Posts By: Brendan
Some of the most common conversations newbie parents have are about what the kids are up to. Often the best parts of being a parent are the moments you get to observe your child doing stuff without realising they are being observed. Just carrying on in their natural state, busying themselves with something they are intrigued by. It can be fascinating or funny and even bring you to tears of pride and happiness.
We often watch and talk about our kids as if they are visiting aliens, a different species that have come to stay with us. People can do this with pets too – observe their habits and patterns and from that describe their unique quirks and personality.
If we employed the same technique with ourselves, we’d solve so many of our problems.
Observation and noticing what we do, what we say, how we feel in certain situations, how we react, how we are when busy, what quirks we have – all of this stuff is useful to know. How we interpret it of course is a different ball of wax, but just noticing it can be incredibly useful to our lives.
Obviously if you have no problems, no challenges ahead of you, no mountains to climb or dragons to slay in your life then this skill of self-observation is of no use to you. (But I would add that if that is what you believe then you are really screwed!)
The path to fulfilment is one where you solve your problems effectively and without crushing others along the way. The first step in this is to recognise that you do have problems – you must name them in order to have any hope of finding a solution.
Next you must harbour some semblance of self-belief that you can solve them, otherwise you won’t even bother trying.
The next step is probably the hardest – it’s the point where you have to swallow your pride (or box up your ego for a moment) and admit to yourself that the problems you have are a direct reflection of YOU. In other words it is your own flaws or quirks that are creating the problem – it is not external to you – and from this humble realisation you must then take the next obvious step and claim total responsibility for your predicament, or more accurately, claim total responsibility for getting yourself out of your predicament.
Once you’ve gotten this far you have broken the back of the beast – now you can get to the easy part – Observing yourself as if you were a complete stranger in order to learn what you are really like, as we do with our children – as you will do with your children in the future if you can summon the courage to face your problem.
You could call it naming and shaming the quirks within yourself – but it’s only worthy of shame if you don’t do this – if you go ahead and do this you become a hero and your life changes.
Do you know what problem you want solved?
My vinyl album ‘Dire Straits’ had a scratch at the end of it’s best song Sultans Of Swing.
I must have played it a thousand times, every time hearing that scratch at the end. Even when I heard it on the radio, I anticipated the scratch – so much so that when it didn’t come something in my brain would get jarred. It was like my brain actually missed the scratch and wanted it to be there.
Fast forward to now and I can tell you with perfect clarity that this phenomena is related to brain neural circuits which are explained by the cliched phrase -neurons that fire together wire together!
Our personal, physical, mental and emotional patterns are similarly encoded in our brains. Whatever we do regularly in our lives gets ‘wired in’, and this is why it’s so difficult to break habits.
Or to put that another way – this is why it is so difficult to change.
The net effect of this is that most of us limp along with problems that have become net-negatives in our lives without stopping to fix them. It doesn’t matter is they are physical, mental, financial, relationship or otherwise.
We’d rather limp along than fix the limp because fixing the limp requires us to do things differently and we are not prepared to do that because we would have to unwire and then re-wire our brain patterns.
THAT’S HOW POWERFUL brain wiring is. It’s so bad we actively look for the scratch we are familiar with rather than enjoy the song scratch free.
Just imagine how many other things in our lives we are holding steady, unchanging, even though we are not getting where we want to go or becoming who we want to be – even if that’s ‘being pregnant’?
I used to be badly stuck in my life. The more I pushed to get where I wanted to be the more I knew I was stuck. I couldn’t’ seem to get away from where I was going – let alone arrive where I wanted to go.
A mentor helped me by posing questions where all I had to do was answer them straight.
By ‘straight’ I mean no dodging, no hiding, no excusing, no explaining away, no justifying anything – just answering openly and honestly.
Imagine for a moment you walk into your front room where your three are fighting, and there is a broken lamp on the floor.
(I know if you are reading this you are most likely struggling with infertility – but imagining the future you want is a huge part of the solution – so go with me for a moment!)
You ask what happened, you get all kinds of responses, he did this, she said that, I had then and then he took it, I was just sitting there and he did that to me, she pushed me, he called me a blab bla bla.
