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The Gift of Darkness. Thursday February 12, 2015

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift." Mary Oliver

I initially had difficulty with this quote – yet it resonated strongly with me. I asked myself why that was.

Then it slowly dawned on me that it was because my greatest gift is my intuition and the reason I have that (almost off the scale in Myers Briggs) is because my father, at times a violent alcoholic, ensured that I had to develop what I believe is my strongest 'muscle', my intuition, to avoid harm.

The way he walked up the 'close' in our Scottish tenement block, or put the key in the door told me whether I needed to be around or not.

That 'gift of darkness' enabled me to rise to the position of local government Chief Executive without any university degree, as I could read and understand people and not only see possibilities but also achieve them in unchartered situations.

I could also deal better with personal emotion and anger and see possibilities for the future. Then of course I suffered depression for the last 24 years...

So what has that 'gift of darkness' done for me?

It has, due to my feeling how bad life can really be, made me far more comfortably leave work that 'steals my soul', where politics, power or money are placed before people, principles or morals. It has also moved me to read a more varied selection of materials about values, trust, leadership, emotion and mental health.

So I am now I trust a far more rounded and 'wise' (EQ) human being, with much of my time chairing a youth befriending charity and working with organisations on values, trust and leadership. (This as opposed to being 'clever' (IQ)).

I still suffer depression, haven't been able to close that door yet but am far more understanding of others and able to deal with any situation which presents itself, especially human emotional ones. I constantly offer the thought that character (EQ) is far more important than competence (IQ).

None of us wish to be mentally 'ill', yet I believe that what it offers is an opportunity through insight, which makes us re-evaluate what is important in life.

As was said on Moodscope BlogSpot recently "welcome to this wonderful community of lovely people who share very personal experiences of tough times in order to help others going through similar bleak periods. We none of us claim to be experts but operate very much as a "self-help" support community. Those of us who post and blog often do so from a place of darkness." Thanks to Frankie for that.

"There is in the worst of fortune the best chance for a happy change." Euripides

A Moodscope member.

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Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 5:36am

Thank you so much. This helped me this morning beyond measure.

Julia Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 8:50am

I do agree Les that people who suffer a depressive illness or whose personality is that way inclined, look at life deeply and try to find answers. However no-one should have to put up with an alcoholic father, no child should have to listen with fear to the key being turned in the door. You succeeded despite this difficult upbringing but perhaps you didn't allow yourself time to recover from this childhood ordeal in your pursuit of a better life so the depression won and set in you say for 24 years. You deserve a break Les. You help so many with your talks and blogs so yes good has come out of your experiences but my personal opinion is that you should turn that help you give to others into helping yourself aswell. Perhaps you have reevaluated what is important in your life but is it making you happy and content? I want to help as I am sure many of us moodscopers do. How can we not when we read of your childhood and your 24 year depression? It appears to me that you are carrying the weight of everyone else on your shoulders. For once let them down gently and carry yourself on high.

Victoria Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 9:17am

Thank you Les. This resonated heavily with me as I was discussing my childhood with my counsellor yesterday. How good I became at reading tiny nuances of behaviour and speech so as to avoid trouble. It's also one of the reasons I read all the time. It helps to block out the screaming and the crying. And it makes you a quiet little mouse in the corner, hopefully less likely to be provoking.

But those skills help me recognise when others need help and provide me with empathy. I'm glad that you can see positives in them too.

In that vein I wanted to ask for some advice. I have just learned that a colleague at work is unwell as her husband passed away exunpectedly recently. We aren't close but I have worked with her quite a bit and have written a sympathy card. I'm told that she is (understandably) extremely distraught.
I am thinking of adding a quick note to the card with a business card of my counsellor saying that I cannot imagine how she is feeling but that there is support available if she needs it. I want to be helpful but don't want to be pushy or upset her. I suppose that if I am questioning this then I should probably leave it out, but I welcome your views.

Thanks again Les

Julia Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 9:37am

Having reread your blog Les, I see much positivity in it so I think I was focusing too much on your alcoholic father and your childhood experiences. I often do this with blogs: focus on aspects which are not the key meaning of the blog.

Karen Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:40am

Hi Julia, I think you're being hard on yourself!

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:41am

I wholeheartedly agree Julia; "I want to help as I am sure many of us do"; very well written.

And thank-you Les;

This is a truly challenging idea "the gift of darkness" (still struggling with it)

Yes, you really deserve a break; is it now time to put this burden down? and how can we help?

Wishing you peace of mind and heart as ever, oh and blue skies of course!

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:42am

I agree!

