Elaine's Journal Archive 1
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Welcome to the archive 1
This journal discusses the issues that arise in therapy: anything concerning the human condition. I write when I have something to say, normally about two or three times a week, so drop by for new entries. It is not a substitute for therapy. I do not mention my clients as their personal information is confidential. I hope you find my journal interesting. The views expressed in my journal are my own and not those of Richard Snowdon Counselling Psychotherapy & Psychoanalysis.
23:01 - 22|06|2006 - Picture Power
Whilst walking around a bookstore this afternoon I spied a picture on a cover of one of the numerous books on display.
It caught my eye because it was an evocative picture. It was shot in black and white and it showed a dismantled pier, only the middle part was left, there was no beginning to the pier and no end, it was just there in the middle of the sea with nothing else in view.
I thought about the person who took the picture and what they were trying to communicate, I thought about why the man who wrote the book choose the picture.
I came to the conclusion that the picture was a communication of our aloneness in the world and the photographer wanted to show it in order to share something he felt, the man who put it on his book would of identified with the image, and so he too wanted to share the feeling.
We all have that aloneness inside us, we all have those moments when we feel 'all at sea'. If we were to imagine that we were the only ones in the world to have those feelings of aloneness it would be unbearable. To share the feeling via the image, to have another person recognise the feeling and identify, gives us a bit of company on our lonely pier.
16:02 - 21|06|2006 - Promise
On a noticeboard I saw a leaflet advertising counselling. It stated: "If counselling cannot promise you happiness, why should you consider it?". I wondered about the idea of counselling making you happy, that the end goal is to leave counselling a happy person. It is after all an ideal goal. Yet I don't think that is either the role or goal of counselling.
I do think that counselling helps a person achieve a definition of what happiness is for them. In order to have happiness you must first understand the reasons for your unhappiness. You have to know your pain, in order to be able to know happiness. Counselling helps you understand both states. I think the end goal is that you understand what happiness is for you. You leave counselling with a knowledge of both states, and an awareness of how you will always have both happiness and unhappiness in your life.
13:45 - 20|06|2006 - Labeled
I have heard many a time in my work as a counsellor, the frustration people sometimes have at being labeled, and how many labels they are given. Is there an expectation that if we offer a person a label it will be enough? By giving the behaviour a name, by making it a condition and saying to the person you are this word, this will help? If we make the person a word, we can once again lose sight of them as an individual. As Soren Kierkegaard said "Once you label me you negate me".
15:15 - 19|06|2006 - How to Ask?
I was recently asked how to differentiate between what should be disclosed and what shouldn't. Some people have a problem with their own personal boundaries and often find they disclose too much, and others hold back too much and are self contained.
So what do we do when we find ourselves in a moment with a person with whom we really want to share something with, when we want to open up and speak from the heart, to really say how it is? There may suddenly come the thought of do I have the right to expose my thoughts and feelings to this person? If I say what I really want to say, the nature of the relationship will be irrevocably changed for the other person. Just because I want to speak, because I want to unburden, does the need that I have give me the right to exposes the other person to my thoughts and feelings?
If nothing is said the relationship stays the same for the other person, as they are not caught up in the dilemma of choosing what to say or what not to say in response. In effect, by staying silent you keep the other person safe from any change your words would inevitably bring. You retain a status quo. If you don't speak you will never know if that person would have met your words with understanding and thus developed and strengthened the relationship. Sometimes we know what to say, but we just don't know how to say it.
The only suggestion I could offer was when it comes to saying something very significant and you know it will change the nature of the relationship, is to choose your words with great care. Take time to understand the meaning you wish to put across. In order to help you choose the words you will use, deliberate. It could also be the case that you do not have to make everything known at once, you can disclose a little one day and gauge the reaction before you disclose a little more. In this way you protect yourself and the other person. You are then balancing it out, so you are not over disclosing, or under disclosing.
15:49 - 16|06|2006 - Stepping Back
When your living with someone who begins to suffer from depression it will of course bring up a range of emotions for you. I think the most common aspect of trying to cope with someone who is depressed is the tendency to want to rescue them. There is a great desire in the beginning to offer support and encouragement. When there is still no change in the depressed person there can then be feelings of anger at them, you begin to feel let down by them, or disappointed.
What can happen then is you find yourself swinging in and out of the two states, the caring one and the frustrated one. Inevitably you will find yourself becoming exhausted and you to will begin to feel depressed by it all. Nearly everyone I have spoken to in these kind of situations always seem to reach the same conclusion, you have to step back.
Stepping back does not mean a letting go of the person, it does not mean you do not care what happens to them. It just means you've recognised your own limitations and you need to look after yourself. The depressed person is going to have to access support outside of the relationship in order to find a way out of the emotional state which has developed within them. By going outside in no way means that you have failed, it is just a recognition of the reality of the situation and the best way forward for both parties.
14:39 - 15|06|2006 - Having Time
I was discussing the length of time people can spend in therapy with a friend yesterday evening. When I mentioned people can spend four or five years in therapy, he couldn't understand why. I then asked him how long he thought it would take, and he suggested a year. Ironically we ran out of time to continue the discussion, and that's when I realised that we never give ourselves enough time.
We do have to live by the clock. There is a time to get up. There is the 9 - 5 clock. We have set appointment times to see doctors, dentists, opticians. We have to get to the cinema or theater on time, book the table at the restaurant, and make time for our friends and family. All those hours packed into together. No wonder when I said therapy can take four or five years, my friend was surprised, because that just seems like too much time.
Perhaps that is one of the key therapeutic aspects of therapy, a giving back of time, of escaping the dictating clock and slowing things down in order to make sense of our lives.
18:15 - 14|06|2006 - The Internal Saboteur
Sabotage is often seen as an external event, it is defined as the deliberate obstruction of, or damage to, a cause or effort. The saboteur of course will have to remain hidden and be very subtle in order to keep carrying out the sabotage.
But there is the potential for people to develop an internal saboteur, which will need to remain hidden. And the ways in which the individual can cause sabotage in their personal live can start off as quite subtle.
In some cases individuals can develop mechanisms in which they stop themselves from reaching their full potential in their work and personal lives. The crisis comes when the effects of sabotage start to be seen by the individual and others around him/her.
This is part of the work of therapy, hunting down the internal saboteur and working out the reasons for the behavior in order that the behavior can be challenged and changed.
15:15 - 13|06|2006 - Responsibility
It was Jean Paul Sartre who said "Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does." (Being and Nothingness).
We are responsible, because we need to make choices in life. For some people choice comes easily. For others, choice can immobilise, and that burden of responsibility can cause the individual to have a breakdown, where choice can no longer be made.
It is important to acknowledge the weight of our freedom. Whilst it is of course the greatest state from people to be in, to be free, we should acknowledge the energy that goes into maintaining our freedom and autonomy.
If you discover that for you the process of choosing begins to cause greater anxiety and you spend many hours agonizing over the choice, it is time to give yourself a break and to reflect on your anxieties, and communicate them, before choice immobilises you.
13:28 - 12|06|2006 - Prozac for the Child
The European Medicines Agency has ruled that Prozac can be licensed to treat children in Britain. In a perfect world you could rest assured that these tablets would only be prescribed when absolutely necessary, and be used in conjunction with psychological therapies. This is not a perfect world, and my worry is that these tablets may be over prescribed.
I have worked with many adults who went into their GP feeling slightly depressed, and yet they were immediately prescribed tablets and offered no emotional support. It can be that most GP surgeries are so busy, that the doctor of course does not have the time to sit and work out alternative methods for dealing with depression, it is more effective for them to prescribe the pills.
A pill changes the person's mood and helps control the depression, it does not change the fact that the person still has depression. Some people benefit immensely from taking Prozac and it really does help them manage their lives. Prozac has it's place. But does Prozac have a place in the world of the child?
16:53 - 09|06|2006 - Believe
It seems the most dominate word in England right now is "Believe". 'Mars bars' have been turned into the word. Huge posters proclaiming July the 9th ( the world cup final) as St George's Day beam down vast hope. There is such an expectation in the air, that it feels very different walking around in this unusual atmosphere. Even if you are not at all interested in football, you of course cannot escape the awareness of the fervor. On a certain level it feels as if for one moment harsh reality has been suspended, and I am once again reminded of that therapeutic need we have to be a part of the collective experience. I wonder what will happen if England actually win?
