Bloom: Human Stories of Resilience

What Flavour is Your Therapy? and the Anxious Shrink

September 13, 2020 Susie & Dr Steve Season 1 Episode 6
What Flavour is Your Therapy? and the Anxious Shrink
Bloom: Human Stories of Resilience
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Bloom: Human Stories of Resilience
What Flavour is Your Therapy? and the Anxious Shrink
Sep 13, 2020 Season 1 Episode 6
Susie & Dr Steve

Worries, significant worries, and being a parent. How is it possible there are more than 150 types of talking therapies?! Why did Steve become a hypnotherapist and does it work? We chat with guest Dr Mark Cross (the Anxious Shrink) about anxiety, connection and families.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Worries, significant worries, and being a parent. How is it possible there are more than 150 types of talking therapies?! Why did Steve become a hypnotherapist and does it work? We chat with guest Dr Mark Cross (the Anxious Shrink) about anxiety, connection and families.

Susie BW  0:10  
Hi, welcome to the bloom podcast talking about the different ways people get through tough times. He's Steve, a clinical hypnotherapist,

Dr Steve  0:17  
And she's Susie, parent and cake baker currently going through treatment for breast cancer. Today we talk about talk why and how therapy can help

Susie BW  0:25  
Steve tells us how he became a hypnotherapist. 

Dr Steve  0:27  
I find out what's been giving Suzy the heebie jeebies this week, and we have a very special guest, Dr. Mark Cross

the self confessed anxious shrink.

Susie BW  0:35  
He gives us some great advice on how to stave off anxiety and confesses that he finds it very hard to take his own advice. Hey, Susie.

Hey, Steve.

Dr Steve  0:44  
Is he OK?

Susie BW  0:46  
He's surprisingly chipper. He's very happy. Even went to school the day after it happened. Mainly so he could show off his arm in a in a sling I think. But it was it was. I still feel ill thinking about it. 

Dr Steve  1:03  
Tell us what happened.

Susie BW  1:05  
So my stepson Max was riding to school as his his want. And he's he's ridden to school for five years now. He's 15. I came home and my husband from from dropping the advocates and my husband said, okay, just - I was eating -  just put down your spoon. Max was clipped by a car on the way to school. So he didn't say hit by a car. He said clipped by a car. Taken off to hospital x rayed no brakes. There's a possible - there's a query on a hairline fracture, lots of bruises, and very, very happy spirits.

Dr Steve  1:41  
But you perhaps not so much.

Susie BW  1:43  
Yeah. I feel like I actually feel like I've been waiting for this to happen for five years. He heads off every morning. And we go by and I go ride safe. Be careful. And, and they we have my word. I've told him from now on I want high Viz vests. I want him lit up like a Christmas tree. Is there lights that flashing jingle and Anything? Anything? I'm just going to go buy out safety shop. And he's going to keep on riding. He loves riding? And I don't want to take that away. It makes me anxious.

Dr Steve  2:18  
Did you say you've sort of been expecting this moment for the last five years or

Susie BW  2:22  
That's in part because certainly when he was younger, I'd see him riding along and he'd be waving at me and I'd be there in the car he gets around. This small boy chiefly waving his arms and Lordy. And I, there's me in the car thinking he's about to die in front of me. So he's obviously he's much older. Now he's riding a bit further now as well, because the secondary school is further away than the primary school was. It's been a concern for me every day. And I've tried to to not... I mean, it's normal, right? The kids ride to school. He's not doing something exceptionally dangerous. Unless you think that being on a bike at all is exceptionally dangerous. So I try and not feel panicky about that. But

Dr Steve  3:11  
yeah, I don't like it. It's hard, isn't it, getting that balance between protecting them, wrapping them in cotton wall, and thereby damaging them because we end up preventing them from being able to fend for themselves. On the other hand, knowing that cars and children on bicycles Can, can come together in a most awful way.

Susie BW  3:31  
It's probably some kind of metaphor for parenting actually, or metanephric. Because it's like everything else. You want them to do the thing that makes them happy that they enjoy. You don't want to slow them down. You want to keep it at the right level for them. And as a parent, he was going to say it frightens you but I don't know. Does it frighten you? It frightens me?

