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I hope to make this a useful resource, not just a 'come and buy my services' blog and the comments and opinions of visitors is likely to be a big part of making the blog a success.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Stuart Sorensen

(The Care Guy)

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  1. Do you enjoy making mistakes?

    How do you feel about experience?

    I remember reading a cliché many years ago on the back of a matchbox of all places. The simple sentence read like this:

    “Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want”

    The implication was that the word ‘experience’ represented something negative but actually few things could be further from the truth. On the contrary experience, especially the experiences we didn’t expect or plan for are the lessons that help us to grow. The things we cannot control are the things that broaden our horizons. Ellis’ tenth belief is the idea that:

    We need to have certain and perfect control over things.

    Even if this actually were possible it wouldn’t be a good thing. To have perfect control is to have no surprises. To put it another way we could never experience anything we didn’t already know about. We could never have any new experiences and never know the wonder of life. Perfect control impoverishes our quality of life.

    There is, of course, a need for balance here and it would be very wrong to suggest that control is never helpful but complete and perfect control is not only impossible it would also be very limiting. Even when the experience we have appears to be negative it can have some positive aspect. To quote another cliché:

    “Whatever doesn’t kill me helps me grow”

    Sometimes of course the positive aspect is difficult to find and sometimes the disadvantages can certainly outweigh the advantages but since complete control is impossible Ellis’ tenth rational belief seems much more reasonable:

    The world is full of probability and chance

    but we can still enjoy life in spite of and often because of this.

    The tenth pair of beliefs go together very well with Ellis’ twelfth couple. Both relate to the idea of control and together they begin to define the boundary between what we can control and what we can merely influence.

    In training people to deal with ‘challenging behaviours’ one of the fundamental principles we begin with is the fact that we can never really control another person’s behaviour unless we work in maximum security establishments. Even then their emotional life is beyond our control. All we can do is take control of our own behaviours and in doing so with thought and planning make it more likely that the other person will respond in predictable and appropriate ways.

    In order to control our own behaviours we must first learn to control our own emotional life. This is what we see in police officers, paramedics, prison officers, athletes, actors and top flight salesmen every day. These people are living proof that Ellis’ twelfth irrational belief is false:

    We have virtually no control over our emotions

    and cannot help feeling certain things

    If we really were unable to control our emotions it would be impossible for battlefield soldiers to maintain discipline. It would also make training in issues such as anxiety or anger management useless and yet the evidence is that such training can be extremely effective.

    Ellis’ twelfth rational belief is:

    We have real control over our destructive emotions if we choose to work at changing the ‘musturbatory’ hypotheses which we often employ to create them.

    When we compare these two sets of beliefs we begin to understand the limits of control and the meaning of ‘influence’. By taking control of our emotions and behaviours we can influence others and the world around us. An understanding of our situation and the reality of ‘cause and effect’ as discussed in an earlier post can help us to make certain outcomes more likely but all we can really control are our own thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

  2. Because something once strongly affected me it should indefinitely affect me.

    Ellis’ ninth belief is the source of many peoples’ unhappiness drawing on for years or even decades. I remember as a teenager I volunteered to help out at a local day centre for older adults. I began with an extremely inaccurate and patronising view of ‘old folks’ as rather sad, inadequate and essentially needy people with nothing of value to offer.

    The reality was, of course, extremely different. I was amazed to discover people who could not only regale and amaze me with their stories but also impart wisdom based upon decades of experience.

    I was equally amazed at the easy laughter and genuine love of life among the members, many of whom experienced real hardships ranging from poverty, disability and isolation to bereavement, pain and illness. I went there expecting to help these ‘poor, dependent people’ and began learning how to put my own problems into perspective instead. The stories I heard and the hardship I saw these ordinary, elderly people deal with has stayed with me for almost thirty years so far.

    But there were also some individuals who took a different stance. These were the people who thought that problems from the past were still worth worrying about in the present. The stories these people told centred around who had hurt them, what they’d lost in their lives, when they’d been cheated or treated unfairly and how ‘anyone’ would feel bad if they’d been through all that. They justified their misery this way even though they were surrounded by people who represented living proof of the exact opposite. No matter how many years they’d spent already making themselves miserable one thing was abundantly clear. They were on course to remain bitter and resentful for the rest of their days. It was a kind of emotional life sentence that they’d imposed upon themselves.