12:39 - 08|06|2006 - Speaking Out
When giving a public talk, if a person is nervous, they are often given the advice of imagining the audience in their underwear. Perhaps this is because a large group of people can of course seem intimidating, to most of us. A way to diminish this is to imagine them in a comical way.
However, this can also occur with individuals, and strangely enough it is much more intimidating when only one other person is involved. Bullies exist in the adult world, and how to deal with them is always very complicated. The bully can be found in the personal relationship, they can be found in the work relationship, and in the social relationship.
Bullies will naturally seek out the ones who are vulnerable, who already have issues around their own confidence. The bully is also insecure and has great feelings of inadequacy. They fear being vulnerable so much, that in order to feel safe, they need to find a person they can make feel unsafe. The more distressed their victim becomes the more confident and secure they feel. A bully feels powerful by making the other person powerless.
Therefore the only way to stop the bully, is to not surrender your power. Which is of course is easy to say, but hard to do. Just as it is with a child who is being bullied, it can only be stopped when it is named. That is the first step, you need to let someone know what is happening and to seek advice about how to deal with bullying. Silence is defiantly not golden is this scenario, always speak out.
07|06|2006 - No blog entry today.
06|06|2006 - No blog entry today.
15:11 - 05|06|2006 - Weight
When I am working with people who are struggling with their weight, I find that they have been treated quite badly. The person who is obese often finds it hard to receive respect. I don't feel that the obese person is engaged on a person to person level.
As soon as they walk into a room they are immediately judged. There is a huge prejudice to obesity, as if the person is lost behind their flesh. Physically they are very much seen, but their physical image does not fit in with society's ideal image. So the person inside that large frame is not seen, all that is seen is their flesh.
Society as a whole has a very prejudiced view of overweight people. We have a demand as to how people should look and if they don't fit into the image, they will be judged. The image of the obese person becomes a stereotype and prejudice.
It is often the case that obese people are seen as being stupid. I remember hearing a colleague talking about a study where a group of children where given different photographs of people and then asked to describe what they thought the person would be like. In the case of the overweight, the young children mainly wrote "stupid" against the picture of that person.
We are putting that idea into our children's heads. All prejudice is born from this, when someone is different you label them in a derogatory way and educate your children into carrying on that belief.
So the obese person has to struggle with their own personal issue around their weight and their relationship with food, and they also have to struggle against the negative prejudice of the prevalent attitudes that are emerging around them.
15:22 - 02|06|2006 - Not Found
I just had an amusing and ironic experience. My colleague at work was just traversing the internet looking at blogs. She came across a list of different titles, and "seeking clarity" caught her eye, so she duly clicked on "seeking clarity" and the page opened to a big header which stated "NOT FOUND".
It made me think about how sometimes we feel we lack something, so we need to fill that up with something outside of ourselves. If we don't trust ourselves because we have been made to feel inadequate, we will search for the answer externally.
We can feel better if someone tells us we are better, but if we cannot feel that for ourselves, we will be on an endless quest of seeking affirmation and meaning through other people or through objects. If I own this it will mean I am something. If I can have this it will demonstrate I am someone. If I am loved, I am loveable. If I am desired I am desirable. All of this is produced by something outside of us.
So there is that need to push a button in the hope that the page will open and you will have clarity. The irony is that clarity is not to be found outside of us, but inside.
11:36 - 01|06|2006 - The Ground
My friend has a massive trampoline in her garden for her kids, and yesterday I couldn't resist a go. My friend and I spent about half an hour bouncing on the trampoline. When I came off and took to the firm earth again, it of course felt very strange under my feet. My legs had got used to the pliancy of the trampoline. It was almost as if my legs resented having to feel the effects of gravity again and the hardness of the ground.
That sensation made me think of how that feeling is similar to the next step in acceptance. Yesterday I spoke about moving into a new life and letting go of the old. I guess when you leave one environment and move into another there is always going to be a physical and emotional transition.
The trampoline was great fun, but obviously if I stay on the trampoline I lose contact with the real. I separate myself from my true environment. Walking on the earth can be hard, but there is also something very comforting in feeling grounded.
20:02 - 31|05|2006 - Goodbye
There is a cycle of change that is often spoken about in therapeutical circles. It involves a process of emotions, ranging from denial, anger, loss, sadness, and the word to end the cycle is called acceptance. It is only when a person reaches this stage that they can break out of the cycle and move on.
Acceptance, there is a certain serenity about that word, but the journey to get there is not serene and the actual moment when you reach that level, when you become aware of having to accept the situation, well it can feel like you have reached an immense chasm.
For acceptance means the final letting go of the past, the letting go of a behaviour, or a drug, or a partner. It represents the final goodbye, and goodbyes always bring a certain sadness. Even accepting that the ending is what you need, and you finally feel you can move on to live more calmly and fully, there is that letting go of the life you were leading.
I guess there is that tiny moment when you reach acceptance and you move away, you just need take that one melancholy glance over your shoulder and wave goodbye.
15:53 - 30|05|2006 - Experiencing
Today I was working with the issue of how it feels to be with someone who is depressed, and how it affects a person who is not feeling depressed.
All of us adopt our own attitude, it cannot be given to us. Our attitude toward the other is based on what we know, on what we have experienced, our attitude is not based in the experience of the other. This is because we can never experience what another person feels, we can have an experience of them based on what they say and what they do, but we can never know what they are experiencing.
This means we can sometimes get our attitudes wrong with regard to the significant other in our lives. For example, say two people are both experiencing a feeling of depression, because of a situation they are in at that time, and they share their experiences and they go through it together and come out of it together, they would generally feel fine about their shared experience. However if one person comes through it and the other does not, what then is the attitude that will be adopted?
Sometimes the person that comes through the depression can feel annoyed that the other has not come through, there can be a feeling of confusion, the attitude could be " Well I got through it why can't he/she?" Perhaps the idea of going through it together meant that the person who came through the depression could be thinking, "well we had the same experience, so he/she should be better like me". Likewise the person who is still depressed could be thinking along the same lines, " If we both shared the experience why am I not better, what is wrong with me"?
This is when interventions from outside the relationship would need to be made, because on one level you need to have the experience of the outsider looking in, to bring clarity to your situation.
When we do share experiences, it can make us feel so much closer to each other, we can feel "We are the same". But we are still separate, my experience is separate from your experience. We can still be close and relate to each other, but our experiences will always be different because we are individual.
The key is to communicate the difference, to own your own experience and name it to the other. This way we can have a better understanding of each other's experiences, and why we behave differently even though we are in the same situation.
16:49 - 26|05|2006 - The Here & Now
I have often written about the revisiting of the past in order to make sense of behaviours that we play out in the present. This does not mean that counselling is focused on the past, or that the counselling hour is entirely given over to it's exploration. Counselling is focused on the present. If in that time the past comes up, it is still dealt with in the here and now.
Recollecting the past, dealing with pain, and understanding why we choose certain methods of behaviour are dealt with in the present moment during counselling. Being in the here and now enables change. As I have said before, we can live in the past if we are overwhelmed by the emotions and events of those times. Likewise, if we continuously fear the future because we are scared we will never change, then we are not able to live in the present.
Hence the need for counselling to focus on the here and now, because in reality, that is how we exist, we are exactly in the here and now of this moment. Learning how to deal with your own issues and understand your own behaviour in the present moment means you become more able to deal with events in life as
The ghosts of the past, and the ghost of the future will no longer seem so frightening, as you reach an understanding that it is the present that you exist in. What you do in that moment belongs to you alone.
20:48 - 25|05|2006 - Hidden
We keep things hidden. Like the third heart I spoke of in a previous blog, it is a necessary protection. But sometimes we hide too well, we bury our pain so deep in order not to feel it, till it is hidden from ourselves and from others. Unheard of and unseen.
Yet, as it lies there, buried deep within us, it longs for expression. If we do not speak it, we somehow remain separated from ourselves and from others. There is a need to be seen, to communicate.
