MAKING A FRESH START
 
 
We’re all in need of a fresh start sometimes, either because change has been thrust upon us, by loss of job or divorce, say, or because we decide that some inner spring-cleaning is needed.
 
It’s human nature to muddle along and to feel that we’re so busy just doing that, that it’s impossible to find the time or energy to improve our lot. But once you make the decision that life has to change, the penny will drop that in fact it is you and your way of thinking that will have to change. Nobody will do it for you and, yes, it will take effort but that effort will pay dividends.
 
What you need to do is be your own life coach. Believe in yourself and know that you can achieve what you want. Get yourself an A4 pad and start by writing down all your good points.  If your self-esteem is low and you can’t think of many at the moment, then get a friend to help.
 
Concentrate on those good points and the positives in your life. Then, with those in mind, picture in full detail what you want your life to look like.
 
But you won’t achieve all you want if your life is cluttered up with excess baggage. That baggage can be tangible things such as piles of unattended papers, or cupboards so full of junk that you can’t close them properly. Or it can be emotional baggage that needs dealing with. It could be a destructive relationship or past hurts that you have not yet resolved. These things take far too much of your emotional energy and you’ve got to get rid of them. Perhaps, for example, you still feel guilty about something that happened years ago and it’s an emotional drain. You’ve now paid your dues, even if you were legitimately ‘guilty’, so it’s a waste of time and energy to keep opening the wound.  Resolve to put it to bed and move on.
 
Once you have your goals in place, your next task is to write down how to achieve them. Step by step. For instance, say, you need to earn more money. Decide you’re going to earn another £100 a month. Think of three ways to achieve that and be creative in your thinking. Or maybe you want a lovely partner in your life? Think about the qualities you want in a person and think about how and where to meet likely candidates. Again be creative. Don’t limit yourself to thinking you’re going to have to rely on clubs or parties to meet Mr Right, because you’re just as likely to find him at work or through some shared interest.
 
But nothing will happen if you’re the shy, retiring wallflower in the corner, however big your ideas or good your intentions. 
 
If you don’t believe in yourself and your talents, and that belief doesn’t show in everything you do, then nobody else is going to either. You may not automatically believe in yourself, no, but you’ve got to train yourself up to believe your own hype!
 
I promise you will not be creating a false identity. You will just be living more the way you want to be. Maybe you’re overweight and you see yourself in six months’ time as a slim size 12. To do that, you have to be in touch with your positive side and ignore all those negative voices that wheedle in. Yes you can do it, and you keep telling yourself that. You join the gym, perhaps also Weightwatchers or a similar club and you dress to kill as from now. You will present as a confident, outgoing, in control woman. When we tell ourselves, repeatedly, that we CAN do something we soon start to believe it and evidence begins to support it. And that has an enormous effect on your self-esteem. So always remember, out with the CANT’S and in with the CANS.
 
 

 

                                       

                               SEX AFTER MARRIAGE

 

 Keeping sex alive in marriage is not easy, but do let me assure you that it is possible to rekindle passion, no matter how much of a dream that seems at the moment!

 

One of the many problems between long-established couples is a mis-match of desire. One of you may have a higher sex drive than the other, and unless this is addressed, it can cause all kinds of resentments so this is the first thing to sort out. Find out how often, ideally, you would both like to make love and then you can work out a loving compromise.

 

Talking about sex is not the easiest thing in the world, I grant you. But like every other aspect of your relationship, it will always benefit from honest communication.

 

Of course, like many couples, you could simply be out of the habit of having sex regularly. In which case, you have to make the conscious decision to change things. One of the quickest ways to get into a new sexual routine is to plan a romantic getaway. The change of environment, combined with the freedom from domestic drudge, can work wonders.

 

On the other hand, you both may need a lot of warming up before you get back to enjoying some kind of regular sex life. The best way of going about this is to think about staring up a sensate focus programme - i.e., over a suitable period of time, you get back into the pleasures gently. You start off by taking it in turns to stroke each other, avoiding the genitals and just enjoying the sensuousness of the experience. Gradually, you build up to penetrative sex, and usually by the time, you ‘allow’ yourselves to do this, you’ll both be very keen on the idea!

