The Masked Persona or Facebook Self

In this episode I explore the role of the inner “persona” or mask in our relationship to the world.
The word persona comes from Latin and is the term Romans used for the Greek theatrical mask (prosopon) which allowed actors to play more than one role. Because there were no big screens or optics to improve the audience’s view, the masks were larger than the actors’ heads and set in expressions that portrayed the nature of each character.
We all have a public Facebook self-mask that we have curated for the world.
Sometimes our professions seduce us into stereotypical ways of being in those roles.
The mental-healthy trick is not to become over identified with the masks of our professional or social roles, but to be as authentic when facing the public as when facing ourselves.

You can schedule one on one Skype or Zoom sessions with Peter by emailing peterwoods.pe@gmail.com

How to Profit from Loss

To be human is to experience loss. In the Buddhist, Five Subjects for Recollection is the phrase, “all that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become otherwise. Will be taken from me.

Peter reflects on how we process loss. The destructive as well as more constructive responses.

In the talk Peter references the work of Dr Gabor Mate a helpful resource on addiction.

Please search for him on YouTube.

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You can schedule one on one Skype or Zoom sessions with Peter by emailing peterwoods.pe@gmail.com

I know you’re a follower, but are you being followed?

We are all busy following something or someone. Diets, exercise programs, studies, teachings, religions.
But what if we lose the will to follow? What if we just cannot go on?
Peter suggests a good test of what we are following, is to ask if they will follow us when we get lost.

You can schedule one on one Skype or Zoom sessions with Peter by emailing peterwoods.pe@gmail.com

The Wounded Angel Network takes flight

I am delighted to introduce my latest project of YouTube videos where I reflect on matters of healing, integration, motivation and clear thinking.

Hugo Simberg, The Wounded Angel / Haavoittunut enkeli, 1903, painting, oil on canvas, 127 cm x 154 cm, A II 1703, Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery, Ahlström Collection. Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Hannu Aaltonen.

The project is named after Hugo Simberg’s 19th Century painting (more here) I first saw the image on a study text titled “The Healing Spirit” by Paul R Fleischman and ever since, I’ve seen it as symbolising my therapeutic work.

I do hope you will enjoy the videos and should you subscribe to the YouTube channel, you will be advised of future posts as they are uploaded.

Please click here to go to the Wounded Angel Network playlist and please hit the red subscribe button when you get there.

Slower may be better…

Don't Hurry be Happy

You have heard of slow food?

It started in Rome in 1986, as a protest to McDonald’s opening a branch right on St. Peter’s square in the Vatican. Now Slow Food has spawned an entire Slow Movement.

Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Fløistad sums up the Slow Movement well:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on , you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.”

The Slow Movement doesn’t imply conservatism, it simply advocates a return to an appreciation for the simple and artisanal,the hand crafted and home grown.
Part of the Slow Movement is Slow Thought. An important skill for mental health.

When our parents taught us to count to ten before responding, they were onto something.
We now know that the amygdala, our oldest and reptilian brain is a hot responder with fight or flight reactivity. Our prefrontal cortex is our newest brain and seat of creativity and our best thought. The wait to ten allows the impulse to be processed by the whole brain rather than in a knee jerk reaction.
So what are some of the hallmarks of Slow Thought?


Slow Thought is Ponderous. Not usually a positive word, pondering allows whole brain consideration of all aspects of a situation. One could call Slow Thought contemplative. It takes its time to find clarity and wisdom.

Slow Thought is also Playful. It is not committed to being right at the cost of relationships. When one is too serious about anything, playfulness is sacrificed and so is the ability to not take ourselves so darn seriously.

Slow thought is also Porous, like a sponge living in the ocean. Sponges are multi cellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them. They also have unspecialised cells that can transform into other types which can migrate between the main cell layers and the jelly like spaces making up the organism. Sponges do not have nervous, digestive or circulatory systems and rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes.

These ancient aquatic animals are a wonderful metaphor for Slow Thought which allows ideas and information to flow through it and filters what is most important.
Slow Thought makes no fixed and dogmatic judgments for all time, it simply allows the nourishing of our life in each moment as we ponder and play with creative ways to be.

Slow Thought, like slow food can really nourish our lives.

Don’t hurry, be happy!

“Fake it till you make it”, doesn’t help

HarrySallyFake

In these days of liberated sexuality it’s quite acceptable to openly discuss previously taboo subjects. Feminism has liberated women especially in the area of sexuality and has brought fascinating information to light. In one survey it has been shown that up to ten percent of men and women admit to having faked an orgasm at some time during their relationship. Psychology Today reports that this may not be as sinister as it seems, and may serve the purpose of making a partner feel secure by assuming they have been able to completely satisfy them.

But at what point does this “fake it till you make it” behaviour become nothing more than lying.
Don’t misunderstand me, I completely agree with Dr Gregory House, the rude and brusque lead character played by Hugh Laurie in the series “House”. Dr House’s favourite saying is, “Everybody lies” and he is correct.

At some point we all lie. Particularly to our doctors. How much alcohol do we drink? How many cigarettes do we smoke? Everybody lies.
We lie on Facebook by creating what psychologists now call our “Facebook Self”. A falsely happy, successful, person in a fulfilled relationship who never has anything go wrong in their lives. And what is worse, our Facebook “friends” affirm the carefully curated self we are presenting. If you don’t believe me try posting, “Having a really epic and awesome day!” then count the likes and comments that post gets. Now wait a few days and post, “Having a really pissy day and am feeling suicidally depressed.” Even if you were faking happy at that point, the lack of likes and comments will certainly depress you!

