Featured

New Book: Answers in the Dark

The new book by Delphi Ellis, Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal is now available to order on Amazon.

Also available on Hive.

Synopsis

The 4am Mystery: that’s an actual thing by the way. Even before a global health crisis took the shape of COVID-19, people around the world were finding themselves sleep deprived, awake in the middle of the night.

You might be someone who says, no matter what you do, you just can’t sleep. Sometimes you know why: your thoughts are racing, or a nightmare has startled you into consciousness. Other nights you might toss and turn and, just as you finally doze off, the alarm blares.

This book was written for you.

It explores why you’re awake, how you can manage your mind at night, and what might help if it’s your dream content wreaking havoc.

Drawing on nearly two decades of therapeutic work, research, and an ancient wisdom proven to helpfully manage the mind, Delphi connects the dots between sleep, dreams and our mental health. She particularly highlights the impact of grief and loss on our well-being, which can ultimately affect the quality of our night-time rest – even if no one has died. Her book guides the reader on a journey to make friends with night-time, learning what the dark might have to offer, to achieve a calmer, healthier, happier life.

Watch Delphi on Loose Women

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021

Featured

Media: TV, Radio and Magazine appearances

I have a special interest in dreams and sleep, appearing on TV shows like Loose Women and ITV’s This Morning. (You can find out more about this further down the page).

Professional Career

I started my therapeutic career in 2002, where I supported those bereaved by murder and suicide, including attending inquests at coroner’s court. I now work in the community promoting well-being maintenance and recovery, through 1-1 sessions and group events.

I also work for a charity in my spare time, managing volunteers who provide a unique transport service for cancer patients, which won the Queens Award for Voluntary Service in 2014.

Pregnancy Mental Health

In 2004, I established a unique website and peer support group dedicated to Pregnancy Mental Health, following my own experience of ante-natal depression and anxiety.

As a result, I have featured in several popular magazines on this topic, including Pregnancy and Birth and Natural Health magazines, and featured on radio programmes like Radio 4’s Women’s Hour. (You can see a full list of tv and media appearances below).

Volunteering

I am a community ambassador raising awareness of signs and prevention of domestic abuse. If you or someone you know may be affected there is a list of useful links on my services website here.

Qualifications and Training

My qualifications and training include Therapeutic Counselling, Delivering Adult Learning, Support for Insomnia, Positive Psychology, Pain Management, Mental Health First Aid (and Psychological First Aid for Pandemics), and Mindfulness.

I have also received training with the National Homicide Service, Victim Support, and Women’s Aid. I am accredited to work with victims of crime, including those escaping domestic abuse.

TV and Media Career

I have enjoyed a TV and media career talking about the subjects I am passionate about, including dreams and healthy sleep. You can view an expanded list of media appearances below:

Radio:

BBC Radio: BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 1 Xtra, BBC WM, BBC Shropshire, BBC Coventry, BBC Three Counties, BBC Radio 6 with George Lamb, BBC Suffolk Breakfast Show, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire Drive Time, BBC Radio Leeds Drive Time, BBC Tees, BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC Radio Scotland, BBC Radio 4, Woman’s Hour, BBC London with Sunny & Shay and on the Eddie Nestor show, Talk Sport, Beacon Radio, Hallam FM, Original 106 FM, Gemini FM, WLR FM, XFM, The Psychic Show (LBC 97.3), My Spirit Radio, Bridge Radio, Red FM

Television:

Loose Women, ITV’s This Morning, DayBreak (Presenter of The Guide to Sleep), , GMTV, The Wright Stuff, LK Today (Lorraine), Consultant to SO Television for My Lovely Audience (Graham Norton), Psychic TV

Featured work –

Natural Health, In Style Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Daily Express, Practical Parenting & Pregnancy Magazine, Soul & Spirit magazine, Huffington Post, Guardian (G2), Sunday Express, Pregnancy, Baby & You, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Pregnancy & Birth magazine, Prima Baby magazine, Practical Parenting, Columnist for Spirit & Destiny Magazine, Contributor to Talk Mum, Contributor to Silent Voices, Columnist for Spirit Force Magazine, Mens Health magazine

PR Events

Dreams Bed Company, Maybelline New York, Sky + HD (article featured in Daily Telegraph), Johnson’s Beauty: Dreamy Skin, Snow Leopard Trust

Awards

  • Volunteer of the Year Cohesion Award for services to the community;
  • Nomination: “Women Who Keep Bedfordshire Safer”;
  • Regional Finalist for the Health and Social Care Awards for Mental Health and Wellbeing;
  • Spiritual Connextions Awards for Best Service to Others

Other Interests

As well as dreams and sleep, I have a keen interest in Buddhist psychology including mindfulness and have followed a Buddhist way of life since around 2009, most recently in the Theravada tradition. This means I hold a positive intention to be of service to others, bringing into my work, where appropriate, an intelligent philosophy which focuses on intentional living.

If you would like a dream interpreted, this is now a paid-for service – click here for details. To send an enquiry about services, click here.

You might also like:

Monday Mojo™ – A weekly email containing feel-good motivation for the week ahead. Sign up here.

With Delphi’s help, I have a new perspective on life and the strength to face new and challenging things in a positive way.” B.

© Delphi Ellis, Helping You Sparkle™ 2021

Anger’s not the problem but aggression hurts us all

⚠️ Content warning: This article contains discussion about acts of violent extremism including domestic abuse, and briefly alludes to self-harm.

If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of an irate customer that’s demanding a refund, snide comments from a stranger on the internet, or even a toddler “throwing a tantrum”, you might think what I’m about to say is, well…a little unusual. The thing is, I believe anger is healthy. Stick with me, whilst I explain.

It’s healthy because, like all emotions, our anger is trying to tell us something; emotions have their own intelligence. They’re not “good” or “bad”, they contain their own wisdom. They tell us we’re facing injustice, we’ve pushed something down for too long, or maybe we’re just sensing something’s not quite right.

So it’s not the emotion that’s destructive so much, but the expression of it; these expressions – I call them the “emotion in motion” – can connect or separate us. In anger’s case, sometimes that expression – or display of anger – could be aggression.

Anger might not be what you think it is

Anger is sometimes referred to as a secondary emotion – ie, there’s a primary emotion driving it. This is why some refer to “The Iceberg of Anger” in an attempt to show what’s going on underneath.

As an example, anger can be driven by fear; you’ll recognise this if “fight” is part of your stress response. When we perceive immediate danger in our environment, our nervous system responds, perhaps by wanting to fight the “threat” (or fleeing it). It can be motivated by other things though, including grief, and to some extent can be driven not so much by what is happening, but what we think about (or how we interpret) what is happening. This is known as the ‘appraisal’ of our circumstances.

What’s underneath your anger?

Anger is also on a spectrum. On the one end of the anger scale you’ve got mild frustration and annoyance, moving up into irritated about half way. At the other end, all out explosive rage.

We may see displays of anger along this entire scale though, fuelled by intense feelings (and thoughts about what is happening) from micro-aggressions: like a snarky comment back at someone who’s annoyed you – to macro-displays: the extreme reaction of criminal damage and physical violence. So aggression can be verbal, not just physical; even silence (when it’s done as ignoring someone to punish them) can be an act of aggression.