Perhaps we show it sometimes, like a game of hide and seek we cover our eyes and count to ten, then we go seek. Or we are the one's that hide in the hope of being found by the seeker. Do we leave a clue ? Like the pair of feet sticking out from underneath the curtain, we show just a little in order to be found.
The pain needed to be buried, to be filed away in order that there could be a survival. Yet there is a drive in us that cannot be contained, the drive towards being seen, being found. For this to happen you will have to go and seek your pain so you can uncover your eyes and look.
16:05 - 24|05|2006 - Expectation
What does it feel like when people expect things from us? If someone expects something from us, it does of course mean they are relating to us. The expectation can be based in a belief that person has of you. To have someone believing in you would naturally be affirming.
So if you are in an environment where expectations about you are low, that would perhaps lead onto having a low expectation of yourself. Could this then lead to low self esteem, and eventually start the cycle of depression which could lead a person into seeking counselling ?
Yet if you have a high expectation of yourself, because people's expectations were high, where would that lead you to? A person can sometimes drive themselves too hard, they want to fulfill their dreams, to fulfill the dreams of their parents. They will achieve, they will work hard at everything: work, love and play. They will fulfill the expectations of others.
This level of living can also drive the person to feeling depressed, as they could begin to feel a sense of futility, as if they have a nagging sense that they are not achieving anything because they can not climb the mountain of expectations, the peak for them is too high.
It would be necessary to bring the expectations down to a level where they were manageable. There would be a process of re-evaluating oneself, of learning how to balance the needs of others with the needs of the self. To learn to expect enough.
15:45 - 23|05|2006 - Judgemental
Yesterday's 'Metro' (22.05.06) ran an article 'Bad lifestyle? Off to the back of the NHS queue'. It was about published research, which stated that one in three people believe those who lead unhealthy lifestyles - smokers, drinkers, and overeaters, should be considered low priority by the NHS, and be sent to the back of the queue.
I always have a sense of dismay when I read articles like that. I remember the day I wrote in my blog about the young man that went to help the injured pigeon, and how I experienced him as just having to help that struggling life, and how we as people have that capacity to care.
The Metro article put me in touch with that opposite side of our natures. The research represents a knee jerk reaction to a crisis that is now taking place within the NHS. We can become scared that we are not going to get the health protection we need, also the Government needs to deflect attention from their failings, so we look for scapegoats to allay our anxieties.
What we don't seem to look at is the origins of the problem, the reason why certain individuals become addicted, why certain individuals's begin to over eat.
The research suggests that a percentage of the public feel that these people should become low priority, but what they don't seem to understand is that on one level the person with the addiction or eating disorder has perhaps been living with just that, a feeling of just being a low priority, which led them into developing a dependency, an addiction, an eating disorder.
As people we have a great capacity to care, but we also have a great capacity for being judgmental. Before condemning, time should be taken in considering how a person reached the point where they were put in such a position as to become so harshly judged.
At least the study spokeswoman Jakki Stubbington said at the end of the article. "However, denying people treatment is a harsh step to take and one that we need more debate about. It is surely better for all us to do more to improve our lifestyles before problems occur".
15:41 - 22|05|2006 - Objectify
I was thinking about all the different therapies and practices that exist, and how you go about choosing the one that will best suit you? There are psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, counsellors, there are practitioners of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The list goes on. Who do you choose? Why do you choose? You choose in order to address your problem, and each individual will have a different way of dealing with and addressing their particular problem.
All the above disciplines do help, although different 'camps' may argue that they are the best and most effective. For instance, I read an article in the Sunday papers where an NLP practitioner said all therapy was nonsense and only NLP could cure you. (The Guardian Weekend 20.05.06 'Don't worry, get therapy' Jon Ronson). This attitude is wrong, as not every individual would respond to the technique of NLP in the same sense that not every individual would respond to the counselling theories of client centered, transpersonal, or gestalt therapies, etc.
All the above disciplines can work, as long as they work with the needs of the individual in front of them. The only error that can be made is if the practitioner feels their technique is 100% effective and fool proof. So if the client does not respond, the practitioner may believe the client is wrong, so they impart a feeling of failure on to the client, for not responding.
In one sense this attitude turns the client into an object, an object to be modeled in to the particular theory or technique of the practitioner. To lose sight of the individual person will make any therapy fail. As no doubt, one of the reasons for coming into therapy is because the individual is wrestling with their identity, their subjectivity. The last thing they would need is to be objectified by the theory of the practitioner.
16:07 - 19|05|2006 - The Teaspoon
The thread of letting go still goes round my head, it seems to have brought up some discussion amongst my friends today. There was a point where one of my friends spoke about not letting go of his emotion's, of holding on to them tightly, till the knots begin to fill his stomach. He demonstrated what he meant by picking up his tea spoon, then clutching it tight in his fist, he explained that this was his emotion.
What he had learnt to do was to slowly relax, as he said this he opened up his clenched fist, and the teaspoon was allowed to roll calmly in his hand, he went onto explain that after feeling his emotion like this he was then just able to gently let go, the tea spoon then rolled out of his hand and fell silently on the table. My friend said this technique that he learnt had left him feeling more able to cope with life's stresses.
I thought once more about the relationship that does not entirely end, and realised that part of that pattern of behaviour is based more in the addiction to the emotion produced, rather than the person whom you are in a relationship with at that time.
In the past I have spoken of apathy and boredom, perhaps a good defense mechanism against these states would be to create drama. If you are constantly ending and beginning a relationship you are on one level experiencing degrees of anxiety. In the beginning you go through the process of feeling the pangs of letting go, of ending. The thought of never seeing that person again brings on intense feelings, until you can no longer bear it and so you make contact. Then once you have the person again, you are happy for a moment, until you feel the need for the return to the feelings of the dramatic. You will end it again.
The behaviour has become addictive, It is not produced by the other, it comes from within yourself. I feel it is based in the defensive, it is a way of protecting against falling in love with a significant other and really relating to them.
Love is always a difficult emotion because of it's intensity, when a person falls in love there is often a feeling of losing oneself to the other. The trust you would have to have for the other in order to do that would be immense. This is the leap of faith that is required. To throw oneself into the unknown is so daunting that some of us just do not want to do it. We protect ourselves by finding ways to avoid intimacy, yet we still long for the drama of love and so inadvertently create negative patterns of behaviour.
How to let go of the fearful teaspoon?
22:33 - 18|05|2006 - Letting Go
Yesterday I discussed the idea of letting go of destructive behaviour. When we become aware of destructive patterns, we don't change straight away. In fact quite often when we do become aware, we realise that with the awareness comes the responsibility to change, which will lead to the ending of the behaviour.
What can occur is the person can say, I don't want to change, I am aware of what I'm doing, but I don't want to give up my addictive behaviour just yet. In the case with relationships, you may be aware that it is not working, and if you name it, if you say to your partner, I'm not happy with this situation your run the risk of losing them. Or perhaps you do end it, but then what happens is after a space of time you get back together you try again, sometimes the reconciliation does not work and you do part, it ends.
However there are a number of relationships that just continue along the pattern of ending and beginning repetitively. In this case there is no letting go. That is the relationship, the inability to let go.
18:02 - 17|05|2006 - Movement
A colleague of mine was sharing her experiences of what it felt like to be 'stuck in life'. She spoke about how she'd spent many years being stuck in the process of blaming. When she felt she was unable to get on in life, unable to form lasting relationships, she would become angry and immoblised, as she blamed all that was happening to her in the present on the events that had occurred in her past.
She explained what she had learnt from this, that you can become stuck in blame, you can spend too much time thinking 'I can not do this because of that'. We all of course need to feel the anger of being the victim of uncontrollable circumstances. But we must not stay immobilised by the anger of the past.
When the past impacts on the present, remember it, recognise it, but do not fall back into it. Claim the present, the exact moment. The future has not been actualised, it's yours for the making. Only by recognising the present, and the ability to freely choose your attitude, can you move into your future.
My colleague had been able to recgonise her destructive pattern of behaviour, which was to blame. Through that recognition she changed her attitude and freed herself from her past.
