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I have various unconscious biases.

An obvious example would be that I did not see anything unusual about the room mostly full of besuited, white, middle aged men in a meeting at my work. I didn’t understand why my female colleague was intimidated. “But they are all nice guys…”  I explained completely missing the point.  When I first started my counsellor training, a couple of female colleagues admitted later that they had assumed I was not serious about seeking a career in counselling as “it’s not a proper job”.

The point is we all have unconscious bias.  Essentially, we make judgments about situations based on assumptions held in our subconscious. BUT, I hear you cry, if we don’t realise that we are doing it, how then can we guard against it?

I would make the point we can’t eliminate unconscious bias.  However, what we can do is accept that unconscious bias is there and try and be aware of how it affects your behaviour.  It makes it sound like standing in an addicts meeting and admitting you have an issue. “Hello everyone, my name is Bob and I have unconscious bias…”.

Be curious – Why did you react to such a way?  Did you get upset?  Alternatively, why is it not a big deal for you? Did the other person seem uncomfortable? Ask, don’t shelter behind words like “I just say it like it is”, “I don’t suffer fools gladly” (who does?!), “I’m a straight talker” etc, which are socially ‘acceptable’ ways of trying to close down the conversation without any further discussion.

Try to be a bit kinder and ask yourself why.  Hopefully you’ll become more aware of your assumptions, positive and negative and the effect on yourself and others.

Easy to say, less easy to do!


November 16, 2020

Kids and COVID lockdown

It might surprise you to know, that a number of counselling bodies in my hometown and anecdotal stories I have heard relating to children and settling back into a school routine highlight the increased anxiety of children and strain on family relations based on the pressures of facing life BACK in the ‘outside’ world after lockdown 1.0.

Generally speaking, the end of lockdown was seen as a ‘good’ thing for everyone. Especially in terms of the mental well-being of children.  Whilst in many senses this is undoubtedly true, it also seems to be true that in some cases this has led to an increase in child anxiety and a decrease in the feeling that children have that they can share their thoughts with adults.  This has led to the ‘school days are the best in your life’ syndrome, as I like to call it (but no one else!).  Some children feel that they won’t be listened to if they speak, some children feel there must be something ‘wrong’ with them if they feel there is something not quite right in the post lockdown world. Quite often their world will have changed dramatically through parental unemployment, not seeing relatives, changes at school etc and uncertainty.

All the social pressures that were there before lockdown are still there now.  Children are out of the secure and familiar, yet boring environment of home and having to navigate physical friendship/social politics, peer pressure, bullying, standing out, sporting/academic achievement, appearance, personal hygiene, stages of puberty etc, all of which are presumably as confusing as they were before.

Therefore – be kind, be patient, trying not to ask too many questions (this usually results in monosyllabic responses), reassure them, try to have a conversation when doing something else, tell them you are just ‘checking in’ and it’s not a big deal.  Most important, remember it’s not about you, it is about them.

Some stress is good. Stress motivates us; allows us meet goals; gets us excited. Generally, stress is due to an external trigger. Anxiety is usually excessive internal worrying. Mild to medium stress and anxiety levels of very common, in fact, not to have them would be more unusual. You might be surprised at how many people feel alone, or somehow different because of their reaction to stress. However, some little tweaks to the way you think and behave might help. There is no mystery, no rocket science!

Be kinder to yourself – a lot of people (myself included) call themselves rude names when they make mistakes, replace the name with something gentler.

Congratulate yourself on little things – did you make someone feel better with a cuppa? Did you catch the bus on time? Did you smile at someone? Make a phone call?

Write a ‘to do’ list of 1 thing – when you do it, congratulate yourself

Try to do something you have been putting off – doing this one may make other things seem easier

If you had to say something you can do well, what would it be? – even if it is something that you are not as bad at as someone else!

What are you good at? – do it regularly – take time to be satisfied with yourself, be it a crossword, driving, jigsaws, online quizzes whatever. Build yourself up in your own mind.

Chat to someone, a friend, partner, parent, colleague etc – as before, most of us have some a level of stress and anxiety, you might be pleasantly surprised you’re not alone.

Try to be rested – try to go to bed at the same time every night. Try not to have back lit screens in bed, don’t do posts or emails in bed, take 10 deep breaths in/out and concentrate on that. Clench your feet for 5 seconds, then relax them for 5 seconds, do it 10 times and concentrate on that.

Be patient with yourself – You are slowly trying to alter the way you think towards yourself,  ideas that have built up over time. It won’t change in a week.

Remember – if you cannot shake the feelings or you feel they are affecting your daily life and stopping you functioning or enjoying everything you think you should, it is no problem to chat to a counsellor… and you can be assured it is totally confidential!

Posted 23rd October 2020 – Pre conceptions about counselling? Change them and read here

Posted 20th October 2020 – Online Counselling – Accessible, complete anonymity, convenience, affordability and greater choice of counsellors. Read article here