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Blog 20: 13/02/2018 - Abandonment - one of our biggest fears.
Abandonment can be interpreted in many different ways. How would you discribe abandonment? Have you ever felt abandoned? What did it feel like and how did you interrupt the feelings you had?
The circumstances of the abandonment can differ from accidental to intentional, can arise from forgetfulness to angry situations and can create feelings from hurt to traumatic experiences. It’s the underlying emotions I would like to focus on today and how to deal with feelings of abandonment.
Firstly, abandonment is rarely planned in any situation, therefore the feelings and emotions you experianced need not have disturb you in the ways they may have done, but I’m also very aware some of you may have felt them intensely and find them difficult to forget.
Looking at some abandonment situations we have the child who has lost their parent, which I recall as a child and remember that gut wrenching feeling I experianced when I realised I was alone. We have the friend who suddenly realises their friends have all wondered off, not realising a group member is missing. We have the couple who find themselves in a heated argument with one of them grabbing the car keys and slamming the door as they walk away. These are just a few of the most probable abandonment situations you may have found yourself in.....there are others for many other situations.
Its the sudden feeling of being alone and what that means to our survival that hits us all with abandonment, taking us right back to our human instinctive core functioning. With this comes the ‘fight, flight and freeze’ effect and just experiencing this puts your body and mind into high alert mode.
How we each individually deal with these sudden feelings is very important and can have a lasting effect.
So the child finds their parent, they reconnect emotionally, hug and the feeling the child felt is defused by the reactions and reassurances between them. They each unconsciously become aware of staying close to each other in the future but neither forget the experiance.
The friend eventually finds their friends, but may not show the intense emotions felt through embarrassment. The feelings are suppressed and the internal battle of trying to work out what happens starts. This can result in feelings of worthlessness and go on to affect the persons self-esteem.
The couple who argued and one party walked out. Depending on past experience of abandonment these feelings could be dealt with with ease or become a problem to the relationship overall. Ideally the couple could work together communicating their feelings of how the argument ended and plan ways to approach arguments in the future.
Each response to abandonment issues differs with every single situation, so the most important course of action is to tune into your emotions. Become aware of the ‘fight, flight, freeze’ response and if you don’t need the response give it time to disperse. Try not to take the abandonment personally, it most likely wasn’t meant personally so try not to allow the incident to eat away at your self-esteem. Talk about how you felt rather than suppressing the emotions, it’s ok to feel scared and in sharing your experience you have a better chance of having your comforting needs met. We all need reassurance in our lives.......no matter how old we are!
Blog 19: 24/01/2018 - Why is anxiety so high in children, teens and young adults? Are their emotions out of control?
Increasingly we hear the word ‘anxiety’ linked to children between the ages of 11 to 18 years old and it’s really very worrying that so many children feel this way. So I’ve been researching further as to why this might be and my aim in this blog is to provide some insight into the more technical areas of children’s brains and why anxiety is on the increase.
So a child’s world from the moment they are born is about them adapting to their surroundings, the people in their lives and making sure they survive by feeding, pooping and sleeping. It really is quite hard work for them, they grow at an extraordinary rate, have so many physical manoeuvres to master and at the same time they are psychologically adapting to the characters around them.
Children of all ages are psychologically and emotionally adapting to the world around them, circumstances they find themselves in and it might surprise you, as it did me, that the emotional brain does not actually become fully mature until 25 years of age. http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2015/02/18/at-what-age-is-the-brain-fully-developed/
There are also very important social and emotional developmental stages that children go through in order for them to become emotionally balanced individuals as they progress into adulthood too. https://www.simplypsychology.org/Erik-Erikson.html
This lead me to thinking, I wonder if we give our children too much freedom psychologically today, without aiding them in learning the emotional impact of their decisions and choices? We each need to learn to take responsibility for ourselves and understand that the thoughts we have, decisions we make and actions we take are all our own responsibilities. So is it that as parents we are missing out emotional learning for our children as they grow? Is it that as parents in today’s society we have lost touch with emotional intelligence and maturity that needs assistance with and focus on, as well as our children’s achievements, physical ability and education?
Lets look at a standard 14 year old. Family, home, travel, hormones, secondary school, tiredness, romantic feelings, friendships, disagreements, rebellion, physical activities and a wealth of access to social media, the internet, you tube, snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and let’s not forget their need to look the part! I’m exhausted just writing all of that! So where does emotional focus fit in? How many parents actually have the knowledge and insight and access to the world of a 14 year olds emotional functioning, and how their processing their emotional thoughts and needs? I have a feeling not very many, if you’ve experianced 14 year olds personally.
Its tough to gage if parents ourselves are emotionally mature enough or emotionally intelligent enough to assist our children with this continuing task too. We all have our faults, hang-ups, past experiences from our parents that intertwine into our emotional processing. What right to we have to pass our pasts and possible emotional misunderstanding onto our children. Did our parents, grandparents and great grandparents get it right?
So what can we do? Well there is an amazing book you could read called ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goldman which will guide you though the very complexities of psychological functioning of the brain and how to become more emotionally intelligent or we can teach our children to become aware of their emotions, feelings and aid them in rationalising them so they don’t become powerful. This creates realisation that the child can be in control of emotions and have choices in their reactions to emotions. Children need to practice feeling grounded in reality and just talking to and more importantly listening to our children will aid emotional awareness, which in turn leads to maturing at a steady rate for each child.
Each child is different and parents know their children best. We can sense when something is wrong and that is our que to act and ask the question. I’d like to see more emotional awareness taught in schools too, but sadly PSHE https://www.pshe-association.org.uk/what-we-do/why-pshe-matters still hasn’t made it onto the national curriculum as a statutory subject, therefore is not present in all schools or for the amount of time required for it to be beneficial to children of all ages.
I hope this blog has helped, it’s quite long and I could go on for hours. Please do feel free to contact me if in need of help.
Blog 18: 17/01/2018 - Loneliness. The silent killer of the soul?
Research confirms that 100% of us have felt lonely at some point in our lives. We may have experianced loneliness in school because of friendship difficulties, bullying etc, we may have felt it raising children, our children leaving home, loss of a job, retirement and many other reasons linked to life circumstances.
The question is does loneliness damage and ultimately kill our soul?
I believe it does significant damage to our soul, character, the true person we are.....which ever one you feel best suits how you like to refer to yourself.
I like to call refer to the true self as our souls. The original part you were born with, the amazing part of people that I have the great privilege of working in Counselling.
As human beings we are designed to live in groups, pairs, families. We are not designed to live alone. It is true that some people don’t mind being on their own, but have you heard comments like “their always on their own” “you never see that person, it’s strange isn’t it?”? It’s because we are wired to be together in groups and it naturally goes against our intuition and logic to exist on our own, so we naturally question about people who are alone.
I am 100% sure that if given the choice nobody would choose to be alone, have no friends and have no family.
So what leads to loneliness? Again, another list which could be endless. Loneliness could stem from past hurts, treatments and circumstances which a person has experienced, leading them to become withdrawn, quiet, introverted and shy. It could stem from life being full of busyness, then changing to almost emptiness as circumstances change in our lives. It could stem from a relationship ending, having a life changing accident or illness, it could be because of a move, becoming a refugee, finding yourself bankrupt, jobless or suffering from depression....the list really is endless and different for everyone.
The real problems start when loneliness takes hold of a persons soul and the internal chat turns against themselves. “Nobody likes me” “ I must be weird” “why can’t I make friends” “everyone else is ok” “there’s no point talking to anyone because they don’t care and will leave me”. This distructive internal dialogue begins to distort the soul and intensifying the feelings of isolation, rejection, anxiety, abandonment and destitution.
We are not designed to be alone.