All of us have different patterns of behaviour and I guess a part of the process of being in therapy or counselling is to explore and to learn more about our destructiveness. To have a knowledge of what we do and why we do it, will eventually lead onto the ability to change the behaviour, to move away from what ever it is in life that stops us from enjoying being in the present moment.
13:00 - 16|05|2006 - Cynicism
Is cynicism the disease of our age? I was asked this question last night and I did have to agree that we have become much more cynical. But I do not feel jaded by the prevalent mood of our times as much as my friends.
I believe this fact stems from my experiences in my work. As a counsellor I come into contact with people who are struggling towards something. Clients who come into counselling are working through the symptoms of depression, they are working through drug addiction, alcohol abuse, they are working through their eating disorders. It is always very painful work and challenging.
I have a job which brings me into contact with people who are fighting to have their lives. Some of my clients have come through very harrowing experiences, but still they hold on and fight for who they are, and what they want to be. When you see that in another person, when you take part in that process, it is impossible to be cynical about life.
14:37 - 15|05|2006 - To Witness
How is it for people who witness the destructive behaviour of their relative or friend? What can you do when someone decides not to eat? When they hide food, when you hear them vomiting in the bathroom. Yet when you ask what is happening, you are told nothing is happening, all is normal.
For the person with the eating disorder their behaviour is normal, they feel a sense of control, a sense of calm. What went before was confusion, lack of confidence, a need to be something else. There can be many motivating factors as to why someone goes on to develop an eating disorder, and I feel one of the factors is the idea that if they fit into an ideal image they will be fine, and the ideal image that dominates in Western cultural is of course to be thin.
If they are confused, unsure, insecure, unhappy, if they feel they have no control in life, then they are more likely to fall prey to the idea that if you are thin all those things will change. If you can change your body, you can change your feelings. The individual with the eating disorder begins to feel they finally have control over their world as they control their body, they shape themselves. Where there was once confusion there is now order.
This is why it is so difficult for the parent/friend to be a witness, as all you see is what is in front of you, and that is the wasting away of the individual. There is no sense of calm or order for the witness, yet if you understand the reasons why the person develops the eating disorder, you may feel less confused and hurt by the other's behaviour. Understanding each other will help make changes.
12:47 - 12|05|2006 - Bubble Wrap
Travelling home on the tube yesterday with my friend, we noticed a lady opposite us with a big board, we couldn't make out what it was as it was completely covered in bubble wrap, and in very large writing, bold and red, the word FRAGILE was written across the bottom and the top.
When we got off the tube my friend was smiling and she said how she suddenly wished she could do that to herself at times. Wrap herself up in bubble wrap with the world fragile for everyone to see, so she could feel protected in those moments when inside she is feeling quite fragile.
We spent the rest of the journey home imagining what other kind of bubble wrap costumes we could design, one for every emotion. That's quite a lot of bubble wrap.
11:03 - 11|05|2006 - To Value
After reading OpenHorizons' response which follows my article 'To avoid or not to avoid' - 05|05|2006 (see below), I was interested by the question "Is conflict a measure of one's values and beliefs?"
When we come into the world, we are born into the values and beliefs of that time. Conflict occurs in a person when they do not hold to those values and beliefs. This is played out on a grand scale in the world of religion and politics.
Sometimes a person comes to therapy because they have been born into 'bad' values and 'bad' beliefs, they were denied the ability to communicate the conflict within them, as there were no avenues in which to explore the causes of conflict, they were blocked.
There may have been a need to repress feelings in order to feel that they belonged to the family unit, in order to feel some sort of love, however dysfunctional the unit is.
A child will often take the blame for all the abuses, because to face the idea that it is the values and beliefs of the parent/parents that are wrong, that are bad, would leave the child with nothing. It is inevitable that as they pass into adulthood and become more aware of how others experienced their childhoods, that there is an awakening, a coming to terms with the absolute wrongness of their childhood situation.
Then there will be a conflict in that individual, as they have to confront the failings of the parent/parents, they have to unlearn the lesson's from their childhood and learn to value themselves, to have and to hold their own beliefs.
10:07 - 10|05|2006 - The Technique
I was involved in a discussion today about obsessive thinking. The discussion centered on coping techniques that can be used when dealing with obsessive thoughts. There were many suggestions and many different approaches, yet when I was listening I felt as if they had missed out on the most essential part, the individual.
Once again we can lose sight of the individual who is living with mental health problems, because we naturally become caught up in the technique of managing the condition. I asked if when working with clients with obsessive compulsive behaviour whether or not they first explore what it is like to be the one living with the obsessive thoughts. When they are working with clients do they lose sight of them as they become more focused on the symptoms, which is of course driven by a desire to help. If we understand the condition, the symptoms, we are helping. It would be foolhardy of me to ignore the symptoms and just concentrate on the personality. But as with everything in life, there needs to be a healthy balance.
When a client comes to therapy there is always a desire for a cure, a desire to be 'normal'. Perhaps that desire for normality can often lead to obsessive thinking, as once again I feel society can put pressure on us to conform to an established idea of normality. If an individual feels restricted by the society they exist in, this can lead to mental health problems. That is why it is important to stay with the individual, rather than the broad labelling of what it is to be an obsessive personality, and once labelled the individual is told this is how it will be managed.
We don't have to restrict ourselves with simply diagnosing the condition. We need to remember that we don't have to live with the diagnosis, therefore we need to recognise the individual who struggles to exist in the established normality, to respect their struggle, and of course we are also able to offer the coping techniques that can help manage the condition.
12:36 - 09|05|2006 - The Anger of Boredom
I was visiting my friend yesterday and from her living room window we could see the next door neighbours garden. Sat in the garden where a group of older teenagers, who occasionally threw things into my friends garden. It turned out to be garden pegs.
My friend said she'd had problems in the past and had spoken with the parent's and it did stop the behaviour. But for some reason that night the behaviour started again.
Strangely enough when I'd seen the face of the young girl throwing the peg, there was no laughter on her features, no sharing of a joke with her friends. It was just a look of indifference, of boredom.
On one level they were affecting my friend, they possibly would be aware of the fact that it could be upsetting, or annoying. If in that moment I had asked the girl why she was throwing pegs over the fence, her reply may have been, 'because i'm bored'
In my previous blog on boredom I spoke about it being a maddening emotion. I think for that group of teenagers there was an undercurrent of anger. Because nothing is going on, they need to create something, they want to impact, so they throw pegs over a fence, and by doing so they affect another with their behaviour. They can create a drama, a confrontation.
My friend then told me that when it had first happened, the next door neighbours daughter had thrown rubbish into her garden. She went out one morning and found several cartons of milk, some empty, some have full, there were boxes of discarded takeaways, and several cans of coke. The daughter had gone on a blitz, and of course my friend brought it to the attention of the parents.
After talking with their daughter, the mother had told my friend what they'd spoken about. The mother said her daughter had really opened up to her, she'd explained that she'd felt neglected by her mother, that she felt she had somehow let her mother down and now she was growing up her mother did not want to know her, or care about her. That girl had so desperately wanted to be seen she'd forced a confrontation by her destructive behaviour.
My friend had I guess become an unwilling catalyst for change, if they provoked her, she could provoke the parents. Which is why she didn't react to the behaviour of the teenagers there and then, she said she would just wait till the morning, pick the pegs up, return them to her neighbours and leave it with them, and just hope for the best. I admired my friend for her attitude and I guess her neighbours are very lucky to have someone like her next door, my friend didn't buy into the negatvie, bored feelings of those teenagers and so kept the situation abated.
13:44 - 08|05|2006 - Elephants Never Forget
I have on several occasions heard use of the metaphor of the elephant in the living room that nobody sees. I think the first time I came across it was in a short film about a couple who were no longer communicating, and so they just couldn't see the elephant lying on the dinning room table.
Yesterday I went to see the French street theatre company, Royal de Luxe and their Sultan's elephant (pictured above). The elephant was huge and was paraded through the streets, roads were closed to traffic, and crowds of people gathered to see it.
In the evening I spoke to my neighbour about seeing the elephant, and he was very surprised, he would of loved to have seen it and to have taken his children along. He wanted to know how I heard about it, and I explained it had been in the press. I was surprised and wondered how he did not hear about the three storey high elephant puppet walking around London town.
