John (Rainford) has mentored hundreds of individuals and businesses and helped them to succeed. He does it by releasing peoples ‘inner leadership.’
Often this is closed off for most people who don’t realise their own potential for success and how to access this inner leadership and freedom.
Inner leadership is the person in you that you have either ignored because of your upbringing or it lies dormant waiting to surface and you haven’t realised it. Many entrepreneurs have woken up to their own potential and realised that they have choices they didn’t think that they had.
My definition of happiness, I tell my students is having choices. Having no choices is the definition of unhappiness.
I am amazed today that more and more youngsters feel they have little choice but to do as they are told because its in their best interest. Whenever they challenge these protocols or rules they are shouted down and told to behave normally like everyone else. The falsehood with this analogy is that no one person is the same as anyone else. We are all unique we are told, but we need to conform and be like everyone else. Breaking out of this cycle of conformity can be difficult, but if we want to have choices in life, we need to challenge these assumptions that we inherit from the condition that society places up on us. This does not mean we can wreck institutions or people that don’t agree with us, rather it can free us to be ourselves once we realise whats actually going on with ourselves and with other people.
So what is going on?
The reality is that we are all brainwashed into thinking we have no choices, everyone we speak to, parents, friends, teachers, acquaintances, people in the street. Am I advocating rebellion? No, I am advocating ‘wake up’ and smell the coffee, figure out what is going on.
No this isn’t conspiracy theory, but it is like the Matrix (in the film) where we are all in a very structured society. This is not bad, if you don’t mind being asleep, but it can lead to misery, self doubt and low self esteem. Like, “no matter how hard I try – no matter what I do I cannot seem to make great choices.” And yet, we do all have that capacity for self realisation, waking up, and self actualisation. Self actualisation means – being the very best you can be.
We can start to wake up by saying No, to every request that is presented to us. Our friend asks us to do something or go somewhere, we automatically say YES. Our automatic responses are our worst enemy and controls the way we think and act and it is a sure way to remain asleep and some would say depressed.
I will demonstrate what I mean, try something for me. Fold your arms.
Now fold them the other way.
Ask your self what just happened?
If you didn’t know it, you have just broken your automatic reactions.
When you get into a shower you will always get in the same way. Everything for you is automatic. Yes I will do that favour for you. We often agree to things before we are asked to do anything.
To be awake you need to realise that we are all automatons. We just do what everyone expects everyday, without even questioning why we are doing things, this way or that.
I remember that when I voted in an election I always voted in a certain way, because my father had always voted in the same way. I never questioned what I was doing I was doing it all unconsciously, without giving it a second thought. Now, because I am awake, I question my choices. Am I doing the right thing?
Now it comes back to the beginning, we don’t have a diagnosis – we just make assumptions. This is not a good way to live, being on automatic pilot means all of your prejudices and bad habits are controlling you.
The worse thing that can happen to you is lack of control and it is the seat of unhappiness. If people are telling what to do all the time, and what to think, you will never be happy – because you are acting out your life according to other peoples expectations and wishes of what you should do with your life, instead of making choices for yourself.
Having no choices means you are being controlled and if you go along with it all the time, you are going to be unhappy.
Happiness is having choices and being in control of your own destiny.
Wake up and you can be truly happy.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
The Unseen World is a world that is hidden from many of us. It’s in plain sight
but we cannot see it. It’s like something that is in front of us but we never
noticed it before. Like, we look in a mirror and we notice something that has
always been there – but we sometimes need to take a second look.
You know the expression that people see the world through rose tinted
glasses or dark glasses? What you need to remember is that we have a
choice, even though we think we haven’t – as you will see – we do.
The Darwin Matrix process provides powerful insights into how we might be
happy as human beings. This is not a religious process, but a spiritual one. It is
designed to help people of all ages overcome anxiety, depression, suicidal
thoughts and feelings of despair. It is entirely free and is recorded and promoted
as a leadership and well being process, that builds in resilience. It has been
adapted from best practice at the worlds top Universities and learning
organisations. see awarenessproject.co.uk
Bad things happen, and we may suffer, but suffering or the degree of
suffering is choice not a destination.