Dr Steve  3:51  
Yes. But I'm going to risk a big generalization here. I wonder if typically fathers and mothers or men and women might have different approaches to this. I think as a generalization, I observe men, perhaps not worrying about things so much and maybe not worrying enough. I remember recently walking along the beach and her father walking along with his phone, you know, peering into his phone, while his three or four year old on a little trike was about 10 meters away from him and had fallen over and dad wasn't even noticing. I don't know if that that generalization holds at all. Do you think is there anything to that?

Susie BW  4:30  
It's difficult when you're talking about gender generalizations, isn't it? You I mean, no one likes them. But or I don't in any way I don't feel comfortable with it. I think I know more.

Dr Steve  4:41  
I certainly know some anxious very careful dads, but I probably know more anxious moms got a crap theory or two crap theories. One is that in the traditional arrangement, this doesn't actually apply with with you and Max and this specifically, but in the traditional arrangement where mom has carried the baby for nothing months in her body I think that creates a different kind of bond or intimacy than father's role. And the other one is I think blokes in general lack imagination compared with women I think women are seem to be able to construct the most elaborate horror fantasies of what can go wrong in fine detail, which always always shocks and surprises me when I hear it.

Susie BW  5:23  
I mean, you're right that the the physiological explanation doesn't work for step parents or adoptive mothers or adoptive mothers either. Those are the non gestational mothers due to blokes lack imagination my imagination seems particularly well placed to visualize all the horrific things that can happen to my children so I'm not using this this fantastic imagination to write novels or paint pictures I'm just using it to picture the the the accident prone children why torture yourself with something that may never happen? I know you're doing it I'm not suggesting you deliberately doing this, but

Dr Steve  5:56  
what what what's the kind of if you like, the evolutionary advantage of it, why do Why does it

Susie BW  6:01  
I am stuffed if I know I mean, the only possible evolutionary advantage would be to make a parent more careful I suppose I'll just at this point I really try and fight it and try and go with what's reasonable. I mean, you notice that I'm not saying Max never gets to ride his bike again. I'm I'm saying that we need to up his level of, of safety equipment and, and so on. And we've already done all the obvious things like made sure that he's he's rides on on quiet streets and all that kind of thing. If my inclination is to go all out and have no children ever leave the house ever again. I know that that's reasonable. I'm trying to find that middle ground, letting them stretch themselves while not overstretching me, but back to what is it? What is the purpose of worry, I don't subscribe to magical thinking, I don't think that the more I worry, the less likely it is to happen or, and I know perfectly well, by the way, that the things that you worry about are almost always the things that are not the things that actually happen. A couple of years ago, my daughter got quite a bad concussion, she was out of school for six weeks, it was very frightening. Well, she got that just just being on a swing in a playground. So again, there are times she's she's climb trees, she's done things that I'm screaming on the inside. And sometimes on the outside to the time she actually injured herself quite badly. She was just in a normal playground doing normal playground things, I know that the worry doesn't protect them.

Dr Steve  7:25  
I remember a Polish person telling me that it's very much part of the Polish psyche not to think about things turning out well, because almost by doing so you're cursing them not to happen, you know, logically, that doesn't really work, you can sort of see that it's something about, you know, counting your chickens before they hatch. And I suppose the obverse would be would be true as well, that if you imagine these worries, then at some level, it's going to it's going to help you protect them from happening.

Susie BW  7:51  
I'm not sure what to say about that. I don't see it that that is what happens in my head. Maybe it does for other people. For me, the the anxiety that comes is not particularly it you know what, it's not welcome. I don't think it brings protection, I don't think it really helps me prepare, particularly,

Dr Steve  8:08  
I remember reading that the kind of person who standing near to the edge of a very high place and has a flash thought perhaps jumping or perhaps falling off walking along the street, and you see cars coming in the opposite direction. And the thought occurs to you that if you if you just stepped into that traffic, that actually that sort of person is less likely to do it apparently, that its its its purpose seems to be something like warning you against doing things by making you aware of the possibility of them. I don't know if that's got anything to do with what we're talking about here. I was interested in what you were saying before about being aware of what's reasonable, that suggests a kind of level of metacognition about the whole thing, you know, thinking about your own reactions, and being able to gauge whether they're reasonable or not that presumably people who worry excessively and would then say, right, that it Max, you're never getting on a bike again, and actually genuinely mean it and sell the bike. They're not doing that, or they're not not capable of doing that.

