Mindfulness

sunset-473604_1920What is this new mindfulness malarkey I hear you ask, it seems to be everywhere at the moment. To help grasp what it’s all about I will attempt to uncover the veil of mystery that surrounds mindfulness. It is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It can be used as a therapeutic technique. Oringinally a Bhuddist concept it has been embraced by all as a potential source of calm and quiet that can be learned, taught and practiced.

From reading around the subject it appears Mindfulness is about remembering oneself – being in the moment and appreciating ourselves, beauty and nature around us. Being aware and conscious or ‘mindful’ of the environment we live in, being mindful of ourselves of nature and of one another. It’s a pretty simple technique when you take away all of the jargon it is effectively about being in the here and now feeling present and trying to focus on oneself. To be still and pause life’s distractions and meditate on what it is to be you. Tuning in to your inner self to become aware of your body, spirit and soul.

yoga-1787663_1920According to stillmind.com.au Mindfulness means to deliberately pay attention to whatever you are doing, right now. Mindfulness therapy means firstly to have a daily mindfulness practice and to use what we learn from it to remain aware during the difficult situations in life. In particular we become aware of our

  • thoughts “I must be stupid to do this”,
  • feelings: sadness, anger etc,
  • behaviour: aggression, withdrawing, doing a breathing exercise
  • physiological changes: fast breathing, weight in stomach, pins and needles, nausea.

These are the big four, we will be coming back to thoughts, feelings, behaviour, physiological changes time and again. A range of mindfulness exercises address the different areas.

Mindfulness therapy means to simply observe what is happening to us in those four areas, particularly with difficult emotions. You may express what is happening either in a journal or to someone else but there is no intention to change anything. The aim is more to become familiar with how the mind works and its habit patterns.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Your mind is like any other part of your being, there are benefits from  understanding how it works and you can train it to work better. Specifically a mindfulness practice has the following benefits:

  1. Stability of mind – maintaining your mind in an alert clear space rather than at the two extremes of a dull or agitated mind.
  2. Flexibility of mind – the ability to shift your mind to whatever object you choose, rather than having it bounce haphazardly between a number of issues
  3. Self awareness – being aware of the contents of your mind and understanding the typical patterns of your mind
  4. Acting rather than reacting –  Becoming less reactive, e.g. when you are angry and choosing how you will act.

It’s not called a practice for nothing. Like any other form of therapy real change will require hard work and commitment, in this case a commitment to maintain your practice six days per week.

How does it work?

While most of what we achieve is by “doing”, mindfulness achieves its ends by “not doing,” simply by observing. It seems to achieve its success by allowing us to see our thoughts and emotions for what they are, thoughts we are having at the moment and emotions we are experiencing.

Thoughts like “I must be stupid” are subtle and we generally believe them uncritically. By being mindful of our thoughts we gradually get the idea that they are just thoughts that we are having and there is no need to believe them uncritically. Similarly with a feeling like “anger” we start to realize that it is a feeling that is currently strong within us but no more than that, we currently have anger, but it doesn’t define us and it will pass. We stop identifying with the thoughts and emotions. Our mind ceases to be in the control of strong feelings and thoughts and slowly comes under our own control.

So lets take back our power and stop letting our critical minds control us, lets start to live in a more conscious and aware way, noticing life’s subtle messages and recognising our own processes so that we can become our own best freind and work towards achieving our true potential.

Try a few exercises courtesy of stillmind.com.au

mindfulness-of-the-breath

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Conquering The Assassin Within

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you just cant get that critical voice out of your head. Y’know the one that tells you how useless you are and how you will never get anywhere in life?

Somebody once described it as having their own inner assassin that would murder any positive thoughts he had and replace them with doubt and fear of failure. This would prevent him from trying new things and forming new relationships. So who is this assassin, and what are they repeatedly whispering to you?

To understand this concept and break it down we need to identify what messages were passed on to us through significant people in our lives growing up like parents, teachers, siblings etc. Were they positive or negative? What impact did they have on us as children that have left a lasting imprint in our hearts and minds? Also we need to examine what we think of ourselves, do we like who we are, or are there aspects of ourselves that we dislike and if so how does this manifest itself.

