Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome?

Most of you will know by now that I’m the founder and director of Powerchange, and have a passion to see men, women and young people everywhere live lives that they are proud to own, and for them to have a baseline of persistent happiness.

Know how Max feels?  Get in touch.

Know how Max feels? Get in touch.

No, that doesn’t mean I’m naive enough to think that any sincere and emotionally healthy person can be – or in fact would want to be – deliriously happy day in day out. Most of us know that the growing times we experience are most often within times of trouble and pain, and we need a good few of them through life. To remove them would leave us with shallowness and superficiality  -  and with no points of reference to compare our current happiness with unhappy times we would lose any sense of happiness anyway.

However, we also know that constant ‘baseline’ unhappiness is not at all good for your health, leading to all sorts of identifiable relational damage emotional and physical illness.

Some time  ago our Powerchange team coined the phrase Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome™, a label that describes a condition we regularly identified in our clients of, wait for it, Persistent Unhappiness.

Is your baseline state one of happiness or unhappiness?  In other words, when all the pressures of the day/week/month are through, you ‘land’ on a foundation of feeling happy.  The alternative is you constantly expending energy, effort and money on getting away from a nagging sense of UNhappiness, that when you run out of resources, or stop doing all those self-entertaining, happy-making activities  -  or simply drinking the pain away – finally captures you once more.

You are suffering from Persistent Unhappiness Syndrome™ when your default emotional ‘state’, how you feel, fulfils some of the following criteria:

  • You look back on the past and are predominantly conscious of a sense of dissatisfaction, pain, rejection or worthlessness.
  • You have had to work at being happy on a day to day basis for more than six months, or are constantly trying harder, or caught in the ‘perfectionist trap’.
  • You have to focus on enjoying other people’s lives (successes, joy, rewards, achievements, peace) more than your own in order to feel happy, satisfied or fulfilled.
  • You are trying to avoid the word ‘depression’.
  • You are on any sort of psycho-therapeutic medication.
  • The future looks bleak – more a challenge than an opportunity.
  • You are consistently not sleeping well due to troublesome thoughts (rather than a troublesome bladder).
  • You can’t remember experiencing a lasting deep sense of inner peace.

Yes, I know it sounds a bit esoteric or spiritual even, doesn’t it. For most people it is neither esoteric nor spiritual. Either way, PU Syndrome can be a nasty little undermining emotional ‘illness’.

Thankfully there is a cure…

As you address and ‘re-write’ some of your current beliefs, expectations, memories, lifestyle and values, you will find that you wake up each day WITHOUT those PU symptoms – in the same way that a person who has been cured of cancer wakes with a whole different perspective on their life.

Quite a good analogy, actually.

There’s more here:   http://www.powerchange.com/learn/persistent-unhappiness-syndrome/

If you’re a sufferer, our team can help.

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Posted in Auto-Response Psychology, Personal development, Uncategorized

The Safest Anti-Depressant drug anyone can ever take.

(Not on antidepressants? Then miss out this first paragraph.)

health warning. Do not abruptly stop taking most psychiatric drugs. Most psychiatric drugs are far more dangerous to take than people realise, but they also can become dangerous when discontinued too abruptly. Most have addictive qualities and can produce withdrawal symptoms that are emotionally and physically distressing, and sometimes even life-threatening. These drugs include neuroleptics or antipsychotics, such as Haloperidol or Olanzapine; antidepressants, such as Citalopram and Sertraline; stimulants such as Ritalin; minor tranquillisers, such as Diazepam; and prescription sedatives or sleeping pills. (see here) Stopping psychiatric drugs should usually be done gradually and with professional guidance. No generalised information can substitute for individualised medical or psychological care, however it is important to find help that is consistent with your own philosophy, and our approach is offered in that spirit.

The safest antidepressant treatment is undoubtedly Auto Therapeutic Medication (ATM) – that is, the antidepressants you create in your own system, at the strength your body knows it needs, with your own inbuilt chemical plant.

The sweet counter at Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly, London.

The sweet counter at Fortnum and Mason, Piccadilly, London. Therapeutic pills galore!