Other styles can include “Misattributing Causation” – this means blaming the wrong person or thing for how you’re feeling (you’ll know this if you’ve ever screamed at the coffee table when you accidentally bashed your knee on it) – and “Inflammatory Labelling”; essentially, that’s name-calling.

Where’s the problem?

One of the scary things about aggression is that it can be addictive. How? Because aggressive displays can make a person feel “better” in that moment, even if they regret it later on. Their displays of aggression may also facilitate them getting their own way; they literally learn that their expressions of anger help them “win” – even if it means intimidating others – and so they show it more and more and more.

This doesn’t excuse their behaviour in any way: let’s be clear, aggression can be dangerous and damaging for everyone in the vicinity. This includes when anger is swallowed (by not knowing how to express it helpfully), which can turn in to depression (the etymology of that word meaning “something that’s been pushed down”) which can result in acts of self-sabotage, and even violence towards themselves.

Anger expressions can also include chronic judgement of self and others, like mandates about how everyone “should” look, be and behave, offering little room for movement (rigid thinking like this is known as a Fixed Mindset). And if someone doesn’t abide by that individual’s personal set of rules or standards, there can be a (false) belief that people who don’t agree with them “should” be punished.

You’re allowed to feel anger. You’re not entitled to hurt people with it.

That brings me on to entitlement. In the case of anger, underlying beliefs can keep the emotion in motion through a person’s false notion that their judgements are accurate, and unhealthy expressions of aggression (from trolling to acts of physical violence) are their “right”.

This style of anger – and the subsequent displays of aggression – can be rooted in what Dr. Ryan Martin refers to in his TED talk (influenced by researchers like Jerry L. Deffenbacher) as Cognitive Distortions; in this case, wonky – and fundamentally unhealthy – beliefs about power and control.

This is one reason why sending someone on “anger management” classes won’t always work if there is no attempt to address unhelpful beliefs around entitlement (i.e, not just specific behaviours) – especially if the person’s goal is ultimately to oppress and suppress.

Courses that provide tools for ‘managing’ anger may (albeit inadvertently) actually encourage someone to innovate new but unhealthy ways to express it, in order that they may achieve their harmful objective.

This is why it’s essential that facilitators keep a sharp focus on a person’s beliefs as well as individual accountability. In fact, if they don’t, it can lead to what I call “untouchable entitlement” – especially if that person is never held to account, they will believe they can do whatever they want – including seek revenge without consequence – and probably will.

By focusing only on behaviour rather than beliefs, individuals might just learn to use or develop passive-aggressive behaviours instead. This can include gaslighting, ghosting and manipulating someone into following their version of the rules or giving in to what they want. This might explain how perpetrators of domestic abuse manage to persuade services they have ‘fixed’ themselves and then go on to kill their partner, or in cases such as white male supremacy someone can convince authorities to let them have a gun licence renewed and subsequently murder people (as has happened in the UK), even when they’ve demonstrated violence in the past.

Denial also feeds in to this, as does intransigence; we see this when confronting some “conspiracy theories” with facts, and people defensively double down. Soraya Chemaly says in her book Rage Becomes Her “Denial is rarely based on facts or reasoning. It is a visceral emotional defence that overrides reason, critical thinking and deliberation.”

This is why, even when convicted of violence, some will show no sense of remorse because of their false entitled belief that it was somehow for “the greater good” – which incidentally, they will have been taught through engagement with society somewhere along the way. What they really mean is they’ve helped to create or maintain a system of power and control.

Society plays its part

This is further reinforced by others “liking” the aggressive actions of others (for example, on social media) – an expression of rage is endorsed – and so the reactive, addictive pattern continues. Those who express anger unhealthily may seek out others who do the same (even if not realising it) to legitimise what they do; e.g. they justify their position with “If others do/say this, then it must be ok”, even if it feels morally or ethically wrong to the rest of us.

We observe this when someone dismisses their own aggressive actions of verbal abuse as simply “banter”, when it is in fact a clear expression of (false) entitlement that has caused harm to another person (ie, bullying).

Society also perhaps unwittingly colludes with unhealthy expressions of anger when it says things like “hurt people hurt people”, not realising how harmful and dismissive that is to those on the receiving end. It’s the same when some say things like “boys will be boys” or “he hurt you because he likes you” or derail conversations around women’s safety and male violence; all unhelpful reactions centred on dominance, that harm everyone including men.

Trying to convince someone then, that their beliefs are unhelpful or unhealthy, will be challenging work if they are being encouraged by others. There is power in numbers, especially when they’re all feeling angry about the same thing. Therefore it’s imperative that we acknowledge how entitlement, dominance, intransigence and denial can filter in to the extreme end of unhealthy expressions, instead of dismissing someone’s actions as simply “anger issues”.

In fact, researchers in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) like Liberty Day from START and the University of Maryland say “There is no current research that suggests mental health conditions are a cause of violent extremism”. What we do know is how unhelpful expressions can lead to radicalisation. William Braniff, Director of START, goes on to highlight three “N’s” to be aware of:

  • Need: A personal need to feel important and significant
  • Narrative: an ideology that positions that need (for example, a toxic yet common script that women should “know their place” and a minority of men falsely “justifying” their anger on the “rise of feminism”)
  • Network: a group of people that think similarly to them (meeting another need, through a sense of connection and belonging), which may even erroneously endorse and encourage unhealthy expressions of anger like violence, to keep their narrative alive. (This is proven by the growing number of forums and posts on social media displaying misogyny and acts of racism).

Where an individual or group takes no responsibility for their expressions and the wider impact they have, they will continue and potentially escalate. In these cases, silence really is complicity and it can feel like collusion to those being harmed. Those with unhealthy expressions of anger can be held to a higher standard by all of us, especially if we are to create an enlightened society. This includes Big Tech doing their part.

We know that violent communication can lead to acts of violence and so it’s vital that, for example, social media companies take unhealthy expressions of anger seriously as early as possible. We cannot meet hate with hate. Principles of non-violent communication (NVC) can be considered, and where control is a motivating factor, sometimes the only way we can influence change is to take power away.

What some describe as “Cancel Culture” may in fact be a useful tool if done correctly, e.g. by removing a platform that prevents someone from spreading or inciting hatred (and therefore violence), rather than trying to erase the person. (It can be interesting to check the motivation of those who rage against this concept, and what motivates their actions. E.g. How is power showing up in their discourse?) Others can help by safely challenging toxic narratives, opening dialogue with friends about feelings in general, or creating a larger group that models healthier expressions of emotion.

Manage The Moment

Having said all of this, it’s important to reiterate that people do have the “right” to feel anger, remember anger is a healthy emotion. People feel what they feel, whether we agree with it or not.

It’s what we do with how we feel that will either take us towards trouble or recovery. Where anger is rooted in faulty beliefs, we may need to step back and be open to where that’s coming from, and acknowledge the harm we may cause ourselves and others if we don’t.

