Moodscope's blog



Tough Love from a Tender Heart. Thursday November 10, 2016

Sally Brampton was one of the UK's most revered Agony Aunts writing weekly in the Sunday Times.

She suffered depression and wrote a shockingly honest memoir called 'Shoot the Damn Dog' – referring to the 'black dog' that simply never leaves our side when we are depressed.

I say 'was' earlier this year she walked into the sea near her home and drowned.

It was the end of a long battle with depression.

She so clearly stated that "We cannot change people, places or things; the only thing we can change is how we respond to them."

In her responses to letters, she would even say to people 'Your decisions are so self-centred, you are so child-like – no wonder there is no joy in your... caring/work/home."

We can all offer tough love (as it is called) to others, only if... IF, I believe we are also very open about our own experiences and failures. It has to be from an EQ perspective not an IQ theory, heart and not head. (Which is why so many counsellors can fail.)

All too often we can be too 'nice' to people who need support. We think it may help them. Sometimes we see it in Moodscope comments – although rarely. The challenge is, that apart from an initial kind response, which we compassionately offer, if, after a short period, it does not help them move on, it can actually hold them back or even make them worse.

Sometimes in seeking to support, we fuel someone's 'wallowing/moaning' by writing words like 'I feel for you' or 'It must be awful'. This is where we can, on occasions actually make someone even more dependent on others and further lower their self-esteem by confirming or affirming what they write.

An agony aunt (or uncle), is someone who needs to have lived a bit and loved a bit and learnt enough to know that human attraction or human caring has a lot to do with 'smell'. We can all 'smell' when someone is speaking from their heart or their head! Our challenge is, can we actually say that and thus help people realise that often they may not be helping. If we do not – WE are failing them!!

Needless to say it will normally be uncomfortable to do so – yet do so we must – or we continue to make the world worse and not better, through our own inability to move into discomfort. We have I believe often become too PC and too 'safe'.

Sure there are times you do play safe – but they must be minimal and short, or you are part of the problem rather than the solution. True compassion is to do the right thing, rather than do things right!

"Depression" Sally wrote "blinds eyes and gags mouths. It sucks the life out of everything that it touches. It destroys hope, confidence and every pleasure."

Who can you offer 'tough love' to today, to enable someone you care for, to improve their self-awareness - the start of any change?


You cannot change anyone else, only yourself – so don't ask them to change – YOU own it, step into the discomfort of tough love and help them to change as well.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

Permalink  |  Blog Home


Isabella Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 6:46am

Les, Your post resonates with me this husband has a cancer which is probably life-threatening, we're just waiting for final diagnosis. He's changed because of all the drugs he's on, not for the better...he's really loving to the dog, ok with me but takes it out on our son. I've tried tough love by telling him the truth but the drugs win and he can't take it in. My moods are up and down like a yo-yo, but most days I want to run away. I want hugs from friends and acquaintances, suggestions of let's go for a coffee, let's go to the cinema etc but in the most don't - just give me that ahhh hang dog sad look (you know the one!). Just realised that I'm in an emotional sandwich - trying to give tough love to my husband and son - needing more tough love from friends....
Not sure if any of this makes sense....
Ps I get a lot out of moodscope, thank you.

Frankie Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 8:45am

Morning Isabella. Good to see you here. So sorry to hear how tough things are for you; that tough love is so challenging to show. Will light a candle for you and yours today ... Frankie

LP Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 9:03am

Hi Isabella, I'm sorry to hear what you and your family are going through and hope that you all get the emotional support you need from people around you. People often don't know what to say and don't want to say the wrong thing. Some might appreciate you telling them what feels ok. May I send genuine soothing virtual love? LPxx

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:08pm

Hi Isabella - been giving presentations today - so just getting to these. It makes perfect sense.........its how you feel and that is the only thing that is real to you. You now need to choose your favourite'relish' to the 'sandwish' that you are :-) Simply speak from your heart to your hubby and son - let them feel your spirit and that will speak louder than any words. Our hearts send out electrical signals every time they beat - other hearts in close proximity 'receive' that - so if we are in 'balance' or 'coherence' we calm people by simply our presence. You real job - in my humble opinion - is to be true to your spirit and not fight - imagine your 'relish' as the oil on troubled waters..... YOu get a lot out of Moodscope - because your spirit is open....well done. Les

Isabella Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:46pm

Thank you -I'll think about what you have makes sense. Thank you too, for your kindnesses.