 

Another way to bring back sexual feelings is to write your partner a sexy letter. Often, when long married couples are apart, even simply for a working day, they might feel very turned on at the idea of making love, but as soon as they are reunited, old angers and resentments mask the earlier blissful picture. But if you write your fantasies down as you feel them, it will remind both of you of all that you’re missing.

 

These are just a few suggestions for improving your sex life - some of which you may find helpful, others quite laughable. But if you can summon up the courage to try them, I can guarantee a huge improvement.

 

In the meantime, you might think about ringing your local branch of Relate and booking yourselves in for PST - Psycho-sexual therapy. It is not nearly as daunting as it sounds and they have an impressive success rate.

 Warm wishes, Caroline.

 

WAYS TO MEET NICE MEN

 So you want to meet a nice man? I get many letters and emails from women who are desperate to meet some good men and funnily enough, I get lots of the same from men who want to meet a good woman!  With more apparent opportunities than ever these days, the irony is that singletons are on the increase.  Gone are the times when you could rely on your family or the extended network of your local town or village to produce at least one or two possibles.

 

The first thing to do is make a list of what is stopping you meeting nice men. It’s no good sitting at home moping that nobody drops into your lap if you don’t make enough effort. Let’s say nothing has worked so far. It must follow then that if you keep on doing what you keep on doing, you’ll keep on getting what you keep on getting.

 

There are two issues to consider here - the emotional and the practical. Let’s start with the emotional. It’s not unusual to have a longing for intimacy, but at the same time a fear of it. Is there something preventing you from putting your toe in the water? Are you frightened of being hurt, rejected, abandoned? We all are to some extent, but when present to a normal degree, it doesn’t interfere with finding a mate. But if you’ve had painful childhood experiences, followed by painful relationships, it’s understandable that you can be exceedingly wary.

 

Even if your childhood apparently contained all the positive ingredients, such as love, security, and parents who were always there and provided well for you, there may have been other unseen factors at play as well. Maybe your confidence was undermined by constant criticism? Maybe you were teased or bullied at school? Low self-esteem can lead to people feeling they don’t deserve a partner.

 

If you feel deep down that fear and/or low self-esteem are your stumbling blocks, take some time to think back to where they originated. Once acknowledged it’s much less frightening and you can then take steps to remedy the situation. You DO deserve a partner, and what’s more you deserve a decent one.

 

Now let’s get down to the practicals.  If you live in a remote part of the country, and you’ve exhausted all the possibilities of finding a local mate, then you’re going to have to think about moving or at least be prepared to travel. If you refuse to do that, then to be honest, you’re not really that dedicated to finding a partner. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you acknowledge it!

 

More likely, you’ve got the same problem as thousands of people. You live in a community where you could strike lucky, but you’re just not moving in the right circles. SO you’ve got to change things. Don’t turn your nose up at all the corny answers, such as car maintenance evening classes, because they often work. But one of the best ways to get moving is to sit down and make a list, how ever small, of activities that really interest you. And then make the commitment to join up.

 

Whether it be learning Italian, or kickboxing, the guitar perhaps, or a cordon bleu cookery class, you’re going to enjoy it for its own sake as well as any extra curricular activities it might provide.

 

Also consider singles’ holidays. The market is growing fast and so you won’t feel forlorn and out of it. You may, or may not, have a great time, but you’ll be meeting people and widening your circle. Something else not to be dismissed is the dating agency or reputable dating websites. Believe me there is no stigma attached to seeking help in this way. More and more singles are using them. Make sure the agency you join is reputable and then get out there and meet some men!

 

The very act of taking control of the situation can work wonders. Just think how a pebble falls into a pond. All the ripples that expand from one small action represent the progress that will be made when you get started.

 

Good luck.

Warm wishes, Caroline.

 

LEARNING TO TRUST AFTER AN AFFAIR

I’m assuming, first, that your partner has betrayed you and secondly you are demonstrating a hope, and maybe a willingness to trust again. 

