Why I Write

The seeds of doubt were planted at a young age. I can’t tell you exactly when, but I know it started in childhood. I was lead to believe I wasn’t capable, that I would struggle in this life.

In particular, concerns surrounded my abilities in English. At first, my parents worried that I had a hearing problem. They believed this stunted my development. Later they had me tested for dyslexia.

I’m not, of course. It just happened to be one of my weaknesses. And I just happened to be different. I’ve always been a daydreamer, a wanderer by nature.

Languages, the English language – spelling, grammar – has never come naturally to me. But that has never been the problem. The problem was I didn’t believe, and because I didn’t believe, I didn’t try. I internalised that belief and thought, “What’s the point?”

“I’m no good, so why bother?”

Unfortunately, that belief took root at a much deeper level than my English proficiency.

Problems really started in adolescence – at the age of 13 – when I was first offered drugs. I didn’t say yes because I was curious. I didn’t say yes because I thought it was cool. I didn’t say yes as a form of rebellion. I said yes because I was afraid.

I took drugs because I was too scared to say no.

So began some of the most challenging years of my life. At first, it was fun, but I soon felt trapped. At one point, I was smoking pot every single day. I suffered from intense bouts of anxiety that I hid from everyone. Depression soon followed. 

I sank deep into my shell.

I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know how to ask for it. I was too afraid to speak up. So I drowned silently. It came to a head when a friend of mine was caught in possession of my drugs.

I was made to make a choice that day. When the deputy headmaster sat us down in his office, he asked me if I had also been using. He said I can’t help you if you’re not honest.

I was so scared at that moment. I wanted to tell the truth, but I was afraid of the repercussions. The thought of breaking my parent’s hearts broke my own. Yet, I also feared what would happen if I didn’t tell the truth.

While fighting back the tears, I admitted the truth.

It proved to be one of the most pivotal moments of my life. I was suspended, but the deputy headmaster held true to his word. No permanent record was kept. He honoured my honesty by protecting my future. How different my life would look now had I lied.

Honesty hurts to begin with, but in the long run it will set you free.

During those years, I sat my GCSEs. I didn’t care about my grades. I didn’t care about what future I had. I simply wanted to escape the hell I found myself in. As a result, I didn’t put much effort in. 

My results came as a surprise.

I landed 4 A’s, 6 B’s and an E (in German). I was far more competent than I gave myself credit. English language and English literature were the biggest surprises. Had it not been for one teacher, in particular, my grades would have been very different.

She taught the class with the top peers in our age group. Except she did something a little different. She took several students who were really struggling from the lowest level and placed us in hers. She had me sit in the front row.

She was petrifying, which helped. I was made to apply myself. I remember she believed I had a voice. She pushed me to do a lot of public speaking – which also scared the bejesus out of me!

My coursework marks steadily improved over the two years she taught me. Still, my coursework barely averaged a C. This made the final results even more surprising. Following our final examinations, I ended up with B’s in English language and English literature. I must have aced those exams to achieve those grades.

They’re my proudest grades from secondary school.

What she proved was more important, even if it didn’t fully register until years later. She showed that if I chose to apply myself, I was more than capable. She planted the seeds of self-belief that would bear fruit many years later.

To my English teacher, wherever you are, thank you.

I didn’t pursue English for A levels. It wasn’t for me. I also lacked clarity. As a result, I took a random collection of subjects. Art (the one subject I truly loved), Biology, History, and Geography.

I dropped Art halfway through my A levels despite getting an A. I dropped it for the wrong reasons – because no one else took it seriously. It would be an entire decade before I started drawing again. 

Somewhere along the way, I forgot.

Doing something simply because you love it is enough. More than enough.

History was the subject I went on to take at University. I took it because my parents were adamant that I should go to University and get a degree. I took it out of preference, not because I truly loved it. The truth is I only enjoyed aspects of it.

I later realised that what I really enjoyed was applying lessons from what history has to teach us about living life. What I was really interested in was philosophy.

During University, I fell in love with a French lady. In the second year, she asked me to edit much of her coursework. She studied media and communications. I didn’t just edit her work; I rewrote large chunks of it.

I loved it. 

I found I had a knack for drawing conclusions. I loved finishing with the right words. I realised there was an art to it. Between her coursework and my own, these skills developed.

Then she broke my heart. I finished my degree and forgot about this.

After University, I was clear about one thing. One thing I had always been clear about. A deep longing in my heart to travel the world.

So I applied for a cadetship offered by the airline I now work for. For the airline my father used to work for. He was keen, provided I was serious about it. So he took me flying. I didn’t look back.

And so followed the last 12 years of my life. 

There was a big break where I didn’t write. Several years passed while learning to fly and traveling the world before I decided to pick up a pen again.

One of my hobbies is traveling through cuisine. Anthony Bourdain has long been a personal hero of mine. Inspired by him, I put together a blog documenting my travels. 

I enjoyed it for a while, but that passion started to wane as depression and anxiety took a firmer grip.

This came to a head during another pivotal moment of my life. I froze up while trying to land during my Junior First Officer training. The training captain had to take control and go around as a result.

That scarred me deeply.

Added to the list of depression and anxiety, I had PTSD to contend with too. I remember flying approaches for years afterwards where my heart would beat so hard, it felt like it was going to break through my chest.

So many times, I wanted to quit. I wanted to throw in the towel. Those demons screamed at me. “GET OUT! YOU CAN’T! YOU’RE A FRAUD! YOU’RE NOT CAPABLE!”

I kept going.

Part of me refused to give in. I was so sick of those voices. Overcoming and passing my Junior First Officer upgrade was something I felt I had to do. So, I worked harder than I ever have in my entire life.

My demons started to drive me.

9 months on from that day, I was upgraded to First Officer. It meant everything to me at the time. I thought that was it. I thought that would be enough to finally put those voices to bed.

I was wrong.

It wasn’t until the birth of my first child 3 years ago that I finally sought professional help. At a low moment, I broke down. Once again, my demons were screaming at me. Telling me I couldn’t parent. That my boy deserved better. The guilt overwhelmed me, and I cried and cried.

Afterward, I felt a deep peace I’d not known in years. I knew exactly what I had to do. I picked up the phone and called for help.

This time I was ready. 

The following 4 months of therapy were difficult, emotional, and liberating all at the same time, but I didn’t hold back. In doing so, I finally gained the clarity I needed. In seeing my demons in the light, they lost their power.

The fog of depression finally started to lift.

Shortly afterwards, the pandemic hit, and I was left grounded. I used the time to do something I’d not done since I dropped Art during my A levels.

I started drawing.

And because I was feeling particularly creative – BECAUSE THAT’S WHO I AM – I started writing again. I put together a children’s book. I went to a publisher who loved it. Last summer, I became a published author. 

How do you like them apples?

At the same time, I started blogging. This time I had a different motivation. I spoke from my core. It felt like a spark had ignited something inside. I felt possessed. My intuition kept telling me to keep going. It’s leading somewhere. I don’t where yet, but it is.

It has.

My writing has given me clarity about what I want to do next. I will be starting an online degree in psychology next year with a long-term view of changing careers. I also have an idea for a number of books I plan to write.

Once again, I hear my demons screaming. Telling me not to do it. That I can’t. That I’m making a big mistake.

There’s a difference this time. 

My relationship has changed. I know those voices will be with me till the day I die. It that doesn’t phase me anymore. Honestly, I smile. I realise I don’t want those voices to go away. You see, they’re a guide. A powerful one telling me which direction to go in. What obstacles I must take on.  

Those voices also remind me of all the pain and suffering I’ve gone through. They keep it close to my heart. That’s want I want. To use that to help others who are suffering as I have. To give meaning to my pain by helping others with theirs. 

And so, as I sit at another crossroads in my life – as I build towards my second career – I keep writing. This time I won’t ever stop. Even though it continues to scare me – every single time I hit that publish button. 

I see it now.

I now know why it has to be this way. I was meant to write my way out. It’s poetry in motion.

You see the seeds of doubt that were planted at such a young age. The demons that have plagued me my whole life. They all stemmed from a lack of faith in my ability to overcome one of my biggest weaknesses.

That’s why I write.

For the boy inside who was lead to doubt himself. Who was told he couldn’t. Who was told he would struggle.

I write for every child who suffered under the weight of their fears, for everyone whose fears have been used against them in the cruelest possible way.

I write because I can. I write because I know that you can too.

I write to call myself a writer and be called a writer, because that means more to me than words could ever convey. 

The question I have is, why do you? 

5 Simple Tricks For Overcoming To-Do List Anxiety

“Procastination isn’t caused by laziness. We don’t postpone tasks to avoid work. We do it to avoid negative emotions that a task stirs up – like anxiety, frustration, confusion, and boredom.”

Adam Grant

Do you know that feeling, after you’ve written out your to-do list, despite how it’s suppose to make you feel, when all you want to-do is crawl under a rock and die? 

You know, when a slow and painful death seems preferable to confronting the mountain of tedious work you feel you have to-do?

And so you slowly put down your to-do list, walk over to the couch, gently sit down, carefully pick up the remote control and turn on NETFLIX. Which you then proceed to binge watch for several hours…

A bit like a psychopath who completely disconnects from all his or her responsibilities and emotions? 

I’m sure you do.

Anyway this got me thinking.

Why exactly does writing out our responsibilities on paper cause some us to run away from them faster than a teenage boy climaxes?

After all we know this kind of behaviour doesn’t help us, yet we can’t help ourselves. Sometimes all we want is to tell life to go fuck itself and so we do, even if that means fucking ourselves in the process.

The real question, of course, is how can we stop our to-do lists from making us feel like shit and help us get shit done instead?

Well fear not my fine readers for I’ve complied 5 simple tricks – as partially backed by science – to help you not only write a to-do list that doesn’t make you want to tell life to go fuck itself, but carry it out as well!

You’re very welcome!


1 – Do the thing that scares you the most first.

