x

And if you’re interested in the research, here’s the link:

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/capr.12074

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Why we need strong borders… (and it’s not what you think)

This post is not about Trump. Or Mexico. Or Brexit.

It is however about the borders (or lack of them) that affect you EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE, and determine

How you develop as a person.
Who and What you let into your life,
How you define and protect yourself
And ultimately, how happy and even how successful you will be.

And alarmingly, you probably AREN’T EVEN AWARE OF THEM…
How scary is that?

But you really need to be, because this is SO much bigger than Trump.
Or Brexit!

The borders I’m talking about here aren’t between nations. These borders are our psychological boundaries.

But, like the borders between nations, we’d better learn to pay attention to them, or we’ll very quickly run into trouble.

Let me start by telling you a story:

So, Picture the scene…. A teenage girl standing in a cubicle at Munich airport, deliberately separated from her family, being frisked and questioned by an unsmiling German female security guard.

I’m feeling just a bit alarmed. Trying to look chilled.
Probably not succeeding.

After a few minutes (it didn’t seem like minutes!) of checking my passport thoroughly, questioning me and (even more thoroughly) checking my clothing, I’m finally let through to join my family.

So … What made me stand out as such a threat?
Why was I seen as a potential danger?

Well, here’s the truth:

A typical teenager, I was pretty much wrapped up in my own little world: keeping up with fashion, music, being only vaguely aware of the outside world, etc, etc…. you get the picture.

But this was Munich, and this was Christmas 1972.

Only months after the Munich Olympics terrorist attack ….

and (as a fashion accessory) I was wearing a fully-loaded (fake) bullet hip belt.

Even today, decades later, I still feel ashamed owning up to this.

Psychological boundaries have a lot in common with national borders.

We need borders to keep us safe.
Not everyone who wants ‘in’ is harmless. We know this. Checks are necessary.
We need to man those borders responsibly.
Borders tell us where one ‘territory’ ends and another begins. They tell us that the customs, beliefs and laws might be different as we cross the border, and that we’d better respect that or there’ll be consequences.

Border control tells us that we don’t get in until we and our passports have been checked and we are deemed not to be a threat, and given ‘permission’ to cross over into another country.

We can’t just barge in. Trespassers will be held to account.

The same applies to our individual psychological boundaries.

I am my own ‘country’.

If I maintain my border well, I decide who and what I let into my life (and when, and under what circumstances)

 

A healthy psychological border is not the kind of Paul Simon ‘I am a Rock’ border wall; that defence mechanism ‘fortress deep and mighty’, built by a hurting soul to keep out love and attachment. That kind of border is impregnable. It lets nothing in, because to the one who built it everything out there is dangerous. There is no safety. No interaction.
It isn’t actually a border. It’s a prison.

A healthy border is different. It’s flexible, but there are rules.
They are consistent, and I get to make them. ( eg. If you disrespect me, I will keep you at a distance. If you respect the rules, you will be welcome). My border, and its’ rules, are there to keep me safe.

And that’s a good thing, not a selfish thing.
I do not have to please you if doing so puts me at risk. And that’s ok.

Having a psychological ‘boundary’ isn’t just about SAFETY though.

It’s also about IDENTITY.

When I leave the UK, and travel into France (for example), I know I’m not in Britain any longer. The language is different, the food is different, (the coffee is better!). The customs, practises and laws of the land are different. (Better remember to drive on the right).

When I set (or meet) a psychological boundary,
it informs me that you are not me, and I am not you.
We are separate and distinct individuals.
And that’s alright.

How does this work then?

Well, for example, you might ask me to go see a gangster movie with you, and I decline because I’m really not into gangster movies (See ‘About’!). We’re both fine with that.
So you go see the movie with someone else, and we plan something different for the two of us.
In this scenario, we are respecting each others’ boundaries, and this is how good relationships work.

But If you ask me to go see the gangster movie, and I say I’m not into them, but your reaction makes me feel guilty, or maybe I want to impress you, or fear what you’ll think of me, so I give in and go …. then I’m not manning my border well, and I’m throwing away and not respecting my self-identity – who I am.

Simple example, but you see how this works?

Safety.
Identity.

 

If you’ve read thus far, and all this sounds a bit ‘me first’ and selfish, well then maybe you do have a border issue to resolve.

