freedom - represented by a barbed wire fence and a plan in the background

As I write this I’m stuck in a prison – the prison of the mind. A lot of people run aground in their lives and stay in that place most of the time. I am determined to break free and live a life of freedom. Sure, things, or should I say, circumstances, happen in one’s life but the most important emotion is our reactions to these. We can be negative and feel sorry for ourselves or get into a positive state of mind and ‘tighten our belts’ and move on to the next chapter. The most important piont in your life is to not compare yourself with others.

You have been given a blank canvas and it’s up to you what you’re going to paint on it. My own life has had its ups and downs and most of my life I’ve let the downs keep me from experiencing the joys that life has to offer: low in confidence; feeling worthless; lack of self-esteem and hiding away. My aim is to break free and break these chains, start a new journey and use every part of the canvas to paint my picture.

I had, and sometimes still have, a speech impediment which drained whatever confidence that was in me. I hid away for so long when this happened so that the people around me would forget the episode, then I showed my face again later, hoping no-one would remember.

I have let these experiences run and rule my life for such a long time. I realise now that fear is the biggest challenge you have in your life. If you don’t face up to it, life has a habit of bringing you around to situations where you have to come out of your comfort zone and face fear in order to grow in your life. I used to be pretty good at table tennis (ping pong) in my younger years and not one of my friends could beat me, but in order to win tournaments I had to play better players who would and could beat me. So I could raise my skill levels which I did and won the uner 16s regionals when I was 14 years old.

The same applies now. If fear keeps holding you back you will stay exactly where you are and probably go backwards into frustration, depression and other negative emotions. Fear does not equal failure. Fear equals never moving on. You should never be negative about failure. Failure teaches us to improve. If everything we did ended up as a success we would soon get bored. When we fail we should try again. So don’t let failure equal fear. Failure is a positive component when used in the right way.

I read this one time:

  1. “What do you want in life?
  2. Why do you want it?
  3. How will you get it?

The most important of the three in my opinion is the second one because the more reasons you can have for wanting something the more chance you have at obtaining this. So I finish writing knowing what I want to become. I have a plan of how to get it and most importantly the reasons why. So the walls of this prison have been shattered. I can now see life more clearly and can be the author of my story.

Christopber McLaughlin is a writer and fitness expert living in Londonderry, Northern Ireland

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Controlling anger isn’t something tigers have to think about. These are incredibly beautiful creatures. They represent concepts of pure wildness, untamed beauty, strength and power. Tigers have a reputation for being unpredictable and incredibly dangerous. Keeping a tiger as a pet is definitely inadvisable. It is their wildness that we admire most. A tiger doesn’t need to apologise for being a tiger.

Unlike tigers, we sometimes need to be able to control our anger. Anger is sometimes a perfectly natural response to a situation. Like all emotions it is a signal that something needs to change, and there is something new to learn.

However sometimes we experience inappropriate levels of anger. Then is time to consider ways to manage our emotions better.

As human beings we like to think of ourselves as more sophisticated – master of our emotions, civilised, and masters of ourselves. So what happens when we get angry? What happens when we lash out or lose our temper, maybe even go over the top and cause hurt and sadness in others we care about?

Controlling anger is a complex subject. The causes of inappropriate or chronic anger are many, and the solutions vary. At the same time there are a few small changes that we can make to make it easier to deal with angry outbursts in future.

1. What is the emotion?

When you first start feeling angry, if you can, try to notice what exactly you are feeling. Are you angry, or are you hurt? Could it even be sadness or fear?

Part of this is simply about awareness and paying attention to your feelings rather than suppressing them.

Anger is often a powerful mask for other emotions too. This isn’t about repressing the feelings, just understanding better what is going on. And yes, it could still be plain old anger!

2. Choose a better word

Having said that, the word ‘anger’ or ‘angry’ is quite a powerful one. Just saying or thinking that you are ‘angry’ is enough to increase the intensity and build yourself up for an outburst.

Having a better vocabulary for your emotions can give you more flexibility in your behaviour.

Here are a few alternative words on the spectrum of the emotion of anger:

Furious, seething, mad, fuming, enraged, cross, annoyed, irritated, bothered, peeved, exasperated, irked, piqued, displeased, ticked off, bothered, ratty.

Can you see how the choice of word could be important here? If you feel angry, are you fuming, or are you just a bit exasperated? Choosing the most accurate word, or even deliberately choosing a word slightly lower in intensity, can really help keep things in perspective.

3. Is there a pattern?

A favourite word in the anger management world is ‘trigger’. And yes, there can be specific things that set you off. Often specific situations may remind you of situations in the past where you felt angry, and ‘trigger’ a similar emotional response.

I am a little cautious about the language of ‘triggering’, because I think some people see a ‘trigger’ as an excuse to be angry. In that sense, being aware of a trigger may actually make you more likely to have an outburst. If there are set things that tend to make you see red, then maybe ask yourself what it is about that experience that makes you feel angry?

The trigger is an example of something more subtle that is going on. Ask yourself ‘why’ the trigger makes you angry and you uncover a belief about yourself or the world. Beliefs that constantly trigger excessive negative emotion are probably not serving us, and a belief can be changed.

Look for patterns in your behaviour. There may be practical things that you can pay attention to for controlling anger more effectively. It may be that you are worse when you are tired. Alcohol may tend to make you more negative and emotional. It could even be low blood sugar.

4. Don’t vent

There is a school of thought that expressing anger gets the emotion out and makes you feel better.