In cases of systemic injustice, principled moral outrage can be a healthy approach when individuals or groups channel this energy meaningfully, through for example raising awareness, signing a petition or taking part in peaceful and lawful protests. When we understand the driving factors underneath our anger, and the cost of how we express it, we can learn to put space between what we think, feel and ultimately what we do.

Here’s what might help:

1. Know your early warning signs: If you know that you tend to have unhealthy expressions of anger, then you could start to register what that looks like through embodiment practices (e.g. how your body responds when you feel it). Do you notice your fists clench, your face starts to flush or your heart starts racing? Remember, this can be the ‘fight’ part of your stress response, that implies you may be sensing danger, even if none is present. Do the work to learn how to pause before the emotion escalates, and check your appraisal of the environment to see if it’s accurate. Perhaps you’re being activated by a memory of being hurt, rather than something that’s happening now. Where are you on the anger scale and what can you do to prevent you moving in to unhealthy expressions of anger? Consider also what may be underneath your anger. Perhaps grief – or fear of loss – is driving how you feel. Grief doesn’t just belong to the death of a loved one, but anything that mattered to us that’s no longer there, like a breakdown of a relationship or being made redundant. (I talk about loss in my book Answers In The Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal).

2. Check your entitlement. Think about whether you tend to blame, shame or complain a lot. One way to measure this is maybe keep a “should/shouldn’t” diary for a week, and see how many times you believe that people – including yourself – are getting it wrong somewhere. It could be a boundary violation, where you feel somewhere has overstepped the mark but again it’s worth evaluating where this position is coming from.

You might identify themes around how much of your anger faces outwards (e.g. other people are the problem) and how much of it you direct towards yourself. Also consider whether any sense of entitlement is based on a rule book that’s no longer valid. For example, you might think people “should” keep busy, or you “shouldn’t” sit for five minutes and rest, based on an old idea that sitting and doing nothing is “lazy”. Self-care is essential not selfish, especially when we’re struggling.

Check your old beliefs and how they might be harming, not helping.

3. Find an “off ramp“: If you or someone you know is being impacted by unhelpful expressions of anger, organisations like Refuge and the Respect phone line in the UK are there to help. You might also find peer support useful to hold each other accountable, as long as groups don’t endorse or encourage unhealthy expressions of anger. Speak to your healthcare provider to see if they know of such resources in your area.

4. Build a Big Tent Approach: This is where communities come together to address societal problems, rather than working in silos. This might be particularly helpful if the source of your anger is a lack of action on a local issue that’s causing a strain. You might decide to work together with the support of agencies in your area that can help solve the problem. This has been helpful in cases for example where knife crime has been a problem, and communities have worked together across faiths, policing and other local authorities to send a clear message that violence won’t be tolerated whilst simultaneously providing off-ramps to young people who may need to exit dangerous groups.

5. Sit with it. Ultimately some people may need to learn to regulate their emotions, especially where expressions are turning harmful towards themselves and others, and definitely where entitlement is playing a part. Sometimes, for example, people ‘act out’, using their anger as an “excuse”, because they haven’t learned how to disagree meaningfully, how to handle rejection or how take no for an answer.

Yet people have the right to say no, whether it’s that they don’t want to be in a relationship anymore or they don’t agree with what’s been said – whether we like it or not – without being subjected to any form of abuse. As a society, I definitely think we need to learn how to handle rejection more skilfully.

Learning to sit with the pain in a way that’s helpful can move us towards meaningful recovery; ultimately we all pay the price for anger that’s not processed effectively. The Buddha (loosely) said that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Sometimes we have to accept things as they are, as the sage Shantideva once said (paraphrasing) being frustrated with someone who isn’t going to change is like being angry at fire for being hot. It is what it is.

We used to think punching pillows helped, but some now argue all this does is leave you feeling tired, and potentially authorises violence as a coping mechanism in your brain. Thich Nhat Hanh echoes this in Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by emphasising don’t hit anything. Instead, researchers like Jill Bolte Taylor argue that giving ourselves 90 seconds of breathing space can make the difference between coping helpfully or not. Mindfulness can be useful for taking each moment as it comes – regulating the breath helps to activate our relaxation response – but this may need the help of a teacher (rather than an app) or perhaps doing your own reading on what helps and what doesn’t. Books like Mindfulness and The Art of Managing Anger (which suggest reframing our language – eg., acknowledging you feel anger, but that’s not who you are), and Why We Get Mad by Dr. Ryan Martin may be inspiring. (More books may be added to this list).

Finally, take some time to think about what contributes towards your feelings of anger, especially if it’s overwhelm (lack of time, energy, space and so on). Learn to measure your window of tolerance, and when things might be getting on top of you. Spinning too many plates at once can mean we take our eyes off the things that matter, including our own health and well-being; tiredness can definitely take its toll, and even hunger can make us irritable. So be gentle on yourself, take care of the basics, and maybe think about a meaningful plan of action. We all deserve to live a calmer, happier more peaceful way of life.

Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge.

Audre Lorde
Answers In The Dark is available on Amazon and Hive.

The Business End: I am delighted to provide this free content for your perusal. If you like it and want to say thanks, you can “Buy Me a Coffee” via my Tip Jar here. No pressure though, my content will stay free for as long as possible.

© Copyright Delphi Ellis 2022; links to third party sites are not an endorsement.

Is empathy being lost? Here’s what we could do about it

⚠️ Note to the reader: this article briefly discusses male violence against women, hate speech and bereavement, and is a general discussion on empathy. It is not intended to minimise how challenging it can be for some people to express it.

There’s now a thing called Empathy Day. Whilst we can acknowledge with any ‘Awareness Day’ (like ‘World Kindness Day’ or ‘World Mental Health Day’) we should be able to demonstrate that we understand someone else’s struggle, or that we care for others every day of the week, that’s just not how the world seems right now.

If you navigate conversations on social media you’ll know there seems to be an escalation in hate. Trolls, unsolicited DMs and displays of misogyny, (erroneously) trying to “justify” male violence against women is just one example. The United Nations International Day for Countering Hate Speech campaign explains that this is on the rise worldwide. Whilst some try to argue their take is “free speech”, others (dismissively) claim it’s because “we’re breeding a generation of snowflakes”; they insist we all just need to “Man Up”. It feels harmful, unhealthy and actually quite extreme.

A lack of empathy doesn’t always show up as hate though. It can be in the subtle ways people – including friends and family – try to “help”, but potentially do more harm than good.

Let’s take bereavement. Undoubtedly one of the worst things a person will have to navigate during their lifetime – and one you would hope we have lots of empathy for – yet seems to have a short shelf life in terms of what society is prepared to indulge. Collectively, we seem to be growing impatient with people who can’t seem to “snap out of it”. We assume something is ‘wrong’ with anyone who is not conforming to the Typically British idea that we just need to “keep calm and carry on”. The problem is, that’s not helping either.