So how do we change ourselves, help others, function differently to become happier and more content with our lives. I want to say get out there and start up a conversation with someone new, arrange to meet for a cuppa for a couple of hours a week, teach children to keep in touch with their friends, join a group, start up a group, give your neighbours a call, knock on their door and see if their ok, ask the lady at no 20 who’s been poorly if she needs anything from the shop......but most of all I would like to say be aware that it may feel a bit weird to start with, be aware that it can be very scary making new friends, walking into a group for the first time, introducing yourself to someone you don’t know......and we all feel the same way when we do something new or different for the first time.
Connecting with people reduces stress, anxiety, depression and creates a very positive internal feeling. It may be difficult to trust people, but the other person may be feeling exactly the same way! Have you ever got chatting with someone and thought or said “I’m so pleased you feel the same, I thought I was the only one!” Connection with others wipes out loneliness and if we all make a little effort to make new friends, or invite someone to chat, take an interest in someone it will make a difference. And to some people you will not be able to comprehend the difference you will make. You maybe saving a soul.
Blog 17: 04/01/2018 - Social class levels in today’s society. Do they affect our self-worth and do they still have a place in the 21st century?
Firstly I would like to thank everyone for taking part in the survey for this blog. Having a wide range of views is a valuable asset to blogs and being a counsellor.
So it seems the Social class system has a significant impact on how many of us feel, with almost 60% of participants feeling they affect a persons self-worth. Over 70% have felt uncomfortable being around either lower of higher social class levels than themselves and just under 65% of you would like to see social class levels abolished.
Further research shone a light on the factors which predict/label which social class levels people are in and these boil down to 1: wealth, 2: education and 3: occupation. It was also apparent that the social class system is most important to those who feel they are in the upper class bracket.
These facts got me thinking on how much self-worth the social class levels get from their status, material positions and backgrounds. When thinking about and exploring self-worth in Counselling I usually get clients to focus on the person they are, and not the materialistic aspects of their existence.
So if we strip away all material assets from a persons life and from every social class level what would the difference be? Each person may have different skill sets, knowledge and vocal accents/vocabulary but would they all be the same? I believe so.
Just because someone walks around in either branded labels or secondhand clothes, has a large or small house, is highly educated or practically gifted there really is no difference to how or who we are internally as human beings. Imagine if we had no bin men, cleaners or labourers, imagine if nobody had the funds to create companies who employ large numbers of people, it would affect all levels of human existence.
We all need each other in order for our lives to be as they are today. One of the questions in the survey was “Have you ever judged someone because of their social class level?” 50% yes, 29.55% no and 20.45% uncertain.
”Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you judge them” I love that quote and as a counsellor unconditional positive regard is a cornerstone of my training. Every single person has a story, has value and is worthy of respect. Our lives are filled with the learnings, experiences and influences of those we are gifted to at birth and for a number of years we have no option but to remain until we are able to make our own choices and forge our own paths in life.
Judging people can be very damaging to self-worth, it creates an internal dialogue of destructive thoughts, actions and behaviours. Where as acceptance, appreciation and value of people creates growth, productivity and harmony. I know which equal society I would like to be part of.
Blog 16: 05/12/2017 - Signs your seeing a good or not so good Counsellor. What you need to know and look out for.
So it seems there are a few of you out there who have had some pretty bad experiences with counsellors, some have tried Counselling and never returned because it just didn’t feel right and others who had no idea what to expect and came away thinking “what the hell was that all about!”. I just want to point out that it’s likely you saw not such a great Counsellor on those occasions, so if you are thinking of entering counselling again the tips below might help you gain a much better experience.
Some things counsellors will not and should not do:
1: You chat about random stuff with your counsellor, with no clear direction, aims or boundaries to the work. - A good Counsellor will always keep focus on what it is you would like Counselling for and focus you on the subject.
2: You can contact you’re Counsellor when ever you like day or night and they always get straight back to you or answer you’re calls/texts. - A good Counsellor will answer texts relating to appointment changes or cancellations at appropriate times of day, but it is not good practice to have regular or continuous contact outside of the Counselling room with your Counsellor as this could lead to the client becoming reliant on Counselling or overwhelmed by their issue.
3: The Counsellor hardly says a word throughout the session, and only occasionally nods as you struggle to fine more and more to say. - A good Counsellor will build a professional relationship with you from the very start of Counselling. Seeking Counselling can be a hard step to make and you’re Counsellor should make the experience as supportive and comfortable as possible, throughout the work together.
4: The Counsellor doesn’t remember what you have already told them about yourself and history. - Big red flag in Counselling. It is a counsellors job to remember details of your sessions together and track everything you say for you feel totally heard.
5: You don’t feel connected to your Counsellor. You don’t feel understood, supported or heard in what and how you are feeling. You just feel a bit awkward and uncomfortable with them. - Counsellors are their to hear, support and aid you in working through what you have brought to Counselling....that’s why you came for Counselling yes!?
6: The Counsellor talks about themselves and their own experiences linked to what you are saying. - Big red flag in Counselling. Sometimes clients feel better understood if the counsellor has experianced similar events to them, however this is where the counsellor should stop with personal information on their experiences. The Counselling is for you alone, not the counsellor.....he/she can pay for their own Counselling.
What to look for in a good counsellor when seeking Counselling.
1: Most counsellors offer a free consultation, either in person or via the telephone. I feel it’s usually best to see the counsellor in person as this allows you to check out how you feel with them and if what they tell you about how they work is comfortable and works for you. They should also be a registered member of a governing body such as the Bacp so you can check you are seeing someone professionally trained. There is no obligation to proceed with any counsellor if you don’t feel right at the consultation stage.
2: The Counsellor will be a clear communicator and will set up the therapeutic contract with you, checking that they understand what you would like to gain from your Counselling experience. They will also set up the Counselling contract with you which contains contact outside of Counselling rules, cancellation policy, confidentuality and reviewing process to ensure the Counselling is working for you.
3: The Counsellor gets to know you and what you have experianced, and will check with you that their understanding is correct. The counsellor will then remember what you have told them and draw upon your history within Counselling if it aids your process.
4: It’s vital that you feel understood, supported and heard in Counselling. Counsellors offer a unique experience where you will not be judged, where your feelings and experiences will be acknowledged and where the counsellor is totally real, truthful and trustworthy.
5: The Counsellor works with you throughout Counselling. They remain aware of what pace you are working at and all the work is about you and where you would like to get to at the end of Counselling. They will keep the sessions focused and tell you if they feel the work is coming to an end.
6: The Counsellor will keep the boundaries within the professional and therapeutic contract to keep both you and themselves safe. If any issues arise the counsellor will discuss these with you and with their supervisor (all counsellors receive supervision from a qualified professional to ensure they are working progressively and professionally with you), and if the counsellor feels unable to help they will end the Counselling contract and refer you to someone who can help.
I hope some of these tips help any search you make in relation to seeking Counselling and if you have any questions please do contact me and I’ll do my best to answer any questions relating to this blog.
Blog 15: 28/11/2017 - Managing Christmas. The ups, the downs and not getting swept away in the expectations.
Some of us love it, some of us hate it, some of us thinks it’s just hassle and others think it’s a wonderful time to reconnect, catch up and be together. Christmas is around the corner, the pressure is on to get it all done and get everything right and the question on everyone’s lips is “have you finished you Christmas shopping yet?”.
There’s the Christmas jumpers to buy, the latest gadgets to think about, the shops running out of the gift your kid wants the most, fitting the Christmas tree into the house and all the needles that come with it. Then there’s the extended family, have we got enough chairs, what days who’s going to who’s and what about the family tiffs from the past and the comments and remarks that silenced the whole table last year! Christmas has become a massive project, to some a chore and other’s a very challenging time of year.
