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Synchronicity

SYNCHRONICITY

Every season, millions of sea salmon swim from the Pacific Ocean upstream, thousands of kilometres back to the mountain streams of their birth. They do this to lay their eggs. These tenacious salmon leap over waterfalls and swim through barriers of hundreds of grizzly bears. Along the way on their long journey the salmon encounter many predators and obstacles. Eventually, they lay their eggs in the place of their birth.

Estimates tell us only four out of every thousand salmon make it! But they do and the cycle continues. If the fish did not get there at the right time, the North American bears that have just come out of hibernation would potentially starve to death. Many other animals like birds, wolves and whales also depend on these fish for their survival. Every moment in life one event seems to be inextricably linked to another.

Synchronicity means meaningful coincidence, miracle, fate, luck. Call it what you like. Being in the right place at the right time ensured the survival of the grizzly bears. We all have surely seen synchronicity in our own lives.

The term synchronicity, which literally means “falling together in time,” was coined by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. A young woman came to Jung for therapy. She was serious and realistic. Jung felt for her to change he must soften her rationalist shell with “a somewhat more human understanding.”

She described a golden scarab—a costly piece of jewelry—she had received in a dream the night before. At that moment, he heard a tapping on the window pane. He looked and saw a gold-green glint. He got up and plucked a scarabaeid beetle out of the air. The beetle closely resembled the golden scarab. “Here is your scarab,” he said to the woman. And so the term SYNCHRONICTY was born to describe these miracles, strange occurrences, coincidences.

I have had many such incredulous moments in therapy. Once a client was about to have major surgery. She was stressed and anxious to the point of full blown panic. I told her to concentrate on one word: TRUST. Trust your doctors, trust the hospital and trust your body to heal. Just focus on TRUST. At that moment her phone beeps and she receives a one word message from a relative: TRUST!

Another time a client and I were talking about beggars and how they give us the opportunity to be charitable, and we always have a choice. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, a beggar rings my bell asking for money.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of syncronicity was the Umbrella Man.

 

 

On that sunny November day in 1963 when John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, Louie Steven Witt, the closest bystander to Kennedy’s limousine stood holding a black umbrella. He opened it and lifted it up above his head, moving it to the left and right at exactly at the moment that Kennedy was assassinated.

He became a topic of much speculation. Who was he? Who was he signaling?

Actually he was protesting against the Kennedy family as he believed Joseph Kennedy, the President’s father had appeased the British Prime minister Neville Chamberlain who had supported Hitler in World War II. Witt was merely a person in the right place at the wrong time.  A strange coincidence? Synchronicity.

I’m sure we can all think of times when we  thought of someone and they called. Or we decided not to go a certain route and then found out there was an accident on the route we were originally going to take. Or a song played on the radio with words we needed to hear? The list goes on.
So what does this mean for us? Let’s notice more signs and wonders in our lives. Perhaps even start our own synchronicity journal. The more we look for them, the more likely we will notice the miracles around us.

 

 

 

 

 

SYNCHRONICITY

SYNCHRONICITY

Every season, millions of sea salmon swim from the Pacific Ocean upstream, thousands of kilometres back to the mountain streams of their birth. They do this to lay their eggs. These tenacious salmon leap over waterfalls and swim through barriers of hundreds of grizzly bears. Along the way on their long journey the salmon encounter many predators and obstacles. Eventually, they lay their eggs in the place of their birth.

Estimates tell us only four out of every thousand salmon make it! But they do and the cycle continues. If the fish did not get there at the right time, the North American bears that have just come out of hibernation would potentially starve to death. Many other animals like birds, wolves and whales also depend on these fish for their survival. Every moment in life one event seems to be inextricably linked to another.

Synchronicity means meaningful coincidence, miracle, fate, luck. Call it what you like. Being in the right place at the right time ensured the survival of the grizzly bears. We all have surely seen synchronicity in our own lives.

The term synchronicity, which literally means “falling together in time,” was coined by the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. A young woman came to Jung for therapy. She was serious and realistic. Jung felt for her to change he must soften her rationalist shell with “a somewhat more human understanding.”

She described a golden scarab—a costly piece of jewelry—she had received in a dream the night before. At that moment, he heard a tapping on the window pane. He looked and saw a gold-green glint. He got up and plucked a scarabaeid beetle out of the air. The beetle closely resembled the golden scarab. “Here is your scarab,” he said to the woman. And so the term SYNCHRONICTY was born to describe these miracles, strange occurrences, coincidences.

I have had many such incredulous moments in therapy. Once a client was about to have major surgery. She was stressed and anxious to the point of full blown panic. I told her to concentrate on one word: TRUST. Trust your doctors, trust the hospital and trust your body to heal. Just focus on TRUST. At that moment her phone beeps and she receives a one word message from a relative: TRUST!

