Archive for An Alternative Perspective


It is now six weeks since the moving and emotional D-Day landing anniversary which made people in Europe and the wider world stand still and marvel about the courage, bravery and sense of purpose shown by men, some of whom were just out of, or having lied about their age, still in boyhood.

I could have written this on June 6th, instead of my blog posted on the 10th on another subject, in order to try and capture the mood of the moment.  It is said that the technical world has made things hard to store in memory but I wonder if this is accurate about the things which really matter.  That being the reason for pausing before writing.

Working with couples in my Coupleworks practice, I marvel at the perseverance of two people trying to find solutions to their apparently insolvable difficulties.  I see how memory can affect them and have influence on their adult lives and communication with others without them being consciously aware.

Sometimes, a couple can  bring  a problem or problems which seem to be defeating them. They feel unhappily stuck.  I ask them what memory they have about their first meeting.  This can bring tears of sadness about what they now feel is lost and irretrievable  When we look further into their story before they met and how the relationship grew it is often memory of something in their past which becomes conscious when one inadvertently ‘presses a button’ in the other.  This throwaway remark, not meant to wound can ignite something and cause a row out of all proportion to the original comment.

It is helpful, in a therapy session, if we unpick some of what might have happened.  Memories of earlier hurt from a source unknown to one and forgotten by the other start to uproot old pain, This insight is also helpful to individuals who come into therapy wondering why keeping a relationship is hard for them.

It can be useful  to explore what is going on inside their own memory bank rather than the temptation to tell their  partner what they think is happening to them.  Taking time out to think about what happened in a painful argument and try to locate the earlier hurt where memory is their aid.  It can be painful to remember things which seem better forgotten but the damage which can silently seep into the foundation of their intimate lives can be the clue to returning to how they felt when on their first date.  This time, however, it will enhance that first feeling rather than destroying the couple or individual seeking a partner.

Clare Ireland


Autumn has early memories for all of us who live in countries with seasons and brings many feelings as it arrives. It can bring a sense of wellbeing and comfort and also melancholy and depression.

This disparity highlights how hard a couple needs to work together with kindness and understanding to incorporate difference and find a creative third space to share their feelings and benefit by the other’s experience.

The quotes which follow show different thoughts on this particular time of year. A gateway to winter and a closing of sun and warmth. Reading them can throw a light on all angles and collectively expand what would otherwise be only one way of thinking.

October gives a party
The leaves by hundreds came,
The Ashes, Oaks and Maples,
And leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet,
And everything was grand;
The sight was like a rainbow
New fallen from the sky…George Cooper.

The sun tires of summer and sighs itself into autumn. Terri Guillemets.
Autumn repays the earth the leaves which summer lent it. Georg Christoph Lichenberg.
Winter is dead; spring is crazy; summer is cheerful and autumn is wise. Mehmet Murat Ildan.
Of all the seasons autumn offers the most to man and requires the least of him. Hal Borland.
No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face. John Dunne.
Autumn – the year’s last, loveliest smile. William Cullen Bryant.
Why is summer mist romantic and autumn mist just sad? Dodie Smith.
falling leaves
hide the path             a haiku from John Bailey.
so quietly
Autumn wins you best by this, its mute appeal to sympathy for its decay. Robert Browning.
Love the leaves until their leaves fall off, then encourage them to try again next year. Chad Sugg.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus.
There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves. Remy de Gourmont.

Autumn is the perfect time to take account of what we’ve done, what we didn’t do and what we’d like to do next year. Author unknown.

Clare Ireland.

Ducks, birds and humans .. cont’d from 22/11/2015

Taking a leaf out of John Bowlby’s attachment theory, originating in the study of sheep, I have spent time observing Mallards and Moorhens.

Unlike Swans, I don’t think they are monogamus, however both the beautifully  coloured male Mallard and the black male moorhen seem faithful, caring and protective partners.

Human couple behaviour, if observed by visitors from another planet, might sometimes not appear to be so ordered, loyal and nurturing.

Some of the following duck and bird traits could be helpful to follow once in an ongoing human partnership.

Decide who to pair up with and to breed with if this is the couple’s choice.

Share home building.  Birds nest with great strength, enterprise and building skills, sharing the furnishing and positioning of a safe nest.  The position is important so it is safe from predators.  For humans the positioning is important for schools, hospitals, jobs, trains and neighbours and other reasons the couple feels important.