Orangeblossom Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 7:14am

Thanks for the blog Les. When feeling unsafe I usually "play safe" and don't tell people what I think but withdraw. Your blog gave me a fresh perspective.

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:11pm

Hi OB.... In playing safe.....your spirit 'retreats' and thsu the signal you give is that they are 'right' and by doing so, you put yourself down and thus probably lower your self esteem. In doing so - 1) you allow anyone who is creating that 'danger' to have their way or 2) you miss the opportunity to offer your positive spirit to help stabalise or balance an insecure situation. Step into that 'fresh perspective' :-)

DAVE Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 7:24am

Hi Les,
Your paragraph 6 epitomizes most of the Bipolar and Depressive persons, when in that deep ditch where it's difficult to get out... Let alone let anyone in I'be been there too often.

But these days people really DO NOT LISTEN if you have problems, they ask you how you are, and before you can give a full account, they JUMP in and say something like "Oh I had that...they then go on and on about the very subject you were hoping to get 'Off you chest'.

People are too busy to be really interest in you problems....Generally speaking.

It is at that point, when to be a good friend and to show great concern, is to LISTEN....Listen, to allow you the listener, to hear in FULL that which is troubling others, and when they have 'Unloaded', and specifically at that point ONLY can you offer the most EFFECTIVE help which when given is usually SPOT ON, accurate, and the remedy is most effective and ourposeful.....Why because there are very few LISTENERS...GIVERS...but an abundance of others who want to suck you dry, spit you out and leave you in a worse state of mind.

The answer is in your blog Les, that is to 'Always' do the right thing, let others see your example, and you'll neither fear Man NOR God.

Giving is a two sided coin, the giver receives more help than the recipient.....Because he has LOST himself in the service of others, then what happens is he begins to realise that this life is so sweet when looking outward, extrovert, instead of selfish, self-Centre inward, introverted, who only thinks of getting what he needs, 'Walking over whoever is GUILABLE to obtain a consistent ego-boosting self-satisfying insular life.

We are NOT islands unto ourselves...We need each other's help to 'Share the load'.

I've trained myself down this works for me, and I'm happier than I have been for 52years....I keep banging on about Order, Giving, never Procrastinating, Taking NO offence etc etc, but without order in your personal life....How on earth can you possibly lift the hands that are down, and be effective and constructive, on the 'Higher Groung' to lift others, if we don't LISTEN, (again..Listen or your TONGUE will make you DEAF ! Cherokee proverb).


Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:24pm

Fab - that you are happier than the last 52 years......fab fab fab..and to be able to say that openly - terrific. If people don't have time to listen - are they worth spending time with? The thing is - they may not realise how they make you feel. Unless you give that 'tough love' and say (when you feel it is worth it) that you do not feel they are listening and its making you feel like........... - they may never have the opportunity to chnage a behaviour which may have become a habit - especially at work. The other side is of course - anyone who is constantly not being listened to......may have to look at their own behaviour...and I don't imagine this would be you from what you sharing is the ONLY way to a better future. There is no 'I' in team.. Me always needs to become we...that is how humans survived........we became safer communities when we helped ecah other watch for dinausors as others slept. And having had depression every year since 1991 - diagnosed as a form of bi-polar (although this could soon be the first 12 months period I have not).....its in constantly exploring and challenging my own behaviours by doing things I feel I cannot when I am in the depths - chairing meetings when I have to be 'in the moment' that gave me hope that I will 'get out' again. For sure - you have to be on 'higher ground' to easily lift others....and for me, that is more about seeking to serve and to give. "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." Mahatma Gandhi

Sally Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 8:18am

A very pertinent post today for me today, Les, as I am meeting two friends just out of hospital who have suffered terrible depression in quick succession this year. They were 'in' at the same time.