    One of the reasons for this was a basic failure to distinguish between a problem and a fact.

    Problems require solutions and they demand our attention. Problems can be solved and so, by keeping them in mind we can work to make things better.

    Facts are different. If problems can be solved then facts require nothing more than acceptance. Facts are unchangeable truths such as:

    • Everybody dies eventually;
    • Nobody is perfect;
    • The past cannot be changed.

    If we accept the past for what it was then we can move on. It doesn’t need to destroy the present or future unless we let it. It is true that some people can become so traumatised by events that they develop post traumatic conditions that require greater intervention than others but this is not the norm.

    For many of us what makes the difference is the intention to move on from our past troubles and enjoy life coupled with Ellis’ ninth rational belief:

    I can learn from past experiences without being

    overly affected or prejudiced by them.

    If we believe that we can never get past earlier traumas then we really have created for ourselves an emotional life sentence.

    If we believe that we can get over past troubles ‘in time’ then it’s worth asking ourselves a simple question:

    How long is long enough to put my happiness on hold

    because of an unchangeable past?

    Alternatively we could just decide that enough is enough without making ourselves wait. We could learn the lessons that come from the experience and then move on.

    This is what we mean by ‘letting go’.

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

  3. When I was a young man all I wanted to do was act. I dreamed of a life ‘treading the boards’ and my most specific ambition was to play ‘Kent’ in Shakespeare’s King Lear at Stratford-upon-Avon. There was just one problem – I wasn’t good enough.

    So far as I can remember I first went on stage at the age of five in a Sunday School gang show. I didn’t have much to do – join in with the chorus on a couple of songs and stand around making up the numbers really. That was the limit of my involvement but it was enough to inspire me. I caught the ‘bug’ for performing and was hooked.

    As I grew older I volunteered for every school play, joined two separate amateur dramatic companies and even played the lead in a play that won first prize in a county wide theatre competition. I toured Germany with the Cumbria Youth Theatre and spent a marvellous summer in London with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain. I was a very good amateur.

    However I didn’t have what it took to make it as a professional. I tried – don’t get me wrong. I worked for a couple of repertory companies and even started my own theatre in education concern called ‘Class Theatre’ but it was never going to happen. It became clear to me that ‘good amateur’ really translates to no more than ‘mediocre professional’.

    These days I’m happy to do other things. I’m still very interested in performance and occasionally return to amateur dramatic productions although I know I’ll never win that Oscar. I’ll never play Kent at Stratford either. That doesn’t matter though – I can still enjoy immensely what I do as an amateur. At work I play to my strengths now. I’m a good trainer. That’s enough.

    Ellis’ eighth irrational belief left me devastated when I finally had to admit that I wasn’t the world’s greatest actor:

    We should be thoroughly competent, intelligent

    and achieving in all possible respects” 

    I thought that my efforts only had value if they produced excellence in all things. Those were the days when I used to berate myself for every little failing as if perfection was actually possible in all (or even any) aspect of my life.

    These days I’m content to do my best. I no longer feel bad about the fact that I’m fallible. What would be the point? Fallibility is part of being human and feeling upset about it won’t improve anything – in fact it will probably only make things worse. In any case fallibility is often surprisingly good for us – it’s how we learn and develop. It’s also how surprises come our way and many times the surprise is better than what we’d planned. These days I’m very happy to be able to say:

    “I’m a good amateur.”

    I’ve realised the value of Ellis’ eighth rational belief:

    Do rather than do well and accept yourself as imperfect

    with general limitations and specific fallibilities.

    That doesn’t mean stop trying to improve but it does mean a healthy awareness that perfection is impossible – and that’s OK. To put it another way:

    Let yourself off the hook – it’s OK to make mistakes from time to time.

    Actually it’s inevitable. 

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

  4. It’s taken me a while to finish this but my new book ‘Behaviours that challenge’ is now on sale on The Care Guy website. Only a tenner plus P&P.

    Go on, you know you want to.