One of the things I talk about in Answers in the Dark, is how when someone is grieving, ‘society’ – a completely amorphous entity by the way, with no face but a very loud voice – tries to instil on us how we ‘should’ be feeling or what we ‘should’ be doing to heal. We only seem to be given permission to grieve for a very short time, and if we’re still talking about it a few weeks later, we’re told we should be “over it” (which, of course, is absolute rubbish). All grief is valid. Everyone is different. It takes as long as it takes. And yet, the implication that we’re grieving wrong means our grief goes underground and we stop talking about it.

Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Nothing – not career, not wealth, not intelligence, certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity.

Audrey Hepburn

What is empathy?

Sympathy and empathy are often conflated. I’ve offered some insights below.

Sympathy – “I am so sorry this has happened”. This recognises that something bad is taking place, but at the same time acknowledges that we may not know what that person is going through. This is when people tend to say “I can’t imagine what that’s like for you” (which some grieving people say doesn’t actually help). It is often enough, however, to say “I am so sorry this has happened”, especially when we’re not in a position to help.

Empathy – “I can relate to this”. This might be something we say internally, not necessarily to the person disclosing their pain; it also says “I hear you”, without feeling a need to interfere. It’s important to consider our language here though: “I know exactly how you feel” is neither sympathy or empathy if it potentially derails the conversation, pivoting to being about us, rather than the person going through a difficult time. It’s therefore more helpful to say “I’m so sorry this has happened” (sympathy) and add “it makes sense you feel that way” (empathy). If we don’t know what to say, it’s better to say that, and add (as Brené Brown suggests) “I’m just so glad you told me”. Remember, not every problem a person tells us needs “fixing”; sometimes listening and responding empathically is enough.

So why is it then, as Jamil Zaki calls it in his Ted Talk below, that there’s an empathy shortage?

He explains that when our ideas, values or feelings clash it becomes too hard and we abandon it altogether. He gives politics as one example of this “empathic black hole” where we tune out people we disagree with and, even worse, “savour their pain”. For those of us who have a deep level of empathy, the emotional labour involved in keeping the peace can be exhausting, as if we’re running a marathon every day.

Thankfully, as Zaki offers, empathy is not a personality trait, it’s a skill. The research determines this because, quite simply, people who were paid to show empathy were able to do so. This also reduces the assumption, for example, that empathy is gendered and that women are more empathic than men; that doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, it’s not that we’re either empathic or not, we can grow to be helpful; we’re not stuck at one level of empathy or another.

The good news is, like resilience and courage, we can learn to show empathy – the more we do, the more we will – and there are benefits of doing so. People who show empathy have better connections, and forge strong friendships.

Here’s what might help:

Practice Engaging. When people believe that empathy is simply a trait – e.g. they’ll say “this is just how I am” – they shy away from accountability for their actions and the need for meaningful change; it’s a convenient mantra for not trying to adapt. Whereas when people believe they can be helpful, Zaki argues they will be; his research identified that those who believe empathy as a skill work harder at it, especially when they’re feeling empowered. One example of this was Sue Rahr‘s police training in Washington, U.S. As Rahr explains, “If you’re overly aggressive in your initial approach, you’re going to provoke resistance.” Her cadets would practice defusing situations by slowing down, asking questions and paying attention. As a result her officers use of force declined, especially towards people with mental illness. (Other examples of this in policing include Cheri Maple’s thoughts around “Fierce Compassion” – recognising there are times when we need to be “warriors”, but often that can be the last resort.) Practice makes peaceful.

Know Your bandwidth. Lacking empathy can also be a sign of Compassion Fatigue, as can profound cynicism. People who are particularly vulnerable to this include first responders and Blue Light Services, but, as Juliet Watt explains, it can potentially be anyone who is repeatedly exposed to another person’s pain without having time to reset and recharge. Thankfully compassion fatigue is treatable, with regular restorative acts of self-care. Learn to recognise your early warning signs; if you’re growing intolerant to other’s problems, it may be useful to step back, let someone cover and take time to reset.

Listen. Understand. Connect. To improve our empathy shortage we could move forward with purpose, especially when it’s hard. As Zaki offers, we can point our curiosity at people who anger us; take time to listen to their fears and frustrations to see if there is some common ground. As Marshall B. Rosenberg also writes in his work around non-violent communication, understanding what matters to each of us, is a step to building bridges. Are we as invested in helping other people needs be met as we are in our own? It’s so much “easier” to judge than to take time to understand and connect, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t try.

© Delphi Ellis 2022

I had such a weird dream last night: night-time adventures to infinity and beyond

Listen to this article on SoundCloud.

Probably not many people can say they’ve pushed Vin Diesel in a shopping trolley. Although I can; except I haven’t. Confused? That’s dreams for you.

I’ve been exploring the subject of dreams and nightmares, and other night-time phenomena (like sleep walking, hearing your name at night and waking up with a song on your lips) for most of my adult life. Though, my story really begins in childhood, when we would sit around the breakfast table and talk about the night-time adventures we’d had whilst asleep the evening before.

In all the years I’ve spent as a qualified counsellor working mainly with the bereaved, attending speaking events all over the country, and appearing on TV and Radio, people have shared with me their dreams and nightmares, everything from being chased, losing teeth and their partner cheating. Some tell me they struggle to remember their dreams, others recall the content in such vivid detail it’s stayed with them for years. Most people say “I had such a weird dream last night”. Except, when we talk about it, they often have a light bulb moment that the weirdness contained a golden nugget of insight to help understand fears and frustrations, hopes and aspirations and even solutions to some of the problems they face – if we just take the time to explore them. It’s one reason I wrote Answers in the Dark, a genuine labour of love that covers all this and more.

Available to Order on Amazon and Hive

When I wrote the book I was acutely aware that there are loads of books on sleep and dreams, which is why I pride myself on the fact that I think this is different. It sets aside the science-y jargon that makes a lot of people glaze over, when what you probably really want to know is how to sleep better, right? It busts some big myths of sleep, like the idea we all need eight hours sleep every night; because, well, it’s just not that simple.

I offer a Sleep Cycle Repair Kit that offers tips and techniques to help people get a better night’s shut-eye, along with ideas on how to use mindfulness effectively – a proven strategy for helping people sleep better – in ways that actually might work for you. I also talk about grief, and why I think we need to talk about it in a different way.

The last part of the book, Part III, talks about how to explore dreams. It’s deliberately not a massive, complicated or convoluted section for one simple reason: in all the years I’ve been talking to people about the dreams they’ve been having, they actually just needed to know how to decode it. Answers in the Dark offers food for thought, recognising that there isn’t “one size that fits all”. It does contain a selection of different dreams people have; it looks at the types of dreams we might have around death, dying and loss as well as some common anxiety dreams like turning up somewhere naked (because that can feel like a nightmare) alongside what it means when you put your foot on the brake in a car in a dream and nothing happens.

But I’m careful to say the book is not a dream dictionary, mainly because most people I speak with know dream dictionaries only give you one bite of the apple, especially if it’s written from one specific theoretical model, rather than helping you try to unpack it. The thing about dreams, is that they speak to us in ways that are encrypted, so that only we can decipher them. My book aims to help you do that.