I remember Sally Brampton, she wrote very well I always thought & so it was a great shock to learn earlier this year that she had walked into the sea. A great loss.

I am wondering how to talk to my friends, who are both very fragile. I think the friends' approach tends to be different to the counsellor's approach. As a friend, it is to do with listening, yes, but more of a two way process, and one's own opinions may be expressed, guardedly and with empathy, hopefully. We do not know how we come across.
A counsellor, on the other hand, is a totally non judgemental and safe sounding block...or should be, in my opinion, where everything on your chest can be voiced, and relief at a fair hearing is felt. It is a space where the individual in counselling can relax and unburden, knowing that the counsellor has a fair amount of experience and may have heard similar stories before. It is time for the self.

A friend judges.....this can be threatening . It depends on your mood as to how acceptable you find judgement.
So I would say : be very careful with the sort of advice that goes " you need to pull your socks up" . But I do take your point about being true to yourself in the hope of helping a friend. I am hoping today that presenting a degree of positivity to my friends will rub off. I am at the very least hoping to show that life is good, and there is hope for them, and to lighten their darkness. A tall order maybe, but you have to have hope and faith...

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:32pm

Hi Sally - I do hope your day went well. My immediate thoughts on your wee challenge, is that you need to treat them both as they woulkd wnat to be treated. The goldern rule is not to treat people as you would like to be trated - but teeat them as they would wnat to be treated! I know that I ask people to make sure they 'pull me out of the house' or even 'out of my room' when I was depressed. Ideally in good procative fashion, ask your friends when they are NOT depressed how they would like you to 'serve' them should they go there again. Then you have their peromission to be 'tough' or not. The key is also to do what your heart says .....I don't think anyone who understands and cares would ever do the classic 'pull your socks up'! If you have compassion - you may also have the courage to offer 'tough love' if your heart feels that is what is best. Brene Brown has a fab phrase - 'You can have courage or comfort but you can never have both' I like courageous people - as it is they who change their world and thus change THE world as Gandhi would say. The only person we can change is the world is ourself..........and hey if you get it wrong.....which is unlikley if you truly care.......happily apologise.....and if it is heart felt - they'll accept it. Les

Sally Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 8:00am

Thank you so much for your reply, Les, it is much appreciated. The visit went quite well, but I felt my friend and I were doing too much of tte talking, not letting the two still- ill friends in enough. Maybe it was nerves, but we got so enthusiastic , talking about where we'd been, that the other two sat and listened, barely being able to contribute. I couldn't help feeling we shortchanged them. Maybe four was a crowd. And too overpowering for them. But, as my other friend said, we did our best. And everything can't be scripted. Thank you for your advice. Yes, I will ask them how they wish to be treated should they get depressed again. You are fabulous, Les! Pat on the back for you, pal!! X Sally

Les Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 10:09am

Hi Sally - I'm not so sure you got it 'wrong'. I know when I am depressed I am happy that other people talk and I simply listen - they take my mind away! Also - why not just ask them how they felt after your visit? Did you talk too much? Simply ask simple questions...............and all will be revealed.

LP Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 8:29am

Hi Les,

I hope you're well, I haven't seen you on here for a while.
Thanks for your blog. Much food for thought!
There are different opinions on the subject.
I guess, we are all individuals and what works for one person may be the last thing another person needs!

Personally I have witnessed bullying and am as wary of being told what to do, as I am of being pitied or patronised.
I have heard people judge others by saying "She's very nice but...".