    Behaviours that challenge cover

    Often the advice given to social care workers about behaviours that challenge makes their problems worse instead of better. This easy to follow workbook is full of no nonsense tips, techniques and ideas for dealing with the behaviours YOU face at work (and at home).

    Contents

    • Introductory questionnaire
    • What is Challenging Behaviour?
    • Legal principles
    • Theories of behaviour and interaction
    • Different types of Challenging Behaviours
    • Its only behavioural
    • Philosophy and challenging behaviour (rights, paternalism and intervention – people are just people)
    • Assertiveness – as opposed to aggression, passivity and passive-aggression
    • Assessing behaviour – ABC, the Pleasure Principle, lessons from research
    • Basic behavioural management – classical and operant conditioning, reinforcement, gradual progression
    • Boundaries and the escalation or recession of inappropriate behaviours
    • The importance of the whole team approach
    • The problem with punishment
    • Expectations
    • Questionnaire
    • Answers to safeguarding quiz

     

  5. One of the first albums I ever bought was Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’. It was on a school exchange trip to France and I treasured that record. Partly because I liked Pink Floyd’s music (I still do) and partly because of the memory it held for me of my teenage adventure in the French town of St. Pourcain.

    One of the tracks on this excellent double album contains the line:

    “Mama’s gonna help build the wall”

    To put it another way - Mama will keep you safe.

    I can think of no better way to express the sentiment behind Ellis’ 6th and 7th beliefs. They are all about dealing with life’s difficulties and the notion that it’s easier if someone else sorts it out for us.

    I remember when I first took the plunge and became a self-employed trainer some four years ago now. I didn’t have a clue about the UK tax system and instead of taking the time to learn about it I’m afraid I simply buried my head in the sand. I was a victim of Ellis’ 6th irrational belief:

    It is easier to avoid life’s difficulties and self responsibilities.

    I should say that there was never any intention to defraud or avoid the taxman. I just didn’t understand the system and like, I’m told, many new businessmen I just put the whole issue to one side and got on with building my business instead.

    Eventually, of course, the income tax officials caught up with me and I was presented with a bill that, quite frankly, I had no idea how to pay. Fortunately the tax office was understanding of my stupidity and they gave me a chance to pay it off in stages rather than drive me into bankruptcy but they didn’t have to. I will be forever grateful to the young woman who took my call and was prepared to spend time working out an arrangement with me.

    Since then I’ve changed my belief about life’s problems and have adopted Ellis’ antithetical belief:

    The so-called ‘easy way’ is usually the ‘hard way’ in the long run.

    Now I put a little aside every month to prepare for the inevitable tax bill and face the issue head on. After all – tax isn’t a problem – it’s right that we pay tax. It’s not right, however to ignore the issue of tax until the end of the financial year and then wonder why we get a bill we can’t possibly pay.

    This lack of preparation and responsibility (let’s be honest I was pretty irresponsible) links in extremely well with Ellis’ 7th belief which is:

    We absolutely need something or someone

    stronger than ourselves upon which to rely.

    In my case that someone was the accountant who helped me through the financial mess I’d created by my refusal to work on the problem. But therein lies the rub. If we ignore the problems we are facing then we will ultimately need to rely upon others to bale us out. But we don’t need to. By facing our problems head on and working to solve them in good time we can remove the need to rely upon others.

    The ancient Japanese Samurai tradition valued the principle of ‘no surprises’ in life. According to the Samurai code it was important to be able to look along the road a little way, to anticipate what was coming next and to plan in advance to deal with it. That was my failing with the tax man and it is also the mistake that leads many other people into all sorts of difficulties in their own lives.

    The antithetical belief to Ellis seventh irrational belief is:

    It’s better to take the risk of thinking and acting independently.

    But remember that Ellis included the word ‘thinking’ in this. It’s not enough to bury your head in the sand. To think rationally about a problem must begin with the acknowledgment of that problem. That’s where I went wrong back in 2006. I wasn’t rational.

    The rational thinker needs no wall and certainly needs no ‘mama’ to help build it. Instead he or she meets the world head on and works to understand and to survive in it. This sort of independent (or more Accurately ‘interdependent’) approach to life is more rational and more successful than any form of reliance upon others.

