Are you about to freak out? 8 steps to deal with strong emotions

I am a very sensitive person. Sometimes I feel so emotional about things it is difficult for me to function properly. Last year I went through a very bad breakup. I felt so awful about it that I wrote a blog post thinking that I was actually about to have a heart attack. For days I had barely eaten, barely slept and there was this persistent thump, thump, thump in my chest that made me feel constantly sick, constantly on-edge and very unwell.

I have felt strong emotions like this before. If you have ever nearly fallen (from a height) and righted yourself, you may have noticed that your body reacted. You may have felt a strong surge of energy flood your nervous system, heightening your senses. Some things our bodies do are instinctual and we have no cognitive control over them. Don’t believe me? Well, consider the knee-jerk reaction.

Could I control my body’s reflexes, if I tried really hard? 

This is properly known as the Patellar reflex. Basically (as we all know) if you bang your knee, it jerks up. It doesn’t matter how much you try to control this instinctive reflex, it just happens independently of your conscious intentions.

From Wikipedia: “Striking the patellar ligament with a reflex hammer just below the patella stretches the muscle spindle in the quadriceps muscle. This produces a signal which travels back to the spinal cord and synapses (without interneurons) at the level of L4 in the spinal cord, completely independent of higher centres. From there, an alpha-motor neuron conducts an efferent impulse back to the quadriceps femoris muscle, triggering contraction.”

Yup, so when I whack my knee, my body simply reacts, totally independent of my personal intentions.

My body is flooded with emotion when something goes wrong 

Likewise, when I nearly fall and I right myself. The ‘feelings’ that flood my body feel so real. Even when I know I am in no danger of falling anymore, the feelings persist for a few seconds, after the danger has passed. My body reacts to the world around it, and to the world within it.

When I get very upset, I get feelings of strong emotions. Sometimes I find these very hard to cope with. Over the years I have learnt many techniques to help me deal with strong emotions, but it is not always easy. Sometimes it feels as if my body has a mind of its own. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the strong emotions I feel.

I also find that when I let my emotions get the better of me, the can get worse and worse. If I let myself get too upset, I can stay upset for far longer than I should, and this adds to my distress.

A personal problem is making me emotional

For the last few months, I have had a very annoying problem. It is fairly minor, and yet something that has been driving me crazy. Over the past few days I have become increasingly anxious about this problem, to the point where it is really beginning to affect my work, my happiness and even my relationship. I feel that I am at the point of emotional exhaustion now; every time this problem is even mentioned, I get very, very upset, irrational and emotional.

Just so you don’t think it’s anything too bad, I can reveal that it is over a sum of money I paid to a dodgy, cheap web design company to help with this very blog, and as you can understand, I am highly emotional about something that I spend so much time, love and energy on. I would rather deal with the devil himself that have to speak to anyone associated with this company anymore.

Small problem, yeah? But it doesn’t feel like that to me.

It doesn’t matter what your problem actually is, just how you react to it. Often, I am great in a big crisis, it’s the little things that get me down. After my long and overly personal rant here, I would like to give you some tips I have researched on how to deal with strong emotions.

1. Centre the self

Detach from the problem and see it as separate from yourself. Do not identify with the problem.

2. Deep breaths

If you are feeling anxious, take some deep breaths to calm down.

3. Return to the senses

What can you see, hear, smell, taste? Take you mind of the emotional trigger by focusing on what is really happening to your body.

4. Take time out

Find a quiet space where you can be on your own for a while.

5. Look in the mirror

Connect with your own eyes and remember that you are bigger than this problem.

6. Ask for help

Ask your guardians and guides (or your higher power or god) to assist you in remaining calm and dealing appropriately with your emotions.

7. Distract yourself

Take on a task that is all-consuming so that you have something else to focus on for a little while.

8. Talk it out

Find someone you trust and talk to them. Ask them not to give you advice if you don’t want it. Often we just need a listening ear.

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a flower

What to do when you’ve lost your confidence

It happens to us all sometimes. A knock or two to our personal selves can feel like a permanent state of despair. It could be a job loss, relationship troubles or feeling isolated that can shatter your confidence. When we lose our strength, we feel terrible and hopeless.

