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.

incredible-hulk-1527199_640

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

Couples Counselling

Couple counselling can help by looking at relationship patterns, dynamics and conflicts. By working together, potential areas of difficulties can be identified, explored and addressed to help couples move forward and resolve issues arising that may be causing stress and upset.

Couple counselling can be carried out with couples in any kind of relationship: hetero-sexual; homosexual, bi-sexual; transgender; married or co-habiting; separating or divorcing; love marriages and arranged marriages. Essentially it is about finding common ground between two people who care about each other and re-negotiating ways of being with one another to promote a harmonious union. Therapy can support couples to improve how they communicate and offers a safe space for both to feel heard and understood.

Issues That Bring People to Couple Counselling

  • Poor communication and problem-solving
  • Repetitive arguments
  • Sexual issuescouple pic
  • Porn addiction
  • Jealousy
  • An affair
  • Ex partners causing issues
  • Feelings of distance in the relationship
  • Feelings of anger or resentment
  • Managing a separation or divorce
  • Broken trust
  • Differences in parenting style
  • Loss of attraction to partner
  • Poor body image, low self esteem impacting on the relationship
  • Gambling Issues
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Financial stress
  • Loss of respect
  • Domestic or Financial abuse
  • Past childhood sexual abuse
  • Lack of intimacy and other supportive and positive aspects of healthier relationships
  • Strained extended family relationships

The above list is not exhaustive and often couple counsellors deal with many more issues that are not listed.

Can Couple Counselling Help?

With the aid of therapy couple’s can re-discover what first attracted them to one another, re-ignite a lost spark and can bring peace, stability, and healthy communication back into the relationship.

Couple counselling can help in a number of ways:

  • To communicate in a more open, honest and constructive way
  • Listen to, hear and understand each other with an open heart.
  • Own feelings and be more sensitive to partners needs
  • Resolve conflicts
  • Break negative cycles and patterns which cause hurt and stuckness
  • Work together to negotiate difficult decisions
  • Reconnect with each other physically, sexually, emotionally and intellectually
  • Enjoy the relationship again, have fun and learn new relationship skills
  • Explore the impact of change and loss
  • Achieve goals and develop solutions for resolving problems
  • Think, feel, and respond more effectively with each other at home, work and in social situations around freinds and family.

As with all things in life one size does not fit all, and each couple will have their own unique issues to address. It is up to the couple to decide what issues to explore and the counsellor to facilitate. In some cases one partner may not wish to attend counselling and in such cases only one partner can attend to discuss issues individually. However when both people are in attendance it is more conducive to change as both would be committed to attend and seek a way forward together.

There are certain circumstances when couple counselling may not be appropriate for instance when there is domestic abuse or violence in the relationship. In such a situation safety is of paramount importance and individual counselling would be better suited as working with both partners may not be advisable.

Some Tips

  • Saying and hearing ‘thank you’ for everyday tasks
  • Listening without trying to fix each others problems
  • Apologising for mistakes made
  • Gently introducing troublesome issues
  • Seeing each other’s point of view even if you disagree
  • Respectfully withdrawing from distressing arguments
  • Appreciating what is at stake in the relationship
  • Comforting and listening to each other’s deeper feelings and concerns
  • Seeking and accepting invitations for close connection
  • Giving equal importance to each other’s feelings values and beliefs
  • Expressing curiosity in each other’s activities
  • Holding onto our own dreams whilst supporting each other’s dreams
  • Standing up for ourselves without putting each other down
  • Accepting the things in life that cannot be changed
  • Seeking agreement with each other about the ‘meaningful things’ in life
  • Shifting from a life of constant ‘doing’ to a life of peaceful ‘being’

If you are in a relationship and are struggling with any aspects of it, please do not hesitate to contact me for support. I can see you alone or together with your partner whichever you feel most comfrotable with.

 

 

Identity Loss

who

How do you ‘lose’ your identity?

