Friday, June 29, 2007

End of civilisation?

I love the Office of National Statistics. When all around are losing their heads and writing beefed-up stories about Paris Hilton's jail release - which is great fun, but hardly earth-shattering - good old ONS quietly releases accurate and groundbreaking figures that always make me stop and think, professionally and personally.

Today was a particularly good day for exposing significant social trends: apparently the annual number of marriages is at an all-time low. Which might make the more conservative amongst us panic - surely this means the breakdown of civilisation as we know it.

Well, not according to my postbag - where letter after letter tells me that people are marrying less because they are taking the institution much more seriously. When I left school 35 years ago, I was one of the few who weren't engaged or at least pressuring their boyfriends to propose... now, according to ONS, teenage marriages are absolutely the exception.

Yes, the divorce rate is high. Yes, we see relationship breakups at every turn. But I do believe that as a society we are more informed, more responsible, more thoughtful than ever before. If we fail to marry, it's because we realise just what a terrifyingly serious commitment marriage is.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Welcome to my world

It happens all the time. I'm at a party, or a press launch, or even just a plain straightforward business meeting. I start chatting to someone, introduce myself, conversation turns to what we do, and I admit I'm a relationships psychologist... a media commentator... an agony aunt. Then the questions start. What does that involve? Do you analyse everyone you meet? How many letters do you get? Do you ever make stories up? What's the saddest letter you've ever received? Above all, above all, above all... what do you actually dooooo?

That's what this blog is for - to offer a glimpse into what I actually do, and how I do it.

I'm not used to that - it's usually me being allowed a glimpse into other's lives. As a psychologist regularly I delve into people's minds... as a media commentator I analyse news and celebrity stories every day... on my radio programme I get dozens of calls every week... and as an agony aunt I get anything up to 25,000 letters and emails a year.

And yes, sometimes the whole thing is funny or silly - which is fine. But most of what I do means getting involved with desperate issues that touch people's hearts. I find myself becoming sometimes tearful, often angry - but always involved and fascinated.

In this blog, I absolutely won't break any confidences and I won't expose the details of those who write to me. But I will regularly write about what it's like to do what I do, regularly explore what it means to be a psychologist, a commentator, an agony aunt - and regularly discuss what's happening in society through my own psychological viewpoint.

I will open the door and let you into my world.