Um… I think maybe I need help


A few days ago I was asked some challenging questions. One of them was this:

What do you do to support yourself during difficult times?

I knew the answer.

Do you?

I know, not because I am somehow emotionally more robust or superior than other people, but because I’ve had practice, LOTS of practice.  My husband and I are currently blinking into the light at the end of the adoption tunnel, where these sorts of questions are the norm rather than the exception. When you get asked often enough, and are expected to know the answer, it focuses the mind.

Although there is no perfect, one size fits all, answer to this question, some answers are definitely more People Voodoo than others. “I don’t do emotions, thanks” doesn’t cut the mustard, nor does, “I just eat chocolate”, “I hide under the duvet” or “I take the next flight out of here”. Not that there is anything wrong with self control, chocolate, a nap or a holiday, but not for every size of problem. None of those are a healthy longer term strategy when the issues are emotionally overwhelming, complex or multiple and others are relying on you.

Life does like to offer up surprises, and not always in the form of a chocolate egg with a toy inside, (note to self about the second reference to chocolate) so it’s good to know if your support mechanisms are robust before the storm strikes.

As today is as good a day as any to mull it over, I thought this week I’d pose 3 questions you could ask yourself about your own needs and support systems.

Question 1: Do you know what your emotional needs are?

If you are lucky, your emotional needs have mostly been met in your life and you’ve not had to give this much thought. Do you know for example if you need regular hugs to feel loved and supported, or time alone, or time together, or to be told you are loved, or to be made cups of tea? If you could only have one of those, what would you prioritise? If you were suddenly forced to choose, could you live without the hug or the being told you are loved?

If you don’t know what you need or you instinctively know but you can’t quite explain it, I recommend the 5 love languages, as a good starting point. This is also great for trying to work out the needs of others you care about so that you can support them.

Question 2: Do you express or suppress emotion?

When emotion strikes, do you go with the emotion or try to contain it? I went to boarding school, where at that time, the solution to homesickness or upset was to be strong and keep busy. It has taken me many years as an adult to break this habit of suppressing emotion by denial and distraction; the pretending I’m fine, working late or cleaning the house rather than just getting angry or upset. Emotions are definitely better out than in and serve a stress relieving purpose (yes, there’s evidence).  20 Things To Say To Your Child Instead Of “Don’t Cry” is a great way to make sure children learn to accept and manage emotions. This article might be aimed at parents but I’ve tested it on adults and it works just as well on us too.

Question 3: Do you put all your eggs in one basket?

Now think about the last 3 emotional challenges you’ve faced (relationship break-up, bereavement, badly delivered feedback, job loss, health issue etc) and how you handled them.

  • How soon if at all did you ask for help to process feelings or thoughts?

If you did ask for help:

  • Who did you ask?
  • How did you make your choice? Did you have choices?
  • If that person wasn’t available suddenly, where would you go?
  • How big would it need to be, or how bad would it need to get before you seek professional help? and then do you know where to look?

It was only a few days ago but I can’t remember exactly what answer I gave to What do you do to support yourself during difficult times? I imagine that acknowledging and expressing feelings rather than letting things build up was in there somewhere. Sharing with others and getting professional advice as early as possible also featured, as did accepting help.

Oh, and chocolate!




I wish I was as strong as you.


We all have values, whether we shout about them or quietly live our lives by them. Courage is one of mine. And yet, I’ve always seen courage as more of an ‘aspirational’ value rather than something I am living day to day. Being courageous is like a mountain that I’m climbing; I’m on my way up but there’s still a long way to go. Sound familiar?

Someone recently complimented me on my courage, and not surprisingly it was at a time when I felt vulnerable, weak and fearful. In fact, I felt pretty pathetic. I probably felt about as far from courageous as a lifelong vegan from declaring they want to ‘eat a horse’.

So what does it really mean to be courageous?


‘Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty’.

Where venture means;

  • to go somewhere that is unknown, dangerous, etc,
  • to start to do something new or different that usually involves risk, or
  • to do, say, or offer something (such as a guess or an opinion) even though you are not sure about it


How do you rate your own courage on a scale from 1-10?

