I feel privileged to be based in Rutland, close to Oakham and Uppingham. I enjoy getting to know clients and helping them to explore the challenges they are facing, or have faced, in their lives. I have learnt from my clients that it is never too late to change, to focus on areas in your life that you would like to develop. Although change may seem daunting and even frightening, everything is done at the client’s own and unique pace, when they feel ready. I have exercises that I suggest to clients, and they are completely free to try this out or not – no pressure. These exercises include helping you to explore what is happening for you currently, what has happened in the past, alongside mindfulness, relaxation, distraction techniques, also techniques that can help you release emotions like frustration, anger or sadness. Loss and bereavement can be big things in our lives and counselling can really help because friends and family, whilst being there for us, may not simply have the time to listen in depth to what we are experiencing. Counselling in Rutland is something that I enjoy and feel is my vocation, and I have seen the positive impacts that counselling can have.
See the article at:
In both our personal and professional lives there are times when what other people say or do can make us feel angry or anxious. We may have to deal with a manager at work who is unprofessional and controlling; we may experience someone at work that we are tasked with providing support to who is rejecting and even hostile of our efforts; we may have to deal with an ex-partner who is overly intrusive in our lives, or a current partner who is accusing or blaming us of various things.
There are two key strategies that we can employ. Firstly, we can try and mentalise what is happening for the other person, why they are behaving the way they are. In placing the focus on the other person this makes us feel less angry and anxious because we are placing ourselves in the role of an investigator, wanting to find out what is underpinning the other person’s behaviour. This means that we are less likely to take things personally and are more likely to focus our attention upon how the other person is feeling and behaving rather than focussing on our own emotions. In figuring out what is going on for the other person we may then automatically become less angry or anxious because we come to the realisation that often other things are fuelling another person’s behaviour and we develop a capacity to empathise with them rather than becoming angry ourselves.
Secondly, we can learn non-confrontational communication. This involves learning the kinds of questions we can ask others as a way of reducing any tension within any given situation. In asking non-confrontational questions, the person that we are questioning then may start to feel that we truly are interested in understanding what is happening for them, and they may experience being heard, perhaps for the first time in their lives. This in turn can make the other person less aggressive and more open to us and any suggestions we make. A good idea is to write down a few exploratory questions that we can use with people and to practise saying these questions out loud to ourselves before then saying them to another person. The following is a short list of some non-confrontational questions that we can use in our daily lives:
- You said that X, I am wondering if you can explain what you meant by this ?
- Can you tell me what the issue is as you see it ?
- I wonder if you can tell me more about X ?
- Can you tell me what concerns you most ?
- I noticed that when you were talking about X you were looking very angry, can you perhaps tell me more about X ?
- Are you saying that …. Can you explain further ?
- Sounds like you are feeling frustrated/angry/betrayed/annoyed ?
- I am wondering if you can tell me what this feels like for you ?
- I am wondering how I might help you to achieve X ?
- I am wondering what you think needs to be done to make things better ?
- You can stay within the comfort of your own home.
- There are no travel costs or time wasted standing in traffic queues.
- You can be surrounded by things that you like and feel relaxed in.
- There is no need to worry about directions of how to get to see your counsellor.
- You get just as much eye contact as you would being in the same room as the counsellor.
- You can sit as comfortably as you want.
- If you have animal companions they can share the experience with you.
- You can enjoy a cup of tea as you sit by your computer.
- You can choose a counsellor that you feel you can connect with rather than one who just happens to be close to where you live.
- There is more flexibility in terms of the times that you book a counselling session for.
Sometimes we can find ourselves criticised, humiliated or even ostracised and ignored by our families and friends. This may be because we have done something that challenges their values or their perceptions of the World. We may experience our families or friends disagreeing with us and telling us what we should be thinking or doing, and this can be very disheartening and upsetting. As we grow as individuals we can change, and our outlook on life can change with us, and this can be misunderstood or taken the wrong way by significant others. This can leave us feeling marginalised and excluded and deeply hurt.
When clients tell me about experiences of being rejected by their parents, partners, friends and or work colleagues I often bring Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into the conversation. According to Maslow we as human beings all have basic needs – the need for food and water, the need for shelter and safety, then the need for love and belonging. At the top of the hierarchy of needs is self-actualisation, which simply means personal growth. I explore with clients in what ways their various needs are met, and whether their process of self-actualisation is potentially creating resentment or criticism from the people that they know. It takes time for our family and friends to get to know who we are if we find ourselves changing. It is therefore important not necessarily to walk away from old relationships but to give these time to develop. It may be that we can show leadership regarding our relationships so that they can become more like the kinds of relationships that we want now. There is nothing wrong with fulfilling our own potential, even if this means that some of those that we love reject us. This is a risk in following our own destinies. I do find, however, as a therapist that relationships are more resilient than we initially believe, and so our friends and families can grow with us if we give them time.
