Inside Your Head Episode 8

In my introduction, I talk about the necessity of exercising caution when reading self-help books, especially those penned by big-name celebrities and overnight successes. Even if written with a genuine desire to help others, the author may look back on their path to success with confirmation bias (or survivorship bias) which can seriously skew the usefulness of the text. An important thing to realise about the apparent evidence of their route to success is that correlation does not equal causation (you can read some amusing examples here and a very good explanation in connection with data here). And of course, remember that if the advice in these books worked all the time, there would be a great many more millionaires and happy marriages than there actually are.

I also give a clue about the subject matter for the next episode’s introduction, inspired by a conversation with a friend.

The main interview is with Dr Roger Bretherton from the University of Lincoln with whom I discuss the growing field of Character Strength and Positive Psychology. Roger does most of his work addressing businesses and large organisations, helping them to get the best from their employees but also, critically, forcing the management to take responsibility for how their own strengths and attitudes affect the organisation and employee performance.

There is an online questionnaire that you might like to take (I did) at The VIA Institute on Character website – like me, you can just get the free report if you don’t fancy paying for a more in-depth version. But I think you might find the results fascinating, and it will certainly help you to get the most from my conversation with Roger.

We also talk about the differences between traditional psychology, and its approach which focuses on repairing damage, and the new and growing field of positive psychology, which aims to focus on the character strengths and positive aspects of the client/patient’s personality, enabling them to build greater resilience and to gain greater overall satisfaction from life.

Our conversation also touches briefly on different approaches to spirituality and even imposter syndrome! I really enjoyed this conversation with Roger and I think you will find him a stimulating guest to listen to.

In the Relaxation on the Beach guided meditation, we work on forgiveness towards others for their failings and transgressions that have hurt us, and we also seek forgiveness for ourselves for any hurt we may have caused others, however inadvertently. Be aware that it might be a good idea to think about less difficult situations to begin with, working up to tackling issues with more difficult or important people in your life after trying this a couple of times.

Resources and bonus material for this show

Confirmation bias
Survivorship bias
Mental Floss: 10 Times Correlation Was Not Causation
Towards Data Science: 4 Reasons Why Correlation Does NOT Imply Causation

Dr Roger Bretherton from the University of Lincoln
Questionnaire on the VIA Institute of Character website
The God Lab: 8 spiritual experiments you can try at homePositive Psychology (Wikipedia)

 

The Relaxation on the Beach segment from this episode.

 

Inside Your Head Episode 5

I open the show by reviewing Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch PH.D. in the introduction. Guy Winch makes the point that whilst almost all of us have at least a basic idea of how to treat physical wounds or injuries, whether minor household mishaps or even more serious ones, such as if we witness an accident and step in to help, when it comes to emotional wounds, many of us don’t even know where to begin and are left floundering and miserable – and we can even make things worse if we’re not careful.

Examining seven types of emotional wound – rejection, loneliness, loss & trauma, guilt, rumination, failure and low self-esteem – Winch provides a step-by-step guide as to how we should apply both immediate and longer-term treatment to salve these psychological injuries, and is careful to point out how to spot whether a problem is so serious that the ‘patient’ is better off seeking professional help, rather than attempting to solve the problem themselves. This, of course, also applies to friends, colleagues and loved ones who may be well-intentioned in wanting to help, but may not be the best person to apply the treatments.

In order to show how the book works, I take an in-depth look at the section on rejection, because it is both the most common form of emotional wound, inflicts the most pain on the patient (and that pain has been proven to be real, visceral pain) and also something that impacted me personally during my own breakdown.

In the main part of the show, I interview Clare Josa whose latest book Ditching Imposter Syndrome is the culmination of her journey through a varied career that has included engineering, market research, yoga and meditation amongst other things. A remarkable woman who earned  FIrst Class degree in Engineering after writing her dissertation in German (!), Clare became one of the first people in Europe to qualify in Six Sigma quality control, and went on to become Head of Market Research at Dyson. It was during her time as an engineer, however, that Clare experienced her own serious bout of imposter syndrome, and overcoming this psychological barrier has latterly become her life’s work.

The author of eight books ranging from novels, through meditation and mindfulness guides to volumes about personal and business success, Clare is a sought-after public speaker, an NLP Trainer and led the EU VAT campaign that managed to break all the rules and actually overturn legislation imposed by the European Union in 2015-16 (which is when Clare and I first met). Clare brings real science to everything she does, debunking myths and making the mysterious simple. Her unique approach manages to combine factors such as ancient wisdom and the latest neuroscience, creativity and ‘getting out of your own way’, so you’re in for an exciting ride covering many of the bases that Inside Your Head was created to examine!

