Posts Tagged ‘compassionate mind’

Why I left the NHS and why I don’t want to become a midwife

May 26, 2015

I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, ever.  Until I read the chapter by Robin Youngson in “Roar behind the silence”.  And I’ve had an epiphany.  His honesty about the kind of anaesthetist that he was before he embraced compassion, and the kind of anaesthetist that he is now, his ability to face his shame and his demons, has helped me to do the same.  Thank-you Robin.  Thank-you so much.

When I am honest about the kind of psychologist I was before I left the NHS, and face my shame and my demons, I understand a little better, what went wrong.  I have never liked being a psychologist.  I have always grappled with why I don’t like being a psychologist.

I don’t want to be a midwife because I don’t want to work in an institution that can medicalise, depersonalise, and reduce women to bodies that need to have a finger put inside their vagina regularly to check whether they are “failing” or not.  I do not have the resilience, and I do not have the people skills, to go in and help in the tide of change – that tide of incredible midwives, doctors, lawyers, doulas and so on, fighting the system and building, piece by piece, a better maternity system. Thank-you to those amazing people.

I am clear about why I don’t want to be a midwife.  I don’t want to take on the system. I don’t want to have to witness it any more that I have to as a doula.

But I have never been clear about why I don’t want to be a practicing psychologist. I have never understood this struggle within me, this reluctance to sit in front of some-one in distress and try to help them.  I remember, 23 years ago, in my first year of Clinical Psychology training, sitting in front of my mentor, the lovely Professor Gilbert, telling him that “I’ve made a mistake. I don’t want to do this job after all”.  We didn’t understand my reticence.  I stuck at it. But I spent the next 13 years not enjoying my work.  Then, I left the NHS and began to apply my psychology to a different arena – that of “normal” people, people who are not in distress looking for me to solve the problems for them.  I began, finally, to enjoy my work. Why?

I have just read a chapter by the inspiring Robin Youngson in the amazing book “Roar behind the Silence” and all is clear. I’ve literally had an epiphany, and I’m sitting here, very excited, and very moved.  Waves of relief and emotion are washing over me.  I’m trying to formalise it and understand it as I write.

And I’ve realised that there is so much wrong with the way that I was trained in clinical psychology.  I couldn’t understand what was wrong, I couldn’t see what was wrong, and so I couldn’t address it.  I just felt uncomfortable the whole time.   And it seems so obvious to me now.  I was taught to be clinically detached.  I was part of a system that differentiated between “them” and “us”.  This suited me, because I am not particularly good at being warm and open when I first meet some-one.  And yet, it didn’t suit me, because I never enjoyed my job.  I always felt the responsibility of being the “expert” in an arena where I knew deep down that the person was the expert, and the problem was society.  How could I sit in front of some-one who was distressed, and pretend that they were struggling because of some fault in their thinking style?  Or try to help them in a little bubble of a therapy room, when I knew that it was their family, or their society that was crazy?

I remember the discomfort when I had to reject a lovely present that a client with Down’s Syndrome had given me. (I had been told never to accept presents, so I didn’t).  I remember not even questioning, during preparation for my interviews for a place as a trainee, why I was advised never to say that I “want to help people”.   I remember hiding all traces of my personal life, and not divulging anything during therapy because I was taught that that would spoil the transference (or something like that).

So, I left the NHS, which felt a little like severing an umbilical cord.  People envied me, and told me I was brave.  The change in me was very quick.  I began to free myself up to be warm, friendly, open and honest as a person. I no longer needed to be “clinically detached”.  I began to enjoy my job. Yippee. I could accept gifts.  I could have a laugh with people, chat to them about me, tell them it was okay to phone me before the next session, and so on.  Of course, I could have done all those things before I left the NHS, and all the good therapists that I know did it right from the start.  Just like all the good midwives don’t necessarily stick to the rule book, and they might get reprimanded for the times when their compassion got in the way of their diligent note taking.  The NHS is working on increasing compassion as one of the 6 C’s.  We know that compassion makes for resilience and job satisfaction.  It’s certainly helping me enjoy my job.  I ditched the detachment and opened up to compassion.  Thanks Robin, for spreading the word.

To find out more about Compassionate Midwifery workshops for all birth professionals, go to www.yourbirthright.co.uk/birth-professionals/. 

Mia Scotland

Clinical Psychologist, Birth Doula and Hypnobirthing practitioner

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Compassion is for sissies, right?

April 29, 2015

Wrong.

Compassion is for strength.  After all, if you want to help people, you’ve got to have the strength to actually do so.