Here is a blog I wrote for Cinnabar training (http://cinnabartraining.com/impact-loss):
Our society places great focus upon gains – gaining an education, gaining employment, getting a husband or a wife or a partner, having children, securing financial stability. What is often unspoken about is loss. Inherent to any gains we make, there is loss; the loss of a loved one, the loss of a career, the loss of a home or an animal companion, the loss of a role that we previously cherished. When experiencing loss we can often feel completely alone because loss is not something that many people like to talk about or to share, perhaps because of the emotional and psychological pain this invokes.
Loss can have significant impacts on us. Sally Brampton, a former magazine editor who ended her life last week, wrote about her experience of clinical depression. In her account Sally wrote that depression can be about loss, and how her depression was linked to the loss of a job, a home and a partner. Loss can be traumatic for us in that we find it hard to comprehend how something or somebody that was a fundamental aspect of our lives is not there anymore. Loss can make us feel powerless, for we can experience that we could not have acted to prevent this loss. Loss can overwhelm us, so that our lives no longer seem to have any direction, perspective or purpose, we ourselves are lost, struggling to find some meaning and structure to what is going on around us.
Acceptance of loss can be healing. Accepting that everyone’s life is touched, and indeed transformed, by loss can help a great deal. Relieving the stress, the emotional pain of loss can also be hugely cathartic. Thus, we can rage, cry, sometimes simply remain in silence as a way of acknowledging and processing the pain we are in. It can also be very helpful to remain connected to the loved one that we have lost. For example, we might walk through the same places that they used to walk through, we might like to use their life as continuing inspiration for our own life, we might find times when we feel that the person that we have lost is close to us.
Counselling can be beneficial in helping us to process loss, to accept this when and if this is possible, and to explore how we might live with and beyond loss. Counselling provides the space for our grief, and enables us to explore some of our emotions and thinking. A good counsellor will provide a safe space where we can be ourselves and where we can feel that we are accepted in our loss, without judgement and without any conditions. It is important within a society where loss is often hidden or denied for there to be support available for us all. Counselling can be one important type of support.
I hear the water lapping against the shore edge as I run. I look out upon the clear, blue water, speckled with diamond lights as the sun reflects off the liquid surface. A flock of sheep going somewhere by themselves, no humans telling them what to do. They bleat, they communicate with each other. I notice a mother sheep sitting by the water’s edge looking out onto the horizon, her baby lamb sitting next to her. They are enjoying the wonderful scenery just as I am ! I enter a space dominated by swallows. They dart from left to right, right to left, up and down, down and up. They eat the midges that fly through the air every so often en masse. I find that if I see the cloud of midges early enough I can avoid them bumping into my face simply by stepping to one side.
I feel disappointment. Today there are no waders in the spot where I saw them only last week. A pair wiggling around in the marshy land. Then I am in awe because I notice a pair of birds that I have not seen before at Rutland Water, with a couple of chicks. It touches my heart that they have chosen this place to start their family. A special place. I realise that no one day is ever the same, that each time I run I witness different things and experience different surprises.
I run past apple trees heavy with white blossoms. I breathe in the aroma and for a time the smell helps me forget about how tired my legs are, having run over 12 miles by this stage. In the same way that I have become absorbed by the landscape, the landscape has absorbed me. I feel part of a rich biodiversity, and experience the generosity of nature. Somehow the landscape and its creatures have transformed me. In the same way that my steps have left an impact upon the ground, the environment has impacted upon me. I have entered Rutland slow time – no worries, no beginning, no ending, just being. This experience of time is truly a gift, in today’s society of fast cars and fast living. Where I am there is only an expanse of contentment, a hidden message of peace and joy.
Anxiety can make us restless and exhausted at the same time. We can feel our heart palpitate, our palms sweat, tingling in our fingers. We can feel a massive urge to do something, anything, and so we engage in quite manic behaviour, cleaning the house or tidying the garden or a high intensity workout. When we try to calm our bodies and minds we can find that our mind races away with us, thoughts constantly bombarding us, really preventing us from trying to meditate. Meditation itself becomes a battle as anxiety can prevent us from being able to sit and calm ourselves. We are constantly saying to ourselves that we have to or that we should be a particular way, or that we should or be doing something else.
When experiencing high anxiety it is important to try to just accept our heightened state of alertness. Trying to quash anxiety can actually make this worse. Equally, trying to force ourselves to undertake long periods of meditation can become yet another thing to beat ourselves up about, increasing rather than reducing our anxiety. I try to hold my anxiety with compassion rather than trying to fight it. I say to my anxiety, ‘I give you loving kindness’ as I imagine holding and supporting my palpitating heart. This acceptance and kindness somehow reduces the intensity of the anxiety that I feel.
