Archive for March, 2008

Mmmm….delicious, originally uploaded by bobsee.

Who would have thought that tomatoes could be controversial?

Well, if you agree with this person – you’ll think they are fabulously health-giving (offering all kinds of protection against cancers)

But, if you agree with this person – you’ll think they are some kind of abomination  (because they are from the nightshade family)

Me? I think they look and taste delicious! Insalata Caprese is my favourite. I first tasted this on the Island of Capri and it was very simple there – tomatoes, mozarella and basil drizzled with olive oil. Mmmmmmm (psst – heard about mozarella?) Ho, hum…..is nothing safe any more?


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reflected freedom, originally uploaded by bobsee.

What is it about boats? So many people have such a fascination for them. These ones in the harbour at Cassis were such beautiful colours. Aren’t they lovely?
How about you? Do you like to be beside the seaside?
What do boats mean to you?

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There’s something going on in the garden……
the floor
the canvas
tightening the canvas
the roof
finished marquee
marquee at night

What do you like to celebrate? And how do you do it? What would you celebrate in a big tent like this?

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What do you like to do with your time off if you’ve busy and working all week? Do you like to slope off somewhere with friends?
sloping off to the beach

Or do you prefer to slope off alone?

sloping off alone

Or with that someone special?

sloping off together

What works best for you?

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rock, originally uploaded by bobsee.

For those of you who enjoyed the recent “What do you See Here?“……..here’s another one!

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We do live in a “pill for every ill” society. Arthur Frank, in his “Wounded Storyteller” describes the commonest type of story told by patients in contemporary society as being the “Restitution Story”. By this he means “I’m broke, Doc, please fix me”. He says it’s the fast food approach to health, the quick oil change while-you-wait approach. It’s technological and it’s based on a conception of illness as being about a bit of the body that’s not working and on a conception of Medicine as being about applying the right technology for the quick fix.

Whilst this approach has delivered dramatic results in acute situations, it’s done really nothing in the long term for chronic ones. Even in societies where the burden of death and disability from infectious disease has been reduced we are seeing steadily growing rates of chronic illness. The quick fix approach doesn’t deliver long term health and it doesn’t deliver a very effective fix!

Here’s a paper from the “Harvard Health Letter“, headed “Managing Seven Common Conditions without Medication”.

In summary, they say Arthritis – lose weight, gain mobility and less pain; Cholesterol – drop your LDLs (bad blood fats) 5% by keeping saturated fats off your diet; Cognitive decline – brain exercise and physical exercise slows this up; Depression – regular physical activity lifts mood; Diabetes – regular physical activity drops sugar levels; High Blood Pressure – lose weight, regular exercise; reduce salt and drop your BP; Osteoporosis – lose weight and eat more vit D and calcium for stronger bones.

OK, so not exactly rocket science – basically lose weight and exercise more – but at least it’s a start. It’s the mentality behind this report that appeals to me though. When our first concern with an illness is what drug to take or operation to have, we’ve missed the boat. Our first concern should be “what do I need to do differently?” because if you keep doing the same you’ll just get more of the same! But I think we need to push this agenda a lot further and into areas so far pretty unexplored. Sure, things like smoking, alcohol, drugs, diet and exercise are all modifiable factors in our lives which can influence which diseases we get and how those diseases progress, but we need to think of whole people, and not solely in this kind of mechanical or reductionist way. Mental states are significant factors in maintaining health and in determining recovery – positive attitudes, empowerment, hope, loving and being loved aren’t talked about so much by doctors or health care providers but they should be. In fact, if we treat people as only physical bodies we don’t treat them as human beings at all. We are much more than our physical selves.

So let’s all agree that diet, exercise and drugs are important considerations in health and illness, but what other factors would YOU consider? What about writing for example? Or music?

What factors are important in YOUR life to keep you healthy, or that you’ve found were important parts of your recovery from illnesses?

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In his Choice Theory, William Glasser make the point that we are all born “genetically programmed” to have five basic needs. However, we don’t all have each particular need to the same degree as another person. Our personal mix of these five needs will tell us a lot about our personal motivations and what lies behind the choices we make in life. The five needs are

  1. Survival
  2. Belonging (love and loving sex)
  3. Power
  4. Freedom
  5. Fun

He makes suggestions to help you figure out the strengths of these various needs in your own life.