Susie BW  9:10  
Yes, there is a sort of a proof test, is it normal and reasonable to ride your bike to school? I mean, I know that I'm pretty sure that my mother thinks I'm an incredibly careless parent, by the way, because I do allow kids to ride to school and various other things that she she considers way too dangerous, reckless, reckless. riding off to school, without a care in the world

Dr Steve  9:33  
that must play into how you your parenting style, you must have got it from somewhere, these things don't come out of the ether. And presumably how you're brought up must make a difference. I mean, it could be that you end up reacting against the way that you were brought up, you know, if you're brought up very, very strictly, you might allow your children a lot more leeway or vice versa. So it doesn't it's not doesn't necessarily mean that you're that one is fated to repeat, but it must have an influence mustn't it.

Susie BW  9:58  
Oh, I think so. I mean, I think Maybe I come from a long line of anxious mothers who've worried that their daughters down the generations. And I'm speaking for my mother there, I haven't actually asked her to frightened what she might say, if I said, Do you think it's okay that the kids ride their bikes to school being a parent is a lot about for me responding to the way I was brought up and taking the bits that worked really well for me and, and repeating that with my kids and then rejecting other bits and trying something different. This isn't strictly

Dr Steve  10:29  
relevant, but it just reminded me of something that I find quite touching that I quite often talk to clients say a bloke who was brought up by an old fashioned Australian father who is quite reserved and quite strict and never said, I love you. And I'm rarely hugged. And often the guy will say that he is he has consciously gone in the opposite direction. And he tells his kids all the time that he loves them and, you know, hugs them and goes to their school things and so on. And I love that thought, because that's presumably something that's been handed down for for generations and generations, and you're kind of breaking the cycle and changing things for your offspring.

Susie BW  11:07  
That's a very nice image easier, at the same time saying, just be careful on that footpath. Hi, Steve. Hey, Susie,

I've been reading Mark crosses book anxiety. And it's great. I really liked it a lot. I just came across this book, there are more than 150 types of talk therapy. What is going on there? And I'm asking you, because presumably what you do is is classified as one of those as a hypnotherapist? Yes, it

Dr Steve  11:36  
certainly is. So what are the other 149 jewelry to list them alphabetically or by school or grouping?

Susie BW  11:43  
How long is this episode go to be?

Dr Steve  11:45  
That's an amazing thing, isn't it? And I've heard much higher figures on that, that gives us a clue that there really aren't that number of different kinds of talk therapy, there are some differences. You can use different techniques for different presenting issues. But I do think that there's been such a manualized ation, and such a creation of schools of thought and approaches, and they all follow the witch doctor medicine route, which is to say there are 41 active ingredients, and nobody knows what the hell they are. But so long as you do all of these 41 it seems to work. So do all 41 and don't challenge or do anything different?

Susie BW  12:20  
Do you know the joke witch doctor? And the answer is no, just an ordinary GP? You're if you're someone who's looking for some therapy, as I have been at certain points in my life, how do you figure out who you're going to go and see? And what kind of therapy is the right con for you? And because it's such an important relationship? Isn't it? Not just the type of therapy? But do you like the person? Do you feel comfortable with them? Are you happy to reveal? Do you have that trust relationship,

Dr Steve  12:46  
if it doesn't feel right, then walk away, you don't have to really enjoy the company of your proctologist or a surgeon. If you know that they're outstanding in their field, it doesn't matter so much if they've got a poor bedside manner. But with talk therapy with any kind of therapy, where you're going to someone for help, I think you've really got to feel that they're present for you that they're actually seeing you myself, I would run a mile if I thought that I was made to fit the therapy rather than the therapy being made to fit me which is to say that if someone does one particular type of therapy, if all they do is cognitive behavioral therapy in the morning, cognitive behavioral therapy in the afternoon and cognitive behavioral therapy in the evening, that's that's not for me. What I want is someone who sees me who gets me and is tailoring what they're doing to my individual unique needs. For you. It's not the particular type of therapy, it's that the therapy is tailored to suit you by the therapist.

