Pop psychology blog: May 2011

Music - The time machine: 1968 and the Events of May


My recommended song this month is 'Le Temps De Vivre'
by George Moustaki about being in the moment and not
stuck in old habits or conventions. I believe it also
references 1968 Paris slogans. The lyrics are available in
French and translation here

The Sixties are constantly repackaged into chart topper compilations or TV programmes with pictures of daft looking Hippies. In many ways however this is just the froth on profound changes that were happening in society. Some of which, more importantly, are still unfinished. This is the real legacy of the Sixties and early Seventies that needs to be revisited, celebrated, critiqued and built upon. 

The romantic in me will always associate 1968 with the events of May in Paris, which started with students challenging the stifling, traditional, conservative values of de Gaulle and bringing France to a standstill. Though at the time as a young English kid of seven, I was only vaguely aware of what was going on, from black and white images on the early evening news after children's TV had ended. Its myth still managed to seep into my consciousness however.  (And many years later, I even managed to get tear gassed in Paris myself by the police, bizarrely after a trip to Disneyland. But that's another story.)

Of course with the benefit of hindsight 1968 was part adolescent rebellion to a rock sound track. A vinyl solution to the horrors the previous generation had created and defeated, as well as to the prejudices and narrow mindedness of the peace that followed.  

Attempting to create a new world, not only in France but in America and elsewhere in Europe, meant experimenting and thus failures as well as successes. The flirtations with Maoism and hard drugs as solutions to all of society's problems seem particularly ridiculous now. 

But at heart, 1968 was a time when human values were pushed to the fore, with a questioning of what it meant to be human and how we can live together happily. 

It was an era with a blossoming of interest in self-discovery and a rejection of deference. Unfortunately it stalled. Still on the positive side much of what was new and good in 1968 has been mainstreamed; ideas from Feminism, black equal rights and sexual freedoms. 

So much still needs to be done however. I particularly mourn the decline of interest in personal growth groups. They may have been replaced by counselling. This isn't all bad, but may lead to a focus on narrow problem solving and is based on an expert-patient relationship. This isn't a criticism and I salute the excellent and important work done by therapists. I just think society is more vibrant when more people have the opportunity to explore who they are and could be, and challenge the myths of consumerist society.

 As they wrote on the walls of Paris in the month of May 1968;

* Soyez réaliste, demandez l'impossible.
(Be realistic, demand the impossible.)

* Je prends mes désirs pour des réalités car je crois en la realité de mes desirs.
(I treat my desires as realities because I believe in the reality of my desires.)

* Nous ne voulons pas d'un monde où la certitude de ne pas mourir de faim s'échange contre le risque de mourir d'ennui.
(We don't want a world where freedom from dying from hunger comes at the risk of dying of boredom.)

* On achète ton bonheur. Vole-le.
(They are buying your happiness. Steal it back.)

* Sous les pavés, la plage.
(Under the cobble-stones, the beach.)

 * Vous finirez tous par crever du confort.
(You will all finish up by dying from comfort.)

* La forêt précède l'homme, le désert le suit.
(Forests came before man, the desert comes afterwards.)

* Je suis marxiste, tendance Groucho.
(I am a Marxist, Groucho tendency.)

Like many slogans they contain an important truth in their exaggeration or absurdity. Their spirit somehow reminds me of experiences or ideas I have across in either       Re-evaluation Counselling and Co-counselling International, though others may disagree.

This is my final blog for the moment.

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Pop Psychology Blog: April 2011

Fools' Days
Laughter is good for you. It even has health benefits. For example, laughing is
good for blood pressure, as well as the
cardiovascular, respiratory and immune systems. It also just makes people feel well. An Indian physician Dr Madan Kataria started off, what is now an international laughter network, in 1995. There are now more than 1,800 free laughter groups in India and throughout the world. People learn how to laugh without the need of comedy. However they still get the physical benefits of a good belly laugh.

Alternatively, why not listen to either of these two recommended songs of the month and join in:


The Laughing Policeman (Charles Penrose) Lyrics

I Love To Laugh (From 'Mary Poppins') Lyrics


My next blog is on May 5th and is about 1968 and why we should remember the Sixties. 

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Pop Psychology Blog: March 2011

Inspiration Jukebox Hall of Fame (3)
March 8th is International Women's Day. It is an official holiday in some countries but not here in the UK. It does give me an excuse however to publicise the music of one of my favourite female artists; Libby Roderick.

She is an Alaskan singer-songwriter who has recorded five albums and also has a 'best of' CD out.


