Who presses your buttons?

I have noticed that I have become a little more irritable than usual. I suppose it’s hardly surprising really. Most of the irritability is to do with my frustration and having to succumb. (I can’t get this stupid word out of my head now).

Yesterday we had a good run to London it took us exactly an hour to get there and one hour fifteen min to get back. Not bad going, so with the treatment in between we were home by 1.30pm

That meant I could start my painting or at least the preparation for it. I was delighted with the large canvas and my choice of colours and spent a good couple of hours preparing to put the first strokes of paint down then WHAM!

I was overwhelmed with tiredness. On top of this my body ached, I felt sick and my tongue felt like a well used doormat in my mouth with someone still rubbing there feet on it . So I had to succumb, drop tools and just go and lie there on the sofa like an invalid.

I didn’t even have the strength or inclination to watch my recording of Mr Selfridge! I really felt mega sorry for myself and poor Colin had to put up with a really miserable cow, up until I managed to move from sofa to bed at about 8pm.

This got me thinking about who or what presses your buttons and another little story came to mind.

Billy the Robot by Paul Humphreys

Billy is a robot, a big new shiny Robot. He had a set of buttons on his chest. When the children push the green one he laughs, when they push the orange on he cries, when they push the blue one he is sad and when they push the big red one he gets very, very angry. The children laughed and laughed as they pushed the buttons and Billy did his tricks, first sad, then angry, laughing then crying.

At first Billy enjoyed these games, he liked playing with the children and making them laugh and doing exactly what they wanted. He had only just come from the shop and this was much more fun. After a while however Billy began to wish he could choose when to be sad, and when to be happy.

So one night Billy got a screwdriver from the garage and took the shiny plate with the big buttons off his chest. He then carefully turned it round so that the buttons were on the inside where only Billy could find them. When the Children got home from school they were surprised to find Billy’s button had gone. But they soon found out that Billy was much more fun when he chose to be sad or happy. And Billy was very, very happy now because no one ever made him sad, or happy or cry again because he decided what mood to be in because he was in charge of his own button. Are you?

So who or what presses your buttons?

If we believe that someone has the power to upset us then we must believe in…..Cause and Effect and that others have the power to cause us to feel unhappy.
How does this one sit with you? Do you believe this to be true and correct?
I think most of us would, however I would like to share a different way for you to look at cause and effect. In order for someone to makes us feel unhappy or for us to cause pain and unhappiness in others we must have access to their emotional buttons.
We must be able to press or stimulate these buttons to get a reaction?
Cause – pressing the button/ saying or doing something
Effect – emotional reaction to the words or actions
So where are your buttons? Do we have buttons on the outside of our bodies that read
”Press here for Anger”
“Press here for Sadness”
“Press here for Happiness”
Of course not! We all have full control of our emotions and how we react to situations.
The key to changing this pattern is to have “awareness” of these emotions and make a conscious choice to react differently.
If you have someone in your life who is constantly causing you pain and unhappiness, try looking at the situation from this new perspective.
You now know that only you can press your emotional buttons
Make a conscious choice to react differently to the same behaviour and watch your relationships change.

Take control and ownership of your own emotions and let others do the same.

I will not let Cancer take control of mine but I will pace myself and really enjoy the moments that are filled with more energy and excitement.

Have a good day


Story telling…

I love story telling and the use of metaphor and have used  it with many of the young people and families I have worked with. This morning I was thinking of a particular story (and I have so many I would love to share with you ), when I remembered that together with a good friend we had written a book.  Not only that, it had won a national award presented to us by Jo Brand.  I had forgotten all about it up until now but thought I would use this opportunity to share it with you.  Maybe we should get it properly published and available through Amazon?