Are you a top of the range, superstar, courageous individual – scoring a 10? or do you find yourself thinking that if we all lined up in courageous order you’d be shuffling towards the 1?

Maybe you are more courageous in some situations than others. Which of these, if any, raise your heart rate?

  1. Walking a worn out rope bridge across a 100m sheer drop.
  2. Telling someone you love them.
  3. Trusting someone with your deepest secret.
  4. Going to a party where you don’t know anyone.
  5. Standing up to a bully.
  6. Spending a big sum of money.
  7. Going into hospital for an operation.
  8. Handling a snake or a spider.
  9. Asking someone to give you feedback on your creative work.
  10. Doing something difficult in public.
  11. Facing your past.
  12. Getting into a 2-seater light aircraft with a newly qualified pilot.
  13. Stopping this list at 13.
  14. Learning to drive.
  15. Owning up to a mistake.

Maybe you are better at facing some fears than others? Which is harder?

  1. Starting something or carrying on when things get tough?
  2. Tackling big climbs or deep emotions?
  3. Not knowing what is behind the door or facing a known risk?
  4. Having to go it alone or having to work with other people?
  5. Saying the wrong thing or not being heard?

It is absolutely possible to be courageous in the face of physical danger but not at all courageous when facing our feelings.

Practicing People Voodoo is about being compassionate with yourself and others, but that doesn’t mean not taking any risks and avoiding the unknown; it’s about being kind to yourself when you are afraid and not just when you are strong.

It is important to acknowledge that it is just as courageous to seek out risk and face it as it is to tackle what life throws at you against your will.

And yes, no beating yourself up when you’re not quite there yet but you are at least trying. You know who you are.

As always, here are a few ideas to help you practice People Voodoo in the area of courage.

Be careful with comparisons

It is so easy to say ‘I wish I was a strong as you’ when we see someone doing something we find scary. That person’s deepest fear might be something that comes easily to you. There are some situations that we are innately programmed to fear, but tiger attacks aside, in day to day life, fear is very personal, and what gives you a fight/flight/freeze reaction might be very different to the next person.

Listen for and support acts of courage around you

Next time someone says they wish they had the nerve to do what you do, they are judging themselves as lacking courage. If it’s something that comes easily to you, or you’ve already faced it yourself, then this is your chance to offer support. It may seem terrifying to them, but only because they don’t know how to tackle it. With tactful questions you can get to the root of what they are afraid of and help take some of the fear out of it for them, with either practical or emotional support.

Recognise and reward courage in yourself

It’s easy to say that we should do something every day that scares us. If I faced a really deep fear every day, I’d be emotionally exhausted by Thursday. Life is not a competition to see who can scare themselves the most. BUT when you do consciously face your fears, reward yourself for your success, whether it was telling your boss how you feel or stroking a tarantula.

If this subject is close to your heart, I can also recommend a great book on the subject.

Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway

Good luck and please do share your success stories.


Have you outgrown your bowl?

Jumping goldfish wallpapers 20141

When is the last time you learnt something new? Maybe you picked up a new skill or added to your knowledge?

Did you enjoy the experience? Or did you get a sudden rush of fear as you threw yourself over the imaginary boundary at the edge of your comfort zone?

Learning in small chunks and steadily over time can feel quite comfortable, but not all learning is comfortable. In fact, some of the most powerful and life changing leaps forward, that can change the way you see yourself and affect the way you live your life, are quite the opposite. They make you feel like a fish out of water.

These are the things you avoid; that frighten you; that you tell yourself you’re not good at, or can’t do; the things you’ll do when you’re older, wiser, when the timing is right or you have been on the right training course. Will that day ever come?

If you’re honest with yourself, you can probably name a few things straight away that fall squarely into this category. Then add to those, the things in your blind spot; the things that other people see that you either can’t see or can’t quite accept.

Many of us avoid the storm of emotions that can come with powerful growth. It takes courage to face your fears; to look your insecurities deep in the eye and say , go on, try me!

If you want to grow to your full potential, sometimes the only way to be kind to yourself long term is to challenge yourself today. To leap, not blindly into the void, but boldly towards a better you.

A ship in the harbour is safe but that is not what ships were built for.

