Chris Worfolk's Blog


Love’s Executioner

January 24th, 2023 | Books

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy is a book by Irvin Yalom. It presents ten cases from his work as a psychiatrist in story form.

By story form, I mean it is written as a narrative. Each case is based on a real client and their real story, but many of the details have been changed to protect their identities. Yalom writes in a compelling way that attempt to teach psychologists something but has also earned the book a great deal of popularity with the general public and would be highly accessible to everyone who wants to read some interesting stories.

None more so than the story from which the book takes its title, Love’s Executioner, which almost reads like a thrilling Agatha Christie mystery. For me, none of the other stories quite matched the first but each was interesting and I was excited to pick up the book each time.

Volunteering in Ballymun

January 23rd, 2023 | Life

I’ve been volunteering with the mental health primary care team in Ballymun. It is very much a working class area and between waiting lists already being long for psychology, and COVID, it is good to get stuck into some positive work. It is a challenging environment to operate in because the HSE is incapable of organising anything but otherwise enjoyable.

Sprained ankle

January 22nd, 2023 | Health & Wellbeing

After spending the first quarter of last year rehabbing my broken ankle, this January has been déjà vu. There isn’t even a cool story behind it: I fell over at a soft play. This year it was the opposite ankle and only a sprain. Thankfully, after four weeks of rehab, I’m now back up to running long distances.

Gestalt Therapy course

January 18th, 2023 | News

This week sees the release of my new course on Gestalt Therapy. The idea of Gestalt Therapy is to raise a client’s awareness of their body, sensations and experience, and use this greater awareness to help them solve emotional problems in their lives. It is one of the oldest modalities in psychotherapy and is still popular today.

Learn more about the course on the Holbeck College website or watch the trailer below.

The Body Keeps the Score

January 10th, 2023 | Books

The Body Keeps the Score is a book on trauma by Bessel van der Kolk. van der Kolk makes the case that trauma is the most pressing public health crisis. It is everywhere, affects a huge number of people and is the number one treatable condition that can improve people’s mental health, give millions of people a chance to live a better life and reduce intergenerational abuse.

He discusses both PTSD, which occurs when someone experiences a traumatic event or events as adults, and childhood trauma, which affects the individual’s development, attachment style and ability to form relationships. Memories of the event(s) are often frozen in time with the individual unable to process it. By process, we’re talking about our ability to form a coherent narrative, with closure, that allows the memory to fade into the background and allow us to move on with our lives even if the scars remain.

He discusses the limitations of talking therapy, though somewhat focusing on CBT over more humanistic approaches, and explores what other evidence-based approaches may work. Notably EMDR, but given the need to physically rewrite the body, also the possibility of using yoga, theatre and other lived-out approaches.

King of the Vagabonds

January 6th, 2023 | Books

King of the Vagabonds is the second book in Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, following on from Quicksilver. When I say “following on” the story is unrelated but just the next in the series. It follows the adventures of a commoner, Jack Shaftoe, and his adventures around Europe and the world.

The Coddling of the American Mind

January 5th, 2023 | Books

The Coddling of the American Mind is a book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt. It makes the case that people are “anti-fragile” and that by protecting people from ideas they disagree with, we are actually doing them harm.

The book focuses on the limitations of free speech being introduced across university campuses and the idea that everyone should feel safe. This is antithetical to the way CBT works. If a client comes to therapy and says “I don’t feel safe because I think I will be killed by a tiger” we would look for the evidence around how many tigers live in their local area and whether they typically attack humans. But on many university campuses, and wider society, people are using the idea of “feeling unsafe” to try and shut down freedom of speech. This is bad foe society but also for the individual because we amplify their anxiety.

The book also argues that it creates divisions in society. It argues that teaching things like micro-aggressions and consent workshops is currently done on the basis of negatively, encouraging people to give the least charitable rather than most charitable interpretation of ambiguous actions and therefore creating a negative interpretation bias (which again is something we would try to do the opposite of in therapy).

It also touches on the idea of trigger warnings. Again, in therapy, we would typically talk about how avoidance can be a maintaining factor in mental health problems. Removing avoidance in the safety of a therapeutic alliance is somewhat different to randomly doing it in real life, but it should at least give us a moment to stop and pause and consider how many of the strategies we think are helping people are actually making things worse.

The arguments and nuances in this book are complex and it is not possible for me to do it justice in this blog post. But I would encourage you to read the book yourself because it would be fascinating to hear other informed opinions on it.

Scrum course

January 4th, 2023 | News

My new course is out, teaching Scrum agile project management framework. Inside the course, you will earn:

  • Artefacts: product backlogs, sprint backlogs and definition of done documents
  • Ceremonies: Daily Scrum (stand-up), backlog refinement, sprint planning, retrospectives, ways of working meetings, wash-ups and sprint reviews
  • Estimating points, velocity and agile poker
  • Team roles including product owners, scrum masters and stakeholders
  • Team psychology including psychological safety, coaching and best practice
  • Agile requirement gathering, user stories, tech debt, prototyping and user labs
  • Agile release management, continuous integration and continuous delivery
  • Scaling scrum beyond a single team with product splitting and Scrum of Scrums

You can preview the course on Udemy.

House hunting in Dublin

January 3rd, 2023 | Travel

We’ve been trying to relocate to Dublin but finding a two-bed property to rent in Dublin is literally impossible. I’m grateful to everyone who has offered advice on the subject but the housing crisis there is now so acute that strategies that worked a few years ago are no longer effective. So, for any future travellers, I wanted to document our experience.

Daft

The biggest website in the Irish property market is Daft. There are others (we tried them) but everyone uses Daft. It allows you to browse letting listings and apply via the Daft website. The problem is that nobody responds to these messages.