“The task you’re avoiding isn’t always the one you hate. Sometimes it’s the one you fear. The one that’s most worth pursuing.”

ADAM GRANT

The science shows that making a plan to complete a task provides the same mental relief as completing the task itself.

Which is exactly the point. Writing a to-do list is suppose to make you feel better so you can actually get started with something.

It’s suppose to get you in the mood… (Yeah baby!)

The problem for me, and I suspect countless others, was never a matter of productivity, but what it was I actually chose to accomplish during the day. I now realise I used my to-do list as a way to constantly defer the shit I was most afraid of.

I’m not talking about homework assignments here of course. I mean things like confronting my depression by asking for professional help or having certain difficult conversations with certain family members about shit I really don’t want to talk about…

Yeah, you know, the shit you really need to be doing first!

It was pointed out to me, in Adam Grant‘s excellent worklife podcast episode – ‘the real reason you procrastinate,’ that it wasn’t the tasks I was avoiding but the emotions I’d attached to said tasks.

The problem with ignoring these tasks is you inadvertently give those emotions (the thing that you’re actually afraid of confronting) greater hold over you. Thus the longer you leave said tasks undone the harder they become to-do.

Unfortunately there’s only one solution.

However scary they are, the tasks that you fear the most are exactly the ones you should be pursuing first. Not tidy the apartment!

Why?

Well it’s a classic Catch 22. By doing the very tasks you’re afraid of, you’re helping to confront and resolve those emotions that caused you to avoid those tasks in the first place.

If you don’t want to live with those emotions any longer, then you have to stop avoiding them. You have to rip the bandaid off. If you don’t it’s only gonna hurt more later on. Believe me!

Of course I realise this might not be what you want to hear so I thought I’d offer a few more tips that can help you do what’s necessary by putting things into perspective.

2 – Ask yourself, “What would I do if today were my last on earth?

It’s important to be very clear about what your most important tasks are on any given day. Often we’re not. A great way to do this – something I do every morning as part of my journalling routine – is to ask yourself the following question: “What would I do if this were my last day on earth?”

I’m guessing your to-do list would look markedly different.

Things like telling your family how much you love them. Apologising for any major wrong doings or forgiving those that wronged you would also probably appear. Remaining as present as you possibly can be. Paying attention to every waking moment for the truly precious moment that it is! Sitting with and observing any difficult emotions. Allowing those emotions to come out (instead of watching NETFLIX). Taking a walk outside to feel the elements – wind, rain, hail or shine! Simply being…

You get the point.

Of course you shouldn’t take this question too seriously otherwise you’ll probably bin your to-do list altogether and tell your boss to-go fuck himself. Perhaps not in the best interest of your future self…

Still, this is a great question because it helps align your to-do list with the values you hold closest. It helps to prioritise the things that you really should. It also puts thing into perspective.

The truth is you don’t have to-do anything. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment and self-loathing by thinking so. You don’t have to-do anything if you don’t want to.

You get to do those things.

Which brings me to my next trick for reframing your to-do list. That is…

3 – Write a GET to-do list instead

Put that at the top in big bold capital letters: GET to-do.

Not only does this set yourself up to be more grateful for what you feel you might have to-do, it also helps to take the pressure off.

You get to do it, you don’t have to do it.

Keep reminding yourself of this important fact.

I’d add another small tip.

Write out 3 things you’re grateful for today before you write out your get to-do list. I could show you some science that shows just how beneficial having a gratitude practise is, but I don’t want to bore you.

You know all this.

The point to label is YOU GET TO-DO THESE THIHGS. One day you’ll be dead and you won’t get to.

It helps to keep that in mind.

4 – Keep it modest and specific.

How much do you really need to-do today?

So many of us put everything down we’d like to complete and then burn out after realising we’ll never be able to achieve all those things.

You’ve got make it manageable.

Don’t say I’ll write one blog post or go for a 10km run or finish reading that book. Say I’ll write one paragraph, jog for five minutes and read one chapter.

Simply taking a step in the right direction is enough.

So what if you didn’t quite get everything you wanted to-do done?

The most important thing is that you enjoyed it. You’re never going to enjoy it if you’re always racing towards the finish line.

And if you really don’t manage to complete much, if anything, of what you intended, then please refer to point number 5.

5 – Show yourself show compassion.

‘You can change some of those emotions by showing yourself compassion. We procrastinate less when we remind ourselves that it’s part of the human condition. We’re not the only one suffering from it.’

ADAM GRANT

A tough one to finish I know. The truth is I’m awful at being kind to myself.

This is why, every morning as part of my meditation routine before I do anything else, I practise a loving kindness meditation for everybody including myself.

After all it can’t be called universal compassion if it doesn’t include yourself.

It’s important to remember we’re all fallible humans at the end of the day. Things like confronting our demons aren’t easy. It takes time to find the courage.

Go easy on yourself if you don’t do that scary task.

Who honestly get’s everything they mean to-do in a day? Really? I certainly don’t.

That said, I tell my wife I love her every night before bed without fail. I make sure I spend a couple of quality hours with my boys – laughing and playing with them every afternoon before dinner. I meditate every single morning and take every opportunity to practise mindfulness whenever I can. I always go for a walk outside as a way to remind myself that I’m alive and how fucking amazing that is!

Quite frankly the rest can fucked. Occasionally it does!

The older I get the more willing I am to say, so the fuck what? Tomorrow’s another day right? If you fall off the horse today, simply get back on it tomorrow. Falling down is inevitable. Getting back up is what matters.

That’s life!


SOURCES:

https://doist.com/blog/todo-list-tips/

WorkLife with Adam Grant episode on ‘The Real Reason You Procrastinate.’

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201310/why-your-do-list-drives-you-crazy

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/zeigarnik-effect

Angels and Demons

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

― Carl Jung

I spent most of my adult life trying to avoid suffering. It made everything worse. I spent my days waiting, hoping for my knight in shining armour. The funny thing is she existed, I just didn’t have the courage to ask her for help. I was too afraid to challenge my beliefs.

I also didn’t understand the paradoxical nature of change. The fact that you have to first accept who you are, that you have to first accept your life circumstances.

Which is hard, of course. I mean, how could I accept what my demons were telling me? How could I accept that what I really believed, was that I wasn’t capable – that I wasn’t worthy?

I tried in desperation to whip myself into something I wasn’t. I tried to kill that part of myself and in the process became consumed by it. Depression took a firm grip and I found myself drowning. In my attempts to fight, I only sunk deeper.

Eventually I gave up altogether.

Yet, it was only when I finally let go that I started to see something. What’s already there is there, so why fight it? To fight your demons, to resit them – is not only futile, it makes things worse.

Attempts to kill your demons makes them scream louder. It’s hating those parts of yourself that gives them strength. It’s only by embracing your demons, by having the courage to hold them in your heart, that you will start to see change.

And it won’t be that those demons go away. They won’t. What changes is your relationship to them. Suddenly they become part of you. You see both the light and the dark side. You come to understand them. You start to see where they’ve really come from.

That is insight.

And because your demons feel heard, they start to soften. They don’t feel the need to scream for oxygen anymore. It’s no different to a child who is shown love after a long period of neglect. Of course that’s all that the inner-child deep down in all of us wants – to be heard, to be held, to be loved.

I believe life’s biggest lesson is acceptance. For who we are, for life in all it’s fucked up glory, for, ultimately, our own mortality and that of those we love.

That’s why I suggest making it part of your morning prayer or meditation ritual. Find ways, design habits, whatever you have to do to cultivate an extreme sense of gratitude for who you are and what you have in this moment. It’s not easy, of course. I get it. It is something you have to practise everyday.

That’s not to say one shouldn’t act. No, that’s resignation. Resignation is choosing not to act when you can make a change. Resignation is choosing to believe the false narratives in your head instead of looking deeply. Resignation is believing that you can’t be helped, when you can. I know all about resignation.

Acceptance is something very different.

Acceptance is about acknowledging your demons, it’s not about letting them dictate the terms. Acceptance is about having discipline to face your current reality as it stands, to own up to it.

You need to let your demons know you hear them, then go ahead and do what you know is right. That includes asking for help if you need it. That includes processing your grief. There is no shame in this. In fact, that’s exactly what courage is.

Now here’s the paradox.

What follows a fear to accept is a fear to act. What follows the courage to accept is the courage to act. If you do that, you’ll find your demons switch shoulders. You’ll find you’re driven by them, not burdened by them. You’ll find your demons are everything to you – they’re what give your life it’s ultimate meaning. Once that happens, you’re not just going through the motions. You’re not just doing a job. It’s far deeper than that.

From radical acceptance comes meaningful action.

That’s why we need to infuse our existence with as much meaning as we can. In the way we interact with others. The way we play with our children. The way we hold our partners. Even in seemingly small or mundane tasks. If you look deeply, you can access peace in every moment by giving it meaning.

I can’t stress that point enough. 

We need meaning in our lives, because that’s what gives us hope. It’s what helps us to guard against nihilism. The more meaning you find in life, the more meaningful you believe your life is – the more peace and joy and love you will find in it. The most powerful way to do that is give meaning to your suffering.

If you do, you’ll realise your demons were trying to lead you from darkness all along. You’ll look down and realise, your shadows are made from light. You’ll realise your demons are your angels as well.


HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life.

Are you lacking direction in life? Not sure which way you should turn?

Do you have a big problem with no idea how to proceed? Like whether you should quit the job you hate?

Or perhaps you’ve lost your job and have no idea what the hell you should do next?

Maybe you’re simply having a bit of trouble processing difficult emotions?

Whatever it is, dear readers, fear not – for I have something that can help you formulate the ultimate solution (no promises).

Introducing the CLEAR model! An outstanding structured approach for decision making and problem solving in everyday life!

(Is it just me, or did that sound like a 90’s television commercial?)

Let’s get into it.

The CLEAR model stands for:

C – Clarify what the problem is.
L – Look for information and ideas.
E – Evaluate options.
A – Act on your decision.
R – Review how it is working.

