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Category Archives: Psychology

A Cup of Tea in the Hour of Need

A cup of tea alongside teapots, milk jug and sugar bowl, all red china with white spotted pattern

A cup of tea can do more than you think.

It’s more than a cup of tea – it’s a cup of CALM.

A cup of tea.  How many nasty situations have been calmed by a cup of tea over the years?  I could not begin to guess; could you?

In 2015, an article in the Telegraph stated that the average British person enjoys 876 cups of tea each year: enough to fill more than two bathtubs.

Further research seemed to conclude that we Brits drink so much tea because it is associated with comfort.

Whether you take it with milk, lemon or two sugars, the fact remains the same: the presence of a hot, steaming china cup or mug of tea gives a feeling of safety and warmth, and it restores a sense of calm. This is no more true than in difficult circumstances or hard times.

A cup of tea – it really is a British institution. The bedrock of restoring calm.

So, today, when London has been rocked by another terror attack, it is no great surprise – although a welcome one – that the compassion of our capital city is shown by Londoners opening their homes and apartments, offering tea to total strangers.

A simple enough gesture, perhaps, but offering tea in this situation is actually a very powerful outward show of solidarity. It demonstrates care for total strangers who, away from home, found themselves caught up in a trauma they could not imagine.

A cup of tea in the aftermath of terror

These small acts of human kindness are extremely powerful. They are grounding and calming at the same time. Provided by strangers of all ages, these simple gestures will in fact prevent many of those poor people caught up in this latest atrocity from developing ongoing symptoms of trauma.

Coming to terms with trauma alongside others who are similarly affected, makes perfect sense. Basic human warmth, cohesion and generosity is sometimes much more powerful than anything psychology, religion or government can offer.

Making sense of an awful situation with the comfort of others is a powerful, calming influence, and bonding over a cup of tea will undoubtedly help.

Who would have thought that the humble cup of tea could be so necessary?

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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To Smack or Not to Smack? A Sting in the Tail

Child reeling from parent's smack - physical abuse and smacking debate

Delivering a smack to your child: cruelty or discipline?

To smack or not to smack?  The debate rages on. Max Pemberton, a journalist and NHS psychiatrist, has caused a bit of a stir. He claimed that smacking doesn’t cause deep-seated psychological damage to children.

The issue was also aired on the TV show Good Morning Britain, on Tuesday 15th August. ‘Parenting Guru’ Sue Atkins and pro-smacker Katie Ivens both argued their cases, amidst some input from Jeremy Kyle (read more about the debate here).

In the wake of these opposing media views, I’d like to invite Dr Pemberton and Ms Ivens to shadow me on a working day. A working day where the effects of child violence, often verbally disguised as discipline, are all too poignantly seen. In a few cases, with tragic consequences.

The legal position on smacking: UK, Wales, Scotland and Ireland

Currently, smacking a child is legal in the UK as long as it doesn’t result in visible injury, but some members of the Welsh government and Scottish Parliament are lobbying for change. In December 2015, Ireland removed the ‘reasonable punishment’ exception and made smacking illegal.

In theory, many would agree that the occasional controlled smack, carried out by a loving parent, does not harm kids in the long term.

Imagine a situation where your toddler suddenly runs into a busy road.  There’s no time call him back.  Instinct ensures that you grab him, often roughly, by the nearest part of his body to prevent a tragedy.

This is necessary manhandling, fuelled by adrenaline. Most of us have done this and followed it up with a hug of relief, thankful our child is safe.  When a smack follows, rather than a hug of relief, what is it really about?  Is it to teach? Is it an outward expression of parental rage, a venting of feelings of failure for taking the eye off the ball so to speak? Is it perhaps an asserting of adult control over a smaller individual?  Is smacking for the good of the child, or to soothe the bruised adult ego?

In spite of this argument, there may be a case for smacking, but consider this. If all parents’ had adequate ego control, positive coping strategies and good emotional regulation, perhaps controlled smacking might be acceptable on some occasions.

The line between a controlled smack and physical abuse

The hard truth is, the abused children we clinicians meet up and down the country have never experienced a controlled smack in an environment of care.

The reality is that many children are physically abused daily under the pretence of smacking and good discipline.

When a parent loses control and physically chastises a child (which is often how smacking happens), it is often explained as disciplining an out-of-control child.

The situation is often that the parent has snapped, has in the moment lost parenting skills, and has instead reacted physically to the child’s behaviour.

Smacking would be okay, perhaps, if all adults could remain rational, calm and in control of their emotional regulation in times of stress.

The huge number of physical abuse cases show that many parents have neither the emotional resilience or practical skills to manage their children’s difficult behaviour and resort instead to physical punishment.  A smack in the hands of an angry and out of control adult can escalate into extreme violence. This is often under the misguided notion of discipline.

Physical abuse is one of the primary causes of both attachment difficulties in children, and more enduring mental health conditions. This is a primary reason why smacking is not acceptable. Smacking is the thin end of the wedge.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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Words Were Originally Magic – Why Trump Needs to Read de Shazer

Words can be black magic

Words can be black magic…

Words Were Originally Magic is the title of an acclaimed book on solution-focused brief therapy, written by psychotherapist Steve de Shazer.

De Shazer’s solution-focused approach believes that the solutions to most problems can often be found in the words we use. This may, at first, appear naive.

In essence, to develop a more positive life, we each need to closely examine the words we use daily: we need a new story or narrative. Words offer the magic that is needed.

This belief system maintains that our problems persist because we keep on using the same old solutions; solutions that never worked in the past to solve our issues. Put even more simply, we usually try to solve our problems by putting the same wrong key in the front door and then wonder why it doesn’t open.

By using different ‘words’ or ‘change’ talk about the future, by visioning or thinking about it differently, we are on the way to changing a situation. This is where the magic of words comes into play.

The words we use, or do not use, are central to future outcomes.

This mode of thinking is also central to the belief of many seminal thinkers and the founders of existential psychology, such as Husserl, Morleau Ponte, Heidegger and Foucault.

Essentially, we create our future reality and eventual fate, good or bad, through the narrative we use.

But what if the narrative we use is wholly negative? It could be a narrative filled with threats, and driven by megalomania and narcissism. This, then, suggests that words may also have the potential to become ‘black magic’. In such cases, we need to use a great deal of awareness and cognition to examine what is about to leave the lips.

The President of the United States, Donald Trump, is spewing very frightening words directed at North Korea. The words are becoming darker.

In this blackening of words, there is an even bleaker construction taking place: a construction that threatens much of humanity. Words have the potential to become reality.

Now, more than ever, it is time words were thought about with just pause and contemplation.

All humanity holds its breath.

De Shazer, Steve (1994) Words Were Originally Magic, Norton, London.

Written by Dr Chrissie Tizzard, Chartered Consultant Psychologist, PsychD, BSc, MSc, C.Psychol, C.Sci, AFBPS. Dr Tizzard is the Clinical Director of Christine Tizzard Psychology (ctpsy.co.uk). 

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