People think of me as a confident person. A confident person speaks clearly, walks with shoulders back and smiles. A confident person seems like they have everything together and that they can be trusted to get things done. Sometimes, I do not feel confident. In fact, there have been times in my life that I feel so overwhelmed with my situation that it’s hard to get out of bed.

Life is hard, even at my age I don’t always feel confident

I have taken my fair share of knocks in my life. I am now 35 and this means that I have learned to cope with my emotions when times are tough, but every now and then, something happens that completely shatters my confidence and I find it very hard to dust myself and get back up.

By far the worst things that have happened to me in my life are breakups and job losses, in that order. I have had my fair share of both, as most of us have. Not everyone goes through these things, but I can say unequivocally that we all go through troubles and traumas. Some people have different types of traumas; they may have family troubles, money problems, addictions and health issues. I have had all those things too, but it’s work and love that gives me the most grief,

Pain in love. Pain in my career

I can also say that these are the two areas I focus most on in my life, the two areas that I care about the most. I love to work and I love to love but I have serious failings in both areas of my life – sometimes it can be a struggle. I have many flaws as an employee and as a lover – try as I might, sometimes I make terrible mistakes. I am human, I try to forgive.

I can be hard on myself too

I want to get things right and I hate it when I make mistakes. Being a copywriter, I took myself on a two day trip to shame town after missing a repeated word in a recent page of copy. It frustrated me so much that I was barely able to focus on the rest of my work for the next day and a half. I had effectively sabotaged myself over my sudden perceived flaw and it really shattered my confidence.

Relationship dramas cause my confidence to sink

Just over six months ago I had a really bad break up and it crushed me for many weeks. Being the age that I am I have had far too long to focus on what I think is wrong with me. It’s amazing how something like this can truly shatter someone’s confidence. What could be worse than losing something or someone you thought you loved? It can take a lot of self-determination to say to the self, “I can rise again. Just because this person does not love me does not mean that I am worthless.” Turns out it was the best thing for me. But it really hurt.

I do not need to be defined by someone else’s love and I am more than the work that I do. To regain my confidence it is imperative that I build up a strong picture of myself from an outside perspective and I celebrate the things about me which are good, which are not good and the things that are mediocre. I will never be perfect and there are no perfect jobs or lovers out there – I have to accept that and be as forgiving of myself as I am with others in my life.

So – I have been doing some research online and I have found some resources that have ways of building up my confidence again.

1. Know your weak spots

There are things I cannot handle people criticising. I am very sensitive about my weight, for example and I hate accidentally offending people, so if I get pulled up for that, it upsets me greatly. “Whatever is making you feel unworthy, ashamed, or inferior, identify it, give it a name, and write it down. You can also tear these written pieces to start feeling positive on those points.” (source)

2. Know your strengths

Yup, I have lots of strengths too and one of the great things about getting older is that I am more confident with what I am good at and where my failings lie. For example (Alyce Vayle): grammar = good but attention to detail = bad. (Alyce Vayle) kindness and lovingness = good but temper = bad. (Alyce Vayle) walking and running = good but boxing and aerobics = bad.

3. Give thanks

Yeah, yeah I here you say, I have heard this one before. It’s true that being grateful for what you have got is very important. There are things I have always been abundant in, for example friends and money, but there are things I have always been lacking in such as security and romantic love. I’m sure if you look at your life, you will find many things that are usually running smoothly, or where you have had lots of blessings.

4. Give compliments

Other people feel bad too and most of us suffer from a lack of confidence. In my work in radio here in Australia I have met many famous people and worked alongside multi-millionaires and extremely successful people. You know what? They are all riddled and wracked with insecurities as much as we are. When someone does something worthy of complimenting – give them a compliment. It makes everybody feel good. Also – I have heard before (on Oprah of all places) that instead of giving a compliment as a value judgement on someone’s appearance, you should go deeper and refer to their personality or character, for example, don’t say, “You look so pretty in that green shirt,” say, “That green shirt is so pretty, you must have a bold streak in your personality to choose such an individual colour.”

