Lobsters can be found everywhere; in relationships, jobs and homes. What’s good about them is if you gradually increase the pressure on their situation, they tend not to notice. Like a lobster. 
  
In order to cook a lobster you don’t put a live lobster in a boiling pot. They’re not stupid, they’ve got reflexes and would jump out. What  you do is you put them in a pot of cold water and gradually turn up the heat  until they’re cooked. This way, they don’t really notice. However if they’d known about the end situation at the beginning, they wouldn’t have got into the pan. 

How do I know if I’m a lobster?
There’s a simple question to test whether or not you’re exhibiting lobster-like qualities:
 
‘If I had known it would be like this when I got into it, would I have done it in the first place?’

For example – if you’d known that your whole team at work would be gradually made redundant and their work given to you, would you have taken the job?

If you’d known that on the flip side of a passionate man you’re  dating was an increasingly bad temper, would you have gone out with him at  all?
 
What’s wrong with being a lobster?
Lobsters are often ‘putting up with’ a situation that they’re not at all happy about (being cooked). If they had been dumped in that situation their reflexes would have told them to get out, but having had the heat turned
up gradually, they’re numb to it.

Is it fair?
If you have identified yourself as a lobster, you might want to ask yourself whether it’s fair. Given you’d have jumped straight out of that situation had you known in advance, is it fair to expect yourself to endure it now?
 
Look after yourself
Once you’ve recognised that you’re now in a pot of boiling hot water that you definitely wouldn’t have got into in the first place if you’d known, it’s important to get out. It may be as simple as recognising the situation as unacceptable and walking away, or you may like to have some coaching/support to put together an action plan. Either way, it’s time to get out of the pan.

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A time comes for many of us when parents or other elderly relatives reach a stage when they are no longer coping with independent living because of either physical infirmity or mental deterioration.  Some of us are lucky (or unlucky!) enough to be well into middle age before this happens – but whenever it does it brings a whole raft of new and unfamiliar problems and emotions.  

There are huge practical decisions to be made around possibly moving them in with you, home care, residential or nursing home care, arranging Power of Attorney if they are becoming incapable of managing their affairs and so on.  There are massive financial implications to these decisions and, for those unfamiliar with the system it’s very easy to make very costly mistakes – I know I did the first time I had to deal with it.  The benefit and social care systems are complex and frequently changing – and look  likely to change again, possibly for the better, but I’m not holding my  breath!


What about the emotional implications?
 Apart from the practicalities, there’s a vast emotional load attached to being in this situation.  For a start there’s the role reversal – suddenly you are in a position of caring for the person who has cared for you as a child, and in many ways since –  a situation that can feel uncomfortable.  If their memory is going it can be at best unbelievably irritating and at worst agonisingly painful as you seem to lose the person you’ve known all your life. There’s the inevitability of the end – you know this isn’t going to get better which can be very hard to contemplate.  There can be a lot of guilt – you might feel you should have them at home with   
you, but practicalities such as accommodation and work mean that is impossible.  You may also try to manage their emotional journey – the 
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 idea of giving up their independence can be terrible, the loss of dignity in having to be ‘cared for’, their own fear of the inevitable. 

I haven’t got all the answers by any means, but having been through it all a few times, I can offer practical advice and help you to diffuse stress and manage your emotions. 

A few tips that might help 
  • Talk to someone who’s been through it all before– who at least knows what questions to ask and who to ask
  • Try not to rush – if the need becomes urgent look at short term respite care to give you time to think and make the properly considered decisions – for the person needing care, and for you       
  • Be kind to yourself –  recognise that this is an intensely stressful time and take time out to look after yourself and the others in the family – you may need to re-prioitise and leave out things that aren’t strictly ‘necessary’.     
  • Don’t be afraid to get help with managing your feelings – it’s not a weakness – you won’t be able to help anyone if you reach the end of your tether.  
If you'd like more help then get in touch.


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Excuse the language! ‘Should is shit’ is an extremely useful phrase that I have pinched from a good friend of mine.  

Think about it - how do you respond to people when they say ‘you should do this or that’? If you’re anything like me you would automatically switch off, unwilling to listen to the potentially very useful information that follows the dreaded ‘s’ word.

The same is true when you speak to yourself. How many times a day do you say ‘I should do this’ or ‘I should be doing that right now’ or ‘Really I should be doing this, but...’.  It’s toxic - the mind does the same thing when you say it to yourself as it does when someone else says it to you, and the likelihood of you doing what you’re telling yourself to, let alone doing it with a smile on your face, decreases significantly.



