Podcast #047: Healthy relationships

Making and keeping them

As we continue in our conversation with the author Andy Parnham we come to the subject of healthy relationships. How do they work and how do we restore them when they go wrong? We know from our own experience that relationships are important, but the research of the psychiatrist Robert Waldinger goes as far as to say it is the number one strongest predictor of good health.

Do come and join Andy Parnham and I as we look at:
The following 5 principles for healthy relationships:
1. Prioritising people over things
2. Becoming the kind of person other people want to be with.
3. Finding someone you can trust you can share yourself with.
4. Being willing to let go and not to be simply grasping of relationships.
5. Finding a place and a people to belong to.

We unpack Andy’s conclusion of the reaseach:
”It appears that the capacity to relate to other people is hard-wired into our brains and that such relating is at the heart of human flourishing. Relationships are primarily a function of the right brain, with its emphasis on implicit, unconscious, non-verbal processes. Emotions are essential to the development and nurture of all healthy relationships.” (P.127)

”Anyone who has achieved lasting happiness and contentment has acquired the capacity to spend time both alone and with others without a sense of insecurity and inadequacy.” (P. 133)

How we can only relate to others in a healthy manner when we have learnt to live in our own skin in a healthy way. Psychologists refer to this as differentiation. Someone who has successfully differentiated themself is able to:
1. Be clear about who you are (‘define’ yourself) and yet stay in touch with others.
2. Take responsibility for yourself, yet.... Be responsive to others.
3. Maintain your integrity and wellbeing without..... Intruding on that of others.
4. Allow the enhancement of another person’s integrity and wellbeing without ....... Feeling abandonment,inferior or less of a self.
5. Have an ‘I’ and enter a relationship with another ‘I’ without losing yourself and diminishing the other person’s self.

The importance and power of learning to forgive.

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #025: Is there a difficult person in your life?

Podcast #026: The search for happiness

What is the ONE essential ingredient for life-long health and happiness?

Podcast #044: Lasting Happiness

Podcast #045: Do you want to be happy?

Podcast #046: The problem of longing and wanting more

After listening to our conversation what questions, comments and reflections on relationships do you have?

Podcast #046: The problem of longing and wanting more

An ache that won't go away

Longing. Its something we all experience at one time or another, but find so hard to explain or define. On this podcast Andy Parnham and I discuss this "reaching out towards or yearning for something that you can't describe but which draws you very powerfully with a mixture of joy and sadness."

The writer C. S. Lewis put it even more potently when he called this longing  'joy' and described it as 'an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction...... anyone who has experienced it will want it again.' As you can see these are deep areas we don't often discuss!

Do come and join Andy and I as we explore

  • How a want for something (usually in the areas of wealth, health or happiness) tends to be clear, purposeful, driven by the will often with a sense of urgency.
  • By contrast with a longing the focus is not on ourselves, but someone or something that occupies our view and yet lies beyond our grasp or control (usually in the areas of relationships, meaning and fulfilment).
  • Our age-old quest for beauty vividly described by Lewis:

”The books or music in which we thought the beauty were located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them,it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things - the beauty, the memory of our own past - are good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

  • Examples of this in longing for a person, place or people.
  • How homesickness and nostalgia as forms of longing combine very powerful emotions of loss and disappointment combined with hope and desire.
  • How these experiences are also understandable through neuroscience and the two sides of the brain.
  • Understanding the difference between what Henri Nouwen called ‘first loneliness’ (the emotional need for family, friends and home) and the need for a deeper life, which he called a ‘second loneliness.’ Here is how Nouwen described it:

”A deep personal intimacy and it is an intimacy that is very demanding. It requires letting go of many things that are emotionally, intellectually and affectively very satisfying. You must grow to realise and to trust that the deeper loneliness is not to be overcome, but lived. You must live it with trust, standing tall. You must try to say, ‘Yes I am lonely, but this particular loneliness sets me on the road to intimacy...It brings me closer to the source of love in the depths of my being.”

  • While this conversation may seem rather deep and esoteric, I do assure you we talk about practical implications for all of us in how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis!

You may also find of interest:

The Master And His Emissary: How the left brain has come to dominate Western culture

What Is It Like To Have A Stroke: How the two sides of the brain function so differently

Discovering Silence and Solitude: the gift we struggle to receive.