Of course, we want to make each other happy with posts of grandchildren, puppies and cupcakes, but what if House’s aphorism has invaded all aspects of our lives? What if “Everybody lies” is pandemic?

What if even our religious and spiritual journeys have become infected with the “fake it till you make it” virus, accompanied by carefully curated appearances in our spiritual practises where no one ever really knows what is happening inside ourselves?
We speak to each other in religious language about all the blessings and bounties of life,we hear direct messages from God, usually about how great we are in God’s sight and how much better we are than other losers who don’t share our creed.

Now please don’t misunderstand. I know that life is good and blessed.
But what if our over emphasis and curation of what I call our “picket fence spiritual life” creates a false impression of perfection and divine preference that makes people who are really battling to make it through the day feel even worse?
How can all that positivity which denies the fact of our own shadow and humanity, even be helpful to anyone? Worst of all, why lie to ourselves?

Of all the words Jesus spoke, some of the most powerful were, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” and when he wept publicly.

‘Talk is cheap’, they say, ‘but money buys the whisky’.

There are various forms of this adage. The earliest one written down is from P.T. Barnum the circus tycoon whose antics were recently told in the movie The Greatest Showman. He said, ‘Talk is cheap, until you hire a lawyer.’

Speaking of whisky and illusionists, if you have ever worked with an addict you will know just how cheap talk can be. Especially if the talk can buy whisky or any other addictive substance they need to survive. The cheapest talk from addicts are their words of apology that roll out so easily when they’ve been exposed in some dishonesty. Addicts regularly paint themselves into some corner by lies and deception in support of their habit. Usually the apology follows a standard form, “I am so sorry for the hurt I have caused”. Said with doleful face and cast down looks the words mean nothing and will be repeated just as easily next time the addict is cornered.

The most effective method ever devised for dealing with addiction, any addiction, are the Twelve Steps. This recovery map first used in Alcoholics Anonymous is now applied in almost any self help programme where people are trying to curb their destructive behaviour. When you examine the twelve steps surprisingly there is not a single mention of apologising. The word is never used. Not that addicts have nothing to apologise for either. If you have lived with an addict you know how much damage they can cause.

So why does AA not speak of apologising for the harm? Because recovery from addiction doesn’t happen by talking.
No significant change in behaviour or circumstances comes from cheap talk. A fact politicians and preachers know only too well. Talk changes nothing. What changes anything is action. So if you want to change, alter your behaviour and attitude.

Oh and by the way, don’t tell me, show me.

The twelve steps calls it making amends. It’s step nine of the twelve and right after, ‘We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.’ Having completed the list in step eight the person in recovery is reminded by the old timers who have gone before and who are now their sponsors how ‘We made direct amends to such people (we had harmed) wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.’

No cheap talk apology here. If you are serious about recovering from your destructive behaviour don’t apologise, make it right. Make amends. Fix what you broke.
Who can count the parents, spouses, children, employers, friends, and family repeatedly suffer the destructive effects of some deeply addicted person they care about? They pray, they care, they rescue, they enable and through it all the addict simply mouths some cheap apology whilst stealing their money to buy the whisky.

Recovery lies in making amends and not in apologising.

Tolerating Intolerance

TOLERANCE“You get what you tolerate”, was tattooed on the inside of her forearm. I suggested “You get what you negotiate”, she was adamant and anyway it was her arm! I didn’t argue but I did ruminate.

We really are becoming less and less tolerant. Especially in matters of faith. Fundamentalism,a relatively new phenomenon and a reaction to the Modernism and Humanism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is deeply suspicious of change. It attacks any new viewpoint in ethics, social behaviour and human rights and yet is the fastest growing sector of all religions not just Christianity.

In Judaism it’s Zionism and Askenazism and in Hinduism the Indian BJP movement. In Buddhism the 969 movement in Burma is extremely intolerant of Muslim Rohingas, and Islam is disproportionately caricatured as only producing Jihadists.

It would be naive to assume that fundamentalism is about religion. These zealots may practice their faith aggressively but in almost every case fundamentalism pursues some nationalist agenda. Religions falter when they lose their essential focus on spreading goodwill and making the world a better place, and are instead seduced by power and privilege for only their members. At that exact point a nationalist agenda will embrace religion to spread the lie that only certain lives matter.

But how do these nationalist-fundamentalist intolerants find a foothold in civilised democratic countries as they do? The ironic answer takes us back to my friend’s tattoo. “You get what you tolerate.”

Some of the world’s most sophisticated nations have fallen prey to militant fundamentalism simply because they regard religious tolerance as the politically correct thing to do. Religious tolerance in Europe only appeared after the French Revolution when one of the proto-republic’s founding philosophers Voltaire was banished from France and lived in England for two years. There he penned twenty four “Letters concerning the English nation” to explain the islanders to a friend back home.

A surprised Voltaire writes, “This is the country of sects. An Englishman, as a freeman, goes to Heaven by whatever road he pleases.” The statement had profound implications for any citizen of France, a nation that had almost destroyed itself in order to establish Catholicism as the only practised religion. Now Voltaire saw that English society was as bigoted as his homeland and how only Anglicans made it in politics and power, but he noticed when it came to business, “the Jew, the Mahometan (sic), and the Christian deal with one another as if they were of the same religion, and reserve the name of infidel only for those who go bankrupt.”

So in England religious diversity was easier to tolerate than financial failure and where politics always bedeviled religion, money made anything tolerable.
It was this free market and business openness that created the religious tolerance which empowered progress in the West.

Sadly with the rise of fundamentalism and the reactive intolerance of America and Brexit so evident, one can only expect the reversal of that progress in years ahead.