This is how kids answer when faced with questions that could get them into trouble. They deflect, blame, minimise their involvement and act all innocent. (This kind of caper can be adorably funny at times – I guess so long as the lamp is not an antique, and you are in a good mood!)
One way to tackle this is to take an engineer’s mindset, starting at the most proximal event that preceded the catastrophe, and ask something like – “what was the last thing to touch the lamp before it fell?”
Her foot! The pillow! The cat!
Then follow that with “who touched the pillow last before it hit the lamp?”
Me! Her! Him!
The problem with this pedantic method of working the story backwards is that the ones who are to blame get nervous as the evidence mounts, and the ones who are innocent also get nervous because pedantic facts don’t convey intent and thus appear (at least to a child) to be an unjust form of investigation. The mounting nervousness causes them to back into a corner where they mount even stronger defences – and the most effective defence is often to abandon all notions of truth and go straight for the parent’s heart – in other words burst into tears – or worse into anger!
Sometimes comedians are the best people to reflect this back to us!
This is the blueprint we grow up with as kids, and whether we are prepared to admit it or not, it is a pattern that remains inside us as adults. It has no choice; it is wired into our survival system. It’s our default, and the less developed our nervous and emotional systems are (and I’d add the more our blood sugar is unstable) the more likely we are to revert to type when faced with tough situations as an adult. The plain truth is that most of us are just better at covering it up than we were as kids, but it is still our dominant urge.
This is why straight questions and straight answers – mediated by a mentor who will not allow us to dodge them – can be such a great tool in getting ourselves unstuck.
The questions I was asked were
MENTOR “Are you where you want to be in your life?”
MENTOR “Then there is a belief somewhere in your mind that is stopping you”
MENTOR “Your job is not to work harder until you get where you want to be, your job is to find out what belief is stopping you from letting yourself get there”
ME “Letting myself?”
ME “Wow…OK!”…”So how do I find out what that belief is”
MENTOR “That’s a fair question but it’s like asking how a watch works…you will need to set about figuring this out…you will need to draw in a lot of different resources to help you”
ME “Jeeze, ok…let’s go!”
MENTOR “That’s the spirit!”
Leave yourself no room to wiggle, ask yourself good questions, answer with zero fluff, and you will have taken the biggest step. You can be your own mentor!
The first review I ever read of the album Brother’s in Arms was in the print journal NME, the very famous British New Musical Express, – it went like this:
“Dire Straits are so tasteful as to be entirely flavourless, so laid back as to bore me horizontal.”
“….do you seriously want to hear about the further adventures of Mark Knopfler’s mawkish self-pity, his lugubriously mannered appropriation of rockin’ Americana, his thumpingly crass attempts at wit?”
“Can anybody really be moved, stimulated or entertained by the tritest would-be melodies in history, the last word in tranquilising chord changes, the most cloying lonesome playing and ultimate in transparently fake troubador sentiment ever to ooze out of a million-dollar recording studio?”
Wow! What a scathing critique of a piece of art! I couldn’t believe that a British music magazine would rate the album of one of the best British bands so badly. The critique seemed to be contagious as several other music magazines followed suit tearing the album to shreds.
I remember asking myself if I was missing something, and for a moment I even doubted what I knew in my bones – that the album was a classic.
How do I know it was a classic? Because the hours I spent playing air guitar to the songs during the 1980’s were some of the best escape moments of my youth.
Brothers In Arms, the album, went on to spend 10 weeks at No.1 in the UK charts, 9 weeks at No.1 in the US and a staggering 34 weeks at No.1 in the Australian charts. It was the first album ever to be awarded 10 platinum discs in the UK, the 8th best selling album in UK chart history and received 9 platinum discs in the US. It’s one of the best-selling albums of all time!
How could the experts have gotten it so wrong?
Though the clock is ticking, you can afford to make some mistakes on your journey back to fertility – but not many!
Beware whose advice you are taking, especially if they are loud and certain in their proclamations!
A song on the radio this morning from The Joshua Tree brought me back to a school rugby touring bus 33 years ago. I remembered some of my team mates describing how fantastic the newly released album was.
I pondered for a moment if Bono could have foreseen how the next three decades would turn out and what role he would play in them as the lead singer in one of (if not the) most successful rock band(s) of all time, and still going strong!
