Who's issue is it really?

Often in life, we can feel responsible for others emotional wellbeing; if they are unhappy or sad, if they’re experiencing difficulties in their life is, if they are angry irritable or in the way they react to us. Taking responsibility for other peoples emotional wellbeing can often cause us to feel not good enough, reinforcing entrenched views about our own self-worth.

It is important to recognise that all our relationships with others are co-created and so whilst we do have an element of responsibility around our own actions and behaviours, it is important that we don’t take full responsibility for how others think, feel or behave.

The way another person thinks, feels or acts is a reflection of themselves and their own life experiences. These life experiences may lead the other to play the victim or be quite persecutory, but noting the boundary between where your responsibility towards yourself ends and their responsibility begins can be a powerful tool of change for both you and them!

Mindfulness Guided Meditations

In the last few blog posts, we've had a brief look at mindfulness and how it can be of benefit in our day to day lives.  There are many websites and courses out there which can help you explore this more in depth, however I wanted to share one very useful website, The Mindful Awareness Research Center. 

As well as providing more information around mindfulness, they also provide free guided meditations as well as on-line classes.  You can find more information here:  http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=22

 

The Be Mindful website is also extremely useful (http://bemindful.co.uk/), giving more insights, online courses and a free stress test to see how you would benefit from Mindfulness.

 

If you've tried Mindfulness yourself or have any questions around it, we'd love to hear from you!  In our next blog post, we're going to begin taking a look at emotions, exploring their importance in our lives and the impact on our health.  We hope you can join us there! 

What you need to know about therapy

Therapy can be mysterious and intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. So here’s what we in the therapist community wish people knew about counselling and psychotherapy.

 

1. It’s not really a therapist’s job to give you advice.

They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world. 

Sure, they might tell you about strategies to cope with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, but when it comes to your personal life decisions, they’re more of a facilitator.  Do you really want to come to therapy to give your power away to someone else or do you want to learn to have that power on your own?

 

2. They probably see a therapist, too.

Simply put, never trust a therapist who hadn’t been to therapy themselves.  Many training programmes actually insist that students have regular weekly therapy sessions throughout their training as it's an invaluable tool in this line of work.  

Not only does sitting in the clients chair give a therapist a valuable insight into how you feel, but if a therapist is unable or unwilling to understand their own emotions and processes, they will have a great deal of difficulty helping you to understand yours.

 

3. Most therapists don’t prescribe medication.

That’s typically the job of a psychiatrist / doctor, not that of a counsellor or psychotherapist. However, with your permission, your therapist can coordinate with another provider to help you start or end a medication, if that’s something you’re interested in.

 

4. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to go to therapy.

One common misconception is: “That you have to be ‘crazy’ to go to therapy.”  There are a lot of reasons why people go to therapy that have nothing to do with mental disorders. And when people do go because they have a disorder, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re going to get help and speak to an expert just like you would seeking help for any other medical condition.

It’s usually this in between area — when you’re struggling but not completely debilitated — that people hesitate to go to therapy because they feel like they don’t need it. But if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or not able to function as you’d like to, that’s a sign you do need to talk to somebody.

 

5. Your therapist isn’t talking about you with their friends at the bar.

Rule number one is confidentiality.  A therapist would quickly lose their professional accreditations and memberships if they talked about clients outside of the therapeutic framework.  They may discuss certain cases or broader themes with a small group of trusted colleagues or with a more experienced therapist in a process called "supervision" (which all therapists are required to have on a regular basis), however this is all kept on a strictly confidential basis.

 

6. And they probably aren’t Googling you.

Many therapists view Googling a client without their permission is an overstepping of boundaries and almost a breach of confidentiality. Clients can feel violated if their therapist brings something up in the session which they saw on the Internet and that is the opposite of what is trying to be achieved. 

The therapeutic relationship is all about trust and the client needs to trust that they can bring up their issues at their own pace rather than the therapist knowing all about their lives in advance. 

 

7. Your therapist probably won’t acknowledge you in public unless you do first.

Don’t worry about running into them at a restaurant and hearing “Hey, glad to see you out and about!” while you’re on a date. The general consensus is that therapists won’t acknowledge you in public unless the client initiates it, and even then, they won’t acknowledge that they are your therapist unless you do first.