Quiet people often do. I know I did!

Some indicators might include:

* Feeling guilty about putting your own needs first
*Continually questioning your own decisions and value judgments, seeking others’ validation or ‘permission’ to act on them.
*Always taking the line of least resistance in social situations.
*Having difficulty saying ‘no’ when you want to.

This is not a happy, or a healthy, place to be!

How did we get here in the first place?

Well, it seems to me that part of the cause is nature, and part is nurture.
( Isn’t that always the way! )

Let’s look at the nature bit first…

As introverts, we tend to be naturally compliant…
Being good listeners and generally ‘nice’ people tends to give us emotional rewards (praise, ‘good girl/boy’ attention), so we do it more. So people expect it. Early on, we learn to be people-pleasers. It’s then harder to lay down a boundary line by saying ‘no’, and dealing with the inevitable backlash. (And the challenge to how others perceive us)

As introverts, we tend to be conflict-averse.
It’s easier not to ‘make a fuss’, thus avoiding the drama of disagreements or the discomfort of asserting ourselves. We appear easy going, but we might be feeling inwardly very conflicted. Not engaging in disputes means we don’t gain experience at doing it well and in a non aggressive way, and so when we do explode … My, we explode!

As introverts, we tend to process slowly.
Often we land on the perfect reply to something way after the event. It takes longer to think of the why and how of saying ‘no’, so we end up allowing all sorts of things into our lives that we really don’t want there.

What about the nurture bit?
Well, that’s a bit more complicated.

It depends on whether your experience growing up was one of being affirmed and encouraged as a quiet person, of having your boundaries honoured, or of being shamed for being ‘shy’ and nervous in company.

It may be that you were pushed (rather than encouraged) to join in and play with other children before you felt comfortable.

It may be that your need of solitude and down time was disregarded, and you were told that your gut feelings about many things were ‘silly’.

None of this needed to be malicious, but the effect it had was TO MAKE YOU DISTRUST YOUR OWN FEELINGS AND DESIRES.
To feel that in some ways they weren’t valid or permissible;
That you needed to be more like others. More outgoing.
And so, you’d stifle those thoughts and feelings and preferences, which were in essence ‘the real you’.

In time, you’d even forget what they were.

They’d emerge as vague feelings of unease when someone or something threatened to stride roughshod over your personal boundaries, but the vague unease didn’t tell you anything clear or useful.
In any case, it felt too much like the social nervousness you’d spent years being schooled out of.
So, yeah, you’re going to ignore it. You’ll let all sorts of things and people into your life that that instinct tells you you don’t really want.

There’s a huge difference between moving out of your comfort zone (something we all need to do occasionally to grow), and letting unhealthy and sometimes dangerous relationships and practises into your life because you’ve been schooled out of your safety responses. We need to know the difference!

Because, potentially, this is a very dangerous place to be.
We could be laying out the welcome mat for all sorts of toxic tenants – Hello, codependency, enmeshment and abuse.

We really need as introverts to be checking our gut feelings and learning to tell the difference between ‘I really want to do this, but I’m feeling anxious’ and ‘I really don’t want to do this, but I’m feeling pressured’. The first is (natural) nerves. The second is (imposed) guilt.

If that’s been you and you recognise that : how do you get back to you?
How do you reclaim yourself? How do you build a border, and how do you man it?

These are big questions, and worthy of more than a brief blog post, but every journey begins with a small step. And life in the end is all about small steps. So here’s some starters….

EXPLORE. Know who you are. Be a detective. What do you love? What’s non negotiable to you? What would you change in all the world if you could? What are your values, beliefs, passions, ambitions? Write them down. Know them well.

OWN those qualities that make you you. They’re the building blocks that you use to build your life. You are the architect. No one else has the plan. No one else can be you. If you don’t live your life as you, the plan goes to waste.

PRACTISE building the border, on your own, in front of the mirror, with trusted friends, in therapy, whatever works for you. Learn to say ‘no’ graciously, but firmly. Justify saying ‘no’, so that you can say ‘yes’ fully to your chosen priorities.

There is only so much space and time in your life. Make sure you pack it full of the things that matter to you.

‘Til next time…

Much blessing,

Lynne x

The Magic Behind Creativity  …. and Why it Needs Protecting!