So if you had the weirdest dream last night, check it out. If you’ve ever dreamt you’re back at school taking exams you weren’t ready for, dreamt you were on the toilet with no walls to the cubicle or try to call out and you can’t, you might find the answers you’re looking for.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This book is a life changer! Delphi literally goes under the covers and shares her vast experience and knowledge about the reasons why many of us struggle to get a peaceful and rejuvenating night’s sleep.

Beth Lee-Crowther, Pulse Talk Radio Presenter and Author – to read Beth’s full review, click here

Answers in the Dark is available to order on Amazon.

© Copyright Delphi Ellis 2022

The loneliness of grief and why I think we need to talk about it

⚠️ Content warning: This article is a discussion around death, dying, loss and bereavement.

When we talk about loneliness, we might think about the number of friends we have, or how much time we spend alone. Many people can relate to going days without speaking to a single person; this was almost certainly a reality for millions of people around the world during the pandemic.

But when I talk about loneliness, I include what it means to feel disconnected. For many people, they recognise what it’s like to be surrounded by those they know, yet who don’t really “get” them, and so feel out of place. Our “social norms” often set standards that we should “fit in” and not be different. We hide our authenticity or shift our values in a need to belong. We don’t feel heard or understood. And that can be lonely.

Lacking connection can also be felt heavily when we’re grieving, and particularly in a world that doesn’t recognise the many different layers of loss we experience throughout our lives.

In my book, Answers in the Dark, I talk about how grief shows up, even if no one has died. We assume when we speak about grief, that we mean following bereavement, and yet throughout our life we will have experienced loss after loss that we’ve either been able to process or not. It might have been parents divorcing at an early age. Being made to change schools and leave friends behind. As we get older, it may be through redundancy or retiring from a beloved job of 30 years. It all counts.

And yet, society doesn’t necessarily recognise these as “reasonable reasons to grieve” (sometimes referred to as “disenfranchised grief), or give us permission to explore them as such. When we feel like we can’t talk about how we feel, our grief can go underground. We may not even connect with the fact that we’ve experienced a loss, and yet nonetheless our body speaks to us in various ways, like not being able to sleep or the dreams we have when we do. Imagine if every loss you’ve experienced but couldn’t process is just resting underneath awareness, and its only outlet is in the darkness of night. It might not be an obvious thought about grief itself, just an ineffable noise that keeps you awake that’s implicitly saying “I’m not ok”. This is why I wrote this book.

Available to Order on Amazon

Creating safe spaces for people to talk about their grief should be a natural part of our every day conversation. And yet, discussions around death and dying are seen as morbid and taboo. We feel uncomfortable asking if someone’s ok, and we worry we might make things worse. The reality is, for grieving people, the worse has probably already happened, and not being able to talk about it can create further feelings of loneliness and isolation.

When we don’t feel connected or safe in the space around us, we instinctively shy away from the dialogue we may really need to have. Thankfully there are organisations there to help if you need time or space to talk about the loss you’ve been through.

What else can help?

In speaking to grieving people over the many years I’ve worked in this arena, they’ve often echoed similar things that can help. Many recognise that having a group of people that do understand is so important – connection and community are key to our well-being. This very idea of bringing grieving people together and holding space for each other was the concept behind the work I’ve done travelling around the country, training people how to run peer-support groups. Organisations like the Good Grief Trust also offer talking spaces for people to connect.

It can also help to find ways to reconnect with the world around you. It might be through yoga or meditation, music lyrics that uplift you or poetry that helps you feel seen. Have a think about what could bring back a sense of connection, even if in your own company. In the same way, think about what you’ve had to sacrifice in order to feel like you belong. Have you had to make changes which mean that you’re not living life aligned with your values? If your friends and family aren’t helping, see if you can find ways to communicate to them what you need, that allow you to show up authentically in all that you do. It’s ok to say “I’m grieving and how I feel is to be expected”.

If you know someone going through a difficult time processing a loss, it’s also important to let them feel what they feel. Our instinct as humans is to go in to what can be known as the Fixing Reflex, in an effort to “cheer them up” out of their pain. But grief just doesn’t work like that. It needs to be seen and understood in order for people to find their way forward, knowing that they may need to revisit that, time and again. Creating a safe space for someone to talk might be as simple as saying “how can I help?” or even something practical, like walk their dog.

If we can normalise conversations about grief we can bring people together. We can acknowledge that all grief is valid and equally unique. We can learn that whilst we may relate to each other’s pain in different ways, at the same time making comparisons can be unhealthy; it’s not a competition to see who had it worse. Instead we can acknowledge each other’s pain and say “this matters, I’ll sit beside you” for as long as we reasonably can. Grieving doesn’t have to be lonely. We can bring light in to the dark.

This article was written originally for Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 and the theme is loneliness. Answers in the Dark is available to purchase on Amazon.

I wrote a book that talks about grief – so why do I keep on about misogyny? Because it’s all connected

⚠️ Content warning: this article speaks about suicide, and male violence against women and girls (MVAWG), including sexual assault and domestic abuse. It also contains links to research on male supr emacy which references known ‘actors’ in this arena.

I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been touched by loss.  I say that confidently because I’ve been working with the bereaved as a qualified counsellor for about 20 years.  But, as I explain in my book, loss extends beyond someone dying.  Grief doesn’t just belong to death.

It can show up as redundancy.  

A relationship breakdown.  

A child leaving home for university.

We might think of these as ‘little L’ losses because, to some, they might seem insignificant. That’s one reason we’re often met with unhelpful clichés – like “there’s people worse off than you” – when things really do feel just awful. (‘Big L’ losses are the ones most people recognise, like death, but society only lets us mourn those for a short time, before it somewhat disgracefully shames us into thinking we should be ‘over it’. More on that in the book too). In short, it takes its toll.

As a result, we push our losses away (in reality, it’s more like we push them down), and hope they never reach the surface of our awareness again. The cumulative effect of loss after loss can cause us to feel overwhelmed, without ever really being in touch with the storyline that explains why we feel like we do. And so there we are, awake in the middle of the night, caught up in our thoughts which take us, as I call it, down the plughole. And it’s dark down there.

The good news is, when the time is right, we can find ways to get our sparkle back. Not that we ‘move on’, we just find our way forward at a pace that’s healthy and right for us.

So what does this have to do with misogyny?  I’ll be the first to admit it’s quite the tangent.  Why would a woman who has spent two decades of her life supporting grieving people use her Twitter account to raise awareness of what seems to be a topic so grossly misunderstood.

Because, it’s all connected.  I spent time training with the National Homicide Service so that I could effectively help people bereaved by murder; I know many grieving families whose loved one has died as a result of male violence. I’ve supported people at coroner’s court, that knows all too well how men die by suicide because of the pressures from a ‘Man Box‘ that says “be more and feel less”. Misogyny kills.

In my book, I also briefly describe my own experience of being subjected to male-perpetrated domestic abuse. I don’t go in to detail, for lots of reasons, but suffice it to say it had a significant impact on me.

As a result of my experiences and over the course of many years since, I became accredited to support victims of crime, and continue to speak with those subjected to and bereaved by male violence today, all on a voluntary basis.  I have spoken with several policing leads on the subject, and looked at ways to create change that lasts, with the view that this all needs to be high on the agenda, long before the tragic events of ‘high profile cases’ that caught everyone’s attention in 2021.  

