Monday, 28 July 2014

Welcome to readers of Psychologies Magazine

Hello to new readers.

You may be reading this because you saw the advertisement for the book in the new edition of Psychologies Magazine. If so, welcome to the world of Alison R. Russell.

If you are considering buying or downloading the book, this is from the Summary Chapter at the end of the book:


The end... or just the beginning?
We live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers.
Father Alexander Elchanov

There are three groups of people who read summaries, so I will write three summaries.

Group 1: Readers who have read the whole book.
I hope that this book delivered what it said on the cover. You have read about my own personal insights and been given some practical insights. You should now be full of your own insights, perhaps about some of your own behaviours: are you sure you don’t recognise yourself somewhere? If not, then certainly those of people you know in your family, socially, workplace and the wider world. It could lead to some life-changing decisions.

Group 2: Readers who have dipped into different chapters.
I hope you were tempted by the chapter headings. Did you find what you were looking for? If you didn’t, carry on and read the whole book. It will be worth it.

Group 3: Readers who have turned to the summaries to see whether the book is worth reading at all. 

It is. There are insights that will be thought-provoking, inspire discussion and may even change your life. If you’re not sure about reading it all, start with the Preface, Introduction, Chapters 1, 2 and 11.

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”page251image12784
Helen Keller 


If you would like to know what other readers think of the book, the unsolicited and genuine reviews on Amazon reflect exactly how I hoped the book would help readers.

This is one of the reviews:

From Kee: Worth every penny. 10th Jan 2014
"An easy read, totally lacking in psychobabble, understandable and am sure we can all identify with some of the scenarios. It definitely helps to put one's life in perspective, change is good and this book helps to do that especially id you carry a behaviour or fear from childhood."

This blog has further views and opinions on the subject of emotional growth.It was started in October 2013.  If you would like to know a little of my background and from where my understanding arises, I would suggest reading the recent posting, "I could weep..."

If you return to the first posting, you will read that Alison R Russell is a pen name. I have written another blog on the subject matter since 2009. I'm also a Wellbeing columnist for York Press.


I write to help people, not for profit. £1 a copy/download of the book is going to the charity, ChildLine.


You will find something of interest and relevance to you, your life and the lives of others.



Thursday, 24 July 2014

It might happen, but it might not...risk.

I'm taking some flights later this year. An air crash tends to make one question the wisdom of flying, however fleetingly.  I missed a fatal rail crash by a day, which made me momentarily consider avoiding rail journeys. I recall thinking of avoiding London when the IRA bombs were going off and I lived in the south.

The funny thing is that I've never thought twice about walking down the street, riding my bicycle, driving a car, being a car passenger (well, perhaps sometimes!),going up and down stairs or walking around my sloping garden in ill fitting shoes. Though, statistically, I'm far more likely to have an accident, doing those activities than flying. There's something about the thought of mass destruction, that seems to make it worse.

If the Government really wanted to help prevents bad accidents, leading to chronic health problems and death, it is the over 70s walking along the pavements who should be wearing crash helmets. My own mother would have benefited. 

'Lies, damned lies and statistics'. A quote from a contested source. Mid 1800s.

I've always questioned the publication of statistics. Who's doing it? Who has paid for the research? Do they benefit financially in some way? 

The delivery of stastics needs questioning too, as generally the media rule by fear. A powerful emotion. The Daily Mail 'fearmongering', is well known. I recall a Science Journalist being interviewed some years ago by Simon Mayo on BBC Radio 5. He admitted that scientific stories can make for dull reading, so emotional language has to be used, to make people take notice. For instance, a story can be about 1 in 5 or 3 in 10 people who do or have something.  I always look at the 4 in 5 or 7 in 10 who don't do it or haven't got it. But genrally, that doesn't make for such a good story.

The other problem with stories containing statistics is that the figures do not represent the context or fuller picture. eg: car drivers go faster, more often, and further than cyclists. In health stories, there are rarely mentions of the general lifestyle of the people mentioned, which will influence results.

Out of interest I googled air crash statistics. I found two excellent sites and thought I'd share them. They make interesting reading, but  the useful information lies behind the figures.

The first one is about actual numbers and based on UK figures.

The second one is about odds and from the US.

"The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live."
Leo F Buscaglia

Friday, 18 July 2014

Lessons to learn to make life easier.

This is the extended column from the York Press - June 30th 2014

In the previous column, I used the eleven life lessons that the actor, Bob Hoskins, had given to his daughter, Rosa.

There wasn’t space in the column to elaborate on any of the lessons, but two of them jumped out at me. Lessons which, if used regularly, could reduce the incident of emotional health problems in society.

Lesson 4: Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Everyone’s a critic, but ultimately what they say only matters if you let it. Don’t believe your own press. People can just as easily sing your praises as they can tear you down. Don’t waste your time on things you can’t change. Let it slide off you like water off a duck’s back.

Not an easy rule to believe in and needs a degree of balance. If someone dislikes a meal I prepare, that’s okay. Food can’t possibly be to everyone’s taste. It doesn’t mean I’m a hopeless cook. But if someone was to point out that my driving was dangerous, then perhaps I should think about who and why they were saying that. They haven’t…yet. 

*Blog extra: When we doubt ourselves, we generally 'hear' two sides to the argument. There will be the positive remarks  and internal self-belief, while on the opposite side will be the negative comments and internal self-doubt. This is where I love the story of the Two Wolves:

An old Cherokee told his grandson: “My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, and resentment, inferiority, lies and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”
The boy thought about it, and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

I have found through life and in work as a therapist, that a sizable majority of people with emotional health problems are not making their own decisions or holding their own opinions. 