There are literally dozens of different types of ATM drugs and, though you may not know their assigned names, your body will already be familiar with them. They have NO unwanted side effects, NO toxicity, and NO stomach upsets. They do not need to be taken every day, or at any particular time of day, though their benefit can be felt whenever you need it, and you can take one on demand. They have NO withdrawal symptoms (or ‘discontinuation syndrome’ as your GP is likely to call the often debilitating – and occasionally horrendous – results) and you can DOUBLE the dose whenever you like with NO increase in harm. If you feel a bit miserable, take several at once.

HOWEVER, just like any other psychotropic drug, the WAY you take your self-produced Auto Therapeutic Medication REALLY DOES MATTER. It needs to be taken with the right THOUGHTS in your mind, associated to the right WORDS spoken before, during, and after you take it, and with a similar RITUAL that you use when taking any other drug, even simple painkillers like asprin.

The range of ATM medication in your body is huge. You can get ATMs that literally help you take exams, calm you down when driving the car or under stress, and help you come off drugs prescribed by your GP or psychiatrist. Others will enable you to sleep better, improve your sex life, and overcome phobias.

First of all, let me make clear that for many many people ATMs can be very effective. They are real, not imaginary, chemicals. Their efficacy is 100% dependent on your own natural internal ‘pharmacy’, and firing up the ATM is like pressing a button in the chemical production plant inside your body that produces all the essential therapeutic drugs you currently need for your physical and psychological wellbeing.

In order to press that button you do NOT even need to actually put a physical tablet in your mouth. It is perfectly possible to issue an order to start production, and like any good production plant what the boss decides starts to happen. Literally.  Real chemicals.

Your internal drug production plant can be switched on by many things. Here are just three of many:

1. Your production of endorphins (‘self-originated morphine’ – the word comes from ‘endo’: ‘self-‘ and ‘orphin’: from ‘morphine’) is switched on by particular kinds of EXERCISE, which is one reason your doctor recommends physical exercise for your wellbeing.

2. You production of adrenalin is fired, not just by experiencing a REAL disaster or trauma, but by you sufficiently IMAGINING DISASTER OR TRAUMA - as any horror movie maker and adventure park designer knows only too well.

3. If you imagine a deliciously prepared and gorgeously presented dish of your FAVOURITE FOOD, your mouth begins to water in response to your being stimulated by the thought. (Try it.)

Cuddling a PET or BABY, or giving someone a HUG or KISS is a trigger too.

Here is how it works:
Taking Auto Therapeutic Medication requires the multi-sensory stimulation of your brain. It requires – at least until your body has got used to it when you will self-medicate ATM automatically as situations arise – that you associate the process with THREE things:

Physical Action.
Your brain’s chemical plant is switched on by ACTION. You need to reach out to an imaginary bottle of imaginary tablets, or a sheet of imaginary foil-wrapped capsules, and use your real physical hands to remove the ATM, look at it carefully, and put it in your mouth, swallowing it with a real glass of water. (Some people like to replace the imaginary bottle with a packet of ‘Smarties’, but I don’t particularly recommend that as there are a few minor risks attached – though nothing like the risks associated with taking real antidepressants.)

Linguistic Stimulation.
Your brain’s chemical plant is switched on by INSTRUCTIONS. These may come from anybody and anything, but because you are the person most affected by the chemical production I highly recommend that you programme it to ONLY accept instructions that YOU have specifically given. The words you say and the words you THINK, change your brain. Make sure they are going to serve you well. Thoughts are stored bio-chemically in the body, so make sure yours are good.

Strong Imagery.
Your brain’s chemical plant is switched on by IMAGERY. Imagine taking a simple pill that will force you to feel great but cannot do harm. You decide on the colour, and whether it is a capsule or an ordinary round tablet. You decide on the size, as bigger ATMs tend to work better than smaller ones. You decide on the strength (If you find big ones harder to swallow then you can choose a smaller high-strength one if you prefer.) What you IMAGINE always affects the behaviour of your brain. It is well known in the pharmaceutical industry that RED tablets have a different effect than BLUE ones.

Recreational drugs make people feel good for a time, but their effects can be DISASTROUS in the medium to longer term. ATMs are completely harmless in the normal run of things, and because your brain perceives them as an instruction to start up the chemical production, for many people they REALLY WORK, producing REAL CHEMICALS in your brain.

