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Elaine's Journal Archive 2

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Welcome to the archive 2

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.

The dance

22:41 - 07|08|2006
I was at a wedding over the weekend. It was a beautiful wedding and the bride was equally beautiful. She was a very young bride, only nineteen. I think that may have had something to do with the tears that were shed by her mother and her three aunts when the bride and groom took to the floor and danced their wedding dance.
Maybe at that moment the mother and aunts were reminiscing on the past, they were remembering the little girl who had grown so suddenly and was now dancing at her own wedding. I believe they were remembering their own wedding dances and perhaps they were shedding tears of hope. There is a certain symbolism around that image of the young bride, she carries the idea of hope and love.
So the older women watched the dance and had so much love that they cried tears of hope, and as I watched the bride and groom I saw them dance with absolute belief in their love for each other and the idea that it would last for ever. Perhaps also the bride's mother and aunts were affected by that, the memory of the time they too danced in absolute belief.


23:35 - 04|08|2006
A group of us went to see 'Superman Returns' last night. It was extremely predictable from beginning to end. On one level all of us in the audience knew what was going to happen. But of course we all got caught up in the drama of cinema. The film score affects us, the actors affect us, the special effects really affect us.
So we cheer and clap when Superman lifts planes, massive rocks and boats, and flies around the world saving everyone left right and centre. We cry when Superman gets hurt and can't believe how mean the villains can be.
On the whole we will do this at every Superman film we have seen or will ever see. It is a formula that Hollywood knows works, and so it will just keep repeating it for as long as we want it. It works because we do not have to think at all as we already know what the outcome will be. It is 100% pure escapism. A bit of a break from thinking for a while.

The price

12:50 - 03|08|2006
I was reading Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov and had reached the chapter called The Grand Inquisitor. After finishing the chapter I found myself laughing at the brilliance of it all. Dostoyevsky rants against freedom in this chapter.
Yesterday I wrote about freedom being the ultimate goal that human beings pursue. But Dostoyevsky identified another part of human nature, the desire to give up responsibility of oneself. The desire to be ruled and told what to do.
This would mean that the individual was freed from personal choice, as the rulers would dictate what was right and wrong, and if the individual followed the ideal's of the society they would be as happy as lambs. So freedom is hard work, as you are going against the grain.
Yet what is the price the individual pays when they choose to give up their freedom and accept no responsibility? It is an easy route to start off with, but I wonder ultimately, what is the price?

Just rewards

14:43 - 02|08|2006
What is so rewarding about working on yourself? When discussing the journey the individual makes, when they choose to face their issues and go into counselling, I speak about the time it takes, about returning to pain and difficult feelings. It is hard work and there are no instant results.
So what is the reward for all this labour, I mean there are no instant cash prizes or a once in a life time holiday to be had by it all. I ask myself, what is the reward ? What motivates the individual to carry on that demanding work ? Perhaps it is the thing we prize most of all as human beings, I think the reward is to feel free. The work is all about freedom.

The course

22:09 - 01|08|2006

There are such things as 'Emotional Intelligence' courses that people can attend. I suppose I may think that it seems unusual that such courses need to exist. However I don't. I can see why these courses have come into existence. They exist because there is a need for human beings to relate to each other on an emotional level.
Perhaps what has been occurring in the West during the last century and the beginning of this one, is that we have become more driven by society to relate to objects and set ideas, we have become a consumer society. We have a need to get more and more objects for gratification, and once consumed we need to go on to more. Life is much more fast paced in the West and we have more distractions.
In certain individuals this is just not enough. There is an emptiness to it all. And perhaps when such an individual turns round to another person and looks for that emotional connection, they have forgotten what is needed, they are out of touch with their emotions. Rather than accept this state the individual chooses to confront the lack and may enter into counselling and therapy, or may attend an emotional intelligence course. The courses exist because thankfully the need to relate to another human being still exists.