Losing your identity can be a long process that occurs over a period of months or years, but can also happen suddenly following a major life event or trauma. Loss of identity can follow various life changes personally and professionally in the workplace. Loss of a job or profession, loss of a significant loved one, such as a child, parent, or spouse. Loss leaves gaps, empty spaces. Such lossess can trigger increased levels of anxiety, low self-worth, depression, isolation and feeling alone, all of which impact on our ability to maintain relationships with other people.

Identity can also be lost when merging into a relationship that becomes imbalanced. A healthy relationship offers both partners the opportunity to connect with one another without cutting off the outside world. It promotes reciprocation in respecting the other and maintaining an individual sense of self. We may lose some identity, even in the most healthy of relationships, as we try to adjust our behaviours, and accommodate our partners, to create a dynamic that works for the relationship. There may be some changes in our levels of independence as we lean on our partners or have certain expectations, a level of co-dependency may occur. However, in abusive relationships this change could be more obvious, resulting in one partner dominating the other and removing choice, control and independence causing a total loss of who you are. This can often be seen in families where domestic abuse has become ‘normalised’ via systematic conditioning over time.

Often when we lose our identity and sense of who we are, we look to others for our sense of self-worth needing external validation and fulfilment. We feel the need to seek reassurance from others and what they think of us shapes how we view ourselves. We glean our self esteem, confidence and self worth from others based on how they percieve us according to factors like how we dress, our physical appearance and financial status. We seek praise from others to feel OK about ourselves – but in reality, our emotional well-being depends on how we feel about ourselves. We are the only ones that count but often dont realise it. It is what we think about ourselves that is the key, without being influenced by others. At the core of ourselves do we like, accept, value and respect who we are and what we stand for? If not why?

Our self worth or– our ‘identity’ – should be informed by our own experiences of self and not from what others think about us. Too often we worry about others judging us and we put way too much emphasis on how we look, or behave in order to ‘fit in’ be accepted and be liked. What we forget is that others have their own stuff going on too. Each person is waging a war with their own selves and could be projecting onto others their own insecurities. Hence being measured  by others we often fall short of their requirements and expectations, so what do we do? We act, we become the big pretenders, create an illusion of self that seems more acceptable -but wearing this mask can become exhausting. Showing the world our ‘best-self’, socially when really inside, we may be feeling very different can contradict our emotional selves. We hide the real ‘me’ underneath, afraid of rejection or of not being good enough if we show our true selves. It can become problematic when this is happening all the time, when we are more our ‘created selves, than our genuine selves’.

It can divide the psyche causing incongruence between what we say, what we do and how we think, such contradictions can lead to personal anxiety and unhappiness. Our dependency on external validation prevents our true selves from being out there, and impacts on our personal growth, as well as the opportunity for happiness. Our life experiences shape who we have become and often looking at the past we can track our life changes and see what led us to who we are today. For example a person who was bullied in childhood and had abusive parents may suffer with low self esteem into adulthood if issues were left unresolved. Parental neglect, abuse and trauma from childhood will impact on how we view ourselves and in turn how we interact with others. Such feelings may be re-triggered by major life events, or a change in life circumstances. For instance a person who was picked on at school and has low self confidence, finds himself in adulthood being bullied by their manager at work , this could trigger an emotional response and they may regress back to that childhood state of being fearful and anxious as the associated feelings become overwhelming.

This longing for social acceptance and reassurance from others; to be noticed, to be loved, to be wanted and needed, to be cared about. What if we could offer all of those things to ourselves? How amazing would that be? To be ok as ourselves and not afraid of showing others who we really are. It is a challenge but with the right support, determination and an open outlook such things can be achieved. It all begins with trust, if you can learn to trust in yourself, listen to yourself, have self compassion, and value who you are then the greatest love of all can be achieved- in Whitney Houstons words “the greatest love of all, is learning to love yourself”

I will end this article with my favourite lyrics from Whitney Houston’s song ‘The Greatest Love of All’ for you to reflect on….