She is best known for 'How Could Anyone',  (If You See A
Dream, #),
my recommended song of the month. (
Lyrics)

'How Could Anyone' has been recorded by a variety of different singers in different languages and is the only piece of her music on YouTube. It was sung by thousands of people at a UN women's conference in China and CNN also did a feature on it. Despite all this I still think it deserves to be even better known, as do many of her other songs. Below is a list of some of her other songs under different headings. I have included the album they are from in brackets. If this also has a '#'  by it, the track is also on 'How Could Anyone', her best of CD.

Inspiring women
* Inspire Me (If You See A Dream)
* When I Hear Music (If You See A Dream)

Death
* Bones (Lay It All Down, #) Lyrics
* Go (Thinking Like A Mountain) Lyrics
* Holy Thing To Love (Thinking Like A Mountain) Lyrics

Trusting yourself
* Is That What You Really Want (Thinking Like A Mountain) Lyrics
* Listen To The Devil (Lay It All Down)

Keeping going
* Don't Give Up (If You See A Dream)
* Keep On Strong Heart (If The World Were My Lover)

Relationships
* Caught (Between A Rock and A Soft Place) (Thinking Like A Mountain) Lyrics

Other songs cover a range of political, personal and spiritual topics.
You may like to check out her own website.

Next month my blog is on April 1st, April Fools' Day. It is on humour, happiness and music.


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Pop Psychology Blog: February 2011

Songs for Singletons
As it is Valentine's Day this month, I couldn't let it pass without a few thoughts of my own. I've already written about music and relationships in the section labelled 'Love Tips'. So instead I thought I'd focus on people who aren't in relationships at the moment. As a kid I also felt awkward and a little ashamed around the 14th as I seldom got a card or was going out with anyone. I also remember that if I ever heard the phrase 'only a friend', I took in the 'only' bit and not the 'friend' part of the sentence.

As I got older I realised that being in a relationship doesn't solve all your problems. Sometimes in fact it can add to them. Indeed saying 'in a relationship' itself now seems a bit odd as it devalues all the other contact you have with friends and family. Aren't they relationships too?


So my recommended listening this month is
'Shower The People' by James Taylor for everyone who is
important to you
.

Next month is International Women's Day, so on the 8th my blog is on Libby Roderick, a diva on inspirational music.

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Pop Psychology Blog: Jan 2011

Beat the New Year blues (Add some melody and some Motown too)
January 1st is just another day. Any day can be the start of the rest of your life. Cliched but true. But traditionally we make resolutions around now, so how might music help us keep them?


Recommended listening this month: Year of Decision by
The Supremes (Lyrics)

Choose pieces of music that will help you meet your goals. These could be

  • To help encourage you with your vision
  • To help you keep going or cope with setbacks
  • To share with other people if the song expresses better than you can
  • To use to celebrate when you have done well
  • To divert your attention from something you want to stop doing
  • To get you in the right mood for something you want to do
  • To exercise to if your resolution is related to your physical health (Low levels of depression also often respond to exercise too)

Some resolutions are particularly difficult around New Year e.g. giving up cigarettes and cutting down on food or alcohol. There are too many temptations with parties and left-overs from Christmas. Health professionals often suggest making your plans now but setting a date to change for a little later in the year. Perhaps ask someone to remind you and support you near your deadline. Good luck.

Maybe you are thinking of a resolution which is more to do with improving a relationship or changing a personal quality? If so check out some of the organisations on this page. 

 PS
Next month's blog will be on February 14th and as it is Valentine's Day will be on relationships and music.


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Pop Psychology Blog: December 2010

Christianity's gifts to the atheist
I'm not a Christian or religious. There are things in Christianity's history that appal me, such as some sect's persecution of other belief systems, sexism and support for tyrannical regimes . However, there is also much that I give thanks for, such as a doctrine of love, caring for the poor, a focus on peace and, as a child, Christmas.

Christmas of course is built on earlier pagan festivals bringing joy and hope to the dark days of winter. Parties and gift giving fits in neatly with a Northern European need to continue this tradition. However, I do feel uncomfortable with the commercialisation of Christmas. So other than watching endless repeats of 'Scrooged' and 'Its a Wonderful Life', what can I do?

One thing is to talk about what the real spirit of Christmas might be to an atheist. Not all "Come All Ye Faithful" or "Santa Claus Is Coming To The Town" but perhaps "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)".

Here is my selection of 'Christmas' songs, as my recommended listens this month. Perhaps a home made CD of them would make a good present for friends and family?