As the man said, “According to your faith be it unto you.” In other words, you decide: increase your faith and you’ll get a more powerful result. For many many people, Auto Therapeutic Medication is just what they need to get them through the more emotionally disturbing periods of their life.

For more information on AutoTherapeutic Medication, or a conversation with our ATM specialist, click through to our Contacts page and just ask. Our phone contact number is on that website too.  We are here for you.

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Posted in Auto-Response Psychology, Personal development, Uncategorized

Supremely Confident? I hope so!

I wasn’t quite sure how to take it then, nor when it has happened since. Was it an accusation, a mere description, or something else.  The person had asked what did, and I described my coaching and how effective it was in the lives of my clients.

First my honest description, then came the exclamation, “You are supremely confident!”  I simply said yes. With a little more analysis, I suspect the word ‘supremely’ is a bit over the top, but I am confident in what I can do, yes. I was glad when the person accepted it as an honest response – which it was. (*see Postscript below)

What are you really good at?

This blog isn’t primarily about me. Its about you. The truth is, like me you’re really good at 100s of things. Reading this. Speaking English. Telling a story. Getting dressed.  Eating lunch.  Saying kind things to complete strangers (maybe you haven’t found out just HOW good you are at that one yet!)  I’m good at Therapeutic Coaching. Very good in fact. To deny it for the sake of some inconsistent false modesty serves no one in the end.

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Some people are really good at doing things that harm them. Putting themselves down.  Self deception (that’s telling themselves things that aren’t true). Jumping to negative conclusions. Describing themselves as being low in confidence, or hopeless, or a failure.  With such thoughts and words they literally form their physical brains, and the thoughts become self-fulfilling.

Those of us who have left what Robert Kiyosaki calls the ‘Rat Race’ of employment to start their own businesses or become self-employed know that unless we are confident in what we can do (and it goes without saying, can match the words with reality) potential clients are very unlikely to be confident in what we can do for them, with disastrous results for both the client and the business.

I have had the privilege of changing the lives of uncountable thousands of people’s lives across the world through those I have coached and trained through Powerchange. I suspect only a tiny percentage of those people would be different (freer, happier, more fulfilled and content, more motivated, stronger,richer, more inspired, off their psychotherapeutic medication) if my response to that statement had been a mumbling self-effacing, pseudo-humble denial. What might happen when you speak honestly about what you’ve done.  Besides which, would you go to an eye surgeon who was stumbling and unsure of himself? I wouldn’t.

Know what you are good at.

Accept that you are good at it.

Be Better at it tomorrow than you are today.

Don’t be afraid to say so.

If this blog has highlighted something important for you, take a moment to email me about it, andrew@powerchange.com. You might need a bit of therapeutic coaching – or maybe find out you really don’t!

*PS:  I had explained how people change when I work with them, often radically and permanently, often to the surprise and delight of their GP, and occasionally in the face of disbelief from their psychiatrist. Sadly, the unenlightened view of many so-called ‘psychological disorders’ still is that they are incurable, so “We’ll put you on these tablets for life”, as one person quoted their GP, becomes the norm. My client didn’t take the tablets at all, so wasn’t on them for even a day, and has never needed them.

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Posted in Auto-Response Psychology, Personal development, Uncategorized

Corrective Truth Technique

“Ok, so tell me the truth.” “I only wish I knew the truth.” “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth …”

So what is it about truth that is so important to us? What does knowing the truth provide for us? And do we really want to know the truth? About ourselves? About the ‘real’ uncomfortable world we live in? Truth is an interesting commodity. It is not the same as ‘facts.’ Without our concern to know it, or at least promote it, the world would grind to a halt.

Maybe we are like Colonel Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson opposite Tom Cruise) in the film “A Few Good Men” who shouts out in the courtroom, “You don’t want the truth. You can’t handle the truth!” The question is: Can I, and can my client?

"I want the Truth!" "Son, you can't handle the truth!"  Can you?

“I want the Truth!” “Son, you can’t handle the truth!” Can you?