But can you be “tough” and “caring” at the same time?

Absolutely you can. There’s a stereotype that “soft” and “caring” are not compatible with “tough” and “resilient”. There’s also a view that being tough means not taking care of yourself, because only “softies” need to take regular breaks and rest up after a hard day’s work.

Well, psychology is making new ground in this area, and I find it all really exciting.  It seems to be the case that those of us who are kindest to ourselves, cope the best.  So, you don’t need to “have a word” with yourself, or mentally beat yourself up to get the best out of yourself.  On the contrary, you need to be a compassionate friend to yourself .  When you have been made to feel foolish, you don’t tell yourself “crikey, what on earth was I thinking, I can’t believe I made that mistake, others must think I’m an idiot” because that isn’t what a compassionate friend would do. A compassionate friend would sweep you up in her arms and tell you that we all make mistakes and that you’re amazing just the way you are.  Similarly, you are not more valuable to the NHS if you don’t take regular breaks, or if you work beyond your shift hours. This is because you are in danger of making yourself weaker, and of not keeping yourself strong enough to be a gem of a worker.  If you are not compassionate towards yourself, your compassion towards others will run on empty at some point.

So, you can stay tough and resilient at the same time as being kind and caring to yourself.  You can be tough and caring at the same time. This is what compassion is. Tough and caring.  And it is very good for our mental health, for the health of the nation, and for keeping us strong enough on the inside, so that we can help others on the outside.

Blimey, I think I might be psychic……

December 15, 2013

ImageI have this dragging feeling in my chest. It kind of hurts, aches, pulls.  I have done yoga with a new teacher this morning, who tells me we were working on my solar plexus chakra, the green one. I wonder, as I’m stirring my tea, whether the dragging feeling is related to that. But it’s not that kind of ache.  Then I realise where I’ve felt it before.  What it is.  It is the ache I got when I had had my babies.  When my baby, waters, and placentas are gone, and the contents of my insides resettles themselves down again.  If I remember correctly, it only lasts a few hours, and it happens a few days after a birth. No one spoke about that feeling, so I don’t even know if it is normal.  But, eight years after my last baby was born, here it is again, in my chest.  Why?

The next day, I’m sat at the breakfast table.  I am talking to my husband about something mundane. It is Christmas party season, so it was probably something around that. And this well of tears forms in my eyes, and I just sit there and cry.  I don’t know why I’m crying. The tears just flow, out of nowhere, and it feels good.  It feels good, and bad at the same time.  It feels like I want to be picked up, be loved and looked after.  And I wonder why I feel like that?  And then I recognise this feeling.  It feels the same as day three baby blues.  And I realise, that it is day three since I left my most recent birth doula job. At first, I just remind myself to text her and see how she’s doing.  Then I remember how I felt the day before, with my chest.  And I wonder, am I feeling her feelings?  

And it seems obvious that I am.  But then my rational mind kicks in.  The one that was brought up in a skeptical, emotionally paralysed world, where science tells us its not possible to connect psychically with others, even though science knows that the world is made up of energy that we are only just realising how little we know about it. But I also remember back to my first pregnancy, when my husband experienced pregnancy symptoms and I didn’t. (Except for back ache.  It’s a real shame he didn’t get back ache!). And I remember the times I have sat with a woman in labour, feeling sympathy contractions.  I remember that only a few nights ago, I was woken with strong lower back sensations, and I thought to myself “she is going into labour”.  I remember how I used to know that my baby needed me, moments before he actually stirred. 

And I am torn two ways.  I am torn between the old and the new.  My old, black and white, pseudo-scientific way of reacting, and my new open minded, curious accepting, way of reacting.  The old part wants to question it, analyse it, work it out, talk to others about it, google it and blog about it (as you can see, it is creeping in here).  It is looking for answers, questioning and judging. But I don’t even have the words to use for the search engine! The new approach stays open to it.  Curious, but relaxed.  It doesn’t need to know.  It doesn’t need to question it and judge it.  It can just observe my excitement, and smile down at myself, like a mother watching her child discover snow for the first time.  This is a self-compassionate, meditative technique that I teach others in my work, to midwives, to hypnobirthing mums, and to anxious and depressed clients.  It’s good to find myself using it. And what is really lovely about this newer reaction, is that it will keep me open to new experiences.  I might find that I have more of these experiences that I can’t even find a name for.  Intuition?  Psychic connection?  Empathic resonance?  

I think I’ll just go onto my search engine and see if I can find the right word for it…….