So how do we manage, whilst remaining calm, sane and not forgetting to recharge our selves. Some have adopted the process of “keeping it a quiet one” other’s go for “just get on with it” and a few feel the pressures of “don’t be so bah-humbug”, which propels people to go against their grain.
Christmas is only time of year when we all get thrown together in the mixing bowl of families, parties, presents, traditions and, I’m sad to say, stress and expectations. For some this is one of the hardest times of year.
So how do we manage, cope and get through christmas? It really is your decision. You could get swept up in the vortex or you could just say “you know what I’m going to step back and watch the chaos pass me by”. It can be that simple.
Give to those you want to give to, decorate only what you want to and listen to yourself as to what is right for you. Some people think it’s selfish to look after and think about yourself when it comes to times of year when it’s all about giving. But who says we have to give, give, give? The media, society, past traditions and expectations of others? Expectations are forever changing, growing and are to an extent almost impossible to keep up with, and to be totally honest nobody has any power over anyone else with their own expectations.
We live in an era powered by fear of being judged through not keeping up, not doing the right thing, not looking right, not wearing the right fashion, not being politically correct, not supporting the right causes, not giving enough time, money or thought to whoever or what ever is in need, but does anyone think about how damaging being that way can actually be?
I would like it if we could all keep to our own personal limitations and if we listen to ourselves enough, without second guessing our own intuition and gut feeling, we automatically know the limits.
I feel Christmas is a time to reflect, recharge and relax. We may want to think about the coming year, what we would like to achieve, what we would like to change and most importantly what the past year has taught us, given us and how much we’ve achieved within it.
Life is fast enough......and Christmas is a perfect opportunity to slow down and give yourself a break from the rest of the years pressures.
Give yourself the gift of having no expectations this year, try not to absorb others expectations and if you find yourself under pressure at any point try to let it pass you by for your own peace his Christmas.
Blog 14: 22/11/2017 - Are you having Mid-Life Crisis or are you Emotionally Overloaded/Dissatisfied?
The mid-life crisis! Something I imagine everyone has heard mentioned in a serious or funny way at some point in their life. I know I’ve heard it many times and being a counsellor I’ve witnessed a trend in clients between the ages of 35 to 50 attending Counselling for a number of reasons which all have some sort of link to the “mid-life crisis”.
However, I have also noticed that between the ages of 35 to 50 there seems to be a surge of emotions bubbling to the surface in clients, resulting in them seeking Counselling as they feel the need to deal with certain events and emotions they have experianced in life.
The only way I can describe what many people are feeling when we sit together in the Counselling room is the shedding of a skin that isn’t theirs. They want to feel and be more themselves, feel free, feel confident and some even feel they have totally lost who they are. I’ve had clients who are scared they are going crazy, clients who don’t know where to turn, clients who can’t express what’s going on inside of them and some who feel like running away from everything. I’m finding this is occurring more and more in the Counselling room and I just want to say it’s ok to feel like this and I will attempt to explain why this happens to many of us.
As in many of my blogs I will start with focusing on the very unique, individual and one off character you were born as. That moment when you were conceived, when you were totally you. You had no outside influences on your character, no experiences, expectations or pressures. How lovely hey!?
So we progress through our lives and are taught right from wrong, we meet many people who have both good and bad influences on us, we make and lose friends, family members, jobs etc etc, and at certain points we briefly look back on our lives and then continue with them. But there does come a point when we look back on our lives and ponder over our journey a little longer than before.
This is know as Stage 7 in the human developmental process, which Eric Erickson developed to help us understand our psychological functioning. Stage 7 is reached between the age of 35 to 65 and is where we either look back with satisfaction or dissatisfaction. It’s known as Generativity vs Self-absorption. In short this means if you look back with satisfaction on your life you happily give back in ways which help the next generation, but if you look back with dissatisfaction you may feel very isolated, unfulfilled and so attempt to live you’re life in ways which may seem self-absorbed to the outside world - Mid-life crisis label!
At this time you aim to gain the respect, admiration and integrity from unfulfilling sources and so life begins to look quite selfish to others, and lack of understanding as to why people behave in this way can lead to feeling very low, lost and despairing of the rest of life.
This is where Counselling can help keep you grounded as you look over life and come to terms with any regrets, disappointments and suppressed emotions you may have bubbling to the surface. Person Centred/Humanistic Counselling focuses on the unique person you are underneath all the layers of your life. It can help you reach a place that is more contented and satisfying as you reach your older years, and it doesn’t have to be hard work.......many times I’ve laughed alongside my clients as we progress through the Counselling process and each journey is unique to every person.
What is viewed as a mid-life crisis, I’ve found to date, is a need to feel more fulfilled, satisfied and contented. No offence is intended, just more understanding is required.
Blog 13: 16/11/2017 - Emotional abuse. The effects and dangers to self-worth.
Emotional abuse can be one of the hardest types of abuses to detect. It causes so much doubt within the person who is being abused and often the abuser is seen as a nice person to many people.
So have you ever felt you have been emotionally abused? Have you ever mentioned how you feel to someone only for them to say “are you sure, their such a nice person. Are you sure your not being too sensitive?”.
Emotional abuse, like all other types of abuse are more common than most people think!
So what is emotional abuse?
The definition is: Psychological abuse (also referred to as psychological violence, emotional abuse, or mental abuse) is a form of abuse characterised by a person subjecting, or exploring, another person to behaviour that may result in psychological trauma, including anxiety, chronic depression, or post traumatic stress disorder.
Emotional abusers use behaviours which include: critisum, underminding, intimidating, threatening, demanding, controlling and all of these behaviours are against the law since the serious crime act 2015 was amended. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-new-psychological-abuse-law-a6789271.html
Abusive behaviours are very damaging to self-worth, esteem and confidence and the way in which the abuse occurs can make it difficult to identify, as most abusers are nice people to the outside world and the abuse doesn’t start at the beginning of many relationships.
I’m referring to all abusive relationships in this blog, friendships, working relationships, loving relationships and family relationships, as emotional abuse can occur within any relationship and can be experianced by both male and females.
So how do you identify if you are on the receiving end of coercive behaviour? One of the first signs is you’re gut feeling, the little voice inside you that waves a little red flag warning you of danger. This is you’re natural human instinct, which so many of us ignore or question too quickly.
So you’re feeling a little wary and uncomfortable, but you put it down to being too sensitive, emotional or thinking too much. Some time goes by and the little red flag comes up again, but this time your in a social situation and don’t want to cause a fuss, perhaps you have done something wrong to make this person react to you in that way? You begin to doubt yourself, question you’re behaviour and feel a little deserving of what you just experienced! So you try and be nicer to this person, and for a while all is ok. Until the abuse becomes a regular occurrence and more intense, at which point your confidence, esteem and worth have been battered to damaging levels where you feel somewhat trapped, undermined and intimidated by the person.
So what do you do now!? Let’s someone say as much as a Year has gone by and you are talking to a friend, because you feel deflated, low and confused by the relationship. Depending on the reaction of the friend the abuse can either get better or worse. If you’re friend is supportive and understanding they will watch your back and help you out of the confusion, but if your friend doesn’t see your distress and tells you it can’t be true your in danger of falling deeper into psychological danger and self doubt.
This is where I would suggest you think about getting professional help.
People who are emotional abusers have a need to feel powerful over others and are usually very insecure people themselves. They feed their damaged egos by underminding, controlling, intimidating and critical behaviours of others to hide their own flaws, inabilities and lack of self-esteem. For any abusers reading this I would suggest you may want to think about seeking help too. The games you are playing to feel ok within yourself will never fulfill the damage your ego has sustained somewhere in your past.