An appreciation of Truth is an essential ingredient in every aspect of human life. It is the basis for all trusting and at the core of human interaction. Without it we live in a fantasy world, a world of distortion, a world where we are vulnerable to being deceived and taken advantage of.

In emotional health terms, truth plays another very important part. It helps us grow up. Small children know nothing of the big world in which they live. A baby is ignorant of everything beyond its simple familial relationships. As it grows up it learns about the world, letting go of some of its initial impressions and facing some of the harder truths about life. Wise parents will do their best to pace the speed at which truth arrives in the lap of their kids. Too much too soon creates trauma, and doesn’t allow time for the young person to adjust their life to fit. Too little hampers the process of maturity.

People also face situations where they decide “Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know”, or “Too much information!” (See ‘Sufficient Truth’ below.)

Corrective Truth Technique is used by our coaches to increase self-confidence, boost emotional strength, and establish an immovable foundation for future development of the client’s life. It is easy to assume that all unknown truth is unpalatable, will hurt us. But not so. Truth can be astoundingly liberating and wonderfully beneficial. It can feel like winning the lottery (Though I’ve never bought a ticket let alone won anything!)

Applied Corrective Truth via Powerchange’s Corrective Truth Technique can be used to undermine the subjective inhibiting beliefs the client has constructed from their experience of the world. “The thing is, I’m rubbish.” “I’m hopeless at most things.” “You can’t trust anybody these days.” All not true of course. Corrective Truth professionally applied to the depths of a person can (…will, does…) transform a client’s thinking and renew their zest for living tomorrow.

Sufficient Truth.
No one in their right mind wants to know – or can know, or can tell – “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” The well known legal phrase makes a mockery of the UK legal system, not least because the person who makes that commitment is deceiving themselves and the court already. Each of us is selective about the truth, even those who want to ‘tell the truth’ cannot do so. The ‘Whole Truth’ isn’t available for them to tell.

I’ve found that a commitment to seek out and personally tell ‘sufficient truth’ is often a good guide, and better still, for me to set out to be trustworthy. I like to live by a Personal Mission statement I put together to guide my life in 2002.  Part of that Mission is “To seek truth, and keep eternity in view.”  The truth is, I don’t always tell the truth, but I’m committed to seeking it and knowing it, and living in it as a long term goal. Yes, sometimes I withhold it.  I ask, “How much of the truth is going to be helpful for this person to know?” “How detailed does this need to be for them to understand it and accept it?” “Do I have their best interests at heart as well as my own when I tell them the truth?”

Powerchange coaches use Corrective Truth Technique to establish a reliable foundation in our clients’ lives that is ‘truth’-based and is in turn able to support more Truth. We allow it time to ‘set’, to harden like concrete, and on that sound base the client can build his or her new life, one that won’t crack when the storms come.

However uncomfortable to discover, the Truth can provide a new and more reliable personal foundation when apparently ’good’ things that we have for decades consistently believed to be true are revealed to be deception. “I always thought you were my sister. I can’t believe you didn’t tell me all these years you are actually my Mum.” Yet when I ask the client “Aren’t you glad that at least now you know the truth?” Almost without exception the person will say yes. The truth is very attractive.

However liberating or unpalatable Truth may be – and it is often both in some measure – there’s one thing that will always make our Corrective Truth Technique very attractive …

It reveals the Truth.

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Posted in Auto-Response Psychology, Personal development, Uncategorized

The Corridor – a story I tell my clients.

A few months ago I was asked to coach a youngish woman who lived in a long, gently curving corridor. She was perfectly normal it seemed to me when I spoke to her, but her whole life was ‘corridor’ based. She had lived in the corridor all her life. She was born there, by all accounts. Her parents had no recollection of living anywhere else and her brothers and sisters had been born in the corridor and lived there too.

 To start with she didn’t realise it was so narrow, bearing in mind she was only little. But as she grew up she sort of got used to it, comparing it to the clothes she grew out of all too regularly – a little bit constricting, limiting, and getting more so – though at the time she didn’t realise how.

Mum and dad had been corridor dwellers all their lives – and her teachers too. The family had never lived otherwise. From time to time friends moved out. One or two people came back from somewhere else but no one really believed them when they said it was so much more of a richer and better life. Most avoided confrontation by changing the subject.