In response to Fran

13:05 - 31|07|2006
Hello Fran,
Thank you for email, and for sharing your experiences. I think the choice for an individual to confront their existence is always a demanding one. Sometimes the individual can feel alone in their journey and can question the reason why they choose to think about it so much.
Some individuals choose to write down their experiences of what that felt like, and what it meant to them individually and universally. Whenever I come across a piece of writing like that of Kierkegaard's, I have a sense of gratefulness. The great thinkers passed down their experiences to us, perhaps in the hope that they would inspire us to think that there was a meaning to it all.
I believe they wrote so that they could pass on hope. They have sent a beacon of light for us. If we can see that light we can feel less alone and have the courage and inspiration to carry on our journeys and keep the light burning.

Response to 'the depth'

15:09 - 29|07|2006
Hello Elaine
I'm glad I stumbled across your journal whilst 'surfing the net' one day. I have enjoyed reading it and felt I wanted to tell you, and to thank you for finding the time to write it. I can imagine it's therapeutic for you too!
I have been in therapy for four years - it's been, and still is, a hard but rewarding journey. Through working with the relationship with my therapist I have learned so much. After a particularly bad patch this year, I felt myself wanting to escape from myself and the painful feelings. I read your entry for 11/07/06 - 'The Depth' and it struck a chord for me. I was wanting to go back to the shallows, withdraw from myself and others and to stop feeling. Then I read your quote by Kierkegaard and realised that I am at least living and feeling rather than hiding away, standing still and becoming 'lost'. I can see that to stay in the shadows is to deny a huge part of myself.
Thank you - I feel braver now.
Kind regards
(name appears here with permission)

Stating the obvious

23:39 - 28|07|2006
Today I was talking about shock and the emotion it produces. When we are in shock our bodies respond to that very quickly by releasing chemicals like adrenalin and cortisones. This in itself can cause great feelings of confusion in the individual, as the body takes over the mind and produces three reactions, the flight, fright, or fight responses.
The reactions are usually very strong. It is as if the individual returns to a prehistoric state, the emotion almost being the same as when our ancestors were facing a saber toothed tiger. Imagine then the confusion for the 21st century mind.
This is why when a person is helping the individual to calm down they often name it for them, saying to them "You are in shock". This stating of the obvious is often just what is needed to bring clarity and control back to the mind. Once the individual can think clearly they can begin to process the emotions and enter into a calmer state.

Traveling backwards

13:59 - 27|07|2006
I wrote about adults becoming lost the other day, and wondered how that happens. I became aware that we have a need to lose ourselves at times. There are phrases like, "I just lose myself in the moment". You can lose yourself in a good book, lose yourself in music. Losing yourself in this way is based in a need for a break from a part of yourself. For example, the part of yourself that works hard, the part that is required to carry out tasks. Life is demanding, so to have a rest from all that is necessary. It can feel good to be lost in something enjoyable.
The opposite state is to be lost in something that is not enjoyable, to be lost for more than just that moment. It becomes a state of being, the individual feels defined by the lost feeling, in other words instead of just having an occasional feeling of being at a loss, they define themselves as "I am lost". When that begins to happen the individual would need time to explore the lost feeling in order to begin to understand it. Perhaps they would have to travel backwards for a while in order to reach the point where they got lost, so they can find themselves again.

Keeping an open heart

14:45 - 26|07|2006
There seem to be certain rites of passage that people go through as they progress though life. One of the unfortunate passages is the painful relationship, where a person enters into a relationship with an open heart and learns to trust the other, only to have all that destroyed by the other person acting out their insecurities and destructiveness on them.
I have heard many a time the questions the person ask themselves once they have come out of the destructive relationship. They question why the other person behaved so cruelly toward them. They question why they did not leave sooner when they saw the first warning signs. They cannot understand why the person accepts no responsibility for what they did. The questions go unanswered and the person is just left with the sadness and anger at it all.
There is another question that begins to be asked: "What should I do to protect myself form this happening again?" Sometimes I hear the person say "I will harden my heart, I will become cynical, I will take what I want". Anger can illicit the need for revenge, it is understandable. I once read that the greatest revenge of all is not to be akin to them.