Simple yet elegant I think you’ll agree.

“Wherever did you come up with such a brilliant formula?”

A great question Bob, thank you for asking. The answer is… I stole it of course!

We pilots are taught it as a way to deal with problems we might encounter outside our normal day-to-day operations. It achieves this by providing a series of defined steps to work through in order to (hopefully) achieve a safe outcome.

As the brain is a single channel processor that can only do one thing at a time (yes multi-tasking is a myth), this helps prevents it from being overloaded during periods of high stress and/or workload. (And I think we can all agree that it’s a time of high fucking stress Bob!)

The problem with high levels of stress is it may overload your very simple single channel processor (I know it does mine), which can result in one or more of the following:

  1. – Tunnel vision (or fixation) – focusing on one input to the exclusion of other vital data.
  2. – Unconscious rejection of conflicting data.
  3. – Slowing down of your decision making or, in the extreme, inability to make any decisions at all.
  4. – Impulsiveness – the desire to restore control makes you leap into action too early.

I think you’ll agree those aren’t very helpful responses Bob, especially for pilots.

“But why, exactly, do you think a model designed for flight crew to problem solve on the flight deck of an aeroplane would be of any use to me?”

Another great question Bob! I asked myself the exact same one and let me tell you the answer I came up with: Why not?

But don’t just take my word for it Bob, let’s examine a working example completely unrelated to the realm of aviation. Let’s examine how we might apply the CLEAR model to someone who is dealing with depression and/or anxiety – hardly the sort of problem flight crew look at solving on a aeroplane I think you’ll agree!

The Clear Model As Applied To Depression:

1 – CLARIFY

People who are depressed will often state I am depressed or I am anxious. However no one is depression, no one is anxiety. These are merely things one experiences.

One of the big problems many people with mental health issues have is this kind of identification. They believe it is part of who they are. But this isn’t true.

Already we can see the importance of clarifying the problem.

A much more accurate thing to say would be, ‘I am currently experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ This is a very significant shift in terminology that can help you to step back from your emotions.

If you want to go a step further by introducing some deep Buddhist wisdom (and I know you do Bob) you might say in third person, ‘James is experiencing feelings of depression or anxiety.’ So as to introduce the idea (and reality) that you are not your ego. That the I is not me. (Wow, my simple single processor is on fire!)

Anyway we could go on about how to properly clarify the problem but I don’t want to bore you Bob. At any rate, I think you’ll agree, we’re off to a winning start!

Let’s continue.

2 – LOOK

Observe. Simply be with whatever it is that is arising. Obviously this will work best if you can find somewhere quiet to sit without distraction. Yes Bob, that means you’ll need to put away your phone.

Once you have, be sure to take a few deep breaths and settle yourself. Maybe run through a quick body scan – place your hand on your heart if that helps – and then simply sit and observe.

Remember you’re not trying to achieve anything at this stage. You’re simply trying to observe what is going on from moment to moment. Run through your five senses if that helps. Use this time to gather information about what your emotions really feel like within the body.

If a thought arises, simply note it then come back to feeling your bodily sensations. Ultimately you want to go toward your negative emotions so you can observe them in fine detail.

Don’t resist them bob! Trust me.

This won’t be easy of course, especially if you’re new to the game of meditation but I promise you the long term benefits of having such a practise whenever faced with difficult emotions will pay off handsomely.

Anyway I’m sure you don’t need me to run through a meditation routine with you on here. You get the point Bob. Sit and look.

Next!

3 – EVALUTE

This is the part of the session where we introduce some curiosity. Maybe you can ask some questions such as, What triggered my emotional state today? What was it that caused my reaction? What false belief or narrative are driving these feelings? Moreover, what emotions am I trying to avoid that I need to feel? What are those feelings trying to tell me that I don’t understand?

After asking these question sit back and see what arises. I find this kind of exercise extremely useful for deriving insight whenever I have a reaction to something I don’t fully comprehend.

There are, of course, many different kinds of meditation practises you could apply to dealing with such emotional states, but once again I don’t want to bore you Bob.

Moving on!

4 – ACT

Now this will depend on what responses you derived from part 3 of this exceptional CLEAR model and how bad you suffer from said emotional problems.

It goes without saying that the most obvious thing to do if suffering from any kind of depression or mental health issue is to seek professional help.

Are you a therapist Bob? No?

Worth a shot.

Anyway, the next best thing, if you can’t afford a therapist or don’t feel you’re ready to face your demons yet (I won’t judge – it took my simple single processor a long time to pluck up the courage and ask for the help it needed) is to talk to your loved ones.

You’re not burdening them by opening up. If they love you they’ll want to know. Trust me Bob. It burdens them more not knowing.

Aside from those very obvious actions the next thing you can do is practise self-compassion. Place your hand on your heart and tell yourself, it’s ok. I’m here for you. Let me feel you. Whatever kind language speaks or works for you.

It’s important to state that you don’t fight depression or anxiety, you’re meant to accept it.

As Carl Rogers once said, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”

Moving on!

5 – REVIEW

This brings us to the final part of this most astonishing CLEAR model. Review or reflect.

Some questions you might consider: How did that work out? What can I add to the practise next time that might help me? Maybe I can add journalling as a way to write down what arises during such a practise? Am I still suffering from the same issues and thought patterns that I have for years on end?

If that last one is true then maybe it’s time to concede that you really do need professional help. I strongly encourage all with such issues to do exactly that. At the end of the day all these tools are helpful at managing your mental health but if you have some deeper issues it’s imperative you seek the professional help you need. There is absolutely no shame in this. Remember it is never too late to get the help you need. Never.

That’s all from me today Bob.

I hope this helped.


OTHER SOURCES:

https://studyflying.com/clear-model-human-factor/

http://aviationknowledge.wikidot.com/aviation:clear

HELPLINES, SUICIDE HOTLINES, AND CRISIS-LINES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

3-2-1 Mindset Mondays

Hello lovely readers and welcome back to Mindset Mondays! The only weekly post that makes you feel guilty about shame…

Following a 3-2-1 approach, it contains 3 thoughts from me (that you should ignore), 2 quotes from others (that you should read), and 1 thing I’ve been reading, watching or listening to this week that has helped me grow.

As a bonus I’ve finished with 1 joke that’s so bad, it’s good.

Let’s begin!


3 x Thoughts:

1) To avoid pain is to avoid life. 

(click to tweet)

2)  It’s one thing to learn from guilt – to use that to make you a better person. It is a whole other thing to let guilt tell you you’re not capable of being a better person. Failing to see that difference really is a crying shame.

(click to tweet)

3) You can’t solve the world’s problems until you’ve solved your own. In fact, that is how you solve the world’s problems. 

(click to tweet)


2 x Quotes:

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

– George Orwell

“Aging is the extraordinary process of becoming the person you were meant to be.”

-David Bowie


1 x Thing:

This very interesting BBC article by David Robson: Why introverts didn’t actually ‘win’ lockdown. The article challenges the preconception that introverts would thrive in lockdown conditions. As it turns out, quite the opposite is true. Well worth the quick read! Quote below:

“Introverts tend to experience more intense emotions, and they find it harder to regulate those feelings and to adjust to new situations. This means they tend to have poorer emotional wellbeing. Such tendencies may have made them more vulnerable to the stress of the pandemic.” 


1 x Joke:

Another aviation themed far side comic for you all this week. I hope you enjoy!


Thanks ladies and gentlemen, I’m here all week! As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. Please let us know in the comments section below.


PREVIOUS MONDAY POST:

Mindset Mondays – 28/06/21

8 Ways To Tell Your Smartphone To Go F📵ck Itself

Do you have the kind of relationship with your smartphone where it feels like you fight all the time, but end up having really great sex?

Where you get so stressed out you put it down and walk away, only to come crawling back after 5 minutes because you can’t help yourself?

So you pick it up and passionately open all your apps, getting one dopamine hit after another.

Click click click, fuck fuck fuck, “Ahhhhhhh yeahhhhh…”

The problem is once you’re done you feel depleted, like someone whose been used and abused. You end up loathing yourself because you didn’t have the willpower to say no, again!

Anyone else feel like this?

Well, if you do, then welcome to the club! If you don’t, well, I suspect you’re not reading this article. Actually, I suspect you live in a forest.

Anyway, today I’m putting my foot down. Enough is enough! This time I really am breaking up with my phone.

[Silence]

Ok, ok, no I’m not, the sex is too damn good, however, I am determined to have a relationship with it on my own terms – to have sex only as and when I want it.

The question is, how the fuck?

Well, here are 8 ideas I googled while sitting on the toilet for the past hour…

1. Admit You Have An Addiction

Let me be the first to admit I’m addicted to my phone. I feel naked without her. Sometimes I am naked with her (shhhhh – don’t tell my wife).

If you’re not sure whether you might be addicted too (you are), I highly recommend taking this quick Smartphone Compulsion Test.

It was developed by David Greenfield, PhD, of the Centre for Internet and Technology Addiction at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

He said, “If you answer “yes” to more than 5 out of the 15 questions, it indicates you have a problematic relationship with your mobile device. More than 8 and you might consider seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist who specializes in behavioral addictions for a consultation.”

Seriously!

Just be warned the article also said, “it seems the only way to score below a 5 on this test is to not have a smartphone…”

2. Buy An Alarm Clock 

If you were born after the year 2000 and are wondering what an alarm clock is, it’s a primitive device people used before the invention of smartphones.

Yes, about the same time that dinosaurs were roaming the planet.

Anyway, it does two things. One, it tells you the time, and two, it sounds an alarm for when you wish to wake up in the morning, hence the name alarm clock.

Amazing right?

“No, and my phone does that anyway so why would I buy one?

Because everything starts with a good night’s sleep and with your phone by your side the temptation to check it is too great.

And what happens if you do?

The blue light makes it harder for you to sleep. Which, if you already have trouble sleeping, can quickly turn into a vicious cycle.