So here it is ‘Sticking Plasters for Children’s Souls’ I am particularly proud of the Light and Dark story. Click on the link to read.
Using story telling and in particular metaphors  in therapy can harness creative and imaginative energy and lead to a greater understanding and resolution of even deeply seated difficulties.
My belief is that if you can see a situation in a related yet different way, and you can see your own role in the experience, you have a chance of getting out of the stuck places in your mind if you so wish to do do. Metaphors can help “reframe” the situation, and thus can be a tool for genuine self-help. You can use metaphors to deal with stress, and to reduce feelings of anger, hurt, depression, worry, anxiety, guilt and fear.
So here is one of my very favourite stories:
Happy reading ….
It was not long after the Gods had created humankind that they very soon realised that they had made a huge mistake. The creatures that they had created were so adept, so skilful, so full of curiosity and the spirit of enquiry that it was only a matter of time before they would start to challenge the Gods themselves for supremacy.
To ensure their pre-eminence, the Gods held a large conference to discuss the issue. Gods were summoned from all over the known and unknown worlds. The debates were long, detailed, and soul-searching, and lasted well into the night.
They were all unanimous about one thing. What differentiated the Gods from the mortals that they had created were the differences between the quality of the resources they had. While humans had their egos and were concerned with the external, material aspects of the world, the Gods had spirit, soul, and an understanding of the workings of the inner self.
The Gods realised that sooner or later the humans would want some of that too.
And so the Gods decided to hide their precious resources. The question was: where? This was the reason for the length and passion of the debates at the Great Conference of the Gods.
Some suggested hiding these resources at the top of the highest mountain. But it was realised that sooner or later the humans would scale such a mountain.
And the deepest crater in the deepest ocean would be discovered.
And mines would be sunk into the earth.
And the most impenetrable jungles would give up their secrets.
And mechanical birds would explore the sky and space.
And the moon and the planets would become tourist attractions.
And even the wisest and most creative of the Gods fell silent as if every avenue had been explored and found wanting. Where on earth could they hide these precious resources?
And then, the Littlest God, who had been silent until now, spoke up. “Why don’t we hide these resources inside each human? They will never think to look for them there.”
And so they did. Many of us don’t think to look at our own resources, or those of our workforces, but when we do we can often find real power.
Look inside yourself today and wonder at all the wonderful resources you have within.
Use them wisely and have a great day.

Donate a scarf and make a difference.

It doesn’t always take money to help others. If we take the time and a little bit of thought, we can come up with some great ways to make a difference.

Yesterday following my daily dose of beetle juice etc, I visited the amazing “Living Room” on the ground floor of the hospital. This is a unique oasis in my Parallel Universe, crewed by a team of highly skilled and compassionate staff and has provided me with the time and space I so needed before stepping back into the reality of the outside world again. Walking through the doors you are greeted by a friendly smile, a good old cup of tea and let me say again, (as I am sure I must have mentioned in previous posts) that most precious and invaluable resource of all…TIME.

Before I go on I must talk about TIME again because for me, there is nothing more precious you could give to yourself or anyone else in order to make a difference. I may be digressing a little from my original blog posting for the day but it really is so important. Yesterday, listening to Radio 4 on our in, what seemed like a very long car journey, (I blame the small sprinkle of snow), I heard about yet another parenting programme. This one had been brought over from Australia, to support vulnerable families. I forget what name that was attributed to it, and I am not disputing its value but it got me thinking about the time and cost it took to train the therapists in this latest idea (which I can honestly say in my humble opinion, was nothing new.) Am I just getting old, but however you dress it up, whatever name you care to give to the latest therapy or idea the basic gift you are giving is TIME. If you are going into to a families home and spending quality time listening to their stories and working with them and their resources, it really isn’t rocket science to know you are going to make a difference. However, I do fear that maybe I have just become so unconsciously competent I am not seeing it? I am also not disputing the years of training and skills myself and the excellent therapists in my team have developed to help and empower our patients, but I do believe that if a family or person is ready and willing to move forward it is the time you spend with them that counts. Recently there has been a big change around with further investment into health visiting. Health visiting resources were reduced, and I won’t get into the politics of by whom or why, but it resulted in less time for these skilled professionals to spend time with new mums, and the consequences for those especially experiencing depression and anxiety, soon became clear, as child protection cases rose and children’s and adults mental ill health increased. Now there is a re- investment as someone who must be really smart has thought this is what was needed after all HUH, Is it just me? I must put in a plug here now for a similar investment into school nursing which I could talk for hours on!

How much time do you give to yourself, your family ,friends? Oh dear this isn’t meant to be a lecture and I can honestly say that I have been better at preaching than practicing this in the past, but being faced head on with a big life changing event pulls you up by your boot strings.