This implies that our past experiences may have created who we are today,
but we don’t need to hang on to the past. This is perhaps easier said that
done, but it can be done. We can change the way we think.
A dear friend of mine confessed that she had been sexually molested by a
priest when she was very young. I wasn’t probing into her private life – she
just felt she could trust me. Though the experience was a bad one and it had
affected her deeply the real issue was that she felt was that it affected her
ability to have relationships – but she didn’t know how. The obvious immediate
reaction you could understand – was that she didn’t trust men for a long time.
She also believed that her first choice in marriage was a bad one, in that she
had sought a relationship which compounded her feelings of insecurity rather
than released her. He was abusive and what made the situation a lot worse
was that he abused her daughter. They are no longer married.
The reason I mention this episode was that it illustrates a keen point – that we
are indeed a product of our past experience – but we do not need to be
possessed or controlled by those bad experiences. If we allow these bad
experiences to dictate how we behave and make choices then we are at the
mercy of those events. This is a choice. You may say that in the whirlwind of
the traumas she experienced that she wasn’t in a position to make choices
and there is some truth in that. However, if she understand what is going on
around her – she might realise that she always had a choice but felt she
didn’t. The priest would have used his influence of trust to abuse her. As a
young girl she would be encouraged to be in a world where saying “Yes” to
please someone is the norm.
This is an important starting point on our journey of self realisation. Learning
how to say “No” –
No is the most powerful word in the English language. It is also where respect
begins. My own children were always encouraged to say No – not as a defiant
stance, rather as a means of giving them the right to have a choice. All of my
children have this right, even today and they all are grown up.
You may disagree with this approach – but actually, it does not incur
disrespect – but exactly the opposite. As a means of building self-esteem the
ability to choose has always been an empowering aspect of personal
development. It’s when we don’t think we have a choice that things can come
off the rails.
Can we change the way we think? Why would be want to?
In the case of my dear friend if she had more choices and could have said
No, certainly with her marriage choice, you could argue that she may have
been better prepared to make choices that created less problems in her life.
The relationship with her daughter was deeply affected as you might imagine.
Wouldn’t it have been better if she knew that she had choices in the first place
– rather than going with the ‘yes’ flow?
Neuroscience research has proved that the brain has plasticity – in that it can
change the way it thinks. New programmes can be created including new
ways of thinking – this is an exciting revelation that we will come back to later.
First of all let’s examine something fundamental with our brains.
The brain is a purely predictive device. Anxiety kicks in when things happen
that we have no control over (or we may think we have no control).
We cross the road, it is empty, we feel safe to cross. We cross, we are not
anxious. All good. When we are children we develop according to the whim of
our parents who are the guardians of our safety. We trust them implicitly to
keep us safe. In the real world they might make mistakes, but we still trust
them. We don’t question their authority. I remember a time when I nearly
choked on a fatty piece of bacon – although it was traumatic and I nearly died
my father insisted that I eat the fatty bacon a second time. To this day I
cannot eat fatty bacon without throwing up. My brain predicts that this can
cause my death so – it acts to protect me. We are all subject to these primeval
urges of self protection and prediction, that is what helps us to avoid
situations where we might feel threatened. On the other hand – when things
get complex and are traumatic, the brain can play tricks on us – we can be
drawn into those situations.
One can seek anxiety in the world even though one may fear it. This may go
against the accepted wisdom of the psychiatrists and doctors, but how then
can we explain people accepting back or even wanting or gravitating to
The brain is indeed a complicated beast and my contention is that by
understanding why we behave the way we do – is the way we can release
ourselves from the constraints of our own thinking. We are in effect in a
prison of our own making, and it is only by understanding that fact – that we
can free ourselves from our own internal baggage. The baggage that wears
us down and plants doubts in our minds and makes us impotent – we cannot
move forward and we cannot move backwards. It’s only by knowing where we
are and peering into a future that we can predict that we can have some
measure of happiness.
Anxiety then is caused by not being able to predict the outcome, worse still is
anticipating a danger – that our brain wants us to avoid.
However, as real as the anxiety or fear may be – if we can find the key to
unlocking that fear – why wouldn’t we use it?
We all know about causality – that one thing can cause another right?