It feels as if I have been writing a series of questions without providing any answers to help understand the issue. So in keeping with the person centered approach to therapy, here is my humble view on the matter. As young children we are hugely influenced by the significant adults around us and what they say has a lot of value and weight. We believe them, we internalise their views and thoughts of us until we form a concept of ourselves that is socially acceptable and pleasing to others in order to be liked and approved of. Sometimes this ‘self concept’ (public persona) is close to our ‘authentic self’ (true personality) and sometimes it is very different. The greater the difference between our true self and our constructed self the stronger the disharmony and inner conflict. So if you grew up being told you were stupid, ugly and useless by significant people around you- chances are they formed part of your critical inner voice as you internalised those negative views. Often our critical inner voice is mistaken for our conscience but it is not- the difference is our conscience is a moral guide and doesnt bully us, it reasons with us. The critical inner voice is always negative and hurtful, defensive and cruel to us.

It is the part of us that is turned against ourselves. The negative part of our personality that is against our personal development. The voice is highly judgmental and encourages self defeatist thoughts and behaviours. It revels in making us feel unworthy, unloved and have low self esteem. It sneers at us and sows seeds of doubt in our capabilities encouraging us to have a cynical and pessimistic view of the world around us. Teaching us not to trust others and keeps us in a state of conflict, anxiety and disharmony. We all struggle with our critical inner voice to varying degrees but if we “listen” to its destructive points of view and actually believe what it is saying to us, then we will fail to challenge it and instead will act on it. This process often has seriously negative consequences on our lives.

So how can you challenge your critical inner voice? You can take back your power when you become conscious of what it is telling you. Self awareness is key here, know yourself enough to understand when the voice is destructive – you can stop it from running your life. The challenge is to identify and eliminate this toxic internal dialogue. To do this, be mindful around times of sudden mood changes, upset and anger. Think about what caused this shift, what triggered this reaction and most importantly, what did you start telling yourself after the event? The fact that your mood shifted from feeling positive or relaxed to feeling upset or frustrated is probably an indication that you are interpreting the event via your critical inner voice.

Once you have identified that it is your critical inner voice that is advising you, reflect on what it wants you to do. If those actions would cause pain, hurt, upset or destruction then understand that you have a choice to not act on those instructions but take control over your critical inner voice. You can consciously decide to take action against its suggestions and do what feels right and better for you and your personal development. Its catching the thought as it tries to becomes a negative action and directing it towards a more positive goal acting in your own interest. For example- you are about to go out on a blind date- you look in the mirror and your critial inner voice pipes up “you look awful- you cant go out wearing that, you dont have anything to wear that looks nice, and anyway who would look twice at you- once they get to know the real you they will dump you anyway. Dont even bother trying its not worth it.” Imagine that was you- what would you do next? Could you recognise that was your critical inner voice or would you succumb to its toxic whispers?

Remember that you do have a choice and can choose not to be controlled by it just take your time, have some self compassion and patience to slowly undo those years of conditioning to become the person you want to be. What better time to start than a new year- make 2017 your year. If you liked this article or have any comments please share below..

25 Tips for Couples in Relationships

1. Build a friendship with your spouse, re-connect. Try to remember what drew you both together in the first place.

2. Conflict resolution- try to communicate without blaming, or harsh words. Listen to each others perspectives be open and accept your own part in the dispute.

3. Try to avoid fights by nipping things in the bud as they arise not let them fester and grow bigger. 

4. What to do after a fight- what is your pattern? Do you sulk, give each other the cold shoulder? Apologise and make up, or carry on as if nothing happened after some time apart? Explore what works for your relationship try talking about it when not in argument during a time of calm to decide what techniques work best.

5. Try to connect with your spouse emotionally and physically talk about happy memories and focus on hopes for the future. Show affection in gestures, through small gifts and kind words to one another and commit to fulfilling each others sexually. Share your likes and dislikes- get to know each other properly.

6. Remember men are more visually stimulated and women are more emotionally driven- this is not to say the opposite isn’t also true just bear this in mind. 