As a child, I was a prodigious daydreamer…. a  GOLD MEDAL WINNING daydreamer!

This often got me into trouble. Resulting embarrassing stories  became part of our family folklore.

…. Like the time (aged 6) that I walked out of my brand new sneakers on the beach (and never went back for them) because I was watching the sun setting over the sea (And could do that better barefoot?!)

…. Or the time (aged 20) when I took the bus back home from shopping in town because I had ‘forgotten’ I had a car!

‘Dolly Daydream’ was a common pseudonym. Not one I liked.

To me though, daydreaming was never a waste of time…..

Wherever I was, however tedious or boring, (dentists waiting rooms, visits to great aunts) I had the patience of a saint!  – I could escape somewhere more exciting in my head, incubate ideas, imagine other lives and outcomes.
I was never bored. Like Alice, I could bolt down my daydream tunnel in pursuit of countless white rabbits whenever I wanted.

As a child, that daydreaming often led to creative ideas too.
Lots of story-writing and poetry (in varying degrees of merit and awfulness).
On long car journeys I was never one of the “Are we nearly there?” brigade. I often preferred the journey to the getting there.
I could think, uninterrupted, let my mind wander wherever it wanted to.

The upshot was often an urgent shout-out to stop at a petrol station an hour into the journey to buy a notepad and pen because I had ‘a story coming’.
Those stories were always better than the ones I had to write during timetabled school ‘Composition’ lessons.

 

However this tendency was rarely seen as positive by those around me.
It was held to be a waste of time,
a childish preoccupation,
a reason to be teased, an eccentric (though endearing) habit I ought to be schooled out of;  dragged kicking and screaming into the harsh glare of ‘The Real World’.

Naturally, I got to feel embarrassed about daydreaming.
And yes, at times my daydreaming did leave gaping plot holes in the everyday drama going on around me, but the story in my head always seemed so much more engaging!

So, as I grew up, I tried to squeeze myself into an acceptable ‘Practical Persona’.

I began to avoid situations where I might daydream. I tried very hard not to be seen to be ‘wasting time’.

I learned how to be productive.
I learned to quash the urge to daydream.
The 9-5 grind,  bringing up children and the maintenance of everyday life tend to drive it out anyway. However….

 

I also stopped up the well of creativity that was my birthright.

Recently I came across this (from Mary Oliver, courtesy of the wonderful Brainpickings site):

‘The most regretful people on earth are those who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave it neither power nor time.’   

That stopped me in my tracks..

No. ‘Stopped me in my tracks’  isn’t really how it felt … more like:

SOMEONE JUST WALKED OVER MY GRAVE.

The message is clear :

“Take your creative side seriously. Give it your time, give it nurture! Don’t dismiss its’ callings like a child you haven’t got time to play with because you need to do the ironing.
It won’t whisper to you forever. Eventually…

Time. Runs. Out.”

Sobering, isn’t it?

Does it sometimes feel in life as if you’re pulled in opposing directions?  ….

Towards Duty, Tasks, Responsibilities;  the ‘world out there’ …. and a creative pull that feels playful, (sometimes irresponsible), joyous and free, but demands paying attention to the ‘world in here’. (Where we introverts tend mostly to live).

Can you guess which side normally wins?

Yup… the duty, tasks, responsibility, ‘world-out-there’ one!

Because its’ demands are RED HOT!  Ignore them and the tax man is at your door, the children go hungry, the rent isn’t paid.

Ignore the ‘world-in-here’, and no one dies.

 

Except maybe you, or your soul , a little more each day.

 

We see time as a commodity, a resource to be well used.
We say we’re ‘killing’ time when we’re not being purposeful, as if the point of all time given to us, (indeed of all existence) is PRODUCTIVITY (measurable productivity).

We were born to be productive surely, to be purposeful … intentional.
To do works of relevance and note.
We can hardly argue with that can we?

Not only are we born to be productive , but our merit seems to depend on HOW productive we are. (Or seen to be, and in a short timespan too)

Being SEEN to be busy signals value and significance.

We march unthinkingly to the tune of the Productivity Police.

Hold on though ….

Maybe we weren’t created to be PRODUCTIVE, maybe we were born to be CREATIVE.

A factory assembly line can be productive …. but it doesn’t deliver the Mona Lisa!

Maybe we need to tweak the concept of ‘valued output’ in our lives.