Susie BW  13:43  
But when you're a hypnotherapist, so isn't all the therapy that you give going to be hypnotherapy or end up being hypnotherapy, you're not going to break out and go for it and or start doing CBT

Dr Steve  13:54  
I would assume and you'd assume wrong Suzy. Because I do hypnotherapy actually isn't a therapy. It's it's really if you like it's a it's a therapeutic medium. It's a it's a medium in which therapy can happen. And you can use any form of talk therapy. Really all hypnotherapy is just the strategic use of language to offer suggestions which are intended to help the person with their particular needs. So I'd like to think that I never do the same thing twice. And yes, I mean, it may end up it usually does end up with hypnosis. But that's that's really just a way of readying that you know, of of helping the client to get into into a place where they can more easily accept suggestions. But let me give you an example. My own early experiences of of hypnotherapy. I remember one in particular I was going through a we as a family were going through a particularly tough time and I was feeling the burden of it and it really did feel like I was kind of collecting the stress in my neck and shoulders. I felt sort of tied And like I was carrying a heavy burden. And the image that I had in my mind was of that, you know that that image of Atlas carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. And that's really what it felt like for me. And I went and saw a hypnotherapist, and literally in one session, she used that image because that's what I brought to her. She, you know, she, she may never have used that before with anybody else, or sense, but she helped me to visualize and and kind of really experienced that weight on my shoulders, and then to experience taking it off, put it that way that sounds almost kind of hokey. And you think, well, how can that possibly help but I can tell you, I walked out into the sunshine after that single session, and it felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders, and it did not return. It didn't solve the problem, but it changed the way that I felt about the problem.

Susie BW  15:50  
How did you get into hypnotherapy? I was exposed

Dr Steve  15:52  
to something called NLP which perhaps some people listening may have heard of neuro linguistic programming, which has an interesting history in the states in the 70s. Two academics wanted a linguistics academic and the other computer guy and they were looking for strategic uses of language for a bank of language they wanted to try and if you like, deconstruct language and understand better how it works and how you can codify it, and they came across the transcripts of therapy of three therapists, Virginia sortir, who's a very well known family therapist, Fritz perls, who developed Gestalt therapy and this weird cat called Milton Erickson who just captivated me, I'm the sort of person that always wants to know where these things come from. So I started following backlist, NLP and, and then came across Milton Erickson, who is a quite extraordinary character was he died in 1980, an American psychiatrist who used hypnosis and that sort of brought me up hard against an intellectual blind spot or prejudice that I had for somebody with a doctorate from Oxford, who's supposed to be able to think for himself, I suddenly realized that I had two ideas, two things going on in my head about hypnosis. One, I don't know anything at all about hypnosis, too. But I do know that it's bollocks. And I realized that I needed to find out more about hypnosis so that I could at least satisfy myself that it was indeed bollocks. Or maybe that there was something to it because of this Milton Erickson cat was using it and getting extraordinary results. And there were many, many people who are reporting over the years that they've been helped greatly in a very, very brief periods of time by Erickson. So I went and saw a therapist, and it was a it was a kind of a life changing experience for me, like everyone else. I knew that I couldn't be hypnotized. I didn't know how I knew that. I just knew, of course, I can't be hypnotized. Nobody can be advertised is all nonsense. Turns out that after about a minute and a half or two minutes, I was at like a light and I had no recollection at all of what was said to me. And yet the experience was kind of quite transformative. I was the time I was traveling around the city of Melbourne here in Victoria in Australia, traveling around visiting various businesses, and I'd kind of developed a mania for hypnosis, and this was at a time 15 years ago when there was still lots of secondhand bookshop. So I would find that I would be compelled to take detours to these bookshops to see if they had any great new stock on hypnosis because I was consuming this stuff voraciously. I seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. So it and I remember saying to the hypnotherapist because she said, Well, is there anything you'd like to work on? And I said, No, I don't think so. I actually really not just at the moment, but somehow I've got this strange feeling that this might become important to me. And it did here I am as a therapist,

Susie BW  18:48  
I think a lot of people have that are it's all hokey. Oh, can you make me quack like a duck reaction and their confusion with hypnotherapy and and hypnotism? I remember you talking to me about it when I was pregnant, and me sneering about the idea that it might help with, with giving birth.