The reason is that they get so many. For each listing that is posted 1,000 people apply for it. Not my words, the words of a staff member at Brock Delappe. So they just pick 10 people at random to offer a viewing. You cannot game the system or put the right magic words in the box because they literally pick at random and you have a 1% chance of getting a viewing (let alone getting the place itself).

Dublin has rent control, a system they call the Rent Pressure Zones which prevents landlords from raising their rent more than 2% a year. This seems like a good thing. But has several unintended consequences. The first is that demand increases much greater than this but because the market is restricted on how much it can increase prices it cannot find the correct level. So, you end up with 1,000 people applying for each available house because the house, in a capitalist free market, is worth much more than this. The second problem is that if you do get the house, the landlord is going to treat you like dirt because you’re easily replaceable by 999 other tenants: and there are many horror stories on Reddit and Facebook to illustrate this. And there will be problems because there is no incentive to make a property more attractive, or even fix the basics, when the price is suppressed below market value.

Common strategies involve setting up property alerts so you get a push notification whenever a new ad is posted and having pre-written text you can submit straightaway. We did not find this improved the ods.

After applying for hundreds of properties, we ended up with two viewings. Both were unfurnished which seems harder to shift in Dublin. Unfortunately, both went cold, possibly when they found out I was self-employed. The law in Ireland says they cannot ask for more than two months’ rent upfront, so even though I have a year’s rent sat in a bank account, it is no help.

Calling estate agents

If nobody is replying, the next step is to call them, right?

Except they won’t take your calls. They all say that they will refuse to take your calls but I wasn’t to be put off so easily. I called plenty of them. But they all told me to go back to Daft. When I told them nobody replied on Daft, they said tough luck and hung up. And those were the estate agents that actually answered the phone.

Relocation consultants

There are companies that specialise in helping people relocate to another country. You pay them a bunch of cash and they help you with temporary accommodation, finding a long-term property, orienting you in Dublin, moving your stuff, etc.

I called four of them (which was all of them that I could find) and none of them would return my messages.

Ask the university

If you’re enrolling at Trinity Collehe Dublin, maybe they could help. TCD explicitly don’t help with private accommodation: they said come to our halls or nothing. I ignored these warnings and contacted them anyway but nobody emailed me back. They also setup an International Postgrads group and I did ask around in there but it was just other students in a similar situation and one person who suggested a relocation consultant which I discussed above.

Trinity College Student Union also has an Accommodation Service so I contacted them. However, they said that as I had a family they couldn’t help.

Facebook groups

In addition to property sites, many Facebook groups such as “renting in Dublin” have sprung up to fill the gap. These are mostly full of nieve people like us posting about how they are moving to Dublin next month and need some housing.

The next tranch of people in there are scammes. We were contacted Sevills (not Savills) who said they had a new way of renting: simply pay two month’s rent upfront and move into the property without a viewing. If we didn’t like it, we could leave within the first seven days using their money-back guarantee. They sent a video of a host who remains mute throughout the video giving us a tour of the apartment.

If you’re thinking “that’s obviously a scam”, you don’t know the Dublin property market as well as you think. In this case, we concluded it was a scam. But a refusal to do viewings and sending a video instead is sometimes done by legitimate estate agents who can’t even be bothered to do a group viewing. And property developers like Vesta do offer a move-in without a viewing money-back guarantee. Most property developers don’t even publish a phone number; it’s email-only if you want to get in contact.

The third tranch of Facebook users is people with weird requests. These range from the relatively normal for capital cities: it’s a room in a shared house but you’ll be sharing the bedroom with someone else (or occasionally the offer is one half of a double bed), to the bizarre: the whole house is yours but you need to vacate for one weekend a month so that the landlord can spend some time at home.

Luxury developments

A number of build-to-rent companies have cropped up in Dublin. The idea is that they build a large block of flats that they manage themselves, furnish it to a high standard and flog it off for large amounts of rent despite it being nowhere near Dublin city centre. There are two ways to categorise these. The first is those asking for over €3,000 per month for a two-bed. These are closer to the city centre but outside of our budget.

Then there are those asking for under €3,000 a month, usually around the €2,500 mark. These are often outside of Dublin itself (but still technically in County Dublin). There is so much demand for these that they all go before they are finished building. So, if you want one, you have to commit to taking it and then moving in a few months later when they have finished building it. If you want to wait until the building is done, it is too late.

Temporary accommodation

If you are lucky enough to get a viewing via Daft, you better be ready to go. We were offered the chance to go to an open house but were only given an hour’s notice to get to the other side of Dublin. So, you best be here and be ready.

That is tricky, though. Temporary accommodation is difficult and expensive to find. This is true at all times but particularly difficult at the moment because a lot of it is filled with Ukrainian refugees. They clearly need it more than I do so fair enough. But it does make the problem trickier.

You can get cheaper prices if you do not book anything in advance: i.e. just take whatever is left that day. But if you don’t have a permanent base you can offload you stuff into and you are constantly having to check out at 10 and check in at 4, it is difficult to make plans, go through Daft listings, and generally get organised.

Conclusion

It’s been 18 years since Dlyan Moran filmed his comedy show You know it’s a sign of a country thriving and a city being very successful when you can’t afford to live there anymore. People say “yes, I have a very easy commute; I live in the Aron Islands. No problem. Yeah, we live in a tree. It’s only €400,000.”

Since then, things have become way worse.

2022 in pictures

January 2nd, 2023 | Photos

My front crawl fundamentals workshop.

Keswick Mountain Festival.

SwimRun Llanberis.

World Triathlon Leeds.

Man Vs Coast.

Venla at the IRONKIDS finish line.

IRONMAN Copenhagen finish line.

Howth, Dublin Bay.

Trinity College.