Want works better
If the ‘should’ that you’re contemplating is actually something that fulfils a value, or takes you towards your ultimate goal, then replace it with ‘want’. You’ll be so much more likely to do it. If you need to add a because then that’s fine – ‘I want to spend three hours training because it will contribute to my ultimate goal of running the marathon and supporting my favourite charity’ rather than ‘I should go for a run’.  

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If the ‘should’ is in fact something that you’re giving yourself a hard time over and isn’t absolutely essential, experiment with ‘could’ instead. That’ll give you some options. ‘I could see my friends tonight’. Using could means you allow yourself a ‘but’. Should has the effect of adding a lot of guilt to the ‘but’. Compare –‘ I could see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’ to ‘I should see my friends tonight, but actually I’m too tired’. In neither statement are you going to go out with your friends, but with the second, you’re likely to spend the evening worrying about it because you ‘should’ have done it.

To summarise – ‘Should is Shit’ and you’ve got options – experiment with couldwant togoing tolove to or almost anything else....and be aware of its toxic effect when you’re using it on other people.



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I have recently read ‘A Shed of One’s Own’ by Markus Berkmann – a brilliant description of life from the point of view of a self professed ‘middle-aged’ man. Incidentally labelling yourself as ‘middle-aged’ seems to come with many limitations, but that’s for another blog.

In chapter five there is an interesting observation regarding a ‘Guilt Gap’ between men and women. 

Like Virginia Woolf, most women need a room of one’s own, but even when they have it, they cannot quite escape the guilt that they really should be doing something else. (Dishes to wash? Lawns to mow? Walls to grout?). Whereas men, I believe, feel no such guilt. We know that the women would like us to feel guilty, but we just can’t. So to make everyone’s life a bit easier, we pretend that we are doing something sensible and productive in that shed, to conceal our lack of guilt that we aren’t’.

Ring any bells?! Assuming that the quote above is largely true (though I’m sure that there are many exceptions to the rule) - why is it that women tend to feel guilty more of the time than men?

The causes are presumably numerous. I’m sure that history has something to do with it. Women have fought hard for the right to have equal opportunities in careers and work in the same way as men, but have almost forgotten to add the caveat that this should mean a 50-50 split in all other tasks – household, child-raising etc. Many women have merely added ‘bread-winning’ to their remit, whilst not having removed anything from it. In the current financial climate, many families cannot survive on one income – for most women, working is no longer a choice, but an expectation...there is a lot to do!

Regardless of the causes, what is the solution? Surely it’s healthier to have the ‘male attitude’ rather than punishing ourselves with guilt when we are supposed to be having a lovely time?

“But if I don’t do it, then nobody will!” I hear you cry! 


Ultimately it’s a matter of priorities – how important are you? Where do you see yourself and ‘you time’ in the pecking order? Perhaps everything but ‘You’ gets automatically labelled urgent without considering whether doing the washing up tomorrow (in the vain hope that someone else might do it) would result in the sky falling in, or not. What would more likely result in the metaphorical sky falling in would be you reaching the end of your tether, unhappy and grumpy a lot of the time, collapsing exhausted at the end of every endless day - still 
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with a myriad of things left on the infinite ‘to-do’ list...etc. etc. The reason men feel less guilty, more of the time – particularly when they are

taking the time out to enjoy themselves, is because for them they are a priority. They have earned that time to enjoy themselves, and after all, that’s what life is about...isn’t it? Many men believe that time out to enjoy themselves is more urgent, and more important than most other things. I think they’re probably right.  

Here are some top tips to keep the guilt in check:
  • Use Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix – rather than having an endless list, divide your ‘to-do’ activities into a grid - with urgent and not urgent at the top, and important and not important down the side. Make sure that, depending on the level of necessity, “you-time” is in one of the top two boxes. The bottom two boxes tend to fall away anyway.
  • Accept that there will always be something to do, so unless you prioritise ‘you-time’ over other things, you will never get to it at the bottom of the list.
  •  What’s the worst that could happen? When you label things in your mind automatically as urgent, question it. What would happen if you didn’t do it? Is it that bad?
  • Delegate. It sounds harder than it is – clear communication on division of labour in advance can mean everyone gets to make time for themselves.  

NLP Coaching can help you with time management and reducing guilt feelings.


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