All posts by Di Kamp

THOUGHT VIRUSES

We’ve heard a lot about viruses over the last few years, but no-one mentions the one that all of us suffer from on a fairly regular basis – it’s thought viruses.

We all have our own particular thought viruses: stories we tell ourselves that put ‘the fear of God into us’, as my mum would say. They’re the thoughts that trigger us into a state of fear or anxiety, usually about something that hasn’t actually happened, but we fear might.

There are also ones that take hold more widely in our cultures, which is how racism, sexism etc become so prevalent.

They all operate a double negative for us:

  1. Once there, we look for evidence that they’re likely to be true, in our own past, and in what we see and hear around us, so we build their hold on us.
  2. They affect our physical, mental and emotional well-being and increase our negative feelings and stress levels.

Like other viruses, we need to find a way to recover from them, and help ourselves to develop an immunity.

Firstly, we need to recognise we have them. Those recurring anxieties about our health or certain meetings, or something bad happening, all show us where they are.

Secondly, we need to start to exert some control over them. Look for evidence to the contrary: how many times in the past they weren’t true, how illogical most of them are.

Thirdly, we need to actively challenge them. When one pops its head up, we need to say: ‘Not you again! You’re not a fact, you’re a figment of my imagination. Go away, I don’t want you any more.’

Lastly, we need to laugh at them, because that is a fine way to reduce their power over us.

Thought viruses can spoil our happiness and peace of mind. Let’s choose not to let them.

THE POWER OF INTENTION

Last time, I wrote about setting intentions for the year rather than resolutions. By chance, I decided to clear up one of those piles of folders that I believe we all accumulate, and amongst them I found a stock of my intentions which went back twenty years.

I sat and read through them and was immediately reminded of just how powerful they are. I usually forget what I’ve written down until the next time, and then adjust them to help me move on some more. What I hadn’t really realised before is just how much progress I have made on so many elements of how I want to improve.

This is not because I have been deliberate or conscientious about it. As I said, I usually forget what I have written within a month. It is because intentions are like a direct command to your unconscious. They seep into your way of thinking about things and play a part in how you make decisions, how you act. I knew this theoretically, but here was the proof.

Just that act of writing down how you want to feel in general, and then some things you intend to do more or less of is enough to help you improve your life without a lot of effort.

And even at a simple level they work just as well. Setting your intentions for how you want a conversation to go, or an encounter, or a day, can make a positive difference without consciously trying. It is a powerful use of our unconscious that makes life easier, so do experiment with it.

INTENTIONS FOR THE YEAR

I always think that New Year resolutions are a form of self-flagellation – promising to do or not do something that you’re almost bound to fail at!

So I prefer to set an intention for the year: how I want it to feel overall. From that, I can decide to do more of some things and less of others, to match my intention.

For example, if my intention is to feel happy and fulfilled – always a useful intention! – then it is easy to see what does and doesn’t make me feel that way and begin to make these less and more adjustments to my life.

It leads to a gradual improvement in how my life feels and gives me a simple measure to keep adjusting week by week.

Sometimes of course, I’ll slip and have a ‘bad week’ but that’s just part of the process and I can have another go the following week. It’s simple, it’s gentle and it is a kinder way of making my life work even better.

If you’ve had the same New Year resolutions over and over again and failed, why not try setting intentions instead, and give yourself a chance to succeed.

KINDNESS

It seems right to remind ourselves at this time of year that there is a lot of kindness in people. The news is full of disaster, woes, hardship, and it is easy to feel that that is all there is.

Yet every day I experience or witness acts of kindness – it is a constant. It may be something apparently small: someone reaching a tin from the top shelves of a supermarket for another who can’t reach there; or it may be a big act of generosity and thoughtfulness, like funding free school meals for a year, so children get at least one hot meal a day.

It doesn’t matter. They all add up to a lot of kindness in the world and it is important to remember this, and put it into the balance against the incompetence, cruelty and difficulties so many face.

So let’s play our part. Whenever we can, let us add our small acts of kindness to the balance. And when others show us kindness, let us fully appreciate it and not take it for granted.

It will help us all to feel better and keep our faith that things can improve. May you have a joyous peaceful Christmas, and may 2023 bring better times, with even more kindness and compassion.