Karen Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:43am

Meant to continue but pootery thng went awry! Nearly every day you are kind enough to not just read the blog but yu do consider what has been written and then comment and encourage the writer...I sometimes get caught up in something in a blog that strikes a chord...we all do, so it is good that we have some strength in us to respond. Keep doing what you do, Julia...people appreciate it :) x

Karen Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:49am

Les, thank you for this. I don't think I quite 'got' the box of darkness...but your explanation of yours is excellent and something you should be proud of...that you coped well enough with the traumas of your early years and triumphed to become a CEO...but even more amazing that you knew the job had to go and now you are hopefully doing what you are best at, with young children who need help. You also do so much for all of the Moodscopers - thank you. X

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 10:52am

Hi Victoria

If it was me, I would go ahead; I would also mention Cruse Bereavement Care which is a national charity with telephone support as well as one-to-one in certain areas.
I think we are far too reticent in speaking of bereavement which for the bereaved can be the hardest part; it almost becomes the "elephant in the room" which no-one ever refers to... You probably won't get a response immediately - maybe a follow up card in a couple of months would also help. In my opinion, it is precisely because you aren't close that might help her ...

Hopeful One Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 11:17am

Hi Les- my understanding is that an ordinary depression is a self limiting illness with the suffer recovering as he/ she adjusts to their loss( see my previous reply re my belief that a loss (s)is the root cause of most depressions). I find it hard to get my head around a depression lasting 24 years. So what persistent loss is that which has not yet been resolved that is fuelling it?

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 11:55am

Julia, you are a delight. Trust your first instincts. susan xx

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 12:11pm

Hi Les,that you see your earlier struggles as a gift is a deeply spiritual, positive perspective and completely inspirational. It is also an act of forgiveness--at least i see it that way. Aside from all that...... trauma lives in the physical body and can stay frozen there, causing all kinds of havoc---depression for one thing. I know i always go on about Peter Levine, but to me he is an angel and well worth checking out, if you haven't done so already. Thanks again for another inspiring blog. susan xx

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:02pm

Les, this is a heart wrenchingly beautiful yet poignant account of how a terrible thing can be turned into something positive.
I believe we are here to overcome the demons we were given (many from childhood), and to transmute these demons into something that benefits humankind.
It really is possible to turn anything to your advantage, and you are living proof x

Julia Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:14pm

You are all very kind and supportive. I do go off at tangents but I guess it doesn't matter so thank you Frankie, Karen and Susan. You have made me feel much better. xx

Victoria Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:16pm

Thanks Frankie, I appreciate you responding. I have a tendency to overthink and worry about how to help people and my counsellor and my other half both remind me that generally, whatever I am worrying about, the end result is that the person knows that someone has thought about them.

Julia Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:24pm

I know you are trying to help Hopeful One but surely loss is not the only thing which causes depression? If it were, there would be a cure and as you say depression would be self limiting. I have had depression for as long as Les has and I cannot pin it down to loss. If I thought really hard I guess I could come up with something akin to loss but it would be psycho babble and not true hard fact. I am sure you are right in that loss is the root cause of much depression and it might be the cause of Les' who knows, maybe even Les doesn't know, but it certainly is not the cause of everyone's depression. I also think that "loss" possibly can affect someone all their lives. I promise you Hopeful One, I am not depressed because of loss. I would be interested to know where you read this or what has lead you to come to this erroneous(in my view) conclusion or understanding about depression and loss.

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:44pm

My own belief is that if your 'intent' is true, you can never disturb or the thought comes from your heart.....and also while you are worried about their reaction, you are already placing your concerns upon them.......let them be their own adult....that is how they will learn best. (in areas where they do not need protection)

I agree with Frankie and your own thoughts above......the key is the person knows you care.....its that 'intent' again.

I would simply give your counsellors card with a wee message like 'happy to listen if you ever you want to talk'.

Have you actually spoken to her about it over a cuppa, or have you just worked with her? Made your own move to 'get close'.......that may open the door, rather than a card...........?

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:50pm

Hi Julia

Aye - see what I said above to Victoria.....its the intent that counts.... ;-)

As you say yourself - 'it doesn't much matter' your heart is true and if anyone got upset by such caring words......its their issue.

SO (he said shouting) I'll deal with you later..........said totally in jest of course :-)

You could not be more compassionate......and no I haven't learned to somehow get 'something' off my back..........although divorce of 7 years should happen this year........and since I was married for 25 years....that could be a clue!?

Mary Blackhurst Hill Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:51pm

Your most powerful (and beautiful) blog post to date, Les. I have tried to write more than this, but the words come out wrong. This moves me and speaks to me so deeply. Thank you.

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 1:52pm


Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:01pm


I believe depression and it cause can be as unique as our fingerprints.....

Loss for sure is in there, as is stress, chemicals, trauma and loneliness....not I'm sure an exclusive list.