To be lost

22:10 - 25|07|2006
I remember a moment in childhood when I was in a large department store and I looked around and suddenly could not see my parents anymore. I became lost for about 5 minutes. A lot of my friends also talk of similar experiences. Perhaps it happens to many children: that moment when someone becomes lost.
The feelings my experience gave me were of course very strong. The general feeling that was experienced by myself and my friends were of panic and fear. So what does it mean when an individual has a feeling inside and they communicate it as "I feel lost". Or perhaps there are times when another person may say "You seem lost". How does an adult become lost?

Organisational change

23:03 - 24|07|2006
I was in a meeting today regarding changes within an organisation. In explaining the need for change, the presenter said it was necessary that organisations changed, that it was an evolutionary process. In making changes the management of the organisation knew that it would challenge people. In their view, people wanted to remain safe, but they also needed to be challenged. Without challenges there would be no dynamism and little progress.
What the management had to try and do was to find out how much they could make changes within the organisation in order to allow the workforce to still feel safe, but not so safe that they would not feel challenged. It was a lively meeting due to the fact that the management were forcing the changes on to the employees. No one likes to be forced, hence the lively meeting.
I guess the basic philosophy of the management was that individuals need to feel challenged in order to reach the targets set by the organisation. The irony for each individual in that meeting was they were not seen individually, but departmentally or organisationally. There always seems to be that conflict going on in the world, the collective need versus the individual need.


17:45 - 21|07|2006
I work with people who are working on themselves, so to speak. In the counselling room clients are working through their issues, and it is a challenging but rewarding process.
There can come a time in counselling when a client may start to question why those around them do not likewise work on 'their issues'. There can then come a realisation that some people will not want to change. Even when they realise they are wearing a mask, even when they know they are holding onto self applied labels, in order to justify their behaviour.
They will not change because they are unable to do what the person in the counselling room does, they have been unable to face themselves and have decided it is safer not to know.

The big heat

21:41 - 20|07|2006
Once again I found myself stuck on the tube whilst traveling home this evening, along with numerous others. London underground became frantic for a while. Yet the majority of people appeared accepting of the situation and stayed calm.
No matter what situations people find themselves in they are free to adopt their own attitude, and that really came home to me today as I travelled with all those people on that ridiculously hot train. The people on that carriage could not change the events, all they could do was choose their attitude towards it.

The mask of the mask

15:16 - 19|07|2006
A friend of mine brought a mask back from her holiday, it was a wooden mask of an Inca, wearing a jaguar mask over his head. So when I tried on the mask I wondered if I was pretending to be an Inca, or a jaguar? The mask reminded me of the complexities of human nature and our need to have our masks.
We can mask vulnerabilities with anger, we can mask disappointment with indifference, we put on the smile to hide the frown. The mask can hide us from our true nature, we can pretend to be something else and we are perceived by others as being something we are not. The need for the mask has existed through the centuries, but I wonder in this century what material do we carve our masks from?

In response to J of London

14:25 - 18|07|2006
Thanks for your response of yesterday J,
Children spend a lot of their time being taught. The role of the adult involves imparting knowledge to the child. The adult will also impart their ideals and morals on to the child. So yes, when you view the skipping game as a lesson in how to show a good face to the world while hiding a bad face, teaching themselves how to lie, that can be heart-wrenching.
I have written before about how individuals are born into ideas and language, how as adults there can be feelings of guilt, because the individual thinks and feels differently from the way they were taught and conditioned as children by the family and society.
Conflicts arise in the adult as they try to move away from the negative games they were taught to play. The harder the game was for the child, the harder it will be for the adult to come to terms with their own freedom and autonomy. The counselling room can be a place to unlearn those negative lesson.