5. Accept compliments

Most of my readers are not Australian but there is a thing called Tall Poppy Syndrome here in Australia that is very well known. About the worst thing you can do here in Australia is to “have tickets on yourself” which translates to “having an overly high opinion of yourself.” I know that I often come across as arrogant and this has been a feature of my life since i was a child. I am precocious and I speak my mind and I often irritate people without realising it. As a kid I spent time in the American school system and it was more receptive to children like me. When someone gives you a compliment, say thank you, and take the compliment right into your heart.

6. Stick to your principles

Again, this is very hard, for some of us. I am a people pleaser and I have lots of opinions that upset people, particularly on social issues and politics. I have to learn when to keep my mouth shut and when I need to speak up. I feel that in today’s’ world we are often too afraid to speak up about things that we feel are wrong. Because of this, I have had to learn when my opinions are needed and when they are not. I study a lot about the issues that I feel passionate about, most too controversial to mention here. My copy of 1984 by George Orwell has just arrived at the library and now I am revisiting this classic book, realising how much we are indeed cloistered and gagged in our modern world.

A passage from 1984

“Winston leads an austere existence, confined to a one-room apartment on a subsistence diet of black bread and synthetic meals washed down with Victory-brand gin. He begins retaining a journal criticising the Party and its enigmatic leader, Big Brother, which – if uncovered by the Thought Police – likely warrants certain death. The flat has an alcove, beside the telescreen, where Winston apparently cannot be seen, and thus believes he has some privacy, while writing in his journal: Thoughtcrime does not entail death. Thoughtcrime IS death.”

this is a photo of a pink and blue sky

5 ways to cope when things are crappy

Constant, crushing, paralysing pain. This time last year I was in a really bad state of affairs. I had been made redundant from a job I loved, my relationship was seriously on the rocks, I was working in a (new) menial job that was beneath me and very hard work, my rent was a huge pressure and (not to sound too trivial) I had no extra money to buy clothes or get my hair done. I was miserable.

“I felt like the world was ending”

All these external events led to a terrible state of mind. I felt as if I was treading water every day and I couldn’t see any land in sight. I knew though, that I had no other options. I had to keep going. What other options did I have? By far the worst thing that was going on was my relationship. I was miserable a million times over and I really didn’t know if I would ever, ever feel better.

Coping through the ups and downs of life

Today is my birthday and I am 35. It seems surreal to me, because of course, I feel the same as I always did – if not better. I bring this up because by this grand age I have lived though many crises. I have lost lovers, jobs and apartments. I have given things up, taken things up and gone through enormous amounts of pain. There have been times in my life that were so dark, I really can’t even bear to look back with my memory. I feel pain for the woman that was. Sometimes even thinking about what I have lived though fills mw with pain and dread.

But I can guarantee you one thing now: If you are having a crappy time, I promise this will change. It has to.

Dealing with change, graciously

Heraclitus of Ephesus, who lived approx 500 years before the birth of Christ, was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. He led a very lonely life and was known as “The Obscure” and the “Weeping Philosopher”. Bit sad, really, but he did say one thing that has made his name live throughout the ages. Pretty nifty. Do you know what it was?

“The only thing that is constant is change.”

Throughout my lifetime, I have investigated this statement and I have found it to be true. Change is constant. Change is unending. Change occurs every second of every day. I am not the woman I was yesterday, and yet I feel just like her, but I have changed. We all change every day. This is both terrifying and heart-warming. We need to learn to embrace change. Change is inevitable.

Evolution and devolution

There is an esoteric principle of evolution and devolution. Everything has a peak and then begins to deteriorate. If this was not the case, I have been told, then one single plant would take over the universe. Things evolve and then they devolve. At least that is what I have read, and I cannot say for sure. One thing I do know for sure is that at one time I was younger and at another time I will be older. There will be a time when this body no longer walks this planet, and I’m cool with that. I can’t think of anything worse than staying the same forever.