The pain of discovering your partner has deceived you cannot be overestimated. The lying, the deceit and the disloyalty is as hurtful as the infidelity itself. To have been lied to makes you feel foolish and that your implied pact of trust has been completely abused. You suddenly realise you’ve been sharing your partner’s body with a stranger and no doubt the pair of them have together been cooking up excuses for his absence. Your whole relationship can sometimes seem a lie. 

These feelings are all completely understandable. But that doesn’t mean that, while he was having the affair, his life with you wasn’t just as valuable to him as always. Be that as it may your broken trust is very hard to rebuild.

The discovery of an affair can be like a bomb dropping and there will always be a huge fallout. As a result the relationship can fall apart completely or it can go on and rebuild into something as strong, or stronger, than before. 

Changes must inevitably occur as light now shines into every corner of the relationship and shows up the imperfections. It provides a valuable chance to look at the relationship with a fresh eye and to see which changes are possible and which ones aren’t. 

There are ways of handling the aftermath of an affair, which will make all the difference in your ability to cope and move on, whichever direction that moving on takes. Beware of making any hasty decisions re the relationship at this time because emotions are running very high.  The discussions as to whether or not you want to stay together maybe straightforward or they make take weeks or months. 

You will need support and reassurance from your partner because your pain will very likely come out in yelling or crying and he must accept that. 

You are likely to want to know all the details, over and over again, while your partner will be desperate to put them behind him. He’s got to be patient with your questioning but in the end you will have to learn to stop and move on. 

An affair doesn’t happen for no reason unless one of the parties is a serial philanderer who has unresolved issues with commitment. Assuming that’s not the case then questions arise as to how it came about. 

It’s very hard to accept that your behaviour may have contributed in some way to what happened. I’m not for a minute condoning the affair but just trying to encourage a sense of understanding that there may have been problems in the relationship which hadn’t been dealt with. 

Assuming you both want to stay together you’ve got to take a long hard look at your relationship to see what went wrong. Only then can you begin to put it right. It’s understandable for the betrayed one to feel very angry at the suggestion that they somehow played a part in the affair and protest that the idea is crazy and unjust. But, in time, you may come to realise that there were errors on both sides. Perhaps you did neglect him or belittle him or deny him sex? But maybe you were feeling justly resentful? Or maybe it’s something much less obvious, which you either chose not to notice, or he stupidly didn’t tell you about.

At some point, if you’re going to make a go of it together, the blame and desire for revenge has to stop. You’re not going to forget about an affair but in time you can learn to forgive. Make a plan as to how you can both improve matters and make life better for each other. 

You won’t be able to switch from mistrust to trust in a few weeks. For some time the betraying partner is going to have to go out of his way to cross every t and dot every I as to his actions and whereabouts. If he’s a decent man your faith in him will gradually come back. With constancy and consideration on his part there will come a day when you just know you trust him again. If you’re the sort of woman who has big issues around trust, perhaps from your childhood, you might find that while that trust is within reach you can’t quite get there. In that case you have to make the conscious decision to trust him again. Once you’ve done that it will become easier. 

And look at it this way. Yes the affair was a crisis in your relationship but with every crisis comes the opportunity to grow stronger. 

With warm wishes,

 Caroline.

  

 DEALING WITH FAMILY BUST-UPS

Herewith my leaflet on Dealing with Family Bust-Ups. They can be so horrible – really painful sometimes. And it can feel very scary that something that once seemed so secure is rocked by misunderstanding, anger, fear and, many times, jealousy and envy. Many bust-ups happen after the last parent dies. Legal wills, or lack of them, can open a Pandora’s box. All the ancient resentments and jealousies, often buried deep and unacknowledged, rush to the surface because the cement that had been keeping the family together has disappeared with that parent. It can create feelings of overwhelming intensity, which leave the sufferer reeling with pain and a sense of unreality.

 

The first thing to do is not to underplay the strength of this feeling but to acknowledge it and accept how hurt you are. Don’t rush into a pit of self-blame but, instead, take stock of who you are and how valuable you are as a person. By the same token don’t lump all the blame onto others.  Before you set about going into the whys and wherefores you need to feel strong and nurture your self-esteem. You need to learn or relearn to love yourself.

