The Only Person You Can Change

The Only Person You Can Change

I’m sure we’ve all had someone in our lives whose attitude or actions made us frustrated or annoyed, even angry. It could have been a family member, a loved one, a friend. In fact, it could have been anyone. Possibly even someone you only met once.

They were probably doing or saying something you just couldn’t understand. Possibly even something destructive and not just to themselves. Maybe you couldn’t fathom how someone with an apparently logical and reasonable human mind could seem to rationalise their contradictory attitude or actions. How they could be so blinkered to reality.

It’s easier understood for someone with an addiction. Like an alcoholic for example. They can be keenly aware of the issue they have but that impulse, that drive to drink, seems to override that common sensibility they have where they know what they are doing is harmful, even destructive, not just to them but those around them also, but they just can’t control themselves when it matters the most.

When it is a belief system you might be challenging. That’s something else entirely. Especially if it is a belief that has been ingrained since childhood. Where the person has basically been indoctrinated into thinking a certain way. Firstly by their parents, then their friends, then the society in which they live. I think there is no hope of changing that.

You see whilst it is possible to educate, encourage, influence, even inspire someone. It is impossible to change them. You cannot change the way a person thinks with words or actions. You cannot change a person at all. Change can only come from one place and that’s from within that person.

I had a heated debate with someone this week. I allowed myself to get frustrated at the fact they were completely unwavering in what they believed. Even when presented with a logical argument. It was like the thought that argument presented wasn’t even considered. Like they had their view on the matter and that was that. End of story. The shutters were closed. Elvis hadn’t just left the building. He was on another planet.

In my head I went off on a rant about how that is one of the problems with this world. How people have the ability to completely shut out anything that might make them question who they are, what their belief means to them, what actions they take, and how it affects the people around them.

Then I remembered my soon-to-be ex-wife. All the times she wanted me to change certain aspects of myself. All the times I simply ignored her. Even when I knew she was right. Coincidently all the things I have since changed about myself. By myself.

It made me realise that even though someone might be trying to explain something to us which in our own best interest, to encourage a change, a change for good, that influence is not necessarily going to make it happen.

Change can only come from within despite any efforts you make with that person. They have to want that change. They must seek it out for themselves. They have to have their own reason why such a change is actually what is best for them. No one can do that for someone else.

In reality the only person you can change is yourself. There’s no point butting heads with anyone else trying to prove otherwise. You can debate, or inform, or encourage, all you want. At best they might listen to your words or see the actions you take. They might let some of that sink in or ignore it completely. They quite possibly won’t even give it another moments thought. Their response can range from apathy to ire.

They most certainly won’t make a change at your insistence. If anything that may only reinforce their belief or idea, no matter how antiquated it may seem, especially if it is an idea their entire foundation as a person is based upon.

All you can do is politely put forward your case in a measured way. Getting frustrated doesn’t help, neither does raising your voice. If anything the more energy or forcefulness you put into your delivery the greater the barrier you will encounter. To hope for someone to recognise what may be easily seen for most requires subtlety, a softness in approach, where an idea isn’t forced upon someone but allowed to formulate in their own minds.

Then all you can do is hope that someday that idea will grow into an action. That they will recognise the need for change themselves. And then make that change.

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Mindshift

Mindshift

I feel broken.

In truth it has been building for days. That palpable sense of unease. That dark cloud looming on the horizon. The storm that was swelling.

It just let loose. It’s flooding my mind.

Thing is, I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I have to do. I’m not going to let my mind defeat me the way it used to even though right now I just want to curl up on the sofa.

As I’m jotting this down I’m trying to make dinner. I’ve opened the wrong cupboards looking for ingredients I know are not there. I know the potatoes are kept in the tall cupboard beside the fridge. I looked in the one that contains the canned goods. I know the vegetable oil is in the cupboard above the oven. I opened the cupboard that contains the plates. There are no cooking items or foodstuffs even in there.

My phone is buzzing. Notifications from WordPress. I know I have to be respectful. Especially to the people I do respect. I know there are comments to reply to, posts I’ve saved that I have scanned but not read. I just can’t face them this minute. I know I will.

Sometimes it’s easy to hide behind words on a screen. Words can belie how low you are really feeling. I can’t even do that right now.

So what happened?