Another time a client and I were talking about beggars and how they give us the opportunity to be charitable, and we always have a choice. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, a beggar rings my bell asking for money.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of syncronicity was the Umbrella Man. On that sunny November day in 1963 when John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, Louie Steven Witt, the closest bystander to Kennedy’s limousine stood holding a black umbrella. He opened it and lifted it up above his head, moving it to the left and right at exactly at the moment that Kennedy was assassinated.

He became a topic of much speculation. Who was he? Who was he signaling?

Actually he was protesting against the Kennedy family as he believed Joseph Kennedy, the President’s father had appeased the British Prime minister Neville Chamberlain who had supported Hitler in World War II. Witt was merely a person in the right place at the wrong time.  A strange coincidence? Synchronicity.

.

I’m sure we can all think of times when we  thought of someone and they called. Or we decided not to go a certain route and then found out there was an accident on the route we were originally going to take. Or a song played on the radio with words we needed to hear? The list goes on.
So what does this mean for us? Let’s notice more signs and wonders in our lives. Perhaps even start our own synchronicity journal. The more we look for them, the more likely we will notice the miracles around us.

 

 

The psychology of money

A few weeks ago, a client sat in my office and told me about her “A-ha” moment with money. “It’s taken me forty five years, but I finally think I’ve got some insight into why I’ve never been able to save or get out of debt,” Judy said.

I smiled, eager to learn more and pricked up my ears. Judy always has a wealth of stories, information and knowledge.
She told me about some reading she had been doing on budgeting and saving, citing the Barefoot Investor by Scott Pape as a game-changer. Once thing in particular that she spoke about enthusiastically was how saving should be automated. 

Hmmm. This made perfect sense. I made a mental note to do my own digging into the psychology of saving (and spending!)—an area I know little about.  

That night I did some Googling and came across Richard Thaler, the behavioural economist who won the Nobel Prize for economics last year for his work researching the emotions and behaviours that influence our spending patterns.  

What Thaler and others said intrigued me. For while no magic panacea exists for wealth creation, there are strategies to support more positive financial wealth.
Let’s look at them.

Saving and Spending
From the getgo, we are told we need to save money. But we’re also battling with basic human nature – spending it! Thaler and his peers have extensively researched this contradiction. In a 2009 interview with the Financial Times, Thaler said:

 “Conventional economics assumes that people are highly-rational – super-rational – and unemotional. They can calculate like a computer and have no self-control problems. They never over-eat, they never over-drink, they save for retirement, just the right amount – first by calculating how much they need to save, then by religiously putting money aside. Real people are not like that.”

I love that Thaler talks about “real people.” Real people are the ones I see in my clinical practice. And based on the real people I’ve encountered over the years, I can tell you that financial management, much like weight management, does not come easily for many. 

In a nutshell, Thaler argues that human beings are affected by
behavioural biases that then affect our financial choices and thoughts.

So what are these?

The Endowment Effect
The endowment effect looks at emotional attachment to objects.  What we own, we value more than what we don’t own. This helps explain why we often have unrealistic ideas about the value of our items we hope to sell.

Loss Aversion
People dislike forfeiting something once they have it. In other words, if you are given something but then have to give it back or have it taken away, the pain of the loss is felt more acutely than the original gain.    
A study done on capuchin monkeys by Venkat Lakshminaryanan and colleagues illustrates loss aversion. The researchers set up a trading scenario where monkeys could buy pieces of apple from different sellers. Seller #1 would present one apple piece and hand it over, while Seller #2 would present two but then take one away, presenting the monkey with only one piece. Even though both sellers gave the same outcome, the monkeys strongly preferred Seller 1. This led the researchers to argue that loss aversion and economic biases are innate in not only in human beings but also in our predecessors, monkeys!

Maybe loss aversion explains why even top high earners find themselves in tax predicaments, when they bank rather than automate the deduction of their tax from their annual partnership pay-outs. In so doing, they often spend money they believe to be theirs even knowing rationally it is not.

What does all of this mean about budgeting in everyday life and being financially savvy?

Automate, automate, automate….
Many behavioural economists and financial advisors argue that to save money, we need to remove discretion and automate our savings. In other words, to remove the temptation to spend it, put it away before you’ve even seen it. This counteracts loss aversion.

An increase in rounding-up banking services and automated savings apps supports this. Superannuation in Australia is a classic example of automated saving – it goes to our fund and is untouchable before we’ve even seen it.

Mindful spending

Mindfulness is not only a strategy for emotion management but also for financial management. When we take the time to spend and save mindfully, we increase the potential for living within our means and forgoing purchases that do little to enrich our lives.  