However think for a moment – maybe there is a different truth we should
explore? What if the trauma (which exists in the past) controls our future?
Surely we may be affected by it – but we can control its influence if we so
wish, otherwise we are always at the mercy of what life throws at us! Again,
this is a choice, not a destination.
Nothing is determined by abuse or trauma, only our interpretation of what it
may mean to us. I am reminded of Kelda Wood, a great woman athlete who
had an accident that crippled her chances of horse-riding in the olympics – did
her world collapse? She chose not to have the path of being a victim of
circumstances, she chose instead to be an athlete in rowing. When she just
failed to qualify, she set up a charity to help other young people who had
suffered similar disappointments – and rowed the Atlantic to raise money for
her charity. Sometimes the negative experiences when interpreted in a
positive way can give our lives meaning.
Automatic response, is the first level of conscious awareness that we need to
understand and in some cases overcome.
Anger – what is it.
An emotional outburst based on an automatic response, Someone cuts us up
at a roundabout. A bad driver nearly hits us. Maybe someone just stood on
your foot? Whatever it may be, our first reaction may be one of anger, to
somehow hit back. If we are at the mercy of an automatic emotional response
then we cannot hope to control the forces that exert themselves upon us. If
we were a small sailing ship in an ocean of waves, we would just be bobbing
around. We would quite literally be at the mercy of waves, the weather and
and the winds.
What if we could resist the urge to hit back? what if we could control our
automatic feedback? Are not these responses the stuff of leaders?
If someone at a roundabout upsets us and we still angry 3 hours later and we
started quarrelling with our loved ones, you may well ask who is in control??
You – or the person who cut you up at the roundabout?
This is what I mean by an automatic response. Instinctively, your heart might
pound at the time, your face may grow the colour of crimson. However, with
some physiological input you might control these automatic responses.
Fold your arms for a moment, then unfold them. Now fold them again but with
the other arm on top. Something strange has just happened. You have just
undone your automatic response. You have overridden your programming,
just for a moment. Habits and programming are built up over many years –
and we can choose (if we so wish) to undo them. So it is the same with
plasticity in the mind – we can choose to override the programme, indeed we
can override the negative thoughts if we so wish it. How you may ask??
Well, there is an exciting process called EMDR which is an abbreviation for
Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprocessing. It’s a method that has been
hailed a breakthrough in trauma the world over. It began in the United States
by a therapist named Shapiro. She noticed after a recent upset, that when
she walked in the park, she had a habit of looking right to left, then left to
right. The eye movement she noticed after a few minutes reduced her trauma
and her feelings of unease.
Something in the brain was able to process in a good way the feelings of
trauma, she just had to focus on the upset. Subsequently she found that any
stimulation right to left, whether it was a vibration or a sound would trigger
similar processing that would alleviate the trauma. The key is to focus on the
trauma. Floods of tears are followed by an enormous sense of relief. Rape
victims have particularly found this helpful. This is well documented.
Similar to EMDR is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). The idea is to
focus on the block or upset and to tap on the temples and other key areas of
the face such as just below the eyes on the cheek bones. The point here is
that the Health community resisted EMDR for many years. Then enterprising
bosses in the Health profession decided they could make money out of it, so
they legislated to make it difficult for anyone to access these techniques. The
technology consisted of a light bar about 3 foot long containing LEDs that
moved from left to right. Fortunately it is used more and more by cognitive
therapists and the like, though with anything new it is still resisted despite its
A word about tone of voice.
One can always tell when someone is angry, but what if we could control that
anger and speak in a calm voice? If we have the control – we would like to
have – we could raise our voice like an actor does. Perhaps to create an
effect. Likewise when we speak to a loved one, we will use soft tones. If we
thought about how we speak and adjusted the way we speak – we would be
exercising powerful physiological control which calms ourselves and even our
Why do emotions play such an important part in our evolution? We know
through brain scans that the amygdala region lights up when we are
emotionally aroused, but it is also true that many other parts of our brain are
ignited. Neuroscience helps us to understand that with 300 billion neurons
representing many more billions of options at our disposal – the brain is a
complex predictive organism. Neuroscientists believe that these emotional
states spring up when we feel threatened or aroused, they lay down paths
which are not literal or visual but work in a more intrinsic way to co-ordinate
our thinking so that our standing, stature or wellbeing is maintained. Status is
an important element in our emotional and social states, so that whatever is
decided at a subconscious level is supporting our social and survival status.
