Tough Love from a Tender Heart.

10 Nov 2016

Sally Brampton was one of the UK's most revered Agony Aunts writing weekly in the Sunday Times.

She suffered depression and wrote a shockingly honest memoir called 'Shoot the Damn Dog' – referring to the 'black dog' that simply never leaves our side when we are depressed.

I say 'was' earlier this year she walked into the sea near her home and drowned.

It was the end of a long battle with depression.

She so clearly stated that "We cannot change people, places or things; the only thing we can change is how we respond to them."

In her responses to letters, she would even say to people 'Your decisions are so self-centred, you are so child-like – no wonder there is no joy in your... caring/work/home."

We can all offer tough love (as it is called) to others, only if... IF, I believe we are also very open about our own experiences and failures. It has to be from an EQ perspective not an IQ theory, heart and not head. (Which is why so many counsellors can fail.)

All too often we can be too 'nice' to people who need support. We think it may help them. Sometimes we see it in Moodscope comments – although rarely. The challenge is, that apart from an initial kind response, which we compassionately offer, if, after a short period, it does not help them move on, it can actually hold them back or even make them worse.

Sometimes in seeking to support, we fuel someone's 'wallowing/moaning' by writing words like 'I feel for you' or 'It must be awful'. This is where we can, on occasions actually make someone even more dependent on others and further lower their self-esteem by confirming or affirming what they write.

An agony aunt (or uncle), is someone who needs to have lived a bit and loved a bit and learnt enough to know that human attraction or human caring has a lot to do with 'smell'. We can all 'smell' when someone is speaking from their heart or their head! Our challenge is, can we actually say that and thus help people realise that often they may not be helping. If we do not – WE are failing them!!

Needless to say it will normally be uncomfortable to do so – yet do so we must – or we continue to make the world worse and not better, through our own inability to move into discomfort. We have I believe often become too PC and too 'safe'.

Sure there are times you do play safe – but they must be minimal and short, or you are part of the problem rather than the solution. True compassion is to do the right thing, rather than do things right!

"Depression" Sally wrote "blinds eyes and gags mouths. It sucks the life out of everything that it touches. It destroys hope, confidence and every pleasure."

Who can you offer 'tough love' to today, to enable someone you care for, to improve their self-awareness - the start of any change?


You cannot change anyone else, only yourself – so don't ask them to change – YOU own it, step into the discomfort of tough love and help them to change as well.


A Moodscope member.

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