Tigger on the Couch

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams reviews “Tigger on the Couch”, a book that looks at mental health problems and personality disorders using fairy tales and children’s stories. Follow Sloan on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s website www.sloansw.com

When I was first introduced to this book I was very impressed at the way Laura James approached the concept of mental health problems , an angle so inventive that it avoided the stigma so often associated with disorders such as schizophrenia, addictions, histrionics and ADHD to name just a few.

I found her case studies witty and amusing revealing many mental health issues that trouble my clients enabling me to provide them with metaphors that they could relate to.

Fairy tales are often used in many cultures to help children grown up with a set of values/morals that help them navigate this very difficult world. Likewise it is my belief that Laura James’ book Tigger on the Couch allows adults to circumvent the pitfalls that life puts before us.

I often tell my clients their life is a screenplay as them as the star and it is the leading man or lady complete with flaws and problems that are not only interesting but that we can learn a lot from. To emphasise this point I find myself recounting some of the case studies in Laura James’ book Tigger on the Couch to which I have had very successful responses.

Without going into too much detail as I really think this book is useful to all whether it is understanding yourself, your friends, your colleagues or even your partner, I have chosen a few of my favourite stories from the book to share with you.

One of my favourite books is Winnie the Pooh by AA Milne and who can not fall in love with Tigger with his continual excitability bouncing around in fantastically fun interaction with a large variety of people. However on a closer psychological analysis as Laura James points put, Tigger’s constant bouncing, running, climbing, fidsgeting and overall hyperactivity not to mention his irresponsible attitude which results not only in consequences for himself but for his friends is a clear sugn of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder most likely of the Impulsive type. For example, Tigger often arrives at Pooh’s house in the middle of the night unable to control his impulses. This type of behaviour reeks of a disordered individual as someone without Tigger’s disorder would have known it is more appropriate to visit during the day or call first. Tigger also makes bold statements, impulsively claims whatever food he is offered is his favourite, gulping down large mouthfuls only to find he doesn’t like it at all. Add to that Tigger’s poor impulse control which he often exhibits by the belief he can do anything having no sense of fear or responsibility.

ADHD is generally managed with behavioural therapy and/or medication however using Tigger as an example to patients with ADHD shows that even the most annoying of habits can be managed under and are lovable qualities as is Tigger.
Another favourite character of mine is Cinderella, although her early life was happily spent with her parents after her mother’s tragic death and her father remarrying the most awful of step-mothers with two evil step-sisters to boot it was no surprise that Cinderella began to lead a life needing to please everyone but herself. This sis very common in SF (Sensory-Feeling) typology however we have little detail on Cinderella’s MBTI data. Either way using Laura James’ analysis or my suggestion of SF typology, it is very clear that Cinderella has lost touch with her own emotions and thus suffers from Approval Addiction. Although Cinderella took her step-mother’s rejection hard, more often than not in situations like this the Approval Addicted client if more upset that her blood relative (in this case her father) did not protect her therefore allowing her to be treated in an abusive manner.

Until the point where Cinderella meets her prince (i.e. has contact outside the family unit) she has yet to build up the self-esteem to confront her step-mother with reference to the unfairness of the situation. Although more often than not Cinderella is seen as the epitome of a love story, from a psychologist’s perspective all she has done is create a drama triangle where she continues to play the role of the victim casting her step-mother in the role of villan and putting her prince on a pedestal in the role of rescuer. This pattern is often seen in people with low self-esteem and/or children who develop coping strategies to enable order and peace in the household by ensuring they please everyone. In playing such a game it is impossible not to lose one’s self. Using Cinderella as an example to clients, it enables the therapist to help the Approval Addicted client to set up firm boundaries for themselves and others, confronting any issues that surface, making peace with the past and moving on.

Laura James also talks about other fairy tale favourites such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz, Goldilocks, Pippi Longstocking and Willy Wonka to name just a few.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the checklist/exercise at the back of each section which allows you to work out which character you are most like and in theory which personality disorder you are more likely to have, if any. Although the checklists are fun I would urge anyone to make sure any disorder was properly diagnosed by a psychologist or psychiatrist before any attempt at self medicating.

Having said that, this book is a fantastic read. Its witty case studies really help you understand yourself and others and I highly recommend it.

Images reproduced from greeneheaton.co.uk, piscitella.com and kidzcoolzone.com

Film Review: Red Riding Hood

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams talks about “Red Riding Hood” and the story’s metaphors. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website www.sloansw.com

A cross between ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and ‘Twilight’,  this version of Red Riding Hood delivers on the sweet romance front however rests on the precipice of veering into dark unsettling terrority never quite taking the leap needed to scare the audience.