My depression only started after I got married and due to my own broken home, I attempted to stay with it probably longer than I should have, that combined with work which was against my personal values and others things............mean I still haven't totally 'sussed' it.....although the bouts presently are shorter and less suicidal in their thoughts.....

It's not where we stand that counts - but which direction we are moving!

And we should always listen empathically - from the person we are listening to ...point of view.....if we really want to help......not putting our 'view' before our eyes first......although if it may fit - for sure offer it.

To truly help we have to give up ourselves and listen with our heart.....not our head. And that may result in simply saying nothing.....just one would beside a serious hospital know that we are there may be all that is required.

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:10pm

Yes forgiveness is key...........I forgave my father and even made the most difficult phonecall I think I have ever made.........I told him I loved him.

There was complete silence at the end of the phone.........and then he said 'I've had to sit down and don't know what to say'.

I told him he didn't need to say anything and simply said that I had said what I wanted to say.

My father did the best with what he had.......a dominant and brutal mother......half sister and brother by another father......and becoming a gang leader in the town to survive and then drink to probably cover the pain.

He was not an inspiration in any way.....didn't really know what I did ....and didn't care. Didn't even want me to talk about my depression in his flat in front of his new wife, as that would show 'weakness' on his side of the family...........couldn't even touch me when I needed a hug.......after driving for 2.5 hours to get there........(never did touch me)......

We are all flawed............

I certainly 'let it go' in that phonecall...........and I did want to say those words to help us both much as either of us could.

As I said above........

It is not where we stand that counts - but which direction we are moving in

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:13pm

As Gandhi said..........

'You have to be the change you want to see in the world'.

The only person you can change - is yourself.

Humans have tried to change others for 2,500 hasn't worked yet :-)

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:15pm


I doubt if your words could come out 'wrong'.....maybe not as clear as you would like............never 'wrong'........ :-)

Victoria Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:20pm

Thanks Les. I had a nice chat with her just before Christmas as she had been off with an illness and I was asking after her. I then had time off myself so I asked about her a few weeks after I returned as I hadn't seen her. She has been off work for more than a month now, directly after her husband's death and for reasons I won't go into, while I know where she lives it is physically difficult to access and I don't feel I know her that well.

The length of her absence and what a colleague has told me led me to think that she needed some support, hence wanting to provide tangible support along with a sympathy card. I've just popped it in the post. I put that the counsellor had helped me, which was quite an act of opening up on my behalf. I also said that I would look forward to seeing her when she is ready to return to the office. I hope she takes it with the intent it was meant.

After my time off recently I am feeling even more emotional than I usually do. Psychically sensitive if that makes sense? Tension and anger and confusion and sorrow are feeling like physical atmospheres at the moment and I have had to leave the room a few times where people are suffering very strong emotions. That's partly why your post resonated with me. Thank you.

Les Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 2:46pm

Fab Victoria

She will 'feel' the intent.........and all will be fine.

Your own 'discomfort' in sharing about your counsellor is the 'weakness' that will create the strength between you........

One of my phrases is .......

'Show weakness to gain strength'

All too often people, especially managers have to be 'right'....since IQ is all about knowing the right school generally shows us a world of right/

The EQ world of feelings is all about grey.........and thus we have to dialogue (not debate) to find common ground.

The leader (not manager) is the one who takes the initial risk to show their 'weakness' to enable others to feel safe.......most strength comes from overt weakness. Trust is more created through weakness than strength.

It is not about being 'right' but being human.
Human-being not Human-doing.

If you feel safe - you become selfless (we)
If you are not safe - by nature - you become selfish (me)

How can we make people feel more home (especially our children) our our churches (if we go)....etc......??

It is by being open and certainly not 'right'.

If we need to be right - that means someone has to be wrong!!!

Co-operation B 4 Competition.........

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23rd May 2014

It's FAB

Karen Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 4:41pm

Am in tears reading this Les. So sorry that your father couldn't have been 'man' enough to hug you or tell you he loved you too.
Let's just hope your healing continues x

Tim Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 6:47pm

Yes, human BEING not human DOING. Nice. And it's true; it is a gift to be able to see into, and perhaps later through, the darkness. Tell others what you see / saw (life has its playground ups and downs, after all, where it's just not fair). Tell them, tell ourselves, that "You are not alone". From all the blog before, I think we most depression sufferers tend to overthink or overworry about reaction. And, as you say Les, that's unfair. When we do, we don't allow others to know us fully, respond as they may, and ultimately choose whether to forgive. That's risky, and hard. It cost Gandhi, and many others we recall, their lives.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 7:13pm

If i may add my 2-pence worth on this issue of 'loss':)...... If one takes the macro view, it's easier to see where Hopeful One is coming from. Losing a spouse is a loss; losing one's dreams is a loss; losing the ability to believe in oneself is a loss; losing equilibrium in the nervous system (for whatever reason) is a loss; losing connection with one's deeper self (for whatever reason) is a loss. To not live in the presence of joy is a great loss. On and on...... So blaming depression on loss is a rather sweeping general statement, but not one that is entirely without merit. susan xx

Anonymous Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 7:26pm

Les, i really think that your statement 'It is not where we stand that counts...but which direction we are moving in' should be the Moodscope Motto. It's perfect. susan xx

Leah Thu, Feb 12th 2015 @ 11:32pm

Les, thanks for food for thought. I found it moving and powerful.