There may be an element of truth in this over a short period, but on the whole ranting about how angry something makes you is probably going to make you hold on to it more.

I am involved in facebook groups where anger is a theme, and many people vent on that group. Those who do so tend to remain in the group and continue to vent. It doesn’t seem to do them a lot of good and it certainly doesn’t benefit those reading it.

I strongly recommend that if you are on a Facebook group where people express their anger, you consider coming off it and find something more positive to help you.

5. Learn more

There is always more that we can learn about ourselves. When ever you find yourself lashing out, or getting unreasonably angry, learn from it. As I am fond of saying, there is no failure, only feedback. Every experience is a learning experience.

Sit down and write down what happened. Start from the point where you felt fine and tell the story of what happened. As I said, this is not about venting, it is about analysing the experience. This is where patterns may come to the fore. It is where you can more accurately describe the level and nature of the emotion you were feeling.

The other side of learning more is to find out more about controlling anger. Watch videos, read books and articles. Understanding what is going on is a big step towards overcoming the issue itself.

I doubt tigers are truly erratic. The reason tigers seem unpredictable in their behaviour is more likely to be a lack of our understanding of what makes them what they are.

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three men - see no evil hear no evil speak no evil

The murder of Sarah Everard, is still a raw and painful memory as I write this. Rightfully, the subject of women’s safety and male behaviour is an incredibly touchy one. I’ve joined in a few discussions on social media and quickly seen how emotive people naturally are on this subject. I know it might be safer to keep my head below the parapet, but one woman in just such a group pointed out that it is men who need to sort the problem out. So keeping quiet is not really an option.

At the same time, I’m not going to be able to change the world in a blog. This blog is aimed directly at men only. I would like to suggest a few small shifts of thinking and attitude that, if every man were to make them, might help improve the situation.

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In this video I interview Professor Alyssa Westring, Vincent de Paul Associate Professor of Management and Entrpeneurship at DePaul University’s Driehaus College of Business. We talk about how to create more successful lives as parents.

Juggling work, home, well-being and community life can make life incredibly challenging – even more so during Covid-19. Alyssa’s book ‘Parents Who Lead’ gives a practical framework for creating greater synergy within our lives.  She talks about her focus on Values and the Four-Way view used in her work with families and she explains her research into the impact of Coronavirus.

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In this video interview, I talk to actress, performance coach and author, Sarah Thurstan. We discuss story-telling, authenticity and disclosure as the keys to effective presentation. Sarah shares a range of techniques and approaches to speaking out, whether on a platform, via video or within meetings. We also explore some of the changes that are being brought about by the current pandemic.

Book - Personal Presence, By Sarah Thurstan

Sarah Thurstan is author of ‘Personal Presence – How Speakers Authentically Engage”, published by Novaro Publishing.

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Man about to set out on his heros journey

Guest post by Ewan Mochrie, author of ‘It’s Time’.

In 1949 Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces. By doing so Campbell brought into sharper focus the underlying structure of myths and storytelling. This structure is known as the Hero’s Journey. It is an innate human archetype; we instinctively recognise and utilise this pattern, despite having little or no conscious awareness of it. When you read a good novel or watch a good play or film you unconsciously identify the pattern and match the events you are observing to this structure. One of the reasons that you might think a film or novel isn’t good is that the author hasn’t followed the ‘right’ structure. More than this though the Hero’s Journey is playing out in your own life too.

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woman with a question mark instead of face

Self-esteem is defined on Wikipedia as ‘an individual’s subjective evaluation of their own worth’. Valuing yourself, knowing your core identity and believing in who you are is a key issue that underpins many problems in life. I have written on this subject before.

There are many ways in which we can work on our self-esteem. There are habits we can cultivate. We can change our self-talk – the way we tend to talk about ourselves to others and in our own minds. There are journaling exercises, and many Neurolinguistic Programming inventions. We can see a hypnotherapist or a Timeline Therapist and we can get some coaching.

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a box of white eggs with one 'different' red one

“Why am I different?” – It’s a question I get asked a lot by my clients about themselves. “‘I try to be like everyone else. I try to fit in. I wear the kind of clothes that other people my age wear. I join in with the conversations that go on and try to look like I am totally on their wavelength. I pretend to be interested in all the things they like to do, and I take part in the socials. I turn up for the charity events and I even turn a blind eye to the things that make me uncomfortable.

“I don’t agree with some of the things people say, and some of it is just so wrong, on so many levels. I daren’t say anything though, so I just smile politely. That makes me feel really bad inside. It just emphasises even more that I am different, and I don’t think people would like me if they knew what I am really like.”

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Anybody who uses Facebook will be familiar with the insidious way in which it manages your daily experience. Click on a picture of a dog, and you’ll get flooded with pictures of dogs. You’ll get doggy treat adverts, dog adoption groups and cute videos of dogs cooking paella. In fact you don’t even need to have clicked. Such is the subtlety of the Facebook ‘algorithm’.

You only have to slow down or stop scrolling on your device to inform the social media site that this is something you are interested in and you’ll get more of it. It is almost impossible not to do that if something catches your eye.

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self-isolation cronavirus

With self-isolation a key response to suspected coronavirus symptoms, many of us are making contingency plans. In the school playground today, I heard people discussing the practicalities of working at home. They discussed using their laptops and talked about holding meetings through video-conferences through Skype and Zoom. They welcomed the opportunity not to commute. Some even felt that their productivity might actually increase because of it.

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