7. Reflect on what your actions are saying to your spouse- do they convey a sense of love, warmth, trust, respect? 

8. Learn to communicate effectively and How to listen actively- not just pay lip service. Listen to hear, not to respond.

9. Take into account all of the non-verbal communication going on between you. Body language, facial expression, positive or negative vibes. Address issues as they arise in a sensitive way.

10. Remember how important the role of humour is in a relationship and encourage this, laughing also releases feel good chemicals.

11. Remember the importance of spirituality in your marriage, do you both have the same faith, values, beliefs? Is that a source of conflict or peace in your relationship? Have an open discussion about this if its a problem.

12. Learn new ways to increase peace and cooperation in your marriage, let some things go, pick your battles and remember everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Sometimes you have to agree to disagree.

13. Accept that life is not all mapped out and both of you will have shortcomings and good points so tolerate the bad and celebrate the good. 

14. Continue in Self-development in every area of your life, dont stagnate. People change all the time so keep up with yourself.

15. Establish building strong self-esteem for yourself and your partner- support each others dreams.

16. Learn how to manage your emotions and share feelings so that you dont shut each other out and disconnect.

17. Establish trust and rebuild trust if broken- it takes time so exercise patience, caution and practice honesty.

18. Show and earn respect towards one another.

19. Learn how to cope with common conflicts about money- agree on if you both want a joint account or keep individual accounts to manage household finances. Money is one of the major causes of divorce so focus and discuss this early on in the relationship.

20. Learn to live and love with a higher purpose- ultimately the aim is to remain faithful and build a lasting relationship and family.

21. Bring out the best in your spouse- influence each other in positive ways and show appreciation for each others efforts.

22. Live up to your highest potential individually and together as a couple. Navigate as a team through life’s difficulties, share problem solving tasks.

23. Build your self-esteem and boost each others confidence with kind words, gestures and practical support.

24. Recognise and overcome your shortcomings- support your partner in doing the same. 

25. Improve your attitude and expectations about marriage- be realistic and contribute to the relationship fully. Mind over matter. A positive attitude can take you a long way in appreciating what you do have as opposed to focussing on what you dont.

Stop..Think..Reflect..Act

heart skyDo you ever feel like life is just passing you by, that you are living day to day going through the same routine not really thinking about the past, present or future? Just getting through the daily drudge of life not having time for self reflection or self care, just existing and paying bills. Going to work or looking after the family- whatever it is that you do on a day-to-day basis life just goes on and you are not fully present in mind, body and spirit because things are so hectic. You just race from one task to another trying to fit it all in until life becomes overwhelmingly busy and difficult to keep up with.

Until one day you realise how out of touch you are with yourself and other people. Who are you anyway? What is it that you wanted to achieve in life? Have you ever stopped to think about the quality of your life? Your work/home life balance, your achievements, your ambitions and aspirations. How many people really stop, think and reflect on things like that on a day-to-day basis?

My challenge to you is that you press pause on your life for at least 10 minutes a day, it can be in the morning or in the evening whenever suits you. Just sit and meditate on your life. Think about who you are, who you want to become and what you want in life. Reflect on how you can achieve those things. Techniques like mindfulness or brain storming your thoughts can aid in this. Try to sit in quiet contemplation and really process what’s going on for you at the moment. Ideally this is best done with as minimal distractions as possible and not in the presence of anybody else. Just you, in a private quiet space really focussing can be a powerful way of reconnecting with yourself as a person and can help you to prioritise things in your life. Try this challenge for 30 days until it becomes part of your daily routine. See what impact tuning into yourself for at least 10 minutes a day has on your personal development. Maybe it will help you to re-organise and prioritise the more important things in life. You never know what light bulb moments may be in store for you!

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.

Diary of Mr ‘Anonymous’ in Therapy

Below is the diary of a man we shall refer to as ‘Mr Anonymous’ as he has offered to share with you lovely people his journey through therapy so far, he has given me express permission and signed consent to share this information in the hope that it inspires and encourages others to reach out for therapy if they need it. Mr Anonymous wanted me to share excerpts from his own therapy diary which details a refreshingly honest and open account of the process of change he went through.