Studying the beginnings of humanity

I won’t bang on about evolution and devolution too much because those terms seems to rile people quite a lot. I love this stuff. I have been reading lots about the beginnings of mankind, the new theories of evolution – or how evolution is evolving itself. I have been reading about the missing link and about Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis, a skeleton of an upward-standing primate. She was walking around 3.2 million years ago. I love this stuff and the best part about it is that there are always massive gaps in our knowledge of who we are and where the hell we came from.

Sew.

I am not quite 3.2 million years old. I am only 35. Hopefully I will have many more years to walk the earth – I still have lots that I want to do. If you are having a hard time right now, I feel for you. I hope things will get better soon. Because I have had so many crises in my life, I have found a few things that may make you feel better if things are really, truly very crappy for you:

How to cope when times are tough:

  1. Be nice to yourself, turn off your internal critic. “You are not your thoughts”.

  2. Stay in regular contact with those you care about. Try to meet up or talk on the phone, not just via social media.

  3. Pray and meditate. It doesn’t matter if you are not religious, you are a spiritual being who is being supported.

  4. Go somewhere every day. Never spend the whole day in the house. Shower and change your clothes.

  5. Do something new. Join a group, start a new job, take up yoga or some other healthy pastime.

“When I hear somebody say ‘Life is hard’, I am always tempted to ask ‘Compared to what?’” –Sydney Harris.

Good old Sydney is right. There is no alternative. You have to learn to cope with the crappy times. You are stronger than you think. Be brave. I promise things will get better.

this is a quote about fighting and having sex

The 7 steps to fighting fairly

I love a good argument but I hate to fight. I am a Libran and by nature we are peace lovers, having said that, I have withstood my fair share of fighting and I can be a right-royal pain on the ass sometimes, so I have had my fair share of fights.

It’s fine, really. The closer you are to someone, the more likely you are to fight. The Boyf and I have (up to this stage) avoided fighting but now we are past that magical four month mark where you think that everything they say and do is simply perfect and that all their faults are adorable, we have had a fight.

Luckily for me – at one stage he was trying to fight with me after having just got out of the shower, so he had his shirt off and was dripping wet. I was thinking, “You’re so annoying but DAMN you’re cute!” As usual the fight boiled down to not much more than a combination of a grumpy mood and a few misunderstandings. I hate to fight with people and I love to make up as quickly as possible.

Sew.

Luckily for me there is a plethora of advice online about how to fight fairly. Learning to fight fairly and respectfully is a pretty good tool to have in your tool belt. Here are the seven major rules I found after consulting many sources online and anecdotally in my own life. Here we go:

1. Choose your battles

You don’t need to fight over everything, There are certain times when it’s best to just let ‘sleeping dogs lie’. Sometimes I get into a bad mood for no good reason. Often this is when I am hungry or tired and I get stroppy like a giant, overgrown toddler. Choosing the time to fight is a good tool as we are not always in the best frame of mind. Don’t attack someone when they’ve just got home from work, on their birthday or after they’ve gotten off the phone from their mother. Choose your battles and choose your times.

2. Avoid bad language and name calling

As I have gotten older, I have realised that importance of this point. I can’t say I always do this, but I realise that it’s never a good time to use bad language and certainly not a great time to pick on someone’s flaws. Sure, bad language and fighting go together like bacon and eggs, but there’s a difference between slipping in the occasional f word and tearing into someone’s person character with petty name calling.

3. Use time outs when you need to

I am terrible at this one, as I have problems with self control, as do many tantrum-throwers in my generation. As I age and get more mature (ha!) I have learned that I often calm down if I have a chance to gather my thoughts. I often use these time outs to breathe, mediate or pray (please let me get to the end of this argument with respect!) even though I am not a religious person. I think that taking a time out is a good way to calm down.

4. Set a time limit

There are many reports I read that suggested that you should never argue for more than 15 minutes. I am not sure about this time limit, but I think that seems fair. Really, if the thing you are fighting about is an established problem, 15 minutes might be enough, but sometimes it takes me a while to get to the bottom of what is really wrong. I do not like fights that drag on all day. I usually have lots of interesting and wonderful things to do – so I try to time-limit myself when fighting.