I also pondered my team mates. What had become of them? We were all so full of eager ambition – stars in our own minds heading into the school’s first ever Munster Cup-Final, and beyond that the promise of a full and satisfying life.
This was at odds with the economic situation that surrounded us – massive unemployment, dole queues awaiting us when we left school, and a pending stock market crash to come that same year.
At what point do we give up our dreams?
What is it that causes us to settle for an ok life rather than the great one we thought we’d live?
Was it the dole queues?
Was it simple naivety about what it would take to breakthrough?
Was it the lack of an early taste of success, or are these just comforting stories we tell ourselves to justify the fact that we didn’t ‘get there’?
I’ve found my own answers to this. It’s a journey, and we can always resume it.
But for most of us, something or somebody, or a series of people and events – hits us hard and knocks us off course as we travel the path. Negative experiences alter our inner belief system changing it to a lesser version of what it once was, causing us to follow a different path instead of the one we truly want.
Only some of us are finally able to tear ourselves free of this and generate a new more effective belief system, one that gets us back on to the track we were once on, or to an even better one. The point is – it is our beliefs that cause us to be wherever we find ourselves – pure and simple.
With less opportunity we may take longer to fulfil our promise, but with the right belief it’s only a matter of time.
And that’s the crux of the whole thing – time, or more specifically the beliefs we hold about our time.
Back on that bus we knew that once the whistle blew, we would have to do everything in our power to make the best use of the 80-minute game if we were to prevail or at least hold our heads high after defeat.
But off the bus – in everyday life – this understanding evaporated as we allowed ourselves to be lulled back into the false illusion that we had all the time in the world.
One of the phrases my dear old grandfather used to say after he came to live with us following a stroke that deprived him of his ability to walk was – “Time Marches On”.
I miss him. His wisdom didn’t sink in until long after he died, but I realise now that no matter what stories we comfort ourselves with, the true reason most of us end up not where we want to be is because we fail at the most sacred task of all – we fail to properly value the one thing all of us (including Bono) has in common – our time!
It’s common to meet people who are caught up in life, wrapped up in what is (or what they think is) happening around them, yet unable to extricate themselves from it or see themselves as separate from it all.
This can happen any one of us now and again, but I’m talking about the people for whom this is a habit, a regular part of their lives.
On the extreme end we have people with full on narcissism who can never bring themselves to empathise with the point of view of another person and are so caught up in themselves that they are never wrong and see everyone else as trying to take from them. But long before we go that far down the spectrum we meet many people who seem to think that stuff in life just keeps happening to them and they have no control over it. There are many variations of this – the drama queens, the overwhelmed person, the victim, the complainer – they always find something to rail against whether it’s the government, the weather, the job, the employer, the phone company, grocery prices, their annoying neighbour, the local school policy with the kids, their partner, sister, brother, parent, or even their own kids – an on it goes.
You could make a good case that life really does happen TO us. There is lots of evidence to back that up, it’s certainly justified as a way of seeing the world.
But there is a choice to be made here that can be electrifyingly liberating and simultaneously gets us out from under the suffocating haplessness of life – we can choose to believe something for which there is not much evidence – that life happens FOR us.
The curious thing about this scientifically baseless belief is that people who adopt it tend to be happier, find more meaning in what they do and get better results.
As Nigella Lawson said reaching for a slice of her chocolate birthday cake “There’s no excuse not to really”!
If you want a life of certainty then don’t get into a relationship, don’t set up your own business, don’t play sports and definitely don’t have kids.
Susan Jeffers wrote that book Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway decades ago, it changed the lives of millions of people, it’s message now permeates a multitude of disciplines from sport to art to business – and yet so many people are still stuck in fear mode unable to bring themselves to take those first steps out! The fear we feel in any given situation is a manifestation of our need for certainty when we know there is none to be had.
If this is you, stuck in fear mode, unable to make hard decisions I can only ask – did you not read the book? Are you not aware of the joy that comes from facing fears you once imagined were bigger than you?
Failure hurts, it hurts deep in the heart and in the gut, it feels terrible, it clouds life making us want to go and hide, to curl up with something very familiar to us.