That’s not to say that men aren’t victims too – they are – or that women don’t show violent behaviour (they can and some do). But, as I explain in this blog, I think we need to talk about women’s safety and male violence.

I use my Twitter account to raise awareness of misogyny and how it’s rooted in a dangerous ideology that seeks to legitimise male supr emacy. Because it’s everywhere. As my very long thread explains, it even shows up in policy and, of course, drives male perpetrated sexual violence and domestic abuse. Even women can show internalised misogyny when they punch down on other women to get ahead with men at work (I talk about misandry in the thread as well). And when some men think other men don’t ‘conform’ to what it means to “be a man”, they harm each other too.

Vivek Shraya explains misogyny with these examples:

The disdain for women and femininity is insidious, infecting even those of us who profess to love women, and it takes many forms… Using “sensitive” as a pejorative and a mechanism of restraint [..] is a form of misogyny…Men’s assumptions that they are entitled to touch others’ bodies without consent and the dismissals of my boundaries were misogyny.

Vivek Shraya, I’m Afraid of Men

So in summary, I “keep on” about misogyny because it matters and I offer particularly a Call to Men (the thread explains why). Addressing it is important for everyone; to help reduce the number of bereaved families that may have to navigate an already creaking criminal justice system, and the volume of people subjected to rape and sexual assault; that has to be important.

If we can tackle misogyny and the ideology behind it as the root cause of male perpetrated violence, we will create a more enlightened society; one that creates a safer world for us all.

© Copyright Delphi Ellis 2022

Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal is available to purchase on Amazon. The book primarily joins the dots between sleep, dreams and our mental health, particularly how grief shows up even when no one has died. It discusses briefly my own experience of being subjected to male violence, but not the topic of misogyny in itself. (That may be for another book…)

It’s not you, it’s them. How society gets in the way of our grief

There are no stages of grief.

At least not in the way they’ve been portrayed. A lot of people talk about them like five things on a to-do list, that we have to achieve in order to “finish” grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. But of course, it’s just not that simple.

In fact, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross – attributed with saying there are five stages of grief – wasn’t talking about that as such in the way it’s been interpreted, when she began the conversation. She was actually referring to what she had observed when people were dying, and how they felt towards the end of their lives. Her message – based on important work framing the experiences of the terminally ill – has been to some extent diluted around the world ever since.

In fact, the false idea of grieving as a tick list has become so reductive that we assume we must “get over it” within a short period of time. And if we don’t, we worry we must be getting grief “wrong”. But it takes as long as it takes. Grief is a journey we must all navigate at some point in our lives and no one can do it for us. And how it feels – and how it shows up – can be different for everyone.

I discuss this in my book Answers in the Dark.

I explain that emotions can range from those you might not even have considered like guilt, jealousy – even relief. You might even feel nothing at all for a while – and that’s normal. You might feel anger that the one you love has died, especially if it’s unexpected, but that doesn’t mean you’ll feel that emotion just once or that it won’t come back again. The way the five stages have been interpreted over time implies that’s the case, but there isn’t an order to what you will feel and even if there was, there’s no time-frame associated with it. There is no simple formula we can apply when grieving nor should we, except perhaps that we allow ourselves the space and time we need. Whilst there might be things we can order for next day delivery if we can afford it, we can’t hurry grief.

Grief, then, is more like a roller-coaster than a flight of stairs; and it doesn’t just belong to death. We can grieve for anything that mattered to us that’s no longer there. A relationship breakdown. The loss of a job we’ve done for 30 years. Even a child leaving home for university. All grief is valid.

Which is why it can be so unhelpful when friends and colleagues don’t help. When someone you care about dies or something meaningful comes to and end, people who genuinely mean well will often offer thoughts and platitudes to try and help you feel “better”. The reality is though, even though they’re not trying to be unhelpful, that some of what they say can be inappropriate, even lack empathy. This reinforces the idea that we’re not following the “stages” when in fact our grief is unique to each of us. Their commentary can sometimes imply there is a ‘right way to grieve’. Grief doesn’t work like that.

As a society, at least in some parts of the west, we are woefully ill-prepared to talk about difficult and uncomfortable things. We are solution focused and so have been taught to some degree, to try and “fix” people when they’re sad.

To cheer them up.

To rally them out of pain.

The trouble is their good intentions can leave us feeling misunderstood, frustrated – even annoyed. So when they say things like “At least you’re still young, you can always find someone new’ or “I know exactly how you feel”, you might glaze over or shut down. You stop talking about how you feel. And because of that, they may then assume you’ve “moved on”, which as Nora McInerny explains in the video below, is just not how it is. So friends stop asking how things are and it becomes an unspoken cycle of emptiness, where no one talks about what needs to be said. Not feeling heard by those around us when we are suffering can be a lonely experience, and so if we are not given permission to feel what we feel, our grief can go underground.

Nora McInerney explains why we don’t “move on”, we move forward.

We can’t outsource our pain so we have to find our way through in ways that are meaningful.

This is why I think it’s time we change the way we talk about grief and loss.

Conversations around death and dying, loss and bereavement need to start with recognising that everyone is different and allowing people to feel what they feel. The way I mourn for a loved one will be different to the way you grieve, and depend on many things. My feelings could range a variety of emotions, just as yours might swing between all of them and none. But it’s also important to remember that even with all the support in the world, we never really “get over” the loss of a loved one; at least not if being “over it” means we forget – that’s not going to happen. What we can do, is find a way forward from what’s happened, knowing it will always be a part of the journey even if it changes shape over time.

If you’re not sure what to say to a grieving friend, Megan Devine offers some thoughts in her video below. It often starts with acknowledging what they’ve been through and it’s ok to start with “hello”.

This article first appeared (now adapted) on the website A Grief Guide. My book Answers in the Dark: Grief, Sleep and How Dreams Can Help You Heal is available on Amazon and in all good book stores.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2022

Change that Lasts – A plan of action to create a safer world

⚠️ Content warning: this article refers to male violence, femicide, domestic abuse and rape.

On 8th March 2021, International Women’s Day, my Twitter feed was filled with potential male allies saying they would Choose to Challenge unhelpful behaviour and inequalities that affected women.

Later that week, we learned that another woman, Sarah Everard, had gone missing and subsequently been murdered, this time allegedly at the hands of a police officer. Since Sarah’s death (at the time of writing just two months later) there have been 28 more femicides in the U.K.. Globally, in 2017, 87,000 femicides were recorded – that’s a female being murdered approximately every six minutes around the world.

As our thoughts remained with Sarah’s family, we also remembered the 116 women we know died violently in the previous year in the U.K., the 149 the year before, and all those we know about since records began. In that time, millions of women in the U.K. will have also been subjected to rape and domestic abuse at the hands of their current / ex partner or other male. Latest ONS figures suggest 1 in 20 women will have experienced rape or rape attempts, and at least 1.6 million women will have suffered domestic abuse.