 

Obviously family bust-ups happen for many different reasons but you need to understand that as painful as this one may be it is not the end of the world. We don’t choose our families but we do choose our friends. And we can often be closer to our friends than some members of our family. So rely as heavily as you need to on the support of those friends.

 

When you’ve got over the initial trauma and have learnt to value yourself again and your place in the world you can start to look at why the bust up happened in the first place. Most of us never look into our family dynamics and how our family has functioned, perhaps very badly, until something like this happens. Perhaps you’re the people pleaser in the family or the scapegoat or the controller or the ostrich and so on.

 

You weren’t born that way but you’ve been told that way back and you’ve ended up believing this myth without question. When you start delving into all this and discover that perhaps the label that has been given to you is utterly wrong, then you can divest yourself of it in dealing with this bust-up.

 

Regarding the blame issue all too many people fall into one of two camps - either taking all the blame onto their own shoulders or shoving it all on to somebody else’s. Both are unhealthy because the truth is hardly ever that simple. The people who deal best with bust-ups are those who can see themselves as they truly are and accept or reject what blame does or does not belong to them. Sadly other family members may never be able to clear away the mists of the family myths and take responsibility for themselves. Their love is conditional and if their conditions aren’t met the rift can go on and on.

 

The good news is that whatever the outcome you will feel better again, whole and healthy, as unimaginable as it might seem now. Families manage conflict in very different ways but you can’t be responsible for the actions of your family members.  All you yourself can do is be responsible for yourself, acknowledge who you are and be true to your integrity.

If you do what you know to be right, regardless of the others, you’ll gain strength from that.

 

It’s important if there is to be a healing of the rift that you are first able to let go of resentment. Resentment is like a poison and if you keep picking at the boil the poison will continue to run through your mind. Try and go cold turkey on this resentment but if you can’t immediately do that deliberately interrupt those bouts of dwelling on your resentment with healthy thoughts which will prevent you from going back to tinker with that boil.

 

When you’ve got to that stage you’ll be free to rechannel your energy into thoughts of forgiveness and reconciliation. You may offer an olive branch but if that is rejected at least you’ll know you’ve reached a good place yourself. If you manage to achieve an amnesty you can try to think of positive ways to interact which won’t provoke another estrangement. In an ideal world there has to be an acknowledgement and meeting of individual family members’ needs but that requires everybody involved being completely on board. But if they fall short the only solution may be simply to bite your lip.

 

So far I’ve only mentioned the psychological aspects of all this but, if you have a faith, seeking spiritual help will also enable you to let go and move on.

 

Do also make a regular gratitude list – focusing on all the things you are grateful for in your life. There will be many more things than you first think. This will keep you in touch with the positives in your life which will undoubtedly aid your healing.

 

Remember, too, that hackneyed though it may sound time really does heal. Even if with all your efforts and work on yourself you are not single-handedly able to achieve a reconciliation at the moment your self-growth will have been enormous. It’s been a learning curve you may not have sought but a steep learning curve nonetheless. I do hope this has been of help. Good luck.

 

 

HOW TO SPOT A ROTTER

 

 

Herewith my leaflet ‘How to Spot a Rotter’. Actually what I’m trying to do here is to help you change your thinking and outlook so that the rotter either goes completely unnoticed by you or you recognise his type instantly and dismiss him forthwith.

 

No doubt you have had a surfeit of rotters in the past and, I would imagine, have moved swiftly on from one rotter to the next without giving yourself time to think. The answer to your question does not lie in the shape of a mouth, a twinkle in the eye or the colour of his shirt. It’s natural to think that we are initially attracted to all these externals but there is far, far more going on in that glance across a crowded room than you imagine.

 

All sorts of unconscious signs and messages are being transferred. The basis of your attraction goes back to your early years and it’s very helpful to have a look at the patterns that have been present in your past relationships. Many of our ideas about relationships develop very early on when we saw how our parents or carers got on together. This fixes in our minds the way we think men and women are likely to respond to each other and when we grow up we can find ourselves mimicking these ways unconsciously and expecting our partners to do likewise.

 

Some of these communications are positive and some of them are not. For instance, if you grew up with the message that men are untrustworthy or lazy or secretive then without realising it that can become a fact in your mind rather than applicable in some but by no means all circumstances.