My ‘output’ can’t be measured in the same way as that of my wrist watch.
Never missing a beat.  My watch is designed for one purpose and one purpose only.    To tell the time. It’s a machine.

But we are not machines, we are living organisms.
Our “purposes” are many and complex.
Unlike machines, We don’t run regularly to the same pace.
We follow unseen inner rhythms.
An efficient machine wouldn’t be designed for a quarter of its working life to be on ‘re-charge’ as we are when we’re sleeping!
That’s inefficient. It’d be scrapped.

 

Quite apart from the sleep we need, research suggests that we are only fully ABLE  to focus productively for around 90 minutes before we need more down time.

And this ‘slack time’  is not a luxury bolt-on that we should be able to do without. Neither is it ‘recharge/recovery’ time.  It’s ESSENTIAL if we are to be fully productive, fully creative. It seems as if that is when our brain is able to process the input. It does this when we’re asleep … and (more interestingly) when we’re ‘idling’.

(If you’re keen on the research, look up Kleitman’s studies on sleep, ultradian rhythms and the basic rest-activity cycle)

No rest, no productivity (or creativity).   Simples.

 

The problem is that we tend to regard our need for rest and sleep as a necessary evil.
We forget that we are organisms, not machines.
We confuse productivity and creativity.

We’re developing hothouse lives, without deep roots.

We’re euthanising creativity!

 

And who do we hurt most if we shame out daydreaming, quiet reflection, pottering and ‘time wasting’?

Introverts (because it’s our life-blood!) – and introverted creatives in particular.

There’s been a lot of interest recently into what specific environments and behaviours FEED  creativity.  And what’s coming out of that research is really exciting.

Again, if you get fired up by research, here’s a sample of current goodies to dip into:

Baird & Schooler: ‘Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation’ in Psychological Science.
‘Imagine: How Creativity Works’ (Joseph Lehrer)
‘Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind’ (Kaufman & Gregoire).

It seems that we’re discovering that creative thinking is generated by:

‘Idling.’    ….   or mental ‘pottering’ whilst we’re engaged in a task that doesn’t require too much effort or concentration, (like going for a walk or taking a shower.)  It seems this non-specific, non-analytical focus is what helps us to process information, think outside the box, play with creative alternatives within a non-pressured environment.

‘Solitude’ –  to prime the creative pump requires occasionally shutting out the world!    It involves being solitary, alone. In their recent work ‘Wired to Create’, authors Kaufman and Gregoire cite ‘solitude’ and ‘daydreaming’ among the ten defining attributes of highly creative people.

‘Rhythm Dance’ –  We need to work within our natural rhythms of rest and activity. To prime Creativity, what’s needed is a rhythm dance of intense focus, followed by restful incubation (daydreaming). Focus  … daydream …. Focus …. incubate.

 

Creative work  (it turns out) grows best from a bedrock of quiet, non-focused contemplation.

As creative introverts it seems we NEED to ‘waste’ time. This can’t happen when we’re in the arena.

We need to protect slack time, “wasted” time. That’s where we  ‘grow’ ourselves, and every dream, idea, theory or work of art flows from this.

 

It’s when I’m pottering, idling along, walking the dog, taking a bath, peeling potatoes that the creative whisper comes.

Or maybe I’ve just got quiet enough to hear it.

 

So let’s stand in the gap and protect “wasted” time. Schedule it into our diaries and give it as much importance as committee meetings and doctors appointments.

 

Don’t kill your creativity on the busy altar of Productivity.

Learn to lay out the quiet ‘Welcome’ mat instead.

‘For some have thereby entertained angels unawares’

 

Don’t know about you, but I’d be happy for a few angels to stop by every now and then….

 

‘Til next time

Blessings

Lynne  🙂 x

When Breaking Rules is good for the soul …. 

Are you feeling discouraged (adrift even) at the start of 2017? 

For many, the world may feel a little less safe, a lot more unpredictable, uncharted even, as we navigate into this new year.

diy all things quiet

At the start of 2016 I posted ‘On the Road Not Taken’, where I looked at the regrets we might feel for the choices we didn’t make in 2015. It seemed to resonant with many of you. 

I still feel it’s relevant. 

At first I thought that I might just repost it. (I know, ‘bit lazy’!)