The cure?

Buying yourself a dinosaur alarm clock and leaving your phone out of the bedroom while you sleep.

3. Leave Your Phone In The Bedroom During The Day. 

First thing in the morning, after I’ve made my bed, I meditate for 20-30 mins. Afterwards I collect my phone – which spent the night in my office – and place it inside my sock draw next to my bed (no joke).

I only check it for messages/emails after I have gone through my morning routine. So long as I’m at home, this is where it lives.

This forces me to ask the question, “Do I really need to have sex with my phone right now? Or should I retain my focus for something more pressing?”

Of course it doesn’t have to be your bedroom, but I suggest you leave it somewhere that’s a little awkward to reach – like inside a cookie jar at the very top of your kitchen cabinet.

The idea is to design your environment so you don’t have to rely on willpower alone. Of course it takes willpower to walk to a specific place to check your phone which is the point.

This prevents you from mindlessly scrolling costing you precious attention and time throughout the day.

4. Delete All Social Media And Email Applications 

The idea with this is to create “friction points” within the phone itself.

“But if I delete my apps how will I be able to check my social media feeds?”

By using your web browser of course. I know, how inconvenient right? Of course that’s the point.

Here are a few other ideas:

  • Turn off all notifications
  • Remove all distraction-based apps from your home screen (or entirely)
  • Use airplane/do not disturb modes
  • Keep your phone on silent at all times

For more about these ideas check out this YouTube clip from Tim Ferris below:

5. No Little Screens In Front Of Big Screens

You’re either watching the TV or you’re not. You’re either on your phone or you’re not. Your’e either talking to your friends or you’re not. You’re either doing work or you’re not.

You get it! 

Multitasking is a myth. Attempts to do so only diminish your ability to focus on any one thing. For that reason one of my rules at home is to have no little screens in front of big screens.

This prevents you from mindlessly looking at your phone while you’re in front of the television. The benefit being you will enjoy what you’re watching much more.

Another benefit is you’ll be able to focus better at your computer when all other distractions (and devices) are out of sight.

6. No Phones At The Dinner Table

The minimum we can do to demonstrate love for our family during dinner time is by leaving our phones off the dining table.

This is something I like to call, having good Tablet Manners.

Another rule I have is no phones in the bathroom. If you’ve found yourself taking a 30 minute poo while scrolling Instagram you’ll understand why this is important.

I place books to read next to my toilet instead. Something I talked about a long time ago in this article: How To Gain Enlightenment While Taking A Dump.

Once again the idea is about designing your environment to promote positive habits and curb bad ones. Instead of bringing your phone into the toilet, stick some spiritual books next to the loo so you can read a profound quote and really sit on it…

This helps you cultivate mindfulness instead of mindlessness while on the potty.

7. Prioritise And Schedule Human Interaction 

Allow me to give you some damning statistics.

Now consider the amount of time you dedicate to conversing, in person, with the people in your life. If you’re like me, that ought to sober you right the fuck up!

So here’s what I suggest you do: Schedule and make the time for the people you love. 

Organise play time with your children, date nights with your partner, drinks with your friends, etc. Whatever it is, when you do, make sure to leave your phone somewhere else, or, at least, turn it off and really give yourself to the people in your life.

Make them understand that they are more important than the screen inside your pocket.

 

8. Have A Digital Sabbath One Day Per Week

To list the tip of the iceberg, our smartphones are also:

I suspect that one day the general population will seriously reconsider the relationship they have with their smartphones. Perhaps in a similar way to how people did with smoking back in the 1950s. The truth is scrolling is the new smoking. There’s a good reason why Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t let their children near them.

I sincerely believe if we are to protect our own children we need to get a handle on our own addiction first. As adults we need to demonstrate how to have a healthy relationship with them.

That’s why my final recommendation is to implement a digital sabbath where, for one day a week, you go completely screen free. A day dedicated to simply being.

For me it’s the equivalent of hitting the reset button. I spend it going for leisurely walks, reading books and being with my family. It serves as an important reminder, for my family and I, that we really don’t need our phones to live a happy, healthy life.


(Thanks for reading everyone. I sincerely hope you got some ideas about how to live more harmoniously with your smartphones. Out of interest, what tips or advice do you have, if any, for living more mindfully with yours? As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog.)

Why Everything Scares You To Death

The other night, while I was trying to sleep, I started thinking about the post I wrote last week where I stated that hatred is driven – at its core – by a fear of death. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something fundamental. Naturally this started to make me feel a little anxious. Which then got me thinking, ‘why I am feeling so anxious? I’m just thinking.’ 

Anyway, I placed my mind on that fear and I asked, ‘what do you want me to figure out?’ Then something clicked. The penny dropped and I thought, ‘holy shit, all fear is a fear of death. That’s what you’re feeling. That’s why it’s so intense. It’s simply a trick. An illusion played by the mind to keep you, and those you love, alive.’ 

Immediately I started thinking about the implications this simplicity of thought might have. How we could use it to see through and conquer our fears. But also help those consumed by theirs. So I got up and started hashing out my argument. (No, I didn’t sleep well that night!) And well, this post was the result.

Anyway, buckle up boys and girls, because I’m about to take your mind down a rabbit hole that will blow it wide open. But first let me explain my thinking with a quick biology lesson. (I’ll try to make it fun.)

The Biology Of Fear

From a biological perspective the purpose of life is life itself. That all our emotions – the full kaleidoscope of experience – can be explained, broadly speaking, by two things. The first is survival (protecting our life and those we love.) Enter fear. The second is procreation and the raising/nurturing of offspring. Enter love. 

These two broad encompassing emotional forces drive everything. They represent the light and dark side of the force. Yin and Yang, Male and Female, Ross and Rachel, Bert and Ernie… you get the point. It’s a delicate tussle counter balancing one against the other. However we need both of them.

Now, to forget love for a second (Say what?), let’s talk amount the most important of these two emotional forces – fear (Oh no you didn’t!). 

Inside your brain are two little nuggets called your amygdalas. These naughty little nuggets are, biologically speaking, responsible for all of your emotional suffering. This is because they activate something called your fight, flight or freeze response system. And this has everything to do with your survival. (They love you really.)

Now, what happens when those naughty nuggets detect what they believe is a serious threat to your life, is they shut off access to the rational part of your brain (your frontal lobes). When this happens the only thing your brain becomes interested in is your survival. And it uses the fear of death to drive your actions. Telling you to either run for the hills (fear under flight), tread carefully (anxiety under freeze), or fight for your life (anger or hate under fight). That is what fear is, in essence. Fear is a fear of death. I say that because these responses are based on keeping you alive. 

This is why I believe fear, anxiety, anger and hate are such intense emotions. Why we have a million and one different addictions and mental illnesses in our attempts to deal with them. We are dealing with a fear of death under different guises. And that is no small thing. (Have I blown your mind yet?)

The Link To Death

One of the problems I believe we have is we don’t link our fear to death. We lack the awareness. This is partly because many of us live in denial and partly because our rational minds and ancient emotional response system aren’t of the same era (your naughty nuggets are part of the limbic system which comprises the oldest part of your brain); but mainly because the ego doesn’t want us to figure this out. It’s a deliberate illusion. After all it’s not terribly useful to psychoanalyse your fear when face to face with a sabre-toothed tiger!

But you’re not actually sacred of the tiger. No, you’re afraid of one thing and one thing alone: death. What your brain has done is attach the fear of death to that animal, thing or situation. That’s why everything scares us to death. Because we are. That’s what drives us at our core.

This is also why, in the pecking order of love and fear, fear comes first (why we have something called a negativity bias). Of course this sucks the big one, however the logic makes good sense. You must first survive before you can thrive. Before you can use your big one!

In the case of a sabre-toothed tiger the link is obvious, much like a fear of heights. However others things are much harder to link, like onomatophobia – a fear of names. (Yeah, for real Bob.). Most often they’re rooted in our unique childhood traumas as part of our attempt to win the love of our parents who weren’t forthcoming with it (which we needed for survival). Other things are less obvious on the surface but make good sense when you consider our ancestry basically roamed around as tribes for millions of years. 

For example, we understand that standing up on stage and making a public speech won’t kill us, (rationally we understand it won’t matter one iota), yet many of us are still scared to death at the thought. Why? Your surface level rationale is probably saying something along the line of, “if I mess this presentation up I’ll make a fool of myself and my coworkers will no longer respect me.” But so what? That rationale doesn’t justify the level of emotion it evokes.

Well, consider this.

Imagine you’re living as part of a tight-knit tribal community. A small group of hunter gathers where your survival depends on you getting along with everyone else. Suddenly social anxiety – fear of sticking your neck out – starts to make more sense. If you stand up and talk to the tribe and the tribe rejects you, it’s possible they’ll make you an outcast and now you really are fucked. So tread carefully (anxiety). You do not want to piss off the alpha! In today’s world, rationally, we understand the stakes aren’t so high, however your ancient emotional response system doesn’t.

This is also why we care so much what other people think. This is why we get so worked up over nothing. This is why we hold our beliefs as absolute and why we cannot stand to be challenged. (Please don’t disagree with me on this.) 

This is worth stressing.

When it comes to our emotions we are working with a Palaeolithic operating system. It’s millions of years in the making based on what the world was like for us for the vast majority of that time. It’s not well adapted to modern life. 

How To Conquer Your Fear

So now you’re thinking, “Ok Sherlock, now that you’ve made me aware that my crippling anxiety is actually a fear of death underneath, how is this suppose to help me?”

Because now you can ask yourself a couple of important questions. The first is obvious. Is your life really at risk? To use my previous example, is getting up on stage really going to end your life? No, of course not. Then are your feelings rational or irrational? We know the answer to this of course. But now we have awareness on our side. Suddenly it’s clear as day. Now you can look through it because you understand why the feeling is so intense. 

That is a good reason to show those feelings love and compassion. That is a good reason to tell yourself it’s ok. And now you can remind yourself what your higher purpose is. What your loving motives are for standing up on that stage. And suddenly that fear starts to loosen its grip. 