5. Acknowledge attempts to end an argument constructively

Sigh – often we harp on about things well pats their use by date. If the person you are arguing with is trying to end the argument, then consider letting the issue drop, particularly if you have reached the 15 minute mark. One thing I am trying to get better at is dropping an issue. I have had many dreams that indicate to me that sometimes I simply ‘won’t take no for an answer’ and I need to learn when to let go of an issue.

6. Keep to the issue at hand

Remember that thing you did last year? Or that awful thing your relative said two Christmases ago? When you are arguing with someone, it’s best not to dredge up the past. Try to keep to the issue at hand and not complicate things. Sometimes I think that I am keeping to the issue at hand and then I realise that I have brought up other things that are bothering me, because I am upset.

7. Learn what your partner’s triggers are and don’t go there

We all have triggers. For me, it is the F word. Never, ever call me fat or talk about my weight or appearance during a fight because I get very sensitive and I will cry and become irrational. I had one rotten partner who would do this all the time and it was very childish and not constructive at all. The closer you are to someone, the more informed you are about their triggers. Don’t go there. When fighting like an adult, don’t fight dirty. If you know your friend or partner’s triggers – steer clear of them.

“People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument.” Will Rogers

One of the best things about The Boyf is that he leads by example. He doesn’t ever tell me what to do, he just does things correctly and hopes that I will catch on. Often I do. I have done this in the past and it often works, particularly if the person you are trying to influence cares about you and your relationship.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” Colin Powell

What are your tips for arguing fairly? Any that I have missed?

this is a photo fo alyce's hair

What I do wrong as a woman- the definitive list

This is a personal post about my failings a woman. These things that I am trying to attention are not everywoman’s problem – these are my problems and mine alone. But maybe you’re like me?

I would count myself as a feminine woman with a developed masculine side. I look very feminine: I have long, blonde hair, I wear makeup and I have big boobs and plenty of curves. But I am also outspoken, loud, brash and quite unnecessarily independent. I think that many women these days have lost the way on how to be feminine, myself included. At age 34 I have come to realise that I am the worst sort of ball-breaker.

I am trying to learn to listen to men more.

I know, I know.

I am a proud feminist, always have been, and unlike Beyonce I do not shy away from the word. I do not think being a feminist should be unattractive, but never listening to men, interrupting them frequently, thinking I am always right and not allowing men to every do things for me is becoming a bit of a problem.

Things have changed a lot for women in just a few generations. One of my grandmothers could not drive a car, didn’t go to university (or probably even high school) and had very little independence. She didn’t earn a wage or pay taxes. I doubt she had very much freedom or independence at all.

Fast forward 50 years and every woman I know works, buys her own things, drives and has some form of higher education or work experience. I’m not really even that happy about this, there are claims that equalizing the male/female ratio in the workforce is a great way to keep capitalism running and people under governments’ thumbs. Most women today have no option not to work – this is not feminism – this is capitalism. We are all cogs in the machine.

You think I’m being an idiot? Well read Capitalism and the Oppression of Women: Marx Revisited*by Martha E. Gimenez. “Feminism, to remain relevant to the majority of women, must, therefore, acknowledge that most women are working women whose fate, and that of their families, are shaped both by gender oppression and class exploitation.” (read the abstract here).

Anyhoo.

What I do wrong as a woman: The List

Interrupting men all the time

I have decided that I really need to learn to listen to men a little bit more. I have been practising this at work – by not interrupting male colleagues when they are trying to tell me something. Often I give my female colleagues more attention out of respect. I am not sure why I do this. It may be because I went to an all girls school and grew up in a female-dominated household (with a great dad, yet outnumbered). Or maybe I am just an asshole. I am not quite sure.

Being unnecessarily loud and boorish

I am very loud and it is not very feminine. I am trying to be more quiet and meek. This is very difficult for me because I think I know everything and I like everyone to hear what I have to say at all times. Needless to say, this can be very frustrating for those around me who know that I am often full of s**t.

Clomping around like a truck driver

I walk very fast. I have written a few posts on bad manners and how I march around very self-importantly. I don’t often wear high heels, simply because they slow me down and I like to push past old ladies and knock over mums struggling with prams and toddlers. This is not a great habit. It is nice to make people feel more important than you – this is a great way to be more alpha and less beta. To truly succeed you have to have genuine respect for others.