Issues I chose to address How I was before Starting Therapy Mid -Therapy Learning Moving Forwards
Talk too much Felt the need to talk a lot- to be noticed, to be the joker, friendly, be seen as likeable and accepted. It was the only way to get noticed as a child by my busy father. Discussed painful challenge from peers about talking too much, airspace, felt my mother haunting me. She always said I talked too much. Brought hurt to surface and I went silent withdrew. Reflected on my childhood and history of relating to others. Worked hard to achieve a balance. Embraced the challenge and balance of speaking, listening and hearing. Feel I don’t talk as much around friends and family. Noticed changing dynamics as a result. Can notice more when I talk less. Feels ok to talk less and have had personal growth from working in this area. Effective in personal, professional and private life. I still like talking but its more measured and less just for the sake of it. Enjoy hearing others speak and learn more from listening. Need to continue working on it.
 

Vulnerable

Heart on sleeve

 

 

 

Too open to the point others were able to easily manipulate, control, and upset me. Too emotionally available to others not keeping anything back for myself. Vulnerable.

 

Didn’t realise I was the one leaving myself open to such hurt in my eagerness to be there for everyone else. I forgot about myself and my needs. I thought by helping others I would feel fulfilled. That was not the case. People took, I gave, nothing left. I started to recognise changing dynamics in relationships with others as I began to hold back a little.

 

I still have a relatively open heart and still fall into the pit of past mistakes but am more aware of it and can sometimes stop myself. I don’t want to change my heart too much but do want to guard it better so have developed some careful defences such as not being so emotionally available and learned to say no to favours.

 

A work in progress, the security guard in charge of my heart is being given new instructions daily, but I still remain open most hours. This suits me fine, it’s when I feel I am being taken advantage of that I pull up my barriers and shut up shop. I distance myself to keep myself safe and am learning to be more assertive to have my needs met. Need to work on not feeling responsible for others all the time.

(Personal History)

 

Self- awareness

 

 

I went about life in a haze of selflessness feeling selfish and guilty if I did anything for myself. Totally convinced I was ok, but secretly knowing things kept going wrong. No matter how much or what I did for others it wasn’t enough, I still got criticised, and beat myself up believing every word they said. Turning the anger inwards on myself.

 

I started to realise how desperately I wanted to feel needed, liked and accepted by others. Like the ‘real me’ wasn’t good enough so I would perform to be liked, always the joker, agony uncle or dependable one. Recognising how much I did for others in comparison to what I got back was eye opening. I started to learn more about the real me and my self- concept.

 

I am still uncovering layers of myself hidden away from my own self. I am more self- aware and recognise when I’m doing things that go against my nature just to be accepted. Knowing and acting on that knowledge is my challenge. Changing behaviours is hard when it’s been a lifetime long thing, subconscious influences abound. I learn more via my relationships in my personal life. It has helped me understand how easily people can misunderstand, assume or prejudge others. I have definitely embraced the congruence with empathy concept.

 

A work in progress, my self- awareness is more acute than it was, but can be improved. Still unpicking the past to make sense of my present. I’m reflecting on the emotional maze of my life so far. I feel hopeful that with this awareness I can change patterns of behaviours, thoughts and relationships to fit me better. This will in turn impact on my relationships as my empathy and understanding of self improves so will my practice with others as I learn more and develop further.

       
Self -care

 

 

There was a time when I thought self -care was sleeping, and eating. It is so much more than that but my understanding and awareness of it was so limited. The concept was alien to me. I never did anything unless it benefitted someone else before me. I felt greedy, guilty and selfish if I did anything for myself, like I wasn’t allowed as it was frowned on in my family. Selflessness was the order of the day.

 

I quickly recognised that self- care was important to staying healthy in every way and it wasn’t just about food and sleep. It was looking after myself emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and spiritually. The whole entity of my being not just two aspects. As I started to look after myself it felt wrong, like I had to hide and do it. I did enjoy the feeling it gave me and ‘me’ days became a monthly activity.

 

I have learned to schedule in me-time and openly enjoy time away from family. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands and is supportive of my quest for fulfilling my life’s potential. I still feel pangs of guilt for leaving the children as they tug on my emotional heart strings moaning they will miss me so I do cave in and buy them gifts to compensate on my return journey- to please them. See how powerful these core processes are!