What we don’t seem to know collectively – despite so many books written on the topic – is that failure is PART of success, it’s not the opposite of it, it’s not something that might happen as we set out to conquer a challenge, it WILL happen. It happens over and over.
Are we so afraid of it that we stop ourselves from even trying to succeed just in case we fail?
Are we not yet aware that long term lack of trying in case we fail IS the ultimate kind of failure?
Alas it doesn’t feel that way because the pain is spread out, so we don’t feel it so sharply…until we do, until we face the end with mountains of regret, then we feel it in spades!
IVF failure can crush the spirit of the strongest person, it’s bloody painful, but IVF failure is the norm in the business of assisted reproduction. IT’S THE NORM! Success only happens with a minority, that’s a fact. Once you step into that arena you must be prepared to fight, but to do that at all you must be prepared to stack your life’s priorities clear in front of you – and if having a child is not squarely on top of that priority list by a country mile, then you need to rethink your life, because you are in the wrong colosseum and your creative energy is needed elsewhere.
Feel the fear – but do it anyway!
Avengers Endgame – slight spoiler alert!
Thor finishes the film promising to stop being the person everybody else expects him to be and instead to ‘just be himself’ from now on!
Believe it or not this is a very common theme I engage all my clients in too, because there is a very real significance to this when it comes to infertility.
If we can agree on a few hard principles up front it will be easier to make my point:
We create our own futures! Agreed?
I’m not saying we have full control over our future lives, we don’t, but we can bring a lot of influence to bear on them if we choose to do so. (Most don’t do this consciously by the way!)
We create our own futures is by the decisions we make every day! Agreed?
We decide to solve problems in our lives, or we decide not to bother. We decide to get help for something or we decide to just fumble with it ourselves even though we don’t understand it. We decide to apologise for a wrong we did, or we decide to shy away from doing that. We decide to eat food that is good for us and gives up vitality, or we decide to eat whatever the hell we want. All-in-all you could boil it down to – we decide to make the best use of our limited time here – or we decide not to. It’s important to realise that most of the decisions “not to do something” are ones we make by default, not consciously, we decide by just letting it happen instead of making it happen, which is probably the worst way to decide.
The decisions (or choices) we make every day arise due to our worldview! Agreed?
It’s what we know, what we think we know, and what we believe that influences us whenever we make choices, although – and this is a crucial point – we are not always aware of our beliefs nor the influence they have over us. For example, we hold ‘obvious’ beliefs we could argue with others about (politics, religion, health, economics, relationships etc), but we also hold ‘hidden’ beliefs we couldn’t argue with others about – because we are not really aware of them. We might, for example, have a subconscious belief that children’s opinions about adult stuff are not relevant and therefore they shouldn’t express them to other adults (this might manifest itself in a disapproving look directed to one of our kids), or we might believe that it’s totally fine to be short with a waiter who makes a mistake at a restaurant, or we might believe poor people are poor because of their own doing. We might also hold subconscious beliefs that we are not ready to be a parent yet, and this could emanate from our own experience of our upbringing. One of the most damaging and prevalent subconscious beliefs we hold is that our beliefs must be right (otherwise we wouldn’t believe them!)
The point is our worldview is coloured by so many different influences, and it totally shapes the decisions we make and therefore it strongly influences our destiny.
Thor’s decision to stop being who everybody else wants him to be could be seen in this light – his worldview was that he should be a great leader and warrior, but the real Thor is a fun-loving ruckus maker who loves to drink and play Fortnite. Ok, it’s fair to argue that these depictions are two opposite ends of the extreme, and neither are sustainable in the long term, but the point is that it takes a lot of energy to live the life that is expected of you by society. It’s a heavy lift, it’s stressful, and most important of all – it takes you away from the real you, the person you are most inspired to be, and therefore it robs us all of the presence and contribution of the real you.
One of the greatest collective tragedies of humanity is that most of us don’t know who this person really is.
The Thor metaphor it very useful here, because in some sense there is a hero in us all (there are no exceptions to this) but the myth of being the hero is that we always have to be the hero – this ultimately is where the stress comes from.
Obviously, we can’t just do whatever we want all the time – to quote Cicero “Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to”. (Or maybe that’s not obvious to some!)