A video on my own personal longing for my true home.

 

Podcast #045 Do you want to be happy?

That seems an almost ridiculous question. Of course you want to be happy! Our world is obsessed with wanting to be happy. But what do we actually mean by happiness? Especially in our complex, challenging and chaotic world where we have so many things that promise happiness, but often fail to deliver what they promise.

Do join Andrew Parnham and I as we continue to unpack this important subject from his book, "Lasting Happiness: In Search of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment."

Together we explore:

  • Health and wellbeing as a means to happiness, but those terms that are not as simple to explain as they might first appear.
  • The World Health Organisation's definition of health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
  • How health is a means to happiness, but not an end in itself. We need some higher purpose, especially as health is so often dependent on fate, fortune or luck.
  • How wellbeing, while hard to define, is much wider and deeper when you consider it is possible to have wellbeing without apparent health. For a challenging and inspiring example of that do watch this 4 minute video of Nick Vujicic,a man born without arms or legs and an incredibly positive sense of wellbeing.
  • How the research shows relationships, meaning and fulfilment are more lasting paths to happiness than health, wealth or pleasure seeking.
  • Lessons from the longest study on happiness (a TED talk on that is here) that show how relationships are so fundamental to what it means to be a human being.
  • The work of Jean Varnier, the founder of a community in France for people with learning disabilities, who powerfully articulates this:

"What is it to be a human being? Is it power? If it's power, then we would kill each other! You see, the wise and powerful lead us to ideologies, whereas the weak are in the dirt. They're not seeking power, they're seeking friendship. It's a message for all of us. It's about all of us."

  • Understanding the importance of finding meaning to lead us to lasting happiness.
  • How a happy person is similar to an animal, whereas meaningfulness is human and is all about expressing the self and thinking integratively about the past and future.
  • Some practical implications for us as we seek to be happy in life

Our previous conversation is at Podcast #044: Lasting Happiness.

You may also find of interest:

Why is joy more important than happiness?

Podcast #032: How to know joy when life feels tough

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment

Podcast #044 Lasting Happiness

In search of deeper meaning and fulfilment

Happiness! Who doesn't want it? A recent google search on 'how to be happy' turned up 626 million results. Compare that to typing in 'Donald Trump' and you get 237 million items or 'Brexit news' where there is just 90 million! We all want to be happy. But what do we mean by happiness? I can be happy eating an ice cream and I can be happy meeting a long lost friend. But those two experiences are clearly very different. How can I find a happiness that leads to deeper meaning and fulfilment?

On this podcast we interview Andy Parnham, author of the book, "Lasting Happiness: In Search of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment." Do come and join us in this opening 30 minute conversation as we explore:

  • Andy's fascination with exploring this important subject.
  • Western's society obsession with defining the good life only in terms of health, wealth and the pursuit of pleasure while at the same time avoiding pain.
  • How the research and our own personal experience shows lasting happiness is ultimately found in relationships, meaning and fulfilment.
  • How the research shows the most significant factor in overall wellness is the presence of strong relationships.
  • The two problems of material pleasure being they fade with time and need ever increasing consumerism to produce the same 'buzz'.
  • How this is not just a Western issue, as the examples of Qatar (the richest country in the world), Japan and Bhutan illustrate.
  • A psychological understanding of happiness as 'subjective wellbeing' with the three components of pleasure, engagement and meaning.
  • Understanding the what, how, who and  why of lasting happiness.

We will be talking with Andy more in future podcasts, but for now if you would like to explore this further also see:

Podcast #026: The Search For Happiness

Podcast #006: Rediscovering Joy

Why I am working at becoming a happier person.

Why is joy more important than happiness?

The search for joy.

The lies we tell ourselves about joy.

Moving from disappointment to joy.

Podcast #042: What Does It Take To Live A Meaningful Life?

Podcast #035: What Is Life Really All About?

 

Podcast #043: What makes a good doctor or nurse?

An on-going conversation with Dr John Geater MBE

If your mother, father, brother or sister was rushed into hospital what kind of doctor or nurse would you want them to see? The answer to that question has been a passion 0f Dr John Geater for many years. So much so in fact that it led him to, with others, set up the organisation PRIME - Partnerships in International Medical Education. In 2006 John received an MBE for his contribution.