 

I understand that in order to look after others I have to look after myself first. I feel liberated as I allow myself to spend time and money on myself. To practice safely I need to first and foremost look after myself and give myself the loving conditions. Otherwise I could burn out and do more harm than good to myself and my relationships A work in progress…

 

People Pleasing  

People pleasing has been my core process that’s been the most difficult to change. I wasn’t even aware of it before therapy and felt it was who I was full stop. Never questioned it and thought it was good and healthy. I had limited awareness of my gut instincts and often ignored them not trusting or listening to my self. Internal vs external voices. At this point I listened more to others about what was good for me. I was never the champion voice in all aspects of my life.

 

I realised how much I was influenced by others and how out of touch I was with my own self but continued to make the same mistakes, and pleasing others at my own expense. So knowledge alone didn’t help, in fact the awareness of it frustrated me even more because now even though I knew I felt I was still unable to change. I had a crisis of identity not knowing who I was anymore and looking for myself in others, in work, but not in myself.

I made some tough decisions and stayed true to myself actually tuning into my inner voice, hearing it for the first time clearly over the hubbub of the many external voices telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I questioned my value and worth as a person. Was it enough to be me? I was torn internally with conflict as the process of change began. I fell into darkness emotionally for a few weeks feeling lost. I finally recognised that in all my people pleasing the one person I failed to please was myself.  

Trying to overcome my people pleasing nature is like trying to drink soup with a fork. Frustratingly slow, drip by drip and almost impossible to finish. Yet I am aware that this is my core process and will always be part of me. It’s how I manage it. I need balance in my life and to feel my needs are fulfilled first. Then I can offer others what’s left. I don’t think I will ever fully shake off trying to please others but I can lessen its extent allowing myself more freedom, time, energy and peace. Just trust the process. Avoiding conflict, challenge or sharing my truth to please others is not something I want to do anymore.

         
Defences My ability to mask pain with humour was something I learned early on in life. It worked a treat enabling me to form freindships, escape from reality and perform like an actor acting out a life chosen by me far from reality. Childhood was a difficult time for me and I learned how to cope best I could with conflicting parental role models who had their own emotional baggage. They did their best.

 

 

 

 

I learned fast how easy my defences kicked in when feeling threatened or challenged by others. Magnifying them made me recognise how much my parents impacted on my self- concept and patterns of relating to others. Saying sorry was my mantra I was always in trouble for something or other and this I carried into adulthood. Apologising myself out of existence just in case I had upset someone. It was a defence against others anger, and a protection from being hurt if accepted. Door mat. Social chameleon adapting for others to fit in, joking my life away.

 

Being aware of my defences doesn’t make it any easier to shed them. Only some have outgrown their use. It’s so tiring having to over perform, over achieve and be the joker. I do it less now, but in social situations this still occurs. I have been typecast into people’s memories and when I meet old friends I subconsciously perform again. Only I am aware of it now and try to control it. A meeting with school friends recently was good practice, I tried to be me and less jokey, they didn’t like me any less. They commented how grown up I sounded and liked this new aspect of me.

 

I enjoy joking and being light hearted but for the right reasons and not in order to please others to fit in. My humour is part of me and all I need to continue working on are knowing when, and why I perform. To be myself and have that humour not used as a defence to hide behind but to genuinely express my joy and have fun.

I don’t feel the need to hide my pain as much as I used to. I can show more of my authentic self to others now than before but am slowly progressing. I need to keep myself safe in the process of revealing my truths so everything in due measure. A work in progress this one.

         
 

(Personal challenge)

 

Self -acceptance

 

I thought I was ok. I never really loved myself but felt I liked aspects of myself enough to get by in oblivion to what I was yet to learn about myself. I thought people who loved themselves were narcissists and self- absorbed. Negative labels for a fulfilled fully functioning person. My understanding was skewered by life’s examples to me so far. My culture didn’t allow me to be proud of myself it was frowned upon to think anything good about yourself- my dad taught me that no matter how good you think you are you can always do better- hence the constant over achieving, over performing and seeking perfection, needing to get it right or I won’t be accepted.