* My Grown up Christmas List (Natalie Cole) Lyrics

 Shower The People (James Taylor) Lyrics

 * Thank You For Being A Friend (Theme tune to 'Golden Girls') Lyrics

 * In Harmony (From 'the Little Mermaid') Lyrics

 * Reach Out (And Touch Somebody's Hand) (Diana Ross) Lyrics

 * Do They Know It's Christmas (BandAid) Lyrics

 * Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (John Lennon and Yoko Ono) Lyrics
   (Note, the video doesn't pull any punches. You might find it disturbing, but  I think 
   it stops the song becoming something you just associate with shopping malls in
   December.)

   and I've included a final two tracks in case you want to encourage debate!
 * Truce (Tom Robinson) Lyrics

 * Meat Is Murder (The Smiths) Lyrics

(If you get tired of traditional Christmas games check out my blog entry for June 2010 below. Alternatively see who can come up with the best musical on a given theme. See November 2010 for further details.)

The next blog will be about New Year's resolutions and will come out on January 1st.

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Pop Psychology Blog: November 2010

Produce your own musical for free
Following on from last month's blog about the Broadway and West End hit 'Wicked', do you fancy producing your own musical with the help of the internet? You can do it in an hour.

A few years ago I was involved for the British health service with a local carnival. To be precise it was a mela, a South east Asian music and dance festival. The previous year I had been a bit embarrassed about our efforts, a table with some leaflets. The Royal Navy had a flight simulator and even some of the local council services had more exciting interactive displays than us. I wondered about an 'off the peg' musical about a health theme. I chose teenage pregnancy. I imagined a cast of a mother, father, daughter and son. The setting was their living room and hall. There would be two scenes. The whole thing would last about half an hour. This is it:


1) 
Father and Son (Cat Stevens) Lyrics
The father lays down the law to the son, who tells the audience how he feels. The mother just watches. The daughter listens to her iPod. The son eventually storms off.

2) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
(Cyndi Lauper) Lyrics
The daughter sings this out loud as she dances round the room with her iPod. The father leaves. The mother just watches.

3) Tangled Up Puppet (Harry Chapin) Lyrics
The mother sings this to herself as the daughter continues to listen to her iPod. The song is about the joy and pain of seeing your child turn into an adolescent and adult.

4) Papa Don't Preach (Madonna) Lyrics
This is the second of two acts. The daughter sings to her father. She is accidentally pregnant. He says nothing but leaves in a bad mood. Elsewhere on stage is the son with a case in his hand ready to leave. He sees everything that has happened.

4) If My Sister's In Trouble (Lady Soul from the film Sister Act) Lyrics
The son sings this to his sister as he has decided not to leave as she needs his support. Elsewhere on stage the parents are in view arguing and then coming round as they listen to their son

5) I'll Stand By You (The Pretenders) Lyrics
Each of the parents sings lines of this to each of their two children.

6) Thank You For Hearing Me (Sinead O'Connor) Lyrics
Different members of the family sing different lines to each other. Her mobile phone rings and her partner has dumped her but she still has a family around her.

Thinking of the tracks and finding the lyrics took me an hour. I never quite managed to get the funding to do it, but perhaps that doesn't matter. It showed me that it would be possible to produce a website based musical on a range of topics cheaply and quickly.  

For more on this topic go to page 48 of  http://www.sexanddrugsandrockandhealth.com/userimages/newPCTotalDocument.pdf

Why don't you have a go. Let me know if make your own and I'll link to it. Email me at mail@inspirationjukebox.com

My blog next month comes out on the 7th and is about alternative Xmas songs. 

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Pop Psychology Blog: October 2010

Wicked: Die Hexen von Oz
In the weeks leading up to Halloween I need no excuse to tell everyone about my favourite musical 'Wicked'. This is a retelling of the 'Wizard of Oz' from the witches point of view. I love it so much that I even bought the German language version, despite the nearest I get to understanding Deutsch is owning a VW Polo.

The themes of 'Wicked' include friendship, overcoming prejudice, losing your illusions and growing up, despair and redemption.

To help you understand the storyline click here, otherwise just go ahead and be inspired by  favourite song from the show:

 
Defying Gravity is my recommendation of  the month (Lyrics)

Even better why not buy the CD or go to see the show

My blog next month is on November 30th and I'll talk about making your own musical (for nothing).

Boo! (and Happy Halloween)
 

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Pop Psychology Blog: September 2010

Inspiration Jukebox Hall of Fame (2): John Lennon
One of my earliest TV memories is watching the Beatles on black & white telly whilst eating Golden Wonder Crisps. John, Paul,George and Ringo have been part of my consciousness ever since. Fifteen or so years later I have strong memories of my first term at university and hearing that John Lennon had been killed. It had a profound impact on my group of friends.

