Saturday, 4 October 2014

Boyhood- a life more ordinary

 Had my review of the film, Boyhood, published in this month's Therapy Today, here it is in all its glory...:) xxx

Boyhood is an outstanding piece of filmmaking. It was completed over 12 years, and 39 days in total of filming, and follows the life of a young boy, Mason, from age six to 18, and his family relationships.

We first meet Mason as a daydreaming six year old and this quality of somewhat ethereal detachment continues as he grows into an emotionally intelligent and creative young man. Although slightly introverted and obsessive, preferring life in the darkroom with his photos for company, he possesses a quiet confidence that draws others near him. 

Mason through the years...

Mason’s father (Ethan Hawke) enters the film as a man-child with no fixed abode or employment, separated from his family and unable to be his children’s secure base. Mason’s mother (Patricia Arquette) appears to be stuck in a vicious cycle of toxic relationships, with the added painful irony that, despite being a lecturer in psychology, she seems quite unaware of her personal vulnerabilities. 

The film has a wonderful natural quality, which is created through the authenticity of the characters and the continuity of the environment. The regular time lapses are unannounced, leaving the film’s narrative to flow unbroken. Through our investment in Mason and his family, the smaller moments of their lives become amplified, letting us into their worlds as fellow travellers.

As I sat through the film’s 164 minutes, I kept expecting a dramatic turn in events or some unexpected crisis to appear, but this never materialised. After recovering from my initial disappointment, I realised this film is about real life, where often the ordinary moments turn out to be the most significant. We have become used to dramatic intensity in films; Boyhoodmakes us appreciate patience and commitment instead.
Mason and his dad- the early years

I was impressed not only by the patience and commitment required to complete such a lengthy piece of work, but also by the faith that the separate days of filming would produce a cohesive final product. 

There are powerful resonances here with the task of therapy, and the film reminded me of my experiences as a trainee therapist, of learning to recognise and stay with the unknown. Despite my initial fears, I have found that when I embrace the unknown, often with my faith in the therapeutic process as my only compass, then the therapy can truly flourish. Like Boyhood, it is when the fragments of a client’s life are pieced together that the bigger picture can be realised.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Let's be Frank

Hi all,

A quick post about my first published film review by Therapy Today magazine. It's on the fantastic film Frank, definitely worth a watch!

My review of Frank for Therapy Today


Monday, 7 July 2014

The Golden Gate Bridge and its tragic reputation

Hi all

Hope everyone is having a lovely Summer so far. Am on holiday this week, just at home in Richmond, but its lovely to have a break from the old routine.

One of things I've been getting up to this week is catching up on films... one of them being a documentary made in 2006 called The Bridge which centres on the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) in San Francisco. The film captures a whole year (2004) of the life of GGB focusing on the people who decide to visit in order to commit suicide. The GGB has become a morbid black spot for people wanting to kill themselves (a person jumped every 15 days during the 2004 shoot of the film and more than 1,400 people are known to have jumped since it was built).

As you can imagine the film is incredibly powerful and moving. It hits you right from the very opening scene where you see a man hovering by the side of the bridge contemplating his next move, then in a swift action, he pulls himself over the rails and jumps off into the water some 75 metres below. The film focuses on the stories of specific people who attempted or committed suicide that year, with interviews with their friends and family and the police officers who tried to talk them back from the edge.

There is one story in the film which was particularly moving to me. It the story of Kevin who jumped off the GGB in the year 2000. As soon as he jumped he realised he didn't want to die. He tried to move position during his fall but still suffered terrible injuries when he made it into the water. As he was trying to stay afloat in the water he felt something brush his legs and immediately thought the worse, a shark. However when the lifeguard arrived to assist, they told him that there was actually a black seal which was constantly circling him in order to keep him afloat, and in order to keep him alive. Kevin later attributed the seal's presence as a sign from God. Certainly for me, if feels that something spiritual was present in that vital connection between Kevin and the seal which ultimately saved Kevin's life.

In 2012, the shoes of 1,558 suicide victims were displayed as part of an awareness campaign

The film received mixed reviews upon its release with critics debating whether it was tactlessly morbid or remarkably sensitive. For me, it's a tough film to watch and it stays with you for a long time, but anything which allows the highly sensitive topic of suicide to be openly discussed, breaking that silence, can only be a positive.

I even struggled to know if writing this blog post would be appropriate and found myself putting off writing it for some weeks. But literally as soon as I saw The Bridge, the GGB TED talk popped up in my iTunes feed and then an article was in the paper at the weekend about the same topic and then I knew that I had to get writing.

Here's the trailer for The Bridge...

In addition an ex police officer who worked on the GGB has recently done a TED talk on the subject of suicide, which is also worth watching. This talk emphasises the importance of listening and giving space to those in their darkest moment when contemplating ending their life.  Here's the TED talk.