This allows your naughty little nuggets to calm the fuck down, which allows your frontal lobes to come back online. What you’re doing is placing your emotions back in the passenger seat of your car as opposed to the drivers seat. Which is exactly where you want them to be (except when your life really is threatened.) And so you go ahead and make most passionate speech of your life (maybe).

What you’ve done is used love for the purpose it was intended, to overcome your own fear of death. Not only that, you’ve just told yourself you conquered a fear of death, not simply a fear of public speaking, which is massive.

Now, here’s where I address the rather large Woolly Mammoth in the cave. If fear – a fear of dying – comes first in the order of our emotional makeup, then perhaps all of our emotions are related to a fear of death, including love? And if you think that’s a rather dark hypothesis to end, I would counter by saying how beautifully poetic I believe that is. 

Love was nature’s antidote to prevent our own fears from destroying ourselves. It was designed to give us the courage to overcome our fear of death to protect our offspring. To protect our tribe. To protect our larger self. In an increasingly interconnected world I believe we must use that love to cultivate and serve a higher purpose that includes all life on this planet. We must use that to overcome – quite literally- our own fear of death in order to do so. I fear if we don’t, that fear, will consume us all.


Thanks for reading everyone. So what do you think? Are our fears simply a fear of death underneath? And is love the antidote to those fears by design? Thoughts and opinions keenly anticipated. Warm regards, AP2 🙏

***

You can see find more of AP2’s nonsensical world views and poor self-help advice here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

First Solo

There’s a term in aviation that all pilots know well called the first solo. It’s when a new pilot completes a takeoff, short flight and safe landing, all by him or herself, for the very first time. It’s basically the aviation equivalent of losing your virginity. You kinda line the aeroplane up with the strip, take your best aim and hope the landing doesn’t hurt too much. It’s something you never ever forget (no matter how much you might want to). For a pilot it is a very special, sacred even, moment.

I’d no idea I would be doing my first solo the day that I did. My instructor hadn’t given the slightest indication that he thought I was ready. He simply briefed me to taxi back to the same spot once I was done, then told me “Godspeed old chap,” and closed the cockpit door behind him – leaving me completely befuddled as I taxied gingerly to the runway threshold. Then, without thinking about it, I set maximum thrust and took off, all by myself.

It was, without a doubt, one of single most exhilarating moments of my aviation career. One of those rare moments of pure ecstasy, like you’re on top of the world. I felt invincible. That was, at least, until I was flying back when I looked down at the runway and it dawned on me, ‘shit I’ve got to land this thing!’ My exact thought at this point was, ‘Fuck,’ repeated several times in quick succession.

Anyway ladies and gentlemen, I bring this up because, right now, I feel like this very post is my blogging first solo. And to be brutally honest with you all – I’m petrified. I have the same feeling I did when I stared down at that runway just over eleven years ago now. The same dawning realisation that I have to do this all by myself. That same sinking feeling – like I’ve missed a crucial part of my training. 

I should say this isn’t the first post I’ve done for PO. Troy and Bogdan had the foresight to test run one of my pieces a short while back – Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do. (Which, incidentally, seems particularly pertinent given I feel like crying myself to sleep every night at the moment.) It’s just that this time they’ve given me the keys and closed the cockpit door behind them.

“Godspeed old chap,” they said.

Godspeed.

Yet I’ve only been playing with my own poky…  blog for half a year now. In that time I’ve amassed a meagre total of just over 300 followers. Now here I am, writing for a blog with nearly 16,000!

Is that right? 

Yep.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.

And so I apologise dear readers if all this feels a bit awkward or if my delivery isn’t the smoothest. I’m sure that with time, I’ll be able to the hit the right spot. But you’ll have to bear with me – I am working with rather limited equipment, at least (ahem), linguistically speaking.

Anyway there’s no doubt that I want to be here. That I want to engage with as many wonderful, like-minded people who share in what is such a wonderful community here on WordPress. I believe this will undoubtedly help me grow as both a person and a writer. Which is why when I saw Troy’s ad to say they were looking for writers I was chomping at the bit. And before I circle back to my story, to bring this post home, let me take this moment to say how extremely grateful I am to him and the rest of the team here at PO for welcoming me on-board! 

However unlike the average person who feel pride and confidence when they achieve something, I feel nothing but relief that I didn’t fuck it up. A bit like when a captain tells me that was a nice landing (or not) after we’ve taxied off the runway, that’s the moment I realise it’s ok to exhale. 

So after my brief moment of joy the other day when I found out the news, my mind, just like it did all those years ago when staring down at the runway, expedited itself into the warm and cosy rabbit-hole of crippling self-doubt.

‘There’s no way I’m good enough to blog on PO. Everyone is going to realise that I don’t belong here. The writers here are all established – Linguistic PHD students, English professors and the like. They also seem to use this thing called discretion. I’m just a pilot with a shockingly poor grasp of the only language I know. I mean, what the fuck should I write about anyhow? What should I make my first post about? Should I make it about me and all my problems seen as no one cares or asked? Great idea!’

Then it occurred to me, I was pointlessly overthinking about what I should write for a blog called pointless overthinking. That at least made me chuckle. Then, just like I did following my mild panic attack all those years ago, I took several big breathes and thought to myself – maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel at home here after all. That maybe, just maybe, I can pull off this landing.

Thank you so much for reading everyone. I want to ask you what scary first time experiences you’ve had? How did it go? Was it unbearably awkward? Or was it, in fact, not nearly as bad as you thought it would be? Was it maybe even, rather pleasant? How did you deal with nerves? Also if you have any other feedback or remarks please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below. Just be gentle – it’s my first time after all.

To my regular readers: This was my first ‘offcial’ post for pointless overthinking. I wanted to share it with you all here on my blog and to let you know I will be writing a weekly post for them going forward. For those who haven’t checked it out I highly recommend heading over there and taking a look (link at the bottom). It’s run by a team of wonderful writers, professionals, thinkers and the like that I am honoured to now be a part of.

***

You can see more of AP2’s writing here at: https://pointlessoverthinking.com

The Loving Nature Of Fear

Fear is part of what all of us should be feeling at the moment. It’s a good thing too! If fear didn’t play its part we’d have become extinct a long time ago. Self preservation is paramount to keeping all of us safe. However if this is the only reason, if all you’re thinking about is the I, it’ll wear you thin quickly. Fear on this level isn’t designed to keep you running for months or years at a time. It certainly won’t be what sustains you during this pandemic.

It can’t. 

To find motivation for long term action, for maintaining integrity, for anything, you have to consider love. Why are you doing it? For the elderly and the sick, the most vulnerable in society, your loved ones and your friends, your grandparents and your parents, your brother and your sisters, your children and your grandchildren…  Why are you doing it? 

Is it because of love or fear? 

I want to stress that listening to and acknowledging your fear is important. It’s telling us something. ie there’s a snake over there – I better walk the other way. Or, there’s a deadly and highly infectious disease outside, maybe I should stay indoors or wear a mask…

However our fears are often based on clinging and attachment – a fear of losing something – whether that’s something you have, control of a situation, other people’s behaviour, how society and governments should function, etc. 

Fear is telling us something about reality we wish were different. It’s telling us to act and to make it so! What’s often lost on people is what exactly needs to change. I can tell you, far more often than not, it isn’t reality that needs to change. Reality is perfectly fine as it is, because it can’t be any other way. It’s your expectations of reality. 

If you’re feeling angry that’s coming from you. It’s your emotion to deal with and take responsibility for. The same applies to anxiety and depression. Emotions I know well. They are my responsibility to deal with. Whether that means I need to take time to meditate or seek therapy – I need to work out the why. I need to understand before I can change – before I can accept what I cannot change. 

Ultimately fear is asking for us to change something or accept something. With regards to situations we have little or no control over, acceptance is key. You will never find peace in the moment, if you don’t accept it as it is. If it happens to be a situation like the coronavirus pandemic, as much as we might wish it to be different, if we cannot act, if we cannot change it, we must learn to accept it. That means to accept your fear of the situation. This isn’t easy of course. But I do believe, by acknowledging your fear, understanding it as a shared feeling that millions of others are also experiencing, you are actually coming from a place of love and compassion. It is this, that will lead to acceptance.

Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance, said it beautifully: “When we understand our pain as an intrinsic gateway to compassion, we begin to awaken from the imprisoning story of a suffering self. In the moments when we tenderly hold our anger, for instance, we cut through our identity as an angry self. The anger no longer feels like a personal flaw or an oppressive burden. We begin to see its universal nature—it’s not our anger, it is not our pain. Everyone lives with anger, with fear, with grief.”

She goes on, “Understanding that the pain in our life is an expression of universal suffering opens us to the fullness of Radical Acceptance. Rather than being a problem, our depression, fear and anger are “entrusted to us,” and can be dedicated to our awakening. When we carry our pain with the kindness of acceptance instead of the bitterness of resistance, our hearts become an edgeless sea of compassion.

Even in the grip of fear, pain or depression, we can act from love. In fact it’s possible fear can stir in us far greater compassion and love, than we otherwise knew we had.

Here’s a definition of courage for you:

Courage is acting from a place of love, doing what you know to be right, not in the absence of fear, but in spite of it. 

Let me ask you a question.

If you see a child, let’s say it’s your child, step out onto the road into oncoming traffic and you take the courageous decision to run out to save his or her life. Was that decision to save your child’s life based on love or fear? Have a long think about it. Most will answer without thinking. Love. But was it? Consider the crucial part fear had to play in this scenario. Fear of losing something you love. Fear of your child getting badly hurt or worse. I believe it was fear that sprung you into action. Don’t forget that fear can come from a place of love too. Fear when really acknowledged and listened to, it can be a powerful gateway to compassion. When you understand the love behind your fear, you will know how you should act. 