The important thing to remember is if you are on the receiving end of emotional abuse it is not you who is wrong, weird, damaged, too sensitive, crazy or being emotional. Get help as soon as you can and rebuild your external and internal boundaries to a stronger level.
Blog 12: 06/11/2017 - Sexual abuse, harrasment and predatory behaviour.
This is such a hot topic right now, but has anyone noticed how people who have experienced sexual abuse, harrasment and preditory behaviours are speaking out more and more often these days?
In my previous blog I mentioned that in my experiance, of cases in Counselling, it is childhood sexual abuse which causes the most damage to people, and I’ve noticed clients start talking about what’s happened to them between 30 to 50 years of age. Most of whom have told nobody of the abuse and those who have spoken out have experienced negative responses from doing so.
Anyone who touches you inappropriately without your agreeable, welcomed and mental or verbal consent is wrong in their behaviour and needs telling so.
An example most people may be able to relate to in their life time are incidents at a party, club or evening out. You’re dancing with your friends, having a drink etc etc and someone you don’t know slides themselves along side you, up against you or directly touches you inappropriately in an attempt to gain some sort of attention, thrill or satisfaction. My experiance of this is to immediately turn to them with a very direct message of “NO”. I respond in this way because I didn’t ask for, welcome or want that person in my personal space so how dare they take the liberty of thinking it was ok!
Other examples could include someone standing just a little bit too close for comfort, the person who actually touches you as they walk past, yet you question yourself if that actually happened. The person who always physically slides past you, touching your body with theirs when there is more than enough room for them to pass with no physical contact. That hand placed on your knee when it’s totally not needed or appropriate, the leg touch under the table making you feel somewhat uncomfortable and moving away. Any little bodily touches which makes you feel just that bit uncomfortable and distracted from your thoughts. These are preditory actions and are usually the first steps in sexual harrasment and abuse. My advice is listen to yourself, if you feel uncomfortable in anyway it’s warning sign. Move away, tell them no and talk to someone about it straight away.
Most childhood sexual abuse is carried out by family members or close friends of the family. Very sad, sickening and difficult to think about, but true. Most sexual abuse starts with preditory behaviour of cuddling, stroking and touching in appropriately to intimidate, control and confuse the child. Children seek love and comfort to feel safe in their world and preditory behaviour seems loving and special to a child, until it changes into sexual abuse leaving the child questioning their behaviour, trust and being very confused. As humans with all have the Fight, Flight or Freeze responses to keep us safe from danger. Sexual abuse commonly triggers the Freeze response, which is why most abuse cases are silenced! They cause an immense amount of confusion within the person being abused.
In adults preditory behaviour is also the first action towards sexual abuse and harrasment, but as adults we should know better right? We should speak out right? Wrong, the behaviour is so confusing, underhand and awkward we begin to question our gut instincts. Then by the time we are sure that what we are experiencing is wrong it could seem a little too late to mention/talk about? What if we are accused of welcoming the behaviour because we didn’t say something earlier?! What if other people noticed and thought we were having a fling!?, what if we are seen as attention seeking, a liar, a joke or hysterical, mental, weird!?!? The victim feels powerless, ashamed and embarrassed.....and so the abuse either continues or moves on to the next victim.
They say 1 in 10 people have suffered sexual abuse or harrasment, I have a feeling this estimate is more like 5 in 10 from my experiences to date.
Its not brave to speak out, say no or type #metoo, it’s essential for our society, futures and wellbeing. Teach children the power of speaking out, listening to their gut feelings, having respect for their personal space other people’s personal space. And if you are being abused, harassed or identify preditory behaviours around you or others call it out and say “that’s not respectful behaviour, reign it in and back off.”, “get out of my personal space”, “do that again and I will report you.”
Protect yourself, each other and children. Sexual abuse, harrasment and preditory behaviour can be stopped.
Blog 11: 02/11/2017 - We all suffer from mental health issues at some point in our lives.
Mental Health......just the sound of those words make some people go quiet! Although the stigma of mental health is diminishing, the subject can still be a difficult one for many people to have so I thought a blog on the triggers might help.
Life is full of twists and turns and childhood events and traumas, I’ve found through cases in Counselling, are the biggest triggers for mental health issues in adults. I’ve noticed through practice that historical issues bubble to the surface in people between the age of 35 to 50, both in men and women, and it’s interesting that this fits with the label of “mid-life crisis”!?
So this is my theory: historical events from our parents lives, their parents lives and their parents lives all filter through to us at some stage. If we think back to what our grand parents and great grandparents experienced through the wars, the depressions etc, etc there’s some pretty big life changing traumas involved in our history and if we think about historical treatments of mental health back then too it’s no wonder people have been silenced for generations about what’s going on in their heads and adopt the strong stiff upper lip stance.
I feel very lucky to be living in the 21st century, although there are scary possibilities around every corner we still have much better ways of living now than ever before.
So let’s look at what can trigger the spiral into mental health difficulties.
The death of a parent, a car crash, being burgled, relationship breakdowns, losing a job, becoming ill, getting older and not talking about our problems. Yes these can all cause mental health difficulties, they can all be the starting point of a chain of events.
When the future, we thought we had, suddenly changes our thinking takes on a whole new direction and this is when difficulties can be triggered, and understanding this can help the spiral stop.
Emotions are big and each of us handles them very differently. But it’s important not to ignore them and when you find yourself being plagued by a memory, event, trauma or feeling it needs looking at and talking about. Too many buried emotions can weigh you down and take up too much space in our minds.
The number of clients I see bringing up hurts, traumas and emotional issues from the past is huge, and sometimes they have carried what they are telling me alone for years.It’s hard to open up old events sometimes, but Counselling offers the space and privacy to do this in a way that helps. I see clients breath easier and relax more in front of my eyes and I often hear “what a relief it is to get that off my chest!”. Talking relieves the pressure cooker of emotions and helps mental health, so please don’t leave it too long before talking.
Take care of yourself.
Blog 10: 25/10/2017 - Challenging childhood situations and the lack of control children have over their destiny’s.
As children we have no control over our environment, care or people involved in our lives and this can often cause damage to our view of the world, relationships and perceptions of situations and behaviours.
We are guided by our parents behaviours and ways of living, and when problems enter life we have no option but to go along with the current flow of events.
These events can be our parents arguing, separating, divorcing, dying, being addicts of some kind, being hospitalised or the child being taken into care. All of which are very damaging for children feeling safe and secure in their vulnerable childhood years.
A main topic in the Counselling room is memories of clients parents splitting up and the onset of the ‘tug of war’ of the children! The recall of this very sad time is often surrounded with confusion, as the clients memories and feelings linked to the events are shrouded in conflicting messages, contradicting behaviours and many families, friends and outsiders opinions which have been over heard by the young, but now adult client.
A child loves their parents, in different but equal ways, but when faced with a back lash of anger, hurt and somewhat childish behaviour as the parents battle it out to make each other miserable, gain power over and belittle each other a horrible environment is created for any body to have to face and especially damaging for a child.
Children thrive through feeling safe and knowing where they stand. When separation of parents occurs the change in routine, life style and boundaries injects vulnerable feelings within the child and their world becomes a scary place. If parents begin playing games with who sees the children when, where, how and who with in angry and confrontational way this injects even more fear into the child’s life.
These circumstances lead to separation anxiety, depression and the child often enters a very disconnected lonely world as they struggle to make sense of the situation they find themselves in. Who do they turn to for comfort when the battling parents are focused on using them in their ‘tug of war’!? Many children find comfort in school, as the routine and environment don’t change too often. Some find comfort with grandparents, friends and other people’s families, if they are lucky enough to be of an age where they can leave the house on their own. For younger children however, all the options to find comfort may not be avaliable and they often become very disconnected and vary of both parents because of the behaviour they are witnessing on both sides.
