Life Coaching


My last Chat Letter not only prompted such warm feedback, for which I am most appreciative, but also a topic request for this one:

to expand on the relationships and mutual respect aspects.

For those who missed it (click here) I explored a parallel between my experience on a sailing trip with that of the current lockdown situation.

Yes, I did say that relationships just had to work on board the yacht otherwise it would have been a very looong trip – six weeks in a 55ft (16,764m) space.

Key to that success I put down to respect and humour

But there’s a big difference that makes drawing a parallel between that context and our current lockdown scenario a little unfair for the purpose of showcasing working relationships – and that is the scale of familiarity. The degree of familiarity, friendship or closeness among the six people on board varied greatly, with one person not knowing anyone before applying for a place.

Polite courtesy is usually at the forefront of interactions with those who don’t rank high on the familiarity stakes and it’s a matter of time before formal melts into informal.

That being said, the aspect of our confinement did overtake the role that time normally plays in bringing us together and by the end of the six weeks we felt as if we had all emerged from the same womb! But it was a process that grew from a precedent of formal politeness.

Lockdown at home with family members, however, could indeed provide fertile soil for the sentiment of ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ to flourish. With familiarity at full tilt, home is usually where we feel stripped down to our most real selves, but, in lockdown, without the modulations of external influences.

Let’s draw insights from another analogy –

that of watching acting on the big screen and that of the stage.

In both formats the actors will give it their all.

But with the stage performance your audience eye can roam around the stage, look at the various actors and not always see the finer nuances in portrayal.

Whereas on the big screen your focus of attention is locked into the angles or shots that the director has selected for you. For greater impact, close up shots will have you zooming into a face noticing, for example, the slightest contraction of a muscle in the right cheek causing the faintest hint of an upturned right corner of the mouth.

You will see it because that is what the director wants you to see.

But the movie carries you along a story-line which only lasts for a couple of hours.

Now to lockdown at home

Without the experiences of outings, visitors and perhaps work, to flavour the conversation and interactions at home, your confinement could feel similar to that of a movie goer where your focus is locked into close up – close up of all the little habits, routines and foibles, mainly of your partner, but other members too, even down to how they choose to occupy their time during this pandemic.

Without the balmifying blend of external distractions, those ‘little ways’ of our nearest and dearest can transform into the most irritating, ridiculous, ‘I want to scream’ inducing triggers. Well that’s how it may appear to be.

The good news is that in all likelihood your partner has not morphed into a ‘I’m here to torment you’ monster. And the other bit of good news is that there is no external director calling the shots; you are the director (and the audience and actor)! So the choice of what to zoom into, is also yours.

Your choice

If your choice of close ups is pressing your buttons, then it’s time to lovingly attend to those buttons of yours before a ripple effect threatens to erode your perception in general.

As Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung said:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Jung believed that those character traits in others that irritate us are the very traits that we have suppressed in our shadow self because our ego considers them to be inferior or bad. It’s called projection. And you can find verification of this point in the fact that we are not all triggered by the same issues. What raises a reaction from me, may not even be noticed by you.

So, when your irritation flares, take a closer look and appreciate that your ‘near and dear’ is being instrumental in bringing these issues into your awareness. Awareness is always the first step in addressing any issue. This eases the follow-on –

to take responsibility for ‘your stuff’,
thereby shifting yourself back into the power seat of your life.

These are scary times

People have different ways of coping with scary times – some like to zone out through activities that allow for reflection and musing, while others prefer to launch full-pitch into a to-do list. Acceptance of differences is key here unless the to-do list grows into a lonely burden. Nip that one in the bud by asking for help, and if the request has to be repeated, then repeat it without nursing or rehearsing resentment tunes which only make you suffer.

Kindness matters

In this lockdown situation, in addition to the respect and humour which I considered to be key to our harmony on board the yacht, I would add the most crucial of all values, and that is kindness. Kindness to others as well as yourself. It’s also an important contributor to physical and mental health – isn’t that what we are trying to maintain now?
We are all doing our best to navigate these murky waters of uncertainty, so let’s focus on those attributes that keep our spirits buoyant and light,

while not forgetting to laugh,often.