Hello everybody! It's a new year, a new start - 2023 Happy New Year. I wanted to write a short thought piece on some of the messages that I've been considering in the last few weeks as I've had time off and I've been resting, catching up, watching some TV and online stuff. What seemed to be the theme with a lot of the material that I was coming across was the idea of the Importance of Hope. I’ve recorded a short presentation on that which I presented to my monthly Community Sessions Members (1st Wednesday of each month – drop in!)
New Year is traditionally related to resolutions; perhaps the idea that you can make a new start and resolve to improve things. So I think hope is in the air with any new year because 2022 and the years prior to that have been extremely challenging and continue to be for large numbers of people. Not just from the point of view of their health but also the economy which has been really struggling not just in the UK but as a global phenomenon. As a result, we are faced with a lot of fear messages that we don't normally experience quite so overwhelmingly. We're afraid of the future – all our futures and so it's easy to fall into fear because those messages are everywhere whereas the messages of hope are very difficult to find.
However, over Christmas there was an amazing programme which I watched based on a best-selling book called ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse’ which was an internet phenomenon (which I missed!). The author and illustrator Charlie Mackesey created it in lockdown, so nearly three years ago now, and started releasing some of the pictures he was drawing for this narrative, this idea he had on Instagram. And he started getting more and more followers as you do if you chime with something that people need. So, it seems that the message of the book and certainly the film animation,which I highly recommend, is one of courage, hope, friendship and self-love / self-care.
I was watching it expecting it to be a children’s programme, but it turned out to have hugely important messages for adults. In one part I was almost convinced he's borrowed my lines! Because there were some things that were said by the characters in the story that resonate with me and with the clients that I work with.
The importance of kindness for instance. It is such an important thing; to be kind to people even if you disagree. I've talked about that before - to have courage even in the face of the unknown and ultimately to learn that home is wherever your heart is, not a physical place. It's basically where you feel a sense of belonging (that's how the story ends actually).
I was very interested to consider the four main characters:
1. the boy who's the initial character that you meet and then in order of their appearance
2. the mole who seems to be motivated by greed - all he wants is cake but learns that he can defer gratification which of course is a psychological phenomenon that children learn as they grow up - that they can delay immediate gratification for something better further on and
3. the fox who we meet as a cunning, vicious hunter but is actually very withdrawn from life and wants actually to be to be loved and feel like somebody cares and gradually he comes back to join the group.
4. the horse who we meet finally who appears to embody intuition, all knowing and wisdom.
It’s no surprise that we meet those three characters in order of our normal human development – as children we're extremely greedy, we're very about ‘us’, narcissistic, all about what's ‘mine’ and to keep hold of that. Hopefully as we grow older we learn that we have agency - that we can change things, we can maybe achieve our goals but that can be a certain amount of disconnect or isolation that results from that he it's taken too far.
Certainly, in my own life, the chasing after exam grades was a good example - in order to do that I had to disconnect from the things I loved to focus on getting the grades and sometimes that isolated me from my peers. I learned, in other words, that you have to sacrifice your inner knowing for approval and if I didn’t want to do that, I would have to survive alone. So that's the fox, I guess.
As I've got older and begun to trust myself and to listen to my inner voice then I'm relying more on my sense of inner knowing, which is not about cerebral knowing, it's not the same as knowing facts, it's not the same as knowledge - knowledge is acquired through a lifetime but wisdom is about knowledge applied and about what you do with the knowledge you have.
And kindness is such a big factor in making that work well. We see the opposite all over the internet - examples of people being very unkind because they can do that by being anonymous, they're not required to face the consequences of their own unkindness and so we see a lot of shaming going on. I think if people were having to say those things to people face to face that wouldn't happen. Most people are not as vicious in person as they can be when they're anonymous.