Do join John and I as we discuss:

  • How the foundation of his relationship with God, his wife Jane and family makes everything else possible.
  • The importance of the values of integrity, compassion, altruism, excellence, continuous self-improvement and teamwork in underpinning all medical training.
  • The question John likes to ask his students of "Is it right to smile at a patient?" and the responses he gets.
  • Understanding the mind-body-spirit connection of human beings
  • Seeing God at the intersection of science and humanity.
  • How losing the humanity of our patients is so often a root of burnout and cynicism in the medical profession around the world.
  • Understanding the person of Jesus as healer.
  • How a lack of connection with others is one of the biggest predictors of mental health problems.
  • Unpacking the Hebrew concept of 'shalom' to understand complete flourishing in body, mind and spirit and relationships.
  • The legacy of PRIME to "inspire those who inspire others who go onto inspire others alongside developing their medical skills."

You may also find of interest:

An Incredibly Brief History of Medicine.

What Does It Actually Take To Be A More Caring Person?

What If You Could Read Other People's Minds?

Podcast #042: What Does It Take To Live A Meaningful Life?

The Royal College of Physicians Report Doctors in Society: Medical Professionalism In A Changing World that emphasises the importance of professional values to all medical training.

To find out more about PRIME click here.

Podcast #042: What does it take to live a meaningful life?

A conversation with Dr John Geater MBE

Dr John Geater is at the time of writing aged 73. He is married to Jane and has three adult children. He is a medical doctor and has worked in Bhutan, New Zealand and in England. In 2006 he received an MBE from the Queen for his work in setting up the postgraduate medical education charity, PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He has taught holistic medical education in 26 different countries around  the world. Just before Christmas 2017 he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Do join us in this  fascinating podcast conversation as we discuss John's life and explore questions such as:

How do you respond when bad things happen to you?

How do you make sense of being diagnosed with cancer three times in your life?

How to embrace life's mysteries when things don't go the way you want or expect.

We also ask John:

What was it like running a leprosy hospital in Bhutan at the age of 25?

What would you say to someone who has a terminal illness and is scared?

To explore with us from Bronnie Ware's book the five regrets of the dying:
I wish I lived a life true to myself and not what was expected of me.
I wish I had not worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.

What he is looking forward to in the life to come?

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #017: The Last Taboo Subject?

Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand

Podcast #029: The Literal End Of The World?

Podcast #032: How To Know Joy When Life Feels Tough

Podcast #033: Practical Ways To Find Joy Through Disappointment

How Would You Define Success Part 3

Podcast #041: How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

I was recently pleasantly surprised to be invited by a prestigious financial institution to speak on the subject of how prayer and faith can enhance mental health. It was a wonderful privilege.

On this podcast I unpack the main elements of my talk along with exploring how money is such a helpful analogy in pointing to understanding spiritual treasure.

In particular we explore:

How faith and prayer enhance mental health as I am able to delight in God for who He is rather than what I can get out of Him.

The key to this is understanding and experiencing grace in my life.

How faith rather than being a vague and nebulous concept is actually incredibly specific. Indeed our entire global financial system is based on faith.

Why faith can only enhance mental health if it is based on something specific and reliable.

How the highest form of prayer is delight.

The problems with defining mental health.

How the Hebrew word 'shalom' conveys the highest form of mental health as complete wellbeing or multi-dimensional thriving and fulfilment.

For more on this also see:

How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment.

Podcast#032: How to know joy when life feels tough.

Podcast #013: How to grow in resilience.

Podcast #011 Money.

Why does a loving God allow pain and suffering?

Podcast #007 Religion

Podcast #018: Spiritual Maturity.

Podcast #040: Celebration!

How far have we come! We have reached 40 episodes on this journey at the  Making Sense of Life Podcast! Its time to celebrate and give thanks.

On this special episode I especially want to thank:

  • You the listener for entrusting me with your time and attention. In a world of such overwhelming choice and distraction I trust these episodes have truly helped you to make sense of life in an increasingly challenging and complex world.
  • My co-host Andrew Horton for his work both back stage and front stage. This has been behind the scenes with the technical aspects of the podcast and then publically in interviewing me with insightful questions as we have discussed such a wide range of topics.
  • Jeff Brown of the Read To Lead Podcast who inspired and taught me back in 2014 how to make podcasting not just a nice idea, but an actual reality.