Take 15 mins of time tonight to jot down how you divided up your time today. How much time did you spend working, doing house chores, listening to your partner and family and how much time was purely spent on yourself. I can guess which comes out top. Of course most of have to work be able to afford all the luxuries that surround us and that we are convinced are most necessary in order to make our lives easier and more bearable to cope with, but at what cost to ourselves and the people we really care about and love? Ask any one in my amazing team, what is the number one criteria is for working in Step2 and if they don’t come up with the answer of, first of all making sure they are feeling mentally and emotionally healthy, and looking after themselves, then they don’t deserve to be there. How productive can you be if you are stressed out or anxious yourself, especially in a mental health service?

That reminds me, I did start to write a book which I must dig out and finish, I think I called it the Me Day concept or some other such catchy title, but it was all about permission and diary in time in for oneself. Maybe I had better get back to it?

It is amazing how powerful words are. We apply meaning and feelings to so many, and yet, often we forget that the true purpose of words is to remove the ambiguity of meaning. We get mired in what is expected of us, rather than what is right. We are more worried about how our actions are viewed, than whether the outcomes are right. We fear how others view us so we stand silent or chose conflicting courses of action.

The word ‘ selfish’ has been provided with such negative connotations. It’s seen as a tremendous character flaw. To be fair, part of that reputation is earned. We’ve all known people that are truly selfish , that step on others in order to pursue their own needs. They often know very little of caring, happiness, giving, and love. Yet it’s possible that, as a society, we’ve gone too far to the other side, promoting the idea that if we want to truly be good people, we need to be as selfless as possible. We see this with caregiving, volunteer work, and raising a family – many people dedicate their entire lives to others. But there’s a problem – complete selflessness has a cost – and that cost is often to our own health, happiness, and lives.

Having good mental health as an individual leads to good mental health as a society so let me take you back to the LAMBSS from a previous post which illustrates the importance of having our emotion and mental health needs meet in balance. I believe the same could With so much emphasis on helping others, be said for the balance between being selfish and selfless.

You should always remember that you deserve as much health and happiness as anyone else – possibly more. This is because…You Are a Person too, and with so much emphasis on helping others this can get lost with detrimental effects on the people around you that you love most and are so wanting to be there for. As much as you try to help others, the only person whose happiness you can fix with any certainty is your own. When it comes to your life, no one is more important than yourself but this last point is often forgotten. YOU are important, YOU matter. And you especially matter to you – the one person in this world that knows you best of all. It is for that reason that being a little bit selfish may be a good thing.

It’s time to be a little bit selfish. It’s time to care about your own health and happiness, even if it’s slightly at the expense of someone you care about. Your happiness needs to be important to you. But perhaps the greatest reason to be a little selfish is because it makes you a better person for others as well.

OMG this was going to be a short post about how you could possibly help me to help other cancer sufferers, and now look what I’ve done! I do hope you are still with me.

As I started saying yesterday I visited the Living Room, I was feeling a little anxious about my thinning hair and thought I would just explore a few options and before I knew it I had been whisked away by this lovely lady in front of a mirror and presented with an array of scarves, hats and wigs and I must admit I starting getting a tad excited (it doesn’t take much!). One of the very glamorous wigs, I tried on, would even give Heather a run for her money, who I think has simply gorgeous hair. ( you know who you are!) .

The wigs aren’t cheap although you do get a £64.0O prescription towards it from the NHS which isn’t bad. Also, by the time you have bought these special soft caps and an array of scarves I expect it soon adds up.

That got me thinking, I know we are all often looking for ways to help others but I don’t think it always needs to be about giving large sums of money, and, to be frank, in this day it is in short supply for most of us. So how about donating a scarf or hat? Ideally it would be new but if not I could easily wash and bag up. We could include a little inspirational note or kind message to brighten up someones day. I could hand them in to the Living Room for them to give freely away or sell them at a small charge with 100% of profits going towards the Macmillan Cancer Support charity, perhaps enabling more wonderful people to be employed to support others at their time of need.

