“Being in action” the British Psychodrama Conference in Dublin

June 26, 2013

I returned from the conference on Sunday evening exhausted but stimulated and motivated. It has been a challenging year since May last year when I began my return to the psychotherapy world in the UK. I had been working at our retreat in the small white village in southern Spain. It was my dream, my aspiration, to live and work in the beautiful mountains. It was not to be. And for some time I found it very difficult to accept, that we would be better placed living in Manchester, England. This last year has confirmed that it was the best decision. Over the last year I have been able to use my skills in both a voluntary and paid capacity.  Working with children at “The Place 2Be” in my local primary school has been both a pleasure and a steep learning curve. Friends and colleagues have been so supportive offering a counselling room and dog sitting when I have been away all day. And reconnecting with the North West Psychodrama Group brought me back in to the fold.

You can imagine how surprised I was when I read the title of the 2013 BPA conference “Being in action” as this had been my business name since living in Spain. It was a good omen. When I arrived I felt so welcomed and over the three days connected with old friends from many years ago and met new friends who I look forward to sharing more time with.

The workshops were thought provoking and diverse; Calatonia, Emotional Freedom Technique, Action assessment, Voice in the action, all bring the body mind and spirit together through Psychodrama and action. Early morning saw me in walking meditation and Tai Chi as great ways to prepare for the day. The dinner and dancing on Saturday evening was also a most enjoyable break in the itinerary with excellent music.

So now back to work. I have a few loose ends to tie uo then I will be focusing all me energies on my therapeutic work. The conference has given me much to think about and I intend to be sharing my thoughts here as well as with you, my readers. For the moment I will take a few more days to reflect on the conference and on the last year. Please watch this space and pass on the link to any who you think may be interested.

Creativity and Spontaneity

June 9, 2013

My understanding of creativity is “the ability to bring into being through action.” This would be something new (certainly to the creator) and may be physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological. 

There are some very interesting thoughts by Adam and Allee Blatner “A Psychology and Philosophy of Play” Brunner/Mazel inc. 1997. Creativity runs hand in hand with spontaneity.  “Spontaneity involves a quality of mind, the active opening up which accompanies the thinking of a new idea or trying something a new way. It involves thinking afresh balancing impulse and restraint, and integrating imagination, reason and intuition.

Over the last twenty years I have been exploring, and practicing spontaneity and creativity through theatre, circus, clowning, play and the inner child, dance and music. These are all aspects of play and when brought into therapeutic action through psychodrama, for example, we are able to play as adults in the here and now and discover more positive ways to relate to each other and in the way we relate to the world around us. 

Blatner and Blatner especially refer to the  writings of Alfred North Whithead, Charles Hartshorne, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, and Ken Wibler among others when they say, “What these thinkers share is a view of the universe as an essentially creative process. Our human role in this process is something similar to the cells in the brain of an evolving, cosmic embryo.
As humans learn to relate to each other more harmoniously, it is as if we are all participating in a great process of awakening.”


