Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quiet Power: Growing up as an Introvert in a World that Can’t Stop Talking

I picked up this book by Susan Cain, who I first was aware of after watching her TED talk about the power of introverts. It is a follow up book to her “Quiet” bestseller.

Her intended audience are introverted teenagers, and there are two short chapters aimed at parents and teachers.  Other than this, there are four parts to the book focused on school, socialising, hobbies and home.  The chapters are full of stories of introverts learning how to adapt to their personality type and working out how to achieve success.

The tone of the book is simple and straightforward but not condescending, and I found it to be very readable.  I especially liked the cartoons, but wish there were more of them!

One of the messages of the book is that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert, and Susan gives examples of famous and not-so-famous introverted role models who have achieved marvellous things, which might inspire younger introverts.  She both talks about how to “stretch your rubber band”; reach out of your comfort zone to manage demands that may suit an introvert more, and also how an introvert can manage situations to allow themselves more easily to cope with them.

Brian Little’s concept of the “restorative niche” is explained with practical and realistic ideas of how a teenager might find one.  But at the same time, Susan cautions against using this niche for escaping or running away; rather using it as a way to recharge batteries before facing the world again.

Overall, I think this book is well worth a read for any introvert, teenaged or otherwise, and for anybody who would like a deeper understanding of “the tribe” as Susan Cain calls introverts.

Children without a Name?

I was stopped in my tracks today by a comment in a discussion on the Jeremy Vine Show about health service budgets which stated that 1 in 5 children starting nursery in South Manchester don’t know their own name (or that they have one)

On reading some news articles more carefully it seems that it may be a misleading statistic, or even just anecdotal evidence.  The article in The Telegraph goes on to explain the link with problems in communication including children who then go on to have a diagnosis of autism.  However, that seemed to be a minority of the number initially quoted.

In The Telegraph article, there is a lot of discussion about communication in families and subsequent performance at school.  Many seem to be pointing the finger at our media habits – essentially watching telly instead of talking to each other at home, and to areas of deprivation.

But I think a big discussion is missing.  Having a name, and knowing that that particular word means you, must surely be key to your identity.  This article gives a more in depth discussion about the significance of a name.  I wonder what effect it has on a child to be starting pre-school without having a solid foundation for knowing who they are?  Without a name, it must be difficult to construct a core sense of self – opinions, wants, needs, relationship to others, and a sense of being a unique person separate from others around them.  It’s a massive series of developmental tasks for a baby – knowing that they are a separate person, and that they have control over their bodies, and then developing a sense of self, including that stage of knowing that they are able to say “no”!

Many people come to counselling wanting to rediscover their identity.  Particularly if they have grown up in a family where there is an emphasis on looking after other people to the detriment of their own wants and needs, they may have difficulty knowing exactly who they are.  People may also rely on seeing what others reflect back at them – we are very quick to impose labels on those around us – “Oh, Sheila’s a grafter”, “Freda dances to her own tune”, “she’s always been a live wire”.  Or identity might be tied to roles in society – a parent, a child, career choice etc.  How often when we meet somebody do we ask “what they do” in order to get a handle of who they are? When that role changes or disappears through relationship breakdown, bereavement, redundancy or retirement, we can have problems if we’ve relied on that to inform us about who we are.

In Transactional Analysis, one of the things that we might address in therapy is a client’s relationship with themselves.  We might examine the way that we speak to ourselves, whether we can identify our own wants and needs, and how we use these in relation to other people.






To sleep, perchance to dream…

“Are you getting enough sleep?”

“He sleeps like a baby”

“Sleep is for the weak”

There are so many myths and beliefs about sleep, and yet it remains a bit of a mystery…  A doctor, who had been researching sleep for about 50 years is quoted as saying, “As far as I know, the only reason we need to sleep that is really, really solid is because we get sleepy.” – William Dement.

it is a state of being shared by many animals, even insects to a certain degree. When we’re asleep, we know our body is being renewed and strengthened, but what about our minds?

Most of us know that feeling of not enough sleep, feeling hazy, out of it, and prone to forgetfulness, silly mistakes and clumsiness.  Longer term, if we build up a “sleep debt”, it can affect our thinking, our emotions, and our bodies.

But how much is enough?  Do we have to be in bed by 10.30pm and up by 6.30am?  Or do we follow stories of famous light sleepers who apparently only needed 4 hours a night?  Apparently, adults need between 7-8 hours sleep.  If we get significantly less, we can build up a “sleep debt”, and too much sleep can also have a negative impact on mood and physical health.

One way to work out if you are getting enough sleep is to try sleeping for different lengths of time and to keep a diary of how you feel during the day.

If you feel you aren’t sleeping enough, or the quality of your sleep is poor – perhaps you wake frequently, or find it very difficult to drop off to sleep – there are some simple steps to try, which can be all gathered together under the name of keeping good sleep hygiene.

1.  Bedroom.  To make sure that your bedroom is helping you to sleep, your bed should be comfortable, the air should be fairly cool, and the room should be as dark as possible.

2.  Behaviour.  Try to make sure that you keep the bedroom for sleep and sex.  No working or watching telly!  Parents are encouraged to lead their children through a regular night time routine, but we tend to leave this behind as adults.  Getting ready for bed early by putting aside laptops, tablets, telly etc, and relaxing with a book and a bath can help.  Exercise and fresh air during the day is helpful, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime.

3.  Through the night.  If you have a wakeful night, then instead of lying in bed trying hard to sleep for longer than about twenty minutes is counterproductive.  Much better to get up and do something different until you feel sleepy again.  If you wake in the night with a worry, you could try keeping a notepad and pen by your bed so you can write it down.

4.  Nutrition.  A warm drink before bed can help.  Our temperature naturally falls when we sleep, so we can help trick ourselves by artificially raising then lowering our temperature.  Avoiding caffeine later in the day is helpful too.  This could be as early as 2pm.  Alcohol can help you feel drowsy, but it tends to diminish the quality of your sleep later on.

What other things do you find helpful when trying to combat poor sleep?





On Caring…

Carers provide unpaid care and support, usually to a family member, but sometimes to a friend or neighbour. About 1 in 8 adults in the UK is a carer, and six thousand people become a carer each day in the UK.  Many combine caring with working, and many care for more than one person, perhaps a child and a parent at the same time.

What impact does becoming a carer have on a person’s wellebing?  Carers UK quote a statistic saying that people providing high levels of care are twice as likely to suffer permanent illness or disability.  From my own experience of working with carers, many neglect their own health and wellbeing in order to care for their relative.  They may experience depression, stress, back and joint pain, and many are too busy to attend GP or hospital appointments.

But also Carers can feel proud of what they do, and gain a great deal of personal satisfaction and fulfilment.  They may find that being a carer gives them a certain status and respect from healthcare and social care staff.  There are also ways to meet up with other carers socially, and for support, and great friendships have been formed this way – and in one case that I know of, a marriage!

For some, their caring responsibilities have come as a development of their role as a parent, a child, or a sibling.  The illness or disability may have come slowly over time, or it may have been as a result of a traumatic event – a stroke, heart attack, or an accident.

So what helps a person adapt to taking up a role as a carer and finding pleasure, or acceptance rather than holding onto anger and sadness, and grieving perhaps for what might have been?

Further Reading:




Welcome to my blog. I hope that in the coming months I will be writing about counselling, thoughts on current affairs relating to mental health and well being, and… well, anything else that comes to mind really.

My intention is to create clarity in my own thinking by writing, but also to be helpful to other people with an interest in counselling and I would love to have comments and discussion here too.

Please do leave a comment, even if just to say, “hello”.