Back to the present – our only true reality – and the situation of the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re feeling fearful for yourself or your loved ones, if acting out of fear, fear that seems too much to bear, sit with it and be kind. Don’t resist it – you’ll only give it strength. Instead, remind yourself of the love behind that fear. Remember the loving reasons behind what you’re doing. Remember what we all are. It’s such a beautiful thing. It really is. To be part of something bigger than ourselves. Ultimately it’s the love that will sustain you. It’s the love that will sustain us all.

The Question To Ask Yourself Before Every Decision

It was late the other night that my wife told me about her sometimes feeling overwhelmed by the amount of things she sets herself to do – of always feeling pushed to do things – of feeling “the need” to do things – that she sometimes feels driven by an underlying sense of ‘not good enough.’ 

I paused to take in what she was saying, before climbing into bed next to her. 

She’s certainly not alone, I thought. I knew those feelings well. I suspect those feelings are probably shared by the vast majority of young professionals driven by certain expectations of society, of their parents, of their conditioning to be the best version of themselves.

As I responded, in one of my rare moments of clarity, I remembered a question that I wrote down from a podcast I heard a few weeks ago. It’s something I’ve asked myself repeatedly since, as a way to guide my actions , especially when I’ve felt a strong resistance to them – like my perceived need to keep up with my own work. 

The question was this:

“Am I making this decision because of love or fear?”

 – Dr Vivek Murthy

I felt it was such an insightful way of asking yourself why or why not you should do something – whatever that may be – as you go about your day. The more I contemplated it over the following weeks, the more I realised how powerful it was as a guiding force in keeping the values I hold close to my heart, clear in my mind. After all, I believe all our feelings and actions are driven, on a basis level, by one of these two underlying emotions. This question is a great way of bringing to light, exactly which one of these two emotions is driving your actions at any particular moment.

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

As I climbed into bed I asked my wife what her motives are for doing (she’s a yoga teacher FYI) what she’s been doing? Is it because she believes strongly in the cause, to help others, or does she feel pushed to perform, to be better because of some perceived need to prove something to others or, indeed, herself? Is it from, on some level, a feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough as she is right now?

I went on to explain something that dawned on me about why my own motivation towards work had stalled so many times in the past. 

I never felt good enough. I was scared what others thought. I was scared that I would underperform and not be seen as good enough in the eyes of my coworkers. I was so scared of ‘being found out’ for who I thought I was. Of confirming a long help belief – a false one – that I wasn’t good enough. The same has been true of my writing.

Thinking back it’s no wonder my motivation died. It’s no wonder when I sat down to do the work I needed that it was such an enormous struggle. It felt like walking through quick sand as I ploughed ahead while fighting the stress, anxiety and sometimes, full blown depression, that had consumed my heart. 

If only someone had shouted, “you are good enough you fool – you know this – you’re just doing it for the wrong reasons!!”

Alas, I know that wouldn’t have helped. True insight and understanding has to come from within and that takes time. It has taken years to grow in my heart. It still is.


LOVE AS MOTIVATION FOR WORK & LIFE


The last six months – since the world of aviation has been brought to its knees because of the coronavirus pandemic – have given me, like countless others, plenty of time to reflect.

With regards to work I have come to realise that framing my motivations, to be clear that they are coming from a genuine place of love, is what I need to do. Whipping myself into shape doesn’t work in the longer term. It’s too hard.

As I explained to my wife, when I sit down to prepare for work, for a flight or simulator check, whatever it may be, the question I have started asking is, am I preparing from a place of fear or love? And, if I am feeling fearful, what is it that I’m really afraid of? Why am I doing what I am? If it’s because I feel the need to prove something, then I know I’m coming from the wrong place.

Of course preparing so you don’t fuck up in such a way that the flight ends in catastrophe is one way to think about things. Ultimately that’s our goal – Safety absolutely, rightly, comes first. However there’s a big difference between preparing or working from a place of all consuming fear, versus love. Even if you still feel fearful, if you’re coming from a place of genuine love, that will give you strength to carry on. To stare down the eyes of the beast. 

I relayed some of those loving motives, as they applied to me in my work, to my wife.

To honour and protect my fellow crew members whom I owe it to perform at my best as I know they are. To do my best for every single passenger we transport – to make sure they arrive at their destinations –  that they make it home safely to their loved ones. To remember I am providing for my own family through this job – that gives us everything we need to live a happy, healthy and secure life. To remember I love myself – self preservation because I want to be alive – so I can be around for my family and friends. So my wife has a husband to love her. So my son has a father to lead him.

There’s something else at this moment in time too. 

Although there isn’t a huge amount of flying to go around at the moment – I realised the small amount there is, is an opportunity to be part of something, to help in a way most others around the world can’t. To help bring the few people who need to travel for very urgent reasons. To help bring critical supplies, medical or otherwise, to areas of the world who desperately need it. To help the world keep turning to some degree at a time when it has all but ground to a halt!  It’s a gift to be able to do something more than simply stay at home during this pandemic. I know millions of others would give a lot for the opportunity to do the same. It’s something to be extremely grateful for.

While these might seem like obvious motivations, I can tell you they are easily lost, or have been for me at least, in a profession so heavily driven by perfectionism – to prove your competency, and that you know everything there is to know. The pressure to prove yourself isn’t part of the the job I relish. 

Yet, when I allowed myself to think in these terms, I found myself itching to get back into the righthand seat for the first time in a long time. To be a larger part of this fight against the coronavirus pandemic – even if that means I only get to fly a single sector. I want to help in any way I can. Through my wiring and my profession. 

I now realise just how important it is to remind myself of my real motives when I feel anxious, especially when plagued by self-doubt, to help refocus the mind and bring me back to the present.

Am I doing this because of love or fear?

As I relayed these thoughts to my wife that night, it was interesting to hear that for the charity classes she had been organising, from which she earned not a penny, she had felt none of this resistance. She believed in the cause strongly, for a number of reasons including bringing people together from their homes at this difficult time globally. So they too could do something more than just sit at home – to contribute to charities in need, while showing love to themselves. A beautiful act of self-compassion extending outwards.

It’s obvious isn’t it? She had been acting from a place of love and the motivation for doing so was effortless.


SOURCES:

NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL – JULY 2020 – The Importance Of Crying, The Dangers Of Hoping, My Worst Landing As A Pilot and More…

Hello lovely readers and welcome to my monthly newsletter. Included is a round up of what I’ve been writing and reading, plus some closing thoughts from this month. I hope you enjoy!


WHAT I’VE BEEN WRITING:

Why Crying Like A Little Girl Is The Manliest Thing You Can Do

This post challenges the narrative that only girls should cry and why we need to stop telling our young boys that men don’t. It goes further to talk about the harmful narratives partially responsible for the statistic that men are 3 to 4 times more likely to commit suicide than women, despite being nearly half as likely to develop depression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I hope you can join the debate and be part of the change in narrative we need.

How Parents Can Promote The Evolution Of Feminism Mindfully

This follows on from the above post. It gives a few of my thoughts about why we need to be careful with what we tell ALL our children and how we, as parents, can manage the evolution of feminism more mindfully. As I stated,

“There’s nothing wrong with challenging the narrative women are less capable than men which, of course, is complete BS, but to teach our girls the same things we’ve been teaching our boys is not a smart move.” 

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person

The following is a personal story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from. That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person. If anyone has suffered from depression, anxiety or PTSD, it also tells the story of how I overcame some of these personal struggles.

The Hopeless Nature Of Hoping

A rather one sided piece designed to challenge our perception of hope as an emotion. I believe that if hope doesn’t inspire action it can actually do more harm than good. Of course you have to take this one with a pinch of salt, but much of what I have to say is about challenging ideas and beliefs – not changing them. Even if I don’t completely agree with the argument, I still want to write ideas in such a way they start a dialogue/debate. I hope (ha) you enjoy.

The Secret Ingredient Missing From Every Conversation

Can you guess what that is? This post gives my thoughts on how one might better approach a conversation. This was actually my most popular post of the month. Hope you enjoy it too!

A C.L.E.A.R. Model For Problem Solving In Everyday Life

The CLEAR model is an easy-to-use, structured approach designed for problem solving on the flight deck of an aeroplane. Thought I’d share it with you lovely readers and apply it to problem solving – specifically dealing with depression and anxiety – in everyday life. Had a lot of fun writing this one.

If Honesty Isn’t The Value We Look For In Our Leaders Then What Does That Say About Us?

I’m not sure whether I want my blog to be overtly political or not, but with everything going on I decided to vent some frustrations. I mean for most of my words to come from the heart but this one is very much from the gut. I remember feeling angry as I wrote this and decided to go with it. I actually wrote it back in early June following the death of George Floyd but was hesitant to post it then. In the end I decided it’s that very awkwardness we all need to be confronting more regularly. At any rate, I think it brings up a very good point about the need to look for honesty in our leaders.

The Simplest, Most Effective Way To Overcome Writer’s Block

A fun little post to finish. This one’s a doozy. Hope you enjoy.

Motivational Mondays

My weekly newsletter designed to rewrite the narrative that Mondays are the most depressing day of the week and to get you in the mood for the week ahead. Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to in the week that have helped me grow. It finishes with 1 something silly to designed to make you lovely readers smile. The link above was this weeks post. Below are from the rest of the month. Enjoy!

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20


WHAT I’VE BEEN READING:

So I decided to purchase this e-course called Blogging Bootcamp from the genius behind The Art Of Blogging. To say this was money well spent is a massive understatement. If you want to further your blog, be a better writer and grow as an all round human being, Cristian’s blogging bootcamp has it all and then some. I highly recommend anyone remotely interested in being a better blogging to sign up. I promise you won’t regret it.


WHAT I’VE LEARNT:

Do you want to know why I’m so excited about the time we’re living in? Why I’m so optimistic? It’s because change is happening. Change that is necessary to ensure we don’t go back to what normal was because normal has stopped working. I believe we are about to embark on the great global revolution of our time.