Response to 'skipping game'

14:10 - 17|07|2006
Hi Elaine,
Just read your journal and I?ve got to drop you a quick line on the Skipping Game entry [12|07|2006]?
There?s something quite awful about the idea of little girls playing this game. It?s meaning to me is that someone who feels innocent inside can just run under the rope, but when you feel guilty, you have to perform, you have to jump the rope to keep going in life. Jumping the rope is about doing the right thing all the time, because you have to look good in order for it not to be found out that you are actually the bad you feel inside. When you think about little girls teaching themselves this lesson of how to show a good face to the world while hiding a bad face inside, teaching themselves they have to lie in order to survive, its quite heart-wrenching.
We all do this I think but it sounds a particularly Catholic form of self-torture? was your youth very Catholic?
J. London.

Smaller mountains

13:41 - 17|07|2006
I was at a picnic over the weekend, and I ended up in a conversation with a twelve year old boy about what I do for a living. I used the metaphor of a mountain that needs climbing over and what a counsellor tries to do to help. The boy's summarising of our conversation was quite clever.
This is the way way he explained it. An individual would see a counsellor because their problems had become big, like a mountain. When they walk into the counselling room they are looking at the bottom of the mountain and they are attempting to climb it in their everyday clothes.
The counsellor recognises that the person has to climb the mountain by themselves, but the counsellor could say, "how about if you try wearing these mountain boots, or perhaps this rope and pick axe might help?" The counsellor understands what tools to offer the person in order that they can learn to climb mountains more easily. He then asked me if the mountains go away. I said I guess mountains will always be there, but they could get smaller over time.


17:31 - 14|07|2006
Whilst traveling on a tube train morning there was a delay due to a stopped train in front of us. We were stuck in the tunnel for about 15 minutes. I thought about the feeling of being stuck in something. When someone is stuck in a situation it can almost be like living in limbo: not knowing the next stage or outcome, and feeling powerless to influence things.
If the situation on our train had not of changed, it may have lead to the passengers having to leave the carriage and walk along the dark tunnels. It would of been uncomfortable, but the only way to get out of the situation. When someone no longer wants to be stuck in a situation there may be a moment when they have to face the uncomfortable in order to leave and carry on the journey.

The guilt trip

14:55 - 13|07|2006
When an individual is trying to make changes in order to progress, and they recognize that the past has to be let go of so they can move on, there will inevitably be emotional obstacles that need to be dealt with.
I have written about regret. I have written about blame. And of course there is the equally powerful condition of guilt. Guilt can often drive the individual back into destructive patterns of behaviour. I have written about being able to forgive yourself for past choices. If you continue to judge yourself harshly, you will naturally continue to condemn yourself too.
Understanding the circumstances that lead the individual to choose certain behaviours that inevitably elicit guilt will guide the individual out of the prison they condemned themselves to. Understand yourself and break the oppressing chain of repetition.

The skipping game

12:38 - 12|07|2006
My friend and I were walking past a primary school when we saw some school girls playing skipping games. It caused me to recollect one of the skipping games my friend and I played when we were kids ourselves. The game involved two girls turning a skipping rope whilst singing "innocent, innocent, guilty, guilty", and a third girl who would run under the rope as "innocent, innocent" was sung and jump over the rope when "guilty, guilty" was sung. The skipping girl's turn would be over if she tripped up during the singing of "guilty, guilty", and it would be another girl's turn to skip. The winner of course would be the girl who could jump the rope the most without being tripped up. The irony of that game suddenly became apparent: feeling guilty in life can often trip us.

The depth

14:07 - 11|07|2006
The individual who is in touch with the consciousness of his or her existence can sometimes wish that they were not. There is a desire to just not think so much, to perhaps just go with the flow, to be like everyone else, to be content with life, to just stay on the surface of things. Does it not feel safer to stay in the shallows? Who wants to go into the depths?
Today I came across another piece of writing by Kierkegaard. He wrote: "This is what is sad when one contemplates human life, that so many live out their lives in quiet lostness... they live as it were, away from themselves and vanish like shadows".
The individual who is conscious of his or her situation and experiences it deeply may have experiences of sadness. They may feel as if they are separated from the mass because of their depth of feeling. But from Kierkegaard's point of view, the conscious person at least is not separated from themselves or from existence, they live in it entirely.