Dr Steve  19:06  
I Yes, I remember that. Because I was sitting in one of the classes I was actually texting you because there was someone that who was talking about the use of hypnosis in childbirth to help with the pain, and I can remember sneering and actually I remember afterwards, talking to one of the one of my fellow students who she said that she'd had her first child without the benefit of hypno birthing, and then the second and third child with and that's what caused her to be learning learning this stuff. And she just talked so convincingly to me about the difference. That's a whole other subject. I reckon we might do an episode on this sometime on on hypnobirthing because it's a fascinating subject.

Susie BW  19:43  
Well, maybe an episode on birthing actually. Yeah, not just the the hypno side, and I don't think it would have worked very well for me because, you know, two emergency cesars later, there's no way I was doing that with with hypno just only hypnotherapy behind me, but maybe it would have helped me in how I managed the whole situation and how I the bits that went up to the the emergency cesars? Who knows not going back to that, so we'll never find out. So this is interesting because actually, I did think of therapists, therapy therapists as sitting in a type of box, I suppose. And so you're a hypnotherapist. You do hypnotherapy, you're a CBT. person you do CBT. But you're saying that's not the case.

Dr Steve  20:29  
That's my view of things. Part of the reason why I was attracted to Erickson is because he he explicitly disavowed any, any process, any manual, any approach. And there are plenty of stories of people coming to him asking him if they could observe him working with clients. So they might spend a whole day and record what went on between him and the clients, and then go back to the hotel room because they were writing an article or a book and transcribe all of this and spend, you know, the group of them spend the whole night talking about what they heard and what they thought Erickson was doing. And they would go in the next day, and start asking him questions, and he would begin to speak and speak and speak for hours. And apparently with no connection at all with what he'd been what he originally said. Now, there are those who think that's because Erickson didn't know what he was doing. I actually think it's because Erickson knew that if he gave people a manual, if he said that there was this approach, then that's what people would cling to, because they want clarity, they want simplicity, they want to be able to copy and to emulate. It's a very natural human instinct. And that's why there's 150 different schools. Now I know there will be those who disagree with this, and who say that they are CBT therapist, or this kind of therapist or that sort of therapist, and that's fine. But it just it appealed to me, because I hated the thought of doing the same thing, Time after time, day after day with different clients.

Susie BW  21:49  
And for an individual who is thinking of getting a bit of therapy and finding a therapist, and let's face it, we're in the middle of a pandemic. So who isn't? How does a person find someone who is a good fit,

Dr Steve  22:02  
I'd suggest if you're, if you're struggling with your mental health, the first thing is to go to your GP, and they may well be able to give you a referral, certainly they can put you onto a mental health care plan I'm talking about specifically here in Victoria. And at the moment because of current circumstances that can mean 20 sessions in in the year. But if you know someone, and you almost certainly do know someone who's been to see somebody and you like you like and trust their their opinion, then I'd be inclined to ask around. Because as we were saying before, that that relationship is so important that you've got to feel comfortable, you've got to feel that that person really, as I said before, sees you and is responding to you as an individual, and is not just going through a repetitive process. So ask around, look at their website. And as I said before, do not be afraid to to walk away, if you're finding it's not working for you. And you should know pretty soon, you know, you might it might take you perhaps several sessions. But as soon as you begin to feel that this is working, then you can commit and really get down to work. And as soon as you really feel that this is not working for you, then it's probably not that it's not for you. It's just that this person is not for you.

Susie BW  23:15  
I like a bit of mental mental health support. I do. I don't think people should, should wait until they're in extremists. It's a bit like going for a massage for me just getting to, to sit in and, and talk and talk about myself. I think it's a really important thing for anyone.