What do you think, is it a goer? Perhaps you could get it started at your workplace and colleagues in your company could be encouraged to become involved?

I’ve also found some great knitting and crochet patterns for those so inclined to do so, in front of the latest episode of Coronation Street or Mr Selfridge, ( I am so loving that programme at the moment).

Get your thinking caps on and please let me know your thoughts.

Will I ever be short of subject matter for my blog…somehow I don’t think so.

Forever grateful knowing you are there.

Deborah x

Call out for lemon sherbets ……..and the BrainBox

Tonight I am feeling just a tad sorry for myself.  Last night our good friends brought round a lovely Thai supper but unfortunately I have lost my sense of taste, apparently a common side effect of chemo.  My imagination yearns for delicious foods so I prepare myself treats like banana splits and pancakes with maple syrup but alas I am disappointed.

Last night I wanted a cold fosters and packet of cheese and onion crisps but it really wasn’t worth it as it as I could hardly taste a thing other than cardboard.  So I am putting a call out for fizzy sweets, if anyone happens to be passing Hinxworth with such a delight.  Cold foods like ice cream, milk shakes and sweet and sweet sour fizzy sweets I think may be the answer?

Self pity over, let’s move on to more exciting stuff, so please allow me to introduce……. The BrainBox.


The BrainBox is an innovative resource designed to show what is happening inside the brain when we become highly emotionally aroused.  Having worked therapeutically with both children and adults I recognised the need for a tool that could be used to explain irrational behavioral responses.

Using the computer as a contemporary metaphor, the BrainBox encourages adults & children to seek help from therapists and mental health professionals in the same way they would seek expert advice to sort out a computer problem.   If we imagine the brain as being the most complex of computers, like a computer, it is bound to slow down or even crash at times.

Based on neurologist Paul MacLean’s, “Triune Brain Theory”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triune_brain the BrainBox represents the three brains that co-inhabit the human skull. These three brains pass information backwards & forwards through numerous neuron-pathways directly influencing each other. This interplay of memory and emotion, thought and action is the foundation of a person’s individuality.  The triune brain theory leads to a better understanding of the survival instincts such as the fight or flight response and its ability to override the more rational neocortex.

The resource has been used successfully with both adults and children for over five years now and has been well evaluated by therapists, educational psychologists, teachers and school nurses. It has won a national award for innovation and I can honestly say it is the resource that I am most proud of.

The BrainBox uses three recycled computer components to represent the three brains. It clearly demonstrates how the emotional brain (limbic system) disconnects from the thinking brain (neocortex) at times of high emotional arousal. Each part is there for you to use as a way of opening up a dialogue with a class, small group or an individual. It is a way of relating today’s technology to the workings of the human brain. Once understanding about the working of the brain, in particular the fight or flight mechanism, has been achieved, remarkable progress can be made.  It helps the client take control and provides an opportunity to explore ways to quickly reconnect to the thinking brain.

I believe the BrainBox works because of its simplicity. It is always a privilege to see the realisation and relief on many of my client’s faces as it all seems to drop into place for them and they start to feel empowered to do something about their particular issues.  Following on from the explanations about the brain, the BrainBox provides the opportunity to share three different ways to re-connect the thinking part of the brain.

1) Vigorous exercise (although I usually tend to skip past this one)

2) Breathing – Using relaxing breathing techniques slows down the para-sympathetic nervous system letting the brain believe danger has been removed and allowing it to re-connect to the thinking clever parts.

3) And most powerful of all is visualisation. Using your own powerful resource, the imagination, can take you to places and times when you felt calm and relaxed. This in turn will slow down you’re breathing and again allow the brain to believe it is in a safe place.  Once the thinking clever brain is reconnected it becomes easier to rationally sort out your problems.

I hope that gives you a taste of what its all about but it makes much more sense when you see it in practice.  Follow these links to the BrainBox website and a few published articles to find out a little more. http://www.thebrainbox.org.uk  http://www.articlesbyevemenezescunningham.co.uk/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/rapportbrainbox.pdf

Unfortunately Colin and I made only about 100 BrainBoxes in our back room and they have all gone. We need to find an investor to further develop and produce more. We just can’t invest anymore of our own money into the product. This is such a shame knowing how well it works. I know lots of people have suggested the Dragons Den, but this isn’t a moneymaking business it is just a tool that I know can and does make a big difference.