But we do need to swing from one to the other out of practicality, so yes for sure sometimes we need to do what is expected of us by others, but if we stay stuck in this mode we skew our inner compass to the point where we drift slowly off course until we find ourselves running aground on rocks in an unfamiliar place.
This, in a powerful metaphoric nutshell, is where most of my clients are. Hormone and immune systems have drifted off course, numerous signposts along the way were overlooked or ignored due to embedded beliefs which created the false impression of moving in the right direction.
I’ve been there in spades, I know how it feels, and I know how painful and yet how liberating it can be to finally see the truth and to correct course back to the Real Me, or in your case the Real You!
Seating myself at the core of my true self was (and still is) a journey, it required some gentle and some rough ripping of the wool from my eyes, but ever since I consciously chose to go on that journey everything has fallen into place more naturally. You could say I struggle with the right things instead of the wrong things now. (Part of the journey is to accept the reality that the struggle is never ending, and that this is a good thing, not a bad thing!)
I like watching Thor bash bad guys with his hammer, and I also enjoy him overweight, drinking beer and playing video games in an epic blowout of cosmic levels of stress, but mostly I enjoy seeing him normal, in the middle, relaxed and enjoying life as his true self.
It’s a choice – beware the false worldview that prevents you from making it!
“If I jumped on your head – would you die?”
“Depends on how high you jumped from!”
“Like….if it was off a ladder!”
“Depends how high the ladder was.”
“Like if it was as high as the house”
“Well then – ya – you’d probably kill me”… … … “Why?”
I miss being carefree. Life doesn’t get any better than this.
TSI – Seems all wrong doesn’t it!
The very notion of timing sex in advance can seem like a turn off, and indeed it is for a lot of couples, but especially for men. So much for the anytime – anyplace macho argument!
When TTC’ing it is usually the woman who does the planning, who knows when the time is right and thus who usually initiates, and not to get too crude about it but the woman can just ‘go through the motions’ regardless of her mood and still have a successful encounter, whereas a guy has to – perform!
The only time you ever hear of guys not being able to perform is when it is to do with procreation.
You might only hear about these times, but this of course is a myth! Yet another myth in the world of infertility.
Guys are regularly turned off sex, procreative or otherwise, they just don’t always talk about it. I mean picture a guy walking into work and saying “Jeeze, she wanted to bonk again this morning, but I couldn’t do it, wasn’t in the mood”. Imagine the lack of any meaningful support from ANYONE, let alone from other guys!
Pardon the reverse pun, but this situation is hard for guys. There are often real psychological issues at play which are wired to primal senses, and most of the time there is no proper ‘platform’ on which to express these issues.
Where is a guy to go with this issue? Friends…family…counselling? That seems a bit heavy.
My take on this (speaking to guys and girls) is that there usually exists some unexpressed assumptions here that need to be talked out, but in a totally open and non-judgemental way.
Sure, it could just be a case of – “damn girl 7 times in 2 days…c’mon I’m not 007”!
But it’s most likely to do with – wait for it – imagery, or more accurately lack of imagery.
The running joke on us men that we are simple creatures who can even be turned on by a cartoon is not inaccurate. Most men’s initial arousal stimulus is visual, but the element that sustains the interest and the interaction is a mix of the visual and mental.
The mental part is to do with a deeper interpersonal connection, and ultimately this is the key to it.
Proof of this is the fact that porn initially works by visual signalling alone, but the soon to follow hollowness of it is due to the complete lack of any mental emotional connection.
The upshot of all this is that it is often difficult to arrange successful sex in the fleetingly short fertile window, and each ‘missed’ month is a big deal because the clock is ticking.
But guys – the ticking clock does not exactly make your woman feel attractive; you have to help her out with genuine reassurance and affection in all the other moments. It could be one of the unexamined assumptions that need to be talked about. I suggest you seriously consider mood lighting. The oldest profession in the world knew something about mood making when they employed red lights!
And Girls – expecting performance on demand might be practical and even necessary, but it will break the deeper mental connection more often than not. You can help get past the difficult moment by either engaging the visual imagery or setting the mood to create the sense of belonging and mental connection. No matter what the guy suggests or laughs off or how he acts…he wants it!