In this exclusive Q&A, Nick Luxmoore shares what he’s learnt about helping young adults to cope with the trials and tribulations of sexuality. With nearly 40 years’ experience of working with young people, Nick’s book Horny and Hormonal provides advice on how to deal with the difficult situations faced by young people and strategies to help reduce their anxieties around this crucial and sensitive part of their lives.
With an established background in psychology and education , author John Holland has written numerous books for JKP about bereavement and loss. In this blog, John gives insight on his firsthand experience in working with bereaved children in schools – which also happens to be the core topic of his newest book Responding to Loss and Bereavement in Schools.
Browse our latest collection of new and bestselling titles in spiritual care and chaplaincy below. For more information on any of the titles, simply click on the book cover image or title to view the full book information page.
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Jenny Drew’s new book Cartooning Teen Stories is full of activities based on comic-making to help young people explore life issues. Read on to learn about how comics can be used as therapeutic tools.
Author Marina Cantacuzino explains how a journalistic idea evolved into the charity The Forgiveness Project; dedicated to building understanding, encouraging reflection and enabling people to reconcile with pain and move forward from trauma in their own lives. Eventually, her work with the charity led to the publication of The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age – Marina explains how it came about and why she wanted to create a book from the stories she’d heard and the messages she’d learned.
Alicia Chodkiewicz, Child Development psychologist with over ten years’ experience supporting students both inside and outside of the classroom, and co-author of Believing You Can is the First Step to Achieving, shares her insight into some of the issues and solutions surrounding self-belief in students. You can also try out some free sessions from the book by downloading the extract at the end of this post.
Author Joan Drescher, A Journey in the Moon Balloon: When Images Speak Louder than Words, shares highlights from her home in Hingham, Massachussets after a wonderful trip to the 2015 International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Alex Demetris is an illustrator, cartoonist and maker of comics. He completed an MA in Illustration in 2012, which resulted in a comic based on his family’s experience of coping with his father’s dementia: Dad’s Not All There Any More – A comic about dementia. Here he shares a little about the process of creating the comic and some of his pre-publication sketches (click to enlarge the images).
Alex also co-authored Grandma’s Box of Memories: Helping Grandma to Remember.
The idea for Dad’s Not All There Any More came to me whilst I was studying for an MA in illustration at Camberwell College of Art. I had been making comics and drawing cartoons as a hobby for a number of years, and decided to enrol on the MA to see how good I could get by focusing on my hobby full time.
The first term involved writing a proposal for a final project. I toyed with one or two ideas, but it eventually occurred to me that the most interesting subject I could address in my project was what had been going on in my life right then – my Dad’s illness and how my family was coping with it.
Preparing for the comic involved talking through Dad’s medical records with my Mum, internet research into Lewy Body Dementia, taking reference photos, and doing a lot of character and planning sketches.
One thing about making comics is that you can’t really edit them once you have drawn them, so it is necessary to meticulously plan out the best way to get the message across in a limited number of
During my MA I was also learning to use Photoshop as a colouring tool, so I decided to keep the colour scheme simple. I arrived at the greenish look from some experimentation and feedback from tutors and peers, while the contrasting colouring of the Lewy Bodies and resulting hallucinations in pink developed as I progressed through the comic.
I wanted to create a comic that was entertaining but also educational, to tell a story and also to present facts about a condition that is not well known despite being pretty common. Additionally, I think that a lot of people view the idea of having a relative in residential care as horrendous, but I wanted to show that in the case of my Dad, who was lucky enough to be admitted to an excellent home, this was not the case at all. He seemed content and comfortable in residential care, and I enjoyed visiting him there, and seeing what the other residents and staff were up to.
Find out more about the comic, read reviews and order your copy here.
You can also see more of Alex’s work on his website here.
With over 30 years of experience in Mind Clearing under her belt, Alice Whieldon walks us through her journey as she developed her understanding of mindfulness and mind clearing.
I became interested in the question of what constitutes good help at an early age. My father had an alternative conference centre in the 1980s and I cooked for the many and varied groups that came through the place for a while, when I left school. One that particularly struck me was the Enlightenment Intensive (EI), a three day intensive meditation course combining features of a Zen sesshin with partnered talking and listening. They have been popular since the 1960s and are one of the contributions made by, Charles Berner or Yogishwar (1929-2007). I joined an EI, pretty much without thinking about it. I never looked back.