I don't however see my bipolar as a 'gift more as an unwanted guest who over stayed her welcome, ' but may explain that in another blog some day!!

Les Fri, Feb 13th 2015 @ 12:02am

Hi Leah

I would say I probably have bipolar 2......big downs with little ups, which if I don't watch it - could cause challenges.

It still makes me want to read and learn......and far more aware of people's behaviour, as well as be more appreciative of other people's challenges.

I'd rather have had the 'learning'..........which the NHS was awful in attempting to deal with once past the Doc......especially psychiatrist and therapist...... and now after 24 years would wish the uninvited guest to leave........and I am a far deeper, more understanding person having been through it.

Hopeful One Fri, Feb 13th 2015 @ 8:00am

Hi All above- Julia there are special types of depression such as post natal( but there again one could argue this is loss iof previous freedom in a new mother) depressing associated with PTSD, bipolar depression and SAD . In these situations where the loss is not immediately identifiable. But in the vast majority there is . The reason I think it has not lead to a cure in every case is because of the secondary thoughts , feelings and behaviour changes that occur which makes each case unique and no ' one size fits all ' cure.the reason for my claim is that depression shares many features with ordinary grief where there is an identifiable loss of a loved one. The profound sense of isolation , the deep sadness., disorder of sleep, appetite, sex drive, . The loss of motivation. Re overly only occurs when the suffers achieves assistance . Most recover from grief after about 18 months ( the Coppock stock market strategy is based on that) bout som take longer and some never do . Depression's recovery graph charts the same pattern. It is of course possible that depressions such as yours and Les is DNA related in that there is a primary deficiet in the production of neuromodulators and neurotransmitters. Les you have identified two losees already - a broken home, an unhappy marriage . Start from there. Anon @713pm . I did not mean it to be sweeping but something that fits most of the cases most of the time . In the psychological world exceptions are inevitable.

Les Fri, Feb 13th 2015 @ 10:06am

Hi Hopeful One

I believe from my understanding that your generalisation is too general.

I didn't get depressed until I married............I didn't get depressed until I had to deal with immoral politics........I had been very successful until I was about 40 - 15 years after I lost my Mum and broken home......I wanted to leave my marriage......

So as far as I am concerned your 'loss' theory is not applicable certainly to me and to 'use' me in your, as you say 'sweeping' generalisation is not something I believe is professional.

It feels to me you look through one lens and seek to fit everyone in.

Be careful...........hammer and nut come to mind.

Les Fri, Feb 13th 2015 @ 10:57am

To any complex problem there is a simple answer - and its wrong.

Anonymous Sat, Feb 14th 2015 @ 9:37am

Hi Les, just trying to look at this from another angle, as I feel your response to hopeful one was slightly defensive, but obviously, you know your history and we don't... with regards to your marriage, it must have been heartbreaking to go into a marriage with anticipation and joy and then to become so low, was there a loss there, loss of belief in your spouse, loss of respect? Something like that? And with your position in the council again loss of respect for your unethical colleges and again loss of belief and faith in the system? Eva

Julia Wed, Feb 18th 2015 @ 9:03am

Hi Eva and Hopeful One. Les knows where his depression came from more than anyone. Its a therapist's role to,listen, not judge and not offer solutions. If I went for counselling for depression and it was suggested that my depression was a result of loss, I would walk out and never go back.

Anonymous Thu, Feb 19th 2015 @ 7:36am

Wow thanks for your response Julia. I am not meaning to offend, I just see loss as encompassing so many angles and issues that I thought it might be possible to see route causes from that angle as well. For example I suffer from insomnia have done for many years. I can trace this back to loss of my brother, which could also be viewed as grief, emotional insecurity, hoplessness for the future, anxiety and I am sure in many other ways depending on my mood when I examine the past and also who I examine it with. I was trying to illustrate that although hopeful ones viewpoint is that depression stems from loss it could be that his loss is your something else. Really also I was surprised at the ongoing defensive tones which I thought might be hurtful. As said initially I didn't mean to cause offence. Eva

Anonymous Thu, Feb 19th 2015 @ 4:02pm

I share your perspective on this, Eva. There was a defensive reaction there which as you say might have been hurtful.

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