So feel free to say hi and introduce them as your therapist/yoga teacher/neighbor, or ignore them entirely. It’s your call, and it’s something you can talk to them about ahead of time if you’re worried about it.

 

8. Just going to therapy won’t necessarily help — you have to participate.

Therapy isn’t like going to your doctor for a sinus infection and leaving with antibiotics. It takes collaboration — not just passively sitting back and waiting for results. It’s pretty disappointing for clients when they think that’s the way it works.  They want the therapist to ask them a bunch of questions and it’s like a treasure hunt.

But if a client is prepared and willing to talk about what brought them in and what they’d like to work on, it can make the whole process more collaborative and efficient.

 

9. Therapy doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment.

Sometimes people hesitate to embark on therapy because they feel like ‘If I go once I’m going to be sucked in for 10 years, three times a week,’ and it feels like this huge decision. But the length and frequency of therapy is very individual. It can be a one-time deal, a few months of sessions, or longer depending on what you’re going through and what you’re looking to accomplish.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions about a therapist’s approach in the first session or two. Things like: What would treatment look like? How long are we going to be working together? How will I know when we’re finished?

 

10. The right “fit” is the most important factor when it comes to finding a therapist.

You could be seeing the best, most qualified therapist in the whole world, but if the fit isn’t good, its not going to be as effective. What research tells us is that of all the different variables in therapy — types of treatment, education of the provider, length of treatment, all that stuff — one of the biggest factors in therapy success is fit.

What does that look like? Feeling heard, understood, and respected. The experience of therapy itself isn’t always going to be fun or enjoyable.  But in the context of that, you should feel safe, accepted, and heard, and at times challenged.

 

11. And stopping therapy doesn’t mean you can never go back.

As a therapist, we hope that by the end of treatment, a client feels like they’ve improved their functioning, whether in their relationships or their job or as a student.  That they’re feeling like they’re contributing to whatever is of value of them and not distressed by the symptoms they were experiencing.

Of course, life happens and things change, and just because you felt better for years doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily need help again in the future and that is perfectly fine to come back.

 

12. If you’re worried that something might be inappropriate — like hugging them or asking about their personal life — just talk about it.

Not every therapist will be open to hugging their clients, but if you really feel compelled to, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up. A client should feel free to say anything or ask anything.  Ask it if it’s on your mind and then let the therapist decide whether or not they’re going to answer that. Try not to filter yourself or censor yourself.

 

13. They don’t have all the answers.

Sometimes people think therapists have a special ability to see inside you but we really don’t.  We have a particular training and understanding of how humans are, how humans behave, how emotions work, and we’re able to use that to understand the specific situation someone is in. We don’t have these magical skills that we’re instantly going to read into you — it’s a process.”

 

14. Being a therapist can be hard work.

Between juggling several clients every day and helping patients through particularly traumatic events, it can be an incredibly daunting profession.  Obviously it can be hard to hear difficult stories hour after hour, day after day and then still have enough energy for your own family at night.  It can be a challenge, but it’s certainly manageable.

Therapists are professional secret keepers and that takes a toll after a while which is why many will schedule in regular breaks throughout the year.  So if you find your therapist taking a week off every few months, it's simply a chance for them to recharge their batteries and to come back the following week in the best possible position to help you.

 

15. But chances are, they also find what they do incredibly rewarding.

When therapy works, and it does, you’re going to walk out of there with a new understanding and new ways of doing things. You own it. It’s yours. It goes with you for the rest of your life.  Whenever a therapist is able to see someone’s growth process taking place, it brings such delight and positive feeling.

 

If you would like to find out more about therapy, please contact one of our team today

What to say to someone suffering with an anxiety disorder

Most of us will experience periods of heightened stress and anxiety in our lives, but for some, they experience significant levels of anxiety on a daily basis for weeks or even months at a time.  Living with an anxiety disorder can be extremely isolating with those around you unsure what to say or do.  Some walk on eggshells, afraid to “set you off” whilst others may distance themselves completely.  Those that do stay close may even get frustrated or angry simply because they don’t understand the significance of what you are experiencing.    

