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Anthony Worrall Thompson, a famous UK chef, was recently caught for shoplifting. My 12 year old daughter told me this joke about it.

It’s so easy to poke fun at someone so famous who makes such a stupid mistake. Many famous celebrities have been there before him – so what’s going on?

As human beings, with our astonishingly powerful brains, we have amazing potential to succeed to great heights and fail dismally. I spent many years working with criminals as a probation officer and it never ceased to amaze me what appalling decisions people made when under acute stress. One young lad stole a double-decker bus – he couldn’t drive – which caused mayhem! A middle age man in debt robbed a bank with a courgette and served 10 years for armed robbery. Both their lives were destroyed by an irrational decision in the spur of the moment.

So what’s happening here? Joseph Le Doux in his book ‘The Emotional Brain’ says ‘Strong emotions make you stupid’. Literally stress triggers our old brain into a primitive fight/flight response and the higher brain, the cortex, shuts down. This means that our problem solving ability and perspective go out of the window and we get hijacked by strong negative emotions like anger and fear which when acted upon can lead to irrational decisions.

The phrase ‘ you can’t see the wood for the trees ‘ is what can happen when we experience stress. Quite literally we lose perspective – our vision becomes telescopic and we allow negative emotions to run away with logic and sense. The strangest things can happen then! Sometimes people do crazy things as a cry for help; they can’t take control so do something that means someone else will.

So how do we overcome this?

  • Firstly it’s about recognising what acute stress can do to us.  It’s important to understand that more often than you think, there is a solution.  If there isn’t an obvious immediate solution, most things can be made more manageable.
  • Secondly and often the most important factor here is to seek advice and support.

Every client I work with has lost perspective and feels out of control in some way. Whether it’s a confidence issue, an entrenched alcohol or drug habit, an eating disorder, depression, anxiety or a more minor phobia or unhealthy habit like smoking; all my clients need extra help to marshall their resources to achieve change. Most are surprised by how much easier change can be than they realise and are able to get back in control again quicker than they think.

If you feel out of control in your life in anyway, see it for what it is – a challenge to be overcome. Speak to someone else about it and if you need a free, no obligation chat, just give me a call.

‘There are may ways of going forward, but only one way to stand still’ Eleanor Roosevelt.

Take action today!

Jill Tonks

Jill Tonks


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