Dr Steve  23:32  
Yes, it's becoming, I think, much more acceptable. Even in the 20 years that I've been in Australia, it's become much more acceptable to go and get some help in this area. And I think that can only be a good thing. I actually think that it's replacing something that would have been done in other ways or is being done in other ways in other cultures and other ways of living. It may not be entirely disconnected from the fact that we do not respect our elders greatly in how do I express this in I was going to say in Australia, some cultures in Australia do. But a lot of cultures, I think the culture that I came from a sort of an Anglo culture, elders are not respected, their wisdom is not sought. We're all so busy these days. And we managed to occupy ourselves with so many things. And yet the research is clear that some things that seem so obvious and seem so trivial, like getting out there and being in nature, just getting some exposure to trees and wind and the sea and the hills, the mountains that makes a real difference. It makes a really big difference to people and particularly to children. But it does remind me of something that Rob Gordon, who was the psychologist for Victoria when the bushfires went through in 2009. That's when I spent some time with with Rob he he likes to say that everything works for someone, nothing works for everyone. And in fact, the research seems to support that that if you want to go and see You're psychic because you feel some connection in that direction if you if you want to light candles and meditate, if that's what works for you do that. Do that. And don't let anybody tell you that it's nonsense or hokum because you actually do know what what you need and what will stimulate you and comfort you. Maybe on another episode, we should talk about your pathway from training as a priest to become a therapist, and whether there is a similarity there coming soon on the bloom podcast.

Dr Mark  25:37  
Welcome. Thanks to you and Susie, for having me on your podcast.

Dr Steve  25:41  
How do you describe yourself when people ask you when they ask you this question mark, how do you describe yourself? How do you answer

Dr Mark  25:47  
I always start off with my title actually, because I've got used to it after 30 years, it was always funny to, to think of myself as a doctor. But yes, it's part of my whole life now. So I'll say my cross. I'm a doctor. I'm Australian. And of course, South African born, a gay man met his husband in john who, who I met in London, we've been together 20 years. And a father, I never thought I'd say that actually, it's quite incredible to be able to say that we have two sons 10 and seven claims just too intense. And I suppose that would be it and then saying, Okay, I'm a psychiatrist and an author. And that

Dr Steve  26:29  
makes it sound like such a wonderful, comfortable journey. And yet, it's been anything but that.

Dr Mark  26:36  
Yes, I had trauma. But that again, I had an idyllic childhood on one level, apart from the fact that I was anxious and Europe is different. You know, it wasn't beaten or bullied or anything dreadful. I just had to make my own way around who I was, with its own issues. But you know, South Africa, in the 70s, when I was growing up, you know, we we rode our bicycles, we went outside. It was it was it was a different era, of course, although I did present, I presented the workplace wellness festival yesterday, and we met anxiety. And when I was about five, because people ask, you know, when did you first know you were anxious. So I developed night terrors, and my father around the time five to six lost his job, betting on stocks that didn't bear as much fruit as you'd hoped. And we had to move into a boarding house, and then to my grandmother's house, and I started bedwetting, and I developed a specific reading disorder. And because I'm an avid reader, I mean, anyway. And of course, the teacher made great fun of that. So I don't don't miss the 17th put it that way.

Dr Steve  27:44  
Do you think the anxiety was a result of that those experiences? Or do you think it's in the blood, or

Dr Mark  27:52  
I think there's inherent anxiety, you know, I dedicated the book to my mother, who's living in South Africa now with my father and her mother. And both, you know, there's a very strong family history of anxiety. There's also a strong family history of bipolar affective disorder, as well as huge alcoholism and both sides. And of course, you look back as a psychiatrist, you know, medical doctor, look at my medical history. It was never discussed, but my mother had two first cousins suicide. And I had a first cousin suicide. Her brother, my middle uncle just died, he had bipolar. And when you when you look at it like that, and there's always been a manic quality to my anxiety, I also looked at her and that wasn't discussed, you know, when we were growing up, and I looked at a photo of the cousin who died is a beautiful man. And I think, actually, it's been told to me, he that he was gay. And there was never say that there was a reason he killed himself.

Susie BW  28:53  
And not, how do we, as as we're all three of us are on on this discussion, appearance. How do we make sure we don't repeat that that pain down the generations? How do we protect ourselves and our children from it?