Thinking I am always right

The Boyf has pointed this out on more than one occasion and you know what? Despite my constant rantings I AM sometimes wrong and others are sometimes right. I am 34 years old and I have just discovered this. Had I discovered it sooner, I may have led an easier life, who knows?

Thinking that I must be smarter than a man

I don’t know why I genuinely, in my heart of hearts, believe this to be true. Of course it is not. Not to say that I am LESS smart than a man, but I often discount the opinions of people with penises. I have many strong female friends who I can rely on for financial advice, legal advice, relationship advice and career advice. I guess I just spend less time talking to men about the important stuff. I am trying to take the time to listen to the smart men I know and hear more about their opinions.

Thinking that men are much slower than me

Guh! I get very impatient when people are not as fast as me. The only problem is, I am often so fast that I make many errors. I get bored of things easily (things, not people) and I like to move through life quickly, jumping form one experience to the next.

Not accepting help

I DO need help often. I frequently get myself into tangles and I need help. Anyone who had to nurse me through a meltdown earlier this year knows how painful I can be. But I often need help with other things too. Computer problems, minor stresses, household issues, minor injuries… without being able to accept help I would be in a much worse state. Men can be very helpful in a crisis and I need to be able to learn to ask for help when I need it. There have been studies that show that people are TWICE as likely to help you than you think.

Trying to prove that I can do things (when I clearly can’t)

Yup. The other day I tried to punch one of those speed ball thingys that Rocky uses and I bruised my hand. I have just proven to myself that I am not Rocky and I should not try to punch things because I have delicate little hands and I bruise easily. I am going to get a cup of tea now.

What do you think of this post? Am I selling out to the rest of woman-hood or are my feeble attempts at diminishing my ball-breaking tendencies too meagre?

this is a photo of a sexy lady in underwear

Withholding Sex: is it Ever OK? The Difference Between Men and Women

Do you do it? Have you ever had a partner do it to you? There is a common social misconception that only women withhold sex, but of course this is not true. In fact, if you enter the term into your search engine, you’ll find that all the searched articles relate to women withholding sex from men, and not the other way around.

Sometimes, people withhold sex from their partners for various reasons, often to punish them or because they do not feel connected to them physically. This can be a single event, or a process that occurs over months or even years. Not everyone needs the same amount of sex, some people have higher sex drives than others.

Ask Men and Jezebel

Sigh. The war rages on both camps, but no one bothers to talk about when men withhold sex. Ask Men is a male-skewed website and gives four main reasons why women withhold sex:

  1. She’s pissed (by this the author means mad – FYI in Australia ‘pissed’ means drunk, in the US it means ‘angry’)
  2. She’s asserting herself
  3. She’s manipulating you
  4. She’s bored

Not to be outdone, feminist website Jezebel has countered with this list:

  1. I’ve always found sex to be great stress relief, and I think angry sex is awesome.
  2. Note to men and women: if your partner’s feeling powerless, simply telling her she’s good in bed may not solve all her problems.
  3. Maybe when a woman doesn’t want to have sex, she’s not being crazy, manipulative, or bitchy — maybe she just doesn’t want to have sex.
  4. It’s an act in which all participants should be willing and enthusiastic.

I found another site which blames the modern woman, for assuming that the modern man is just a hairier version of herself:

“In older generations, women knew that they had moral obligations that existed whether they felt like doing them or not.”

That statement (read the original article by Dennis Prager here) may seem offensive to many people. After all, women are now liberated so they should not feel morally obligated to have sex with their partners unless they are in the mood, right?

Having enough sex?

I really think that many people do not place enough emphasis on sex within their relationships, and in maintaining good sex. Like anything worth doing, it’s important to give it time, space and energy.

Take this statement: Sex is what separates a couple’s relationship from all other relationships. A marriage without sexual intimacy and friendship will eventually sputter and die. (source) Whether married, or simply in a committed relationship, sex is important.

But are we entitled to sex within monogamous relationships?