Neuro-plasticity is one aspect that we should all take comfort from, it means
we can reform our pathways in our subconscious. Neuro-genetics, an equally
younger science, however, means we can create new neurons – which is a
much more exciting possibility. Simply it means, we are capable of almost
anything and we don’t have to accept our past experiences as being the total
measure of our accomplishments or limitations.
Take for example, depression or symptoms of anxiety – we do not have to
accept them as inevitable consequences of previous trauma. They are not
hard wired, but soft wired and we can override these pathways. This does not
mean to say it is an easy task, but with co-ordinated efforts which can be as
abstract as listening to music, drawing or dancing, it is possible. As part of a
reprogramming exercise connected to the apparent blocks, we can alleviate
these symptoms. Bearing in mind they can re-appear as neural pathways if
the triggers are sufficiently strong enough to manifest themselves, again.
This is where the transferring of neuron information to both sides of the brain
can assist greatly in the brain self healing (EMDR and EFT).
How do we find these new neural pathways??
If we imagined that once we smoked cigarettes (I did) – we find that there are
certain triggers that induce ‘lighting up’ – such as coffee? In my case I would
wind down my car window in readiness for lighting up. Unfortunately the
trigger still worked for a while, I am conscious that it used to trigger this
response. So – if you managed to override this response, by replacing signals
(triggers) with others, then you will have the basic understanding of what
plasticity of the mind can achieve. Rather amusingly, I used to have in my car
sticks of celery and every time i wound the window down – i would put some
celery in my mouth. This was most amusing to police officers who pulled up
alongside me at traffic lights and stared – to witness me chewing a large
protrusion from my mouth.
Emotions are stronger than any rational behaviour and they are deep seated –
so the best you can do – is to encourage a new emotional or motivational
response. In the case of smoking I felt a duty to not hurt my unborn child. This
is a powerful motivation – and this is where you can plough new pathways –
because the emotional desire is there. These motivations – provided they are
powerful and not whimsical like, i gave up smoking because it made me smell
– are enough to help you to want to trigger new pathways. In the case of
depression, a strong urge to view the consequences, for example that you
may not be able to help others overcome their fears is a good motive.
One of the most powerful inducements to overcome anxiety is the feeling that
you may transfer some of your anxiety on to your children. or a loved one. In
psychology it is called transference. Many people who have suffered traumas
in their lives have a strong psychological motivation to help others in a similar
predicament – simply because it works as therapy for the individuals who take
that step. Like a samaritan may help another and become a samaritan
because they were in turn helped by a good person. In a general sense this
allows for the collective conscious to play a role in shaping our society.
So, we know the basis on which we might use plasticity of the mind to forge
new pathways. However, in order to do this – one has to take the red pill (as in
the film – the Matrix) – you cannot make a new path if you don’t know where
you are now and where you are headed. Whilst it is useful to cling on to the
past (for comfort) – this is a falsehood that can seriously damage your ability
to find your true self. – This is not a movement towards ‘change’ itself – rather
it is evolution and the growth of your own mind.
For that to happen you have to take a second look in a mirror, not at the face
staring back, but you need to look into your own mind, and reflect on who you
really are, what are your values, what makes you unique in this world. If
arrogance stairs back, or hostility or complacency, then you may be in
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Finding you true path in life may invoke change, but it is wisdom itself that
you will acquire. Wisdom about your self. First we must take baby steps – be
willing to grow outside your comfort zone. Moving away from fear to a new
type of discomfort (not too threatening) – so you don’t have to jump out of an
aeroplane to experience a new sense of accomplishment. It could be as
simple as taking a course of learning to play a new instrument. Meditation is a
powerful way to re-align your thoughts and adopt new ones. You are in effect
asking you inner mind for help, and – provided you are not on drugs – your
mind will help you. Maybe one of your ambitions is to reduce your
dependency on drugs, this is fine too. You just need to give your brain
permission to solve these issues.