Once the eggs are laid or the human couple embark on a pregnancy, health and safety are paramount.  The male duck or bird spends all his waking hours feeding himself and his partner with tasty titbits.  Often ducking down and finding goodies below the surface.  The human expectant father is wise to select and encourage a good diet and suitable exercise for the future mother and himself.

Once born in all three species, there is much activity and nurture, working long hours to provide for their new addition or additions.  The most common human remark following birth is:  ‘I am so tired,’ yet in the bird and duck world the growth and preparation for their offsprings’ life is so fast it seems little or no sleep is taken.

If the visitor from outside our world were to comment, they might say the behaviour of human and other species seems to be very alike and despite looks, colours, shapes, sizes, skin or feathers each could learn from the other about harmony, sharing, containment and peace.

This hypothesis can be applied to other species outside the three described.

Clare Ireland

A duck’s lesson to humans.

A story referred to in Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and The Power of Now has stayed in my mind for many years.  I shall share it because it felt significant in terms of moving on and not becoming stuck by clinging to negative emotions.

The story is brief and I quote:

Two ducks get into a fight – it never lasts long – they then separate and float in opposite directions.  Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight.  After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.

If the duck had been human it might have acted differently.  The human mind might have thought:  I can’t believe he just did that – He encroached into my territory – He thinks he owns this pond – I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget – How dare he – I’ll make sure he pays.

Most humans live like this at some level much of the time.  The mind keeps the negative emotions on the alert forgetting that our tomorrows become the today we worried about yesterday.

A duck’s lesson to humanity is this:  Flap your wings, meaning, let go of the story.  Then return to the only certainty in any life force – the present moment.

So much of a human’s day is about yesterdays fuelling tomorrows.  When this happens the experience of today becomes nonexistent except for stress related anxieties and predictions.  This in turn can be carried by the body and manifests in aches in the head, back, neck or stomach.

If a day breaks carrying with it difficult thoughts of dread, anger, resentment and nagging feelings of unhappiness it can be helpful to observe what you are thinking. If the thought cannot be calmed today, acknowledge it, put it on an imaginary shelf and tell it you will think about it again when you can.  If this is tomorrow, it will become today in a few hours and therefore can be looked at again at a more suitable time.

After writing this blog and before posting it, I read the review of Radiator, a film to be screened in the UK on November 27.  Richard Johnson and Gemma Jones play Tom Browne’s parents in their declining years. His father Leonard was a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital and his mother, Mariah was a publisher and teacher.  He was concerned about the state of their lives which for him felt as if they had given up and needed care.  They were only interested in the present, not the future or the past.  When Tom told them that Stevie Smith had written a poem about Mariah and her after they had walked along a beach in Norfolk in the past, she said, “I don’t remember back then.  It’s about what’s happening now.”

Maybe that was a human doing much the same as the duck.

Clare Ireland.

My Experience Working with Clients

I often read about what it’s like from the client’s experience working with a therapist.  I thought it might be interesting to know what it’s like seeing clients from a therapist’s prospective.

Since I started seeing clients back when I was training at TCCR some 25 years ago, I’ve always found it a privilege to be let into the internal lives of the people sitting opposite me.  My experience and feelings have changed considerably over the years from those early days. I now find it less stressful and far more enjoyable due to a confidence gained from my experience. There is a freeing up; a sense of exploration rather than a ‘getting it right’ need.  The way I work has evolved throughout the years and has brought me to a more relaxed and creative place. Read More →

It’s NOT about the nail…..

“Don’t try to fix it.  I just need you to listen”  Every man has heard these words.  And they are the law of the land.  Not matter what.

Watch this….

It’s NOT about the nail

What is celibacy?

What is Celibacy?
Celibacy can be a choice in life,
or a condition imposed by circumstances.
While attending a Marriage Weekend,
Ken and his wife, Janet, listened to the instructor declare,
‘It is essential that husbands and wives know
the things that are important to each other.’
He then addressed the men,
‘Can you name and describe your wife’s favorite flower?’
Ken leaned over, touched Janet’s arm gently,
and whispered, “Homepride; Plain, isn’t it ?”
And thus began Ken’s life of celibacy.