 

 

I looked at my self- concept and saw everyone else, not me. I examined my processes and saw it reflected my parents subtle messages to me growing up . I felt sad for the lost little me trapped inside the dilemma of myself. Who was I anyway? What did it mean to be me before, and now the changing me. Was I enough for me, for others? Would this new emerging confused me work in reality? I didn’t want to change too much but did want to reconnect with myself. I was scared and excited, delving into my own depths I found more than I could have expected. I could barely breath like a tsunami of emotions, I had stored for so long hitting me so hard I felt unconscious and conscious at once.

 

I am beginning to get used to not knowing who I am, or who I thought I was. I’m still in a strange place emotionally trying new things and feeling everything with a new vigour. Like seeing and feeling emotions in technicolour for the first time after having black and white for so long. It hurts but feels good at the same time. I feel emotional and connected to my roots more than I have ever felt before. I have tempered my anger, cautioned my inner parent, soothed my inner child, teased my control and liberated my emotional expression.

 

I have yet to fully accept myself and all aspects/ configurations of myself. To fully accept, I have to know myself and I am still learning new things about myself. However what I am learning I am accepting.  Some parts of me remain a challenge. I still struggle with my need to feel in control, to people please all the time, and the pressure I put on myself to get things right and over perform. To be the joker and allow others to hurt me. Lots of personal development and growth yet to work on but I am aware of it and actively exploring them which is much better than living in oblivion.

I Hate My Body…

id-100423960Poor body image is fast becoming an issue across the globe especially with the younger generation. In this modern era of technology, focus on body image and selfies it’s no wonder we can get hung up on how we look or how we are perceived by others. The need to belong, dress well, look good and keep up with fashion trends puts many people under pressure financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically.

Social media, peer pressure and society at large has showcased what is classed as ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ the concern is how unrealistic some of these expectations are and how difficult it can be to achieve the ‘perfect look’. With airbrushed images in magazines and painfully thin catwalk models photographed to model make up, clothing and perfume it’s easy to become obsessed with how we look in comparison.

From researching the topic I have discovered that increasingly men are just as affected by poor body image and the impact is widespread with young men and teenagers feeling inadequate, unattractive and becoming obsessed with going to the gym, following specific diets to boost muscle tone and some resorting to steroid use. All in the name of looking good and feeling socially accepted or attractive.

Low self -esteem and low self-worth resulting out of being unhappy with our appearance can cause many side effects, anxiety and depression naming just two. The thing about hating one’s appearance is that it is not limited to the young, indeed it cuts across all ages, races, and cultures, people experience daily self-shaming thoughts about their appearance. We are often our own worst critics and can be so damaging in our views of ourselves. We all live with an ‘inner critic’ it’s that internal voice that only we can hear telling us how awful we look, or that we are ugly, too fat, stupid or unworthy of love. In order to combat these thoughts and change them from harsh, unkind, cold and critical to warm compassionate, caring and accepting we have to first acknowledge the voice exists, and then recognise how damaging it is to our reality. Then effectively cast out the negative voice replacing it with a more loving voice that appreciates and understands the challenges and struggles you face. Allowing yourself permission to stop, hear and reflect on the inner dialogue ongoing inside can help you to realise just how harmful your own thoughts are and how effectively they attack the core of you.

By taking control of that inner critic by expelling it you create the space needed to practice self -compassion and allow yourself to feel warmth and kindness towards yourself. A technique that can be used and may sound a bit odd- but bear with me here- is to look at yourself in the mirror when alone and say out loud to yourself the opposite of what your critical inner voice is saying. For example “I am attractive” or “I am worthy of love” because the only person saying otherwise is often the enemy within, our inner critic.

Our inner critics didn’t just explode into existence out of nowhere they were created by a series of negative events, thoughts or experiences we may have had growing up, that imprinted on our psyche from childhood into adulthood.  These thoughts become so familiar that we own them even though they harm us and keep us stuck in negative self- hating positions. We struggle with issues of low self-esteem, humiliation, rejection, and disappointment due to experiences we had in childhood. As children we may have internalised the negative emotions from significant adults around us and looked within ourselves rather than finding fault with adults upon whom we were dependent. Thus beginning the cycle of critical inner thoughts.