I have made a concious decision to try to be a good person. For me, nice isn't a dirty word.
It takes great strength to be true to ones self, knowing that others are being critical and judgmental.
We are free to choose how we lead our lives. I respect that people have their own opinions and choices and am aware that not everyone will respect mine.
Thank you for offering your perspective on helping others. I'm glad that already there are people that can relate to it.
Good wishes to you and all Les. LP :)

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:46pm

Hi LP - aye all well here. There was reason for not writing for a while - nothing to do with my health which has been great :-) As I stated above - everyone is unique and needs to be treated as such....and thsoe that really care will take account of that. Anyopne who cares - will not bully. If anyone uses the 'but' word..........I really like you 'but' know they did not mean a word of what came before the'but'.......its an IQ polite way of 'telling' and 'debating' rather than 'talking' or 'dialoging'...... For me - a 'good' person isn't 'nice' ( a word I struggle with - as for me its too 'nice'......a good perosn is caring - supportive - compassionate - challenging when they need to be and most of all serving whoever to be all that they can be - Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Perosnally I wouldn't be around people that I find critical or judgemental....they would sap my energy - especially is I am fragile. Tough love for me - is about saying or doing what you feel needs to be done to enbale the person to move forward, even in a minute way to start lifting their heart upwards...... For me - too many people are 'nice' and thus for me I feel its a front.....nice for me is a kinda 'safe' cover all word....which for me means that the perosn doesn't care enough to either be very supportive and caring or courageous enough to chalenge me to 'move' or whatever. As you say we are all different and 'nice' to me is almost the opposite of love - which is not hate - its indifference. Nice for me - is someone doesn't care enough to add colour to my life and does the 'safe' thing.....thgat is not something that I would want from my friends - my true friends will know me - they'll have taken the time - and so they will either support or challenge me - that is what I would expect of them If 'nice' works for you tho - if you are struggling - cool. Les

Frankie Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 8:52am

This is particularly pertinent for me at the moment Les, as I watch my alcoholic sister self-destruct. Showing tough love by walking away from her so that she realises the full implications of her choices and is left to face the consequences is breaking my heart...

LP Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 9:09am

I would say follow your heart Frankie, but that's just me! I've read one perspective that in with alcoholism a tough love approach is beneficial as it is so difficult for people to help themselves. Have you had professional advice from someone who knows your sister's needs? Take care of yourself LPxx

Frankie Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 2:32pm

Thanks LP. Yes, I have had professional advice in the past and am very lucky to still have access when I need it (thank-you J!) Part of me hopes that by seeking support I can avoid the pain and grief ... though of course that is never possible. I also receive loads of help from Moodscope and fellow Moodscopers - thank- you one and all! Frankie

LP Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 7:14pm


Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:52pm

Hi Frankie - I think you are spot on. To wlak away and let that person 'feel' (their only reality) what will happen if they continue I belive is the 'tough love' required. To do otherwise and constantly 'catch them' in some way - shows them that they can continue to do what they are doing. You would in effect be traing them to carry on doing just what they are doing - digging an even deeper hole. Remember - the only perosn we can chnage is ourselves..........! We cannot ask them to change......if we are the ones in a more balanced is our behaviour we have to change in the hope that they will then change. That may well mean - letting go - no matter how tough - as after all - you are the stronger one in that situation - and you MUST use that strength to help with their weakness. They MUST find that inner desire to WANT TO change - no one can give them that - althoughg we can help by shoing what will happen if it goes on. Use Moodscope to keep putting it out there and I'm sure the right support will come to support you in your courage. Les

Tutti Frutti Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 9:53am

Hi Les It's really good to see you back writing for us after a long gap. How are you at the moment? I wasn't really a regular on here when you last wrote so you may well not know who I am, but I have always found your perspective interesting and a lot of it chimes with me. I think it was actually one of your blogs that I was first brave enough to comment on (though anonymously).

