A piece of my mind (a blog in other words)

Sick and tired: compassion fatigue

You are a good person. And that’s a good thing, no?

Well, if you look at Facebook (who doesn’t?), you will find hundreds of sponsored adverts on behalf of widows, orphans, disaster victims, victims of oppression, victims of illness, those with disabilities, abandoned animals, disappearing wildlife….

If you’re a good person you might even contribute to one, or two. Perhaps the DEC (especially after a horrible earthquake, or a tsunami).

But here’s the snag. In our digital age, bots and algorithms will latch onto you as someone likely to care. In human terms, “a soft touch”. So you find other pleas landing in your inbox asking for more money. If you have/haven’t ticked/not ticked the correct boxes when you first donated, you will find physical letters beginning to drop through your letterbox.

This is all on top of advertising campaigns that you might see on the side of buses or on TV, or the Chuggers who accost you in the street, or the little old ladies collecting outside of the Post Office.

There is evidence that this level of knowledge of the ills and evils in the world, the wider world, is seriously bad for any one individual’s health. There is also evidence that the human psyche developed in accordance with knowing and caring for a community that is roughly the size of a village. That’s the amount of badness that we can cope with and care for healthily.

So next time you are asked for money, and you think ‘Oh no, not again’, don’t feel guilty. If you really are a good person, you will have chosen your charities, your causes, and you will support them. And that’s fine. That’s enough.

Panic and weariness

The face of London was much altered…sorrow and sadness sat upon every face. And though some were not yet overwhelmed, yet all looked deeply concerned; and as we saw it apparently coming on, so everyone looked upon himself, and his family, as in the utmost danger.

Is this an extract from a piece on Covid in one of the broadsheets? A quote from Channel 4 news, perhaps?

It’s actually over 250 years old. It comes from Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, and describes the panic that accompanied the arrival of the bubonic plague in the City of London in 1665.

Life in a time of pestilence and pandemic goes through certain phases, as we are all learning.

Humans have been hard-wired over thousands and thousands of years to survive in an environment where acutely stressful situations, like natural disasters, don’t last long even if it takes time to recover from them. We are built to cope with these sorts of events, falling back on something psychologists call “surge capacity” made up of physical reactions like releasing adrenaline and mental mechanisms like reducing and intensifying our focus. These get us through the immediate emergency to the clear-up stage after the disaster is over.

But, like all emergency circuits, it is designed to be very effective for a short period and then it’s depleted and needs to be refuelled. And that’s where the problem lies. This pandemic is both acute and chronic. It is dragging on and we don’t know when or how it will end, promised vaccines notwithstanding.

So if you are feeling bored of the whole thing, if you never want another Zoom meeting ever, if you just feel like pulling the quilt over your head and sleeping until it’s all over…please don’t worry! You are having a perfectly normal reaction to something human beings aren’t equipped for. Your natural coping mechanisms have been used up and yet the emergency continues. You are experiencing BURNOUT, the condition caused by one or more of a person’s natural coping systems being overused and pressurised until they fall over.

And that happens to the healthiest and strongest among us. If you have an underlying physical or psychological condition, Covid-stress works like a catalyst to make everything worse, sometimes much worse.

So be kind to yourself. You are not weak, or cowardly, or pathetic. You are normal.

Let’s hope everything else becomes normal too….and very quickly!

Staying A Lert? Better To Stay Alive

So, we are all now told to “stay alert”.

What, exactly, do they think we’ve been doing in the last ten weeks??

What this instruction does not offer guidance on is what you are supposed to do if you are quietly staying alert, minding your own business in the queue at your preferred supermarket, when someone walks past you closer than 2m; very much closer than 2m.  Slowly, taking their time.  And coughing.  They’re not wearing a facemask.

Do you give them a very British, Paddington Bear stare?  Tut?  This is known as passive aggressive in the jingo.  Do you scream at them… that’s pure aggressive!  Or just fearfully hope they didn’t give it to you?

If you are worried about all this, that’s perfectly normal.  Most normal people are worried right now.  Even more so than the previous weeks of lockdown.  And the guidance for that wasn’t all that clear!

But now normal people are confused and fearful, while thoughtless people think the pandemic is all over and they have carte blanche to act as they like once more.

There are things you can do to lessen your anxiety about these times.  For your physical health, you can treat everyone as if they have the bug and keep out of their way.  Don’t think “she just queue-barged!  How unfair!”. Think “She’s a thick twerp who doesn’t know what she’s doing, and I pity her.  And I kept away from her, well done me!”

For your mental well-being, you can explore getselfhelp.co.uk which is packed with practical emergency and long-term advice and exercises to tackle depression, anxiety, phobias and other worry related conditions.

Stay safe and stay well… and stay a lert.

Stir crazy?

No parties.

No sports fixtures.

No theatre.

No live music.

No pubs, clubs, restaurants, coffee shops.  No browsing in TKMaxx or M&S.