In general children are quite receptive to what is happening around them and will often blame themselves for things going wrong- some may blame their physical appearance, feeling that if they had been more attractive then they may have received more love and attention. Others may feel if they had behaved better it may have prevented some family tragedy following a bereavement, parental separation or divorce.

Children develop their sense of being by how significant adults around them perceive them, the messages they give “you’re a good girl because you don’t get angry” or “stop wimpering and man up” these voices are internalised and can become debilitating in adulthood. Not only are adults passing on strong messages of how to behave to be accepted but also how they cope in times of strife. Children role model parents and many parents do not realise how their own low self-esteem can be passed on to their sons and daughters. Picture this scene, a parent preparing to go out with friends wears an outift and then exclaims “gosh I look so ugly in this” and then discards it for another looking at themselves with disgust in the mirror- this could be a mother, father, older sibling- the impact is there. Don’t think for a second that any child witnessing this scene is not taking in the messages about poor body image and so it continues down the line in families from generation to generation.

Conquering the enemy within..

  1. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, tell yourself to stop being so mean.
  1. Don’t let the inner critic beat you down emotionally, stand up against it and recognise it for the bully it is.
  1. Know your worth, value and respect yourself, if somebody else said those hurtful things to you- you wouldn’t stand for it- so why allow your own voice the pleasure?
  1. Flip the script, whatever the inner voice says- you externalise and be objective about it. So if the inner voice says “I am so ugly” externalise it by saying “you are so ugly” and allow yourself to hear the words it will highlight how cruel this inner voice can be and how it is an enemy not a true reality.
  1. Write down responses that are more compassionate and accepting of yourself “I am not ugly, I have lovely features”
  1. Never give in to the inner critic- don’t despair or feel defeated by it. If it tells us not to bother changing because we will never succeed then do the opposite- take control of your life and make the changes you want to make you feel stronger and more confident. Just persevere and overcome that negative voice inside. Don’t give it power by listening and acting according to it. It will eventually fade out.
  1. Remember you are not alone in this struggle, just about every person in existence is battling with their own inner critics and waging their own inner wars in battles that you may never come to know about. So be kind, compassionate, and accepting not just to others but first and foremost to yourself.

 

Anger Management

anger pic

Anger management is a term used to describe the skills you need to recognise that you, or someone else, is becoming angry and take appropriate action to deal with the situation in a positive way. Anger management does not mean internalising or suppressing anger.

In today’s society there are so many ways we can lose our temper, a forgotten anniversary, a job loss, road rage, pressures at work, home and in relationships are all things that press that stress button and can turn into anger when things feel out of control.

What is important to note is that anger like any other emotion is not bad in and of itself. Anger has its place in the emotional spectrum of life and serves its purpose well when used effectively and in a healthy way. For instance being angry about past childhood abuse and expressing this by picking up the phone and venting to a trusted freind could release repressed anger. Or going to the gym after an argument and exerting yourself physically as a way of releasing negative emotions is a constructive way of managing anger.

There are instances when anger is needed for instance in a survival situation, if a person was physically attacking you, the natural instinct is to fight back, anger would form part of the necessary emotions that would be present. Feeling angry is a human reaction to something that happens, such as someone scaring you, it is natural. Feelings are not the same as actions, most people feeling angry do not abuse others. Identifying and expressing your anger directly can help you to protect yourself and others.

Being open and honest about how you feel inside is a way to raise your self esteem and to let others know where you stand whilst still respecting others. In contrast supressing anger can use up energy, cause physical problems, or burst out in a way that wasnt meant to happen.

What helps is finding a safe way to express your anger, and controlling your anger by recognising your own triggers, reactions and patterns when getting angry. Anger becomes destructive and harmful when out of control.

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Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you the type that holds their anger until you burst? Or do you get angry in a flash but then calm down just as quick?
  • What makes you angry?
  • When angry what do you do?
  • What do you say?
  • How do you behave?
  • Do you know your triggers?
  • Do you feel out of control or can you hold your temper well?
  • What techniques do you currently use to calm down?
  • Can you manage your anger, expressing it whilst remaining respectful of yourself and others?