Clare is very much someone who ‘walks the walk’ in her own life, and is a charismatic and enthusiastic guest – I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to her.

As usual, the show ends with another “Relaxation on the Beach” meditation and this time, I introduce the technique of finding calm by ‘noting’ your thoughts and letting them go, rather than becoming embroiled in them.

Resources and bonus material for this show

Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure and Other everyday Hurts by Guy Winch

Clare Josa’s website

The Ditching Imposter Syndrome website

The Ditching Imposter Syndrome podcast

Clare’s books on Amazon

Clare on LinkedIn

Clare on Twitter

Clare on Facebook

Six Sigma (Wikipedia)

NLP (Wikipedia)

The Relaxation on the Beach segment from this episode.

 

Inside Your Head Episode 3

The show opens with my introduction to the subject of self-compassion, focusing on the remarkable book Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristen Neff PhD.

The significance of the book is that it enables me to use my own experience of the last year to highlight the danger of self-loathing and self-criticism that can lead to one making desperate and potentially irreversible choices – in short, I nearly committed suicide early in 2021 and this is the book that, along with the care of a few loving friends, helped set me on the road to recovery. Though I can only give the barest introduction to the subject here, I hope that I have managed to convey just how powerful a tool self-compassion can be in healing emotional wounds and banishing the demons of self-criticism, making us not only better equipped to care for ourselves, but to care for others too.

The interview with Samantha Stockin brings a contrast to the first two shows which featured experts in particular fields. Our guest today reveals her own lived experience as someone who suffers mental health challenges, and even more extraordinary, explores the notion of inter-generational depression, by which the dreadful experiences of earlier generations may well have ‘wounded’ the family’s DNA such that mental health problems become prevalent in later generations.

But Samantha is also an inspiring individual because she acts as a ‘Mental Health Champion’ in a large bank, offering emotional first aid to colleagues who are suffering mental health challenges. I’m very grateful to Samantha for having the courage to talk so openly about her issues in a way that will, I hope, be of value to you, the listener.

Finally, the Relaxation on the Beach meditation deals this time with self-compassion, taking what I discussed in the introduction and applying it in a way that enables you to cope with difficult situations in your life, both by recognising that our problems are part of our common humanity and finding a voice within ourselves to soothe what ails us.

Resources and bonus material for this show

Self Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind by Kristen Neff PhD

Compassion for the Self-Critic

Transgenerational Trauma (Wikipedia)

The Relaxation on the Beach segment from this episode.

 

Inside Your Head Episode 2

The show opens with an introduction to the subject of attachment, which owes its origins to the psychologist John Bowlby who studied the relationship between babies and their mothers, creating the categories of secure, anxious (also known as ambivalent) and avoidant.

This subject has more recently been expanded to cover adult relationships, whether romantic, family or friendships, and I take an in-depth look at some of the guidance contained in the marvellous book Attached: Are you Anxious, Avoidant or Secure? How the science of adult attachment can help you find – and keep – love by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.

In the main interview, I talk to Dr Susie Christensen who is a Psychodynamic counsellor based in Brighton & Hove. Susie made a major career change several years ago, moving across from an academic and teaching background – she originally studied English Literature and obtained her PhD in the relationship between modernist literature, neurology, psychoanalysis and psychology in the period 1860-1939 – into the world of therapy, obtaining her qualifications from the University of Brighton. She has also worked as a bereavement volunteer for CRUSE.

We discuss the differences between psychodynamic counselling and various other types of ‘talk therapies’ and the crucial role of the relationship established between the therapist and the client. We also discuss the concept of ‘transference’. Susie also has some interesting tidbits about the early work of Sigmund Freud, the ‘grandfather’ of psychotherapy.

We spend some time discussing the notion of ‘story’, and how that can work in different ways: how individuals in a relationship can unwittingly develop differing stories about the dynamics of that relationship, which can actually lead to them realising too late that they have very different ‘takes’ on the situation; but also how story can be used in therapy to help the client build a meaningful picture of their past life, particularly if they have ‘blanks’ that may be the result of trauma. I refer to Rick Hanson’s brilliant book Resilient.

Susie and I also look at how the body can influence our thoughts, and the notion that the brain in our heads is not necessarily the only ‘brain’, and how what goes on in our gut and our heart can have a powerful effect on our moods, the mind-body connection, introducing the subject of neuropsychoanalysis.

In the last segment of the show, my Relaxation on the Beach meditation focuses on how we can use meditation to free ourselves of unwanted thoughts and allow them to drift away whilst we return to our ‘home base’ and achieve calm.

Resources and bonus material for this show

Attached by Dr. Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, M.A.

Sigmund Freud (Wikipedia)

Resilient by Rick Hanson

The Relaxation on the Beach segment from this episode.