I already knew a little about his political activity to change the world. It had seeped into me whilst I was playing with my toys or half listening to the news that came on immediately after children's TV ended on the BBC.

It was only much later that I began to find out about the personal liberation work he was involved in that we must also thank the late Sixties and early Seventies for.


My recommended song to check out this month is by John
Lennon. It's 'Imagine' (See above and click here
for lyrics).

John Lennon, of course, was a paradox. He sang 'Give Peace A Chance' and had an aggressive temper. Elvis Costello sang in 'Other Side Of Summer' about a millionaire singing about imagining no possessions. A working class hero or a househusband?

But perhaps that's partly why so many people loved him. He was a bit of a mess at times like the rest of us. But he did try to do something about it. As well as trying to improve the World around him, at events like the famous bed-ins for peace, he was into personal liberation too. As a Beatle he spent time with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi . Unlike George Harrison who continued with Eastern religion, he moved on.

He and Yoko spent time with Alfred Janov taking part in Primal Therapy sessions. His song 'Mother' came out of this, about the pain of his dad abandoning him and his mum dying. 

As well as 'Imagine' I suggest you also check out:

Give Peace A Chance   (Lyrics)


How   (Lyrics)

Mother   (Lyrics)

Working Class Hero   (Lyrics)

God   (Lyrics)

Next month my blog is out on October 31st and I talk about my favourite all-time musical and hope that it can inspire you too.
  

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Pop Psychology Blog: August 2010

The XY Factor
I don't know if you remember a Feminist postcard that began 'Because woman's work is never done and is underpaid or unpaid or boring or repetitious and…', continues 'and if we stand up for our rights we're aggressive and "unfeminine" and if we don't we're typical weak females and…', then finishes '… and for lots and lots of other reasons we are part of the women's liberation movement.'
It was written by Joyce Stevens in 1975.  

This is my companion to it as a man. As this is a music website, I imagine it spoken over music in the same way Des Lynam recited Kipling's 'If' to Pavane by Gabriel Faure.  

So indulge me, put on the start of The Long Road by Mark Knopfler and read on.

It's A Man's Man's Man's World Revisited
Because it's a 'real' man's world and there are no 'real' men only hurt, confused human males

And because we've been lied to all our lives so that our self-worth's tied up with the impossible and the inhuman

And because we were born fine and lovable, but were soon told that we weren't worth anything if we were ever unmanly, soppy or in any other way loving or vulnerable

And because many of us are still so shocked and damaged by this that we can't cry or feel anything at all now, except maybe anger

And because this is all tied up with the fact that most of us have been unable to get close enough to other men to change things through fear of being called names or beaten up

And through being forced to compete for jobs, money and a bit of praise

And because for some of us it has been literally a case of kill or be killed

We've now realised that much of the power that we have is an illusion, as being prejudiced and unable to cope with emotions, prevents us meeting our own real need to love and be loved, as well as the needs of women and the planet

And so for these and many other reasons we invite you to join us in freeing both men and women from the shackles of sexism and all other forms of injustice.


(Hope you enjoyed it, as you reading it to Mark Knopfler is my recommended track of the month.)

I hope it doesn't sound too downbeat. It came out of  my experience of exploring, through Re-evaluation Counselling, how my socialisation as a male in 20th century Britain had hurt me and limited me. I was cut off from my feelings for a start. This wasn't because of my XY male chromosomes but my conditioning. I began to see that though men had benefited from sexism that there was also a downside. Men, as well as women, would be happier without it.

Next month my blog comes out on September 15th and is about John Lennon.

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Pop Psychology Blog: July 2010

The Inspiration Jukebox Hall of Fame (1): Harry Chapin 
The man who invented 'Live Aid' years before Bob Geldof, 
died 29 years ago this month on July 16th. Harry Chapin gave a large proportion of his musical earnings to end Third World Poverty. He remarked however that it never reached a single person in need.

This was because he preferred that the money went on political campaigning to get government to do something. President Carter responded to his call and set up a committee to look at world poverty. Unfortunately though in 1981he died in a car accident aged only 41.

His inspiration carried on however. His family has carried on his good work e.g. the World Hunger Year campaign (as ever year is World Hunger Year for many.)

He also inspired others. His manager Ken Kragen was heavily involved in organising the American side of Live Aid in 1985.


Bruce Springsteen's tribute to Harry is my recommended
track of the month. (Also read the 
lyrics of the song itself.)