I would encourage anyone to really focus on the effect their separation or divorce is having on their children. Our children were not gifted to us to witness verbal, physical or emotional abuse, be used as ammunition, bargaining tools, blackmailing or bleeding financially dry of another person.
If any of the above rings true then I would advise you seek mediation, Counselling or both find yourselves compassionate solicitors to make mutual future arrangements for your children’s sakes. If not, start a savings account for the mental health of your child’s future treatment, because you are damaging your child’s view of the world, relationships and behaviour in their future.
Children do not have the emotional capacity or intelligence to cope with conflicts of adult proportions or levels. Protect them from as much damage as possible and keep their world and perceptions of it as safe and contented as possible.
A somewhat harsh but true blog.
Blog 09: 19/10/2017 - Depression and Anxiety issues. Why Anti-depressants alone do not solve the problem.
We all know someone with depression or anxiety, we may also know someone who is taking anti-depressants. The fact is that the nhs currently spend £5.5 million a week prescribing medication for depression and anxiety. Fluoxetine, Citalopram and Sertraline are the most commonly prescribed in the uk, but do we know enough about how they work and how to take them?
In a recent meeting the discussion of anti depressants was brought up. It was mainly around clients taking their medication and the damaging reputation of the drug. History tells us anti-depressants are for those who are crazy. WRONG. Anti depressants are addictive. WRONG. Anti depressants alone fix the initial problem. WRONG. Taking anti-depressants correctly is vital for their success and more information needs to be given to those being prescribed the drugs for the best possible results. CORRECT.
Anti depressants are prescribed because the serotonin levels in the brain have dropped, leading to the person feeling low in mood, tired, emotional and lacking in self motivation, control and confidence. https://bebrainfit.com/serotonin-deficiency/. The drop in serotonin levels in the brain and why this happens is a tricky topic to answer, because who’s going to be able to do this research on a living human being without a significant risk to life. The human brain and how it functions chemically is vastly unknown and will probably remain that way.
So let’s work with the information we do have and my own thoughts and experiance around depression, anxiety and medication.
Someone feels low and attends the doctors because they think they are depressed. The doctor prescribes anti depressants and the person leaves hoping to feel better soon. They get their medication, open up the information leaflet, which is usually the size of an ordinance survey map, have a little read then either get scared, bored or distracted and it ends up in the bin. They begin the medication, it takes a couple of weeks to kick in (but not before the side effects have played with their head!) and they hopefully begin to feel a bit better.
But what about the reason, events or cause which lead to the feeling of depression in the first instance?
Did the person suffer a loss of a job, partner, life style, dream? Have they been suffering from some historical trauma? Are they struggling with some form of life event that results in them feeling alone, unheard, over looked or under valued?
In my experiance virtually all depression and anxiety has an historical cause. These causes come in many forms and are handled by people in many different ways. In fact I haven’t seen a single client with depression or anxiety where we haven’t been able to track back to an event which triggered depression. (I’ve treated in excess of 100 people, many of whom have suffered some degree of anxiety and depression. They all had causes)
Do you need anti depressants and if so how to take them successfully.
In the first instance I would say have a real good think about why you’re mood has decreased to feeling depressed, and I would look back over the past year. Have you lost someone, fallen out with a friend, has your life changed in lots of little ways leading to an somewhat unfulfilled way of being? Are you having problems in your relationship, with lovers, family or children leaving home, school etc? Has your job changed, have you retired, been off sick. There are many little triggers as well as big triggers for anxiety and depression.
If you do find yourself on anti depressants, stick to the guild lines.
1. Take them on a regular basis, roughly at the same time each day. (The first couple of weeks can be a little off putting due to side effects, but push on through, they will decrease in intensity)
2. Keep taking them on a regular basis daily, you will begin to feel the benefits. (If you feeling too low or too high go back to the doctor to have the dosage altered)
3. Do not stop taking them outright once you feel better. (Something I’ve witnessed people do and the results end up with them feeling awful. Anti depressants are a drug that needs to be decreased over time and the advice is that they are taken for a minimum of 6 months to be effective.)
4. Seek a talking therapy for the reason you began feeling low. (You may just need to take better care of yourself mentally as well as physically. There maybe something historically you need to get out of your system, some old mental scar you haven’t come to terms with, a past hurt, event or a fear you don’t understand.)
5. Take a good look at your life. Are you happy with how it’s going and where it’s going? (If there is something in your life you aren’t happy with, that’s bugging you, that devalues you and that’s adding to your depression - change it if you can.)
6. Excersise more, concentrate awareness on your wellbeing, peace of mind, happiness, contentment and be kind to yourself. (We often don’t give ourselves the time and care we need to feel ok, you are the only person who can look after yourself the best.)
7. In time when you feel ok again and are ready to come off the anti depressants , talk to your doctor about decreasing the medication. If your taking 50mg, every other day you could reduce it to 25mg by snapping tablets in half, then get the doctor to prescribe lower dosages so you can do the same. I would reduce medication over a three month period. You don’t need to worry about having withdrawal effects because your brain is producing enough serotonin for itself now. You are looking after yourself better so you will be ok.
Medication alone very rarely fixes depression and anxiety and some people do become reliant on the medication because they haven’t taken any action to alter their self care, wellbeing and issues from the past. They believe everything will go wrong if they stop the medication. Anti depressants are their to help, not fix the problem.
Blog 08: 07/10/2017 Self-worth, confidence and esteem. It's not selfish to look after yourself and make sure you are ok.
Low self-worth, confidence and esteem is a pretty big problem in society today. Media, social, family and employment pressures give messages of “be the best” “try harder” “be slim” “ have flawless skin” “wear the right clothes, shoes, hairstyle, glasses etc” and “be confident”. Just walking out of the house can be a mission with all the pressures and all of those pressures have an impact on our peace of mind.
I feel peace of mind comes from self-worth, confidence and esteem. That feeling of being ok is often one we feel in childhood. Our parents and care givers help our peace of mind as children by telling us we are ok, saying “well done”. As children all the pressures we feel as adults aren’t there. Do you remember not needing to wear make-up, dress in the right types of clothes etc etc? You were just you and that was ok!?
In adulthood the reassurances of “well done, you are doing really well and are ok” diminish to a degree and we find our selves striving for more and more, but never tell ourselves “well done, you did great, you are ok”. The messages we received in childhood aren’t as frequent and this is where the problems begin with low self-worth, confidence and esteem. The world is quite a critical place and juggling other people’s thoughts, opinions, needs, feelings, situations and general life can very much get in the way of looking after ourselves. We worry about fitting in, getting it right, being popular, successful and having the right image.
But what about you? The authentic, unique, individual you are and naturally bring to the world just as you are?! Can you sit with yourself and just be content? Can you treat yourself kindly and say “you know what I’m ok”?......or do you feel you have to help people, have to do the right thing, have work harder, have to look just right?
Many people search for validation outside of them selves, you may see random posts of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat of people seeking reassurance, attention and messages of “you are ok”. You may have a friend who only talks about themselves, someone who’s always involved in some kind of drama, someone who regularly talks bad of others, is judgemental, critical etc. It’s usually because they feel very low about themselves and are in many different ways trying to feel better about themselves. They usually feel very uncomfortable with who they are, but have no idea this is what’s going on.
In Counselling working on a persons self-worth, confidence and esteem is quite tricky. Clients often feel it’s selfish just coming to Counselling, talking about themselves and concentrating on what they want. It can often take a number of weeks just to get a clients to see themselves as ok. But once they do it can be a major turning point for the persons inner peace.