If you are not getting at least a little uncomfortable as you grow, then you are probably operating inside your comfort zone.The reason your comfort zone has it’s name is because it’s, guess what, comfortable. That means that leaving it behind will get uncomfortable, at least initially. But let me tell you with absolute certainty, that it’s always worth it.

Just like the goldfish that grows bigger in a bigger bowl, you too will grow as a person if you don’t hem yourself in with limiting beliefs and fear of the unknown.

The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.

C. JoyBell C.


Get on the fence

person-915604_960_720Recently a new Facebook group popped up in my news feed. A reunion.

For many of us, milestones like reunions and birthdays can spark a whole host of memories and emotions.  Luckily for those who practice People Voodoo, this is a perfect opportunity for some emotional self-reflection.

Today I’m taking things back to basics and sharing with you one of my favourite self awareness activities.

‘Getting on the fence’

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘to get off the fence’, meaning to take a stand on an issue, or a side in an argument.

When it comes to our emotions we can be a bit too quick to jump off the fence and take a stand on which emotions are positive or negative. Fear, guilt, shame and anger tend to attract a negative label, whereas excitement, hope, joy and love a positive one.

All emotions tell us something important about ourselves and our story. If we can consciously get back on the fence and take a more objective look at our emotional responses, we can learn a lot about, and be kinder to, ourselves and others.

Let’s take guilt for example. 

We feel guilt when we have done something wrong. Or we could look at it another way. We feel guilt because we believe, or have been told, that we have done something wrong.

To feel guilty when you have done nothing wrong causes unnecessary suffering!

So who decides what is right and wrong? Do you decide the rules?

Are you sure?

For most of us, the rules about right and wrong, good and bad were put in place many, many years ago. We were introduced to them from an early age and take them as read until we come across someone who has been raised on different rules. Those of you who are parents will recognise the differences of opinion that can surface when you and your partner want to apply different rules to your children.

The next time an emotion strikes you, why not get on the emotional fence and ask yourself:

  • What triggered the emotion?
  • What is this emotion telling me about the rules I live by?
  • Do I respect the person or people who gave me the rules?
  • Do I agree with this rule?
  • Am I applying a rule that is outdated or no longer serves me?
  • Do I agree, looking at all the facts objectively, that this is the most appropriate response?
  • When I consider what triggered this emotion, does the size of the reaction seem in proportion?
    • If not, why do I feel so strongly?
  • Does this rule fit with the sort of person I want to be or do I need to adapt it?

If you are unsure which side of the fence to get off on, good or bad, then why not get some feedback. The best people to ask are those who have no emotion invested in the situation; those who are already on the fence.

Some of your rules and resulting emotions will serve you well and others won’t. The ones that don’t will require some effort to change. You might not be able to switch off an emotional reaction to a rule you learned when you were 3 years old on the first attempt, but the more you practice, the easier it will become. If you practise People Voodoo just remember to acknowledge that it is all about making progress.







A change is like a…


If the saying is true and a change is like a holiday, then the UK leaving the EU is like a two week break in the Maldives!

Maybe not.

In reality, change can be hard, especially when it is forced upon us. Actually, it can feel like a real punch in the face.

Why? Because it’s emotional. It’s about loss.

We need to go deeper than facts and process to help each other navigate change. This means there is plenty of opportunity to apply People Voodoo.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave her view on this topic as far back as 1969. She may have worked with the terminally ill, but when she concluded that we experience denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance in loss situations, she might as well have been describing the effects of the EU referendum.


This is the shock stage where we think there must be a mistake. Maybe votes have not been counted, the screen hasn’t refreshed. Of course, if it’s all over Facebook and every news channel, then denial doesn’t last long. If it does, then People Voodoo would recommend to allow a bit of time for it to sink in. If it helps to check the facts, do it. If it helps to repeat it several times, do that. This is a normal response to loss, it takes as long as it takes. 


Another reaction to change is to question why. Frustrated, we seek out the reason or the source of the problem which can result in blaming; people or events. We might be angry with those who voted differently, those we think lied or those who use it as an opportunity to pedal their own agenda. We might be angry with ourselves for being taken in, for being complacent and letting this happen, or for making the wrong decision.