But then along came Brian Gresko’s article ‘In Defense of Small, Quiet Accomplishments’ on the Quiet Rev website. I read it and my heart sang! 

Please, quiet people, make yourselves a hot drink, find a cosy corner and read it. It’s warm, human, wise – life as we know it. 

And it really made me think.

It made me think about where we get our validation as introverts.

It made me realise that SOME RULES ARE THERE TO BE BROKEN! 

Here’s why … 

Brian writes about those moments of self doubt that assail us (particularly at the consumer high points of Christmas and New Year) – those insidious inner voices that whisper to us that

We’re ‘not enough’ …

We’re ‘no great shakes’ … 

That we didn’t do anything of real significance in 2016 … 

That we don’t  match up to the shimmering icons of cultural success that trumpet everywhere from social media outlets.

He tells of how those messages (if we let them in) can bring us down, make us doubt ourselves, sap our confidence, when we’d previously been content living a life of serene and quiet triumphs. 

Marching to our own particular drum.

I felt for Brian, as he told of his heroic trek to the Mall one bitter morning, alongside a cast of thousands,  trying to get THE Christmas gift of the year for his son. (Echoes of ‘Jingle All The Way’ anyone?) 

When my children were young we were living on a church pastor’s salary. 

A little had to go a long way. 

I still remember our ‘Hunt for Leonardo’ (hero turtles first time round anyone?) and the hours I spent trekking the stores, (pre-Internet), fearing that I would have failed as a parent  if I couldn’t get the wretched little green amphibian for my son!  

A lovely friend managed to track one down from the States.  It was 20x  bigger than the ones in our stores, but at least it was a hero turtle.  

And, as in Brian’s story, our son was just as thrilled with the many humbler gifts he received. leonardo-1

(We still have Leonardo by the way!) 

But the real question remains …

How do we defend ourselves against the temptations to compare and feel demoralised? How do we get back to feeling good about the counter-cultural way we do life as introverts? 

Brian’s article resonated with me, because I know I’ve felt like that, but it also made me think about the times when I’ve managed to shut the door on those destructive voices, and found my composure again. It made me stop and think about how I got back to my happy place again. 

So, here’s a story for you …. it’s the story of ‘My Flat pack Furniture Disaster’. 

Believe me, it’s relevant!  (and more than a little embarrassing). 

I’d just moved to London for my first job after uni. 

First flat, first pay cheque, first flat-mate, and now : first furniture (Flat packed.  Cheap). 

My flat-mate and I were trying to be two independent career women not in need of ‘a man with DIY skills’. 

(Actually, we didn’t need a man – a fairly knowledgeable Labrador would have been more use than we were!) 

dog

We laid out both sets of flat pack furniture, instructions and screwdrivers and set to work. Everything seemed to be going well. Some of the wooden pieces needed extra brute force to fix together, but we put the difficulty down to being weak and feeble women! 

Wrong on so many levels! 

When we finally looked up amidst the forest of wooden pieces at the half-assembled bookcase and chair, it was obvious something was wrong. Our high-backed chair was decidedly lopsided and wouldn’t stand level. 

We got back to the drawing board. 

And there it was!  Plain as day. We had confused a flat pack piece that should have been part of our bookcase for one that was part of the chair (in our defence, they were quite similar!). 

It was such an effort to fit the piece in, not because we were weak women, but because THE PIECE DIDN’T BELONG THERE ANYWAY! 

To put this woeful tale in context: all furniture is not the same. 

Chairs and bookcases are not put together the same way. 

All furniture doesn’t serve the same purpose.  

It’s the same with people. 

Are you judging yourself as faulty and lopsided against the wrong set of instructions? Someone else’s instruction manual! 

cat-diy

Studies show that introverts are motivated very differently to extroverts. Broadly speaking, extroverts work from extrinsic motivation (an inbuilt desire to seek external, visible indicators of success). Introverts are motivated more by intrinsic motivators (the acquisition of knowledge, the pursuit of a personal goal). Nothing right or wrong with either. Just different. 

So, believe me when I say there are some ‘rules’ worth breaking, worth ignoring. 

silly-sign

These aren’t the rules laid down in the statute books or in the 10 Commandments. (Best to keep these!).

No, these are rules that are laid down in no legal document, but can be just as binding on our behaviours and attitudes. 