So, what I'm aiming to do for 2023 is spread the idea of hope a little bit more because hope is actually a very renewing emotion, it actually helps to regulate our brains as an antidote to fear. It does that very interestingly through a part of the cortex called the prefrontal cortex in fact the right orbital prefrontal cortex, a part of our brain that lies just behind the eyes ‘orbits’ and it helps to oversee our concept of reality. And if we don't have hope we actually defer to more primitive parts of our brain which are the limbic centres, particularly amygdala, which is our fear centre. Some of the memories of past events in the hippocampal area are triggered constantly to feel more and more anxiety because our brain is replaying what it believes is reality but is actually based on past experience being replayed as if it was real because you've got no inhibition from your cortical structures which normally inhibits the more primitive fear-based responses.
So, hope is not just a feeling it's a source of information as far as the body is concerned because all emotions have resonance, they have a vibration. You can't measure it normally through your senses but there are ways of measuring resonance within the body. We typically measure brain waves, and we can also measure heart waves but it's possible to also measure emotional changes in the body by fMRI scanning (see the work of Joe Dispenza – Becoming Supernatural’. So when we feel an emotion it's not just a mental construct it actually has a source of information for the rest of the body that can change you at a cellular level. So hence emotions that are renewing are high vibration and they have transformative qualities. Things like hope, gratitude, appreciation, friendship, joy - these were the emotions actually triggered by the book and by you know the film and I think that's why it's actually been very, very successful because people want to feel renewing emotions, they want to have a positive expectation of the future because then we are actually able to change something, we are able to have agency in our lives and create the life we want and be part of a community of people working towards a better future.
Not only do these renewing emotions help us to integrate our experience and make our bodies in harmony with our mind but they also help us connect with others interpersonally and create change. So evoking hope can happen by realising that everything is perception, and you can change your perception of what's going on. You could reframe for instance, the moment we're in right now. Instead of believing it to be awful, catastrophic, desperate and doom-laden because our world is toxic and polluted and crippled. Or we could say that we're at a crossroads in our evolution where we're actually going to create something much, much better and wake up effectively to what we're doing and find new solutions! I do believe human beings are ultimately capable of that particularly when they are integrated in their own bodies - it's very difficult for people who are autonomically dysregulated (where your autonomic nervous system is not harmonizing your head and your heart) to create good environments.
We need to first of all start with us before we set about changing the world therefore - finding ways to harmonize for instance via meditation or drawing. Visually often works better for some people, indeed for me, so I draw. I create mathematical artistic pieces called sacred geometry. See this piece here - it’s constructed from a very simple shape which you use as a template and that's drawn from a series of harmonious circles all based on natural order proportion (the golden mean or phi) so actually in drawing that you come into harmonious state yourself because the visual cortex is feeding back information of harmony into your brain and, through the autonomics, down to your body.
So there are many ways of coming into harmony - walking in nature because you are perceiving the harmonics of nature; trees for instance are harmonic - the way they branch has a proportional structure and a number sequence which is fractal. And I think art can do that which is another reason why I think Charlie Mackesy's pictures, the ones he illustrates the book with are so phenomenal, they're beautifully drawn. The simplicity of the lines really evokes feelings.
So, take care of yourselves this year - pay attention to your emotional states and to come out of fear so getting into a sense of connection with other people who speak this language of hope and courage and friendship and kindness and move away from anything that feels dysregulated, vicious, nasty. We can't fight fire with fire in this case we have to literally douse the flames with kindness.
Finally, just to pick up on the point that we're all made of parts that maybe want to be unkind, but we have to take control and learn to integrate our experience in order to calm our bodies down. Indeed, that's how I work with people, that's what I do to get them into a state of harmony and a high frequency, a resonance state. Once that happens healing can happen, and it happens quite quickly actually. So, anyway those are my hopeful thoughts for 2023. Take care of yourselves.
Ps if you want to join our community sessions they're only £10 per session and there's no ongoing commitment. It's a drop in. Also if you would like to attend but can't make the time Ido record the presentation for distribution afterwards. Just go to alchemytherapies.co.uk scroll down to the quick booking links.