Sunday, 22 January 2017

Resolution & Restoration

Restoration and Resolution

I have seen countless examples of where people have sought restoration rather than resolution. As you read this article, I hope that you are inspired to make the right choices in the relationships you have.


In both the Greek and Latin expressions of the word ‘restoration’, the word denotes a bringing back of something to its former state. In cosmetic terms, it implies the rebuilding or repairing of something. There are times when relationships are transformed through an act of unconditional love or incredible courage. These acts can cause relationships that have become deficient to be restored to the qualities that initially cause the relationship to be formed. I can recall working with a client who for many years had felt distanced from her father. However, once her father apologised unconditionally for his past failures, it released a measure of love from the daughter’s heart that surpassed her pain. Even though she was now an adult, she felt the love a young child would have towards her father. This was a type of emotional restoration. Many times our sincere feelings are constrained by pain or unforgiveness.

Something missing?

 Have you ever felt that something was missing from your life?  Is it possible to miss something you have never had? In many cases, we miss something because there is a subconscious record of it; we have actually experienced something and associated a feeling with an event. Genuine love and genuine experiences of happiness leave an indelible mark on our hearts and when this is lost, we cry out for it. I am amazed how people dismiss the concerns of loved ones when they say, “I miss when we used to do.....” or “I notice we do not do this anymore”. These are what I call ‘subliminal cries’, indicating that something is missing which was once in existence.


Resolution describes an act that brings about an agreement and a solution to a problem or conflict. How many times is conflict based on a problem we have magnified through our feelings? Interestingly, resolution in its earliest forms describes the loosening of something that has tension or the breaking down of something big into more manageable smaller parts. Agree to take small steps rather than giant ones! A great product of true resolution is that things become easier for you to manage. If you are in a relationship and a resolution has been agreed, make sure that both parties are happy with what they need to manage. Resolution is not keeping only one party happy. Ignoring your thoughts and feelings is not the long-term answer.

Should I just say sorry?

There are times when saying ‘sorry’ may restore a relationship but not resolve the problem in a relationship. It is not wise to apologise for actions you have no revelation into why it was wrong. You might be sorry for how someone feels but you shouldn’t say sorry for an action you still believe to be right. I discourage friends and couples from forcing each other to say ‘sorry’. Sorry should be a sincere response to self reflection and revelation. If someone cannot see that they are wrong, when they are, then you may have some major decisions to make.

So what’s the big deal?

There are some situations and relationships that for your personal well-being and destiny should not be restored. Resolution is important, as being at peace with people is important but do you always want what you had before to be restored? I have seen where friends in conflict have resolved their differences but never been best friends again. This is not always a sign of unforgiveness but a reflection of their current maturity and mindset. However, there are times when as a result of resolution, you will have the ‘emotional tools’ to rediscover the qualities that brought you into a relationship in the first place.

Be the ‘better man’

I can recall saying to my son, “You were the better man”. The humility and grace he demonstrated in defusing a situation was in contrast to my emotional disposition! Being the better man is sometimes being the person who is committed to solutions rather than problems. Be the person that seeks out support and intervention in order to save a relationship. Be the person that makes a decision to forgive unconditionally. Be the person that can be honest to acknowledge when there is peace but not a need for restoration. You can do more harm if something needs to be replaced rather than restored.

Keep checking on yourself

Take the time to find solutions to problems. Use your resolutions to restore moments of joy and fulfilment but also use your experience to let you know when resolution doesn’t equal restoration!

Till next time

Noel McLean


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Breaking Cycles

Cycles affect everyone! We have mental, physical and emotional cycles which help us to function as a person and engage with the world around us. Environmental cycles also help to bring balance to the earth. The word cycle comes from the Greek word, ‘cyclo’ that indicates rotation and suggests that which is circular. Cycles can be positive and negative in nature. One of the key features of a cycle is that it follows a pattern and then returns to its original position. For some relationships, returning to an original position can be demoralising and it may indicate a lack of progression. So how do cycles work in relationships?

Relationships & bicycles!  
A bicycle is a two wheel mode of transport where the wheels are held by a frame. Relationships involve at least two people who are connected by an emotional framework. This framework can be created by promises, feelings, convictions and ideologies. Cycles are what ‘drives’ a relationship positively or negatively. There are some emotional cycles that are created as a result of major change. By way of example, when a man or woman becomes a parent, on the same date each year, they will display emotion on the birthday of their child. Conversely, the anniversary of the death of a loved-one can cause a cycle of sadness. However, I would like to focus on the cycles we create. Unfortunately, it is easier to create negative cycles because negative cycles do not require you to change anything!  All healthy relationships develop patterns, habits and activities. Establishing regular times for social activity, quality communication and displays of affection are good cycles to have. Cycles generally impact everything within a relationship; it can set the mood and tone in a home or establish a foundation for growth.