The bullet

13:31 - 10|07|2006
In action movies there is often a classic scene where the hero gets shot and has to have the bullet cut out. There is that moment when he or she grits their teeth and feels the pain. This is followed by the relief when the bullet has been taken out.
Imagine instead that the person was hit with an emotional 'bullet', rather than a metal one: something had suddenly happened in their life causing them to be emotionally wounded. How would they deal with it? To leave it would make it worse. To deal with it would involve biting the bullet and feeling the pain in order to draw it out.

Growing up

13:12 - 07|07|2006
Children are often allowed to be sensitive, empathic and tactile. Just for a while. When the transition from childhood to adolescence takes place, there seems to be a demand to become less sensitive. In order to survive school and society the adolescent is expected to toughen up. Is this the way to grow up?


14.01 - 06|07|2006
Last night I had a conversation with a friend from Japan. She said that her parents hadn't brought her up to believe in Karma. Yet she believed in Karma. She had got the idea of Karma from somewhere. I guess this demonstrates how different ideas form inside us. We may not realise we are taking on other's ideas, from people around us, books, or the media, but almost like a process of osmosis, we absorb them. Maybe this makes sense of some of the choices we can make in life. We behave in ways based on ideas from outside of us, and we end up calling them 'I'.


20:15 - 05|07|2006
As I wrote yesterday, there are times to regret, and there are times to
forgive. In between times it can sometimes seem we know not what we do. We seem driven towards a negative behaviour, but even the most destructive behaviour has a meaning. The individual is truly trying to work something out. This is what I meant by forgiving.
To continuously admonish the self for behaviour it wasn't entirely conscious of, because the self was struggling for meaning, seems harsh. To become more conscious of destructiveness leads onto becoming more responsible about our present choices. The word that can be used to describe this state is, 'mature'. When reflecting on past choices, remember, we all start off as immature as we haven't yet learnt.


20:45 - 04|07|2006
I have written before about how blame can lead a person to become stuck in their past. The other emotion capable of doing this is, of course, regret. Regretting the past is the most powerful way of avoiding the future. To be in the present and to mull over, with deep pain and bitterness, the regretful choices that were made in the past, robs the person of the vigor and energy which is required to motivate themselves towards a future.
If the person beats themselves up over the past they may become stuck. They can move away from the past by forgiving. Choices that were made in the past were shaped by the circumstances of their life then. If the person has feelings of regret it is because they are conscious of their need to change. They have become aware. With this awareness, they could be more understanding of who they were then and why. They could learn to accept, and learn to forgive themselves.

Self-applied labels

15:21 - 03|07|2006
There is a need for other people to label us. And equally there is a need for us to apply labels to ourselves. For example, we may say 'I 'am an extrovert', or 'I 'am reckless', or 'I 'am superficial', or 'I 'am irresponsible', or 'I 'am insecure'.
We apply these labels to ourselves in order to give the other person an idea of who we are. We can also self-apply these labels, in order to give ourselves permission to behave in ways that can have a negative impact on the people we choose to relate with more closely.
When struggles appear in a relationship and perhaps the other person questions the behaviour, you can fall back on your label and say: 'But I warned you that I 'am superficial', or 'I was just being an extrovert', or 'But I 'am insecure'.
We sometimes need to challenge people when they label us, and likewise we sometimes need to challenge ourselves so we don't hide behind self-applied labels.

