Monday, 16 June 2014

How to cope with ANGER

       Sad but true, at some time in your life things will fail to go your way: Family and friends may disappoint you; school, college and work mates may betray you; and people in authority may undermine your confidence.
       So how do you cope when the person you thought was your best friend flirts with your crush, your parents or teachers don’t listen to you and inexplicably you become the butt of feeble jokes? (Hopefully NOT by going berserk with a shotgun – a pattern which seems to be increasing these days as disaffected youths use violence in answer to small or imaginary sleights.)  
       Okay, so the anger may be justified, but can you control what others do or say? Hardly. The only person you can really control is YOU, and hopefully this post will help you to do that.

Stay calm

       This is stating the obvious yet it’s vital not to lash out in the heat of rage. If you feel you’re about to lose control, just walk away.  Better to leave the scene than do anything you may later regret - prisons are full of people like that! Cool down, breathe deeply, then proceed to the next stage.


       Try to view the matter calmly and objectively. Are you being overly sensitive? Could you have contributed to the problem in some way? Were you unwise to burden your friend with a confidence? Did you set yourself up to be ridiculed? Was the other party being cruel intentionally, or just indulging in some witty banter? Even if the answer is ‘No’, would retaliating in kind make things even worse? Could anger make you even nastier than the perpetrator? Or blind you to your own faults:
       “Everyone’s unreasonable except me!”


       Whenever you’ve been hurt, let down or inconvenienced by someone, remember this undeniable truth: Everyone’s imperfect – including YOU! Can you honestly say you’ve never been thoughtless, betrayed a confidence or put your mouth into gear before your brain!
       The tongue can be particularly tricky – like the rudder of a boat, it’s comparatively small compared to the overall vessel, yet, unchecked, it can steer even strong relationships onto the rocks. If you’ve ever blushed at embarrassing things you’ve said in the past, then accept that others can be just as slack-jawed in unguarded moments.
       “If only everyone else was perfect!”

Talk it over

       If, after careful examination, you’re convinced the other person deliberately set out to hurt you, by all means approach them – but only when you’re feeling calm. Think of what you want to say beforehand, write it down and rehearse it. Avoid emotional phrases such as “Why do you hate me?”  “What have I ever done to you?” “How dare you speak to me like that?”  Instead, make statements that are reasonable and matter of fact. For example: “I felt your remark/action/attitude was rather hostile. Am I right in thinking you have an issue with me?”
       You may find the other person was oblivious to the offence; perhaps it was a misunderstanding, or they could simply have been in a grotty mood with everyone. On the other hand, they may have meant to upset you and have no intention of apologising. At least you’ll have set matters straight.
       “Can we sort it out?”

Let it go

       If the person is genuinely sorry for any offence, the best thing you could do is to forgive and forget, especially when dealing with a friend. After all, you wouldn’t discard a favourite shirt or pair of trainers, so why throw away a valuable friendship?
       By keeping calm and standing back from the pain you feel, you’ll often find the matter was nowhere near as serious as you first imagined. You’ll earn respect for your rational way of dealing with things, hold onto genuine friends (however imperfect!) and perhaps save yourself and others from an awful lot of grief!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

For some folk, fairy tales are Grimm!

       Terrific fun, of course, but children’s plays – especially pantomime – can be a perilous occupation. Not only do scripts have to be side-achingly funny, but politically correct, issue aware and socially on message into the bargain. 
       And there’s another factor we writers need to contend with – choosing a theme that won’t give children nightmares.
       According to a recent survey by US TV channel Watch, one in five parents have turned their backs on traditional fairy tales, considering the yarns too frightening for young children. Whether anyone asked their offspring what they thought is open to question – after due consideration, I tend to think not, as most kids I know love nothing better than a good scare!
      Some of the adults interviewed also find some stories either reactionary, unrealistic or immoral.  Tales such as (Hansel & Gretel and Rapunzel involve kidnapping, for instance.) Parents also seem to think children should be set a good example which, apparently, the thieving Goldilocks and Jack (of beanstalk fame) are not. Neither, it seems, are Cinderella and the Sleeping Beauty due to their obvious stereotyping of the female gender. As a result, a whole generation of under-fives are now being reared on modern alternatives such as Thomas the Tank Engine, Mr Men and The Gruffalo.
       Of course, many of the original tales dreamed up by Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm and others were actually quite horrific - no doubt they could give your average video nasty a run for its money! Take the Ugly Sisters, for example; in the original version, they mutilated their own feet to fit into Cinders' dainty glass slipper. Snow White involves a rather nasty account of attempted child murder - by a family member at that! And what the Big Bad Wolf did to poor old grandma doesn't even bear contemplating!
       Even so, it's thought that fairy stories help children deal with real-life fears. Psychologists such as Bruce Bettelheim believe they provide coping mechanisms for youngsters, enabling them to chart their way through difficult situations in an increasingly hostile, adult-controlled world.
       In his book, Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bettelheim argues: "Fairy tales are loved by the child…..because — despite all the angry, anxious thoughts in his mind to which the fairy tale gives body and specific context — these stories always result in a happy outcome, which the child cannot imagine on his own.”
       Children can also learn to identify human traits and frailties. Take any well-known folk tale and it's easy to parallel even the most exaggerated characters with flesh and blood people.
       Like Mum, for instance. When in conflict with her child, a mother who's normally cast as the good fairy is, to the child's mind, quickly transformed into the wicked witch; Daddy becomes the wise old Wizard, the fearless woodcutter rescuing Little Red Riding Hood from the slavering jaws of the wolf, or (my favourite) the eternal magic money-tree! And I'll give you three guesses who Justin Bieber represents. My own handsome prince has just got his bus pass, which just goes to show not all fairy tales end happily ever after! Meanwhile, a host of walk-ons in these fantasies i.e. ogres, beasts and pixies substitute for teachers, siblings and various friends or rivals.
       Personally, I find echoes of old fairy tales in almost every book I read, in films, in plays and even video games. It's said there are only 6 (or is it 8?) basic plots for which every writer has a different way of telling, each unique in its own way.
       And without such tales, there wouldn't be pantomimes - putting me out of a job for a start! Which reminds me, it's time to get on with my next pantomime script!