COVID has been one almighty wakeup call but this is just the beginning. Look at how united and politically involved the younger generations are! The change that is coming is inevitable. It’s no longer a debate. We ALL need to change our ways and the way we think about each other. We need to stop thinking as individuals and start thinking as a collective.

As sure as shit one person can eat a bat in a wet market and bring the world to its knees, you best believe that every single thing you do matters. Every single moment, every single action you take has a ripple effect that extents far beyond your immediate self. We are more interconnected than ever before. This isn’t a bad thing provided we can see how hurting another ultimately hurts ourselves. Provided we can see how important and precious each moment on this earth is.

I believe we are nothing if not the people before us and we will be for nothing if we don’t fight for those who come after us. There’s still an almighty storm to weather but together I strongly believe we can get through it. If you don’t want to sink you need to be on the ship.

Thank you for reading guys and gals. As always I welcome ALL thoughts and opinions on this blog. I’m very interested in having my beliefs and thoughts challenged so I can grow as a person. If you want to stroke my ego I won’t object either of course… Love to all. X

Motivational Mondays – 27/07/20

Hello fine readers and welcome to my Motivational Mondays Post – a weekly newsletter that attempts to rewrite the narrative Mondays are the most depressing day of the week. (Or at least start it off in a slightly better fashion.)

Following a 4:3:2:1 approach, it contains 4 exceptional thoughts from me (ha), 3 admittedly better quotes from others, and 2 things I’ve been reading and/or listening to this week that have helped me grow

As always I’ve finished with 1 something silly to hopefully make you all smile. 

Love to all X

(To my lovely readers: If you have any suggestions, thoughts or ideas about today’s weekly post I’d love to hear from you in the comments at the bottom. Thank you all so much for reading.)


4 x Thoughts From Me:

Try not to simply think outside the box, but destroy it entirely. 

The need to be right is the ego equivalent of being on crack. It’s both extremely addictive and extremely damaging. 

Consider thinking less about making money and more about making friends. They can help you in a way that money can’t. How do you make the very best kind of friends? By helping others as a matter of course. 

Maybe we’ve got the order wrong. After school we tell our kids to go straight into university and then straight into a career. At which point so many of us wake up and realise we should have done something else entirely. What if, after school, we sent our children out into the real world so they can experience what it’s really like. To spend a few years getting by on minimum wage or doing volunteer work. To understand what it is to truly struggle. What if we gave them that sort of education first and then asked them what they want their life to be about?


3 x Quotes From Others:

“An eye for an eye will only make the world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi

“The important thing is not what we write but how we write, and in my opinion the modern writer must be an adventurer above all, willing to take every risk, and be prepared to founder in his effort if need be. In other words we must write dangerously.” – James Joyce

Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts, and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it.” – Søren Kierkegaard


2 x Things That Helped Me Grow

1 – This fascinating intelligence squared podcast episode –Sex Robots & Vegan Meat, with Jenny Kleeman and Carl Miller. In this episode award-winning journalist Jenny Kleeman discuses the unintended consequences future technologies might have for us in our quest to have the perfect sex, the perfect food, the perfect birth and the perfect death.

MY PERSONAL NOTES AND QUOTES:

  • Sex Robots – “One person’s bright future is another person’s dystopia.”
  • Abyss creations is a multi millions dollar business that makes hyper realistic silicone dolls to have sex with. The man behind it is now introducing animatronics to the dolls to make them as human as possible. Moving towards becoming a companion as much as just a sex robot. 
  • The implications? Claim to be doing this for the lonely – those who have no chance at a real relationship. On the flip side it’s those people who might really need real human contact. Will this really help them?
  • For me the much bigger problem is that people will be able to have relationships where only what they want matters. When you have this sort of relationship where only one side is ever satisfied – real relationships in the real world are going to feel a lot more like hard work. 
  • Vegan meat – “We shut our eyes when we open our mouth.”
  • We know animals often live horrible lives to become our meat. They cause cancer and heart disease. They are a massive contributor to green house gas emissions. Yet it’s still not enough to prevent most of us from eating it. However if we carry on like this we are going to cause our own extinction. Something has to give. 
  • 2 directions we can go. 1 is to eat less meat. The other is to eat the same amount of meat but in another way. 
  • Many tech giants are looking at the second option of growing meat in laboratories. This is different to plant based meats such as impossible burger or beyond meat. What they do is take a culture from a live animal without killing it and then replicate the cells to grow meat. 
  • It’s based on the premise that the ethical argument for eating meat has failed. (As it so often does). It’s better to tell people to eat certain kinds of meat that are better for the environment.
  • Birth – “It was far easier to find people to say on the record they would like to have sex with a robot than it was to find someone say they would like to gestate a baby in a bag.”
  • Using artificial wombs to gestate a baby. Referred to as ectogenesis. The motivation is to improve outcomes for premature babies whereby you can place them back into an artificial womb till they are ready to come out instead of trying to keep them alive in an incubator. 
  • The invention is called the bio bag. It’s like a zip lock bag which they fill with man made amniotic fluid and a cord that attaches to the umbilical cord to oxygenate blood and get rid of carbon dioxide (They had very successful results with lambs back in 2017).
  • The scarier implications are if governments start deciding whether a mother can be trusted to gestate her own baby. Although it could be looked at as a great equaliser. Both sexes just supply what’s needed and the women don’t have to suffer in their careers as a result. 
  • However I feel this “weakness” that we have is something that men unequivocally don’t have. To harbour and carry life. It’s also a source of strength. The essence of what it means to be a women. I think if we give this up it may actually be more beneficial to men than to women. Even in the most misogynistic societies women are respected for their ability to give life.
  • These inventions are going to exist either way. It is up to us as to whether we buy them or not. 
  • The question to ask is do we really need this technology or do we already have the answers?
  • I found it empowering to realise that we already have the power in our hands. It’s just that it’s going to be harder work than just buying for something. But isn’t that what will make us stronger? 

2 – This fantastic TEDxFolkestone Talk with Tim Box on the importance of having anxiety and how to stop feeling anxious about anxiety. “What would the world look like if no one had anxiety? The truth is that anxiety is a necessary emotion that helps steer us towards happiness. I would like to explore what a world without anxiety would look like, and why that isn’t necessarily a good thing. How there are only two types of people free from anxiety; psychopaths and the dead.” If you struggle with anxiety the following is well worth your time:


1 x Silly Thing To Make You Smile:

I’m struggling for a good story this week folks so instead I’m gonna leave you with the following meme that sums up my feelings about racism and prejudice.


Till next week…

Have a Happy Fucking Monday Everybody!

P.S. Don’t forget to exercise your silly muscle this week!

One bonus question for you all:

Is it better to live as a coward or die as a hero?


PREVIOUS MONDAY POSTS:

Motivational Mondays – 20/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 13/07/20

Motivational Mondays – 06/07/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 29/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 22/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 15/06/20

Happy F***ing Mondays – 08/06/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 25/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 18/05/20

Happy Silly Mondays – 11/05/20

How My Worst Landing As A Pilot Came To Define Me As A Person (Plus Some Advice On Dealing With Anxiety, Depression and PTSD)

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to land a commercial jet?

As you’ve travelled somewhere excitedly looking out of the passenger window and thought what the view is like from the front as you come into land?

Well I can tell you, on a good day, it’s truly exhilarating.

To safely bring one of those big birds back to earth. Gliding onto the tarmac with some 300 passengers behind you. It’s one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. 

On a bad day, however, it can be more of a poo-your-pants kinda feeling. Or, to put it another way, it can be shit scary!

The following is a story about a particularly bad day ‘at the office’ for me. A story of my most traumatic experience as a young pilot. One that took me some time to recover from.

That said, it is one I now look back on as a defining moment in my career. One that led me to seek the help I needed and shape me into the man I am today. I’m not only a better pilot because of it, I’m a better person.

Before I continue I want to first say, I don’t mean to scare anyone with the following account – especially those who might already have a fear of flying (maybe stop reading now if you do) – but only to talk openly and honestly about what was a fairly traumatic experience for me in the interest of raising awareness around PTSD.

I also want to talk about how I coped afterwards in the interest of helping others who might have suffered similarly and might be looking for some guidance. 

I hope you find this helpful.

Anyway, allow me to start with the story. Deep breathes everyone, here we go…

(I’m going to try to avoid using too much aviation jargon but will leave links attached for certain phrases in case any of you are unsure of the meaning)


The Story Of My Most Traumatic Experience As A Pilot

As we flew back to Hong Kong over the South China Sea I reflected on how the day had gone. I was pleased. We had flown to Kuala Lumpur without incident during which I managed a challenging approach followed by a decent landing. It was still early days during my Junior First Officer training and my landings had been less than consistent, so this was something of a relief for me. Still, I couldn’t help but doubt myself when thinking about our approach into Hong Kong. I tired to shake it off as we set up for the arrival.

I should say the idea of safely landing a passenger plane based on my skill alone was somewhat daunting for me at the time, especially given it was only my sixth sector ever as the pilot flying a jet (an Airbus A330 for any interested parties) with passengers aboard. I’d also spent the 3 years previous watching on as a Second Officer – without doing any hand flying except occasionally in the simulator – wondering if I was capable. Looking back I realise that I didn’t really believe it. What I’d done by constantly asking the question was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t. As so often comes up in the story about my past the big issue for me had nothing to do with capability, but self-belief.

The weather into Hong Kong was benign except for the wind that was coming from the south (which can mean the possibility of mechanical turbulence from the winds passing over the hills and buildings to the south of the runway, especially near the threshold of 25R – our arrival runway that day).

After briefing the arrival we started our descent. ATC told us to take up the hold while they dealt with the many arrivals typical that time of the day. I began to feel the butterflies build.

As we slowly descended in the hold, the Captain mentioned noticing how I was frequently wiping my hands on my trousers. He told me how Captains tend to notice these kinds of nervous ticks. I didn’t know what to say. I thought about how such a comment was suppose to help?! I knew I was nervous. I wasn’t trying to hide it. Anyway, was it not normal given I was still learning how to fly the damn thing?! I kept quiet and tried to focus on the task at hand.