Many women have also spoken of their fears in reporting to the police, and flagged institutional misogyny in policing. The Centre for Women’s Justice Super-Complaint and subsequent Channel 4 coverage, highlighted one woman a week is coming forward to report their serving police officer partner has subjected them to domestic abuse. It was described by one former police commander as an “epidemic within the force”.

A long overdue national conversation began.

Women like me up and down the country, who know what it’s like to feel unsafe walking home – and in their own home – became more vocal. We felt frustrated at having to take precautions to stay safe (and being blamed for what happens to us even when we did), whilst many avoided talking about the significant reason we needed to, that being mainly: abusive and violent men.

Predictably, and at the same time alarmingly, voicing this opinion was met with defensive, derailing and minimising comments accusing campaigners of being “anti-men” and “male bashing”. Exclamations included “not all men” and “whataboutery” from many quarters – including other women.

And I get it. The possibility that if a man you’re close to isn’t a perpetrator, he probably knows one – it’s a hard reality to face. Meanwhile, my timeline stayed quiet from those same male allies who made a pledge on 8th March to stand with us.

The thing is, we can and do accept that men can be – and are – victims too. We know that not all men are abusive BUT we need to talk about the fact that some males are. We should – and need – to be able to have a conversation about women’s safety – and the types of violence against women and girls – and who in the main puts them at risk. Even men are overwhelmingly at risk from other men.

I began a personal plan of action: here’s what it has looked like so far, I’ve added some thoughts in case it helps inspire yours:

Use different platforms: On 13th March, I wrote this article about why we need to have a conversation about male violence and women’s safety. (It also explains why the “not all men” narrative and “whataboutery” is unhelpful, and how men can help.) Encouragingly, campaigners are coming forward like YesAllMen, and I’ve since seen and had helpful interaction with male allies on social media, who seem keen to hold a dialogue and take useful action.

Worryingly though there are other people – and organisations – out there who will say they take this issue seriously but their actions are more performative than progressive eg ticking a box. I recently attended an event billed at opening a healthy dialogue about women’s safety, only for the male facilitator to give the majority of the platform over to people who engaged in exactly the “not all men” and “whataboutery” that doesn’t help. You will also be met by uninformed or ill-informed comments especially on social media, particularly those trying to ignore or perpetuate the problem. So it’s important you pick and choose who to engage with and stay safe, especially online. Protect your mental health too; know your bandwidth for having these conversations and how much energy you have to participate.

• Engage with Police: As part of an Independent Advisory Group (IAG), was able to open a dialogue with our local police service to ask what their strategy is to tackle male violence, including domestic abuse. The Chief Constable warmly welcomed a conversation and has promised to include me and colleagues in discussions that can help shape meaningful change. They also released a statement with partners, that demonstrated that women’s safety is and must be a priority too.

You could ask who the domestic abuse lead is (for example) within your local police, to see if they welcome a dialogue. You could also see if they’re recruiting members for their IAG, whose purpose is to give the community a voice in police decision-making and provide advice on developing successful partnerships.

Engage with Communities: I’m part of several groups from our local area who also kindly help me understand and raise awareness of different challenges they face. Having an intersectional approach when helping people, means (for example) acknowledging that systemic discrimination due to a person’s sexuality, gender and gender identity, race and ability may adversely affect someone’s access to support.

Conversations with community groups are a key part of understanding these challenges. You could ask questions in your workplace or via business networks (see below), contact your local volunteering centre, join relevant Facebook groups or speak to different community leaders, or ask to visit (for example) your local Women’s Centre to make sure that the needs of your community are being heard and understood.

Have conversations at work: In recent years I’ve supported the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Abuse. This highlights that workplaces have a duty of care to provide an infrastructure that supports and protects victims and survivors. A recent BBC article explained the importance of paid leave (for example) for those subjected to domestic abuse.

You could ask your organisation if they have a policy that helps victims, or ensure that people at work know the signs and how to help; this could include checking on welfare as part of a 1-1. To make sure that companies are held to account, we could ask or encourage websites like Glass Door to include a rating as to whether or not the company is a safe place to work. Recruiters could also include notes on their website about whether an employer has a policy and infrastructure that helps protect people from domestic abuse.

Reach out to Government: I recently wrote to my MP and our new Police and Crime Commissioner to make them aware of the A Fearless Future campaign by Stylist Magazine; the PCC has since made a strong commitment that local services will be funded appropriately. I and other colleagues had also been talking with the Chief Executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner prior to that, to look at how local services can meet the needs of victims.

PCCs are elected to make sure that local police meet the needs of the community. They also have responsibilities under the The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime. You can find out more about them, including who is yours, here.

Work with agencies: Prompted by research from Kent and Medway NHS Trust, I contacted our local branch of Samaritans to ensure that the link between domestic abuse and suicide – both by victims and perpetrators – is on the campaign agenda. They have passionately engaged with a view to raising awareness.

I also became a Community Ambassador for Women’s Aid. This isn’t a paid role, but part of a scheme called “Change that Lasts – Ask Me”. It identifies that communities which come together, raise awareness of and help break the silence around domestic abuse, can create meaningful change. Part of the role is to ensure that we talk about the signs and prevention of domestic abuse without victim blaming, and recognise that perpetrators are responsible for the harm they cause. We as communities (including statutory authorities) are encouraged to listen, believe and take helpful action (eg signposting) without judgement.

Check Women’s Aid website for availability

This is just the beginning. There is more work to do.

Whilst many organisations – including policing – could assert that “we’ve come a long way”, the change that’s needed isn’t being seen by those most affected. So whilst we continue a plan of action, we also rely on decision makers and communities being ready – and willing – to listen and create meaningful change that lasts. In doing so, we can strive to make the world a safer and healthier place for everyone.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247. If you are affected by content in this article you may find some helpful links to agencies and resources here.

Find out more about becoming a Community Ambassador for Women’s Aid here

Delphi is a qualified counsellor, well-being trainer and campaigner for the awareness and prevention of domestic abuse. To find out more about her click here.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021 – updated 22/5/21

This is a conversation about women’s safety and male violence. And we should be able to have it.

⚠️ Content Warning: refers to domestic abuse, sexual violence and femicide

There seems to be a pattern when we talk about male violence towards women. We often hear – including from some women – that we shouldn’t “tar all men with the same brush”.

Many believe, including me, that not all men are bad. So what’s the problem? Let’s open it up. 

Some might say the “not all men…” narrative is because those men – and women – simply want us to trust males and stop lumping them in with the bad ones. But that implies that because not all men are violent, it’s not fair to raise the issue – and reality – that some are.

When we walk the streets, sit at our desk at work, go on a date, or visit a bar – where we should feel safe – research shows we are not. Latest figures suggest that 97% of women have been subjected to sexual harassment in the U.K.. In 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that 3.4m women had been victims of sexual assault in their lives . This included one million who had been raped, or had faced attempted rape. If the argument is not all men are dangerous, how are women meant to know which men we can trust?

Many women have “safety tools” to help them feel safe in every day life. They have them because of the reality they face going about their business each and every day. They’re not “over-reacting”. They’re not being “hysterical”. They’re not being “over-sensitive”. The evidence shows women are disproportionately at risk, and have to take steps to ensure their safety.

