Thursday, 24 August 2017

AGM2017: Living with the enemy - Robin Paijmans

The last presentation at the AGM was called Living With The Enemy: Psychology of Chronic Conditions, by Robin Paijmans. Robin is a psychologist looking at human behaviour, and how changes in behaviour affect life.

With chronic conditions there are both physical changes and mental changes. There are often different tools which can help to cope with the physical changes, however the issues around changes in mental are that these require a change in the way that we think. With chronic conditions there are three questions:
How do I cope?
How does my family cope?
How do professionals cope.

Robin observes that medical professionals are oftem compulsive problem solvers, they want to fix things, and often with chronic conditions there are no cures or solutions, which presents a problem for the problem solver.

Generally, people deal with problems either by moving towards the problem or moving themselves away from the problem - the approach/avoid.

When we visit healthcare professionals we ask questions like: Will they know about my condition? Can I trust what they say? Will they help me? Are they behaving appropriately (listening/giving attention/etc.)?

The healthcare professional may have questions of their own: Will the patient know how I feel? What will I do? What if I dont know what to do?

Robin then described a "brain hack" which people may be able to use at times that they are not feeling happy. It is a mindfulness technique. I'll write the points as a list of bullets:

  • Pick something which is worrying you
  • Choose a number between 1 and 10 to represent how much this worries you (1 is perfectly OK)
  • Imagine the issue as an object in the room/space that you are in. Think how it looks:
    • What colour is it?
    • What shape is it?
    • What size is it?
    • What texture does it have? (e.g. rough/smooth)
    • What temperature is it?
    • How heavy is it?
    • Where is it in the room/space that you are in?
  • Now imagine moving the object to a place outside the room/space.
  • Now imagine moving it a couple of miles away.
  • Choose a number between 1 and 10 to represent how much this worries you (1 is perfectly OK)
The second number should be smaller than the first number, and you have mentally shrunk the problem.

Note - if you cannot mentally move the object away from you then try changing its colour/size/weight/texture instead.

Robin discussed values, in that these values are a compass heading to guide you towards things that you want to do/achieve/have. The values themselves are not the destination. However, some things that we do to move away from discomfort can also move us away from our values. Once you have identified your values and being working towards them this can give you the strength to face threats. There are lots of things which we can do every day to reinforce our values.

Robin mentioned two books:

I've ordered the second one from my library. I'll post a review when I've read it!

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