Strive to Be Happy

Strive to be happy, how this simple statement has fascinated me for over twenty years. The final line of The Desiderata, these 4 simple words have made me think about my attitude to happiness more than anything else in my life. So happiness is not my birthright?  It is not something I had and lost but instead it is something I can earn, I should strive for? Strive, the hardest working verb in the English dictionary; strive is a long way from sit around and wait for it to fall into my lap, or bemoan its lack of solid presence in my life. Strive: what did that mean? And what did I mean by ‘happy’?

These few words began to worm their way into my consciousness, turning on its head my sense of adolescent depression and dissatisfaction, the sense that I didn’t have something I was entitled to, something that everyone else had. That I was somehow bereft, prone as I was to deep bouts of unhappiness. Unhappiness being a lack of happiness, a sense of being hopeless, useless, helpless and angry. Somehow that sense of hopeless anger was challenged by this word strive, enticing me to believe I could do something.  As a fighter I was no stranger to taking on Goliath like battles, but this was different.  It couldn’t be met head on.  My attempts to control my unhappiness by making big gestures didn’t work – I still felt angry and thwarted, hard done by, my experience of happiness in direct correlation to physical outcomes.

And then I began to notice how my behaviour, my response to things that happened, affected how ‘happy’ I felt. That somehow, if I let go of the outcome, I could still experience a sense of joy, of uplift, of possibility, of gratitude…of life as long as I was connected to myself with curiosity and compassion. As long as I was connected to everybody else.

Somehow instead of being a victim of circumstance, I started to realise I was able to be happy anyway, no matter what. 

This ignited a journey of profound change as I began to realise what I understood to be happiness, and accept that I was deserving of it. Instead of engaging in conflict, I decided to focus on developing a curiosity for how I felt in relation to others, in relation to what happened in my life.  I noted feelings of outrage and hurt and I rejoiced simply in my connection with my own consciousness, with me knowing me.  What happened and what others thought became increasingly important as part of my own developing relationship with myself and less and less about who I actually was.  I was increasingly proud of my courage to learn and grow, I was surprised with my willingness to hear, I laughed aloud at my second nature to reinstall the denial that sought to shield me from the nourishing truth when I thought I had thrown it out, and I dispensed with it again and again, daily clearing my side of the street. I was stubborn! I accepted with great joy my place as a grain of sand on a big wide beach, perfectly shaped to fit, and not more or less than anyone else.  I accepted HP into my life, relieved to only have to manage what I could, my own behaviour borne of my thoughts and feelings, and as truthful and respectful representation of that…what a relief.  I felt held, part of, good enough, curious and most importantly HAPPY as that gave me the faith to take the next step!

This is not a state of Nirvana, though, as I remain as affected by life as anyone else and have had my own trials, and (un)fair share of conflict, sickness and loss darkening my landscape. But within these experiences I have found that I can still connect, I can surrender to help, I can still grow and love, and despite the times of darkness, deep within I do feel happiness.

Interesting easy reading on the subject of happiness:

Illusions by Richard Bach

Hector & the Search for Happiness: Hector’s Journeys 1 by François Lelord and Lorenza Garcia


Why Our Children Are Self Harming ….

Self-harm can take many forms and can result from any number of emotional or personal situations.

For most it is a very secretive, concealed act.

The Statistics

·        Self-harm statistics for the UK show one of the highest rates in Europe: 400 per 100,000 population. It is estimated that one in 12 young people in the UK are believed to have self-harmed at some point in their lives.

·        Many of them use self-harming as a way of communicating because they feel that no one is listening and they also believe that they have no one to turn to.