As children we learn how to cope with life’s challenges from our parents and other significant adults in our lives, this can help or hinder our progress into adulthood depending on how they managed their anger. If being angry was a scary volatile thing we may shy away from expressing it. If anger was used to get things needed in life we may use it to assert ourselves. If anger at home growing up was the cause for violence or substance misuse we may follow through in similar patterns as parents are often role modelled by children. It is about recognising that patterns can be changed and that you dont have to react in the same way. You can learn new ways of managing anger that are healthy and not abusive. Anger is a powerful emotion but more powerful is the way you choose to manage it.

Some Tips

  • Always think before you speak –Often we do a lot of damage in the heat of the moment, what is said cannot be unsaid. Try not to say something you’ll later regret.
  • Fresh air and physical exercise-Going to the gym, or taking a walk for some air can help reduce stress, and help you to calm down. Whatever works, for some it may be putting on their favourite song and having a moment, for others it could be going for a jog around the block thus removing themselves from the situation long enough to reset emotionally.
  • Express your anger once you feel calmer and more in control-In order to communicate your message so that others can hear it do so once you are thinking clearly, and can express your frustration in an assertive but non-threatening way. Share your concerns and needs clearly without hurting others or trying to control them.
  •  Own your feelings- Try not to use accusatory language that sounds like you are blaming or criticising (even if you feel like it) “you never help me you just come and go as you please using this place like a hotel!” Sound familiar? This may antagonise the situation. Flip the script try saying “I feel upset that the house is in a mess and would like some help with clearing up.” It’s about being respectful and specific and owning how we feel using “I” statements. Also try to avoid over exaggerating issues by using seeping statements and over generalising, like “you never remember my birthday” it can have the opposite effect and cause more tension.
  • Explore possible solutions-Try to think of how to make things better instead of getting worked up over what went wrong. Work on resolving the issue at hand. What caused the anger, how can it be managed if that same scenario played out again? For example: Feeling overwhelmed with household chores? Ask for help- draw up a schedule and delegate tasks to other family members so that the pressure is not upon you alone. Remember that anger won’t solve any problems, it may make things worse.
  • Humour helps- It is possible to use humour to diffuse tense situations. It can help to explore what’s making us angry. Sometimes we have unrealistic expectations for how we want things to be, in recognising this we can address matters. Be careful that any jokes, or humour used do not come across as minimising the issues, sound sarcastic or offensive. This could hurt people’s feelings and make things worse.
  • Breathing and Relaxation- Try practising mindfulness techniques of deep breathing, meditating and imagining a calm scene. Maybe a favourite holiday destination sticks in the mind- lying in a hammock on a sunny sandy beach beneath palm trees with the ocean lapping at the shore and fresh cocktails and exotic foods within your reach. (works for me) Music helps so if you like put on your favourite song. Some people like to write so if poetry is your thing then read or write some poems, pen some lyrics for a song, or journal as a way of putting thoughts on paper. Do whatever works for you.
  • Improve communications by agreeing to disagree- Sometimes we just cannot reach a resolution due to differences in opinion but this doesnt mean that there is no way forward. Learn to respectfully agree to disagree and not force ones opinions on another. We are all unique and operate at different levels. Variety is the spice of life so dont feel that your way is the only way forward, be open and receptive to try new things. Most of all respect that everybody is entitled to their own opinion.
  • Forgive and move on-Try not to hold grudges, it takes up so much more energy to hate than to love. Forgiveness is freeing and can release you and the other person from the grip of negativity. Re-hashing over events can cause stuck-ness in relationships and result in an unhappy bitterness that feels horrible to live with. Be open, honest and share how you feel, ask how the other person feels-in this way you can work together to find a resolution, do so respectfully- you may both learn valuable lessons from the experience.
  • Recognise when to ask for support-Controlling anger is a challenge for us all and every now and then we could all do with some additional support, tips and techniques. It might be worth considering help with anger issues if your anger causes you to say and do things you regret, if when angry you become violent, aggressive or hurt others, and when angry you feel out of control.

If you feel you need support with managing your anger dont hesitate to contact me for therapeutic support. couple counselling pic