Two things then occurred to me. Sometimes we are so busy and there are so many things to do that we can miss the big elephant in front of us. Secondly, if we know there's a big elephant, it doesn't automatically mean the other person does.
The Sultan's elephant gave me a gentle reminder last night about making assumptions.
10:32 - 05|05|2006 - To Avoid Or Not to Avoid?
There are often workshops on topics, like "How to avoid conflict" which to me of course seems impossible. There will be conflict in our lives, the trick is learning how to deal with it, how to manage it. So I guess it just a case of re-naming the workshop, "How to deal with conflict"
The idea of avoiding is of course very desirable, and I can see why the workshop or course would be named that. It's a way of selling the idea. How many of us would jump at the chance of not having to have conflicts?
Yet the fact that you could buy in to the idea that it is possible to avoid, would in the long run be detrimental. Avoiding does not make the situation, or situation's go away. It is going to be more advantageous to learn how to face difficult situations, to learn how to not avoid.
13:38 - 09|05|2006 - Response to 'To Avoid Or Not to Avoid?'
Further to your comments on avoiding conflict, whilst I agree with you comment that it seems better to face difficult situations rather than avoid them. It lead me to ask myself what is the cause of our conflict? Is it division and boundaries? Is conflict a measure of ones values and beliefs?
By facing conflict, I began to wonder if it came about from my desire for pleasure and avoiding pain? I want to keep the pleasurable and avoid the painful; but if I look closely, both are difficult and can cause suffering.
But do I really want to be free from conflict? If I have no conflict then surely I am asleep! Because without conflict how do we know we exist?'
10:45 - 04|05|2006 - Apathy
Local election's are upon us and the word apathy always springs to mind. It is a word that is used by politicians to describe the lack of voters voting. To use the word apathy would place the blame, and responsibility onto the general voting public.
By using the word apathy,the politicians try to avoid the responsibility of their failure to get it right and deliver on their promises, which is the real reason why people do not vote, it's a misdirection, a negative propaganda.
I have become very aware of the misuse of words in my work as a counsellor. I have listened to people who have been labeled in a certain way, and so come to believe that is who they are. A child who is told they are stupid, will grow up to believe they are stupid.
If you go to a doctor and the doctor informs you that you have a disease, you of course would want evidence of that, the proof would be in the physical symptoms. You wouldn't just take the doctor's word.
If someone has told you, you are stupid, you are ugly, you are bossy, you are useless, you are nothing. Don't take their words. Go out into the world and experience what others think and feel, find out who you are in a more honest positive environment. Don't buy into negative propaganda.
13.33 - 03|05|2006 - The Pigeon
Yesterday evening I saw a young man suddenly rush from the bus stop we we're all standing at. He dashed on to the busy road and dashed just as quickly back with an injured pigeon in his hands. As he placed it on the pavement it fluttered helplessly.
At the bus stop we were all quite surprised by this, and as we looked down at the pigeon and back up at him, I could see from the expression on the young man's face that he'd surprised himself too.
I think in that moment the man had just seen a life struggling, his instinctive reaction was to just lift that life out of danger, he did not want to witness the pigeon being crushed under the wheels of a car.
It was an unexpected moment for us all at that bus stop. As I looked down at the pigeon I realised there was not much hope for it, but I still felt glad that the man had suddenly done that, had demonstrated something that resides within us as people. He saw a struggle for life and went out and tried to help, tried to make it better. I felt quite moved by the instinctive behaviour of that man, I think we all did at that moment.
15:26 - 02|05|2006 - The Wardrobe
The other day I was talking with a speech therapist who works with young children and we got into a discussion on how we process words.
She explained how the majority of us store words in our minds and when we are spoken to we are able to grasp the word and find an appropriate response. Yet with some of the children she works with it takes a little more time to process. She said it was like having a big wardrobe and the clothes hanging up are the words, but with some children the clothes are all messed up in the wardrobe and they have to rummage through to find them and respond. It takes a little more time for these children to answer questions, so they can often become left behind in class if it is not picked up on. When it is picked up on she can then inform the teachers of how to use language with children who have this issue, and to allow them more time to answer. Understanding the issue can lead to a much better communication.
Perhaps this is part of the process of therapy. When a client takes their first step through the counsellor/therapist door it is often because they are feeling misunderstood. The counsellor/therapist takes time to listen. Attention is paid to the words and what they mean for that client.
In the hour of therapy, time is given over to listening to words. There will be a seeking of clarification, the counsellor/therapist will check with the client that they have heard correctly, that they do not make assumptions and they interpret from the client's wardrobe of words, not their own. The counsellor/therapist attempts to enter into the world of the clients through the wardrobe of words, so as to help make sense of the mess we can sometimes get ourselves into.
16:22 - 28|04|2006 - Hope
Hope is the word, that acts as a bridge over despair. Hope guarantees nothing, but is the one thing that can sustain us in the most difficult times. Hope does not run out on us, it is not external, but internal, it comes from within us.
Yet the responsibility of having hope does not always have to rest entirely on the individual, others can hold hope for you. When the individual feels as if nothing is changing, when they are unable to break the patterns of behaviour that can make their lives a constant struggle. It is then the hope of others that can eventually shine through and bring the individual back and hold them in belief that things can change.
There will always be hope.
21:00 - 27|04|2006 - Separation
Yesterday I wrote about the need to belong, so today I think about the opposite state. To be separated. The word has very much become a part of the language. For example, on official forms there are certain categories of how to define oneself, and amongst these is the category ?separated?. To be separate means to be a single unit, an individual.
All of us have had to go through, or will go through a separation. Think of that breaking away from the parent, separating from the family unit in order to become an individual. This separation however is a natural and necessary one, and when there is a sense of separateness the young adult is able to come back in as an individual within the family.
However the separated couple is another matter. Quite often when we separate from the family unit we then form a relationship with another, we go on to recreate our own family. When people meet and fall in love they feel as if there lives belong to each other, all their hopes and dreams can be placed in the other. It is terribly painful when that changes, when one partner no longer loves anymore.
The pain of separating from another, to end it all, to let go of the person who had shared intimate moments in your life, who you dreamt with. It is one of the most difficult states of being that we have to go through, and it is only time that can deal with it.
In becoming an individual again, in returning to the single unit, the person must learn how to fill the time that it takes to overcome the separation, and time must be filled, otherwise there is a falling into depression, as you cannot cope with the feelings. Allow yourself the feelings of loss, talk about it with others and cry as much as you like. But keep that spark of life going and fill your time up with new ideas, new dreams, new people.
You don?t have to be alone with loneliness, all of us had to have those moments of separation, don?t make yourself alone, make time yours.
17:00 - 26|04|2006 - Belonging
There have been some very exciting football matches on recently. Last night it was the Arsenal fans who had to go through it.
Over the weekend I was in the company of a Liverpool fan and a Chelsea fan on the Saturday, and on the Sunday I was with West Ham supporters. It is almost impossible to describe the range of emotions that supporters go through. Ninety minutes of time becomes something else during a football match.
What watching football does is bring the individual into the group, a clan, a tribe. There is such a sense of belonging because there is this mass sharing of emotion, whether it be absolute euphoria, or absolute devastation, you share it with your clan. Individuals in those ninety minutes allow themselves a complete freedom of expression. The noise of fans at a football match is deafening, it's similar to pop concerts. In those environments we let go of our inhibitions we become pure expression, physically and vocally. It is a very liberating experience and obviously there is a need within us all to have that collective experience, to become connected with each other. To belong to something for a while.
22:18 - 25|04|2006 - To Be Seen
I touched upon the subject of loneliness before, and I have been involved with a few discussions since then on the different types of loneliness we can experience in our lives.
One friend said that loneliness is necessary sometimes, when she was getting over a bereavement she wanted to be alone with her feelings for a while, and when she'd grieved she was able to come back into society.
So certain people are able to go with the flow of loneliness. Loneliness comes when we feel isolated from others, my friend became isolated in grief, but was able to process it, and come through it.
When working with people with mental health problems I began to hear them speak of a loneliness that seemed to permeate their being.