 

When looking for a partner you unconsciously click with somebody who either follows these patterns or your own behaviour unwittingly ‘provokes’ the reaction you are expecting, even though that reaction might cause unhappiness.

 

Some people and some behaviour you think you would avoid like the plague. If you witnessed domestic violence in your childhood you vow never to let the pattern be repeated. But you need to be aware that vile though that behaviour is it has the force of familiarity and you can be drawn into such a relationship before you know it. 

 

So look at patterns that have not been good for you and resolve to start a process of change. When you are aware of these unconscious patterns you are able to see that some of them are generalisations that don’t perhaps fit the individual. And you also see that you are able to choose differently from your previous expected patterns.

 

Your old broad set of beliefs is very deep-seated and powerful. If you were to complete a spontaneous list of statements such as ‘Men are… Men think… Men want …’ you can start noticing how these deep-down generalisations fit into your relationship patterns.

 

Say for example you’ve written men are unreliable. And say you then have a boyfriend/partner who on one occasion is indeed unreliable. You immediately think to yourself ‘Aha, I’ve been proved right. There we go.’ Instead of remembering all those occasions when he was thoroughly reliable you forget that this one instance was because he was down at casualty! And this can make you over-react to that one incident.

 

Conversely, if he’s constantly unreliable, not only does that reinforce your expectation that that’s what men are, but also you’re so relieved when he’s reliable for five minutes that you settle for that rotten deal. But never again!

 

In the main, look at how men behave rather than what they say. If he tells you he loves you but treats you badly, he’s a rotter and you don’t have to carry on being badly treated simply because one of your beliefs is that’s how men are.

 

You’ve made your lists of beliefs and while it’s not so easy to change them overnight at least you can start thinking about them and challenging them. You may find that some of them are invalid and you don’t want to hold them anymore. You can also see how your assumptions have affected how you chose your partners in the past and how you behaved in those relationships.

 

You can then be alert to what’s going on and start looking for partners in a different way.

 

 

DEALING WITH A BROKEN HEART

 

 

 

The pain of rejected love is undeniably awful. In fact, in saner moments, you wouldn’t wish such a thing on your worst enemy. But if it’s any consolation most people will suffer with at least a couple of broken heart traumas during their quest to find a satisfying and fulfilling relationship.

 

Those who have never had to endure the agonies are either exceptionally lucky or unwilling even to tiptoe into the emotional arena.

 

When a heartbreak happens, you feel like it’s the end of the world. You cannot imagine that you will ever get over it. He/She was the one,  ‘the love of your life’ and nobody else will ever take his or her place. 

And actually, that's part of the good news...The person you chose to love was unique, for good and for bad. And to get over it, you will probably pass through all the appropriate stages of grief, including denial, anguish, anger, pining, depression, healing and acceptance. But, because of - or in spite of - circumstances will force you to move on and you will have learned many things from your relationship with your lost love. 

All of which will help you to choose a new partner for the future.

 

There’s no way you can pretend that dealing with a broken heart is going to be easy. But please take comfort from that corny, but perceptive old line: ‘When one door closes, another one opens.’ And the more you love, the greater your capacity for love.

 

You may want to bash me for saying it, but I promise you it’s true.

 

In the meantime, be kind to yourself, try to keep some sort of balance in your life (i.e. allow the rational side of yourself to comfort the irrational feelings), and rest assured that as impossible as it seems, you will get over it.

  

 

 HOW TO FIND TRUE LOVE  and/or HOW TO FIND MR RIGHT!





The demand for my leaflet on finding true love has been enormous. Which just goes to show, there are a lot of people out there looking for the same thing as you.

If it’s any comfort, men suffer with this problem just as much as women, but of course it’s never as simple as throwing singles together and hoping for the best.

I’m sure you’re doing all the right things to try and meet that special someone, but do try to be patient. Continue to be socially active, pursuing all your interests, and then one day, when you’re least expecting it, you’ll get to know your future partner.

One practical suggestion: Why don’t you and your other single friends take it in turns to have a party - where the rule is each person has to bring a single member of the opposite sex?