·        3 in 4 young people don’t know where to turn to talk about self-harm (

·        A third of parents would not seek professional help if their child was self-harming (Source:

·        Almost half GPs feel that they don’t understand young people who self-harm and their motivations (Source:

·        2 in 3 teachers don’t know what to say to young people who self-harm (Source:

While studies show that some chronic self-injurers tend to get better without therapy, many people really need professional help to open themselves to new ways of being in the world and with stress.(Source:Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery)

The Reasons for Self-Harming – Mind , the UK Mental Health Charity

To express something that is hard to put into words

To make experiences, thoughts or feelings that feel invisible into something visible

To change emotional pain into physical pain

To reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts

To have a sense of being in control

To escape traumatic memories

To stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated (see dissociative disorders)

To create a reason to physically care for yourself

To express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking your own life

To communicate to other people that you are experiencing severe distress


A Parent’s Viewpoint

Ten years ago, when my son was 13 years old he started cutting himself. Looking back I did not handle the situation well at all. On hearing the term “self-harm” for the first time, I remember thinking “Isn’t that what the Opus Dei monks do?”, (as in those monks who engage in self-flagellation in order to punish themselves and because pain made them feel closer to God). Of course, there was nothing remotely connected to Opus Dei or religion about what my son was doing.  Mainly I was angry with him as I could not understand what could possibly make him want to hurt himself, over and over again.

I was also convinced that my son was the only child on the planet engaging in this (well apart from the monks) and so for the next four years he and I battled – covertly – for his survival. My son took self-harming to beyond cutting; he would stop eating for days on end, he hung out with “friends” who bullied him, he got into alcohol, drugs and as he got older, he engaged in a string of abusive relationships.

All of this served to perpetuate his idea that he needed to feel pain (physical and emotional) in order to feel something, to have control and to release the anger that silently raged within him.

 A Child’s Viewpoint

“Cutting was a release, not of huge amounts of rage (although I’m still waiting for that to surface) but of less noticeable emotion – I did not know how I felt – I did not have the skills to verbalize my experiences and therefore felt very trapped in my body.  I often felt as if I was sitting in a wooden box, I could see out of little gaps in the wood work but people couldn’t see in.  At least when I cut myself I could see the evidence of my being alive….the rest of the time I really did not care if I lived or died.”

“The secrecy of being in a room of people and knowing that underneath your clothes there are burns from lighters, cigarettes and matches which are an aesthetic to the internal pain, trauma and shame I feel about myself.

I am like the junkie who shoots up down a dark side-alley but instead I am applying the 8th burn to my arm because I can feel the dark shadow of panic/shame overcoming me and I won’t make it home if I don’t get this hit.”


So what do you do if your child is self-harming?

Mandy Saligari, founder and director of Charter Harley Street, explains that “Self-harm is a pattern of behaviours that, like so many addictive patterns and dysfunctional coping mechanisms, can be hidden in plain view, even in those as young as 6 or 7 yrs. old. It is often the first sign of a problem which left unaddressed frequently develops into an eating disorder or drug and alcohol addiction”

Do not ignore the signs.  If you feel out of your depth and if find that you cannot deal with the way your child is behaving, Mandy Saligari strongly suggests that “you seek support from a child and adolescent psychotherapist or an EMDR therapist who specialises in working with children. Trying to deal with it yourself and failing can generate negative emotions, making the child feel even more hopeless and the parent feel useless.

Both will foster resentment, which in turn drives the urge to self-harm – a vicious circle”

Philip Andrews, (Psychotherapist – EMDR Europe Accredited Consultant) believes that, “Trauma often leaves people feeling numb and depressed. Self-harm can allow them to literally feel for a short time, so as a short term solution it becomes addictive”.


The light at the end of the tunnel…

It is important to remember that self-harm is not a phase someone is going through or a fad but rather a coping mechanismfor depression, stress and anxiety.

There is no quick fix but over time with supportive care and attention, new ways of coping can replace the need to self-harm.  



About Charter Harley Street: Discover the Power of Charter Harley Street

London’s leading private outpatient facility for Trauma, Addiction and Mental Health. www.charterharley


About Mandy Saligari: Founder and Clinical Director, Charter Harley Street

Mandy is a well-respected established expert in the field of addiction, parenting and relationships.Born from her passion for helping people overcome addictive behaviour, Mandy founded Charter Harley Street to address the market need for a common sense approach to recovery; one that delivers recovery for life and is underpinned by humility, gratitude and hope.