I’ve been allowing certain thoughts to enter my mind. Thoughts I have no right to entertain. Dwelling on the past. A love that was lost.

I made the mistake of reading something about heartbreak and loneliness. I really should have waited until I was in a better frame of mind. It was a beautiful post. But like the spectre of lost love it is haunting me.

My son is in the living room waiting for his dinner. He’s watching YouTube. He has no idea how I’m feeling.

Earlier I saw a girl I know but haven’t seen in a while. She was in a hurry. Literally running past me. She smiled, said: “Hello Chris”, as she was passing. I said hello back.

It made me realise that with the exception of my soon-to-be ex-wife I haven’t actually spoken to another woman besides my mother and sister in weeks, maybe more.

I saw a few posts earlier about being grateful. The rational side of my mind is telling me I have a lot to be grateful for. I have a son who loves, and lives with, me. Few separated men have that blessing. I am in good health. I have good friends. A house. A job.

The irrational side is screaming at me to ignore all that.

Anyone who reads what I write will notice one thing. I write from the heart. Most times that heart is filled with love, life, positivity, optimism.

Right now that heart is a bit too heavy. I can feel its weight.

Dinner is almost ready. I have to go for now. The cat is still at the window. She’s telling me not to forget…

Part 2

What you read above was a glimpse of what happens when things get on top of me. We all have our little demons. And mine was prodding me with its pitchfork of self-pity, loneliness, negativity and sadness.

At the same time I was trying to regain control. I still knew the daily things I had to do. I must do if I’m to make things better. I knew that at times like that the most important thing is to keep going. Keep persisting (Thanks cat). There’s a lot to be said about movement.

I gave my son his dinner. We sat and ate together and talked about Fortnite. Just as we were finished his friends called and he went out to play.

It took me longer than usual to clean up and get the dishes done. I put the washing machine on after. There was a moment where I could have easily just gave in. Said I was done for the day. The person I was before wouldn’t even have hesitated.

But I forced myself out to my little gym. The routine I have seemed harder than usual. I made a point of not cutting it short. I haven’t done that and have no intention to. I’m not selling myself short anymore.

Afterwards I had a quick shower. Normally then I do a bit of writing. Work on my blog and other little projects. Not tonight. I needed time being close to my son. We just sat on the sofa the rest of the evening. My mood had lifted.

His mother called after a while. We had a civil conversation. At the back of my mind I still felt the regret. The regret that the person I was had pushed her away. That’s on me and me alone.

When she left it was time for bed. My son and I both went upstairs. As he fell asleep I kept thinking about how I no longer have the luxury, nor time, not to get my daily tasks done.

I reminded myself of what it takes to forge the life you want. I reminded myself of all those successful people I am constantly listening to. I reminded myself.

So up I got. The frantic train of thought from earlier got typed up. The addition made to show how things went after. And now I’m going to do a little more work elsewhere.

But there is a point to the post. It’s actually a point taken from one of my earliest posts. The one entitled A Low Day. This was my first real low day since then but the message is even more pertinent now. As much for myself or anyone else.

“The biggest struggle is always going to be with yourself and your own mind. If you want to be better it means you are not entirely happy with the you now. Do you really want that person controlling you? Or do you want to endure your negative feelings and forge a better, happier you?

“These days, the low dark days, the days that are harder than most, are the defining days. These are the ones that have the potential to break you. But if you see that and realise that your biggest gift, your own advancement and growth, can be bourne from days like this you see them as something far greater. They are an opportunity. A chance to rise to your own challenge. Find the gift in them and give light to that darkness.”

It’s getting close to 12pm. It might be dark outside. But I’ve found my light. I hope anyone else who is struggling finds theirs to.

You Are What You Consume

You Are What You Consume

I would hazard a guess that currently there are millions of people thinking about what they eat. Worried about their weight. Concerned about their calorie intake. On a diet.

But what about what we are feeding our minds? Isn’t that equally, if not more, important? I would think it’s safe to say that for a majority of people what they are filling their thoughts with has no real value. No positive value anyway. They are not having sustaining meals, not even quality snacks, they are just having chewing gum for the mind.

Think about it. There is a plethora of information out there in relation to your diet. The best foods to eat to achieve the physical result you want. There are countless articles and advertisements on social media, in magazines, online. There’s even a staggering amount of television programmes. You are what you eat? being the first one that comes to mind.

