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Other than archaeologists, no-one willingly digs a deep, dank hole in the hope of finding treasure. When we find ourselves free falling towards the bottom it’s usually because we’ve wandered into a dark place in our minds, and on landing we grub around in the soil blaming everyone and everything for our misfortune.  It’s easy to claim the universe is conspiring against us. Actually, the universe doesn’t give a fig. 

We can shout in the hope that someone will hear us and come to the rescue. We can cry but that only brings temporary relief. We can kick and scream and get really angry but that leaves us more frustrated.  Or, we can surrender to our fate.

Warren Buffet said, “The most important thing to do if you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.”  I would say, put the shovel down and spend that precious, quiet time applying a fresh approach the problem. 

These holes represent facets of our lives where we have made errors of judgement: financial, legal, health, work and relationship being the most common. We can see them as negative and a reflection of failure but if we expend all our energy flailing about and beating ourselves up, there’s none left to ponder on what the hole might have to teach us. Might there be some hidden treasure that would have lain discovered had we not hit rock bottom? 

It’s frightening down there, alone in the dark and we might be in some pain but in order to rise to the surface we need to stop resisting and do some work on ourselves, no matter how distressing.  Firstly, see the pain as a wake-up call for change. Something in your world isn’t right and hasn’t been for some time yet maybe you’ve turned your face away hoping it will sort itself out. We all do that at times.

Holes are metaphors for avoidance. Now is the moment to face the foe. Let’s say your demon is debt but you keep on shopping to alleviate the anxiety. While the walls of the hole are shielding you from distractions, you can mentally come to terms with this self-destructive behaviour and outline steps towards a solution. Small wins are more motivating than giant strides as they create confidence and a feeling of self-worth. 

To be successful requires digging deep into your heart to unlock the origin of your behaviour. Continuing with the example of debt and shopping, maybe it stems from being bullied at school for not having a decent pair of trainers. We go to any lengths to rid ourselves of the feelings of shame and poor self -worth that accompany these situations and if that means reckless spending, so be it. It’s irrational but makes emotional sense. 

 The real work starts when we are plunged back into a murky past to excavate those painful feelings and lay them out on the surface for examination. This is when having the right kind of support is invaluable.

 The last time I paid an unsolicited visit to Bottomsville was when my business hit a brick wall. After much soul searching I decided it was time to wrap it up and move onto something new. For a year, I was angry. There were no shiny beads or bits of interesting pottery in my trench but after a while I spotted a tiny shard of glass twinkling in the mud. It spoke to me.   You are not your career. You are an individual with plenty more to offer. Help one person and you help the world.

Be like the archaeologist. Get off your bottom!  See that hole as a place of treasure – of wonder. That is your life. Prepare to be filled with awe as you reclaim that discarded bit of you and integrate it in your life in a meaningful way. 

It doesn’t mean you won’t fall into another hole but next time you might peer down with interest and walk round it.

This is what I’d write on my post card from Bottomsville. Didn’t want to come but so glad I stopped by. 


Goodbye Smart Phone

New research out shows that smart phones can affect physical and mental health and people are shouting out about it. Workshops to detox are on the rise, psychologists are giving dire warnings about the increase in anxiety, depression and suicide, especially amongst young people – the new IGEN. The articles are interesting, eye opening and worth reading but I thought I’d add my few cents worth to a  phenomenon I find very disturbing.

  I was resistant to the idea of a smart phone until two years ago mainly because I don’t like touch screen keyboards. When I accidently gave my dying Blackberry a spin in the washing machine, I gave in and bought a Samsung mini Galaxy. Small, neat, lightweight, simple. A simple ring tone, a few Apps, connect up the email and sufficient until the day…. Well that day has come.

  Every ping announcing the arrival of some piece of information that’s not going to make one iota of difference to my life other than emails relating to my writing was having an effect on my concentration. I started to get twitchy and imagined I could hear the ping every few minutes.  

  To conquer this behaviour, I turned it off during my writing hours but my mind kept straying, wondering if I was missing out. I think younger people call this FOMO ( fear of missing out).

   My next strategy was to shove it under the mattress using the out of sight out of mind principle. That worked for about two hours, providing I was deep into my imaginary life where eyes still met over coffee and people used telephone boxes or wrote letters in beautiful flowing script to declare love or condolences.

   Living in Malvern with a huge hill behind the cottage means that reception can be intermittent. Calls get cut off and text messages stay in the outbox until I can stand on the low wall in the courtyard and wave the phone about. ‘Go damn you,’ my American neighbour heard me say one morning, as he watched me wave my device in the air.  ‘You’re addicted,’ he laughed, stubbing out his cigarette.

  His words plucked a chord and for a few days I turned off the phone all together. After all, I have a landline, a laptop and a tablet. It felt alright. In fact it felt brilliant. My sleep was better, I now do yoga in the mornings instead of checking my phone and I get a renewed sense of what my life used to be like back in the 1970s. It’s liberating. 

  So what lies behind drastic decision to actually get rid of my smart phone? Some might speculate that I can no longer cope with the acceleration of technology now that I am post 60 and from a dinosaur era. Others may think I’m ill or having a breakdown. Quite the opposite in fact. I’m enlightened or should I say I’ve got my marbles back since I was against the idea of the smart phone in the first place, realising as a behavioural specialist where this might lead. Research coming out is proving my initial fears to be true.

  So what are my top reasons for saying goodbye to my smart phone?

  My eyes are sore and are at risk of being damaged so says my optician. I don’t have 20/20 vision – in fact I have one functioning eye and I’d like to keep it. Extensive exposure to blue violet light is toxic and can potentially damage the back of the eyes. It affects sleep patterns and moods.

 Smart phone users wandering through busy streets staring at their screens are in danger of having an accident. I’ve found myself stopping in the middle of the pavement for someone to walk round me then they give me a mouthful because I interrupted their browsing for one second.

  I used my brick-sized mobile to connect with family back in the eighties and can’t remember any examples where it was used for work until I was going to be late for something. It was a phone for heaven’s sake not a walking office. It knew its place. Now, smart phones connect us to everything from a virtual learning environment to porn and on line gaming where children can be drawn into a vortex of unpoliced, unsupervised connections and adults can experience painful withdrawal symptoms when they are without their phones for five minutes. I’ve seen panic behaviours exhibited in some of the most rational and controlled people.

  What really pushed me over the edge was when I went into a restaurant last Friday and sat near a family of five, all of whom were scrolling, swiping or stabbing on their devices. No communication apart from the odd grunt, no eye contact, no bonding or connection. Even the toddler was sucking on a plastic toy mobile. I watched this scenario play out when their meals arrived. Fingers wrapped around chips but eyes stayed firmly on the screen. No more to say really is there other than it made my stomach turn. Loneliness, isolation, inability to exchange ideas in more than a line at a time..... is this the future of society? 

Nokia must have seen this coming. I loved my 3310. It did everything I needed to do – phone, text, a fabulous radio and a camera. Iconic, classic and comforting. Thank you Nokia for being ahead of the times. I’m off to buy mine today. Love retro but then I came of age in 1974. J

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