Society has always found it difficult to deal with or understand people who think in a completely different way to the defined 'norm'. Mental illness has always carried a great stigma, it's frightening and threatening to the established normality.
If you are mentally ill you are immediately isolated because you cannot process your thoughts in the same way that the others around you can. You cannot be understood because your behaviour is so different from the rest of society. To fit in you need to be labelled and medicated in order to maintain your behaviour, to keep the thoughts that drive you to behave in unconventional ways abated.
The drugs won't cure you they will stablise you, you will still be isolated from the rest of the community because you are different.
That loneliness does not ebb and flow, it is constant, I have heard it in the counselling room with clients, the despair of being lonely, because they do not feel anyone will ever truly understand. Sometimes all it really takes is a recognition of the difference, to be able to name that. For myself as a counsellor to be able to turn to a client and say I do not know what is like to be you, I do not have to live with that loneliness, but I recognise you. I cannot change anything, but I can recognise the individual in front of me struggling and trying to come to terms with their existence, just like everybody else in this life. Just to recognise the difference and to respect the struggle of what it must be like to live with mental illness, perhaps I hope that will make it less isolating for the person living with the condition.
If we are seen as who we are, can we alleviate the loneliness?
16:52 - 24|04|2006 - Dependency
Can a fear of dependency make you dependent? What if as a child you could not be dependent on the parent? It would no doubt be a very confusing and unsafe place to exist in as a child.
In my work as an addiction counsellor I have often found that adults who grew up in these environments can often become dependent on drugs and alcohol. I feel that a person who had to become self-reliant as a child because they could not depend on the parent, could then as an adult have a fear of becoming dependent on another.
Dependent, the word itself means ?unable to do without?. So what happens if as an adult you met someone who brought out strong emotions, like needing, wanting. Those feelings can bring on an anxiety, thoughts of ?I could lose them, they could leave? could be too much to overcome, so you avoid the attachment to the person.
But what if someone introduces you to a drug which makes you feel euphoric? When you take the drug you feel like you are wrapped up in cotton wool, you forget in the moments that the drug courses through you, you forget. Till you find that not only are you emotionally dependent on the drug, but you are physically dependent. You begin to feel you are unable to do without it.
There are so many layers to addiction, so many forms, whether it?s drugs, alcohol, sex, food, shopping, and so many reason?s why a person becomes addicted. In most cases I feel a person becomes addicted because they are trying to fill up a space, a loss, a lack of comfort and security, because they were never able to feel the luxury of trusting and being dependent on the parent.
Understanding the reasons, learning how to unravel the layers, is a road to recovery.
13:55 - 21|04|2006 - Mysterious
My friend got into a discussion with me about the idea of the third heart, and the question I posed, ?Is that third heart inexpressible?? Her thought was ?yes?.
There of course will always be a part of us that remains hidden, that is just inexpressible. Only we as individuals can ever know that third heart, and that is why others always remain hidden from us too.
My friend had quite a humorous slant towards it at the end of our conversation, but it had a very good point to it. We need to have a mystery, if everyone knew absolutely everything about us, well why would they want to know us anymore? We like to find things out about people. So the mystery is our third heart and the thing that attracts us to the other is their third heart, we are intrigued by the unknown. So the conclusion we came to was, that it is good to have the inexpressible third heart, and that the most important heart to express is the second heart, the one you can show to your family and friends.
11:45 - 20|04|2006 - The Flag
Channel 4 had a programme on two nights ago about the making of ?snuff movies'. I think the idea behind the programme was, ?are they a myth?? The bit that I watched centered around two films that were made in the early 80?s that caused uproar because they supposedly showed the actors being murdered. Subsequently it was proven that they were of course not real, and that it was all very clever special effects.
In making the programme they started to show clips of the alleged films. I then realised that over the years I had become de-sensitised to these images, as I know in the 80?s when these ?video nasties? were all the rage, I could not watch them, they shocked me. Yet I was able to watch a programme showing clips from those controversial videos.
Now later on that same evening the BBC showed the film 'A Streetcar Named Desire', and I was suddenly struck by what Tennessee Williams had been trying to write about. Blanche Du Bois is a character who is abundantly sensitive and Stanley Kowalski is the complete opposite, an insensitive brute. In creating these two characters, Tennessee Williams shows us the struggle. How can Blanche survive?
At one point Blanche tries to get her sister to leave, and Tennessee writes a beautiful speech in Act IV that sums up a part of the struggle for Blanche, as she comes to terms with the reality of the world she now finds herself inhabiting. Blanche at the end of the speech implores her sister, ?In some kinds of people some tenderer feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make grow! And cling to, and hold as our flag! In this dark march toward whatever it is we?re approaching? Don?t-don?t hang back with the brutes!? Tennessee Williams, in writing this speech is imploring the audience to try and hold on to sensitivity even though the world can be brutal. I guess in his life he carried the flag and held hope. By showing us gross insensitivity in Stanley Kowalski he hoped to make us more aware, more determined to hold on to that flag.
11:07 - 19|04|2006 - Retreat
How busy we can be without realising it, how much it has become a normal way of being. Life moves at a much faster pace today. There is so much to keep us busy, work and play. We just get used to all the hustle and bustle of it. So used to it in fact that when we find ourselves out of that noise, it can be quite disconcerting to start off with. If you are not used to the quiet and stillness, your first compulsion can be to fill it up with noise, to make it busy.
Sitting silent in a room can become deafening, the silence becomes filled up with something. With you. Thoughts of yourself. But, if you just hold on for a while, you can then experience a calm, a retreat from all the noise, the rush.
It?s not so scary, you can get use to the sound of silence, then you can come back into the hustle and bustle knowing you have found a retreat when you next need it.
13:23 - 18|04|2006 - Three Hearts
A while ago now I read a fictional book. I think it was the book Shogun, where the Japanese character was describing the Japanese way to the European character, he said the Japanese have three hearts, one they show to all the world, one they show to their close friends and family and the other they show to no one but themselves. I only remembered this because I?d been having a funny conversation about Star Trek and the empathic Diana Troy in the Next Generation. I guess the conversation was centred around balancing everything out. How we need to be able express our emotions, but we also need to hold them too. And that?s when I remembered the idea of three hearts. I suppose there is a fine art to expressing ourselves, whom we chose to disclose to, and how we disclose it. Out in the world you wouldn?t show exactly what you were feeling or thinking, when we?re met in the street and someone asks ?How are you?? We generally reply ?Im? fine, how are you?? No matter how bad we might be feeling in that moment we would not share it with an acquaintance in the street. With family and friends the question can be answered, if you don?t feel fine you will generally say it and talk about the day. But the idea of that third heart, what is that about? Is that third heart inexpressible?
11:13 - 13|04|2006 - Imposition
I've been thinking about the idea of imposed guilt. Guilt can only be elicited if we feel we have done something wrong. Guilt is necessary for calling us into account for our actions. So guilt can be based in a positive morality.
Yet there is another kind of guilt that serves no positive purpose, it is the guilt imposed on someone who has done nothing wrong. That individual is made to feel guilty by the words of another. In an abuse of power, the other imposes their own ideas and ways of being without negotiation. The individual is told they are wrong for behaviour that just isn't acceptable to the other. They are told they are wrong for even thinking differently, for having ideas that do not belong to the other. A person who has guilt imposed upon them for doing nothing wrong will often feel uneasy in life, they are never able to feel a sense of contentment because they have never been given the chance to learn what is to be a free individual. We are not born guilty.
09:15 - 12|04|2006 - A Return to the quote 'I have spoken and unburden my soul'
What about those times when circumstance make it so difficult to cope, that all we have left is our attitude. We have to fall on our own inner resources to survive and it can often be a very lonely journey facing adversity. Perhaps that is the source of inspiration for that quote.
To give meaning to our struggle, to make sense of our pain, we need to speak it to another, we need a witness to those difficult times. If you deny yourself that, you can cut yourself off, and find it difficult to escape or find a respite from the difficult emotion created from the circumstances. You can become resigned to it, and say this is my life, this is how it's meant to be, I am never going to get better. You take no solace because something scares you.