In short, it blew my mind, quite literally, and I did several such workshops over the next few years. The experiences I had on them gave me a solid grounding in mindfulness mediation as well as personal insights into the human condition that have been invaluable. I was aware of Mind Clearing, a counselling-style approach associated with the EI, but I was moving on to other things just then and shelved it for another time.
But the EI had opened a different way of being to me and my life, in the 30 years since then, has been shaped by that experience. I had, at 18, clearly seen two paths before me, one in which I could become an even more sophisticated version of who I thought I might be. The other, far more compelling was the journey to who I actually am.
The difficulty I then encountered, however, was how to live in that truth and develop my understanding while operating in the world. So, alongside my academic studies, including a PhD in feminist and spiritual ideas of selfhood, I studied Shiatsu. I had also come across this Japanese art at the conference centre and it was the one other thing that really touched me. In that too, I recognised the potential for opening more into Truth.
Life went on and, as I studied and practised I became ever more interested in finding out what really helps us in emerging from the trouble and noise of the mind and working towards deeper fulfilment. I was never willing to rest until I had made progress in this understanding and experienced for myself how to make it manifest.
In 1997 I met a radical Japanese teacher of the art, Kishi Akinobu. In his work I again recognised the clarity I had first experienced many years before through the EIs. So I stopped everything else and studied with him; eventually we wrote a book together, Sei-ki: Life in Resonance, the secret art of Shiatsu, 2011, published by Singing Dragon.
Some of the questions that arose for me while writing that first book were again about the nature of help and I began to think about how to bring the deep soul medicine of Sei-ki to a modern audience through the modern medium of talking. I also wanted a theory of mind that would enable me to discuss help and progress in a way that made sense to me. I had studied psychoanalytic theory for my PhD, experienced a good deal of personal psychotherapy and started, though never finished, a training in psychotherapy. For me, the theory failed to match my actual experience of people and my own view of reality. But Mind Clearing was different.
When I re-read the lectures Berner had given in the 1970s, informed by his work with Indian guru, Swami Kripalu, and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, I began to see the possibility of a theory that not only explained the mind and human condition in a thorough way that made sense of all the work I had done, but it offered a comprehensive formula for what helps and why. So I decided to write a book on Mind Clearing, partly out of personal interest and a pleasure in writing, but also to offer information and a coherent talking practice that I believed then, and believe more now, was a quietly radical approach that worked.
In time I trained in Mind Clearing and became a practitioner. I learned that it had far more to offer than I thought at first and also appreciated why no one had written a book about it before, even though it has been around since the late 1960s and has had a steady training programme and enjoyed modest but solid interest.
What I found was that, while Mind Clearing is not a cure-all, it is the most coherent account of the mind and formula for help I have come across. It looks in many respects like other talking therapies, but at its heart offers something different. At first the difference may seem a small thing. But in the gap between – worlds turn.
Mind Clearing grew out of the same philosophy as much mindfulness meditation but digs deeper and explains more. It too is based on the premise that you are not your mind. The mind is defined as a substitute for direct communication. It is the sum of our ideas about people and the world. We use the mind as a buffer between us and others because we think it keeps us safe from pain. But the mind is finally in the way of a good relationship and brings only noise and confusion. It is only by through learning again how to communicate directly instead of through distorted ideas and behaviour that our relationships begin to heal and we can find the deep fulfilment we are looking for.
This account will be more or less recognisable to many who know about psychotherapy. What Mind Clearing offers over and above this is a focus and clarity in identifying what it is about help through communication that leads to fundamental change and greater happiness. By identifying the key it enables us to take out some of the guesswork and makes help more effective and replicable. Mind Clearing is a big help. It speaks to the real you buried in the mind and invites it to step forward.
But you do not have to become a Mind Clearing practitioner to benefit from it. The description Berner gave of the mind, confluent with that of Patanjali, is valuable for its clarity and the freedom that offers.
This book is just an introduction. It barely touches the depths of Berner’s work but will, I hope, offer enough to be useful. It takes the next step in the mindfulness revolution in bringing that understanding into the heart of one-to-one communication and assistance. It goes beyond just being present to what is going on and introduces the dynamism of the now that opens when communication is repaired.