It’s all focused on the exterior. How you look to the outside world.

But what about what’s inside? What about your mind? The way you think?

I know that from my personal experience anything I have seen in relation to that has come from specific sources relating to personal development. You almost have to seek out such information. It isn’t as all-pervasive, as prevalent, as the information on your eating habits. It should be.

Think about your week. What have you consumed that has benefitted your mind? Your mental well-being? The way you think? I would imagine that unless you are specifically working towards something the answer would be very little, if anything.

Now think about the stuff you have read, or listened to, or watched, that has been meaningless. The things that have left your mind as quickly as they entered. Oh they might have had some flavour as you (I was going to say ruminated but that implies deep thought) temporarily considered them.

But once that flavour was gone. They would have left your mind like that flavourless chewing gum would leave your mouth. Spat right out and added to the trash. Some might be worse than that. Some might have left a bad taste in your mouth. Left you thinking negative thoughts. The worst of it is all this was probably done unthinkingly.

Imagine how much time of your life you have wasted on social media, watching pointless television programmes, playing computer games etc. There is a lot of distraction out there. A lot of ways to waste time. Waste your mind.

It is not my intention to preach here. I used to be just as bad, if not worse. I used to spend pretty much all my so-called free time watching pointless films and television programmes. That is wasteful enough. At the same time I was probably wasted from smoking marijuana. A double whammy.

Look, I understand we all need time to unwind, relax, turn our minds off for a while. That’s ok and necessary. But if you truly look at those habits I bet they account for an awful amount of hours in your week. Hours that add up over the years. Hours where you are doing nothing really. Hours where all you are doing is wasting your life away. A life that only contains a finite number of them.

Since I started becoming more conscious of the things I do, and didn’t do, and since I started finding the time to do the things I needed to do to grow, to develop, to progress. I started to recognise all that wasteful time. All that time that was either doing me no good, or causing me harm. All that time my mind was going to waste.

Take the news for example. Why do you watch it? It contains rarely anything positive. It’s mostly reporting negative events. Which do what to your mind? Make you annoyed, angry, frustrated. If you watch or listen to the news everyday. You are assaulting your own mind with negativity. It gives you a skewed view of the world. It makes it look all doom and gloom.

I’m not even going to write about social media. It is well documented just how negatively it can impact people.

Whatever fills your mind is what your mind becomes. I have found that since I cut out the news from my life, stopped watching hours of pointless television, even drastically cutting down on the amount of music I listen to, and started replacing all that with listening to audio books, always factual by the way, I have found myself becoming happier. Feeling much stronger as a person. Being able to cope better with life’s little problems. It is actually quite remarkable.

But all this isn’t common knowledge. No one on television or radio is going to tell you such a thing. They want your attention after all.

So it’s time to make a decision. Time to think about what you consume. Time to think, full stop.

Why fill your mind with so much emptiness or negativity? Stuff that has no real value. When you could be nourishing it instead. Helping your mind to grow.

I think the band Jefferson Airplane said it best at the end of their song White Rabbit. Feed your head. Feed your head!

The Snarling Lion

The Snarling Lion

We all have it inside us. That ferocious beast, that irrational being, the snarling lion of anger. Normally mine is subdued, peaceful, at rest. Chained by the rationality of my mind.

Not now.

Anyone who has followed my blog will see I am all about looking for the positive, the hope, finding inspiration. Those people will also see I’m real. I’m not always like that. I don’t always have the answers. I’m not like Buddha, or Jesus, or Muhammad. I’m a flawed human being just like the rest of us with our foibles and imperfections.

Sometimes I am just struggling through. Trying desperately to find the right path and stay on it. Sometimes I find it hard just to see where that path is. Sometimes I’m just waiting for a new day, a new sense of perspective, a new hope.

In a way this is one of those sometimes. In another it isn’t.

Something happened this afternoon. It wasn’t even anything major. It involved my son.

It has left me bubbling under the surface. Bubbling with a certain degree of anger. A feeling to lash out. I haven’t. I don’t think I will. We’ll see how the day goes.

Thing is, that little incident has made me realise something about myself. I’ve talked before about how my son is my reason for driving myself on to being better. How he gives me my sense of purpose. How that gives me strength.