They are cultural and social ‘norms’ that we (often) unquestioningly accept, taking them in like the air we breathe, feeling governed (and evaluated) by them, though we may never have signed up to them!  

Unspoken rules like ‘being successful means having visible status : the big salary/house/car/following’ , etc. 

As quiet people, we really need to step out from under their tyranny. 

We need to stop feeling a compulsion to follow these rules, even if others do. 

If we haven’t signed up to them, 

If our hearts don’t see their value, 

If it’s not in our being to chase after them … then why should we feel judged and evaluated by them? 

Brian concludes that (when he manages to silence these ‘should’ voices) he’s actually pretty happy with his life and achievements… So how can we silence the voices…..? 

Well, this is what helps me. These are my 4 keys ( .. Allen keys if you like!) to getting my contentment back… They’re simple, but simple is often the best (and most overlooked) way. And they work.

  1. Recognise your own personal values.   What really matters to you.  Maybe you’re not the CEO of a big company by the time you’re 40 – but was that ever really important to you? Was that ever your goal, your instruction manual, or is its somebody else’s idea of success, that you’re allowing to judge you. Maybe your goal was more relational (but no less challenging) – to be the best dad or mum you could be, to develop your children, to work for justice in your community, to discover and live happily with who you really are. We choose goals that fit our values, our personalities and abilities, our priorities. My goals may not be yours. So let go of that judgment…. You haven’t won, but you may never have meant to enter that particular race. 
  2. Stop comparing!   You’re on your own journey. All that really matters is how you’re doing with that. Your map (and destination) are your own. Those runners who turn to look at others as they run, lose their momentum. Keep focused on where you’re going. 
  3. Have a social media fast.   Honestly!  What’s out there on social media isn’t real life. It’s everyone’s shop window, where we put our shiniest, best goods on display. You won’t often see folk parading their second-best, their failures, struggles or self-doubts. So don’t compare. It’s not real. It’s photo shopped life. 
  4. Practise Gratitude.  The sacrifice of gratitude delivers the simple gift of contentment. Not in a twee, Pollyanna-ish way… But when we give way to those siren voices of insecurity, envy and shame, we really do lose sight of all the treasures we already have. We may even lose them because we fail to recognise or cultivate them. A bit like Aesop’s dog with the bone. 

running-butt

So, thank you Brian for the article. Thank you for reminding us that ‘a quiet life can be its own reward’.    That really is something worth signing up for. 

‘Til next time

Blessings

Lynne x

The Fish, the Bicycle and the Introvert……or ‘why we need extroverts’

Goodguy bad guy

When I first started this blog, I got some interesting reactions, ranging from bemused curiosity ‘Why are you doing this?’ to guarded suspicion…’Are you going to start lynching extroverts then?’ … I have to say that most of those comments came from extrovert friends.  And I totally get those reactions.

Sadly, the reason for the suspicion and guardedness isn’t far to look.

Amongst the recent groundswell of introvert voices, I’ve occasionally noted some that have seemed to cast extroverts as ‘public enemy no 1’.

This is neither fair, nor true…nor does it serve anyone’s cause or best interests. An ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality never brings real or meaningful change.

Recently, I saw the movie ‘Suffragette’, and much as I enjoyed some of it, I felt irritated by the black and white portrayal of men and women’s roles. I was particularly frustrated by the ‘token supportive male’. This is not to underestimate the immense and sacrificial effort of the women campaigners, but great changes are brought about by collaborative working, often with the support of those who (should change come about) will not be the chief beneficiaries.

I believe this to have been the case with the fight for women’s suffrage, and also within the Civil Rights Movement.

I grew up with the familiar feminist mantra ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ ….which (even though I had it scrawled on my school pencil case) struck me as faintly ludicrous even then.  The relationship between a fish and a bicycle in no way equates to the relationship between a man and a woman. It was simply a memorable way of saying ‘we don’t need you’.

But we do need each other, and not simply those who are like us, but more importantly, those who are not like us too. We’re all in the boat called life, and we’d better start pulling oar together.

I used to love watching old films as a child. We always had to ask who the ‘goody’ or the ‘baddy’ was, though in westerns it was pretty obvious… The good guy rode a white horse, the bad guy rode the black horse!   Knowing who was ‘good’ and who was ‘bad’ absolved you of knowing anything else about the characters. You could just cheer or boo accordingly. Usually, the bad guy (or woman!) got their just deserts by the time the credits rolled.