Playing the roles on life’s stage

May 24, 2013

Playing the role on life’s stage

In the current social, political, and environmental climate we are faced with an ever-increasing need to cope with change. The ways in which we react to change have a major effect on our health and well-being. To make or become different is a skill we all need to perfect as we rush through life taking on one role after another.
The psychologist Jacob Moreno suggests that man is a role player that every individual is characterised by a certain range of roles which dominate his behaviour, and that every culture is characterised by a certain set of roles which it imposes with varying degrees of success upon its membership.
As we move through the day we replace or exchange each role, the father, the manager, the lover, the mother, the sister, the nurse, the gardener, the repairer, the listener and so forth. As the pace of living has speeded up with faster communications and time saving technology we find there are increasing demands on us to be continually adjusting to the next situation or the next relationship in order to react appropriately.
Moreno’s theory was based on the multi-role personality. In order to maintain mental health he suggests that we have to develop the flexibility to move within a large repertoire of roles. Within each role we are required to have the appropriate actions for the situation at that specific time. Our personalities function at their most effective when they are embracing and integrating their particular selection of roles.
People leave or enter our social sphere all the time; new friends, births, deaths and marriages will all take place within the family. We decide to leave our personal zone of relationships and develop new ones because we take up employment in a different part of the country or we migrate to another part of the world. cultural developments also have an effect on our role requirements One may, for instance, aspire to a new role through changing employment or be surprised by a new role in a relative. All these changes can be perceived as threats.
Throughout our lives our status quo is threatened by economic, psychological, and social Influences and in order to act in an appropriate way to these changes we must be able to react from the appropriate role. This requires creativity (ie we have to create a new role for ourselves) and spontaneity (acting in the moment)
Moreno believed that every person has the capacity to be creative and spontaneous, the innate skill to act in an appropriate way at any time, creating something new. That we have the ability to create new paradigms, transform old patterns, and modify behaviour. Intra-psychic change leads to interpersonal change and healthy relationships.
“Social life has the tendency to attach a definite role to a specific person, so that this role becomes the prevailing one into which the individual is folded…. Everybody is expected to live up to his official role in life-a teacher is to act as a teacher, a pupil as a pupil, and so forth. But the individual craves to embody far more than those he is allowed to act out in life. It is from the active pressure, which these multiple units exert upon the manifest offi­cial role, that a feeling of anxiety is produced”. (Blatner & Blatner, 1997, 19)
What happens when we act or react from an inappropriate role? Let me give you an example. Peter is in his early forties and has been married twice and divorced and is now in a long term relationship, however all is not well. His relationship is not meeting his needs. He often feels lonely and rejected, yet his wife says she loves him. When they try talk about their issues it often makes it worse and they do not appear to be able to communicate. It is as though they are on the same stage, in the same play, but reading different scripts. Does this sound familiar?
It wasn’t until Peter was faced with losing his third wife to be that he finally saw the light. He had a pattern; he was locked into a particular role that was destroying his relationships with women. He was in his child role seeking the mother. There was no way his partners could meet his needs. He was searching for the mother love that he had not experienced as a child. I use the word experienced here as his mother may well have said of course she loved him but his experience is his reality.
This example demonstrates how when we are in the wrong role i.e. son instead of lover/partner, the relationships is bound to fail or at the least be dysfunctional.
If we consider a normal day in the life of a woman in her mid forties, with children and a husband, then we can appreciate the vast variety of roles that she may have to take on in order to lead a stressful life reacting in her relationships in the appropriate manner.
Besides the more obvious roles it is often useful to take time to identify some of our negative or less constructive roles, e.g. the avoider, the deaf listener. If we have awareness of the variety of our role repertoire we are then in a position to choose to act more appropriately.

Walking Meditation

April 17, 2009

Walking meditation.

You have probably heard about “The Secret” and the “Law of Attraction”. It has become the bible for personal development and the secret to creating the life you want. If it was all as simple as some of the publicity would have us believe then we would all be rich, have fantastic love relationships and be able to manifest whatever we needed. One of the basic requirements for consciously choosing what you want to manifest is being able to believe you already have it. Not to say it, or just think it, but to actually BE it and FEEL it. The difficulty here can be our sub conscious. What are you thinking and creating at that level? I will be writing more about this and recommending some books but, for now, here is a walking meditation for you to try. I have been using it and works because you are reading this!

I call this a walking meditation but in fact it is both a meditation and a visualisation exercise. As a meditation you will be meditating on your own body and getting out of your head. It will help you to still your mind for a short time from the thousands of thoughts that pass through every minute of the day. As a visualisation it will create positive and healing images for both body and mind, offering an experience of healthy positive change.

Raising self awareness:
As with everything we do you need to start in awareness. I would like you to go for a walk for about half an hour to start with. As you are walking first take some time to be in the moment. Look around you, what can you see? Listen, what can you hear? What can you smell? Bring all your senses into the moment. Touch flowers, the ground or a wall, what does it feel like? Take your time and be aware of your responses to the external environment.

Now it is time to go to your internal environment. Listen to your breathing, take your awareness into your body, feel the way your feet meet the ground, how your arms and legs move as you walk, how you hold your head and neck, what is your upper body posture? Become aware of who you are physically and emotionally in this moment.  Make no judgements, do not analyse, simply be aware and acknowledge your state of being.

Unpleasant feelings.

At a deeper level your body knows what it needs to be healed and it may give you some clues in the form of unpleasant feelings. Try not to push them away. Acknowledge them and place them in a virtual memory box for future reference. They are the clues to creating change.

Experiencing the authentic you.

Now you know where and how you are you can decide where you want to be. How you would like to “BE”. E.g. more relaxed, more confident, successful, motivated, beautiful, and slimmer, or in a loving relationship, whatever comes to mind at this moment that would help you to be in a better state.  Try not to be too complicated. I would like you to create a phrase, a mantra that you can repeat. I’ll give you two examples to help you. I will use the first one as your example throughout the exercise.