If you have found that you are less willing to take risks than most people, you have a high need for survival.

The key to assessing the strength of your need for love and belonging is how much you are willing to give.

To assess the strength of your need for power, ask yourself if you always want to have your own way, to have the last word, to own people, and to be seen as right in most of what you do or say.

If you can’t stand the idea of following rules, conforming, or even staying in one place or with one group of people for very long, you have a high need for freedom.

If you enjoy learning and laugh a lot when you do, you have a high need for fun.

You get the idea? Of course, you could say that ALL of us have ALL of these needs. The point is to understand which of these resonate most strongly with you. Because that’ll be your prime motivator.

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building, originally uploaded by bobsee.

Perception involves a lot more than just sensory inputs ordered by our eyes and brains in the way a computer would process an image.
We use memory to match the patterns we see to what we’ve seen before. And we use imagination to see more than could be seen by a machine.
What do you see when you look at this?
What do you see first of all, what does it remind you of, and, if you were to use your imagination, what would you see then?

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William Glasser, in his Choice Theory, says this –

I disagree with the usual psychiatric thinking that you can learn from past misery. When you focus on the past, all you are doing is revisiting the misery. One trip through the misery is more than enough for most people. The more you stay in the past, the more you avoid facing the present unhappy relationships that are always the problem.

I’m with him on that – “One trip through the misery is more than enough for most people” – what a great quote! Whilst telling the story of the past can be important part of making sense of an experience and of understanding something of another person’s life, the solutions to the present suffering or distress don’t lie in revisiting. It’s not enough to just “get it out”. What matters is what you are choosing to DO today. How are you coping with life NOW as you are living it. That’s an empowering point of view because you can’t change the past, but you sure can change something about what you are doing today. Glasser believes that “present unhappy relationships that are always the problem”. Well, I’m always wary when I see that word “always”! It’s unlikely that there is a single cause, or type of cause, for all problems. He says –

What I will teach him is that he is not satisfied with a present relationship, the problem that always brings people to counselling. His past could have contributed to the problem, but even though most current psychotherapies initially focus on it, the past is never the problem.

I do think he’s onto something here, even if he’s pushing  things a bit with his “always” and “never”. There are, of course, a number of psychological approaches which focus on the present as opposed to spending hours digging through the past but not all so explicitly attempt to uncover the present unsatisfying relationship as the thing to focus on. The following three quotes make this very clear –

There is no need to probe at length for the problem. It is always an unsatisfying present relationship.

Since the problem is always in the present, there is no need to make a long intensive investigation of the client’s past. Tell him the truth: The past is over; He cannot change what he or anyone else did. All he can do now is, with my help, build a more effective present.

In traditional counselling, a lot of time is spent both enquiring into and listening to the clients complain about their symptoms [which makes it harder to get to the real problem]……..what the client is choosing to do now.

I remember the first time I realised I was on the wrong path when counselling a patient with postnatal depression who had been sexually abused as a child. On one of the one hour sessions she said to me “Look, I really do appreciate you taking all this time to listen to me, but every time I spend an hour talking to you about the past abuse I feel worse. I think I need a break from this. I think I need to live now.” Well, that woman taught me an important lesson about counselling – that it wasn’t enough to just let someone talk about the past, and that the present is where we live now so we all need better tools to live now, not better tools to remember the last miseries. I also realised at that point that different people had different needs and there was no one model of counselling which would fit everyone.

As I’ve learned from patients and learned from further reading and training, I’ve discovered I’ve a great affinity for focusing on what’s in life NOW and what coping strategies we’re using NOW. But I haven’t had the thought before that the problem ALWAYS lies in a current unsatisfying relationship. Maybe that’s worth exploring a bit more, but, what has made sense for me so far is that there are different areas of focus (and therefore different priorities) for different people. Sure, for many people, the most significant area is relationships, emotions and feelings. But for others the most significant area is something physical, practical, maybe work-oriented. And for yet others, the focus is on something spiritual, their disconnectedness to whatever is greater than themselves, or their search for meaning.

What do you think? Do these theories ring true for you?

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Looks quite strange, huh? Come back a bit and see more the tree – it’s a wonderful cedar!


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