INSPIRING PEOPLE

I was watching an interview with Greta Thunberg the other day, and as ever found her inspiring. I have met several inspiring people in my life and they have influenced how I think and act. It makes me wonder what differentiates them. It is not their educational background or particular interests or viewpoints. So what is it? people who inspire us seem so diverse, yet clearly have some things in common.

I would suggest that the first thing they have in common is that their ‘causes’ are heartfelt. They believe with all their being in what they are supporting or doing or being. They have adopted it because they can’t not.

This is confirmed by the fact that they don’t just talk the talk, they walk the talk too. Think of David Attenborough for example, who could have retired from public life years ago, but chooses to continue to come out and support anything that may help to save our planet from climate change and diversity loss.

And they express their views in ways that we can relate to. They make it simple, clear and relevant to our own lives.

Finally, their ordinary humanity shines through. However serious or important their topic may be, they have a sense of humour, and an admittance of their own human frailty. Whether we agree with their particular viewpoint or not, they can inspire us to adopt these behaviours , to find our own ways of inspiring others.

THE BASICS

It is impossible to enable people to thrive and be the best they can be without the basics that allow us to live to our universal values. I can’t quite believe that we haven’t found a way to ensure that everyone has these fundamental needs met in our so-called civilised democracy.

We take these things for granted if we have them, but they are pre-requisites if we want to be able to move beyond mere survival as being all we think or care about.

  1. A place to call home. Everyone needs some form of shelter where they can be safe, keep their belongings, sleep, cook their food, keep themselves clean and be warm.
  2. Enough to eat and drink. There is an excess of food in the world, yet people are going hungry and doing without a warm drink.
  3. Access to healthcare. When the NHS was set up in this country, it transformed people’s lives. Now it is under-funded and over-stretched. Yet access to healthcare enables people to stay healthy and earn their living or care for their family.
  4. Education and training. It is proven that people will use their talents to improve their lives if we ensure that they have the opportunity to develop in their own way. Again, we have a good education system, but it is biased towards those who are academic, rather than those who have other forms of talent.
  5. Work that gives people recognition for what they can do and a fair wage. In this day and age, no-one should have to do two jobs with no security of tenure and still not be able to have a reasonable standard of living.
  6. A benefits and care system that supports those who can’t make their own way. There should always be a strong safety net for those who, for whatever reason, cannot be totally independent.

All this may sound like a utopia when we look at it from where we are now, yet it is both possible and essential, if we are to be a place where people have hope and can thrive. It is proven to be possible because all these aspects of thriving as a society have been put into practice in small pockets at different times and places. We could all learn well from some of our history.

It is also essential because without these fundamentals, we cannot hope for a thriving economy, where people can have the opportunity to make their contribution and have dignity and respect.

We live in the 21st century. It is time we learned how to be truly civilised and compassionate, and give everyone a chance to thrive.

This feels like common sense to me – isn’t it time we started to ask our governments to sort out the basics, so we can all thrive?

WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL VALUES PART TWO

In my last blog I explored the values and principles that drive our thoughts and reactions. In this one, I want to look at those which drive our behaviour with others.

There is one principle that underlies everything else: treat others as you would wish to be treated. This gives us all a simple guide to our behaviour with others – we all know how we wish to be treated. Just applying this principle would put an end to unfairness, nastiness, disrespect, discrimination, injustice, because none of us wish to experience these behaviours from others.

There are four main values it implies. He first is fairness. This means giving others the opportunity to be the best they can be. It is often called a level playing field, and that means being able to start with the same advantages and disadvantages as everyone else. It also means, on a direct personal level, giving others the chance to explain, express their views, be heard.

Secondly there is respect. This means appreciating differences rather than criticising them. It also means what my parents called ‘manners’ – not being rude or dismissive.

Thirdly there is trustworthiness. This means doing what you’ve said you’ll do, keeping your word. It also implies keeping confidences and not being a gossip.

And finally there is compassion. This is when you bring your heart into the situation. It is offering kindness rather than judgement.

And all of these require that we communicate with others. This word means finding what we have that we share, by talking, listening and observing, our common humanity. We do that by real face-to-face conversations, not through texts or emails. Everyone has a story, and we enrich our world by hearing each other’s stories.

Al this is obvious, isn’t it? We almost all intend to live by these principles and values on a personal level. Yet this is not how our world seems to work.

