Regarding Refugees - The importance of paying attention

From Matthew Weaver's article in the Guardian  "Refugee crisis: what can you do to help?"  September 2015

From Matthew Weaver's article in the Guardian "Refugee crisis: what can you do to help?" September 2015

The third tier of American psychologist Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the one above the requirement for physical survival and for security, is the need to belong

Refugees fleeing a hostile regime may endure unspeakable horror, very great physical suffering and profound trauma as almost every aspect of their past life is lost

Assuming they reach a safe place, the need to be part of a group, to be accepted and loved, may also be denied them

In the first world most of us take our sense of belonging for granted. Everything that surrounds us is familiar to the point of being invisible. The street where we live, the trees on it that change with comforting regularly according to season, the smell of the exhaust fumes from our neighbour’s irritatingly revving car. Our brains are constantly fed the message, “you know where you are, you know what this is, you are safe.”

Imagine the exhaustion that is a consequence of interacting with an unalteringly alien environment. The human brain is on constant red alert. The message now is “Watch out, you don’t know what this is, you don’t where you are, be careful, don’t let your guard down.” Add to that the physical and mental exhaustion of escape, hardship and dislocation and recovery may be a long time in coming.

I will never forget the look on the faces of the Syrian refugees who arrived in Berlin to be met by applause from the welcoming Germans. It is impossible not to weep when you see their smiles at the warmth of the reception at that time. Welcome means safety. The smiles and the handshakes show their relief and their gratitude.

There is a connection between being welcomed and feeling safe. A host must always greet his guest with enthusiasm, whether he feels it or not. As the visitor pauses on the threshold he or she will feel vulnerable entering another’s territory. It’s natural that we do. The warmth of the welcome diffuses that primal apprehension.

When I was a teenager I visited a friend’s house in Birmingham for the first time. Her father was an old Irish surgeon and as he shook my hand he looked me in the eye and said “My dear, you are very welcome in this house.” That was about forty years ago but I still remember the relief and relaxation that washed through me at his greeting.

All that was happening was that I was being attended to with kindness. That is all. That is everything

Throughout our lives being paid attention to will mean the difference between survival and extinction, happiness and misery, achievement and failure. A victim of torture is reduced to state of nothingness by the complete control the perpetrator has over him. That annihilation of self is the most extreme example of not being seen, not mattering at all.

Most forms of therapeutic counselling work on the basis that the patient is listened to, properly and with intelligence and compassion. That is where the healing comes from.

Because being seen is fundamental to our survival, when we are not taken into account we will experience a profound reaction. A baby will scream when hungry, a man or woman or woman will rage when they are ignored. A baby’s hunger is something we all understand and will respond to, an adult’s anger and hurt at counting for nothing is something we don’t always recognise.

Refuge means safety. For people whose lives have been taken away, recovery from trauma may begin when their basic needs are met and continue when they no longer feel in danger. The next tier of Maslow’s Hierarchy, belonging, can be achieved by notice, by caring, in whatever form that might take.

Amnesty International encourages and organises correspondence with governments who are refusing their citizens basic human rights. But they also ask people to write to those who have been interned without trial or solely on account of their beliefs, to let them know they are cared for and to reassure them that they have not been forgotten. They are not alone. They matter.

It’s only a small thing, it is almost nothing compared to what they have been through and will go through, but that’s what we can all do, we can attend. We can positively search out opportunities to help or make some kind of financial contribution, send some clothes, write a letter. We all have the means to reach people whose lives have been smashed to pieces and who are beginning the process of creating an entirely new existence.

Small drops of caring can come together to form an ocean of compassion. Being cared about makes people feel a little safer

At the top of their website Unicef ask for a small donation.

“Ten pounds could help provide toys for our child-friendly spaces which every day help children rest, recover and play, as children should”.

Every life matters, every person deserves notice, but none more so than those who’ve lost all that they once had. Each of us, in whichever small way, can reach out to them


Write Out Of It. Why expressive writing makes life better

Graph showing how expressing writing can make you happier

I’m interested in this because one of the trickier parts of the website making process is asking people to provide written content for their website

That’s often the point where the Door of Contact slams shut, the emails dry up and there will be tumbleweed drifting along the corridors of communication

It’s not just me, it happens to every website maker I’ve ever met

I think that’s because whilst people can very often explain themselves effectively in conversation, they don’t always feel they have that fluency when trying to express themselves via the written word.

This makes them feel like someone crossing an ice rink in ordinary shoes, at any moment they risk taking a tumble and making a fool of themselves.

This makes perfect sense. Most of us will have several conversations during any particular day but if we’re not professional writers we may go weeks or months without having to express ourselves on the page.

It takes practice and here’s why that practice is good and it’s not just good for business, it’s good for everything.


1. Managing anxiety, mindfulness made easy

Gathering thoughts, searching for the right word, these are highly absorbing activities.

This degree of concentration means that one is existing entirely in the present. Anxiety, which can be defined as a disproportionate fear of what may be about to happen, loses its grip as both the future and the past, temporarily disappear.

2. Letting the tiger out, gently, gently

This works best for situations we can’t change. These are those situations which are the most likely to make us angry, because we feel trapped by them.