In a world that focuses so much on the externals , the Making Sense of Life Podcast is a reminder that a meaningful life is actually an inside-out adventure. Inward change precedes outer transformation. Being bigger on the inside rather than the outside is the path to true success and impact. If we get that reversed and are actually greater on the outside than we are on the inside then disappointment, frustration and failure will not be far away.

One important aspect of focussing on the inside before the outside is being real and authentic about our internal struggles and challenges.

Our journey started back in 2012 with this blog, particularly around the subject of depression and negative thinking that appears to be reaching epidemic proportions around the world. For more on this see:

A 15 minute video called Just As I Am that gives my personal journey through depression and negative thinking.

Podcast #004 Combatting Depression where I interview the author Jo Swinney who has written about her own personal journey in her book 'Through The Dark Woods'.

Podcast #003 Stress where Andrew and I discuss the challenges of stress and how to not just survive, but actually thrive. (Also see the video How To Make Stress Your Friend).

Podcast #027: Beating Burnout where we look at not just the cost to ourselves of burnout, but how we can set up safeguards and protective measures in our lives.

Over time we have shifted our emphasis in looking not just at the negative, but understanding how to positively flourish in the world through resilience (Podcast #013) and develop grit (passion and perseverance for long term goals at Podcast #021). How do we do that with all the other challenges in our lives so we can live in some form of balance? (Podcast #034).

At the same time I have become convinced that it is not possible to authentically make sense of life without reference the Infinite Creator God of the Universe. As we have advanced in our understanding and grasp of the world what has become increasingly evident is that in spite of all our achievements and technology, the amount we know and understand is not getting any less. Indeed with an infinite reference point it is inevitable that no matter how much we know we have to come to realise the less we actually know!

On Podcast #007 we discussed how religion has significant limitations when it comes to grasping the world in all its complexity. What our hearts long for is relationship. In Podcast #018 we looked at spiritual maturity as being about getting to know God through silence. solitude and the Biblical scripture.

Another wonderful privilege of the podcast has been the opportunity to interview book authors and those who have lived inspiring lives. A small selection of those interviews include:

  • A grandson of Steven R. Covey, author of the classic bestseller The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and The 8th Habit. It was reading a quote from p.308 of that book in 1995 in Delhi, India that had a profound impact of my life. Little did I realise it would become a recurring theme of my life:

"The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mould men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behaviour, but Christ can change human nature." (Podcast #010)

  • Baroness Caroline Cox who is now over 80 and doing remarkable humanitarian work in some of the most dangerous places of the world. Her courage, determination and resilience are truly extraordinary and a great inspiration as to what can be possible in our lives. She also candidly shared with us about her personal struggle with depressive thinking and what she calls 'faithless fearful dread.' She is able to say:

"During my work with the persecuted church I have met many people who are suffering for their faith and I always return from my travels humbled and inspired by their courage, faith, dignity and miracles of grace. Many stories of those living on the front lines of faith illustrate spiritual blessings such as joy, peace and love in ways which are far from depressing." (Podcast #019 and Podcast #020)

  • Rahil Patel whose life story as a Hindu priest to spiritual awakening shows how truth is stranger than fiction. And what does that have to do with Harry Potter? You will have to listen to Podcast #016!

Finally we have also been fortunate to interview some leading authorities on deeply important topics that affect us all:

Professor John Wyatt on what does it mean to live and die well at Podcast #017. The reality and brutality of death was brought home to  me with the sudden loss of a good friend of mine on 17 March 2016. (For more on that see here).  An understanding of how life is finite should not leave us with a morbid sense of fear, but a deep privilege of how all we have is a gift. How can I live in a way that honours my creator?

Chris Wright and discussing the mysteries of when God doesn't make sense in our lives (Podcast #028) as well as what the Bible has to say about what will happen at the end of the world (Podcast #029).

All this is only a taster of the journey we have been on with the podcasts since May 2015. I trust this recap and celebration will inspire you to go back and listen to some you may have missed or re-listen to another one again. Such is the power of technology and your future self may well thank you for investing in yourself in this way!