They no longer feel the pressures of living up to other people’s, societies and the worlds expectations. They let go of other people’s stuff. They put down what’s not theirs to carry and begin it see that who they are is ok. With this they begin to respect themselves more, eat healthier, do more exercise and are kinder to themselves. And they do all of this with no pressures from the outside world. They do this because they have worth. As they begin to feel ok within, they feel more confident and learn to not absorb the crap of society and it’s expectations. The self-esteem is increased, they have more energy for life in general.
Its lovely to watch this transformation of someone in Counselling and we are all ok somewhere inside of ourselves. It’s all about giving this part of us some personal attention and space to breathe.
Blog 07: 29/09/2017 Addiction - Are you aware there is a tipping point?
Addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, porn, gambling, smoking is a wide spread issue, but one that nobody intends to become addicted to. Nobody wakes up one morning and thinks "you know what I am going to become an addict today". Its not what we are wired to become.
Sitting in my local pub recently discussing the very common use of, and popularity of, drug use brought to my awareness the difference between those 'in the know' and those totally oblivious to the locality and extent of this problem.
In this blog I'm going to focus on drug addiction, as covering all the above topics could take a while. Cocaine is one of the most wide spread substances used and one I have seen drag down the most people in front of my own eyes, so coke addiction is the topic.
Its very rare that you will talk to a person who has never taken drugs before, be it smoked weed, taken an E, trip, mdma, cocaine, ect, etc. Drugs are everywhere, have been for generations and will be for generations to come and are more popular than ever before.
So how do you know if you have crossed over the boundary of becoming an addict? If you find yourself looking forward to the next time and planning usage then you could be close to tipping into addiction. If you find yourself going along with the crowd on a weekly basis, even though you can't really afford it, find yourself encouraging friends to do it with you, becoming frustrated, disappointed, aggressive and slightly obsessed then the chances are you are very close to the tipping point. If you are hiding your usage and using on your own then you may have already crossed that tipping point without even realising.
But hey, you're just having fun, you're young, in control and everyone is doing it right!? You will stop when you need to, when it's time to settle down, when you become a responsible adult?
For some this is the case and they are able to stop using. They meet the love of their life, settle down, go to work, have fun with friends and life continues. But for others the spiral and battle with addiction begins.
If you are surrounded by others who have tipped over the boundary into addiction you probably won't notice your problem, because you are all reassuring each other that this is normal and ok behaviour. There maybe a little voice inside of you saying 'this isn't good for us!' but you brush it to one side knowing you are completely in control.
Are you in control? Or is the drug demon beginning to drown out that little voice who is trying to save you?
Some people have self-esteem, self-confidence and personality issues that the drug puts right, it turns you into a great person, you feel great, look great and the world is an amazing place. The come down might be a bit rough, but it will be ok. But what you don't see is the knowing glances around you, the confused thoughts of people which then turn into concerned discussions with others about you. You're behaviour becomes more desperate, aggressive and thoughtless as that little tiny voice inside you becomes weaker and weaker as the drug demon drowns out your true ability to just be happy. You have become a functioning addict.
You like who you have become, right? And you're totally in control, people should mind their own business. It's your life.
I've sat with addicts who have reached £400-£500 a week habits, who have become totally unrecognisable to all that know them, who have stolen, lied, deceived, manipulated and torn apart their whole life because they brushed aside that little voice inside saying "what the f*~k are you doing to us!?!"
Please don't let this happen to you. You will never be able to fulfil or find that first time again. Listen to the little voice when it begins raising concerns inside of you.
Blog 06: 13/09/2017 Grief - the loss of a very important person and why this greif is so hard to understand.
Losing a significant person in your life is a daunting thought. The fear that arises inside is scary, unknown and so overwhelming that we often only let it pass through our minds in short bursts.
So when this loss does occur it can be deverstating, destructive, misunderstood, invalidated and all consuming. Nobody prepares us for the loss, as it's such a difficult subject to talk about, often labeled as morbid!
I wish I'd known what to expect.
Im going to focus this blog on the loss of a parent/caregiver as these losses usually are the hardest to understand and I'm using both personal and profession feedback to highlight some the effects of loss.
"It feels like I have an empty universe inside of me and far away in the distance is this ball of entangled pain that I and nobody else can get to, it feels like an impossible journey"
"I feel totally lost and have no idea who I am anymore."
"People keep telling me I'll get over it and day by day it will get easier.......they have no idea what I'm going through and if one more person says "it will be ok" to me I don't know what I'll do!"
Some parents die naturally of old age, others suffer long battles with illnesses, some die unexpectedly and without any warning we are propelled into greif. The grieving process is very unique to everyone, there is no right or wrong way to move through it......it changes the person you are.
So our relationships with our parents could have been good, bad, distructive, tricky.....the descriptions are endless in this topic. But mum, dad, gran etc etc were our everything. When we arrived into the world they looked after us so we could survive. Totally helpless for a number of years these very important people became our attachment figures, the people we would run to, turn to, seek safety from, lean on, gain approval from, get support from, get praise from. Step by step through our life they were always there and loved us unconditionally.
Losing this person sets us adrift, our anchor has gone.
Some people feel very young after losing their attachment figure, because we are propelled into the loss of everything the person ever gave us, including the support, warmth and advice on how to deal with the situation we now find ourself in.
"I don't know what to do anymore?"
Entering the valnerable place of losing the person who's always been there is scary. The disbelief and shock is often discribed as numbness. It's a confusing time in the grief cycle and often takes a number of weeks to move through. The arrangements of funerals, announcements and all the emotion of this stage cannot be remembered by many people and as the days and weeks go by these feeling can be overtaken by anger, frustration and anxiety as we battle to make sense of what's happened and what to do.
This is where the sympathy can tail off, but is where understanding is very much needed. As the reality of loss sinks in, depression can take hold and feeling isolated is common. We look around and everyone is carrying on with their lives.....but ours feels like "a thick gray fog". Searching ourselves for what to do and how to move forward can seem impossible.
The need to talk about our loss is more important than ever. The shock, anger confusion and numbness has lessened and we are now in a position to begin to process whats happened. The support and understanding required can feel very overwhelming to who ever is around a grieving person, especially if they have not experienced a similar loss.
The grieving person is trying to move forward on their own, they are beginning a new journey having lost their anchor.
Having support through this part of grieving allows the person to feel some of what they received from the person they lost. The need to feel safe, heard and understood and is often when people seek the support of counselling.
Having a similar anchor point on which to build the new part of themselves is so valuable. It's a safe place to explore, make meaning of and find the tools within themselves ,which the attachment figure gave them through love, care and support, so they can anchor themselves.
And once achieved we begin to feel safe again, we move forward a little more sure of ourselves and with a new ability to cope as we just got through one of the biggest and most difficult life events.
As I have said above, the grieving process is a very individual and unique journey. The events of everyone's lives are so different no experiance is the same. Some may work through their greif in six months, others 6 years and some become so stuck they never recover. Counselling can help you through this process, it helped me when I lost my mother and both my grandmothers in the same year!
I hope this helps you and others around you.
Blog 05: 11/09/2017 Relationship issues - the most common problem and how to resolve it.
Someone once said to me "a woman's brain is like a eight lane super highway and a mans brain is like a single track country road." and for a majority of the couples I have worked with, have known, do know and have experiance of myself in relationships, it's a pretty sound statement.
If we take the above and apply it to why many couples come to counselling it kind of explains why so many couples feel miles apart from each other!
I ask how the couple met, what their relationship was like back then to how it is now and all the events and milestones in between. This doesn't take too long and allows the couple to see how they have evolved together and as individuals over their time together. As this information and memories are accessed I witness the couple relate to each other in different ways, often smiling and connecting with each other in ways they use to earlier in their relationship. It's a good indicator as to where things may have gone wrong too and in a single moment the couple can feel closer together. This is what most couples want from their relationship. As human beings we want and need to feel connected, attached, safe and valued.