All conscious decisions emanate from the subconscious, that is your real
asset and source of power. It’s there to help you, not hinder you. You need to
work with your benevolent brain – not fight it. I don’t mean – go with the flow. I
mean listen to the silence of your thoughts and allow them to work with you.
You are not meant to be unhappy, it’s a choice, and you always have a
choice, you need to find that wisdom to open up your mind, and take charge
of your life.
We are here to learn and grow and find ourselves – that is our meaning, and
to help others to find their own path, without fear. There are many other paths
that you will have to find on your journey, paths that are healing and
benevolent. You just have to take the first step.
The Matrix described at the beginning is a mind map, it has six pathways to
self – actualisation. You first task is to discover things about yourself and what
you are thinking and then later we will ask some questions…
Anxiety is a normal state of mind when we cannot predict (or feel we cannot
predict) outcomes. Anxiety is based on our survival instincts. Cortisol is
released and this is meant to prepare us for action. The trainer (above)
represents the conscious mind, usually the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala
(the emotional part of your brain is represented by the elephant). However
much our conscious brain tries to control our emotions, the emotions play a
greater role in how we might respond. For example, if there is some
perception of danger like a lion in the vicinity then the amygdala will take
control. It is only by understanding our own motivations that we can learn to
control our automatic responses, no matter how good intentioned they may
be. We still have the emotional responses of a 2 million year old brain with no
upgrade to hand, so have to relearn how to manage our physiology, the way
we think and the parts of the brain that control us, if we are going have any
measure of calm, success or happiness.
Within all of us – there is a great and aspiring leader within. You will believe
this absolutely when you reach your own self actualisation.
SELF HELP FOR DEPRESSION
Depression can happen to anyone – and does happen to one in four of us over our lifetimes. Different factors that make it more likely to happen, include biological make-up, upbringing, or reaction to life events. What keeps it going though, is how we deal with those things. The way we think and what we do affects the way we feel. Depression is often accompanied by other feelings such as guilt, shame, anger and anxiety.
People who are depressed tend to think very negatively about themselves, the future and the world around them. It can be like seeing life through “gloomy specs“.
Everything is hopeless – nothing can change
I’m useless, worthless
It’s all my fault
The world is a terrible place – everything goes wrong
We can dwell on these thoughts repeatedly, mulling over things, asking ourselves why, thinking regretful things about the past, what we should or shouldn’t have done.
“When the past calls, let it go to voicemail – it has nothing new to say.”
Tiredness, fatigue, lethargy
Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Sleep changes (sleep more or less)
Eating changes (eat more or less)
Lose interest in hobbies, activities, sex
Because of the tiredness, difficulty sleeping and eating, and negative style of thinking, we tend to do less and less. We stop doing the things we used to do and enjoy. It could get so bad that we can`t even go to work, or do things at home. We want to stay in bed, or stay at home doing very little. We might isolate ourselves from friends and family.
Vicious Cycle of Depression
Vicious Cogs of Depression
By looking at the “cogs” that keep the central problem going, we can target and make positive changes in each of the cogs, which will at least, slow down, and at best, stop, the central problem, for example:
Print a blank Cogs PDF and fill in the factors that keep your depression going.
Depression Self Help VIDEO
BREAKING THE CYCLE
Activity & Physical Exercise
When we’re depressed, we can feel particularly tired and lack any motivation to do anything. Just increasing our activity and exercise levels can make an enormous impact on our mood as it stimulates the body to produce natural anti-depressants. Just increasing our activity and exercise levels can make an enormous impact on our mood by:
- Making us feel better about ourselves
- Making us feel less tired
- Motivating us to do more
- Improving our ability to think more clearly
- Helping us think about something other than focussing on our unhelpful thoughts
- Using up the adrenaline resources created by anxiety and anger
- Increasing motivation
- Giving us a sense of achievement
- Being with other people
- Stimulating the body to produce natural anti-depressants
- Making us generally more healthy
- Stimulating our appetite
Schedule ACE activities each day which give you a sense of:
- Closeness to others
ACE Activity – video
It’s important to get a healthy balance of activities which give you a sense of achievement, enjoyment and being close to others. Choose activities which are important to you, have positive meanings, or are purposeful, and you might want to plan rest periods too.