!. If you want to bring a loving relationship into your life use “This is the…..of a woman/man in a loving relationship.”

2. It you wish to build your confidence use “this is the …..of a confident man/woman”

Choose which ever gender is appropriate for you but it is important to keep the phrase in the third person for now.  The aim is to experience every part of your body as the woman in a loving relationship, to embody the different state of being, starting with the feet and finishing with the body as a whole.

Have you chosen your mantra? Remember this is for now, you can change this to address something different at another time.

Decide where you are going to walk and away you go. “These are the feet of a woman in a loving relationship, these are the calves of a woman in a loving relationship…..these are the knees of a … thighs, hips, buttocks, pelvis and so on”. Be aware of your feelings, both physical and emotional, all the time. Work with the parts of your body that come to your mind and that suit you, but don’t forget the internal organs, stomach, heart liver lungs, the skeleton i.e. spine, and the breath. When you have worked through the body say “This is a woman in a loving relationship walking …….to work or up the stairs to their desk, walking the dog” or whatever you are doing at the time. Finally when you feel ready to take this onboard, and this may not be the first few times of trying out the exercise, finish with “I am this women in a loving relationship and I feel ………..” repeat any positive feelings that come to mind, “grateful loving, peaceful, content, happy” etc. BE it, experience what it is like to be that which you wish to be. Please try not to get caught up in analysing or following your mind into thoughts like “this could not really happen” If you do have these problems treat the exercise like acting. Get into role for a short time, it will have the same effect..

So if you feel like trying this out, create your own mantra (phrase) that refers to a state of being that you would like to have and start repeating it once a day. You can do this at any time when you are walking. It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes for the complete exercise. If there is a regular time when you are walking, say to work, or up stairs, this would be a good time to repeat some of the mantra. Let it come easily, when and where it works for you and enjoy experiencing what it would be like to be in this state. After some time you will become used to the exercise and you will begin to resonate at a different vibration. You are also focusing on your body parts and giving yourself positive thoughts so you will have the added benefit of keeping your body healthy and happy.

I hope you enjoy this exercise. Please feel free to feed back to me any thoughts you have or ask for support if you encounter any problems.

Mid Life Crisis

January 5, 2009

My life really began, or perhaps I should say, took off after I was forty. Before that I didn’t have a true awareness of who I was. I lived in a fog. I repeated patterns from my childhood that were inappropriate for me as an adult. I struggled to make sense of my world, my relationships and my sense of self.

I have always been active and happier when I am living an active life style. So I have been blessed with good health, and still am. When I was 40 I began a new stage in my life working in community theatre. That step began my path to a long and wonderful relationship with my third wife, and my personal growth to becoming a therapist. On the way I have worked as a dance teacher, a street performer and circus teacher and toured with my own theatre company. It has been, and still is, an exciting and challenging journey.

I believe that for many of us the “mid life crisis” can be the most positive stage in our lives. It is the time to reflect on the past, consider what we would like for the future and an opportunity to decide to be in the “here and now”. It can be the beginning of the most wonderful next stage of our lives; the time to remember all the lessons that we have learnt and count them as blessings. To be grateful for where we are and what we have. A time to appreciate our family and friends, our health and well being (after all we have arrived at the magical age of forty!) and, most important, a time to choose how we intend to be in this moment and the next. Top make a conscious decision about the quality of life we have for the rest of our lives.

I believe that the mid life crisis can be a positive time to reflect on all the life experiences from the past, count them as blessings and use them as lessons to help us to be our authentic selves. It can be a time to shake off any inappropriate patterns and behaviours, a time to create a lifestyle for healthy living, in mind, body and spirit; a time to acknowledge who we really are in this moment and in doing so accept and truly love ourselves. From this moment we can allow our light to shine for all to see.

I hear you say “oh yes it all sounds so easy but I can’t change just like that. I only wish I could.” So it may be hard to change those negative patterns, to break out of the safe comfortable lifestyle that we have created, it takes courage. However, the most difficult step is the decision to live a life of creative positive change, to have the intention to live in the “Now”. Once that decision is taken it is surprising how many people will offer you a helping hand when it is most needed.

Philip Burgess

A friend in need is a friend in deed

January 3, 2009

“A friend in need is a friend in deed”

There are times in our lives when we struggle to make sense of our experiences: times when we are sick and in emotional or physical pain; times when our loved ones are sick, but we feel powerless to help them; times when we believe that our world as we know it is collapsing around us. In times of stress and trauma we are vulnerable and often find ourselves lacking in confidence, and low in self esteem. What we need is to be able to access our some inner strength.