Click on the image to meet Mr Bitt as he helps Rosie on YouTube

Click on the image to meet Mr Bitt as he helps Rosie on YouTube

Then one day as she was getting on with her normal mediocre life she met a man who changed it all for her. His name was Mr Bitt  - he explained that he was called that because he helped people who had ‘missed a bit’ –  and he was a Powerchange Coach, (You may have met him coaching Rosie on YouTube.) He was a bit off-the-wall too, but had a knowing warm sparkle in his eye and she felt he understood her. He talked of a world beyond the corridor, a world without walls, without limits, a world with an ‘outside’ where the sun shines, and it rains, and where there are powerful emotions.

Mr Bitt explained that the corridor seemed real but those who stayed within its secure panelled walls were living in a cramped fantasy. With guidance and courage we could exit the corridor and live in the real world beyond the confinement of the corridor walls. He talked of a new sense of freedom, new responsibilities, new outlooks and the opportunity to live a better life. He explained that people who left corridor life found the new world scary to start with. They felt insecure, overwhelmed by the expanses of space, opportunities and choice. He said he would show her the way out if she wanted him to but she couldn’t live in two places at once. Living there meant not living here. Visiting was an option, but once the world beyond this corridor had been visited for the first time, a permanent return and reintegration would be very very difficult if not impossible.

Most of her friends thought he was kidding, but for her, as she lay in bed mulling over his story, she became disturbingly dissatisfied with where she was.

The corridor had no horizons to aim for, nothing ambitious. School in the corridor meant sitting down and doing what you were told. College was much the same, except that you were ‘told’ more subtly. Satisfactory results depended on a disguised need to conform. Work in the corridor had that ‘there and back’ quality to it. It seemed safe, but everyone knew where the ultimate control lay.

It was only a few weeks before she crossed her internal Rubicon and became a believer. She approached Mr Bitt the Coach next time he visited, and explained her new position. He smiled – with joy or amusement she couldn’t be sure.

“When are you planning on leaving?” He asked.
“Anytime.” She replied. “I’m ready.”
“Now?” He enquired firmly.
Without hesitation she agreed. Yes. Now.
“You know you will never be content here ever again once you’ve been there?”
“That’s fine.” She said, unable to conceal the nervousness she felt.

He looked at her for a moment, checking the strength of her intent. “Come with me, this way, now.”
She never did find out what he did to make it happen, but a moment later a panel in the corridor moved and revealed a concealed door in the wall. “Ready?” He asked. “There is no going back from here. Once you’ve been through this door and seen the other side you will never be able to say you haven’t.”

“Ready.” She gritted her teeth.

She was completely unprepared for the shock. The door opened, and it was as if a bolt of electricity hit her body. She was, for a few seconds, completely unable to breathe. Overwhelmed. Before her lay the most elaborately decorated, the most stunningly beautiful room she had ever conceived in her mind.

It was palatial in every meaning of that word. Huge lit gold and crystal chandeliers hung from the domed ceiling. Five casement windows, dressed in the finest silk curtains opened out onto a magnificent park, stretching toward the snow capped mountains on the horizon, with the sea just visible beyond. Rich tapestries and artworks (the very sort she would have chosen for herself only more so) graced the walls and at the far end of this heart-stopping sight were five steps covered in gorgeous deep-pile scarlet carpet, and set up high, alone, at the top of the steps, a gilded throne.

This was not a ballroom as she first thought, but a throne room, silent, beautiful, and empty, awaiting the sovereign. Compared to the corridor – and just a wall away, she thought grimly – this was heaven compared to hell. In at least one sense of the word.

“It’s yours,” he whispered to her, a knowing smile playing across his face. “Go sit on your throne.”

This indeed was a trauma of the nicest kind. She felt a strange new emotion begin to well up from the deepest caverns of her soul. An overwhelming sense of joy mixed with incomprehension, awe and unbelief took hold of her and she fell to her knees and burst into an unstoppable flood of tears. How could this be true? And yet here she was staring at it. Was this really hers?