Know your financial position

The age-old mantra, “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” rings true for me with money. In today’s busy world, sometimes it’s easier to bury your head in the sand rather than unearth a true picture of your current and forecasted financial position. In taking the time to look at your finances pragmatically, you are far better equipped to manage them and spend within your means.

Factor in treats

In his book, The Barefoot Investor talks about the importance of “blow” and “smile” buckets. In other words, he suggests that you factor in allowances in your budget for things that you enjoy – dinners with friends, new shoes or whatever puts pep in your step. Treats minimise a deprivation mentality and help us stay on course.

Accept that you’re playing the long game.
 
Economic transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term commitment. Once you understand this, you are more likely to meet your expectations.
 
Armed with this fresh awareness of money and human behaviour, I intend to make some changes in my own spending patterns this year–making sure I factor in plenty of treats! I wish you the prosperity and good fortune you might be seeking too.

Note: This post is in no way intended to replace the advice of a qualified financial advisor. Readers are encouraged to fully research their own financial decision making. Special thanks to my client Judy  who has graciously allowed me to share her story with you.

  

Great Expectations

Life is ever-changing, fluid and challenging at times. Some of us cope better with closing chapters and starting new ones. Some of us cope better when things don’t go according to plan. Why?

Humour me for a moment as I talk about managing frazzled expectations using Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Great Expectations, as my muse! In this complex and intriguing tale, Dickens explores the contradictions of life – wealth and poverty, love and rejection and good and evil.
 
When I think about people challenged by change, a dramatic image of Miss Havisham sometimes pops into my head. For those that need some memory jogging, Miss Havisham is a central character in the novel – someone whose demise directly correlates with an inability to adapt to her circumstances.  She’s wearing the wedding dress she was jilted at the altar in, sitting in her run-down, rat-infested home surrounded by cobwebs. Miss Havisham is a person burdened by her past disappointments and unable to find a way out of her misery.

What Miss Havisham was missing was resilience – an attribute needed for weathering any storm. She was unable to re-script her story, and got stuck in a one-dimensional narrative of what her life should have been!

esilience is a buzz word in popular psychology at the moment (Sheryl Sandberg has written about it in her inspiring book Option B.). I cannot emphasise enough the power of resilience in supporting seamless transitions from one phase of life to the next.
 
If only Miss Havisham had known about resilience! If only she could have learned to embrace Option B.
 
Resilience is a mindset. And we can choose to cultivate it. It’s not a single skill or task to master, but a collection of thoughts, beliefs and approaches to life. By being resilient, we can better manage our expectations and live fulfilled lives even with natural ups and downs.
 

 Let’s start 2018 by taking things in our stride year in our stride?
 
Try and go with the flow
Relinquish the need to control – this incorporates both people and your environment. 

Take time to do the things you love and spend time with those you love
Read a book, meditate, giggle with friends, go for a swim, take a morning walk, listen to music and have that long-awaited dinner with your ‘bestie’. Self-care is vital for resilience.
 
Show empathy and kindness
Often the fastest way to take our mind off our own worries is by showing compassion for others. The age-worn mantra that “you have to give to receive” is so true.
 
Practice hypnosis and/or mindfulness
Everyone who knows me knows I’m passionate about hypnosis. Hypnosis and mindfulness free our minds from constant chatter, allowing us much-needed space to rest and recharge.
 
Acknowledge and accept our negative emotions
Research shows that allowing ourselves to feel sadness and anger instead of repressing it is important for mental health. This doesn’t mean that we need to wallow in our own negative emotions, but that we  should positively acknowledge and share our feelings with a sympathetic set of ears.Here is where therapy comes in. We should not underestimate the power of the “talking cure” . Dealing with our emotions is a critical part of healing and resilience development.
 
So, as the shutters open on on 2018, I wish us all love, health, luck and  resilience. 

Being a “Good Enough” kind of mother

Cinderella had a wicked step mother and a fairy godmother. My children will tell you that I can be both.

Thankfully I am far more fairy godmother, but when I’m screaming at them impatiently, being irritable and moody, unavailable or mean, I am like the wicked step mother.

With the stressors of modern life, in a world that is becoming increasingly more complex and confusing, I do at times fail to be an ideal parent. I’m sure you too, have had this experience. And like me, when this happens, you too, feel mortified. As a psychologist who has spent hours studying the effects of negative interactions, I know how damaging it is to scream and lose control. I know how negative experiences or comments stick to our brains like a leech.

Thankfully though, the moments when I become the wicked stepmother have been buffered by loving, caring and meaningful interactions. I like to believe that as long as we are 80 percent good, that is “good enough.” As Donald Winnicott, an English psychoanalyst who practiced in the 1950’s said, “mothers don’t need to be perfect, just ‘good enough.’”