At such times as these it is important to have a “mirror” one that can truly see and hear us. When others around us who we trust, acknowledge how we feel unconditionally, then we become empowered. Often by simply voicing our feelings and having them heard and accepted we are able to move through negative emotions to a more positive and empowered place; a place where we can accept the status quo without having feelings of guilt or inadequacy, without the inner voices of self blame. At times like this true friends are worth their weight in gold but, as the following stories show, friends cannot always be there for us and we need to understand why in order for us not to be plunged into feelings of isolation and unworthiness. These are true stories but I have changed the names and places to protect those involved.

Eileen was a foreigner living in a very small village in a quiet valley in Italy where everyone gets to know everything. For over a year she was laid up with an injured back and then with flu and a bad cough. Throughout her incapacity there was a noticeable lack of communication from the majority of those who she considered to be friends. These were people who she had helped in the past and made an effort to keep in touch with. She knew the word had got round about her injury amongst the small community but almost no one came to visit or phone.

For some time she felt angry and saddened that no one wanted to contact her or call round to see how she was. She felt isolated and ignored. These negative feelings were not beneficial to her recovery. Such feelings lower our energy levels. It was sometime before she began to realise that she was not suddenly “out of favour” but that there was a different issue here and the issue was more about what ever was going on for her friends at that time and what they could or couldn’t cope with. Her lesson here was to recognise who were true friends. In this case those who thought were friends actually had a different perspective; they considered it as more a relationship of convenience on their part. Her negative issue was her feeling of rejection and her belief that she was not considered worthy of a visit. What she needed to appreciate was what may have been going on for the other people in their lives.

Another case in point was a middle aged woman who we will call Ann. She was living with a disabling disease that put her in great pain for much of the time and she lived with her mother who helped and supported her. In the midst of these difficult times her mother was diagnosed with a form of lymphatic cancer and began to undergo treatment. Ann was receiving regular massage sessions from me at the time and during one of these I enquired as to her support network of friends. Did she have friends to whom she could express how she felt about her situation? It was clear that there were obviously issues that would be difficult to talk about within the family so I felt it was important for her to have other support. She told me that none of her friends could cope with hearing about her situation so she has no choice but to appear cheerful and not talk about it to anyone. It was obvious that she was in a very lonely and vulnerable place at a time when she really needed the support of friends.

Then by pure accident I came across a blog on the internet where a man had suffered an arm injury and suddenly where were his friends when he needed them? People he had helped in the past were now nowhere to be seen.

Real friendships, that may include family members, aunts, uncles, grandparents, are very important to us. We all need to have our feelings acknowledged, however irrational they may be at the time. We all need unconditional positive regard. We need to be validated. Part of our early childhood development depended on “mirroring”. On adults reflecting back to us how they saw us. This helped us to develop, to understand ourselves.

I feel there are two lessons here. One is that when people who we believe to be friends seem to move away from us when we are in need, then rather than being angry with them, which will have a negative effect on ourselves,we can consider their situation and consider how that may influence their ability to be with us in the way we need. The other lesson is that it is also acceptable to be angry about that situation and to have that recognised, and to have your feelings acknowledged, whatever they may be, not to be judged or to feel guilty or lacking in any way.

So if the need arises then ask for help, seek a friend who can listen without judging or wanting to “sort you out.” However when friends, and I include relatives who can listen unconditionally here, are not available, then it maybe time to seek help from a counsellor or therapist. There are times when we all need a little help to find our own route through the negative moments. There are many styles of professional help available so look for what feels right for you. If the first person you go to doesn’t feel right for you, then try someone else. Go with your gut reactions, and don’t feel guilty about asking for help. The most important moment in making positive change is the moment when you make the decision to ask for help.

For retreats go to www.casadellanete.com

For Self development go to www.beinginaction.net

A rainy day in the Genal Valley

February 14, 2008

Today it is raining here in Alpandeire, a small white village in the Valle de Genal in southern Spain. It’s great, we need the rain, with so much sun throughout the year the rain is always welcome. What a change from living in England. Just over three years ago I left Manchester city and moved to this tiny white village with my wife Nicky. We now live in La Casa del Llanete the house on the flat place with our dog, Maya, two cats, Smokey and Neblina and our two Spanish horses Chenino and Curro. We have been restoring and converting the house to create a centre for creative therapies. We offer art holidays, walking breaks, bird watching, retreats and therapeutic breaks.