Bruce Springsteen on the track 'Remember When The Music'

on Harry Chapin: The Tribute Concert played this tribute to him, whilst also acknowledging the debt he owed Harry for getting him more socially active:

'… I guess there was a time when people felt that music provided you with… a greater
sense of unity, a greater sense of shared vision and purpose than it does today.
 
And my
generation, we were the generation that were going to change the world. Somehow we were going to make it a little less lonely, a little less hungry, a little more just place. It seems that when that promise slipped through our hands, we didn't replace it with nothing but lost faith…

… and you can kind of sit back and say, not cynically but truthfully, that maybe, maybe, all men are not brothers and maybe we won't ever know who or what we really are to each other. But I think Harry instinctively knew that it was going to take a lot more than just love to survive. That it was going to take a strong sense of purpose, of duty and a  good clear eye on the dirty ways of the world.

So in keeping… his promise to himself, he
reminds us of our promise to ourselves and that tonight, alongside Harry, it's that promise that his spirit would have us remember and honour and recommit to. So do something and may his song be sung.'

Harry also leaves behind him a number of hits, as a writer or performer, such as
W*O*L*D (Lyrics)
Taxi (Lyrics)
Circle (Lyrics)
Cat's In The Cradle (Lyrics)

Visit the website his family have established about him to find out more.

Next month my blog will come out on August 25th and for no particular reason will be about men.

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Pop psychology blog:

June 2010

Play like you were never told it was childish
It's the World Cup at the moment. The biggest spectacle in sport after the Olympics, and so dominates most non-US news media. So I naturally thought that I'd tell you about something radically different; New Games.

New Games are 'sport' for anyone who was too short, big, slow or unco-ordinated to be picked for a team at school, or to enjoy it if, eventually, they did hear a reluctant 'We'll have you I suppose, then'. (Though, actually New Games are for anyone who was picked first too, as they are such fun.)
Many New Games are enhanced by music. For more active
or crazy activities try this month's recommended song, Jive
Bunny And The Master Mixer's 'Crazy Party Mix'. (Sorry that
the image contains the word 'Looney' if it offends you.)

In New Games, unlike ordinary sport, the rules can be changed so that everyone is included, if some people are struggling and not having fun. They started in the States in the Seventies and came over to the UK a little later. New Games are a mixture of activities and you are also welcome to make up additional ones of your own.

Some are quiet. Some are really physical. And then there are the ones that are simply joyful.

In the past I have facilitated New Games parties, simply for fun, at Co-counselling International events. However, they can also be used to team build etc as part of training events. Below are some documents I have written about facilitating New Games for fun and as a training tool. I have also included a description of some  games handouts I wrote for co-counselling teachers.  

Some games and tips on refereeing them safely 

History of New Games

If want to find out more. There are a number of books. One of the best is 'The Second Co-operative Sports And Games Book' by Terry Orlick.

Also check out the New Games UK website.  
 

Both might tell you about games that involve more running about as I don't seem to have included many my handouts. (Though think about insurance if you want to use these more physical games in your work.)

Have fun!

Next month on July 16th, I'll be blogging about the singer Harry Chapin and his legacy.

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Pop psychology blog:

May 2010

What inspired the Inspiration Jukebox?
This website is the result of many things but perhaps the biggest is my 20 year love affair with Co-counselling International (CCI). At one level co-counselling is simply two people listening to each other in turn, with some fancy techniques thrown into help them get in touch with their feelings, their personal histories and what they need to do next.


My recommended song of the month is Starship's 'Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now'. Although we have never sung it at CCI, I can imagine doing so hand in hand with a large group of  people at a closing circle. The lyrics capture how I feel by the  end of
an event.

However, there is also a co-counselling culture that exists at CCI events that I find very life affirming. One of these events is held annually in Scotland, around about now, in May. It is open to anyone who has done the 40 hours training necessary to become a co-counsellor and costs about £150 for four days.

There will perhaps be around 50 people there and the event will turn out as they decide. It will however formally start with an opening circle. A couple of volunteers will facilitate this. It often involves song, movement and sharing in pairs. There is the opportunity to join a smaller group who meet every day so that people don't feel lost amongst the crowd.

The rest of the time is open to negotiation. People ask for what they need and offer to run groups on different topics. These might include therapeutic work on issues like anger, your father or what you want to do with your life. In the evening they often also include singing, circle dance, salsa, massage etc.

I find the mix of the emotional, intellectual and physical very powerful, especially  amongst people who create a sense of community and safety, rare in my everyday life. The values that I find in CCI are the ones that I wanted to share with people through this website.

Next month my blog is on the 11th June, when the opening match of the World Cup (of soccer) takes place. I look at co-operative games with a bit of music thrown in.
 

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