What cycles need
Every cycle needs at least three things; effort, a cause and a mindset. Cycles require effort and energy; personal input. Cycles require a cause; why you do what you do. Mindsets form the basis for our actions; what you believe and are passionate about. By way of example; friends who make a decision to socialise every Friday are making a personal input. The friends have to agree what they want to do when they meet (cause). Then the friends have to maintain what they believe about their friendship by having a similar mindset. When you identify a negative cycle ask yourself, “what are you putting your energy into?”, “are you aware of the outcomes of your actions?” and “what do you actually believe?” If you find yourself in constant conflict perhaps you are putting your effort into the wrong cause as a result of wrong thinking.

What kind of storm am I in?
Having travelled to India and the Caribbean for many years, I have become familiar with tropical storms and cyclones. The early stages of a tropical storm are usually manageable; however as the winds increase and reach 74 mph, it becomes classified as a hurricane. The effects are devastating; destroying homes that have taken years to build or uprooting trees that have stood for a generation. When you discover a negative cycle; please don’t ignore it It may destroy what has taken you years to build!

Am I in a negative cycle?
Do you find yourself returning to the same negative place you hoped you had moved away from? Do you find yourself arguing about the same issue on a consistent basis? Do you find yourself emotionally drained as a result of a recurring situation? Every cycle needs fuel (effort), input from someone! Ask yourself, what may be fuelling the cycle. When a car runs out of petrol, it doesn’t matter how much you try and start the engine, it will not start! Many times we do not see that we are powering the cycle through what we give our time and energy to. An argument or conflict normally requires at least one person to respond or retaliate. Cycles often die when a person makes a decision not to ‘respond’ in the same way. When you become aware of a negative cycle you can also diffuse its power by being proactive. Every cycle has an ‘introduction’. When you are attending a wedding and you hear a certain song, you know the bride is on her way! Have you ever said to yourself, “I know where this conversation is going.” Try to avoid the same outcome by refusing to do the same thing!

The following are some questions to ask yourself regarding negative cycles?

“Is the way I think, contributing to the negative cycle?”

“Is my lack of effort preventing me from forming positive cycles?”

“Is the cause I am pursuing only about my needs?”

“Am I willing to forgive for the sake of breaking the cycle?”

“Do I want to be the author or the finisher of the cycle?”

Change in strategy
Each time you find yourself back at the same position, remember the things that you have learnt. I remember seeing a mouse running in a wheel. I realised that it didn’t matter how hard it ran, it was still in the wheel and in the same place. The word strategy can be defined as the skill of making and carrying out a plan that will achieve the desired goal. Cycles change not just because you want them to but because you have employed a new plan. Be willing to change the way you do things; a new strategy may be the strategy you need to change your cycle!
Till next time

Noel McLean


Friday, 19 August 2016

Are you in love with a stranger?

When we enter into a relationship, whether it is romantic or platonic, we are essentially drawn to the person we perceive and experience. These are two very important principles because sometimes the person we ‘see’ is not the person we experience. However, when they both match, we generally feel comfortable to invest our time and energy into those relationships. Relationships require regular review because people change; we change mentally, emotionally and physically. Any change in these areas is going to change your relational experience. But have you lost sight of who the person you love has become?


In a relationship, situations cause people to change but perhaps a better definition is adaptation. We adapt to becoming parents, getting older, changing careers etc. What is important is that you try to remain updated with the person you care. Evolution can be generally defined as a consistent process of change into something better. Remember, the core of who they are remains the same. These are what I call ‘core personal qualities’. These are qualities like being caring, sensitive, transparent and committed. But people change in how they demonstrate these core qualities and what they consider to be major or minor in their lives. It is possible that through evolution your relationship can become stronger rather than stranger!

When the experience of a relationship begins to change, don’t automatically assume it is due to a lack of love. Often it is due to a lack of understanding. When we are evolving it can be difficult to articulate what we feel or to understand how best to rearrange our emotional diary. By way of example, when a woman becomes a mother, she will need to adapt and evolve. Her ‘emotional diary’ now needs to factor in her child, her husband, siblings and friends. Evolution doesn’t need to equal neglect or pride but it will require partnership and investigation.