Of course if you want to find true love, you have to want it. Now before you jump up and down , saying this is the precise reason you wrote to me, I need you to realise that I am talking about your subconscious.

Maybe there is a part of you that is rejecting a relationship? Perhaps you are frightened of being hurt, or, like lots of people, you are suffering with  inappropriate feelings of ‘not being good enough’. Many of us feel we don’t deserve true love, but that’s only because we weren’t brought up in an environment to be properly confident in ourselves.

From now on, try to remember that finding true love is about many things. I am going to list a few examples. 

•        Trusting in a Higher Power
•        Getting to know yourself
•        Accepting that you’re okay the way you are
•        Learning that the best relationships are inter-dependent - ie, you’re      together because you want to be, not because you need to be
                             
       
•        Getting out and about and involving yourself in your local community
•        Looking at your fear of commitment
•        Believing it will happen when the time is right


I can promise you that if you take note of all I say, you will find true love. It might take years, it might take days, but it will come to you when you’re ready. And it will be worth waiting for.

In the meantime, I wish you all the best.

Thinking of you - and looking forward to the wedding invitation!


HOW TO ESCAPE A VIOLENT PARTNER

Let me say first that I really feel for you if you’re suffering in this way. If you are being hurt physically, sexually or psychologically, then you are suffering domestic violence. And domestic violence is always a criminal offence. I think a lot of women are unaware that they are the victims of this crime because they assume that the violence must always be physical. This is absolutely not so. There are many types of abuse. Any form of behaviour that makes you or your children afraid is domestic violence.

 

The statistics are shocking. One in four women experiences domestic violence at some time in her life. It’s not only self-evident thugs who are abusers, they come from all walks of life. Doctors, builders, judges, milkmen, librarians, teachers etc. And a horrible fact is that two women are killed every week in England and Wales by a current or former partner. What you need to hold on to very firmly is that the violence is not your fault and never could be. You are in no way to blame. Violence is utterly unacceptable no matter how much you’ve been brainwashed into thinking it’s your fault. You and your children have a right to feel safe and to be protected. You may feel dependent on your partner for money, your home etc but there are ways to escape and find a safe place to live.

 

 

 

In an emergency get in touch with a women’s refuge - the number is in your local phone book. Or call the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000247 or seek support at refuge.org.uk. They can provide safety, emotional support and a breathing space while you decide what to do next. Also, the staff can help you with practical matters such as welfare benefits, legal issues and housing.

 

You may not be prepared or even want to leave immediately, but in that case make sure that, if you are injured, you go to your GP or the local hospital. Not only, obviously, to get treated but also so that there will be medical records of your injuries. It would be very wise, also, to have certain essentials readily to hand if you have to leave quickly. I mean things like benefit books, marriage and birth certificates, passports, solicitors’ letters or court orders, address book and diary of course, and enough money for food and fares.

 

If you do leave in hurry and go to a refuge that will only be a temporary measure. You might not want to go to friends and family, where perhaps the violent partner can easily trace you. And hotels and bed and breakfasts can be quite expensive. It’s helpful, therefore, to know that the local council has a duty to provide temporary accommodation for you and your children if you’ve had to leave home for actual or threatened domestic violence.

 

If you’re at home and there is an emergency situation, and your partner is hurting or threatening to hurt you and your children you should dial 999 and ask the police for help. Even if you are not able to speak or don’t have time to talk to the operator the police can trace your call and will attend.

 

Don’t forget too that you can take legal action. The Citizens Advice Bureau and specialist women’s advice organisations can give you some free legal advice and also put you in touch with a lawyer who does Community Legal Service work and who is experienced in family law. Your lawyer will advise whether you can apply for a court order, and, if so, which is most suitable for your circumstances. It might be a non-molestation order to prevent your partner using or threatening violence and that can be for six months or indefinitely. An occupation order states who can live in the family home; say if you have left your home but wish to return and exclude your abuser.

 

You may still love your abusive partner, but that is no reason to tolerate his violence.

Loving, in a couple relationship, is a two way process and if he loves you then let him show it by getting help to deal with his abusiveness. By leaving him, you’re not saying you don’t love him. You are stating, quite rightly, that you will not tolerate any form of violence whatsoever.