    A good friend of mine once Emailed me a wonderful poem by an anonymous author. It talked about how safe the tall ships are in the harbour – how the ocean storms cannot harm them and how the harbour walls protect them. It talked about the gentleness of the breeze barely lifting their big, white sails. But the last line of the poem said it all:

    “But that’s not what tall ships are built for.”

    We can rely upon other to keep us safe for our whole lives if we wish – but that’s not what human beings are built for.

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

  6. It was only around 7.30am but the morning sun was already warming the city air as I descended the short stairway that led to Piccadilly Circus underground station. Moments later I passed though the automatic barrier, oyster card in hand and was on my way to the platform. Already the station was filling up.

    Soon after the train arrived and I found myself in a half-full carriage being carried through the dark, underground tunnels toward Holborn station. There I changed trains to take the central line to Gants Hill. I had training to deliver in a care home in Redbridge, a fair distance to walk from the station with all my equipment in bags slung over my shoulders.

    I was deliberating whether or not to take a taxi from the station when a young man in his early twenties entered the carriage at Liverpool Street. He wore traditional Muslim dress and his jet black beard seemed to match his eyes perfectly.

    I must have been staring because he looked at me from the seat opposite, half smiled and then from his rucksack he pulled a small book with Arabic writing on the cover. He began to read. My thoughts suddenly became not only irrational but remarkably insistent too.

    I’ve seen similair young men on tubes, buses and a host of other places before and since without so much as batting an eyelid but this time it was different. This time it was July 14th 2005 – and it was a Thursday.

    The Daily BigotOne week earlier on July 7th there had been a terror attack on a tube train. That was at rush hour. That was also a Thursday (it always seemed to be on Thursdays). The bomber had been a young Muslim man and his explosives had been contained in an ordinary looking rucksack – just like the one beside the young man opposite me on the tube.

    Rationally speaking there was absolutely no reason to assume that this young man was doing anything other than going to work. Certainly a terrorist would most likely have boarded the train at least thirty minutes later for maximum effect and would be more likely to travel into the city centre than away from it. Unfortunately though I was anything but rational that morning. I was becoming increasingly neurotic with every passing moment.

    I’m uncomfortable in having to admit that I’d already fallen victim to Ellis’ fifth irrational belief, fuelled undoubtedly by the anti-Islamic media frenzy so prevalent at the time.

    Looking back it seems clear to me that the young man in question was simply going about his business as he presumably had done day in, day out for years. There was and still is a threat from radical terrorists but it wasn’t anything to do with him.

    This man was simply on a tube in culturally appropriate dress carrying a rucksack. I don’t know whether or not his book was a copy of the Koran but let’s face it – that’s his business anyway. It has nothing to do with me. Everyone has to be somewhere and this apparently devout Muslim man had as much right to be there as I or anyone else had on that July morning.

    I understand now that I’d fallen foul of a media driven hysteria that gripped the nation at the time. We had blown the risk of terrorist attacks so far out of proportion that we saw danger everywhere. It seems that human beings have long been susceptible to this sort of group neurosis.

    It is the same mindset that created an international frenzy over swine flu in spite of the fact that many more people die each year from ordinary influenza. It’s the mindset that prompted McCarthy’s ‘reds under the bed’ witch hunts in cold war America. It was responsible for the literal witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries. The same folly prompted the widespread persecution and murder of Jews in the middle ages when Europe’s Christian population decided that they were responsible for the Black Death epidemic.

    The irrational belief that underlies all of these situations is this:

    If something may be dangerous or fearsome we should be terribly upset and obsess endlessly about it.

    It was this irrational belief, this tendency to become disproportionately upset by perceived danger that led me to fear an ordinary man going about his business. The irony is that I run a greater risk of being run over by a car than I do of being harmed by one of the very few Muslims intent on committing acts of terrorism. This loss of perspective actually causes even more problems than the threat to which it responds.

    Ellis’ rational belief about responding to risk is this:

    We would better frankly face it and render it non-dangerous and, when this is not possible, accept the inevitable.

    When we think about the amount of time people spend distressing themselves by worrying about things that never actually happen we can see that this really is sound advice.

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

     

  7. “who’s driving the bus?”