A Missed Opportunity and the Birth of the BrainBox.

Can you believe it! Yesterday we had a bit of a late start, partly due to my dear husbands desire to ensure he delivered his quota of our village news around our neighbourhood, and my need to clear up from the trail of party try on’s and make up and hair products spread from one end of our upstairs rooms to the other. This led to us arriving at the hospital half an hour after, wait for it, a visit to my very beetle juicing floor , by His Royal Highness Prince Charles his very self!!! Perhaps the universe thought I had already received my fair quota of excitement for the week but how good would have meeting royalty have been, never mind I shall just have to wait until my palace invite now.

On another note I want to share with you some information about a product I designed and developed, to enable a better understanding about how the brain works, when faced with what it may perceive as being dangerous situations. The BrainBox is being used by the mental health professionals not only in my team, but by psychologists, teachers and youth workers who have purchased the few models we managed to produce and sell from our back room a few years ago and it really is making a huge difference according to all the positive feedback I am receiving. But before I tell you more about it I want to honestly share with you a little bit about why and how it came about.

As a small child growing up in Sheffield (just down the road from Jarvis!), life may have been viewed as a simple family affair, but as for many children, it was not always as easy on the inside as it may have appeared to the outside world. Differences between my parents resulted in, without going into too much detail, a difficult time for us two girls which accumulated in a midnight run away from all we knew to the far too bright lights of London. My father was not always a good man and to escape the world he had found himself in he fled the country leaving his little girls behind. Unfortunately details are often spared from little children, but little children do have ears and eyes and large imaginations that can so often be abused. Gaps filled my head with stories as to why my daddy would abandon me and we had to leave our dear kitten, friends and family behind so suddenly. Daddy would visit, he would write and come back wouldn’t he? Had we really been that bad, that ugly, that naughty all that sort of thing. Grown ups thinking they were doing their best a new different life, new schools, new daddies all would move on smoothly and be forgotten. No blame is intended here it was just life, we see it in many homes, parents struggling with their own battles trying their very best to do the right things with little understanding of the possible consequences. In my case the circumstances led to feelings of low self esteem, and a real fear of abandonment and lack of trust. I withdrew into my own imaginative little world where goodness prevailed and I would do all I could to try to be kind and be loved but with a real belief this wouldn’t be possible. Each opportunity the devil on my shoulder would remind me that it couldn’t be, that I was unworthy to expect it, and that I should avoid and disrupt any opportunity to trust in anyone or thing so to avoid a life and death situation. Wow this is getting heavy! The reason I am explaining this is that as I became older and wiser I became more fascinated in the workings of the brain and more interested in how amazingly it would operate in order to do what it perceived was required to keep me safe. The Neuro -Linguistic Practitioner and Human Givens Psychology training provided me with a greater understanding of the workings of the human mind and with the knowledge gained during my psychiatric nurse training it all seemed to click into place. I was able to re-program my brain and move on, storing stories and banishing memories to my museum of old values and beliefs. Emerging from my cocoon into a new world where I grew in confidence and self belief, free from the little voice that used to say you can’t, you mustn’t, you can’t it is too dangerous. Today I know I can, and I do, and I survive. Gosh I do sound like such a drama queen! But this story is to illustrate why and how the BrainBox came about. In my working role I was meeting lots of families experiencing difficulties coping with situations that the brain has interpreted as dangerous, causing them great problems with anxiety and anger and sparking off the ‘ fight or flight’ response. I just thought that if I could maybe find a simple way of demonstrating this natural response, then perhaps armed with a greater understanding of their own minds, could possibly empower others to move forward in their lives. So one early morning my mind was working overdrive ( without the steroids) and the BrainBox was born.

I shall use my next blog posting to explain the BrainBox in more detail as its now 3am and If I am to stand any chance of visiting Ikea today, to pick up a much desired sofa bed to allow me to take advantage of our beautiful views , from our conservatory during my recuperation period, I will need to at least try to get some more sleep.

Wish me luck!

It worked 6 hours sleep achieved whoopee Ikea here we come!