Sit & Relax
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.
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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 ?
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.
Telephone counselling offers people the opportunity to receive counselling even when they are not living in the same area as the counsellor. Telephone counselling can have many benefits – being able to sit in a place where you feel comfortable, not having to travel to meet the counsellor and there is also more flexibility with the time that you schedule in for sessions. Telephone counselling can really help to talk through what is happening currently for you and the counsellor can reflect back to you as well as suggest small changes you might like to incorporate into your daily life. Speaking over the phone doesn’t interfere with building a positive connection between the client and the counsellor and can really help people feel supported. If you have a lot of ongoing commitments in your life, or if you have found a counsellor that you would like to contact but live too far away from in order to go and see them directly, I would fully recommend trying out telephone counselling.
Bullying often involves an abuse of power. Bullies are often in relationships of power over the people they choose to bully. Bullies can be found at work, within institutions like schools, care homes, prisons, within peer groups and within families. We know that the impacts of bullying are huge. Bullying can make us feel small, humiliated, afraid, even terrified. Bullying can also make us depressed and anxious, and can make us believe that there is something wrong with us.
An important life skill to develop is to be able to manage and deal effectively with bullies. Therapy offers many tools in relation to doing this. One way of dealing with bullying may involve minimising the bully and their effects upon us. For instance, in our minds and on a piece of paper we can shrink the bully in size and manipulate their shape into something that perhaps even makes us laugh at them. We might consider thinking about the bully’s own emotional and psychological state. It may be that they themselves have been bullied or even abused and bullying for them is a coping strategy. Bullies therefore might be viewed as victims as much as perpetrators. We might consider writing a letter to the bully, a letter which we do not send but which enables us to articulate our stories of being bullied. In giving our accounts we can experience distance between ourselves and what is happening or what has happened, thereby reducing the impacts of the trauma.
It is important to highlight the importance of the therapeutic relationship when reflecting upon how to deal with bullies. Experiencing a relationship of trust and unconditional positive regard from a therapist can help us to articulate experiences of bullying, especially those that are extremely sensitive to us. A therapist can validate accounts of bullying by listening and acknowledging traumatic experiences. A therapist can also suggest formal and informal mechanisms of support that can be accessed to help. If bullies are often in relationships of power over those they choose to bully, then it is important for individuals who are experiencing being bullied to have a supportive, non-judgemental relationship with another person, and a good therapist can offer this therapeutic relationship. As a therapist I have found that individuals want their stories of bullying to be heard and believed by another person. This can be as important as providing an individual with the coping skills and tools they need to deal more effectively with the bully. Bullies rely on marginalising their victims. It is therefore important to provide a space in which individuals who are bullied can grow and build their self-confidence, in order to stop any current or future bullying.
Many clients I see have experienced traumatic and troubling experiences in their childhoods. Such experiences may include severe physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse committed by adults who are supposed to care for them. Such experiences may also include the fragmentation that comes with fleeing from a war zone and having to re-settle and re-build a new life within a new country, culture, and environment. Childhood traumas can also include being bullied by other children, or feeling unrecognised by, and isolated from, our peers.
Within each of us is an inner child who can still feel terrified, frightened, angry, frustrated, humiliated, guilty and/or ashamed. As adults we may try to avoid thinking about those times when we were children, when we felt these difficult emotions and when we had challenging experiences. Avoidance only works temporarily, however, because certain situations or people may still create the same overwhelming emotions we experienced as children, and we may have unpleasant flashbacks or memories. Unresolved childhood traumas can create a distance between ourselves and other people, making it extremely challenging to have fulfilling relationships.
It is important for us to build a relationship with our inner child. As an adult it is important to reach out to the child that has been traumatised, to tell that child that things are okay now, that what happened is in the past, that they are no longer alone. In some of the work I do with clients I explore whether clients might like to write a letter to their inner child, or whether they might like to imagine comforting their inner child, or carrying out a fun activity with them. I also may ask a client to go back in time when they were children, when they felt afraid or alone, and what they might like to say to that child now, as an adult. In this way clients are encouraged to engage with, rather than avoid, the child that is inside them, who still craves for love and acceptance.
I do believe that in building a relationship with our inner child we can heal the hurt and pain that is inside. We can become more self-compassionate through caring for our inner child. This can also heighten our awareness of the vulnerability of others, that perhaps everyone has an inner child that needs comforting in one way or another. In this way our inner child can help us to connect with other people and to create a more compassionate World.
The Autumnal Equinox is upon us. This means that there are equal amounts of light and dark hours today. After today, the days will get shorter and the nights will get longer. Transition is upon us. This makes me think about transitions in our lives – school, perhaps university, work, maybe marriage or significant relationships – a whole series of events. Sometimes, an event can happen that casts a shadow upon other experiences that we have. Bereavement, trauma, separation, the list goes on. It is important to connect with these difficult moments in our lives, to reflect upon what they meant to us when they happened and what they mean to us now. We can then decide how we will move on, what we will process and put away so that we can experience life’s many surprises being as fully present in the moment as we can be, without regrets, shame, guilt, even anger.