I’ve just realised how he can be my source of weakness also. When I see my boy hurting, feel the emotional pain he is in, I just want to lash out. Not physically I might add. I don’t like violence. But verbally. Verbally I can be downright destructive, unrelenting, almost savage. Verbally I can let my lion run free and no one is safe when he is on the loose.

Since my ‘wife’ and I separated my boy hasn’t seen his granddad on her side of the family in months. I thought today we would try a little visit. It was only going to be short. No more than 10 minutes. It was all he would agree to and I didn’t want to push him any further. I knew his grandparents would be more than happy to see him no matter how little the time was.

We made it to the house. It is only a mile up the road. He had even got out of the car. But then he saw his mother’s car and someone else’s we didn’t recognise. He wasn’t expecting that and got so worked up he started crying. I certainly didn’t want to put him through that level of upset so we quickly jumped back into the car and came home.

When I got home there was a text from his mother. She was just saying what she was doing that morning, what she planned to do that evening, and asking how her son was.

I told her about the failed visit. About the upset.

Now if that had been me receiving the news the first thing I would have done was drop everything I was doing and come and see my boy. As far as I would be concerned everything else could wait.

Needless to say that wasn’t her response. She was having lunch with friends. Was visiting relatives later. Plans that couldn’t be interrupted or delayed it seems. Not one word was asked of how he was right then. Had he settled down? Did he want her to visit?

The lack of visible concern loosened that chain. I felt that lion’s snarl starting to rise, wanting to turn into a roar. The animal wanting to pounce. It didn’t. I didn’t. My reply was curt. That was the best of the options I had running through my mind at that time. Avoid a confrontation. No point unleashing my anger over things outside my control.

In the past 12 months I have worked feverishly trying to improve myself. In the most part that is actually now quite easy. The exercise isn’t a problem. The steps I need to take to achieve my hopes and dreams are, if not exactly easy, quite simple and straightforward. I know I can do that.

But when it comes to emotions. The feelings of my heart and my son’s. I have a long way to go.

Granted today was a small step in the right direction. I didn’t unleash my beast. In fact the only people who will even know about it are the people reading this now. And it has helped me to see where my greatest weakness lies.

Even in the course of writing this I have felt the anger subside. No harm has been done and for that I am thankful. I guess, I hope, I am learning.

Speaking in anger is no good for anyone. It will achieve no good thing. All it can do is make things worse, compound your problems, add to your regret. So I’m asking you please, if you find yourself in that situation, find your anger starting to rise, do whatever it takes to tame your beast.

If it’s a problem that needs addressing leave it to when you are thinking clearer. Are more rational. When you head and thoughts aren’t clouded by emotion. When your lion is subdued and back in chains. You’ll be thankful later. I know I am.

When Stagnation Isn’t Stagnation

When Stagnation Isn't Stagnation

We’ve all been there. That time when you’ve reached a certain point, a plateau. A point in life where it feels like you are stagnating. Not going anywhere. That nothing is changing. You and your life are standing still.

But I have bad news for anyone in that position. If you feel you are stagnating. The situation is much worse than that.

Don’t worry too much though the good news is never too far away.

A quick Google search will tell you that to stagnate is to ‘cease developing; become inactive or dull’. The definition in the Cambridge English dictionary is ‘to stay the same or not grow or develop’.

The term can be applied to liquid and air. For water and air the Cambridge dictionary adds that it is when it does ‘not move or flow, often resulting in it becoming dirty’.

So water can stagnate, air can stagnate. Thing is, I don’t think people can.

I think for us the word stagnate is only that, a word in a dictionary. For when a person can be said to be stagnating they are in actual fact degrading. Their quality is being spoiled, even destroyed. Just like that water, they are going off, becoming less. If everything else is still moving around you, and you are at a standstill, then you are getting left behind. If you are ‘inactive or dull’ your world will feel that way also.

I thought I was stagnating once. In my marriage, in my work, in my life, and for many years. I see now I wasn’t. I was degrading. Everything else was still moving around me and whilst I thought I was just at a perpetual standstill. I was actually getting worse, my situation was getting worse. I was getting left behind by those around me.