Most relationships follow a pretty standard map. Meet, have fun, get to know each other, get engaged, married, find a house, have kids, acquire more friends, change jobs, do the whole school thing, clubs, exams, future planning, kids leave home.......the list could go on and take many different forms. Now I'd like you to focus on how many different parts of yourself have changed over all of those years?
The person you were when you met each other for the first time is pretty much hidden under all the other parts of yourself which have evolved throughout your relationship. You have now become a wife, mother, pta member and expert in a number of tasks, etc, etc. You have many different hats that are all part of you.
And so has your partner.
Many people state "your not the person I married", "you've changed" and "this was not what I though we would become".
But you can make it better by recognition of the many new parts of yourselves and reconnecting with your true selves.
It can be as simple as drawing a circle of who you each were at the beginning of the relationship and then surrounding the main circle with lots of little circles of all the extra parts of you now. Then think about how much time you spend with each other in your main circles, with no other input from your little circles?
Im guessing it won't be much, and over the course of your relationship this lack of communication, time together and being totally yourselves makes it feel like your miles apart in your relationship.
The woman's eight lane super highway is navigating all lanes, the mans brain is following its road at a steady pace navigating the on coming traffic via passing points and lay-bys. But if you both pull over for a few minutes and check the other is ok it helps keep the connection alive.
The most important thing to remember is that neither of you meant for your relationship to become distant, fragmented and difficult. You both just got swept up in all the life stuff and kinda forgot to keep checking in with each other. There will no doubt be events that have happened that need resolving, working on and moving on from and my role as a counsellor is to help with this process. My job is to read between the lines and find the messages beyond the actual communication within the counselling room. Both parties usually want the same from the relationship and that is to have each other's backs, to support each other, to feel wanted, appreciated and loved for exactly who you are.
Reconnecting with each other and your relationship is possible if both parties want the same and are prepared to work together.
Blog 04: 05/09/2017 Personal boundaries - Internal and External.
What are your personal boundaries and how strong are they?
When looking at personal boundaries in counselling a response I often hear in, "I can't say no", "I might be seen as selfish!" or "I've never really thought of them". All these replies indicate very fluid, sometimes nonexistent personal boundaries and behind the lack of personal boundaries I often find a client who feels under valued, taken advantage of, a door mat and someone who feels very low about their self-worth.
If some of this rings true with you, it is possible to rebuild your boundaries and begin to feel more fulfilled and valued.
The title of this blog is 'Internal and External' boundaries, and it's the internal boundaries that are often lacking in structure for a lot of people. We all walk out into the world with our external boundaries pretty much intact and visible. These boundaries are closely linked to our survival instincts and so we naturally protect ourselves, without even recognising we are doing so. But the internal boundaries protect our value, confidence, self-esteem and emotions.
So how are your internal boundaries? Are you aware of them? How do you look after yourself, your wellbeing and peace of mind?
A lot of the time we go through the motions of looking after ourselves so our external boundaries are intact to the outside world. Ever heard anyone say "gosh I had no idea he/she was having such a hard time, there were no signs!". Many people put on a brace face to the outside world when internally they are feeling rubbish.
Looking after your internal self can be quite hard work, well learning to look after your self can be. It can be classed as selfish and that is the hardest hurdle to over come. But once you begin a transformation takes place that I've had the privilege of seeing many times in the counselling room and it's astounding to witness.
For someone to sit there and begin to value their worth often gives me goosebumps. For a client to discover what they have gone through, how they have adapted and the realisation of their lack of respect for themselves can be quite emotional and at this turning point for a client the possibilities become very exciting and soul building. It's not about putting yourself on a pedestal, it's about giving yourself a pat on the back and becoming content with what you have achieved and what you as a person with worth wants to do next. Not worrying if your good enough, not feeling you have to do a little bit more to be good enough, not saying yes to everything.
The rat race of life brings up the question "is this what life is all about?" and this is a sure indication of a lack of fulfilment, often reached between 30 - 50 years old in my view. But sit back for a moment and look at what you have achieved so far? Maybe look at your parenting, your career, your marriage, your friends, your achievements. Now how much throughout all you have done so far have you fulfilled your internal self, just for you?
I have many clients who sit and say "I've got no idea who I am anymore!" and this is a result of lack of internal boundaries......but they are sitting saying this because it's time to feel fulfilment within themselves. The authentic person they were born as wants some attention, wants to strive, wants to be valued, wants recognition so the next chapter of their life is fulfilling.
Dont ignore your authentic self for too long, you matter, your are important and you deserve a pat on the back ☺️.
Blog 03: 31/08/2017 - The damage parents do, and why we sometimes find it hard to express our true feelings towards them openly.
It has become very apparent through working with clients that many issues raised in counselling are linked to our parents, siblings, families and how we were brought up in childhood.
Nobody is given a manual on how to be a parent, the only way we know how is through our parents, grand parents and families experiences and examples.
If we think back to what our parents went through in their childhoods and what their parents went through in childhood we can track back through history a whole catalog of events, wars, social influences and parenting techniques and advice which all has an effect on each of us today. So it really isn't surprising that parents/caregivers come up a lot in counselling.
So why do we find it so difficult to be cross, angry and upset with our parents, or even say something derogatory?
From the moment we are born we need our parents/caregivers to survive. Whether we experiance good, bad or adiquate care we form a bond with these people to survive. And we adapt ourselves to their behaviour, our environment and circumstances in order to be cared for, as babies, toddlers and children. So we find it difficult to be cross with those who helped us, because we fear losing the bond we need so much in infancy.
This doesn't mean that the care we received was right, just or ok though! When we are each born into the world we arrive with a totally unique character, personality and authentic self and our main aim is purely to survive. As we grow we have an inbuilt need to be and do the best we can.....but mixed up in all of this is our parents, caregivers and families histories, expectations, wants, needs, learned behaviours and unconscious ways of being.
The most important statement I would like to make is that most of the time the damage caused is not intentional. I myself have realised I've not been the best parent at times and I have caused damage in the 19 years I've been a parent.....but what I can say is if I'd been aware of the mistakes, learned behaviour and problems I have passed on to my children I wouldn't have made those decisions now.
So what if your angry with your history, what if the way you were brought up is having a negative effect on your life today?
Firstly realising and tracking back through the possible problems which occurred and reasons why these problems arose. Looking at your life history and that of you parents helps hugely.
Secondly it's about allowing the anger you are feeling to be ok. If you are able to talk to your parents in an adult and non-blaming way great, but if not then talking to a professional confidentually is a good idea.
Thirdly it's about understanding and sometimes forgiving parents and caregivers. But when this is not possible, which it sometimes is'nt, then learning to put down the problems and learned behaviours which you no longer need or want and moving to a more authentic place where you decide how you want to be helps overcome the negative feelings.
Sometimes just the understanding and realisation is enough for change to occur in someone seeking help, for others the guilt of feeling angry holds up the process and needs more focused work. But the main focus is that it's ok to feel, cross, disappointed, let down, angry and hurt by what happened in the past.
Sadly it's very common for people to say "I had a great childhood!", and some really do.......however, I'm learning that in reality it isn't always the case.
Blog 01: 08/06/2017 The stigma surrounding counselling, counsellors and mental health.
Until I began training to be a counsellor I had never really thought about the stigma attached to the profession and subject. I soon realised, very quickly, that there were implications to the judgements, opinions and whispered conversations I was experiencing. Most people seemed guarded, worried and afraid of my chosen career, so I decided to do some research on the history of mental health and the profession.
I discovered a wealth of derogatory historical stories, graphic images and brutal treatments dating back to dark ages where only evidence of sculls uncovered the possible treatment of somebody needing help and understanding.