Whilst it’s often advised that opening up to people about our struggles is the most effective way to heal, it can be easy to say the wrong thing.  If you have a loved one suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to show your support and acceptance. Being there for them is the best way to begin healing and this can make a big difference in their recovery.

Here are common statements that you may think are helping your loved one, but may actually be hurting them and what you could say instead.

Don’t say, “Everything will be OK”. Instead try, “I am here for you. I will support you”.

Whilst saying “everything will be ok” may sound reassuring, it actually communicates that not only do you not understand the significance of their experience, but also that you aren’t prepared to listen to them or help them.  Having someone close who they know they can rely on to listen, understand and support them unconditionally is a huge advantage for someone with an anxiety disorder.   

Don’t say, “It’s all in your head”. Instead try, “Let’s go have some fun”.

Saying “It’s all in your head”, like the previous statement is very dismissive of their experience.  Although the truth is the anxiety is a creation of their own mind, the statement suggests that they can control what is happening to them.  This puts more pressure on their emotions and often making the anxiety worse.  Engaging in physical activities such as walking or yoga can help to ease the physical symptoms of anxiety whilst doing something fun and enjoyable can counteract some of the negative messages in their minds, even if that is just for a short time.

Don’t say, “What do you have to be anxious about?” Instead try, “How can I help you feel less stressed?”

This statement suggests your friend doesn’t deserve to feel anxious which often then compounds the issue for them as they then feel guilty about feeling anxious.  It is important to assume you don’t know everything that is going on in their life. Rather than comment on what you know or think is happening, simply offer a helping hand. Show you are there for them.  This may be helping them with practical tasks or responsibilities, even if that’s just picking up a few item of shopping for them.  It may be just listening to them, or maybe be just being there to offer moral support. 

Don’t say, “There are people with worse problems”. Instead try, “I’m sorry, do you need to talk?”

Generally, people experiencing anxiety will know other people have problems too, but they do not need to feel guilty about what they are going through. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to be encouraging, supportive and non-judgemental.

 

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is experiencing a protracted and severe state of anxiety, it is important they seek professional help either from their GP or from a trained counsellor or psychotherapist.  Even when under these professionals though, they will still need your help and support.  Even though you may find it difficult or frustrating to deal with a friend with an anxiety disorder, remember you can step away from it at the end of the day, whereas they cannot.

Changing your present through exploring your past

Narcissim

Many people know the term “narcissist” and many of you probably believe you know someone with narcissistic tendencies, but what is it and how can you spot a narcissist? 

If someone is diagnosed as a narcissist, it generally means they suffer from narcissistic personality disorder.  This disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet.

People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. For example, an individual with this disorder may complain about a clumsy waiter’s “rudeness” or “stupidity” or conclude a medical evaluation with a condescending evaluation of the doctor

Symptoms of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

In order for a person to be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) they must meet five or more of the following symptoms over a sustained period:

  • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  • Requires excessive admiration
  • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
  • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

Because personality disorders describe long-standing and enduring patterns of behavior, they are most often diagnosed in adulthood. It is uncommon for them to be diagnosed in childhood or adolescence, because a child or teen is under constant development, personality changes and maturation. However, if it is diagnosed in a child or teen, the features must have been present for at least 1 year.

Narcissistic personality disorder is more prevalent in males than females, and is thought to occur in up to 6.2 percent of the general population.  Like most personality disorders, narcissistic   personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the 40s or 50s.

 

How is Narcissistic Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

Personality disorders such as narcissistic personality disorder are typically diagnosed by a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Family physicians and general practitioners are generally not trained or well-equipped to make this type of psychological diagnosis. So while you can initially consult a family doctor about this problem, they should refer you to a mental health professional for diagnosis and treatment. There are no laboratory, blood or genetic tests that are used to diagnose personality disorder.

Many people with narcissistic personality disorder don’t seek out treatment. People with personality disorders, in general, do not often seek out treatment until the disorder starts to significantly interfere or otherwise impact a person’s life. This most often happens when a person’s coping resources are stretched too thin to deal with stress or other life events.