Or is it a benefit, not an entitlement? According to The Good Men Project : “The truth is, we aren’t actually entitled to anything—even when we’re committed to monogamy. Sex is sort of like a gift given from one person to the other, and it becomes truly great when both partners are equally giving.”

The Prager article goes on to say: “I think this whole problem of women not understanding men, of treating men as objects, and of demeaning male feelings and values, is very serious.”

Do women treat men as objects? The article seems to paint women as selfish and demanding, which is something that all humans can be.

Don’t want to TMI you here (that’s too much information) but I certainly do not withhold sex as punishment, or to be passive aggressive. I’m not sure if any of the women I know do. I hate to say it, but I have had men do it to me in the past – which has been an interesting experience.

What do other bloggers think about withholding sex? Is it ever OK?

How to Be Charming (Yes, You)

I have a thing for charmers. Male or female, superior or subordinate. Lover or neighbour. I love a charmer. I am also very charming myself. A typical Libran, I can usually get what I want in life because I know how to turn on the charm. For a while. As well as this, I have dated quite a few Librans and I can say that unequivocally, Librans are all charming.

Are charmers just manipulators?

There is an element of manipulation in charm. Benjamin Schwartz wrote an interesting article on The Rise and Fall of Charm in American Men. He says:

Only the self-aware can have charm: it’s bound up with a sensibility that at best approaches wisdom, and at worst goes well beyond cynicism.

He seems to believe that the modern man is lacking in charm and that most true charmers are now over the age of 70. I cannot agree with this. I know many charming men, including my close male friends and my male relatives. However, I would have to say that there are random men out there who do not know how to treat a lady (or indeed, other men). These men burp in public, push past you and ogle you. Not charming. Perhaps they have attitudes that are not charming too. Women can be just as bad, however Schwartz’s article says that men are worse as they are more childlike than women.

When you work with someone who is NOT charming

He mentions that in order to be considered charming, you must have a degree of personal awareness. Your personality must be fairly developed and you must have an ability to read others’ emotions. I love charming people and I do not like to be around people who are not charming. There have been times in my life I have worked for people who are not charming, who are gruff, rude, bossy and bully their staff. Some people can work in this type of environment, or even thrive under that sort of pressure. I cannot. Bad manners and non-charmers make me shut down and stop trying.

Put the spotlight onto others

One of my fave bloggers, Penelope Trunk has written a great post about being enchanting. One thing she mentions is that in order to be charming, you need to make the other person more important than you. So often in life we are so busy ‘tooting our own trumpets’ that we forget to listen to the other person. I am often guilty of this.

There is a great quote from Dylan Thomas: Dylan talked copiously, then stopped. ‘Somebody’s boring me,’ he said, ‘I think it’s me.’

I hate to admit it – but often I am so concerned with being charming that I forget that it’s most charming to listen to other people and not interrupt with your opinions every two seconds.

The Remains of the Day

I have whinged previously about bad manners and poor etiquette. I am a huge fan of good manners and I have terrible manners myself sometimes. When I act with bad manners, I feel affected by it and I don’t like the fact that others are cursing me and thinking that I am ungracious and uncharming.

One of the best movies I have ever seen is The Remains of the Day with Emma Thomson and Anthony Hopkins. It is a frustratingly boring and lengthy movie that will make you want to poke your eyeballs out by the end, because they don’t even bloody kiss and the sexual tension between them is really annoying to watch.

this is a movie poster for Remains of the Day

Charm, manners and social restraint

He is an English butler, she is a housekeeper in a stately home.

To quote the Remains of the Day wiki entry (on the book, not the movie) “The most important aspect of Stevens’s life is his dignity as an English butler. Such aspects of refined dignity, especially when applied under stressful situations, are, to Stevens, what define a “great butler”. As such, Stevens constantly maintains an inward and outward sense of dignity in order to preserve his own identity.”

Interestingly, the novel is written by Kazuo Ishiguro, a Japanese born-English novelist so I can understand why he would be so concerned with manners, dignity, social levels of interaction and restraint.

Manners and charm go hand in hand. To quote Clarence Thomas, “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.”