There are odd scarcities in the shops.  I mean, who is really doing all this bread baking anyway?!!

And you are cramped, locked up with your family whom you love (normally!).  Or you’re by yourself trying not to despair or go mad.

Lockdown steals our freedoms, in return for a reduction in the likelihood of catching a deadly disease, a cruel disease that kills its victims by using their own autoimmune system to suffocate them.

One way of surviving the lack of freedom is by finding what good you can in the situation:  the quieter than usual traffic noise, meaning you can hear the birdsong better, or taking joy from stories like that of Captain Tom Moore (£28m and counting!), or from all those rainbows in windows.

If you can, try to find 10 minutes a day to sit quietly and either think mindfully, or of your God if you have one, or just dream of what you want to do when this is over and plan how you will make it happen.

Because joyful dreaming is a kind of meditation, a good relaxation, and one of the best freedoms available to anyone.

Stay home, stay strong, stay safe everyone.

When someone you love dies…

Grief is awful.  Everyone says nice things about the deceased, they offer you words like “he had a good innings”, “a merciful release, really”, or “let us know if we can do anything”.  The funeral happens.

And everyone goes away and carries on living their lives.

And yours stays stopped.

Yes, the well-known ‘grief curve’ does describe a lot of what we feel when we are bereaved…but, in the immortal words of Mr Eric Morecambe, not necessarily in the right order….


And your life stays stopped…sometimes for years.  Every birthday, Christmas, anniversary, the wounds reopen.  Every time you pass that restaurant you both loved, every time you hear a certain piece of music, and so very many people cannot understand why, after all these weeks, months, years, you haven’t ‘got over it’.

This callous ignorance is bad enough when the deceased was a member of your family.  It’s even worse when it’s someone you loved who happened to be a dog, cat, rabbit, or other furry, scaled, or feathered friend.

It can be even worse when the deceased person, the someone you love dies…but their body exists without them: dementia.  Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia is affecting more and more people, and their carers are becoming less and less supported either practically or in society’s estimation.  They are taken for granted.

Hypnotherapy can help both sufferers and carers.  Please ask around to find a practitioner who suits you (if you feel like it, you could even try me!).

The gentle approach to this dreadful disease is within your grasp.  There is hope.

Why we grieve for people we’ve never met

This last week, there were lots of touching tributes to Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear (among many other childhood favourites).  As well as the beautiful bronze statue of Paddington in Paddington Station which became an impromptu shrine, Twitter and other social media sites were filled with affection and sadness.  There was a little flurry of photos of people’s own Paddington Bears being comforted by their other bears, with the poignant caption “We’re sorry for your loss, Paddington.  We will look after you.”…a reference to the label around Paddington’s neck.

The same sort of outpouring happened when Sir Terry Pratchett died.  Some clever fan set up a petition to Death to bring the author back (sans his Alzheimer’s).  It wasn’t intended to be successful, of course.  It was intended to allow his fans a way of expressing their grief in a way that we all knew he would have appreciated (and found funny).

If a public figure has captured the public’s imagination in any sphere, it is natural for us to feel sadness and grief at their loss, even if we never knew them personally.  And this phenomenon isn’t new.  Think of the mass grief that met the deaths of Rudolph Valentino, or Horatio Nelson, or Princess Diana.

If a celebrity and/or their work has struck a chord with us, the reality is that we do know a part of them.  They have connected with us.  When they die it is natural to grieve the loss of that connection…and the possibility of more connections that might have been.

RIP Mr Bond.  We will look after your bear.



Hi, I’m Ruth.

Hello, Mrs Barlow here.

Actually, it’s Mrs Ruth Barlow FRSA, MPhil, BA (Hons), CertMgmtNFP (Open), CertHypCS.

All of us are several different people in one: the person we are at work, the demon at the pub quiz, the lady who always walks her dog at the same time, daughter, wife, Mum, Grandma.

While setting up my business I wondered what name/title would be most acceptable to potential clients and came across a conundrum.

Would you prefer someone who comes across as friendly, or someone who has so many letters after their name they can’t all fit on her business card (sad but true!).

The truth is, of course, that someone can be both, and, in hypnotherapy, counselling, and other caring professions, most practitioners are.

So…hi, I’m Ruth.  I’m highly-qualified but don’t let that put you off.  I’m human really.


New, new year



So it’s New Year’s Day 2017!  Any resolutions yet (that you haven’t already broken)?  Every year we all make unrealistic expectations of ourselves, and then, we inevitably fail, and we blame ourselves.

2017 doesn’t have to be like that.  2017 could be the year that you decide to face your fears, tackle your problems, and by harnessing the amazing power of your unconscious mind, succeed, triumphing over issues that may have hamstrung you for years.

Last year, among others, I helped a lady overcome her fear of spiders…a fear that had dominated her life for over 50 years.

You could be my star success of 2017!