But this is problematic. Women having to take these safety measures has become so normalised, that if they didn’t have or use these tools, they become the target for blame when they are attacked. It’s a problem because it puts accountability in the wrong place.

By saying we should “trust our instincts”, watch what we wear, not go out after dark, not wear headphones, it puts the focus – and responsibility – on women, to stop men being violent.

We want to be able to have a conversation that explains why that’s an unhelpful narrative.

We want to be able to explain that the only person responsible for hurting, controlling or killing is the perpetrator. That even though “not all men” are like that, that two women are being murdered every week, with reports that during lockdown a woman was killed every three days

We need to have a conversation about male violence and why women are too scared to report it. We need to address rape myths that “she must be lying” when only 4% of cases of sexual violence reported to the UK police are found or suspected to be false. 

We need to include a discussion with the LGBTQI community, including the fact that a quarter of trans people report domestic abuse. We also need to have a dialogue about whether or not safe spaces (like refuges) are accessible for people with disabilities, and why when black women go missing their safety is neglected – and ignored – in a way white women aren’t.  Anyone that goes missing or is attacked should be a cause for public concern equally. We should be able to talk about it. And hope that people want to listen. 

We need to allow this dialogue, appreciating the knowledge that men are victims too – including of domestic abuse (which many say makes it harder for them to report) – as well as on the streets. 

For those that say “but what about men?”, we can acknowledge that men are dying, and their lives matter too. But then we need to address the fact that in those cases the perpetrators are also overwhelmingly male. 

90% of murderers are male and 87% of crime against the person is committed by men. 97% of sexual offences are committed by men. Where the number of male homicide victims has decreased, the number of female victims has increased in the latest year. (ONS

Women are not safe. And this needs to stop. We need change that lasts.

Image by Women’s Aid

So we’re not saying all men are bad or violent. We’re saying all men can help us feel safe:

  • By demonstrating empathy for this conversation
  • Acknowledging and educating themselves on the issue of women’s safety and male violence
  • Recognising their own biases
  • Being an ally by learning, sharing and opening the dialogue
  • Intervening when they hear or see others being inappropriate
  • Not engaging in “banter” that objectifies women
  • Teaching other men they don’t have the right to control or kill anyone.

UN Women have also written about how men can help and I have my own “Call to Men” thread on Twitter that includes resources from men doing the work to help us all be safe.

Image via A Call to Men (added October 21)

To be an ally in the conversation around addressing misogyny in particular, a place to start is to understand the difference between sexism and misogyny, and help reduce the status of males who harass or make sexist comments against females; let them know that’s not what a good leader looks like. Because much misogynist language goes unchallenged, the assumption is that it’s societally acceptable; when men stay silent, they are saying “what you said was ok”.

When they call misogyny out it as it happens, it can stop there. This shows moral courage and integrity, and is good leadership. 

David Challen speaks on Channel 4

We know men get hurt too. But this conversation is about women’s safety and male violence. And we should be able to have it. We know that 78% of men say they would intervene if they saw a woman being harassed – that’s an important statistic. But we also know that when men are in groups this will likely fail.

When people use the unhelpful “not all men” narrative, engage in “whataboutery” or say it’s “anti-men” to raise this issue, it minimises and derails the conversation, and shuts it down. 

It says that because it’s not their experience it’s not their issue. It feels like they’re saying that “not all men can help”. 

It is. And they can. 

As Jackson Katz writes in “The Macho Paradox”, he “understands women’s skepticism, who for years have been frustrated by men’s complacency about something so basic as a woman’s right to live free from the threat of violence… isn’t it about time we had a national conversation about the male causes of violence?” I think so. I hope you do too.

If you or someone you know has been affected by these issues, here are some links that might help.

You can read my thread on the differences between sexism and misogyny as I talk about them here. This post first appeared on the Let’s Talk Lady Business website. Updated October 21 to include Women’s Aid video, and March 22 to add Call to Men Twitter thread.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021

COVID Dreams

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak, people have been reporting that they’re remembering more vivid and disturbing dreams. According to the Lyon Neuroscience Centre’s research, our dream recall is up 35%. So what’s going on?

Because many of us are working from home, avoiding the morning commute right now, we might be sleeping in a bit longer. We know that the more sleep we have, the more dreaming we can achieve; we also understand that you’re more likely to remember the dream you have just before you wake up, especially if it’s troubling.

What types of COVID dreams are people having?

Everyone is different but COVID dreams appear to have some themes so far.

Insects

A radio presenter told me recently on air, that she’d had a dream where maggots were on her face. The following day, a journalist called me to say loads of people she’s speaking to are having dreams about creepy crawlies.  

Pre-covid and depending on your hobbies (like fishing for example), a dream about maggots might be about someone taking the bait.  

But in the COVID era, it’s also important to look at other metaphors. When we look at the language we use around insects, ie bugs this can align with the way we talk of a virus, e.g. you might say you “have a bug”. If you have an understandable fear and anxiety of catching coronavirus, then it makes sense you’d have a dream where insects are too close for comfort.

It might not be COVID related though. It could also be at the time of the dream, someone or something is “bugging” you.

On a much lighter note, insects like bees and butterflies are often seen as positive (for example around leadership, or transformation respectively), so again it helps to take the content of your dream into context with what’s happening in your life at the time – I always ask the questions “why this, and why now?” Keeping a dream diary can help you notice if these types of insects appear regularly, which can help you explore the meaning if it’s a recurring dream. 

How you feel about the insect is also key: eg., were you scared, or were you irritated in the dream? Do you like that type of insect, or do they make you anxious? All of this is worth considering when exploring your own dream. (If you’ve been stung by a bee or other insect in real life for example, how you feel about that will matter too).

Hands

People may also be having dreams which align with the government messaging. Someone I spoke with recently said their hands were dirty in the dream and couldn’t get them clean. With so much messaging telling us we need to be washing our hands regularly, it makes sense this would manifest in a dream this way. Incidentally, pre-COVID a dream about hands is often about the work we do (and our ability to do it). For example, we would say someone may “need to get their hands dirty” if we think they’re not pulling their weight.

Death

Whilst we are hearing so much about the impact of COVID-19 and daily death tolls around the world, it makes sense if the subject of our own mortality comes to the surface, alongside any worries about people we love. It’s natural then, to dream about our fear of death or something which represents that. People working in healthcare and particularly hospitals right now, are being faced with this reality on a daily basis. Worrying “am I doing enough?” can also play out in an anxiety dream like this. It’s important to engage in regular acts of self care and reassure yourself you’re doing all that you realistically can to help others.

Like any dream or nightmare, its worth talking about it with someone who will listen. Research from Swansea now supports that telling someone about the dream you have can help in many ways. It doesn’t have to be a professional exploration; a close friend or family member that you trust might help you make sense of it all.

If you are worried about your health and well-being, especially if it’s affecting your sleep, always speak to your doctor or healthcare team.

I talk about this and more,in my book Answers in the Dark.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2021

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