I think your point that sometimes tough love is needed and excessive sympathy might do more harm than good is absolutely true albeit very difficult to handle well. The risks of getting the tough love wrong seem so high. I think you really need to know the other person well and be sure that they aren't in too bad a place before you can risk tough love (and I think that's probably only possible from face to face contact). If in doubt I think there can be a lot to be said for saying nothing when someone appears to be wallowing, rather than going either for sympathy or tough love.

I also liked Dave's point about the importance of good listening.

Great to see you back and thanks for giving me lots to think about.

Love TF x

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 11:01pm

Hi Tutti Frutti - As I said above all well here thanks......values based reasons for not being in print since May. FAB - that you stepped into writing....great :-) Yup - ideally you need to know the other perosn well - which you will alreday do if you are a true friend. YOu will also have truly listend if you are a true friend. I personally believe 'tough love' isn't that tough....we are all so kinda worried from all that is said - tough love for me is 'truly caring' as no one will actually 'give it' unless their heart says so. So I think IQ wise we think it is dangerous....EQ wise we know when and if its right. Sally - because she cared - and had often been depressed - got it right...she was courageous. I belive we need to be more courageous, which is mostly speaking from the heart - as the word actually comes from the French from heart 'coeur' when we are 'coeurageous'....we are speaking from the heart. Keep thinking and growing and keep writing for sure...... :-) Les

Peter Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 10:10am

Thanks Les. I have been personally deeply informed by the 'Epictetun' philosophy which I think is what Sally Brampton would have been referring to. I am cautiously supportive of the CBT philosophy which has resulted but I am troubled that it has been given 'sole rights' to mental health care in Britain at the moment. Challenge which falls within someones threshold to respond positively to it is, I think, the key. It's a fine balancing act sometimes. I am reminded of the youtube video of Fritz Perls interviewing 'Gloria.' I recommend everyone look at this. It seems to divide opinion but I recommend it none the less. Take care of yourselves all.

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 11:06pm

Hi Peter - YUP - can be a fine balance, although not as difficult as people percive I belive - if they speak from the heart - and actually truly care and understand the person they seek to help. I'll now look up 'Epictetum' philosophy....and CBT is at least a step on from where things were....let's add to it - than on the face of things kinda detract from it. IT is far better than the usual 'pills and more pills' that never ever worked for me....Mind you neither did CBT.....and it works for many...let's celebrate that and add to it in whatever way we can. I'll chack out 'Glorai' as well......keep 'em coming. Les

The Gardener Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 6:12pm

Les, your blog brought back some rather bitter memories. We have a family member who has been 'trouble' from 13 years old, he has never done a thing - nothing physically wrong - if pushed, he said (probably still does') 'my head hurts'. Charitable people and psychiatric nurses say it probably does hurt when faced with action (The rain Man was fabulous on what happens when routine is disturbed). But there have been several occasions when I felt that there was nothing to lose in a bit of 'tough love'. But everybody was too scared - he had been violent, and his father had a high profile. I have had a week when it seems as though I've been 'high' on drugs - although I've disciplined myself to an aperitif. It's the respite - I've thought well, made decisions with no disturbance, rushed about with no responsibilities at home - done things I never expected to be able to do - it seems that the rare patches of 'freedom' have absolutely galvanised mind and body to action. I hurt my back being stupid - but I knew that curled up with a good book or music and applied heat it would go away. You know my history, living with Alzheimer - that there are no rules - but I dread losing my seemingly 'real' character which has surfaced to living with my O/H who is an utter misery - he still likes my cooking - I've done everything to draught proof the new house, and raided Lidl - so, wish me luck - 3 weeks to the next relief, grand-daughter visit

Les Thu, Nov 10th 2016 @ 11:12pm

Hi TG - sounds as tho you are taking good action and 'moving' and its paying off - great. People who are insecure themselves will normally always avoid anything like tough almost challenges them more than anyone you kinda intimated.... Rain man great film.... Good luck with next 3 weeks.....remember you can change no one except yourself......especially with Dementia or is really about not what happens to us - its how we react to what happens to us.......Don't eat too much from that raid on Lidl!! Les