“I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all”

 

Bereavement & Loss

Bereavement and loss are often used interchangeably; however it is important to note how each term can mean different things to different people. For example, someone going through a trauma like losing a loved one has suffered a loss and is bereaved. Whereas someone who has lost a job is not bereaved but has suffered a loss. Two very different scenarios. There is a massive difference in the impact and the pain felt in each case however they would both be classed as a loss. It is in understanding the significance and impact of the type of loss a person has suffered that we can only begin to try to understand what it means, so for example losing a spouse or child have different connotations but huge emotional impact for loved ones left behind.

For some losing a job could be felt acutely, the key here is to try not to draw comparisons, but to look at things from the other’s perspective. To understand what it means for the individual to have lost a loved one, their job, or a pet, because it would impact each person differently in each unique circumstance.

We are all different and in this difference we manage and cope using a variety of methods from taking medication, using talking therapies, to utilising support from freinds and family. Bereavement can feel overwhelmingly difficult to manage and no matter what anyone says only the person going through it can fully understand the significant impact of loss felt. What others can attempt to do is try to understand through being present, listening and really hearing the person to offer empathy and try to imagine what it might be like to walk in the bereaved persons shoes for a time. To appreciate just how difficult life may feel for them or the challenges it may throw up, change after loss is inevitable. Lives are often turned upside down and nothing is the same again. What was a ‘normal daily routine’ for some will forever be changed.

In the case of a bereaved person there is often a story to be shared, about the life that was led before. A story of a family or friend that lived amongst them and the experiences that were shared, the relationship that is now no more of this world but contained in the memories of those left behind. Celebrating the life of the person who has passed and the legacy that they left behind is often meaningful to loved ones. In sharing these experiences some people find solace and it can form a framework as a strategy for coping because by remembering loved ones who have passed away there is a sense of connection to them.

It is also important to bear in mind the circumstances around the death of a loved one whether it was an accident that was sudden, a terminal illness that was gradual or a suicide that left more questions than answers. Each of these unique circumstances will have different effects and impacts on how people cope with their loss.

So why do people struggle around the topic of loss? What do you say? How do you behave?

Firstly never make assumptions. Nobody can claim to know how another is feeling- but we can use empathy to reach out to others and try to understand. There is a whole range of emotions that can be felt from anguish and despair, to relief and guilt, and everything in between. Therefore no two people will feel exactly the same it will vary according to the relationship and experiences shared.

Listen -try not to make it about you. Often when talking to a bereaved person there can be a temptation to say and share experiences that we have felt ourselves about a loss that we may have had in the past. Although this may be useful for you to draw on emotionally to try and understand it may not be the most appropriate time to share it. Try to stay focused and hear whats being shared.
There can be a level of fear and uncertainty amongst people when it comes to saying and doing ‘the right thing’ around those who have lost loved ones. Truth be told there is no ‘right thing’; it is about having respect and offering support without being intrusive, being available if needed and using empathy to try and understand what they may be going through.

Sometimes support extends beyond words. You don’t have to ‘say’ anything. Just being present, emotionally available and supportive is enough.

Often people hold back from talking about their loss for fear of ‘ruining the mood’ socially but this can lead to feeling isolated and alone. It is often people’s own uncomfortableness around death and loss that makes them avoidant. There is nothing worse than being told “its been a while now- shouldn’t you be over it?” Like losing a loved one is something you need to ‘get over’.
What happens in reality is we learn new ways of adjusting and adapting to life without that person. We never forget, and may never ‘get over’ them but understand that life goes on and with each passing moment our love for them is not diminished but kept alive by remembering them. Hearts and minds can be powerful storage units that enable us to carry on going through life and living without compromising memories of loved ones. This doesn’t mean that by marrying again or having more children it detracts in any way from the painful loss, it just allows life to go on safe in the knowledge that everyone we love past and present have a special place in our hearts. Consciously aware that one does not replace another.

There is no disloyalty, no guilt, no shame and no fear when choosing to live life onwards after losing a loved one. Time helps but having an open and loving heart that contains a space for every special person is what carries us forwards.

los pic

The ‘I’ in Me

How often do any of us really sit and reflect on our selves and our lives?