Causes of Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Researchers today don’t know what causes narcissistic personality disorder.  Most professionals subscribe to a biopsychosocial model of causation — that is, the causes of are likely due to biological and genetic factors, social factors (such as how a person interacts in their early development with their family and friends and other children), and psychological factors (the individual’s personality and temperament, shaped by their environment and learned coping skills to deal with stress). This suggests that no single factor is responsible — rather, it is the complex and likely intertwined nature of all three factors that are important. If a person has this personality disorder, research suggests that there is a slightly increased risk   for this disorder to be “passed down” to their children.

 

 

Why diets don't work!

A vast majority of the population has probably tried some form of diet at some point in their lives, but the fact is, for most people, diets don’t work.  Now there are probably many people reading this now who will disagree, focussing on the likes of Weight Watchers, Slimming World and all those other diet based weight loss institutions out there.  And while these organisations may have short term success with their members, when you look a year, two years, five years or ten years into the future of those members, you often find that the weight loss they experienced through dieting is unsustainable, especially after the member stops going to the weekly meetings. 

Many of you reading this will have surely experienced for yourself, trying countless diets, your weight going up and down like a yo-yo, feelings of exhilaration one week only to be followed by despair the next, getting to a point where inevitably you stop your diet and then the weight piling back on, in some cases worse than before. 

So what’s really going on here?  Why do diets not work and is it possible for sustained weight loss over the long term?  Allow yourself to imagine for a moment, your life as it would be if you lived 10,000 years ago.  Your life would have been nomadic, constantly on the move, hunting and gathering.  Supermarkets and shops didn’t exist and there were no ways of storing food for any length of time.  Your trigger to eat was simply driven by hunger.  When your body needed food, it released the hormone to make you feel hungry, encouraging you to hunt and gather.  When your body didn’t need food,that hunger wasn’t present and so you had no need to hunt and gather.  Simply put, you ate when you felt genuinely hungry and stopped eating when you stopped feeling hungry. 

From an evolutionary and biological point of view, the human body has changed little in the last 10,000 years and we are still primarily driven by this hunger / full signal.  However, modern society has effectively disrupted this driver.  Just think of the concept of meal times.  Meal times are convenient in modern, structured society, but forcing the body to eat when it is not hungry is not healthy.  And forcing the body to wait for a set meal time when it is genuinely in need of food is again, detrimental. 

Now think for a moment about all those verbal messages around food given to children as they grow “think of all the starving children in Africa”, “You will be sent to your room if you don’t eat all that”, “Do you know how hard we work to put food on the table”, etc.  I’m sure you can name many more sayings around food from your own childhood.

And then there are the non-verbal messages.  Observing parents and peers eating a biscuit with a coffee or a bag of crisps with a sandwich.  Being given a lollipop when they go to the doctors, sweets or chocolate when they need comforting, ice cream as a reward for good behaviour, pizza or takeaways as a treat for working hard.  The truth is, by the time a child becomes a teenager, they have been exposed to countless verbal and non-verbal messages around food and eating.  What they should eat, when they should eat, what foods connect with what emotional state, what circumstances certain foods are allowed in, etc. 

So what does all this have to do with unsuccessful diets?  Firstly, diets teach you that you are only allowed certain foods in certain quantities and certain times.  This is not how the human body operates.  Factors such as activity, the weather, illnesses, emotional states, fatigue and even brain usage mean that we need different amounts of food each day.  Your body tells you what it needs and when it needs it.  It is important to listen to your body and respond appropriately, not to try and force a particular eating regime onto yourself which may not be in your body’s best interest. 

Secondly, forcing yourself to eat certain foods in certain quantities at certain times does not begin to uncover or reverse those negative messages you have been exposed to all of your life.  The truth is, your subconscious mind will always win out over your conscious mind.  So if your subconscious is convinced that chocolate is the best solution when you are feeling sad, you may be able to fight that impulse for a while, but ultimately, that conflict between your conscious and subconscious will wear you down and your subconscious will eventually win out.  It is here that hypnotherapy has the greatest impact, changing these negative messages at a subconscious level. 