 

Your self-esteem may be very low and that can make it harder to leave, but the longer you stay the lower it will sink. I beg you, from the bottom of my heart, not to tolerate any more violence. For your sake and for your children’s sake if you have any. Take positive action today Again, for further help do ring Refuge, which is a 24 hour National Domestic Violence Helpline. The number is 0808 2000 247 run in partnership with Women’s Aid. And an excellent book I recommend is Power and Control – Why Charming Men Can Make Dangerous  Lovers. It’s written by Sandra Horley, is published by Vermilion and costs £7.99. I wish you the very best of luck.

FINDING FORGIVENESS

 

I guarantee that there isn’t one person who doesn’t have a problem at some time or another with either forgiving others or forgiving themselves.  What does forgiveness actually mean? According to Chambers dictionary it means pardon, remission, a readiness to forgive, a demonstration of mercy or compassion. To be able to forgive and accept forgiveness is very powerfully enabling and can bring great release.

 

Many lives are blighted by grudges and resentments that can persist forever. You may know people or you may be one of those people who are caught up in a cycle of blame. The grievances may be genuine and some indeed horrific. Sometimes, though, it’s a result of not being able to take responsibility – blaming other people for all woes, ill luck, injuries and/or lack of success. It’s handy to be able to blame other people but actually, in the long run, it’s very damaging.

 

Conversely there are people who never blame anybody else other than themselves. They are continually beating themselves up. They feel they can’t or don’t deserve forgiveness; again a very destructive position to be in.

 

Let me deal with this self-blame syndrome first.

 

Let’s assume you are attacking yourself because, for example, two years ago you were unfaithful to your partner with a one night stand. You don’t let it go and it nags and eats away at you and prevents you moving on with your life. Now let’s assume your best friend did the same thing. Would you say she should be cut out of your life as being unforgivable? No you wouldn’t. You’d have compassion and understanding for her. You’d think that while it would have been better if she had not done that misdeed she is not a bad person for so doing. You’re accepting your friend as a fallible human being; however you are not accepting that you are also a fallible human being. You’re almost saying to yourself ‘I must be super human and never make a mistake’. You are completely overlooking the fact that you are not infallible.

 

Start challenging the ideas that make you think you’re all to blame and replace them with more compassionate, self-accepting ones. Learn from the past and also, if necessary, lower your standards. If they are unrealistically high for that fallible human being then it follows that you must lower them a bit.

 

As a last word if you believe in God, or a Higher Power, you will get strength from praying to and knowing that He forgives you. But you might say that even knowing He forgives me still does not always allow me to forgive myself. If you think about that, what you are really saying is that you know better than God. I’m sure you wouldn’t dream of saying that. So accepting His forgiveness and truly believing and knowing you can forgive yourself is the healthy thing to do.

 

 

Now we’ll think about the other scenario – forgiving others. The extent to which you are willing to forgive other people is in exact proportion to the extent you are willing to be happy. You can’t will forgiveness into existence but you can arrive at it by a series of mental steps. Think of the grievances you’ve been harbouring. Now think to yourself is that grievance still important to me as I’m holding on to it so hard? Very likely not. Can I put myself in the shoes of the wrongdoer and see how the situation came about? Maybe this goes way back to when you were an only child and then a sibling suddenly appeared and you weren’t the sole apple of your parents’ eye anymore. Perhaps you’ve never really forgiven your mother for that how ever hard she tried to claw back? And it’s been handy ever since to put your failures and disappointments and ill luck down to that.

 

Further, ask yourself have you anything to lose if you forgive? It’s actually quite a scary thought if you’ve been clinging onto that raft of anger and resentment. Once you have talked to yourself and thought it all through you will be in that state of mind where you are able to forgive.

 

By choosing to forgive I am not saying you have to love that other person or clutch them to your bosom. No, it’s a letting go.

 

Maybe you still find it difficult to handle one or all of these thought processes and think you’re asking yourself to do something you just can’t handle at the moment. If so then please do think again. Tell yourself that you are a valuable worthwhile person and you do not want your life to be hampered by this sore that you have the capacity to heal.