The architect of the GGB was reported as saying it was suicide proof back when it officially opened in 1937, time has proven that this has tragically not been the case. It was announced last week that the GGB is finally getting suicide-prevention safety nets, so hopefully there's hope that this amazing architectural structure can start to discard its dark reputation but alas not its tragic history.

Take care


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Selfies...a self-obsession gone too far?

Hello all,

I was reading Grazia magazine recently and they reported on a story of a woman who was obsessed with taking selfies. The first recognised case of selfie addiction was recently cited, where a 19 year old boy spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 pictures of himself and got so obsessed with taking the perfect picture that he became suicidal. He went to rehab for his addiction and has since been selfie free for seven months.

It seems selfies are on the up, so to speak, and can become strangely addictive.

Are Selfies a sign of narcissism?

Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston, calls selfies a “really interesting psychological shift” in self-portraiture and in our relationships with ourselves. “Selfies allow you to be the producer, director, curator and actor in your own story,” says Rutledge. 
Even our world leaders are at it (excluding the First Lady that is)!

She also points out that while selfies raise the risk of narcissism, it may only be because there is not yet a widespread, well-established context for their use. She says that taking selfies may indeed be normal and natural, but because society has not yet collectively been able to contextualize the place selfies are supposed to hold, they have been labeled as being narcissistic and therefore can cause feelings of narcissism in those who take them.
However, it has been proven by multiple studies that interacting with other types of social media is definitively linked to narcissism, depression, low self esteem, addiction and a host of other negative effect. For example, Facebook use has been linked to depression while Twitter use has been linked to low self esteem and narcissism. 
When we get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identities and struggle to build real relationships, says Lucie Hemmen, a clinical psychologist.

So it seems the jury is out on whether selfies are dangerous for our mental health, only time may tell. Personally I fear that selfies may ironically erode our sense of self instead of bolstering it, as we attempt to potentially project a false self out into the world, hoping for some sign of acceptance. I fear this especially for the younger generation (how old do I sound?) who are more impressionable and are still forming their identities through the use and experimentation of social media.

The famous Oscar 2014 selfie is now reported to be worth US$1 billion!
Is our photo obsession harming our health?

A recent psychological study has shown that when people photograph an object, it erodes their memory. The professor who led the study commented that it was like people subconsciously relied on the photograph to do the remembering for them, taking a photo was a cue to dismiss and forget. This makes me think of the Aboriginal belief that taking a photograph of a person, erodes a part of their soul. It certainly seems that taking photos may diminish our memory, which I see as a key part of our identity.

As a society, for me, we seem increasingly to be unable to live in the moment.

I recall a concert I went to a few years ago with a friend who insisted on filming and photographing every moment. I felt sad for her at the concert, there was a sense of real desperation from her about getting the photo/film instead of enjoying the experience, not to mention it reduced my own enjoyment of the show as I was unable to properly connect with her in the moment as she always had her phone to her face.

I was reading my monthly copy of Vogue magazine and an interview with artist, Venetia Scott agreed with my thoughts no this. Scott comments that "when everyone is constantly looking at their devices, you don't feel they're present...if you're busy thinking about the picture you're taking..., you miss the excitement."

As for me, I still have quite a way to go before I publish my first selfie (I did make several attempts and really did not like the results)! But given my discussion above, maybe that's not such a bad thing!

Till next time, 

Take care,



Saturday, 22 March 2014

Mamma's Boys

Hello there!

Nothing can come between a son and his Italian mum, and now it seems the Catholic Church have warned that the closeness of this relationship is posing a threat to the institute of marriage and the health of the Italian economy! 

Mammismo (the Italian word used to describe the close mother-son bond) is being accused of being responsible for 30% of marriage break ups in Italy. The issue being that Mammismo continues to be strong even when the son marries, causing a third person to be part of the relationship (i.e. the dreaded mother in law) and the son to continually defer to his mum for advice and guidance instead of solving his issues with his wife. Italy has been in financial difficulties for a long time and this issue of Mammismo is not helping with its recovery. Italy's birth rates has slumped over the past 20 years. And also sons are leaving the nest (or the bosom of mother) later and later, with a third of adults, and 60% of 18 to 29 years olds, still living at home.

Goodfellas... the ultimate Mamma Boys movie! :)

This intense mother-son bond made me think of Freud's Oedipus theory. This theory is derived from the Greek myth where Oedipus kills his father and marries his mother (without realising before its too late).Freud's theory relates to a development stage in children (age 3-6 years old) where, as an unconscious wish, mother becomes a longed-for prize for her son and his father becomes an obstacle to the son's possession of her. Freud explained that the son will fear retaliation from his father by way of castration and resolution of this Oedipus or Phallic conflict comes about when the son identifies and becomes close with his father. Freud did posit a theory for girls too (sometimes called the Electra theory) which centres around penis envy, but I do feel it holds less substance than the male version.