Alice Whieldon is a Mind Clearing practitioner, a Shiatsu practitioner and teacher, as well as an Associate Lecturer with The Open University. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Alice is the co-author of Seiki: Life in Resonance, The Secret Art of Shiatsu, also published by Singing Dragon, and she lives in London and Norwich, UK.
K. L. Aspden has worked as a therapist with both children and adults since 1998. She has particular interest in the areas of trauma and anxiety, and she has experience working in both mainstream and special schools. She currently works in a school for children with emotional and behavioural difficulty, and is the author of Help! I’ve Got an Alarm Bell Going Off in My Head!: How Panic, Anxiety and Stress Affect Your Body.
1) What inspired you to write this book?
I work with some amazing children and teenagers, many of whom are frequently triggered into the fight/flight/freeze response. This can result in upsetting behaviours such as shouting, crying, hitting etc. They have no idea what is happening in their bodies and often feel too ashamed to talk about it, even when they are calmer. This is very sad. Having seen and heard what they go through, I wanted to write something to assure them that it is not their fault. I wanted to teach them about the physiology behind their feelings and show that there are things we can do to help ourselves.
Above all I wanted to normalise this experience. Whilst we may not all react with the same intensity, everyone has an in-built ‘alarm bell’ (known as the amygdala) which can trigger powerful responses. An understanding of this can help anyone when they are going through periods of stress or anxiety.
2) Why did you decide to use the metaphor of an alarm bell?
I heard the panic response described as a ‘false alarm’ and decided to develop the idea. Alarms are so intrusive and distressing when they go off too frequently and at the wrong times – just like the overpowering feelings that can take over our bodies, minds and emotions when we are stressed. I wanted to communicate something of the jarring and disruptive effect of this through the alarm bell metaphor. I also thought it would be a non- threatening way to approach this tricky subject with my young clients.
3) You have worked as a therapist and at schools with children who have emotional and behavioural difficulties. What insight has that given you into how different people’s alarm bells work?
I think the alarm bell works in the same way for all of us, though it may affect us in different ways – could be trembling, feeling sick, withdrawing, tears, swearing…
For some people the alarm bell is set off more frequently because there are more triggers; this is especially true when trauma has occurred early in life or someone has high anxiety (for example, in autism). Children who have emotional/behavioural issues often live in a state of hyper-arousal – the alarm system is on red alert. In addition to this, they may lack the maturity or capacity to process their emotions which makes life even harder.
Those who have a stable background and an ability to reflect, often find it easier to learn to manage their responses. However, even the most vulnerable can benefit from being understood and supported by people who have an appreciation of the alarm system .
4) What triggers your alarm bell, and how do you take control back when you are feeling anxious or stressed?
Over the years I have carefully considered my own triggers and where they come from.
When I was a teenager life was much harder than it is now. Like many young people I wanted to be liked and didn’t understand that sometimes others can put you down to make themselves feel better. I was often bullied. This affected my confidence and I became reluctant to speak in groups, preferring not to be noticed. When put on the spot in a group setting, my internal alarm bell would ring loudly and I would experience a sense of wanting to disappear; lots of thoughts would rush round my head about how bad the situation was, and of course, this made me feel worse. There are occasions even now when I can revisit those feelings, but I am much more equipped to deal with them.
The thing that most often sets my alarm ringing these days is ‘technology’ – when my laptop goes wrong or I don’t know how to do something because everything changes so fast and it’s hard to keep up.
If this happens, I remind myself that I am having a ‘false alarm’. It is not a real emergency.
I also use two suggestions from the book that work quickly in any situation:
- breathing more slowly
- doing a simple exercise like counting things to turn the thinking part of my brain back on.
In addition, I use Mindfulness in my everyday life (a discipline which helps to bring us back to the present moment), as well as a variety of creative activities. I find these tools are very soothing for the nervous system especially in times of stress or busyness.
5) Finally, what is the most important thing you would like readers to take away from your book?
I hope that an understanding of ‘the alarm system’ will help readers to feel more in control and more able to ask for help if they need it, without feeling embarrassed. I think a lot of people struggle because they don’’t know their difficulties are physiological.
Perhaps some readers will go further and become motivated to learn more about themselves. I would be especially pleased if they were to find the benefits of creativity in calming the nervous system, but that may be a subject for a whole new book.
You can find out more about the book, read reviews or order your copy here.