When we finally joined final approach, my nerves worsened. I tired my best to ignore them but the butterflies were in overdrive. I began to wipe my increasingly sweaty hands with greater frequency – now acutely aware every time I did so! I told myself to breathe. We took the gear down followed by our final flaps. I then asked for the landing check list. Shortly afterwards we were cleared to land. 

It was crunch time. 

As I took the autopilot out, I felt the mechanical turbulence rock the plane. I tried my best to keep my scan going but had a habit of looking down at my PFD (Primary Flight Display) instead of outside. (As part of our scan we should be alternating between both, slowly increasing the amount of time looking outside as we get closer to the runway. Eventually you should be completely ‘heads up’ – only looking outside while the other pilot (the pilot monitoring) continues to monitor the instruments. I had a habit of fixating on the screen (PFD) a little too much instead of looking outside (Not uncommon for trainee pilots)).

When we passed over the threshold a positive wind change caused the aircraft to ballon slightly. At this stage I was looking up but had left it too late to get an adequate picture of what was going on. Instead of counteracting the ballooning effect by pushing the nose down, I did the opposite. In my nervous haste, with the runway growing bigger, I pitched the nose up, flaring way too early.

Then I froze. 

Everything within my field of vision seemed to fade away and all I could feel was an overwhelming sinking feeling. Like my whole being was collapsing in on itself at the pit of my stomach. 

I didn’t know what to do.

We floated and floated, for what felt like an eternity, well beyond our desired touchdown zone, as we hovered above the runway. 

The next thing I remember hearing was the captain announcing, “I have control.” He placed his hands on the thrust levers driving them fully forward to select maximum (TOGA) thrust. It took a while for the jet engines to spool up before we got the proverbial ‘kick up the ass’ and climbed away. When we eventually did the captain then announced, “Go-around, flaps.” 

The rest is a blur. 

I remember cleaning up the aircraft – retracting the flaps and gear as per our standard operating procedures during a go-around (an aborted approach to landing) – but little else except for how I felt. 

What it felt like was the whole world had fallen apart. That my worst fears had been confirmed – that I wasn’t capable and didn’t belong in an aeroplane, let alone one with 300 passengers – and that my lack of ability was responsible for nearly having an accident. (To give you an idea of the dramatisation going on inside my head – the Training Captain was always in control of the situation.)

To reassure you lovely readers, while It is rare for a go-around to happen because of a botched landing, it does happen. It’s nothing to be alarmed about. It would be more alarming had we tired to continue with the landing. To explain, for those who don’t know, a go-around (an aborted approach) is a standard and very safe option available to us at any time during the approach should we elect discontinuing to be the safest course of action. In this case, as we had floated so far down the runway, flying away instead of landing and trying to stop on the limited amount of runway length left available was the safest option. (That didn’t stop it from shattering my ego of course.) I would also stress that this was during my training. Like any skill it takes a while to get the hang of it. Flying is no different. It’s also not uncommon for Training Captains to take control or help via a dual input (the Captain acts on the controls from his seat on the lefthand side of the cockpit at the same time as the pilot flying in the righthand seat does) when teaching inexperienced pilots to fly on a new aircraft type.

As we flew back around for a second approach, the captain asked if I was ok. I shook it off as best I could given the circumstances and declared confidently that I was. I can tell you now, I was not!

The second approach to landing happened quickly as ATC gave us priority to join final approach. I don’t remember much else except for the landing that was long as once again I flared too early. This time the Captain helped to bring the plane down safely by adding a dual input before we plonked onto the runway. A graceful landing, it was not!

As we taxied off the runway and to our parking bay I felt like the smallest person in the world.

The debrief afterwards was hard to take. The Captain tried his best to reassure me and get me to see the bigger picture – what a valuable learning experience this was, etc. – but all I wanted to do was go into hiding. To runaway, crawl under a rock and never come back out.

When I made my way from work on the train home, I remember reliving it over and over again in my head. I kept wondering what the hell had happened? How had it come to this? I couldn’t make sense of it. My initial base training (where trainees fly circuits at a remote airfield without passengers boarded before flying commercially) had gone so well. I had felt so confident but now it felt like I’d fallen into the abyss. I knew it was going to take everything to climb back up. It was everything I didn’t believe I had. .


Dealing With The Aftermath And How I Eventually Overcame My Inner Demons

That evening I’d made plans to have dinner with my parents. When I arrived at their apartment I explained to them what had happened. I didn’t realise at the time just how important it was to simply talk. How getting those words out in the open immediately lessened the power they’d had over me, trapped inside my head. Had I gone home that evening my natural inclination would have been to lock myself away. I know this would have definitely made things worse.

One big problem I’ve always had is talking openly about my problems. Instead my defence has long been to withdraw inward – something I picked up from years of being bullied as an adolescent.

Instead my parents were there to pick me up when I needed it most. They helped me to see how it was something from which I would learn and grow. Something for which I would one day look back on be truly grateful. It was difficult to see at the time but they were, of course, right.

It’s for this reason I strongly believe having people in your life that you can talk to openly and honestly is something we all need.

Still this was only the beginning of a long road to recovery for me. To give you a little more background, my problems extended well beyond the event itself. I had deeper issues to do with low self esteem yet to work through – inner demons that undoubtedly contributed to what happened that day. Although I did eventually seek the help I needed, it took a long time to find the courage to do so. I dreaded going to work. I worried incessantly during my spare time. When I was at work I became especially nervous about performing landings. I remember feeling my heart beat so hard I thought it was going to come out of my chest! I regularly thought about throwing in the towel and giving up. Yet I didn’t. I kept going, against all the will in my being, something inside me wasn’t prepared to let this event define me like that. That this time I wouldn’t let it end in failure.

(Again I want to reassure you lovely readers that I did seek help for PTSD following what happened – however the help I’m referring to above relates to the larger issues I had with both anxiety and depression that long preceded this event. In both cases when I did seek professional help, it was never their opinion that I needed any form medication or that I was a danger to myself or others or that I should stop flying. Had they thought so, they had the power to ground me. Before you jump on my back for continuing to fly despite suffered from mental illness, I want you to know I never believed my issues were so bad I couldn’t perform my duties. I’m confiding in you all now partly because I believe there is still a very unhealthy stigma surrounding mental illness – especially in aviation – where such topics are still strictly taboo despite the crucial need to talk about them!)

Ultimately it was getting back in the seat and facing my demons head on that allowed me to overcome them.

I managed to overcome my fears by proving to myself I was more than capable. Little by little, flight by flight, landing by landing, the anxiety that gripped my heart began to loosen. I went on to complete my Junior First Officer training and then First Officer upgrade the first time of asking and to a very good standard, with no other hiccups along the way. Following that I flew for years around the region with so much exposure that landing the plane became second nature.

Still, there was a feeling that wouldn’t go away. A feeling that continued to plague me. A feeling that I knew if I didn’t face, it would continue to plague me for the rest of my life. I put it off, out of fear, for as long as I could. Eventually I couldn’t take it any longer. I reached out and finally got the help I knew in my heart I’d needed all along.

When I did everything changed for me. I can honestly say I don’t suffer from depression or PTSD anymore. I’m still working through some issues regarding anxiety but even that has lost its hold over me.

It’s for this reason I will always be a voice for encouraging others, especially for anyone who is reading and has suffered from any sort of trauma or mental illness, to ask for the help they need.

I can tell you from experience that that later you leave it the harder it is to solve.

That said, it’s never too late to get the help you need. Never. And solve it you can.

I really hope I can inspire others who may have difficulty getting the help they need, to find the courage to do so. To come out and talk about their problems openly and to know that there is no shame in this whatsoever. Whether talking to a professional, friends and family or simply leaving a comment here – we all need to be having far more of these awkward discussions. We are all human and part of being human is to know we can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger and together we can help one another change. However difficult the road might be for you, please know that change is always possible. It starts with talking.


Fly The Aircraft To The Ground” – Some Closing Thoughts

The day after the landing that wasn’t, I remember getting a call from work. Another senior Captain called to ask how I was and discuss a recurring problem he’d noticed when teaching Junior First Officers to fly. He said he’d noticed how many of them stopped flying after the flare. If you can nail the flare exactly this isn’t such a big issue, but if you flare early, or wind conditions cause you to land long, he’d noticed a tendency to let go even if the aircraft hadn’t landed yet. He said “you have to fly the aircraft to the ground.” 

I never forgot that advice. Not only because it was a very practical tip that summed up exactly what I hadn’t done. But it resonated with me on a deeper level.

You have to fly the aircraft to the ground.

Don’t think because you’re on final approach you can relax. Don’t think because you’re almost home you can let your guard down. You have to keep flying. You have to keep going. Keep taking responsibility for your life and your problems. Life isn’t just one big problem to solve and then you’re set. It’s a series of never ending problems for which you have to take responsibility right till the end. You have strive to stay in control. You have to believe you can deal with it. Should you get it wrong, then you need to let go of you ego and go around.

You can always go around if you don’t get it right.

There is no shame in this. Don’t be afraid to go around and try again. But try again you must. It’s up to all of us to manage our own journeys in life and to make sure we come home safely. I, for one, have ever faith that you can.


For Additional Information regarding PTSD please follow the links below:

https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/about-ptsd/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/post-traumatic-stress-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355967

Other Sources:

https://www.psycom.net/aerophobia-fear-of-flying/

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://www.airbus.com/aircraft/passenger-aircraft/a330-family.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_simulator

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_officer_(aviation)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Turbulence

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runway

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Holding_Pattern

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_approach_(aeronautics)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Primary_Flight_Display_(PFD)

https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Pilot_Flying_(PF)and_Pilot_Monitoring(PM)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takeoff/Go-around_switch

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Go-around

https://captainong.com/what-is-base-training-base-check-line-training-and-line-ch/