The attitude of denial is always based in fear, what is that common saying? 'What you don't know, can't hurt you' This attitude means you can never unburden because you hide. To deny the difficult circumstances can also be a denial of self. Sometimes circumstances in our past shape us and we can suffer from low self esteem. I can see how difficult it would then be to have a strong attitude, how you could become resigned to a seed of an idea that was planted in you once, that made you feel less than you are. But there is another seed within us all, the will to live, to be, to have this moment. Don't deny yourself that.
08:04 - 11|04|2006 - The Advertisers Dream
Is there a pressure to being happy? Advertising constantly markets that idea. Buy me and you will be more successful and happy. Happiness is desired, a happy person is a socially excepted person. When a person starts to complain of feeling unhappy their often told to just get on with it, chin up, stiff upper lip. No wonder the person can start to feel wrong, as if there committing some grave offence. There can be feelings of guilt, questions of ?Why can?t I be happy??
I have often spoken to people who have been through some really stressful events, and they wonder why they feel depressed. It really is like it is just not allowed. Whereas when I?m listening to them I don?t see anything unusual in what their feeling, it is a natural reaction to the events around them. All that is needed is time to work through the emotion, to understand unhappiness is natural, and a lot can be learnt through the experience. To become unhappy about life is just part of living, people shouldn?t feel guilty about not being constantly happy and living an advertisers dream.
12:42 - 10|04|2006 - The Time It Takes
It takes time before a person can realise they have a problem, I wrote of this before, how you don?t just wake up and find your out of control of life.
It can take several years before a person reaches a crisis point and they finally talk about it to others and seek help.
Interestingly when a person makes the decision to finally get help, there is of course a great desire for the problem to be resolved quickly. In some cases a pressure can also be put on the person from others to resolve it fast. It is as if when the person names the problem, like a fairytale, the spell is broken and it is resolved, they are cured.
It took time to develop the problem and equally so it will take time to resolve it. It can often be the case that if a person doesn?t feel they are getting results after 3 or 4 months that they give up, they feel as if it isn?t working, they can?t be helped.
But once again it didn?t take three months to get overweight, to become completely addicted to drugs, to run up huge credit card debts.
Give yourself time to untangle the knots you tied yourself up in.
15:00 - 07|04|2006 - What Came First, the Chicken Or the Egg?
Today I played around with the thought, what comes first the end or the beginning? If I end something, something else begins and vice versa. Endings and beginnings flow through life.
I feel perhaps we are more aware of endings. There something much more concrete about an end. When something begins, the process can take time.
But endings, well they just seem much more complex than beginnings. Natural I guess.
To begin something, is to be anew, it feels fresh, it is the promise of something, it is spring.
To end, to finish, strangely enough, it is as if the word itself puts stop to the idea of beginning. So if we end something is that the anxiety? How do we begin again? I have put an end to this, now what do I do?
To Begin again, start anew, refresh. Can I do that? So now what?
Is it endings that makes us anxious or beginnings? How strange that two completely opposite states now seem to me to be very similar, they do just flow in and out of each other. Though it does seem that the anxiety of endings presents itself more in therapy than the anxiety of beginnings.
Still doesn?t answer the question of what came first though, so it?s a never ending question to end on.
10:48 - 06|04|2006 - Conformity
To conform to an idea that is not our own is very much a part of everyday living. On a grand scale we all need to conform in order to exist in the established rules of society.
In a way we are taught how to do this from a very young age, we are schooled. To conform to society does have it's rewards and doesn't rob us of our individual freedom completely, in most cases. But because we are taught conformation, we can also automatically conform to the expectations that are sometimes put on us by other people. In a way I guess we all want to have that feeling of belonging, so there is a tendency to want to conform to a group, be it family, work, or friends we want to fit in. That is fine.
It only becomes problematic when you find you base your behaviour on what you think the group is thinking. It's like being a social chameleon, you change yourself to fit in to the setting. This can often leave the individual with a feeling of emptiness and an inability to fully relate.
It can be very surprising and rewarding if you find the confidence to say what you really think, or feel. The surprise comes when the other individual, or individuals, say that's what they thought too, they just didn't know how to express it. Suddenly you can all find yourself relating.
11:17 - 05|04|2006 - Loneliness
I was thinking today about loneliness, well more specifically, what causes loneliness? The obvious answer is your alone, without friends, or family, your isolated in your own environment. True of course. Yet I was thinking about that often used phrase ?lonely in the crowd?. The phrase is played out in pop songs, novels, movies, it?s somewhat glamorised by the artist, it denotes suffering over ones existence. Perhaps the artists who write it feel slightly above the crowd. The loneliness the artist experiences is that of being an outsider, of being misunderstood. It is more of a melancholy, which became quite fashionable in society at the time of Byron and Shelly. But what about the person who just suddenly feels it, a loneliness in the crowd, maybe at a party, or at work, or just sat at home with their partner on the settee. What causes that loneliness?
14:52 - 04|04|2006 - To Journey
In Shakespeare?s Hamlet, Polonius offers his young son Laertes some advice as he is about to depart on a journey. It is fatherly advice about how to conduct himself in the world, it contains the line, ? This above all-to thine own self be true.? To be sent on a journey with those words resounding in your ear could inspire you or completely overwhelm you. When your young all you really know are the truths that your peers have taught you, so how do you know what your own truth is, when you don?t quite know who you are yet?
That is the journey. It is something no doubt we all experienced very keenly in our own transition from youth to adulthood. Trying to find your way in the world. We all make choices as to what we think we want to be, and in the beginning those choices can often be made from the idea of others, the ideas we were born into. The more we experience, the more we grow, which means we often end up challenging some of those ideas. Breaking away from what we were taught in our childhood can often cause a conflict within us. It can then be difficult to make a choice. What do you base it on?
I guess that?s where Shakespeare words come into play, be true to yourself and you can choose. There is the longest journey then, getting to know yourself, your values, your ideals, your meaning. Understanding who you are, learning to be at peace with who you are, perhaps then you can be true to yourself and feel confident on the journey.
22:17 - 03|04|2006 - Forced Change
Our emotional response to change will of course be shaped by the outcome of the event produced by the change.
Forced change will usually produce anxiety. To be forced out of an established set of routines that we have built up over time, can bring overwhelming feelings. Forced change takes away our control. It challenges us, by pushing us in to existing in a way we had not chosen to. It is the worst kind of change, it is an emotional test of endurance.
Perhaps the change is due to a loss of employment, a diagnosis of illness, the death of a loved one. We cannot control these events. In these situations there can be feelings of desperation, if all things are now out of our control, what is the point of anything, we cannot change the situations, it is bigger than us, it defeats us. Yet there is one thing that cannot be taken away from us, that stays with us no matter what, the one thing we will always have control of. Our attitude.
14:18 - 31|03|2006 - The Difference
A friend of mine commented on the differences between men and women, he talked about his idea of what that difference was. Then ended his conversation on ?thank God for that difference?. Listening to him define how he felt about himself as a man, and how he needed a woman to be different, he listed attributes that he didn't always like about himself, how he felt men are more driven to sex. He said he read a statistic about women, and statistically more women said they didn't like one night stands, he found that very comforting, that was one of the differences he was thankful for. I realized my friend needed that difference. His idea of woman seemed to be that she could tame him, hold him in check. He needed to feel that women did not have the same sexual drive as him. Is that idea of woman correct? How much literature exists on the subject of the differences between men and women? How long will we continue to write it? To me the idea of woman is still so indefinable, because we are still immersed in the historical language born from the idea of man. Perhaps it will take another century more or less, before we know what our real differences are, to know who we are, rather than the idea of an ideal.
10:25 - 30|03|2006 - Processing Pain
You don?t just wake up one morning to find you are overweight, or you are addicted to drugs, or that you have huge credit card debts. It happens over a period of time, slowly.
Why does it happen? What was the event ? What was the catalyst for the situation we now find ourselves in?
Did it start off with a feeling that was just too uncomfortable? A memory we did not want to revisit? So in order not to feel, not to remember, we need to distract ourselves with something. Did we eat for comfort? Take the drug to relax? Shop to feel good? So to keep feeling those emotions, we repeat the action?s that bring us the good feeling, in order to avoid the bad feeling. Till you wake up one morning and find you are in a cycle of behaviour you can no longer control.