The Artist’s Way Morning Pages practice of filling three sheets of paper with any thoughts that enter one’s head at the beginning of the day, can allow negative emotions to make a harmless exit from the brain instead of sticking around and hurting us, or others.

3. Stories, even short ones, help make sense of experience

If we don’t deal with painful experiences they’ll stick to us like a hard lump of misery, weighing us down and doing us no good at all.

Expressive writing forces emotions and memories to move from the background to the forefront of our minds. As they detach and loosen we become better able to examine them.

Once we pinpoint WHY whatever happened made us so unhappy, we reduce it to one particular, more manageable, thing, instead of a pervasive cloud of nameless pain.

4. Chucking out the rubbish

We absorb information throughout a day and process it in our dreams.

Not all information we take in is necessary or helpful. Writing down the thoughts that come into our heads releases the ones that don’t matter or do us harm, leaving space for the thoughts that help us.

5. Writing and physical health

Over the years a number of studies have shown that expressive writing can help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve lung and liver function and lower the number of days spent in hospital, and visits to the doctor.

6. Increasing clarity of thought by choice of words

Whether we’re practised at it or new to the process, searching for the words that precisely express what we’re trying to say, with all its shades and nuances, help us to understand what is at the heart of our thoughts. It guides us towards a better understanding of who we are.

7. Weight training for the mind

Writing is hard because it requires focused thinking, and effort, to do it well.

The discipline needed to write even for short periods builds our ability to concentrate and that improves all aspects of our lives.

7. Future benefits, future pleasures

Like anything else the more you write the better you get at it.

Writing can become a refuge during difficult times, it will improve your ability to communicate with others, and there are very few occupations that don’t benefit from the ability to express oneself effectively using the written word.

Without the pressure of needing to make a living from it, for most of us writing is just writing. It’s putting the words on the paper or the screen, one after the other, that’s it.

Whether we do for five minutes a day or for much longer, and whatever we write about, it is good for us.

It may never be seen by anyone else, that is within our control, but if there is one place in life where you have freedom to let it all go, it is on the page.

If you pick up a pen (or place your fingertips on a keyboard) and that empty page seems like a ringmaster with a whip, and you’re the lion who is too scared to leave his cage, then write down how hard it feels to write.

The words will come.


Contact Katie
Thanks for the graphics to
Bespoke Design Lewes

Get an introvert to make your website. Here's why...

Get an introvert to make your website. Here's why...


Get an Introvert to make your website - here's why

Introvert web designer

For the moment let's leave aside the fact that coders and techies are often introverts. I'm not talking about the technical aspects of building a website, I'm talking about the business of defining and expressing what your website says about you in particular

Let's concentrate on the qualities in introverts that will make sure your website is entirely original, not an exercise in formula or a strapped-on identity, but specifically about who you are and what's different about you.

It's pretty much accepted nowadays that introverts display some if not all of the following traits.

1. They are particularly good listeners

Graphic of an ear

If you listen to someone well you will learn about all aspects of them. If someone wants to make a website that sells shoes, for example, the shoes themselves will be only part of the story. Good listening will pick up on that valuable, extra, information.

An introvert will listen with attention because they love new information.


2. Happiest when chasing after meaning

Introverts are bloodhounds when it comes to tracking down WHY and HOW? It's their idea of fun. They won't let you stop explaining yourself till they understand as much about you as they need to. Which will be a great deal.



Graphic of a stage with a big red line through it

3. Reluctant to put themselves centre-stage

Introverts don't want to stand out.  A typical introvert responds to public thanks by crediting someone else for their success. Please don't look at me. Your website will be about you and not about them. 

5. They derive huge enjoyment from analysing and gathering information

Graphic Thinking is Fun!

An introvert's idea of fun is to think about things very deeply and make connections. Theirs is a world of absorbed reflection.

Having an introvert design your website makes use of their thoughtfulness and sensitivity and their dislike of shades and shadows of meaning.

Their enjoyment of forming a thorough understanding of the world leads to exactitude when it comes to expressing that message.

So they will chose every element of your website carefully, realising that all aspects of it make up your message whether it is the fonts, the images, the choice of words or colours. Every single part has to be right and true and that's important to them.

Graphic Saying Keep it REAL Man!

4. Hate small talk, only enjoy conversation that has significance

An introvert can't afford small talk, it drains them. A social conversation with an introvert may well verge on the intense but when it comes to discussing what you want for your business, this single minded concentration and avid curiosity makes for a thorough understanding of what you're all about and what you're after.

6. Slow but thorough processing of information

Man with lots of different thoughts in his head

Introverts are highly sensitive to their world and process absolutely everything around them. This makes them naturally good at picking up a range of signals and the subtlest of information which then allows them to create a rich picture of who you are and want you need.


It is of course true that many people have these qualities of thoughtfulness, skill at analysis and depth of reflection but with an Introvert this range of very useful characteristics is nearly always comes as part of the package.

If you need an Introvert's approach to website making, feel free to contact me.

Graphics by Bespoke Designs Lewes (specialist in flat design)