So it would seem in Italy, using Freud's Oedipus theory, sons have become essentially stuck at this stage of development or at the very least have progressed through the stage in a distorted or unhealthy manner. Following the theory, it makes me wonder where are the Italian fathers in all of this and why did their relationship with their sons not flourish enough to break Mammismo? 

One thing is for sure, as long as Mammismo continues, newly married Italian women have a challenge ahead of them! 

Till next time, take care,



Sunday, 2 February 2014

Psychopath anyone?


Happy February all!

Ever thought your boss was a psychopath? Or wondered if you have any leanings in that direction (ooohhh eeerr)? Well you've come to the right blog! :)

So what is a psychopath exactly?

It's a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behaviour without empathy or remorse.Psychopaths tend to lack normal human emotions such as guilt. They are also often highly intelligent and skilled at manipulating others.

Note (very important), not all psychopaths are serial killers!

So are you a psychopath?

Here's a link to a test you can do to ascertain if you have any qualities of a psychopath.. if you dare! I scored a "healthy mind" with 72% empathy, 71% sociable, 41% law abiding and 12% delusional which was a bit worrying! But least it confirmed that I'm not a psychopath-phew!

What about your partner?

Huffington Post even did an article late last year about 10 signs your man is a psychopath.... the signs are all familar to me but thankfully in different boyfriends and not just one! (And I reckon the signs could apply to either gender too).

Jon Ronson- The Psychopath Test

Jon Ronson wrote a great book called The Psychopath Test where he explores the concept of psychopathy, along with the broader mental health "industry" including mental health professionals and the mass media. Jon also did a great TED talk on "Strange answers to the psychopath test", here's the link to his TED talk I was lucky enough to hear Jon Ronson talk at the School of Life last Summer. He talked about humiliation and it was a fascinating and hiliarious talk.

Channel 4's Psychopath Night

Late last year, Channel 4 broadcast a whole evening on the subject of psychopaths. One part which was particularly interesting for me was when a psychologist, Professor Dutton, assesses a group of people for psychopthic tendancies. To put his work to the test he challenged those he thought were high and low on the psychopathic sprectrum to a bungee jump (apparantely psychopaths wouldn't think twice about doing something like this- again am personally feeling reassured about the results of my psychopath test!). And true to his theory the more psychopathic people took on the challenge and those who weren't psychopathic refused to go up for the jump.

The TV show isn't available anymore unfortunately but there are some fun quizzes devised by Professor Dutton including one where you guess which well known person is the more psychopathic (Freddie Mercury v Hitler anyone)? Here's the link to the quizzes Channel 4 quiz

Best of luck for your psychopath test! (If I could write an evil laugh right now I would)! :)

Write soon



Friday, 3 January 2014

My top books for 2014...

Hi all

Sorry its been a few months since my last post, life as a trainee therapist has been pretty hectic, but as always incredibly rewarding,interesting and a little scary! But I have resolved, especially given as its the new year to continue to post each month. :)

Thought I'd kick off 2014 with some of my thoughts on the best books for the coming year.

Stoner by John Williams

This has become a cult classic and I was lucky enough to get hold of a limited edition hardback for my Christmas reading. This is a truly wonderful book and tells the story of life of a US university professor, William Stoner. There's isn't any major twists and turns, there doesn't need to be for such a well written book and I think this adds to its charm and individuality especially as we live in a world so full of ever dramatic media.

The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz

I am a big fan of therapist' Irvin Yalom's books which covers some fascinating client case studies. Grosz also covers examples of his clients divided into chapters such as "telling lies", "loving" and "changing". Its incredible readable for both therapists and non-therapists. 

The Business of Therapy by Pauline Hodson

I've just ordered this on Amazon and am looking forward to reading it. Its content page suggests it's a very practical guide about how to set up a successful private practice. It includes sections on the consulting room (including points on waiting areas and doorbells), money matters (including unpaid bills- scary) and boundaries (double scary). It also has a preface by one of my favourite therapists, Susie Orbach so am hoping this is a good sign!

School of life How to Series II

I am a big fan of Alain de Botton's School of Life and really enjoyed their first "How to" series which included a book by Philippa Perry on "How to stay sane". Their second series promises more intellectual life affirming delights. In particularly am looking forward to reading "How to connect with nature" and "How to develop emotional health". Each book of the series is £7.99, and can be purchased from the School of Life website .

Mind the child by Camila Batmanghelidjh and Kids Company

I've just finished this book today and its been a great, yet harrowing, read. It has really opened my eyes to the very wounded children which we as a society try to forget or even worst ignore. Batmanghelidjh is truly inspirational.

There is an entire set of books (all £4.99 each) devoted to stories of the underground to celebrate the 150 year anniversary. I've read a few of them and they all have been great. They can be bought from the Penguin books website

Hope you find these book tips useful, happy reading and a very happy new year!