Keep your goals realistic and set achievable limits. Eg aim to walk for 15 minutes rather than a half-marathon, or wash the dishes rather than spring clean the whole house. Don`t set yourself up to fail! You can build up your activity over time.
If you struggle with motivation….use the 5 minute rule. Commit to do the activity for just 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, you can choose to stop or continue (and you might find that you want to continue)
See NHS Exercise Videos here
When you’re doing well, or remembering to pace yourself, doing more of what helps, or doing less of what doesn’t – give yourself a treat, a pat on the back.
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
If lack of activity and tiredness is helping to maintain our negative thinking, and therefore keeping us depressed, then doing more (in spite of feeling tired and depressed) will help us feel better.
Do something different (to what you normally do)
- Mindfulness – learn Mindful Breathing
- Focus your attention fully on another activity – Mindful activity
- Relaxation techniques – try lots and find one that works for you
- Put on some music – sing and dance along, or just listen attentively (use music that is likely to help you feel your desired emotion – avoid sad songs if you`re depressed)
- Meditation or Prayer
- Help others
- Be with others – contact a friend, visit family
- Talk to someone
- Grounding techniques – look around you, what do you see, hear, smell, sense? Hold a comforting object.
- Physical exercise – walk, swim, go to the gym, cycle
- Nature as Therapy
- Engage in a hobby or other interest – if you don`t have one, find one! What have you enjoyed in the past? What have you sometimes thought about doing but not got around to?
- Recharge your battery and plan more energising activities – do more of those things that help you feel better (see video below)
- Write down your thoughts and feelings – get them out of your head. Just write, or use a thought record sheet.
- Just take one step at a time – don`t plan too far ahead
- Pamper yourself – do something you really enjoy, or do something relaxing
- Positive self-talk – encourage yourself, tell yourself: I can do this, I am strong and capable – find an affirmation that works for you (even if you don`t believe it at first!). Write it down and memorise it for when you need it.
- Do something creative – make a box of items that remind you to use the techniques that help, or put photos on paper, or write and decorate a list
- Consider using a Light Box– particularly with Seasonal Affective Disorder (Depression due to lack of natural light, e.g. every winter, although some people experience SAD at other times)
- Use Safe Place Imagery
- Colour breathing
- Tell yourself: “This will pass, it`s only temporary”. “I`ve got through this before, I can do it now”. When we`re going through a tunnel and become fearful of being trapped, there`s no point in stopping – we just have to carry on in order to reach the end of the tunnel. That light is there, and waiting!
- Notice the positives – write down or record 3 positive things every day.
Visualise yourself enjoying doing the things you used to enjoy doing, or would like to enjoy doing, and successfully doing the things you need to do.
The Battery: LIFT vs DROP activities
STOPP! Pause, take a breath
- What am I reacting to? What have I been thinking about here?
- Am I getting things out of proportion?
- Is this fact or opinion?
- How important is this really? How important will it be in 6 months time?
- Am I expecting something from this person or situation that is unrealistic?
- What is the worst (and best) that could happen? What is most likely to happen?
- Am I using that negative filter? Those gloomy specs? Is there another way of looking at it?
- What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?
- Am I spending time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future? What could I do right now that would help me feel better?
- When I think back to that time I made such a bad decision, could I be looking at it with a hindsight bias?
- Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic?
- Am I jumping to conclusions about what this person meant? Am I (mis)reading between the lines? Is it possible that they meant something else?
- What do I want or need from this person or situation? What do they want or need from me? Is there a compromise?
- Am I just focusing on the worst possible thing that could happen? What would be more realistic?
- Is there another way of looking at this? The helicopter view
- Am I exaggerating the good aspects of others, and putting myself down? Or am I exaggerating the negative and minimising the positives? How would someone else see it? What`s the bigger picture?
- Notice the positives
- Things aren`t either totally white or totally black, there are always shades of grey. Where is this on the spectrum?
- This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it`s not actually happening again right now.
- What would be the consequences of doing what I normally do?
- Is there another way of dealing with this? What would be the most helpful and effective action to take? (for me, for the situation, for the other person)
- Challenge your automatic thoughts