Bear in mind that the energy used up in not forgiving could be so much better used elsewhere. By forgiving the person it doesn’t mean that you have to condone their behaviour.

 

And when you do forgive a weight is lifted from your shoulders and you are free to live your life fully. Good luck.  

 

THE SECRETS OF HAPPINESS 

I’m sure you already know that happiness isn’t something we can look to be given to us and neither is it something to be chased and caught like a balloon. Winning the lottery, getting to your goal weight, achieving success in your career could all add to your happiness but in themselves they will not make you happy.

 

I think you’ve got to start by consciously choosing to be happy. We can all be very fussy about choosing, say, a new home, a new pair of shoes and so on – because if we didn’t do any choosing we’d be very unlikely to get what we really wanted or that gave us any pleasure. The same goes to our approach to life. By choosing to be happy, we are starting to programme ourselves to embrace that lovely feeling. What sort of negative thoughts come up for you here? Fear of happiness in case there’s a ‘pay back’ if you’re too happy? Well that’s tosh for a start. If that’s your fear then no wonder happiness eludes you because you’re sabotaging it! Or perhaps you feel you don’t deserve to be happy?  But why shouldn’t you be happy? When you consciously change your thinking you are sowing a seed that will flower into a certainty of happiness.

 

Perhaps guilt about something in your past is preventing you from allowing yourself to be happy? Well nobody is perfect and we have all sinned. Moreover we always judge ourselves far more harshly than other people do. But if you’re truly remorseful and have done what you can, if anything, to help right the wrong, then you have to let it go. If you believe in a Higher Power ask that power to forgive you and, having asked, truly believe that forgiveness is given to you. You ARE forgiven so when you wake up every morning know that your slate is clean and thank God for having given your life a fresh new start. Talking of forgiveness, do your best to forgive people who have hurt you. If you can’t quite manage it at least you’ve tried and you can try again another time. The very fact of trying will enable you to divest yourself of the weight of resentment and anger that stems the channel of your happiness.

 

Only you know what can come between you and your happiness. It might sound strange but we can all think up endless excuses not to be happy. For example, you might say you haven’t got a partner and you can’t be happy until you get one. Or you might say ‘I shall only be happy when my bank account is in credit’. Or ‘I’ve got too much on my plate at the moment to consider intangibles like being happy’. Think of all the things that instantly come to your mind. Visualise them in a long list – and then tear it up.

 

If you choose to be happy regardless, you will see that your happiness transcends all these ‘problems’. It recognises them but doesn’t bend and break before them. Also, it’s easier to find a suitable partner, for example, or to tackle your debts, if you’re in an upbeat and happy frame of mind. I think that in order to be happy we have to make sure that we keep up our internal grooming. By that I mean taking a good, honest look at our character and our behaviour and our motives and admit to ourselves where they sometimes fall short of what we would like them to be. We’ve all got character traits which perhaps are less than charming but we manage to gloss them over with high spirits or being loud or being quiet or whatever it might be; but if we don’t address them they end up becoming more entrenched and exaggerated as the years go by.

 

Happiness depends on acquiring or cosseting those attitudes and beliefs and behaviours which will engender warmth and respect and indeed love; both for ourselves and in other people. We all know deep down what we should be working on but we must also pat ourselves on the back for all our good points. If you are kind, generous, warm, tolerant, compassionate and non-judgmental then give yourself credit, and if there are bits that need brushing up then do that because all those things will bring you happiness now and through the years. Just think how people’s faults get exaggerated as they get older – well, consider this -  the reverse is also true. Their virtues also increase.

 

It’s well worth making a Gratitude list every night. Before you go to sleep make a mental note of everything you have to be grateful for. Your mood will improve, you will sleep better and you will wake up tomorrow feeling grateful for a new day!

 

I think true happiness is also about having a belief in a power greater than ourselves. You may have a faith, or you may not, but believing in love as a powerful force for good is a wonderful inspiration for anybody’s life.

 

On a final note, don’t forget it’s far easier to engender happiness with a smile on your face than it is a frown. Go on – make that appointment with happiness today.

In addition to this free online relationship advice, I am also an experienced magazine agony aunt and relationship counsellor.


 

 
   
  

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