What is needed to break that cycle is the ability to learn to sit with the difficult feeling, or memory, that drove you to the addictive behaviour in the first place. It is a challenging process to put yourself through, just having to sit with the feelings that you have so long tried to avoid. Yet learning to do that means you can wake in the mornings knowing that you are in control of your life again, because you have learnt to understand how to process pain.
11:12 - 29|03|2006 - Relationships in the 21st Century
In this particular time in history, do you think it?s more confusing for us now as men and women? Attitudes have completely changed, we have our own choices, we are not so restricted by religion, by the strict codes of society and family that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, we are no longer told this is what you should do to be a good member of society. As Sartre said we are condemned to freedom. The 21st century of the West represents abundance, encourages consumerism. The more objects we posses, the more we buy the happier we are supposed to be. If that idea has taken root, how then do we choose relationships, behave in relationships? What does serial monogamy mean? Do we consume each other and replace each other in the same way we do commercial goods, you can go on ebay and buy anything and you can surf the internet for any number of dates. If it?s easier to replace a boyfriend/girlfriend, is it then easier to avoid the complex emotions that can inevitably arise when forming a new relationship with someone. Difficult emotions can be avoided by moving on. Yet are we all not searching for intimacy with a significant other. Like a David Grey lyric, we all hope that this years loving is going to last. Have we lost the courage to become intimate? Or has this anxiety existed in every century?
15:19 - 28|03|2006 - Underneath the Surface
My friend was telling me today about the tantrum her eight year old son had in the park at the weekend. It culminated in the little boy running away from his mum as he couldn't get his way, he chose to run into a pond that was in the making, so of course it wasn't to deep or dangerous, just good enough for the job. His mum did not want to run in there after him, she said from this position he was able to stand there and declare to all and sundry everything that was annoying him about his mum at that particular moment, it had something to do with a balloon that had popped and the fact that he couldn't go back and get another one.
Of course he eventually came out of the pond after lengthy negotiation's from his mum. My friend then told me about what her son had said at bedtime. He was now very sorry for what he'd done to his mummy, he'd just lost his temper and was so angry he'd gone into the pond, but he'd said that as he was standing in there he'd suddenly got very scared and wondered if there were little fish in there that could bite, he'd wanted to get out and come to his mum, but felt he couldn't. So on one level, when we review that scene, all we experience is an angry boy, because that is what he expressed on the surface, at no point do we see the little scared boy who just wants his mother to protect him.
It just suddenly occurred to me as she finished telling me the tale, how often does that occur for us in adulthood? Emotions masking emotions.
15:01 - 27|03|2006 - The Fear of Intimacy
I was asked about this today by a friend, and got involved in a lengthy conversation about it. Why we choose not to relate to the other, our fears over opening up and becoming vulnerable. Is it that if we speak the words we truly feel for the other, they may not reciprocate, and they too may become fearful, and leave? Or again, if we speak the words and they reciprocate, will we suddenly wish to flee?
The universal desire seems to be that we want to be intimate with each other and that by avoiding the dialogue of love, we isolate ourselves, close off our feelings, remain in a safe zone, never really revealing ourselves, we stay hidden from sight. Love is based in the unknown, to tell someone you love them is like a leap of faith, it requires a great deal from us to make that leap.
Then we have the ghost from our past to haunt us as well. Depending on previous experiences, who would want to feel the pain of lost love again? You would naturally be more protective of yourself if you had been hurt in the past. When we develop protection mechanisms they can be helpful, but sometimes we create conditions and then we allow them to control us. So we can find ourselves in a position of no longer being able to form relationships, of maintaining relationships, and we end up feeling sad or cynical.
It seems everyone I have talked to about this really just wants to love and be loved, to have a connection and to no longer be afraid. Perhaps knowing that might make us become more confident.
Underneath the fear, sadness, and cynicism, is a very genuine emotion, a universal emotion. It reminds me now of something I heard from Eastern philosophy, along the lines of the gods discussing where they could hide knowledge from man. One God said hide it in the deepest ocean, another said hide it on the highest mountain, and the other god said hide it deep inside man, thats where he will never look for it.
I guess it always comes back to that, we need to look inside ourselves in order to understand. When we know ourselves better, well I guess we are more able to then open up and relate to another with love.
12:03 - 24|05|2006 - Boredom
Boredom. What a word, initially I would think that therebs not a lot to get out of boredom. Yet when you pursue it, the word is vast, it represents, tedium, world weariness, hours that drag themselves out of nothing into nothing, monotony, repetition, on and on it goes. That state of boredom is something we would all love to avoid. Yet it exist in us for a reason, it is one of the most annoying states, because underneath all that apathy of boredom, there is a demand to change. Boredom represents that. If we are involved in a task, or a relationship that fulfils us, then we are not so likely to suffer the effects of boredom. No doubt there will of course be moments of mild boredom even in these situations. We do need routine. But to feel a perpetual sense of boredom, well that is a challenge. You are being challenged because in a way it means you are not feeling fulfilled. That would then mean something needs to change. So to another challenge, as we tend to like routine and are reluctant to change. Change represents an ending, but of course it also represent a beginning. When we make a change it is always based on what we hope for, we do not know what change will bring. Therefore it is sometimes more comfortable to stay with what we know. But then there it comes, boredom. You can either hate it for what it does, or admire it for challenging you in to changing. Boredom, you can't live with it and you can't live without it.
21:19 - 23|03|2006 - Humour
I wonder about the analysis of humour, of joke telling. Of course when thinking about humour, well it's just a laugh isn't it? There is no need to analyse it, a joke is just a joke. But when I read about various comics and their up bringings, it seems that they often come from insecure backgrounds. I have an image of the kid in the playground not quite fitting in and feeling the ominous threat of the bullies, a good way not to get hit is to make them laugh. Humour is a great defence mechanism then? Equally so, you can defend yourself by attacking. Think of all the shows you've seen where the comic rips a member of the audience to shreds, and the laughter it brings. Humour also seems a way of attacking taboos, the comic can really challenge your way of thinking, the material is often quite radical, and again we laugh, perhaps through the sheer shock at the content, but something is released through laughter, so we can re-examine the taboos within our selves, our fears, if we can laugh at them. Perhaps that was the beginnings of humans developing humour, laughing at fear, not becoming it, reducing the fear by laughing in the face of it.
23:43 - 22|03|2006 - Repetition
In his 'Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-year Old Boy', Freud eloquently wrote: A thing which has not been understood inevitably reappears; like an unlaid ghost it cannot rest until the mystery has been resolved and the spell broken. The way I feel about that statement is, if in the present we find we are repeating patterns, behaviours, behaviour that really has a negative impact, that makes us feel frustrated or thwarted in life. Perhaps it is the ghost from our past, refusing to let go, until we understand it. George Santayana said something similar in 'The Life Of Reason': Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I sometimes feel that is the major work in the therapeutic relationship, the inevitable re-visiting of the past, as painful as that may be, in order to make sense of it, to understand, in order to put it to rest and leave it where it naturally belongs, in the past. If the ghost is laid we can begin to learn to live in the present un-haunted.
21:42 - 21|03|2006 - To Unburden
'Dixi et animam meam liberavi'. I came across this phrase today in Kierkegaard's 'Either/Or'. It means 'I have spoken and unburden my soul'. It seems so poetical and beautiful in it's simplicity. The imagery it conveys, the idea of keeping something deep within, holding it, not being able to speak, the burden of that. The phrase is liberating because it encourages the reader to free themselves from the shackles of silence and to finally speak.
18:03 - 20|03|2006 - Guilt
Is guilt a feeling? Certain stimuli elicit emotions, a negative experience can bring on a feeling of anger, or sadness, positive situations bring on joy and happiness. What is guilt? Is it a feeling that comes from within us? Or is it a feeling that is imposed upon us? Guilt is elicited if we feel we've done something wrong. It is as children that we are first taught about right and wrong, so I guess we're taught guilt. In that sense it becomes very complex. You have to hope when your a child that you have good teachers.