I didn’t see it then. The ongoing changes were miniscule, almost imperceptible. Through my stagnate eyes nothing was changing. But they were. My ‘wife’ was falling out of love with me. My work was never satisfying and never would be. In life I always felt terribly unhappy, always carrying a sadness, a frustration, even anger. If I was that water? I’d be dirty. My worth had lessened. My quality reduced.

One of the books I’ve been listening to recently talks about the compound effect. (The Compound Effect: Jumpstart your income, your life, your success. By Darren Hardy). It talks about how small actions can be compounded over time and grow into something bigger. I think the reverse is also true. Small inaction over time can be compounded into something much bigger and much worse. You don’t want that. Believe me.

I would argue that stagnation for a person doesn’t exist. Over time you are getting closer to death, your body is wearing down. You are breaking down, being degraded. And that’s only physically. You certainly aren’t standing still no matter how little you are doing.

If I have learned one thing from the past 20 years it is that inaction, a lack of movement or growth, doesn’t just stop you from going anywhere. It actually takes you backwards, downwards, into an abyss of your own making.

I did say at the start there was good news. Actually its great news. All of this can be prevented. It’s possible to stop yourself from ever being in this position. And if you are? It is equally possible to get yourself out of it.

It’s quite simple really. All it takes is movement, growth, forward momentum. It’s as simple as continuing to find yourself new challenges, giving yourself goals (If you have none already). You want to know the best way forward? Look towards your fears. Finding and facing them will certainly help you develop, keep you moving onwards, keep you growing. And those fears? You might just learn they were all in your mind anyway.

It all comes down to a simple choice. Do you want to stagnate and degrade? Or do you want to grow? Do you want life? Or do you want death?

It might not be an easy life. But that death? It will be a long, drawn-out affair, filled with negativity and heartache. I know which one I choose. What about you?

Do It. Especially When You Don’t Want To!

More Than Motivation

From the title of this post you would think I was going to write about motivation. But I’m not really. It’s about something more than that.

It’s been a long day, a relenting day, a day where I am only getting the chance to write this now after being on the go for over 13 hours.

Any other working parent, especially the single ones, would testify to just how full your day can be. After you finish your paid job you come home to start the unpaid job (Unpaid only financially I might add). There’s the homework, the dinner, the dishes, the cleaning, the laundry, the constant interruptions for something or other, and, if you are so inclined, a quick workout in the gym.

As a result the only thing I am really motivated to do right now is nothing! I’m tired. I just want to put my feet up, have a cup of tea, and watch a little tv.

But here we are. The reason we are here isn’t about motivation. I find it fleeting at best. Yes, it’s easy to do the things you want to do when you feel like it, when you could be bothered, when you are feeling motivated to do them. But if you’re out there trying to improve yourself, trying to be better, trying to achieve your dreams, your goals, there is something much bigger and more powerful than motivation itself. That something is your reason why?

I know motivation is defined as ‘a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way’ so really I’m writing about an arguably subtle difference. But as I said earlier, I’m tired. That is motivating me towards not wanting to do anything. That is telling me to just have a rest. It’s telling me I’ve done enough for the day. But it’s the reason why that has me here now.

It’s the reason why that drives me out into the little gym in my shed. It’s the reason why that has me working on other projects besides my blog. It’s the reason why that has me wanting to be the best I can be. It’s the reason why that really drives me on to better myself day after day.

Whenever I realised the importance of physical exercise in relation to not only your physicality but your mental well-being it became an integral part of my journey to being better. Thing is, with the exception of my self-defence class, I really don’t like exercise. I find it really mind-numbingly boring.

I might use that time wisely by listening to personal development audio books but using the cross-trainer, lifting those weights, is just so tedious. I would much rather be doing something else. It’s really the reason why that makes me continue to do it.

The reason why is the most powerful reason of all. It’s the thing that no matter the obstacles, no matter the difficulty, will make you push on, try that little bit harder, and for longer.

Think of it like this. Imagine your house was on fire. Its being ravaged by flames. You’re outside. You have everyone and everything you love beside you. Would you want to enter that house? Of course not. The fear of getting burned would motivate you not to go in.

Now imagine a loved one is in there…Would anything stop you from trying to get inside? Your reason why has now exceeded anything else.

The trick is to find your reason why? Find that overriding reason that will make you do what you need to do no matter what. The real driving force that will make you do it even when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to. Times like that are what will separate you from all the motivated people, all the people who just feel like doing something because it suits them at that time. Times like that make the real difference.