Amanda Seyfried plays the lead protagonist Valerie, a beautiful charming vibrant young woman torn between two men. She is bequeathed to a wealthy gentleman by the name of Henry but is in love with Peter, as a mysterious brooding outsider, portrayed Shiloh Fernandez.

Valerie and Peter brought together by a love so strong are planning to run away together to avoid Valerie marrying Henry. They then learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by a monster that prowls the dark forest that surrounds the village. Just like in the film ‘The Village’, until now there has been a truce with the beast where so long as the inhabitants bring the creature a monthly sacrifice they will come to no harm, but unlike ‘The Village’ this beast is real and that to a werewolf. It appears the blood red moon has become too much for the wolf who has now taken a human life and that obviously breaks the truce.

Enter Gary Oldman, as Father Solomon, whom the people of the village call upon to kill the werewolf in an act of revenge. The twist although not unexpected is that Father Solomon explains to the village that the wolf can actually take human form and can be any one of them. The death count continues to increase with each new moon and Valerie begins to suspect that the wolf may be closer than she thinks. Once Valerie’s suspicions are aroused she becomes both the suspect and the next potential victim.

I must say as an original fan of the 1984 film ‘The Company of Wolves’ I was prepared to be disappointed by yet another remake of Red Riding Hood. There is definitely visual appeal far greater than anything achievable in 1984 without the use of CGI, however the dialogue seems somewhat lacking. Perhaps the market is quite like Twilight and aiming for the teenage female audience, however if you look deeper into the underlying psychological issues such as repression, desire, revenge and longing, this may just have the makings of a psycho–thriller. Unfortunately for some this is a PG13 film in the States and has a similar classification here, therefore there is an absence of blood and gore which does leave it somewhat lacking for the Saw genre fans requiring a good dose of true horror.

Red Riding Hood does have it good points, it has at least stayed grounded in the medieval style fantasy of allowing the viewer to escape to a place where werewolves and witches exist and the church is a higher power setting rules by which to live by. It is easy to fall in love with Seyfried’s character Valerie no doubt she will be universally loved, she is virtuous, she is tempted, she is trusting and she has good intentions but like the majority of us she leaves herself open to the pitfalls of love, life and seduction. Artistically Valerie’s fondness for wearing a vibrant red cloak is stunning in look and clever in its underlying meaning of sexual awakening.

The film also attempts to retain some of the framework of the children’s story, albeit with artistic variation. Fairy tales are often used to speak to both our conscious and unconscious, therefore do not need to avoid contradictions because these can easily exist in our subconscious. This does not translate into film as well in this instance. The original fairytale speaks of human passions, oral greediness, aggressive behaviour and sexual desires. In the original there is no conspiracy of adults, the heroine is forced to mend her ways via her own conscious and not the way society demands. With the presence of Father Solomon, Gary Oldman’s character inhabits a moral grey area but the script does not delve quite how I would like it to on the complexity of his motivations

The original also know as Little Red Cap concentrates on the child-like view about whether to live by the pleasure principle or in the real world. It deals very well with situations where we are at a cross roads and we make the wrong choice. What is interesting in both this film and the original fairytale, is that the wolf at all times has the ability to eat both Little Red Cap and Valerie yet chooses not to do so at the beginning of the story. Cynics may say that this is because Valerie cannot be eaten in the first 20mins of the film but psychologists may look at this as the fact the grandmother must be eaten before Little Red Cap in a bid for the transformation into adulthood. Perhaps the film is trying to portray the wolf’s selfish, violent and potentially destructive tendencies as representative of the id, in contrast to the unselfish, thoughtful attributes of the ego who may or may not be a character who will save Valerie.

Hardwicke as a director is remarkable in playing the red herring game and although I did guess the werewolf, I hear that many did not. To me the disappointment of the film was the lack of romantic chemistry, however the highlight was indeed the mastery displayed when it comes to creating atmosphere.  I really did get a sense of the isolation in the village and the power wielded by Father Solomon and appreciated the lack of blood and gore although I do realise not all will take this view. It is a beautiful motion picture potentially appealable to the Twilight crowd but also reaching a further audience. Well worth a view, but I would only rate it 3 stars out of 5.

Image reproduced from www.warnerbroscanada.com

Trailer reproduced from ClevverTV/Warner Bros Pictures