What does good enough mean?

The good enough mother is sensitive to her child’s needs most of the time. She picks up what her child is trying to tell her and responds quickly to satisfy those needs most of the time. For instance, when her baby cries she will know if her baby is hungry, sleepy, uncomfortable, or just wanting attention—and will act with the appropriate response: feeding, putting to bed, changing a diaper, or picking up and holding. She may not get it right all the time but she does so most of the time. This sensitive and quick response builds trust; her child feels that he is well protected and safe in the world. Such trust is the basis of all love.

Sometimes bad is good. 

At times of course, the good enough mother, though she deeply loves her child, misreads his needs or fails to respond with immediate and unconditional urgency. She is, after all, human and at times struggles with impatience, anger and resentment, especially with older children. By the time they get to their teens—forget it! She is often frustrated with their behavior and attitudes and she does not always deal with the issues as gracefully as possible.

Is this failure to be sensitive bad? Not at all. In fact, a parent’s mini failures are actually considered crucial for a baby’s healthy development as they create opportunities for the infant to learn to self-sooth and develop coping skills for life. As they grow up, they realise that we are imperfect and don’t know everything. In fact they usually think the converse is true.

Psychologist John Gottman says we need five positive to one negative for a healthy, solid and good relationship. We get this not with the one big birthday party or outing with our children, but by accumulating lots and lots and lots of simple and pleasurable experiences. Your relationship with your children is like a money box: if you keep it in full (with positive interactions), the occasional withdrawal (negative interaction) won’t dent the box.

Repairing the damage:

What can we do to repair the damage after we’ve been “imperfect?”

>>> Saying “I’m sorry.”

 >>> Spending quality and quantity time with them.

>>> Telling them and showing them that we love them.

>>> Making certain that our positive interactions outweigh the negative to counteract the negative bias in our brains.

What we can do to stay “good enough?”

>>> Work on becoming mindful, well rested and nourished so that we can be calmer and more resilient.

>> Work on self-compassion and reminding ourselves that to err is to be human.

In summary, even the best parent is imperfect. We need to remind ourselves, that to raise a caring and resilient child doesn’t take perfection—it only takes only being good enough. Failing some of the time, but responding sensitively most of the time builds basic trust and a sense of security in our children. And that is good enough.

 

Photo: Tony Alter/Flickr

 

This article features on elephant journal – http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/04/being-a-good-enough-kind-of-mother/

 

New Year Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions- Should we Bother?

Like many of you, I make New Year’s resolutions with zest and enthusiasm. For example, I will vow to use my gym membership more regularly, to lose weight, and to get more balance in my life… tick. tick tick…
And I every year I start off well but then, like most, I tend to resort back to my usual behaviour quickly.
This is typical. The University of Scranton research suggests that only about 8 % of people achieve their New Year’s goals.
So should we bother even making these resolutions at all?  Yes!
New Year’s resolutions are a sign of hope. They signify that we believe that we cannot only change but also be masters of our own fate to some degree.

LOCUS OF CONTROL
When you face a challenging situation, do you feel that you have control over the outcome? Or do you believe that you are at the mercy of outside forces of which you have no control? If you believe that you have some control over what happens, then you have an internal locus of control and you take responsibility for your actions. If you believe that you have no control over what happens, you have an external locus of control and you feel more or less powerless to affect your circumstances.
As you have guessed, people with an internal locus of control tend to be happier, more confident and even healthier.
Which are you?

LEARNED HELPLESSNESS
If you have an external locus of control, you likely feel learned helplessness, a term coined by Martin Seligman, an American Psychologist and educator.  Learned helplessness essentially means that you’ve learned that for the most part what you do doesn’t get you the outcome you wished for and so you give up taking action to change things.  It leads to and underlies depression.

CHANGING MINDSET
You don’t have to live with learned helplessness.  Even someone in the worst imaginable circumstances, can find ways to change their outcome. Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and survivor of the Nazi concentration camp, is the supreme example. He explains:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

MAKE THAT NEW YEARS RESOLUTION
When you make a New Year’s resolutions, even if you don’t stick to it, you are exhibiting optimism, the mindset that you can take action to change things for the better — whether it’s your football or soccer team winning, your article getting published, your business growing, making new friends, earning more money, or your new year’s resolutions succeeding. You are showing an internal locus of control.

So go ahead and make your resolutions!  Keep your hope and optimism alive. You may fail many times before you succeed. Thomas Edison experienced a 1000 unsuccessful attempts before he developed the light bulb.

RememberAnchor, as Henry Ford’s once quipped, “Whether you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right!”

Happy New Year!