How to escape from your own prison

As an ex-advertising man it’s probably no surprise that I love Mad Men. I’ve lapped up the first five series on DVD.

Now I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but it works on so many levels for me.


In one particular plotline in Series 4, creative director Don Draper comes up with an award-winning commercial for the agency’s fictitious floor-polish client Glo-coat, in which a young boy in a cowboy hat appears to be behind prison bars.

As the ad progresses, we see that the bars are actually those of the back of a chair, behind which he feels incarcerated while his mother cleans the floor with an inferior polish that apparently takes much longer to dry than Glo-coat. He’s been instructed not to step on the tiles until it has.

In a way, he’s constructed his own jail. Maybe we all do this from time to time?

When times are emotionally good, you feel as though the world’s your oyster. Nothing holds you back. Anything is possible.

But, of course, the reverse can feel true if you’re struggling through a rough patch. Everything holds you back. Nothing is possible.

Sometimes though, the only thing that has truly changed is your own mindset.

It’s very very difficult (perhaps impossible) to snap out of it.

But it can help just a little to remember that if you’ve built the prison, you’re probably the best person in the world to know how to escape from it.

5 thoughts on “How to escape from your own prison

  1. I once read Dorothy Rowe’s book ” Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison” and found it inspirational. I remember the prison walls analogy well…I had never thought of it like that, and it was revelatory. Her advice is both practical and sensible, and the insights gained,….for me, at any rate, hugely helpful.
    Thanks once again, Jon. The chair picture I like very much. Your “advertising ” past serves you well, methinks! 🙂 xx

  2. Thanks Jon.
    The biggest prison I have is fear, which is of my own construct but based on my own past experience. The fear is , if I go beyond my ‘prison’ of a quiet life, I will go high, if I try to live a normal life, this quiet life keeps me stable but acts as my ‘prison’, if I venture out as I have done , very soon I am as high as a kite.
    Getting the balance and inching out might be my key to my own personal prison.
    Mood nudges make me think , I am grateful

  3. I like Anne, allow fear to be my prison, I guess it’s the word “allow” that explains all, but it really is sometimes impossible to break such ingrained habits and ways when you also live with someone for 30 yrs plus ( also grown up sons!!) who have come to expect a certain behaviour from their mother/wife, and being the weak/sensitive soul that I am I duly oblige . I need to change and be true to myself after all these years and break out of the prison of fear that I have lived in all this time….. Hard but necessary for ones sanity!
    prison of fear

  4. Thanks for the wise words. Increasingly I come to realise that I have made several prisons for myself without even realising it. It seems easy to put oneself behind bars but then very hard to escape. Fear, depression, resentment and loneliness are but a few of mine. Radclyffe Hall wrote ‘The Well of Loneliness’ in 1928. The title alone says a lot to me. The novel led to an obscenity trial, which today would be laughable. Although specifically about lesbian love the explicit plea “Give us also the right to our existence”, I think, applies to all of us. I shall keep trying. As in the story of Robert the Bruce and the spider – ”if at first you don’t succeed try, try again”.

  5. A few years ago, I came to the realisation that – while there was a prison in my head – I was the jailor rather than the prisoner, holding thoughts, emotions, and negative experiences captive. As a compassionate prison governor, I recognised that it had been my job over decades to feed, clothe, water, tend, and nurse my charges. The concept of rehabilitation hadn’t occurred to me.

    I announced an amnesty in my head: all past wrongs would be forgiven and the cell doors thrown open. I wished my inmates well in their new lives on the outside, letting them know that they were welcome back at any time but, on returning, that they would expect to undergo a course of quite rigorous therapy that would further transform them.

    So far, the rate of recidivism is lower than expected and there are few repeat offenders. Those that return are treated with compassion and helped to see the error of their ways.

    It may not be perfect, but it’s a more open and hopeful prison system that has seemed to help even the most hard-to-reach problems.

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