“We have no time to- life is so busy” this is often the resounding answer.

So what does that mean-The I in me?

It refers to the core of ourselves, the innermost hidden parts that we may not even be aware of or that we guard well. There is so much more to us than meets the eye.



(Image by Stuart Miles at Freedigitalphotos.net)

We are not only defined just by our names, ages and roles we play in life. We are defined by so much more which makes each and every one of us unique. This blog has been designed to make you think, reflect and appreciate the diversity of life within yourselves and others. To really focus on the I inside each of us that is often unheard, forgotten or ignored.

We are made up of so many different aspects, and have various selves- our physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, cultural, religious and sexual selves.
This is not an exhaustive list there are many other factors that make us unique- our age, gender, class, economic status etc.

Our personal experiences in life shape who we are, how we think and how we behave towards others. We all share a natural curiosity to learn more about ourselves and others in order to enrich and enhance our personal and professional relationships with others.

I invite you to share your views and reflections about your own personal journeys in life- to celebrate the diversity of life and appreciation of the self and all it encompasses- the beauty of being you. Feel welcome to share anonymously or by stating your names its entirely up to you.

You never know who you might inspire with your own stories, poems, insights and revelations.

To help get you started I have compiled a list of questions to think about…

Who am i to me?

What makes me who i am?

Who am i to others?

Do i like me?

Do i think others like me?

What do i think of myself?

Do others perceptions of me match my own views of who I am?

Who is the real me?

Who is the me i show to the world?

Who is the me i hide out of fear, guilt, shame, embarrassment or just plain secrecy?

Who is the me i pretend to be?

Who is the me I would like to be?

What does being me mean to myself and others?

What parts of me do i like?

What parts of me do i dislike?

Why?

Is there a difference between me now and the person I want to be?

How can i bridge that gap and make the I in me stand out?
Lots of food for thought….

Feeling Well

We often hear how important maintaining a sense of well being is, but what does that actually mean in practice?

What factors contribute to feeling well?

(image by  David Castillo Dominici at freedigitalphotos.net)

From researching this topic I have found what I believe to be important factors, in promoting good emotional health and well being.

  • Good family relationships
  • A manageable financial situation
  • A positive work environment
  • Community engagement and a good social network of friends, family and work colleagues.
  • Health – this covers good physical health via eating well, exercising and sleeping enough. Emotional and psychological health via expressing emotions freely amongst trusted freinds and family or via a therapist. Self awareness, self acceptance and valuing oneself. Spiritual health for those who like to feel connected with universal energies, be that via God / organised religion or a belief in nature and appreciation for humanity at its best.
  • Personal freedom – Feeling strong, empowered, liberated and in control of ones life.
  • Personal values –knowing oneself, identifying whats important and striving to achieve it.
  • Resilience and Patience to bear with lifes challenges
  • Continue to stimulate the brain intellectually by learning new things to enhance and enrich your life.

Realistically how many of us can say that we have all of the above in place? Its inevitable that we will all face challenges in life at one time or another, its about how we cope and manage with the support we do or dont have that counts.

Looking at the list above it is clear that the polar opposite of those descriptions could result in depression, anxiety and mental ill health. Problems can develop and be perpetuated in an ongoing cycle causing distress, trauma, fear and a sense of helplessness.

Therefore understanding a persons past and present life in a fuller context by taking into account the above listed factors can help make sense of how and why people may feel the way they do. This in turn will help to identify appropriate support mechanisms.

In order to promote a healthy sense of well being we need to continue to develop as individuals. Ask for help from others when we need it. Forge stronger bonds and connect with others in the community, not just online in the virtual world but in real life socialising with people directly.
It is important that we learn more about ourselves and others. This will increase our self awareness and enable us to identify our own needs, desires, defences and vulnerabilities. This would promote improved self esteem, self compassion and self acceptance.

How can we help ourselves if we dont truly understand who we are?

Ongoing personal development is the deal of the day… it will provide valuable insights and stimulate the winds of change that you want to see in your life.