“Well, are you going to climb the steps?” Mr Bitt asked, as practical as ever, a smile playing gently over his face. “It’s yours. Your throne, your life, your kingdom. And it has been here all this time!”

He took her arm and helped her to her feet.  “No one else has or can sit on that throne you know. It is yours and yours alone.” He paused, chuckled, and said, “Of course you could go back to the corridor if you like, but you will never be able to say you haven’t seen the throne, will you!”

She dried her tears. “Please take my hand.” She asked, but he refused. “No, I can’t do that. You must climb each of the steps by yourself, turn round and face the world, your kingdom, and sit down firmly on the throne. It’s yours, all yours, you know. I’ll be here though, to help you – particularly in these early days. By the way, there is a crown there too, just to the side. Wear it!”

It was just five steps away.  It wasn’t possible to ascend to the throne without taking them one at a time, each loaded with meaning. Many years later as she thought back to that day, she remembered them. Most of all she remembered the decision to climb the first step. To sit on the throne of her life required that she accept these words, discretely woven into the carpet of each step. She viewed each sentence courageously – and noted each quietly and determinedly as she walked forward.  First, step one…

“It is mine.” It was momentous. Like a mini explosion. Something leapt within her. Looking back she felt it was the moment she became fully a woman, leaving behind the child she had been. “Mine,” she repeated, trying to grasp the deep meaning.  It is mine.

Then the second step. These words too were a revelation as she spoke them…

“I have been given it.” This throne, this realm, this sovereignty – this life –  was hers by right as a human being. A gift. This realisation took her into a subtly new dimension. A gift! Who from? For what purpose? Me? She felt tears sting her cheeks again. She paused for a few minutes, yet Step Three was waiting to take her (literally) to a new level:

“I was born for this throne.” Yes, her kingdom had been there all along, run by others, waiting until the time when she was willing to take charge. The impact of this undeniable truth filtered into her thinking and made its home deep within. “Yes,” she said, “I really was born for this throne.”

The fourth step was now available – and seemed equally traumatic. This one challenged the thoughts she had had since she was little, yet it too was required. Without it she would never be able to sit comfortably on her throne and reign with confidence. She listened as Mr Bitt intoned the words for her to repeat for herself:

“It is possible for me.” She felt a smile creep across her face as she listen to him, then spoke the words out for herself, then a second and third time. Then again, more boldly. She made the sentence her own by changing it. Turning for a moment to look at Mr Bitt, she confirmed, “I can do this.” “Yes, you can,” he agreed.

Now the fifth and final step to the throne was available. Just one last step stood between her and the throne of her life and kingdom.  It was simple now, and she realised how there was a natural progression up the steps to the throne. This last one was simple – yet so essential to her future reign.

“I accept it.” She said confidently, put the crown on her head and without more ado, turned and sat down on the throne of her life, her kingdom, her future.

Done. She stopped for a moment and considered the past. She was leaving behind so many things that had made her feel safe, and as she sat thinking she realised that she still had them, but they no longer had power. She no longer needed their security. They were the past, and this throne and this throne-room  - and all that out there – was the future. She was finally sitting on the throne, looking out onto her new world.

“Now what do I do?” She thought to herself.

“What do you want to do?” Mr Bitt replied, knowing her thoughts. “The choice is yours. You can return to the corridor if you like, and return there at any time, but you will never be fully fulfilled and happy there again. You’ve been here, you have accepted responsibility for your life. Welcome. This room is for the woman who is prepared to explore a different future.”

(To speak to Mr Bitt personally on Skype, email andrew@powerchange.com. You never know what may happen. By the way, he doesn’t wear glasses any more.)

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Moving out of the Quit Zone

I recently found myself in the Quit Zone again, that patch of a project, a friendship, maybe a job – and for some people, even life itself – where the desire to quit is very strong. Or maybe very VERY strong.

It surfaces as a response to other highly motivating emotions like disappointment, failure (again), rejection, and shame, or ignorance, incapacity and pain.IMG_2536

I’ve been in the Quit Zone many times, and the decision I made each time changed my life. Every Quit Zone decision does. As I look back on decades of decisions, most of them were just fine, the normal decisions we make in choosing our way forward. I work on the theory that in general, given time, one choice tends to emerge as the favourite ‘obvious’ one, so I go for it. Or not, as the case may be! When it is not so clear, either choice will be fine – I just need to make one.