Simple days, simple pleasures!

That early need to know who was on the ‘good’ side (and hence who was on the ‘bad’ side!) doesn’t end with childhood though. It gets more complicated, more subtle  (and much more problematic) as we enter adulthood.

Choosing a side gives us a feeling of belonging, a sense of ‘tribe’, of supporting and being supported by a larger body. That’s good surely? Well, yes and no. It also means that anyone who isn’t seen as part of our tribe, might become the ‘enemy’ if our identity, values or even survival is seen to be threatened. We don’t need to look too far to see the implications of this, both currently and throughout history. All too easily and too often, those who aren’t ‘on our team’ can become stereotyped, demonised.
Worse.

When I was very young, my family moved from our home in Scotland, to live in England.
It truly was ‘another country’.
We carried with us all our Scottish heritage, incomprehensible accents, love of the bagpipes, kilts, haggis, whiskey and Hogmanay….and with all this, the bitter legacy of Culloden and Butcher Cumberland (nothing to do with the sausage, Dear Reader).

I lived and went to school in England, but my heart was to remain in Scotland. I was not encouraged to see England as my home.
And I was NEVER, EVER to marry an Englishman!

But, of course, you can’t legislate life. Inevitably, I got to know English people and discovered that they weren’t all armed to the teeth with muskets and bayonets, intent on eliminating every Scottish person on the planet!

And yes, Dear Reader, I married an Englishman.

But what has any of this to do with finding your voice as a quiet person?

Well, if we have a right to our voice, and to finding that voice, it never comes at the expense of another’s voice.

Voice 1

Jung’s original comments on psychological type outline very clearly that none of us are wholly introverted or extroverted ( or we’d run mad). We are all on a spectrum (and that spectrum can vary depending on the exigencies of the moment, although our preference remains constant). We alienate those we wish to influence, risk weakening our cause and becoming marginalised if we go down the ‘goodies and baddies’ route.

Some of my best friends are extroverts.
Dang! Some of my CHILDREN are extroverts!

I suspect this is true for many of you too.

Like it or not, we need each other. John Donne spoke truth when he wrote ‘No man is an island, entire of himself’.

I love it when I see collaborative working happening across disparate groups.

The leadership team of Quiet Rev and Emma Watson’s ‘He for She’ campaign are two such notable examples.

It’s no good judging extroverts for not being quiet and reflective!  Isn’t that just the same as extroverts expecting introverts to be more gregarious and social?

Trench attitudes!

Let’s value, honour and respect our different strengths and work together to the benefit of all.

voice 2

Vive la difference!

Til next time…

Blessings,

Lynne x

The Cloak of Invisibility

Do I existDon’t you love it when weird things happen to you, and you look back and realise that hidden amongst the weirdness, life was telling you a bigger story?   A MUCH bigger story.
And you keep reading, because you don’t know exactly where the story is going or how it will end. Does that sound familiar?

Have you ever been so suddenly freaked by something that your heart started kicking inside you like a bucking horse and you literally felt your blood run cold?
It’s an awful feeling. As if your body has a will and mind of its own, and it wants out of there!   Fast.

It’s only happened to me twice.

The first time was when I was a child, and I thought I’d seen a ghost.

The second time (the one I’m going to tell you about here) was a few years ago, when I thought I’d become one!

This is what happened:

It was a very ordinary day and I was out shopping in my local department store.
I went to visit the Ladies Powder Room to use the facilities (as you do). There was a sign on the door informing us that the facilities were closed due to redecoration, but that we could use the ladies staff toilet on the ground floor instead. I duly made my way there.

The horror began to unfold once I exited the cubicle.

I washed my hands at the wash hand basin then glanced up as always at the mirror in front of me in order to tidy my hair and make-up.
That’s when my heart went ballistic and my mind turned to candy floss.

I had no reflection.

You could see RIGHT through me!

There was the reflection of the cubicle behind me, and the reflection of the wash hand basin in front of me, but of me? Nothing.

I felt sick. My legs turned to jelly. My stomach lurched downwards like a broken elevator. I can’t for the life of me tell you how long I stood there staring paralysed with horror and disbelief, desperately willing my reflection to appear. It can’t have been that long, but it felt like a lifetime.