Make a decision to grow together
Who is a stranger? Usually it is someone who you have not met before or are unfamiliar with. Are you in love with someone you don’t really know? Make a decision to be part of their life changes. Ask questions and perhaps even do your own research in order to demonstrate your willingness to be part of the process. By way of example, when a friend goes through menopause, they may need people around them who can support them in the transition. When a man loses his job, he may need someone to understand his new perspective on life. When a friend experiences success, they will need people to understand why their expectations have changed.

Caught in your tailwind?
Have you ever considered that your personal changes can trigger changes in those around you? A tailwind happens when an object moves in a particular direction and causes things around it to follow suit. The changes you see in the people you love may have started because of your changes. But it is possible that these changes can be positive and if patient, you will see your relationships develop into stronger ones. If the changes are negative, you will see a decline in core qualities.

Enjoy your relationships but don’t allow people you love to become strangers.

Till next time

Noel McLean


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Redeeming Qualities


                           Do you know your loved one’s redeeming qualities?

If you haven’t discovered by now; the person you love is not perfect but neither are you. Ultimately, we do not marry or commit to concepts, we commit to people, with all their idiosyncrasies. However, upon closer observation, there are incredible qualities that more than compensate for their weaknesses and faults. Instead of trying to eradicate their anomalies, we can strengthen our relationships by identifying their ‘redeeming qualities’. I hope the following is helpful in your quest! First let us redefine a few words.

What are weaknesses? Generally speaking in relationships, weaknesses are actions we engage in through an emotional vulnerability. This vulnerability can be caused by trauma, previous bad relationships or hindrances in our emotional development. People with weaknesses often require support and therapy in order to overcome them.

What are faults? In the context of relationships, faults are often character flaws that cause us to fall short of who we know we can and should be as a person. Some faults cause those around us to become irritable and us unattractive. Faults can be addressed and rectified through humility, support and determination. The reality is, we all have faults that need work on. However, most people in relationships have to learn to manage the impact of each other’s faults and one of the easiest ways is to identify their redeeming qualities.

Redeeming qualities are those amazing displays of character, engaging personality traits in a person, that empower people, cause people to smile, give people hope and attract confidence from others. Redeeming qualities do not hide faults and weaknesses but they surpass them in impact and value. The reason why you are committed to someone, the reason why your relationships have remained progressive, is because of these redeeming qualities. Disappointment happens when expectations are not met but redeeming qualities provides the recipient with the right perspective on the situation, allowing them to respond in context. If you find yourself over-reacting to a person’s weakness or fault; recall their redeeming qualities and look holistically at the person rather than solely through the incident. However, what are some of the signs we can be aware of, that would suggest we do not recognise and acknowledge someone’s redeeming qualities?

“You always” and “You never” are phrases that often reflect what we term in counselling as cognitive distortions. It is exaggerated thinking. It may feel like ‘always’ but in practice it is not. It is rare that someone each day in a relationship will always display a fault or always succumb to a weakness. But you can give them the impression they do by your use of “always and never”. I have spent many years studying the lives of famous people; actors, actresses and sport personalities in particular. However, none of them were without fault and what I found inspiring was that those closest to them remained committed, allowing the redeeming qualities of the person they loved to sustain them in the midst of their weaknesses. I remember a famous tennis player who had an amazing serve but a weakness in mobility around the tennis court. They still went on to become a champion!

Every person has qualities. Take the time to recognise these qualities and use the positive experiences of these qualities to encourage yourself in times when the faults and weaknesses of others is a challenge to you. Redeeming qualities have surely earned the person you love some patience and understanding.

Till next time

Noel McLean


Monday, 9 May 2016


Good relationships by definition, involve the experience of relating to others in a way that is mutually beneficial. You could argue, that if the relationship is not mutually beneficial, then perhaps the relationship is not healthy. Relationships must be more than a state of being; it should be a healthy experience. This means that when we act or think that the only beneficiary in a relationship should be ourselves, we potentially put the emotional well-being of those around us at risk. But haven’t we all been selfish at some point in your lives?

Yes we have! But when being selfish becomes habitual and a core part of our character, then we need to look at little further as to why we are behaving in such a way. Being self-absorbed is not simply a way to ensure people do not abuse of our kindness, it is actually the process of ensuring that no one can receive our kindness! Even if you do not fall into the category of being self-absorbed or selfish, it is helpful to regularly check yourself against the following character traits that are often the most destructive in relationships. Many people, genuinely love their friends, family, husbands and wives but are struggling with these traits. Perhaps by reading further, you might be able to save a relationship that means so much to you.