Sometimes it doesn't appear particularly serious, just about the newspaper they read, "Dad always said the others were rubbish." or social niceties, "Mum said, we mustn't..." Though I wonder why they feel unable to have their own grown-up opinions.

Then there are the more serious consequences. Some people appear to be a puppet, with someone else holding the strings. Usually a person from the past,a parent or teacher, but not always. In the worst cases and in my experience the most challenging to treat, were people with Obsessional Compulsive Disorder (OCD). No sooner were a few strings cut, but others were pulled instead. The problems were always about control. The person with OCD appears to have someone in their lives trying to control them. Often this person had been with them through their upbringing and could still have the power to control. Fear is ever present.

If we have doubts about ourselves, we need to examine their root cause. Why don't we feel good enough? Where did those doubts come from? What's their root? Can we have another view? Is it just as valid? 

My father could be challenging. He was dogmatic in his beliefs, with disastrous results. I learnt to stand up to him. He never stopped professing his belief that he was right, but towards the end of his life, I managed to get him to preface his comments with a "In my opinion...", even if he said it sarcastically and with a wry smile.

I experienced some heavy criticism about the ideas in my book, from people I respected and who mattered in my working life. I was knocked back and voices from the past about my inadequacies surfaced. Eventually, the passion to write and and publish the book became strong again. I let the good wolf take over my thinking. I don't think the people who opposed me were evil, but I do think that they had they had their own wolves too.

Lesson 6: Whatever you do, always give it a good go. Don’t be afraid of failure and disappointment. If you fall flat on your face then get straight back up. You’ll always regret not trying. Disappointment is temporary, regret is forever.

A man, Ron, in his fifties, was in a workshop audience. He explained that I had just made sense of his life. At school, a teacher had stood behind him one day and said, “Collins, you are slow, but sure. Slow to learn and sure to fail.” Ron said that whenever he thought of changing his job or taking up a new interest, he would believe that he was sure to fail, so hadn’t bothered to try anything new. Ron was a frustrated and unfulfilled man. He hadn’t realised where his self belief had originated and told us that he was going to change his thinking immediately. I hope he did. 

Teachers can’t win. An intelligent, young girl, Mandy, took her work to show the teacher. “Oh I don’t even have to look at it, to know it’s good” and gave her a good mark. The girl gave up making an effort in class, as she thought the teacher didn’t care enough to look at her work.


When we were babies and toddlers, we failed at everything we tried. Eating, sitting, walking, talking, dressing, writing and reading. With perseverance, we learnt to master these skills and learn many more.

As we mature, we can discover our individual natural skills and talents and those that perhaps don’t come so naturally. But we should always keep learning.

*Blog extra: I was listening to Peter Jones CBE, the entrepreneur, on the radio. He's 48 and the longest serving member of the TV business ideas programme, Dragon's Den. He was asked about his worst decision. It said it was a financial one when he was in his mid twenties. He went from being a successful business man to a man who had lost everything. Business, home, car, everything. 

Success is not built on success. It's built on failure. It's built on frustration. Sometimes its built on catastrophe.  Summer Redstone


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Words to encourage, comfort and reassure from Bob Hoskins

This is the column I wrote for the York Press on June 5th 2014.  I will write further on some of the points in the next blog.

I usually write an article and finish with a short ‘Reflection’. This month the Reflection will take prominence.
The actor, Bob Hoskins died on April 29, aged 71. There were many tributes on his fine and varied film and TV career. His early life certainly did not appear to suggest that his future lay in Television and then on to Hollywood.
His daughter, Rosa, released a list of ‘Eleven Life Lessons’, which her father had given her to “encourage, comfort and reassure.” I hope they help you too.
Stop for a few minutes in your day. Read slowly. Reflect on each lesson. Find the lessons that may help you in life.
1) Laugh. There’s humour to be found everywhere, even your darkest days there’s something to have a joke about. Laugh long and loud and make other people laugh. It’s good for you.
2) Be yourself. If someone doesn’t like you they’re either stupid , blind, or they’ve got bad taste. Accept who you are, you’ve got no one else to be. Don’t try to change yourself, there’s no point. Don’t apologise. Don’t make excuses. Be yourself and if anyone else doesn’t like it, let them go away.
3) Be flamboyant, it’s who you are and always have been. Be eccentric and unique. Don’t try to adapt yourself to someone else’s view of normal. That belongs to them, not you. Like yourself as who you are.
4) Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Everyone’s a critic, but ultimately what they say only matters if you let it. Don’t believe your own press. People can just as easily sing your praises as they can tear you down. Don’t waste your time on things you can’t change. Let it slide off you like water off a duck’s back.
5) Get angry, it’s ok to lose your temper now and then. If anger stays in, it turns to poison and makes you bitter and sad. Get angry, say your peace, then let it go.
6) Whatever you do, always give it a good go. Don’t be afraid of failure and disappointment. If you fall flat on your face then get straight back up. You’ll always regret not trying. Disappointment is temporary, regret is forever.
7) Be generous and kind because you can’t take it with you. When you’ve got something to give, give it without hesitation.
8) Appreciate beauty, take pictures and make memories. Capture it, you never know when it’ll be gone.
9) Don’t take yourself too seriously. People who take themselves too seriously are boring.
10) Never, ever, ever, ever give up. Keep on punching no matter what your up against. You’re only defeated if you give up, so don’t give up.
11) Love with all your heart. In the end, love is the only thing that matters.