If you’ve read this before you may like to go straight to The Blog.
I am Alexandra McCauley. I studied Cognitive Psychology, completing my Degree (MA) and Masters Degree (MSc) at Edinburgh University. I have been a Practitioner for some time and worked with clients on a large range of “issues”. I have trained in a number of techniques and have studied and have experience with various modalities – my thinking about it all is “in development”.
For most of my life I struggled with worry, tension and anxiety and despite learning so much about the brain, mind, body and emotions, I had little understanding or awareness of what was going on inside my own mind and body or how to take any control over my life. I felt like I had no choice in how I experienced my life.
While studying Psychology I was becoming more and more unwell, both in my thinking and my physical health. I was diagnosed with CFS/ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was the diagnosis I was given), I had to give up my PhD studies, I was housebound, struggling every day with fear and anxiety, in pain and was giving up hope. For a long time I tried whatever I could to get better, but nothing seemed to work and some approaches seemed to make it worse.
Then – a wonderful thing happened …. I found simple yet amazing understandings, tools and techniques, that changed everything for me.
And then – something even more interesting …. I learnt that all those tools and techniques had NOT changed everything for me … that it was more complex than that … and they were only as good as how they were applied and if they were appropriate for the person applying them.
My first thoughts still stand. There are wonderful, powerful and simple tools and techniques that can greatly help people and which, incredibly, are still little known. I would like to play my own small part in introducing those tools to a much wider audience. However, it is also true that everyone is different and what may be highly effective for one person, may not be the appropriate process for someone else or for a particular “problem”.
I have come to see more and more clearly the potential issues with “outcome based” therapies, especially self-help processes. I have come to see how tools can be used as a “band-aid” which hasn’t really resolved or healed anything. I’m aware more than ever that changing how you feel is not always the same thing as useful change. I’ve seen self-help techniques used to avoid an issue as often as address it and to temporarily feel better at the expense of doing something useful or encouraging real change. I’m also aware that the advice given and the belief system around an approach can render even valuable tools, very problematic. Also, in therapeutic work with a Practitioner…. so much depends on the Practitioner, their skill-set, what they bring to a session etc.
While working on myself and as a Practitioner, I started to write posts and make videos exploring what was actually going on inside our minds and bodies as we struggled with everyday tasks, with illness, with annoyances and worries. The most positive feedback I received for my writing and videos was when I was simply pointing to something – highlighting an experience, noticing something, shining a light on some internal process I’d noticed:
I just finished watching your video and I wanted to let you know how extremely helpful that was to me. The way you honestly describe what is going on in your head – I recognize this process so much in everything I try to do, big or small (with the result that I don’t do it at all). I also realized that I am very embarrassed about this process in my mind and it would have been very hard for me to admit this to anyone alive… Thank you so much for sharing this so honestly and opening my eyes to something so important for me!”
So what I’m creating here now is about noticing. It is about recognising, noticing and becoming aware of the processes going on within our mind and body and in our interactions with others. What is our actual experience? Rather than focus on an outcome, what if we face the reality of where we are right now, where we stand and not just where we’d rather be.