Doing something different

18:39 - 30|06|2006
It can be difficult staying motivated when going through depression. The tendency to want to stay in and be still can dominant. Yet one of the sure fire ways of treating depression is through activity. Exercise is always cited as a good way of treating depression because of the natural endorphins that are produced with physical activity.
Doing something different can also be useful. Stepping into a completely new environment and sampling new experiences can be stimulating. Perhaps an evening class in something you've never done before. It can be good to try and think about something new, or do something frivolous for a change. We cannot be frivolous all the time, but just allowing yourself one day of doing something that isn't serious is going to give you a break from the seriousness.


14:17 - 29|06|2006
There are emotions that we are not supposed to have because we are told so when we are little. 'Don't get angry with me'. 'Stop crying, you're not a baby'. 'You're too sensitive'. To be adult can then mean we don't get angry and we don't cry and we mustn't be sensitive. These forbidden emotions often become the strongest emotions.
All emotions are necessary. But a suppressed anger will manifest itself as out of control anger. Suppressed tears will eventually not stop. Insensitivity will distance you from relationships. This will be the same for any emotion you have been inadvertently led into believing you cannot have. If you feel your having to suppress emotion, learn to find a way to give your self permission to express yourself.

'I am my own worst enemy'

23:56 - 28|06|2006
What drives us to become enemies of ourselves? The answer to this question may be that at certain points in our lives we struggle with ourselves. We have an idea of what would makes us happier. We try to work towards a goal we have set in order to attain happiness. We know what we must do.
Then comes the behaviour that leads us into destructiveness and unhappiness. But before that behaviour begins there is a knowing.
I remember working with a group of recovering addicts. One person confronted the others in the group about getting drugs. He said that as soon as he stepped on the tube he knew he was heading to his dealer, even though he had set out to go and meet friends else where. Meeting friends was just an excuse to get onto the tube so he could end up at the dealers. This knowing and admitting partly enabled him to stop the drugs.
In explaining his behaviour to the group he was trying to make others aware of their behaviour. They may have wanted to stop but they could trick themselves and find ways of accessing drugs. They became their own enemy. Part of the process of them coming to the group was in order for them to know their enemy.


15:10 - 27|06|2006
There are many examples of brave people who in dangerous situations step into the fray and do something. They walk into the fire so to speak, in order to rescue, to assist.
I have seen this bravery in individuals who are struggling with themselves, who are having to go and walk through fire in order to pull themselves out of the flames of their past, when an individual or situation nearly burnt them to ashes.
It would be better to forget about that time, it would be better not to revisit it. Take a pill instead, take a drink, do anything but think about it.
Yet the individuals who do think about it, those who come into the counselling room, they do something very tough. They bravely walk back into the fire in order to rescue, to assist themselves.

The paradox

23:33 - 26|06|2006
What if someone were to do a presentation for us on 'What life is all about'? After the presentation was over we would go out into the world knowing what we had to do and what we had to be. By following the guidelines in the presentation we would be happy.
We all have an idea of how our lives should be, but where does the idea come from? Historically society has presented us with an idea of how life should be lived. If we cannot fit into the idea are we going to become unhappy? The expectations society has for us cannot always be met. The ideas of society do not always match the individual's own experiences.
Quietly at first, a question can begin to form in the individual's consciousness. 'Why do I feel like this?' Why does nobody else feel like this? The thoughts come with feelings. It can become disquieting. Trying to understand the why can often bring on feelings of depression. But paradoxically understanding the why is also the way to beat the depression.


21:31 - 23|06|2006
I read Shelly's poem 'Invocation to Misery' today. It seemed to me that it was written as a love poem to his own depression. I realise that a lot of the great artists paid homage to their depressions, and their melancholies. Melancholy was like a muse to them. From their depressions they created their art. In a sense they gave meaning to their suffering through their art.
Those of us who are not artists are left to try and understand what we can create from depression. Part of the process is to give it some meaning. Even suffering must be given meaning. The opposite state is for suffering to mean nothing. That is depression at it's most bleakest.
Talking about your depression and making sense of it is your creative process. You do not paint it. You do not write it. You do not sing it. In the counselling room you learn to speak it.