Lesley Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 11:08pm

Hi TG. It sounds as if you have been pretty busy and full of action. That galvanised feeling is welcome in life. I was interested in reading about the 13 year old whose head hurt. I obviously do not know him but I do know that my head hurts when I have to make decisions. It seems that my decision making capabilities were wiped when I spent 4 years to all extents and purposes being looked after. I was in a state of massive exhaustion and adrenal stress/overload. The love and the care I received meant I did not have to make many decisions. Alas when my marriage ended my brain had lost the ability to make decisions. I am having to regrow it - with immense difficulty. The result is that my head, and body, ache and are in pain when I have to make decisions. So there is real pain that occurs. What helps? When I take an anti-convulsant (Gabapentin) the pain goes and it is slightly easier to make decisions. I feel angry that I have got into this state and being angry at myself does not help matters! I am scared that the anger will erupt and I will do something unwise one day.

Liane Fri, Nov 11th 2016 @ 7:23am

Glad to see your comments on Thursday.

Les Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 10:13am


Leah Fri, Nov 11th 2016 @ 10:17am

hope you are well.Your blogs always make me think in a different way. Good to see your comments. Tough love, I think love can be tough.
A very interesting blog.

Les Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 10:12am

Hi Leah - All well here......and I hope with you? Unless we think differently nothing will ever happen not to think differently is to really say - there is nothing in my life I can improve and I am very happy...!!! I wonder how many people that seek comfort - can say that??? There is no chnage without perosnal chnage of thinking differently.

the room above the garage Fri, Nov 11th 2016 @ 11:02am

Hello Les, good to read you. Sending love, ratg x.

Les Sat, Nov 12th 2016 @ 10:13am

Hey RATG - I hope you are well or as well as can be expected. Take care.

victor Sun, Nov 13th 2016 @ 7:14am

I have to give this miraculous testimony, which is so unbelievable until now. my name is Victor Wood Smith I had a problem with my Ex Wife July-25-2015, which lead to our break up. when she broke up with me, I was not my self again, i felt so empty inside me, my love and financial situation became worst, until a close friend of mine Jacobs told me about a home of miracle healer who helped him in the same problem too his name is Doctor Morusa from South Africa, I email Doctor Morusa the home of miracle and i told him my problem and i did what he asked of me, to cut the long story short. Before i knew what was happening within 24 hours my wife gave me a call and told me that She was coming back to me in just 24 hours and was so happy to have her back to me. We have two kids together and we are happy with ourselves. Thanks to Doctor Morusa for saving my relationship and for also saving others own too. continue your good work, If you are interested to contact him and testify this blessings like me, the great spell caster Via email address is Call +27746119056 or facebook at (Doctorl Morusa) you are the best among all the spell caster online I hope you see my testimonies which i promise to share. Thanks

You must login to leave a comment.

What is Moodscope?

Moodscope members seek to support each other by sharing their experiences through this blog. If you’d like to receive these daily posts by email, just sign up to Moodscope now, completely free of charge.

Moodscope is an innovative way for people to treat their own low mood problems using an engaging online tool. Anyone in the world can accurately assess and track daily mood scores over a period of time. We have proved that the very act of measuring, tracking and sharing mood can actually lift it. Join now.

Blog Archive


Posts and comments on the Moodscope blog are the personal views of Moodscope members, they are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. Moodscope makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this blog or found by following any of the links.

Moodscope will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. The owner will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

We exist to help people to positively manage their moods. You can contribute by taking the test, sharing your experience on the blog or contributing funds so we can keep it free for all who need it.

Moodscope® is © Moodscope Ltd 2018. Developed from scales which are © 1988 American Psychological Association. Cannot be reproduced without express written permission of APA.