Narcissism is often camouflaged as self-confidence and strong-willed. There is nothing wrong with self-confidence or having a strong will. However, demonstrating our confidence and will, we must consider others. Narcissism in essence, is when we are so convinced and obsessed with our own competence or attributes, that any sense of failure must be attributed to others. Even when we are wrong, we find ways to ensure we are perceived as being right. A narcissist will often override the will and opinions of others, in order to ensure their will is enforced. It must be noted, that some people who display narcissistic behaviour are actually trying to guard the heart from pain or avoid conflict. They are often people that have lost confidence in others and need to preserve their own reputation and ego. It is important that we take the time to identify the core reason behind this kind of behaviour.

Machiavellianism is a cold and calculated attempt to maintain personal gratification. Proponents are normally duplicitous and will seek to go through the motions of a relationship without necessarily being emotional or committed. The ‘end always justifies the means’. There tends to be no moral code or appreciation for the feelings of others and feel no sense of concern when walking away from a relationship. A machiavellian will engage in  a relationship but with the sole objective of using the relationship as a stepping stone to promotion or attainment. Sometimes, politicians and those in the business sector are dubbed as being machiavellian because of their single-minded and ruthless nature.  However, people are not generally born this way, they become who they are. In my experience of counselling people in relationships, I realise that this trait is often borne out of persistent failure, either in employment or relationships. For most of our lives we will work and be in some form of relationship. When it appears that others are succeeding at our expense, we can lose faith in being morally bound and ask ourselves, “do nice people really get the best out of life?” The fear of not achieving in life can cause individuals to become a machiavellian.

Sociopathy is a form of behaviour that can be destructive and anti-social. There are times when sociopaths unintentionally demonstrate a lack of empathy and personal responsibility. They find it difficult to be self-aware and to understand the impact of their behaviour on other people. They tend to consider what is best for themselves and will often make decisions without consulting others they are in relationship with. Sociopaths generally struggle to maintain good relationships and despite their best efforts, will tend to exasperate those they are in relationship with. However, it is important to understand that sociopathy, in many cases is a personality disorder, which means that it will require therapy to instigate a new way of thinking and to address emotional and psychological root causes. Sociopaths generally believe they are doing right when in fact, they are doing wrong. Sometimes the reason for this mental distortion is linked to a lack of genuine love in their lives and their subsequent inability to receive and give love. Therefore their interpretation of love is distorted.

Relationships can be great! But it is important to have regular check- ups and self analysis. We all have key moments where we need the help of others in our lives. No one is beyond hope and if you think there may be more behind your selfishness, then perhaps you have already taken the first steps towards wholeness. Me, me, me is never better that ‘us, us. us’.
Till your next relationship MOT!
Noel McLean
Twitter: NoelMcLeanUK

Monday, 4 April 2016


When we enter into relationships, we enter into a process of adaptation. We adjust to the people we are in relationship with and begin to adopt the 'we' concept rather than the 'me' concept. However, one of the dangers of adjustment and compliance in relationships, is the loss of personal identity. It is one of the core reasons why some relationships go through turbulence after an apparent time of joy and fellowship. But what is an identity crisis?

In broad terms, an identity crisis is a experience that can happen at any stage of a person's life, where they experience varying emotions of frustration and concern, having not discovered, settled on or embraced who they are in a particular stage of life. For example, when a woman gets married and has children, she has embraced multiple identities. She is a woman, a wife and a mother. However, there must be a core identity that goes beyond a role and links to our heart and personality. When an individual submerses themselves into a role, they must not lose who they are as a person. The word submerse is related to the word submarine. Once a submarine enters the sea, it is hidden for the majority of its activity. What is hiding your identity? What do you like? What are your personal interests? What would you like to do for your personal development? These are pertinent questions. The following are some tips on how to maintain personal identity whilst maintaining good relationships.

Whether you are teenager or a senior citizen, you will experience biological changes. These changes can trigger off a sense of crisis. It is important that you share with those closest to you how you are feeling and conversely, it is crucial that those around you are sensitive and supportive. During this time, you may be indecisive and overly reflective but with the assurance of loved ones, you will find yourself again, coming to terms with the functioning and appearance of your body.