But more serious Quit Zone decisions are different. The stakes are higher. They usually involve your career, your health, your financial security, and those you really love, and draw out the need to address high value character traits – courage, resilience, boldness, emotional strength.

I want to quit when:

  • I’m facing abuse, rejection or deliberately being ignored.
  • It seems the only way out of a perceived trap.
  • I want to revert to being a little boy, not a man.
  • I have run out of energy and am very tired.
  • The next ‘step’ is actually a massive leap with seemingly huge consequences.
  • Self pity kicks in.
  • I stop caring.

Although quitting is undoubtedly the wisest decision sometimes, quitting brings its own set of new problems that have to be faced and overcome.

Revelation – you can be better without being bitter

In the apocalyptic end-of-the-world vision called the Book of Revelation – the writer, banished to work in the mines of a small Greek island as punishment for sticking with his religious beliefs, writes to a little community in Laodicea on the mainland. He describes his vision of God saying to these people in effect:

“You don’t have what it takes right now.
I’m knocking on your door. Open the door to my help.
I will strengthen you, toughen you up so that you can overcome the challenges you face.
It will be a bit of a furnace, but you’ll come through it richer, more refined, without the shame you currently feel, and victorious.”

Note that the reward is for those who overcome, not to those who have no battle, nor those who have backed away from the fire, nor those who have never experienced the Quit Zone. Tough times can make the man and woman however young or old they are.

Tough people press through the challenge and reemerge on the other side ‘better, not bitter’.

If you’re in the Quit Zone today, decide what you want, act towards it, see what happens, and adjust. It may turn out differently from what you fear.

It has for me.

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Posted in My Faith, Personal development, Uncategorized

Welcome to the Hillside.

If this isn’t your thing (it’s about my faith) come back another day, no problem – I quite understand.   If you’re not sure, or you’re ready to explore, make a drink and read on …

Amid all the activity of choosing and calling his disciples, healing ‘every disease and illness’, teaching in the local community halls and proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven – whatever that is! – Jesus Christ famously went up onto a quiet hillside one day, sat down with his new disciples and talked to them. Now called ’The Sermon on the Mount’ it was neither a sermon, nor on much of a mount, but who cares. It is captivating. Confusing. Challenging. Frankly? Impossible. You can read it for yourself: Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of St Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible.

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Reading Jesus’ teaching on my Kindle as I travelled to Spain, heading to the Bay of Biscay (cue Pic 1)and later on into the mountains roads and Iberian autumn countryside (Pic 2), it seemed as if he is describing two ships (kingdoms) HMS Kingdom of Earth and HMS Kingdom of Heaven sailing close together, and we are given the opportunity to transfer ship onto Kingdom of Heaven, and live differently, live trusting God, dependent on the Holy Spirit, serving a different Captain and living with a different crew. “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near” he said. Reading it again it is clear that though the two ships may be sailing close together – within transfer distance – for now, they are actually incompatible. Chalk and cheese. Convention and revolution.

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There are lots of incomprehensible things in Jesus training session on that hillside. For 2000 years people have been discussing what the kingdom of heaven is, what ‘blessed’ actually means, the impossibility of fully living this teaching out, and the incompatibility of this eternal parallel spiritual kingdom to the time-bound Earth Kingdom we live in. Some even deny its existence.

Yet Jesus says that the Kingdom of Heaven is actually where the ‘Father’ is, where Jesus’ followers’ rewards are being stored up, and strangely, is ‘among you’. Here. Now. In this room.

He explains in this teaching session who really is the greatest and the least. He explains the need for his followers’ righteousness to be greater than that of those who dish out and interpret the ‘law’, society’s rules. Unless it is, his people will never make the transition into this unusual Kingdom of Heaven in the first place, strongly hinting that most of those politicians, religious leaders, law enforcers and academics won’t.

