Monday, 30 November 2015

'Loves me, Loves me not' - The Archers BBC Radio 4.

This is the *extended Wellbeing Column published in York Press on Tuesday, November 24th, 2015. It is printed in the colour orange, as part of the UN 16 Days of Activism for Eliminating Violence Against Women. #orangetheworld 

*Several threads came together for this blog:

1. One thread is the long-running radio soap opera, 'The Archers' on BBC Radio 4.

Soaps like to have a villain. It generates media interest and increased listening figures. Soaps are also good at highlighting problems in their audience's lives, such as addictions, relationship problems, ill health, elderly care and domestic abuse. The latter has rarely been heard on 'The Archers', but over the last two years, a storyline has steadily been building around a character, Helen Archer, who recently married Rob Titchener. This man is using psychological manipulation, emotional abuse and possibly sexual abuse to gradually take control of all aspects of his wife's life. 

I have been a listener for decades, but find this storyline disturbing, as do many other women. Some people have stopped listening until the character is written out. I can listen and realise that it's only actors standing in a studio reading a script, but it's still difficult to hear at times. The scriptwriters and actors are to be congratulated for making it feel so real.

I must also admit to conversations with women who have not recognised what Rob Titchener is doing. I find that concerning.

2. A second thread is that I belong to a voluntary service organisation for women and children, called Soroptimist International (Great Britain & Ireland)  Many of the clubs in the UK and worldwide work on projects supporting women who have been abused. In highlighting the projects, it was decided to use the Archer's storyline to increase awareness of the Soroptimists organisation and their work.  'Women inspiring action, transforming lives.' A Facebook page has been set up called: Help the Ambridge One. It features project work being carried out by a variety of Soroptimist International clubs. 

A petition has also been drawn up to send Nicky Morgan MP, about cuts to the services available to abused women. Cuts in services will lead to an increase of domestic abuse. 

'The Archers' is fictional, but for thousands of women the abuse is real.

3. The third thread was article in York Press, by Maxine Gordon, which highlighted the work of a local Domestic Abuse charity in York. 

The column

Last week in Family Matters, Maxine Gordon highlighted Domestic Abuse and the work of IDAS in York. ( )
IDAS is a North Yorkshire Abuse Charity and is supported by several York organisations, including Soroptimist International York Ebor Club. (
Last weekend I was at the annual conference for Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland ( in Glasgow. Princess Anne was one of the speakers supporting inspiring Soroptimist projects. Projects being carried out by 80,000 members in 127 countries worldwide, as well as the UK.
Clubs in the Yorkshire Region recognised that, tragically, there are thousands of women and young girls in Yorkshire alone, experiencing abuse in a variety of forms. They founded an Anti-Slavery Group. These days, the term slavery covers trafficking, domestic abuse, grooming, female genital mutilation and slavery. The group created a ‘Loves me, loves me not’ bookmark and cards. Thousands have been given away to women and young adults. 
The ‘loves me, loves me not’ lists were created with straight, adult relationships in mind.  As a psychotherapist I recognised the ‘Loves me not’ behaviours in all types of dysfunctional relationships. Gay, Straight and Transgender. Parent - Child. Child - Parent.  Employer - Employee. Teacher - Student. Friend - Friend. 
Loves me 
  • Makes me feel safe
  • Makes me feel comfortable. 
  • Listens to me
  • Values my opinions 
  • Supports what I want to do in life 
  • Is truthful with me 
  • Admits to being wrong 
  • Respects me
  • Likes that I have other friends 
  • Makes me laugh 
  • Trusts me
  • Treats me as an equal
  • Respects my family 
  • Understands my need for time alone or with family 
  • Accepts me as I am 
Loves me not
  • Is jealous 
  • Is possessive 
  • Tries to control me 
  • Gets violent, loses temper quickly 
  • Always blames me 
  • Is sexually demanding 
  • Keeps me from seeing friends and family 
  • Makes all the decisions 
  • Embarrasses me in front of others 
  • Hits me 
  • Makes me cry 
  • Is always ‘checking up’ on me 
  • Takes my money and other things 
  • Threatens to leave me if I don’t do what I’m told 
  • Teases, bullies and puts me down 
People whose behaviours includes those on the ‘Loves me’ list, show greater emotional maturity than those displaying behaviours on the ‘Loves me not’ list. A number of those behaviours can be seen in children. Hence the expression, “Oh Grow up!”
While most of the focus has been on female victims, there is beginning to be recognition that young boys and adults need educating too, especially with the easier availability of, and exposure to, violent and extreme pornography online. Actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson, has recently launched He for She. ( The York Charity, Jack Raine Foundation also looks at addressing these problems.
If abusers and the abused are the fruits of a problem, perhaps society needs to give greater attention to the roots.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off - challenging self doubt.

This is the article that was in the York Press on October 26th, 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off!

I don’t usually return to a theme in the previous month’s column, but when writing about emotional wellbeing, Nadija Hussain’s win on Bake-Off and her subsequent comments cannot be ignored.

These were her words after winning. "I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say, I can't do it. I’m never gonna say, maybe. I’m never gonna say, I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”

Last month I wrote that we need to fail before we can succeed. We do as babies and young children and then at some point we allow the voices of self-doubt to hijack us. Can you imagine how many complete baking disasters Nadija must have produced over the years? She failed on the actual programme too, in full view of millions of viewers. She had to pick herself up and start all over again.

Another recent competition winner has been Marlon James, the winner of the Man Booker prize for his challenging novel, ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings.’ His first novel had been turned down by publishers 78 times. The literary world is full of best selling authors who have been rejected numerous times. There are plenty of examples of ‘Famous Rejections’ on the Internet. They make enlightening and encouraging reading.

A relative has recently presented his work to a high profile, worldwide audience. Feedback on Twitter included, “Like the top tips. Always good to celebrate mistakes...!” “Great to see advice coming through errors.” I couldn’t agree more.

The editor of my book, ‘Are you Chasing Rainbows?’ was excellent and the book is better for her work. But, she wanted me to remove references to personal failure. She told the publisher that, “as it was a book on self-development, it shouldn’t have negative stories in it.” I despaired. We develop by learning from failure. The references were not changed.

This lack of acknowledgement of failure and mistakes is something that has crept into wellbeing via an approach called Positive Psychology. It has also led into the ubiquitous use of the word ‘issues’ instead of the word problem, which is believed to be too negative. I trained as a solutioned-focused therapist and as such, the clients and I would find possible solutions for the problem presented. We did not explore issues. A problem is more concrete than an issue. I knew it had gone too far, when somebody on TV said that their vacuum cleaner had issues.

We need to balance encouragement with realism. I’m not sure however many lessons I had, that I could be a concert pianist or speak fluent Chinese. I am suggesting that if we should persevere with something and try and try again, if it is important to us, shutting off unhelpful, negative self- dialogue.

I’ll leave you with Nadija’s last comment again.
“I can and I will.”