Podcast #039: Overcoming Failure

"Everyone has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb." (Seth Godin)

Failure. How do you handle it? The 2 minute video below by Will Smith is an encouragement to view failure in a positive way. As he says - fail early, fail often and fail forward.

In this podcast my co-host Andrew Horton and I discuss how failure is not something to be feared, but actually an opportunity to grow and learn.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball play of all time has said:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Do join us on this podcast as we discuss:

How everyone has their own story of failure along with our own personal examples.

What is the relationship between failure and guilt or shame? Is failure necessarily a bad thing?

What can we learn from some famous examples of failure such as Abraham Lincoln and J K Rowling?

Why it is not as simple as just saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

What is the secret to turning failure around?

How can we see our failures through the eyes of faith?

How understanding failure is part of inside-out transformation?

You may also find of interest:

What Can J K Rowling Teach Us About Failure?

Failure and Depression: The Other Side of Lincoln's Life

9 Ways To Look At Your Failures With The Eyes Of Faith. Especially #7

How To Fail And Lose Well Part 1

How To Fail And Lose Well Part 2

Podcast #021: Grit

Podcast #013 How To Grow In Resilience

Podcast #030 Do You Need More Sleep?

Podcast #031: How Can I Live With Hope Today?

Podcast #038: How technology impacts time and sex

"The new is always better than the old." Do you agree? Disagree? As the impact of technology on our lives has accelerated this assumption has become increasingly taken for granted.
In our third and final conversation with Pete Nicholas about his book 'Virtually Human: Flourishing In A Digital World' we explore the powerful messages that come to us through technology around the subjects of time and sexuality.

 

While technology presents a narrative of never-ending progress when it comes to new devices and software , the impact on us as human beings grappling with its ramifications is far from straight-forward.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in terms of what he called "Chronological snobbery." That is 'the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of of date is on that count discredited.' Pete in his book (p.114) shows us how this leads to the following kind of thinking:

  • We think we are the most technologically developed culture on earth.
  • Since time is an arrow to the future, that means we are at the head of the curve.
  • Therefore, our decisions (about morality, society, technology) are the most 'progressive'.
  • So, if other people/countries/cultures disagree, it is because they are lagging behind (but in time they will catch up and probably agree with us).

We tend to think of time as linear with a beginning and definite end, ultimately when the universe at some point in the future will come to a grinding halt. Here are some challenges to these assumptions we discuss from the book:

  • "Time is not a straight line heading for a finish. God is taking the cosmos towards its goal. In one sense this goal is the end of time; in another sense it is just the beginning.
  • The timeline is God's and not ours. We are graciously part of His story, but we need to watch out for the ways technology can be used to write Him out and put us centre stage."
  • Time is not a commodity, but a gift to be stewarded. As technology gives me such a variety of choices with what to do with my time, I need to become discerning about what I should do today and what can be left for tomorrow or another time.

For more on this also see Podcast #024: Making Sense of Time.

Technology has also had a huge influence on our view of sex an sexuality. On this podcast we go on to discuss:

  • How the digital story of sex is linked to the sexual revolution of the 20th century with its desire to liberate from previous norms and taboos.
  • How my sexual identity cannot be separated from my psychology and spirituality.
  • The dangers of pornography in objectifying women and men.
  • How the male editor of a pornographic magazine radically changed his views following the birth of his daughter.
  • How pornography while promising satisfaction and fulfilment actually leads to a growing addiction and enslavement with significant problems in relating to others.
  • How the Bible is able to be both open about sex without being crude and objectifying. There is emphasis on restraint without being oppressive while emphasising the beauty of sexual love within the marriage covenant.

In conclusion, the challenges technology brings into our lives are about living in wisdom. Tomorrow's problems from technology are going to be very different from today's problems. The key is becoming the right kind of person who can learn to cope and flourish while living by grace. In other words we need to live in wisdom.

Details on Covenant Eyes and more resources on sexual addiction we mention in our discussion is here.

Our previous discussions on the book are at Podcast #036 and #037

More details on the book are available at the Virtually Human website here.

What questions and comments does our discussion raise for you?