Dr Mark  29:09  
The short answer is don't be assholes, to your children. You know, when we think about the 70s, and I think about my uncle as well, he was always making disparaging comments, so to his kids, and when you look at how you bring up kids, and often people go, Oh, you can't prevent them into long illness. Well, of course you can. It's so much, so much of it is preventable. And it's just about letting your children be who they are, and not forcing them to be somebody they don't want to be or don't feel ready or right to be

Dr Steve  29:43  
going with the grain. I suppose. Rather than trying to shape them as you as you want them to be. Don't

Dr Mark  29:48  
try and beat out the EU in your child. And it's so funny because my older child is mine biologically, and he's got a bit of attention issues and weren't adopted. God and every now and then I get a bit short tempered thing and I was on the phone to my mother the other day and Kim is doing this and he's doing that. And she just laughed. I mean, what? said oh my god, you were the same. How dare you Baba. And I remember the first way to remember getting a table and always drinking water. I just tried my father nuts. And now Clem does it I keep on saying, darling, just eat. And then you can drink your water. And I suddenly I had this deja vu moment and going, Oh, my God. Just allow them to be and it's in. It's just, it's just wonderful. Because there are people, right? But I think the answer is treat them as your kids but also treat them as the people they are and are going to become rock from an early age

Dr Steve  30:50  
mark, perhaps we should try and identify it and the nature of the beast, everyone knows, or I guess I think they know what anxiety is. We all get anxious. But I suspect that that's not what you're really what you're really focusing on what you're really looking at it's of a different order, isn't it

Dr Mark  31:07  
anxiety itself, is that fight or flight, those fight or flight symptoms, you know, when you see the big beer lumbering around the fence, and all of a sudden, you can jump it and your eyes dilate and your heart pumps. And that's what you get when you're just sitting on your porch, you know, having a cup of lemonade with your friend, and all of a sudden, this will happen. That's how I sort of differentiate it. Because often people don't know when anxiety is or they don't understand it as a disorder, or a condition. Because they go well, everyone gets anxious, right? And of course we do for exams, we have those sort of responses. But it's when there's not that external threat, then it's, you know, people can understand it more as a condition. So yes, I do look at it in a medical way, a lot of the time. And but of course, they're different forms of anxiety, including PTSD, for instance. And then you're looking at trauma, and deeming and helping the person deal as much as you can with that form.

Dr Steve  32:06  
There's nothing necessarily wrong with anxiety in itself. It's just, it's just, I suppose, how much of it you get and the context is it?

Dr Mark  32:15  
Yes, I suppose I've been asked this, okay, there must be an evolutionary reason why we have anxiety around, right. And of course, it's, it's, it's made as the top species on the planet apart from Corona now. But it's basically led us evolved, it led us to evolve as the dominant species, you need anxiety in order to survive. Unfortunately, it said survival anxiety kicks in when you don't need it, then it's horrible. And that's one of the ways I look at it, I suppose. And of course, anxiety has also it's not all horrible. It's allowed me or made me the person I am, and driven me too much at times, because you know, that's, and then you get exhausted, but there are some positives to it.

Dr Steve  32:58  
And you're unusual in that you're assigned, who is very comfortable, or at least you're willing to talk about, to talk about this when when so often I think we perhaps as laypeople expect our professionals to have this reserve and either to be perfect, or at least to give the the illusion of being perfect.

Dr Mark  33:17  
Well, I'm unusual in many ways you're right. But of course, I've used humor to deflect that because the difficult thing because I said, in the film I made after my book, beneath the stigma, it was it was amazing. 13 people in my book and myself talk about stigma and the difficulties we have with anxiety. And actually I said, as a doctor, I still have difficulty accepting or acknowledging anxiety, I almost find it easier to talk about being gay. And trust me, that is bloody hard for decades, then, being a doctor with anxiety because you've hit the nail on the head, I was trained to have that stiff upper lip, not sharing of oneself, not sharing personal issues, and certainly not sharing any what we would consider as a weakness. And because I've always ignored that, but again, so you know, Steve, I'm 55 this year to accept these things. And with age surely come some wisdom. So in a way, I'm thinking, Well, you know, if if it's the end of my career, I'd love it. My husband thinks I should work till I'm 92. But, you know, if it's going to be the end of my career, there are other things that I can do that unfortunately not I'm so busy. So so obviously me being open about myself doesn't mean that people don't want to see me that's the take home message I suppose for me,