It is time we translated all this into demands for a better world, one that would work for the majority, not just the few.

What does that mean? I have some suggestions – next blog…

WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL VALUES – PART ONE

WHAT ARE THE UNIVERSAL VALUES – PART ONE

I want to start by looking at the values which are about how we think and react, whether to others, situations or just internally.

I’ll begin with being honest. This means more than just being truthful. It also implies not committing the sin of omission: hoping no-one will realise if we don’t tell them. If you’re honest, you own up if you have made a mistake or done something wrong, you say if you don’t agree with something (without being unpleasant), you don’t try to hide either weaknesses or strengths.

This links to integrity which really means being true to yourself. It implies being clear about your values, and not compromising them, but it also means being aligned: your heart and your mind being in accord with each other.

Then when we look at how we think and react, three more strong principles come into play. Firstly there is learning. As humans we constantly learn if we want to continue to develop[ ourselves to be at our best. This means that we do our best not to repeat mistakes form the past, and look at how we might handle things better this time.

Secondly there is the principle of looking forward as well as backward. This means considering the consequences of our actions and reactions before we do anything. It implies avoiding knee-jerk reactions and short-termism.

Thirdly there is the principle of applying common sense to a situation. (I often think common sense is anything but common!) It means distinguishing between what matters and when you’ve just got a bee in your bonnet. It requires stepping back and gaining perspective. It also means being practical: we may want to change the world but we can only do it one step at a time.

Now you may already have thought of something in this category that I have missed – these are only my thoughts, gleaned from working with people over the years. Yet, oh my God, the world would change immediately if we all consistently lived to these values and principles.. and we can choose to do so, if we wish.

CAN WE BECOME SANE AGAIN?

Over the years I have worked with thousands of people, from all sorts of backgrounds, in all sorts of jobs. When asked about the values and principles they believe would bring out the best in them and others, they almost always came up with the same things – what I would call the universal values and principles.

Yet we live in a world where these values and principles are not the driving force. Instead, we have developed culturally an ethos of greed, inequity, discrimination, short-termism, deceit and self-interest – the opposites of what people say would allow us to be at our best.

It doesn’t match what people would prefer and it brings out the worst in people – it’s as if things have turned upside down. I think that it is the result of capitalism gone mad. I’m not saying that capitalism is wrong – just that it has led to a selfish, greedy materialistic way of doing things, and however much people would prefer a different way, we feel as if we have to behave similarly if we are going to ‘get on’.

But most of us are no longer ‘getting on’. More and more people are struggling just to get by, while the rich 1% get richer. More people are homeless while a few have several homes to choose from. More people are working harder than ever for not enough reward or recognition. And most of our systems to support people are crumbling from chronic underfunding.

None of it makes sense. We thrive when there is kindness, co-operation, fair treatment, support when we need it. so how can we thrive in this insane world as it stands?

I think it is time we reasserted those values that help people to be the best they can be. We need to stand up for common sense, for the general good, for a chance to thrive.

It is surely possible to revert to our true nature and live in a world where everyone’s basic needs were met, where people were treated with respect, where fairness and honesty were the rule, not the exception.

Over the next few blogs I want to explore what those universal values and principles mean in practice, and then ask you: will you join me in standing up for them and help to make the world sane again.

LOOKING FOR THE CHINKS OF LIGHT

We are living in tough times. There is far more bad news than good – one thing after another seems to pile on the agony, in the world, in our country, even in our own lives.

It is easy to feel despair, but that doesn’t help anything. We need to look for the chinks of light. And in the midst of all this, they do still shine through.

In the world, the West is still supporting Ukraine, which may be politically motivated, but is better than has been managed in the past, when countries under attack have not been helped in any significant way. And the problems with gas supply have pushed many countries to move more quickly on installing renewable energy, which will help our planet.

In this country, the government is doing some terrible things, but at least it has stepped in to help with the cost of living crisis. We may not agree with their method or their philosophy, but it will help people to have more of a chance of paying their bills.

And above all, individual people bring chinks of light into our lives, with their kindness and thoughtfulness, their sense of humour despite everything, their warmth and affection.

Let’s keep looking for these chinks of light, and giving them to others whenever we can. It’s what will bring us through