So, are you genuinely still interested in losing weight and keeping that weight off for the long term?  If so, stop listening to these fad diets and dieting organisations and start listening to yourself.  Allow yourself to become more aware of those negative and harmful messages you learnt around food as you grew.  And most importantly, teach yourself to tune into that genuine hunger and full signal from your body.  If you are genuinely hungry, eat slowly until you feel satisfied.  And once you feel satisfied, stop eating until the next time you feel genuinely hungry.

And if you are still struggling, why not look into how hypnotherapy can help you to break those negative messages and become more in tune with yourself once again.  You may just find that you’ve held the key to sustainable weight loss within you the whole time!

 

Sitting with your feelings (no matter how uncomfortable!)

There are many in society who believe that experiencing negative emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, etc. is wrong.  They believe that those feelings are unhelpful and should be conquered through the use of positive thoughts, cognitive thinking and behavioural changes.  In fact, a lot of the concepts around Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are just that - using behavioural techniques to change how we think and therefor how we feel.   

However I've always been a great believer in sitting with your feelings and allowing yourself time to understand them and acknowledge them, rather than trying to chase them away and bury them.  Now I'm not saying to dwell on feelings or become immersed in them, but at the same time, not to block them out either.  I like to think of it as watching a lightening storm out of your bedroom window.  You are safe enough inside your house that you are not going to get hurt by the lightening, but at the same time, you are allowing yourself to see it and experience it (rather than shutting the curtains and hiding under your bed covers!)

The benefits of sitting with your feelings really hit home during a recent client session.  The client began by talking about their work, how they had lost their motivation and had become disillusioned with it.  They explained how they dreaded going to work and were desperately looking for some alternative.  A few days before the session, the client had spoken to their mother about their feelings.  The mother was very solution focussed, coming up with idea after idea after idea about the possible solutions, e.g. more training courses, ideas for new jobs, careers advisors, etc.  As my client sat and listened to her mother, she became more and more upset and more and more despondent.  She didn't want solutions, she just wanted to be heard and acknowledged.  She wanted her mother to be empathic and understand her feelings.  My client wanted to know that she was still acceptable and still lovable even if she was feeling this way, however her mothers problem solving response made her feel that she was unacceptable and wrong in some way, as if she was failing.  This made her feel much worse. 

Later in the same session with my client, I began to question whether she was using psychotherapy theories and cognitive reasoning as a way of avoiding or burying certain internal feelings.  She admitted that there were times when she was doing that, however believed that it was the right thing to do.  She believed that she could control her unwanted feelings through CBT techniques and other practical methods then it would make her feel better in herself.  I referred her back to earlier in the session when she had spoken about the discussion between herself and her mother and explained how I was hearing that exact same conversation going on within her.

One part of her, which we may call the Parent (in reference to Transactional Analyses terminology), was wanting to problem solve, using practical techniques to overcome her feelings.  However another part, which we may call the Child (also TA terminology), was yearning to be heard for what it was feeling, wanting those unpleasant feelings to be acknowledged, recognised and accepted. 

My client was quite taken aback by this realisation.  She had understood what it felt like to have her need to be heard and acknowledged ignored by the practical approach of her mother and here she was, doing exactly the same thing to herself. 

This understanding has since helped my client to sit with her unpleasant feelings for longer.  Most of the time, she finds they now disappear much sooner and stay away much longer.  I like to think of it as a small child trying to get it's mother's attention.  The more the child is ignored, the more it will interrupt and the louder and more demanding it will get.  However once that child has been heard and acknowledged, it is more likely to feel satisfied and not pester it's mother for attention for a while.

I am a firm believer in feeling your feelings, sitting with them and then choosing a course of action rather than just reacting which often reinforces negative beliefs and emotions.  I have found on countless occasions how accepting all feelings as being fundamentally "okay" and listening to them has provided great therapeutic insights and relief for clients.  So next time you experience fear, anger, sadness, despair, loneliness or any other negative feeling, why not give it a go yourself?  Rather than covering up and burying these emotions, try sitting with them for a while, tolerating the discomfort, learning from those feelings and really understanding that part of yourself.