Social changes
Every human being has a reference point that helps them to identify with them self. However, when there is a major social change; a close friend immigrating, a child leaving home to go University or a spouse separating from you, it can trigger an identity crisis. In these circumstances, it is important to find the space to process your deepest emotions. Remember, emotions do not always tell us the truth but often, they give us a sense of perspective and feeling.  Our feelings are often linked to the perspective we hold.With support, your perspective on social changes can be one where you are able to extrapolate the positives from a challenging situation and let go of the negatives.

Committed but not consumed
Commitment to those we love is a fundamental relational quality but when you become consumed in serving others, there is a danger that you lose your identity. The best way to serve others is to be who you are. Learn to deny yourself but not neglect yourself. Unfortunately, the longer you neglect who you are, the more likely it is, that will have an identity crisis. If this is you; ask yourself, "Am I suppressing something deeper, by consuming myself in a role?" It is possible for us to reject an identity that has previously caused disruption to others but was great for ourselves.

Don't become bitter, get better
I remember counselling a mother who had faithfully parented four beautiful children over a ten year period, during which time, her husband maintained full-time employment. After ten years of mothering, she had become bitter; feeling that she had been robbed of her youth. She didn't know who she was, now her children were at nursery or school. Bitterness, is not only a state of the heart but it is also the template for cognitive distortions; irrational and deceptive thinking. I am always impressed by University students who take a job that is unrelated to their subject specialism, in order to generate income. They maintain a clear sense of who they are and what they want to achieve, even if they are packing shelves in a Supermarket or serving coffee in a Shop. What we may need to do for a season must not rob us of what we desire to do with our lives.

Take time to look within yourself and become familiar with your identity. In psychology, the term 'identity defused' is used to describe someone who lacks motivation to find out who they are and the motivation to commit to who they think they are. However, there is hope. Often, the biggest motivation for action is the experience of peace. Therefore, if you value inner peace, take the time to discover your identity again.

Noel McLean

Monday, 14 March 2016

Managing Endings

Managing Endings

When some people think of endings; they automatically have A.N.T, an automatic negative thought. However, endings can be just as important as beginnings. Endings can also herald completion, a grand finale but it can also signal death or even major change. How well are you at managing endings? Can you manage the end of a relationship or a job? Can you manage ending a relationship that has become toxic or a friendship that is destroying your family or marriage? Let us consider some tips.

Necessary endings
There are some endings that are absolutely necessary. Without these endings, things could become abnormal. There are times when people struggle to accept that a certain season in there life has ended. They try to resurrect old behaviours and mindsets. It would be abnormal for an adult to act like a baby and when we do, it is abnormal. Emotional gaps occur, when we miss a key stage in our emotional development as a child or teenager and then when we are adults, we try to reenact what we have missed out on. In these cases, individuals refuse to accept that a development stage in their life has ended. I remember accompanying my son on a giant roller-coaster. I felt like a teenager for a day! The experience was exhilarating as well as frightening at the same time. I enjoyed it but if the ride had never come to an end, my well-being would have been severely compromised.

Unexpected endings
These are probably the hardest types of endings. When we are in shock, we temporarily lose a sense of perspective and reason. We struggle to accept that something has ended because we didn't prepare or plan for this ending to happen. The key to managing unexpected endings, is to take regular mental and emotional steps towards acceptance. You may not have any control over an unexpected ending but you can have control over how you respond.

Enforced endings
I remember once, how my computer forced a shut down because a command process failed. It was an enforced shut down because the normal protocols had failed. There are times when people in our lives fail to respond to our requests, fail to be sensitive to our needs and fail to acknowledge the injury they are causing us. It soon becomes apparent, that the relationship will not end naturally. Therefore, for your own personal well-being, you have to enforce the ending. This can be painful but is often necessary in order to preserve your own well-being and other inter-connected relationships. I have found so many useful parallels between why people sell their homes and purchase a new home. They reach a time when they deliberately enforce change by selling their home but the home they walk away from becomes the new home someone else can move into. If no one sells their property it makes it very difficult for people to buy. Someone in the world needs what you will release. Time and time again, I have seen individuals end a romantic relationship only for them to find the right relationship they had been longing for.

In summary, we can all have special moments that we can relive in our hearts but in our minds, we must be conscious of the truth, that something has indeed ended. Some endings are necessary for your personal well-being and some endings need to be enforced before they cost you more than you intended. Life will have many unexpected endings but make a commitment to live with endings rather than deny them.

Noel McLean