    This is, or at least was, a favourite question that an old psychiatric nursing friend of mine used to ask. His name is Simon Bradshaw and in his own quiet and unassuming way he has an uncanny ability to get to the root of an amazing array of problems with the questions he asks. What he really wants to know when asking the ‘bus’ question is just who is really calling the shots. Who is in charge here?

    Earlier in the blog I briefly mentioned the idea of ‘locus of control’. As we elaborate upon Ellis’ fourth belief we need to expand upon this. Locus (location) of control means essentially the ‘seat of power’ or of ‘decisive influence’. As a general rule peoples’ emotional locus of control can be either ‘internal’ or ‘external’. There is more to it than this simple dichotomy but for our purposes the general principle is sufficient.

    The external locus of emotional control is where most of us begin. Children usually respond in very predictable ways to events and to the actions of other people. They become frustrated when parents say ‘no’. They become impatient when they need to wait. They become sad and upset when bullies taunt them.

    This external locus of emotional control essentially means that events and other people are ‘driving the bus’ as Simon would say. They have surrendered their own emotional management to the whims of every passing bully. They make themselves helpless victims, essentially because they don’t yet know any better.

    It takes time to learn and to develop the skill of emotional management and most people instinctively understand that. This is why most of us will accept philosophically the tantrums of toddlers but are far less tolerant of the angry outbursts that emanate from uncontrolled adults. We’re expected as adults to know how to deal with our frustrations without stamping our feet or taking our inability to control our tempers out on other people. We’re expected to drive our own bus.

    Some people however reach adulthood without learning how to manage their moods and this really does leave them at the mercy of other people. They still haven’t learned to drive their own bus. These people are victims of Ellis’ fourth irrational belief:

    Human emotions are caused by events and by other people.

    As I hope to demonstrate with this series of blog posts it’s a belief that is not only false, it’s also extremely damaging. This one belief, more than any other, prevents people from trying to develop emotional management skills because they see no point. After all, if emotions are caused by others and we can’t control the actions of others then there really isn’t any way to influence our moods by working on ourselves – that’s not where the problem lies.

    Fortunately for us that’s not the case at all. Our emotions are not caused by others and so are entirely within our sphere of influence. As Albert Ellis’ put it:

    Human emotions are largely caused by the view we take of events

    To put it another way, it’s not what happens top us that makes the difference – it’s what we think about what happens. Hopefully by now it’s becoming clear that, while emotional management takes more than simply positive thinking it is a real skill and it can be learned.

    Who’s driving your bus?

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com

  8. Ellis’ fourth irrational belief is a bit of a double-edged sword. On one hand it offers an emancipatory sense of control over our own emotional well-being. At least the antithetical or rational belief that accompanies it does. However it also demands that we acknowledge our own part in creating and maintaining our own previous unhappiness. Without that understanding the idea of future emotional management becomes an unworkable nonsense.

    We cannot truly appreciate the reality of future emotional management

    without also acknowledging that this has always been so.

    So before we go any further I’d like to put this information into the context of human development.

    When we were first brought into the world we knew nothing of its workings and nothing about how to run our own emotional and psychological state. Everything we ever come to know has to be learned.

    Unfortunately human beings don’t come with a ‘users’ manual’ and so we have to rely upon the experiences we have to teach us about life. Everyone is different and we all have different experiences at different times but this much is certain:

    Everything must be learned.

    If these ideas are new to you that doesn’t mean you are stupid, useless or anything else. It simply means that this is your moment to learn these particular things. You’ve learned plenty of other things – just not very much about emotional management yet. There’s no crime in not having used skills and information in the past that you didn’t yet know.

    Please don’t jeapordise your future happiness merely trying to

    defend and justify past misery. That really wouldn’t be a good deal. 

    Just remember the famous quotation from LP Hartley

    “The past is a different country – they do things differently there.”

    In the next post we’ll look specifically at Ellis’ belief number four. Until then – watch this space……

    The ‘Emotional Management’ blog series first appeared during 2010 on Stuart’s personal blog. It is reproduced here as part of an ongoing process of ‘rationalisation’ to compress the contents of 5 blogs into just 2. You can download a PDF of the entire series (along with much more free stuff) from www.stuartsorensen.wordpress.com



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