From holes being made in the sculls of living victims to release evil spirits, to straight jackets, to mental hospitals with padded rooms, and electric shock treatment and the many numbing drugs administered.....it really was quite disturbing and disheartening to read. I began to understand the historical fear and judgements that have been passed down from generations to generations about hiding mental health issues, not getting involved in a potentially very embarrassing situation and ignoring a very common and continual issue within our world.
Having been Qualifed for some time now I still experiance the sudden reactions and statements of "your not analysing me are you?" or "be careful what you say, she's one of those.....", it's sad really and I often bat back "dont worry I'm off duty" or "no because your not paying me".....some may say a little harsh, but it's true. As counsellors we live a normal life too and it would just be exhausting to think like a counsellor constantly!
So the reality of being a counsellor: I wake up every morning, have the same routine as most people. I start work at 10am, as most clients like to miss the rush hour, need to nip home after the school run quickly, or have a cuppa. Depending on how busy my day is, I'll walk my dogs, have number our cups of tea, do some washing, have a look on Facebook, do some research or read parts of books relating to cases and when my day ends I'll cook dinner, watch some tv, maybe do some sewing or have a glass of wine then go to bed. Pretty normal stuff.
During a counselling consultation or session I will be totally with my clients and what they bring. I won't have my phone with me, iPad or note book (note book in consultations for info). I will intently listen to what my client talks about, I'll listen to repeated info, look at body language and have total positive regard for what they are experiencing and what they would like to achieve from seeking counselling. My role is to aid the clients internal process and to focus them on the issue. My training allows me to asses if historical events have had an impact on the clients current state, if their learned behaviour is in harmony with their authentic self and link the thread and events of their lives together. My aim is to help clients become more aware, understanding and empathic of their experiences......and when it all comes together it is an amazing step and feeling. I build a professional relationship with the four cornerstones of my training.....positive regard, empathy, truth and trust. Confidentuality is the ground on which these stones are placed.
The right Counsellor and model of training is paramount for the clients experiance to be effective. I advise that you see a number of counsellors to get a feel for what works best for you. If you have had, or know someone who has had a bad experiance this only damages the professions reputation further. Every Counsellor is different, we all work in very unique ways.
I personally an very down to earth, I'm a realist and have been told very calming and easy to talk to. I work with the authentic you, the person you were born as, the unique you. We all go through life learning other people's behaviours, having media and society imposed on us as to how we "should" be and experiences sweep under the carpet, wether voluntary or not. These, and many more factors, mold us into someone we don't feel at ease with, or we have a feeling something isn't right......we are human, it is felt by everyone. You are not going crazy, you will not be locked up, or labeled with a mental health disorder! Don't be afraid to talk........its not talking that leads to the problems.
Counselling is a sounding board for the understanding of you and what's going on in you. Understanding leads to resolving problems and lifts massive weights off your shoulders......it's a unique experiance you won't find in your everyday friend or family member.
The only agenda in counselling is working towards a happier unique you.
Blog 02: Judgeing a person without knowing all the facts. The damage caused and how to change attitudes for the future. 24/07/2017
Hello again. Ok, so the question is "who has ever felt judged?" I know I have certainly felt judged throughout my life. I will give you a few examples:
I've felt judged at school for not wearing the latest, up to date clothes. I've felt judged for the jobs I've had. I've felt judged by people's total lack of understanding of a situation and their assumptions and perceptions of the situation from their own view point. I've felt judged by my family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers, and yes these were my own perceptions and feelings at the time and in some of these cases I may have been completely wrong in reaching that conclusion......but at the end of the day the feeling was there and over my lifetime it has damaged my self-esteem, confidence and I've had to overcome certain hurdles of judgement and judging people myself.
Whilst training to be a Counsellor one of the most important hurdles faced is not passing judgement on clients seeking help. You can not help someone you judge. Being trained to see beyond how a person looks, acts and has become because of their past history was one of the greatest gift I received during training and it is a corner stone of building a professional relationship in counselling.
Recently I've researched why we judge rather than seeing beyond how a person presents in any given moment. You might have just met someone, heard of them or known someone for years, so why do we judge? I believe it is mainly learned behaviour. If you put a bunch of 18mth old babies in a room together, from every background you could possibally think of, they would all get on, do their own thing and be fully accepting of each other. If you placed a bunch of 18 year olds in a room together their behaviour would be very different. There would be internal judgements flying through the minds of many individuals, but not all. This shows that 16 and a half years of learned behaviour, societies influence and historical influence are all affecting people in ways none of us really understand or want to acknowledge. We all judge at some point in our lives.
Now let's look at the effect of judgement. My experience, both personally and professionally, has taught me that feeling judged causes so much damage to a persons wellbeing. Feelings that arise are those of isolation, paranoia, shame, sadness, anger, disbelief, shock, mental numbness, the fight or flight reflex and withdrawal within the self. People who feel judged go in on themselves and begin to question the person they are. Being judged also leads to judgement as a form of self preservation. A battle commences within the person being judged, when all they want and need is some understanding, compassion and a degree of empathy.
Depending on the circumstances of the situation, being judged comes in different levels of judgement. Momentary judgements may come in the form of thinking the judgement in your mind.
Let's say you see a person and think "gosh I would never go out looking like that!". This kind of judgement isn't damaging to the other person because it is contained within the mind, therefore has no effect on anyone but the person thinking it.
The next level is sharing your judgement with someone, and the judgement being spoken about, overheard and arriving within the persona of the person being judged. Now the judgement is out there and can begin to do damage to the persons wellbeing.
Lets say the same judgement is taken to the next level of being shared by all three parties involved. The judged, the listener and the victim. They all speak to one person each and then those people pass the info on to someone else......it isn't long before it becomes the topic of conversation in the pub, play ground, workplace etc etc.
Now let's think about the circumstances of the victim. Maybe the person has just lost a family member, friend, job, pet? Or maybe this person has been suffering from relationship difficulties, family problems or some form of mental health issue. The possibilities are endless as to why someone may be looking a little down, looking a little unwell and not quite themselves......and by receiving judgement they are being weighed down even more.
Imagine yourself as the victim?
Imagine what it must be like to have someone pass judgement of an area within your life without knowing the full facts or experiance.
We each have our own life story, we each have our own historical upbringing from our parents/caregivers, grandparents and great grandparents......the learned behaviour goes way back in time, and not always do we have the choice of what life we are given, what coping mechanisms we are given or what circumstances we find ourselves within.
I believe in the saying "walk a mile in a persons shoes before you make any form of judgement of them" (I'm not sure who the quotes I use belong to, so I apologise in advance for not passing on the credit) and I'm a great believer in "Every saint has a passed and every sinner has a future".
Who has the right to judge anyone?
Yes if a person has committed a crime they are put in front of a court of law and judgement is made. But in this blog I'm referring to people within our everyday lives, our friends, our neighbours, friends of friends, work colleagues, the bloke you see in the pub or the shop assistant etc etc. We have no right to judge each other as none of us knows the truth behind the circumstances, judgements, gossip or behaviour of anyone.
So if you find yourself thinking a judgement of someone.......pause for a mo.......do you really understand the person you are judging? What if there is more to their circumstances than you are actually seeing, maybe your judgement of them is the last straw for that person! Thoughts do nobody any damage if you keep your thoughts to yourself.....but if you act on your thoughts that's when they do damage and that's when you no longer have any control over the effect of them.
The greatest gift to yourself and another is to not judge anyone. Think to yourself "hey do I really know all the facts to pass judgement?" And if you hear judgemental views being expressed maybe inject an antidote of "do you really know all the facts to be making that judgement?". The likely answer will be nobody knows the whole truth about anyone and unless you are within their life. So their actions, choices and way of living is none of your business.
Thank you for your time 😉