Before we judge, and expect others to accept things and move on, it is worth considering how accepting we are being. Anger is a normal response to loss. Someone who is grieving is suffering, even if it comes out as anger. Where People Voodoo can help, is with being respectful to others in the messages we put out during this time. Anger is not equal to aggression. It is possible to honour the anger without doing harm to ourselves or others.


This is a negotiation or compromising stage. For People Voodoo this is the perfect time for listening. What is being bargained about, tells us what is really at the root of the suffering. We can’t go back to life before an event (yet), but there may be other options for going forward. If someone tries to bargain for what you believe to be a lost cause, just remember, this is a normal response to loss. Listen and help them work through the arguments or options, there may be something there to work with.


This is the ‘what’s the point’ stage. The sadness. This is a normal response to loss and maybe the one we most easily associated with it. We may become recluse, stop engaging in the discussion and disassociate ourselves, emotionally or physically. The People Voodoo approach here is one of being available as a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear, offering and encouraging kindness to ourselves and others.

Acceptance – not to be confused with feeling OK about it all!

This the point where we can start to prepare for what is to come. People who feel they have suffered a loss won’t suddenly feel happy about it, and we can’t expect them to. What acceptance gives people is the space to plan ahead, without anger or sadness dragging them back. People Voodoo is all a bout getting here as fast as possible.

What about you?

What was your reaction to a recent change? Are you one of the lucky ones who flies past the other stages on the way to acceptance? Are there changes that you accept more easily than others? How are they different to the ones you struggle with? If you do get stuck in any of the stages, where do you stay the longest? Why do you think that is? How do you move yourself on?

Change will certainly feel more like a holiday if we can all get to acceptance faster with minimal time spent suffering on the way.





Voting and Voodoo


As a UK resident it would be a lost opportunity not to apply People Voodoo to today’s referendum result. No politics here, just Voodoo.

As the drama continues to unfold across the country, there are happy and angry outbursts, accusations and upset. Facebook is awash with joy and jubilation, fear and frustration. Shock has gripped millions.

Voting on a subject that is about identity is never as simple as win or lose. Many of those who lost the vote are grieving the future they feel has been taken from them, and as often is the case with grief, are lashing out at those who won. The winners are being accused of ruining lives, and hurt by the attacks, are snapping back or gloating.

There is suffering all around, win or lose; people being washed along by the raging river of shock, change and uncertainty.

Luckily, there are also those who never jumped or fell into the river, or who have quickly managed to pull themselves back out. They have seized the opportunity to apply some People Voodoo to those still caught in the rapids; helped them climb out, thrown them a lifeline. They have offered respectful congratulations to those who won, empathy and kindness to those who have lost.

There is an opportunity here to practice kindness. It is especially hard to be kind to each other when we are grieving or under attack, but it’s the time that we all need it the most.



I swear, it really hurts!

man-stress-male-faceHow do you feel about swearing?

Not the ‘making a solemn promise under oath’ kind of swearing. The offensive language, cursing, or using profanities kind of swearing.

People Voodoo seeks to reduce suffering, so you’d think that swearing would be on the list of things to avoid, but it’s not. If used wisely, swearing can actually be good for you!

If you take a dim view of swearing, or feel generally uncomfortable about, or around swearing, then please be reassured that People Voodoo does not promote swearing as a daily activity. There is however value in it for remedial purposes.

There is evidence that swearing helps you feel less pain. Yes, in the name of science volunteers put their hands in icy water and if they were allowed to swear, it reduced their pain experience compared to those who were only allowed to use neutral words. But look out, if you overuse swearing, the benefit reduces. It’s only effective in moderation.

So, regardless of how you feel about swearing, there is an opportunity to apply People Voodoo to a swearing situation. Try asking yourself:

Is this a physically or emotionally painful situation where someone is using swearing to manage their pain?

  • If yes – does the person need help to reduce suffering, and can you help?
  • If no – what’s really going on? maybe this is  a swear-oholic who might benefit from some People Voodoo.
    • Before you rush in, just be prepared that they might not want your @!!*%’! opinion.

And when you next stub your toe, grab the opportunity to be kind to yourself and swear!

If you think any of this sounds challenging, here is a reminder that progress does not happen overnight.  A ‘hole’ lot of progress.