Dr Steve  34:36  
how did you get to be doing what you're doing Mark? Was it to do with your sexuality to do with the anxiety? Was it just ambition or some combination of all of those things? You

Dr Mark  34:46  
know, when you know you different when you're young? And you have anxiety and you you try to hide you? What do you hide it all the time, and you strive to be what's considered normal, you know, in the 1970s in South Africa as an Australian is Zealand, masculinity wasn't held up so much as an ideal, it was beaten into you. So it was something that I had to strive to to be. So I excelled in academics, athletics, always, at the core of me feeling that I wasn't living up to the ideal and living up to what my parents expected of me and feeling horrible about myself, because I knew there was this thing that I didn't want and, and didn't need. And it took ages and ages to come to terms with that. So in a way, if you look at it positively, yes, it made me strive to be better. And a lot of my gay friends and patients and colleagues say exactly the same thing. And so talking about the LGBTQ community, a lot of them were overachievers, because of just that,

Susie BW  35:54  
if you were growing up now, when the person that you are a gay person, as a, as a teenager, as a young adult, hopefully much in a in a much more accepting society. Do you think you would have been as high an achiever? Oh, yeah,

Dr Mark  36:10  
the anxiety is still there, right? Of course, it's so much of my anxiety is linked to my sexuality, per se. But again, I have that strong family history, strong learned behavior of my mother's being anxious and my grandmother's so i don't think so i think it would have been easier though, because so much has changed in the last 25 years. So from when I graduated in 1990, that was the year the International Classification of Diseases so the World Health Organization tome of disease classification, took out homosexuality as an illness was only in 1990. And, and, and so I went through my entire medical training, with homosexuality, not only being a criminal offense, but it was a mental illness. So that didn't help at all. Obviously,

Dr Steve  36:54  
that's a shocking thought that only 30 years ago, it was still there was something wrong with you, if you if you if you were gay.

Dr Mark  37:01  
In 1990, when I graduated, and you probably worked out by now I wasn't a brilliant student, I was involved in student politics, and I was the president of the work avoidance society. I attended a board of faculty meetings, I went to the University of Cape Town. So one could argue that it's, you know, one of the top universities in Africa. And it's, you know, wonderful and great medical faculty. And at the border faculty meeting, then Professor of Surgery also stood up and castigated the then openly gay professor of infectious diseases in immunology, who was saying quite clearly, HIV is this huge issue, people we need to deal with it. And the professor of surgery stood up and said, to homosexuals, in the meeting, in the meeting, in 1990. And after that, the government of the day was still held by puritanical principles, you know, the apartheid government, and the Afrikaans women's movement, so much, much more powerful than our country Women's Association, who knows at the time, would not allow condoms to be advertised because it would lead to loosening of morality. So you know, people don't understand that that was 1990. 

Dr Steve  38:21  
We've come a long way, baby.

Dr Mark  38:23  
You asked earlier, am I more open? And is it easier? Yes, I think being open and confronting these things and talking about them. But also obviously also having a loving family and support and speaking to people like you guys and showing the world that will have changed, we are a better place. Although there's still hate and there's still difficult in people are still suiciding, you know, our indigenous youth, our young brothers and sisters, they LGBTQ are 10 times more likely to kill themselves than the you know, the average population. So there's stats like that still horrible.

Susie BW  38:59  
There is there is so much badness still in the world. 

Dr Mark  39:02  
Sure, but you know, it was a dreadful time. Don't get me wrong. So you're looking at my book, it took me much longer to write. And then I should have also didn't quite know where I was going, but we got there. But at the beginning, when I started writing, it was the marriage equality circle debate and postal vote. And so I had patients, colleagues, friends, all crying in my office on the phone. And of course, I took a lot of that in because it was a dreadful time to have ourselves so exposed and discussed and I'm glad my kids are too young Toshi have gone through all that. But you know what, 62% of the voting population in Australia voted. Let's see. I mean, that's still amazing. So every now and then, when I go into dark places, we talk about dark things. I go, you know, what, two thirds of the country, two thirds of the country believe in equality and you know, Australia is still a wonderful place to live. And there's there's hope.

Transcribed by

Parental Anxiety
Talking therapies and why Steve is a hypnotherapist
The Anxious Shrink - guest Dr Mark Cross