It is also important to focus on breathing when we feel anxious. I sit down in a safe place, even for just five minutes, and I allow myself to just breathe. If any thoughts come up I accept them, and imagine them rising up into the air like a balloon. In this way unhelpful, self-critical, even angry thoughts are accepted and then let go to float gently away. It is important to try and breathe from the diaphragm rather than the chest in order to create deep breathing. Do not place any pressure on the breathing, simply breathe in and out. Sometimes as I breathe I say to myself, ‘Calming my body, I breathe in; Caring for my body, I breathe out. Smiling to my body, I breathe in. Easing my body, I breathe out’. In this way the body becomes calmed and anxiety can be reduced. Engaging in this practice on a daily basis can really help with anxiety.
April is a truly beautiful time of the year to go walking or running. When I go out walking or running I enjoy connecting with the sound of birdsong. There are some sounds that are very special, like a woodpecker hammering a tree or the exciting sound of swans as they take flight. Trying to stay in tune with the songs that birds create helps me to develop a softer, more kindly, approach to my walking and running, because if I make too much noise then the bird that I am hearing or watching may depart. I become more mindful of taking a slow and steady step, not placing too much strain on my legs or too much vibration on the ground beneath me. I thank the birds for their beauty and I am in awe of the birds that I see diving and then floating upon invisible aerial waves, wishing that I had that ability.
Another dimension to my walking and running that I have discovered in April is the power of landscapes. The terrain where I walk and run is quite hilly and I enjoy reaching the top of a hill and then just cruising along its summit, as I survey the land around me. I notice the many different fields with their different colours – green, brown, yellow, grey. I see the hedgerows between the fields, creating a patchwork of boundaried sections. I notice how some fields are bathed in sunlight whilst others are dark and shadowed.
I have noticed that by looking at the landscape around me, and gaining a sense of perspective and distance regarding what I see, helps me in terms of gaining a perspective over my own life. Some parts of my life contain shadows, difficult periods when I have felt alone and in despair. Some parts of my life contain beautiful birdsong and colourful flowers, also joyful and sensitive creatures like hares or horses. By taking the time to walk or run and reflect upon the landscape I am better able to put the difficult and the joyful times to my life in perspective. My life is a patchwork of different terrain and different colour but the important thing is that I continue to walk or run, I continue to feel the sunshine on my face or the raindrops on my back. I am grounded, in the moment, not overwhelmed by any particular experience or life history. I can observe my life without getting stuck within any particular field; I can place a boundary over a challenging experience as a way of containing this.
In counselling we too can gain perspective over our lives, the challenges, the devastating experiences, alongside any joy. In this way we do not forget about times when we felt positive emotions, when we felt connected. We can draw boundaries over experiences we would rather forget, so that we can appreciate the here and now rather than getting bogged down. We can learn to draw attention to beauty, to be kind to ourselves and to let go of any anxiety, fear, shame, guilt or anger. Wisdom is there for us to behold.
Sometimes we can get involved with people that harm us, psychologically, emotionally and even physically. We may not always see this coming because when we first meet a person they may show us their best side – the funny, easy-going, even sexy side to their personalities. We may at first experience a lot of attention from them that we really like, unaware that the person who we are attracted to has deeper complexities. As the relationship progresses we can begin to experience control, abuse, rejection, even betrayal from our partners and this is very difficult to come to terms with because we can find ourselves looking back and craving the relationship that we used to have, before the toxicity set in. This is even more difficult when we feel alone because our partner has helped to isolate us from our family and friends. It becomes very easy for our lives to then become dominated by a toxic relationship. We can find ourselves constantly thinking about our partner, what they did and said and how bad this made us feel, rather than getting on with leading our own lives. We can lose sight of who we are, our dreams and hopes for the future.
If we find ourselves in a toxic relationship it is important to seek support from another person, and this can be found in a good counsellor. Counselling can help us to explore what the toxic relationship is about, how it is sustained, and how we might try to move out of this. It may be that we have developed an anxious attachment to our toxic partner, whereby we believe that we need our partner, that we cannot continue with our lives if abandoned by them, even though they are not good for us. Counselling can help us to build a secure base from within our own selves, so that we no longer fear abandonment or rejection. Counselling can help to make us feel independent rather than co-dependent, where we feel we are able to live our lives independently of a toxic partner. Self-compassion is key. We must not blame ourselves or be filled with remorse. It is important to build our own self-confidence and self-worth so that we can let go of any toxic relationship.