Had the whole of my life been a dream, some sort of alternative universe, and I didn’t really exist?   How long had I been invisible? Could anyone see me?  How had this happened?  And even worse than this ‘existential horror’ was the creeping realisation:

WASN’T IT VAMPIRES THAT HAD NO REFLECTION?

Right then, just on cue, a staff member casually strolled in and seeing my obviously stricken face remarked,

‘Oh, it’s alright! They all do that, lovey. There’s no mirror there!’

Feeling excruciatingly sheepish, I looked again with a hard, practical stare. Reality was slowly seeping back and with it, a sharp sense of focus.

Sure enough, the room was a mirror image of itself. Cubicles pressed up against facing walls, and back to back wash-hand basins in a row across the middle of the room. No mirrors. No ghosts.

Phew!!

Overwhelming relief and deep embarrassment ensued in equal measure.  I abandoned the rest of my shopping list for the day and went home to hide under the duvet!

But then I started thinking….
or more truthfully, that inner narrative started unspooling in my head. Connections began to form and the bigger story began to write itself…

And this, dear reader, is ‘The Bigger Story.’..

Isn’t that’s just what it feels like sometimes as an introvert in an extrovert world..
..that we’re invisible? That we don’t exist? That no one can truly see us as we really are?

…..or perhaps more specifically, that WE don’t really know who we are, or what we look like…..there’s a problem not only with feeling invisible, but with knowing our own identity, and recognising, embracing it?

Bear with me if this all seems a bit fluffy and philosophical….

In the world of psychology, we now know that in order for children to develop healthy self-esteem and  a sense of their own identity and uniqueness, their parents or care-givers need to ‘mirror’ back to them as infants, that ‘they are lovely, and loved, just as they are’,  so that this knowledge and acceptance of themselves as ‘ok’, (albeit not perfect), becomes part of the child’s psychological DNA and helps them to be resilient and confident in the world, knowing who they are.

Mirrors are important.

What reflects back to us from others….and from the world out there, in some ways creates who we then become.

But it isn’t just parents and care-givers who act as mirrors.  it’s our culture and its unspoken biases and expectations as well.

Which brings us back to introverts…..

What if, instead of that ideal affirming mirror, you have a critical cultural mirror, that reflects back to you that you don’t meet the standard…
Or a silent mirror, that leaves you feeling ignored or sidelined … Invisible.
Or a distorted mirror, like the ones at fairgrounds, that makes you look ‘weird’, an object of ridicule?

What happens then?

You might feel you have to try and change. Not be yourself, but be like someone else, someone more extroverted, in order to be accepted…. To do that though, you first have to get rid of who you really are. The result of doing that could be that you’re not too sure of yourself, or the decisions you make. You might have a sense that you don’t really know who you are now.  You might feel that there’s something wrong with you. That you’re not ‘ok’.  It would be very hard to walk confidently in the world if you were always having to look at yourself through those kind of mirrors!

This may not be as far fetched as it seems…. This feels like an issue not just at the level of family dynamics, but of the wider social dynamic too. The mirrors that society has held up to introverts over the last few generations have not been helpful, either to introverts or to society as a whole, and that has to change.

These cultural mirrors might have less of an impact if you were accepted and nurtured as an introvert within your family. That would make you more resilient to the societal bias. However, cultural values affect and steer family values too, and families have to rub along in society….so it’s unlikely, if you’re one of life’s quiet people, that you’ve been totally unaffected.

So now for a little experiment… I’m going to be doing this, and I’m going to post up the results in the next blog post (Yay!).  I’d really like it though if you’d join me. It’s not hard, or time consuming (much). In fact, I think it’s quite a fun thing to do. Maybe that just makes me a little bit nutty!

But if you want to have a go, select four people. They can be work colleagues, neighbours, friends….but try and make sure they don’t know you really well, or are all card-carrying introverts, or they’ll guess what you’re up to and skew the results. This isn’t world class research, but it’ll tell you something interesting nonetheless.

Ask them to write down the first four adjectives that come to mind when they hear the word ‘introvert’. Don’t let them ponder it for too long…it’s first impressions! Collect them all, and see what you’ve got.

See you back here next time…  Can’t wait!

Blessings,

Lynne. X