  • He says that what you think matters, that lustful thoughts end up as actual adulterous deeds, and the consequences of such deeds are ‘hell’ to live through for those involved. (How many millions of families around the world would personally endorse that!)
  • He tells his listeners to be perfect (it means ‘complete’), as God is perfect. No challenge there then!
  • He says, because it isn’t possible for one person to serve two masters, don’t try. Choose God or material wealth.
  • He says that me worrying about my life – what I eat, drink or wear, or have stashed in tomorrow’s pension fund – doesn’t work and is pointless. Yes, really.
  • “Don’t judge” he says, yet the whole of the Sermon on the Mount calls for judgement, measurement, assessment – not just of ourselves, but of each other too.
  • Jesus said his followers, his crew, were like flavoursome salt added to food, and a bright light to be put on a lamp-stand. And we are to shine, so others may see our good works and honour God for what they see.
  • Learn to do things secretly he says. Give in secret. Pray in secret. Fast in secret. Live quietly.  Knowing how and when to be discreet is important to Jesus.

Confusing?

For me, the message is more “This is impossible!’ Jesus is setting standards that are humanly unattainable without serious help, yet telling us to do it. Maybe try it. It seems to be a series of statements designed to reveal insecurity, to highlight inadequacy and point out in vivid autumn colour the blatant weakness of each one of us. Uncomfortable. Raw.

Jesus deliberately undermines the self-confidence and self-assurance of us people who think we ‘know’, sponsoring instead a humiliating sense of hopelessness in our ‘human effort’, and a dependence on something or someone bigger and beyond ourselves to help us get aboard this Kingdom of Heaven, if that’s where we want to be.

Backroads

Changing the analogy again, Jesus said to take the narrow backroads, not the main road. Like a half-completed motorway being constructed by a broke european state, the accepted fancy road takes you nowhere, and will eventually run out to a silent and empty construction site. However good it may seem now, blindly rolling down the tarmac will lead to your destruction, he said, but the backroads lead to life.

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Ah, the backroads! The narrower country paths, the mountain passes perhaps! These are the ones Jesus says to take, the backroads of daily lifenot of spectacular adventure. It’s where the real people live. Much more suited to a few hikers than 40 tonne articulated trucks, they are slower to travel on, less rushed, go up hill and down vale, are interesting, more individual, less well signposted, but well trodden, more honest, demand care to negotiate, can be harder work, and again, are less conspicuous.

Inconspicuous freedom

You’ll be less noticed walking them – in a good way. Freer from concerns about image and perception, freer to find and be yourself, chose your route, to know and follow your heart. Freer to work, rest and play. Yet your good deeds, left behind as you travel on, like a lamp set on a stand, a light on a hill, will show observant fellow travellers the way. Great, he says. No need to fear that kind of influence. It is inevitable, and serves the world well.

I’ve noticed too, reading Jesus’ words again this morning, how the daily actions we take seem to matter more than the goal we have, with the focus and honour being more on taking the next deliberate step than anticipating arrival celebrations. It comes across to me as extremist in some places. Secret. Blunt. Blatant. Cut your hand off, he says. Don’t resist evil (What?!) Give in. Love the people who hate you and abuse you. How?!

The process matters…

Ask, seek, knock…  They are action words.  Pray, fast, give… Action.  Doing it matters. It WILL produce rewards and results (safer when stored away in another kingdom, not this one) but don’t make the results your primary aim. Enjoy the journey. It is made one step at a time.

But amidst it all, keep your wits about you, Jesus advises. There are very deceptive and nasty people out there whose offerings will poison you. Look over those backroad hedges. There is no hurry. Wait for harvest time. Check out the barn-content of the farms you pass and the life-content of fellow travellers. See what grows from the fields and lives of the people around you and go by that. Bad fruit means bad trees. Good fruit means good trees. Be picky.

For an example of how to do it…

… we can look at the Teacher himself. We can see the outcome of Jesus’ walking the backroads and climbing the hills with his followers. Listen to His wisdom. He changed the world by being inconspicuously influential, infiltrating our world with his subversive wisdom and unnerving honesty, and his Spirit is still changing it in and through the myriad of communities around the globe that still choose to follow him today.

I made the choice to get aboard his ship early on in life. Still personally challenged and intrigued by the Christian faith, still learning from the Captain and my fellow crew members, it is a decision that to this day I’ve never regretted.

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