It helps to know where your priorities lie. Once you see what your true priorities are. Once you find that something that is of the utmost importance to you. Whether it’s family or finances, success or fame. It’s easier to find your why? Find your why? And you’ll find something stronger than motivation. You’ll find the most powerful thing of all.

With that said I am going to end this here. And no, I’m still not going to put my feet up even though I desperately want to. My reason why is calling for his supper!

The Monster With Green Eyes

Monster With Green Eyes

As children we are told that monsters aren’t real. That they are just a figment of our imagination, only in our head. That is true. But there is one monster that lurks within us all. A monster that sometimes rears its ugly head when we aren’t expecting it. A head that contains green eyes. The monster of jealousy.

We can all fall victim to this monster at some point or other. There is no specific time in which that monster can arise. It comes at different times, for different reasons. And it’s never pretty.

It might come out because we envy the wealth someone has. It might be because someone is more beautiful than ourselves, is more popular, has more success. It could be because we feel threatened, like when you have a partner and someone is paying them special attention. We each have our reasons for the beast to come forth.

I’ve been a victim of this monster in recent days but not from where I would have expected. I’ve never really been envious of anyone’s riches or success. Always saying to myself their hard work and diligence got them there. My old monster was in relation to my soon-to-be ex-wife and men flirting with her.

But a new one appeared. One I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t just a case of out it popped either. It was a slow release and it took me until this morning to realise how much it was affecting my mind. Thankfully I’ve seen that monster and put it away.

Since I’ve started getting into blogging and reading more about it I’ve wondered what makes a good blog. Obviously there are lots of different types out there. Each successful in their own right, their own niche. The unifying factor to me was the obvious amounts of time and effort put into their content. Blogs with thousands of followers that have been on the go for years.

But a relatively recent blog which has seen a staggering increase of followers in a very short time frame piqued my attention. I couldn’t understand it. It didn’t seem to be anything special. In fact to me it seemed the antithesis of what would be considered a great blog.

It was more like an Instagram on steroids type of thing. Unlike anything else I had seen it contained more pictures of the admittedly pretty blogger than anything else. The same blogger who was usually the first to like her own post. Something I failed to understand. Was it an algorithm thing or narcissism? Obviously you like what you’ve posted or you wouldn’t have done so. But to actually then hit your own like button on that. To me that takes a certain level of conceitedness.

Oh there were profound appealing quotes which turned out to have been something that was read somewhere else but not attributed to the original author or else attributed to them further down the post. A comment section which often times would resemble something from a dating app indicating that despite what people think about blogging, which to me equates to writing, as long as you look aesthetically pleasing you’ll gain interest.

That particular blogger could be seen everywhere. Any post I looked at they had liked, and usually commented. At one point I had questioned to myself could they be real? Were they a bot? They were that prolific it seemed almost unnatural.

I guess my suspicions arose when a comment I made was liked within minutes. A comment on a post that I made over a month previous. At that time it would have taken a minute to even scroll to where that post and comment was on my blog. It frightened me a little, my paranoia kicked in. Was my account hacked and they could see my notifications?

I then became slightly obsessed by this blogger. I didn’t see then that my eyes were getting greener by the minute. I didn’t realise the thoughts I was having were all stemming from jealousy. I didn’t see that it was my monster poking its head out.

The reality is that person was obviously working very hard at their blog, putting a lot of time and effort into it. Being an active member of the WordPress community. The blog they were doing was in their own style. What felt good for them. And it was working extremely well.

If anything I should have been giving them my support. They were doing what we are all trying to do. Reaching an audience. Having their words read. Making their blog a success.

Whatever they were doing was working, is working. They deserve nothing but praise for what they have achieved. It is very impressive. I had to put my monster away to realise that.

I guess what I’m trying to say is don’t let your jealously affect you the way it effected me. It’s a horrible infectious thing and will spread if you don’t get it under control. It will create problems where there are none. Make you a feel a way about something you actually have no right to feel. A negative feeling that is only in your head after all but may well have consequences.

We are all on our own unique journey and should appreciate other peoples blessings as much as we appreciate our own. That monster of jealousy is an ugly, nasty beast and should be put in the same place as our childhood monsters. Under the bed and out of sight.