Life Can Sometimes be an Uphill Struggle

Life can feel hard, can’t it?

Sometimes this is due to difficulties we experience in our own lives:

  • work stresses
  • relationship or family difficulties
  • difficult memories from the past
  • our own health concerns

Or it can feel hard when we look at suffering in the world around us:

  • wars
  • poverty
  • natural disasters
  • politics we don’t agree with

Or, even by acknowledging our own mortality.

So, what can we do, when these thoughts and concerns feel like they are intruding into our lives and upsetting our sense of equilibrium

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Sometimes it is important that we do face these difficult thoughts, and

  • not run away from them
  • not ignore them
  • not fight them
  • not block them off

But this can be easier said than done ….

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Understanding our need to block-off, run away from, ignore or fight our thoughts, is perhaps the place to start:

  • it made sense, as a child, to respond to pain in a certain way
  • our learned wisdom can help us to question our old responses, however.
  • we can apply wisdom, and develop new responses to pain

Wisdom enables us to see our responses are learned from an early age, and are therefore not our fault.

We can re-learn old responses and stop blaming/criticising/judging ourselves for the responses which are not our fault in the first place.

How often have you caught yourself saying

  • ‘I shouldn’t feel like this?’
  • ‘if only I’d tried harder!’
  • ‘What a stupid thing to do!’

By looking at things from a different perspective, we can start to let ourselves off the hook.

Once we can stop blaming ourselves, we make room for COMPASSION.

So, next time you are finding yourself drifting towards negative thoughts:

  • notice this happening
  • resist the temptation to move away from the thoughts
  • become aware of your response – are you trying to move away, block, ignore or fight the thoughts?

Once you have done this a few times, you are ready to move on to the next step of offering yourself compassion.

I will be exploring more about self-compassion in my next blog post.

If you are interested in exploring more about your own thought patterns and tendencies, and ways in which you can learn to change old responses, counselling can be a place where we can work on this.  Please feel free to get in touch and find out out more, by clicking the link below:

Counselling Enquiries and Booking

 

 

On Father’s Day

Just a short article to say ‘Happy Father’s Day’ to all the dads and father figures doing such a great job out there.

On a day when we are encouraged to remember and say ‘thank you’ to our father’s, it is also worth remembering, however, that for many, the day may not be about producing a nice card and present, or visiting the garden centre for lunch.

For many, it can be a day of painful memories, brought to the forefront of our minds by the hype around us.

There can be many reasons for this, and they are ALL valid.

Some of the things which could make today a difficult day for you:

You have recently (or not necessarily recently) lost your father.

  • This may be through death.  When a parent dies it changes us forever. Of course this can be made far more difficult if the death was premature, or if it wasn’t anticipated, leaving us no chance to say goodbye. The more traumatic this is, the worse the impact  it can have on us.
  • Loss may be through estrangement.  Perhaps this happened many years ago as a child, leaving us vulnerable, and in some way feeling to blame.

For some people, it can be a reminder that we didn’t have the childhood we’d have hoped for.

  • Abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual leaves scars that can affect our lives many years on.
  • An ‘absent’ father can impact children, and have further consequences on relationships in later life.

For fathers mourning the loss of a child.

  • On a day when children are celebrating their fathers, it can be a painful reminder of the absence of a lost child – whether through death or estrangement.

If, for whatever reason you feel you are carrying around emotional scars from your relationship (or lack of relationship) with your father (or child), however long ago that may have been, please remember, it is never too late to heal.

Especially today, be kind and gentle with yourself, and do whatever you can to show compassion to the part of you which hurts.

Speaking to a therapist, in a confidential and safe place, can also be an opportunity to work through difficulties you may be experiencing now.

I have experience of working with complex bereavement, abuse and relationship problems.  Please get in touch to find out more about how I can help you now.

http://www.southmanchestertherapy.co.uk

 

 

Self-compassion is the way forward

How do I speak to myself when I make a mistake?

Ok, so I might not beat myself up when things are going smoothly, but what do I do when I accidentally forget to check the cakes I put in the oven? Or miss my appointment because I forgot to write it in my diary? Or forget to check the sign that tells me I can only park for an hour, and come back to a ticket on my car?

At times like that, am I more inclined to be cross with myself, call myself ‘stupid’, and/or continue to feel that way for some time…..

If responding to human error causes us to be quite unforgiving of ourselves, let’s face it, what is it doing to our sense of self-worth?

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It’s a bit like, how would you feel if someone was telling you 24/7 how rubbish you were?  In the end you would start to believe it – and that wouldn’t make you feel like you could go around with your head held high.

But, when we find ourselves harshly judging our ‘failings’ and human mistakes, in effect that is what is happening!

What does compassion look like?

One of the easiest ways to think about this, is imagining how you would speak to someone you cared about, like a close friend, if they told you about something they had ‘messed up’ – like an exam or an interview.

The chances are, you would feel very sad for them that this had happened.  You would probably empathise with them, letting them know how you felt some of their sadness.

You might also want to speak to them in a caring, gentle way, telling them, it wasn’t their fault, it’s so easy to make mistakes, we all do it. We do it because we are human.

And you might try and cheer them up, perhaps suggesting you meet up for a coffee soon.

In fact it is highly unlikely you would sigh impatiently at them, blame them for what happened, and proceed to let them know how much of an idiot they are.

Why not? Well I am sure first of all because you just wouldn’t want to be so unkind to a friend who was already upset, and second of all, because they probably would’t be staying your friend for much longer if you treated them that way!

So, when we look at it that way, it is easy to see how we are able to be compassionate towards others, and how it is probably something you’re already good at!

 

Practising self-compassion

There are many advantages to practising self-compassion, but if it is something you are not used to doing, don’t be discouraged if it takes a little practice.

Here are some ways you could start:

  1. The next time something goes ‘wrong’ for you, try and step back, for a moment, and catch yourself in that situation; what are you feeling now?
  2. Becoming aware of those feelings is a starting point – what are they: frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, sadness? It might take a little while getting used to naming them, but it is a helpful exercise.
  3. Sometimes it helps to see if there is a physical feeling that goes with the emotion: Can you describe it to yourself,; can you spot whereabouts in your body it is happening?
  4. Even if it doesn’t come easily to you (and it won’t at first), try speaking to yourself like you would to that friend who just experienced a disappointment.
  5. How did that feel?
  6. If you can persevere with this, it will get easier and you should soon start reaping the benefits that come from having SELF-COMPASSION.

The benefits of self-compassion:

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SO, it has got to be worth a try!

 

Struggling with a sense of low self-worth can be:

  • not believing you are ‘up to’ doing whatever it is you are doing;
  • experiencing anxiety;
  • feeling like a failure;
  • believing somehow you are a fraud, and shouldn’t be doing the job you are doing;
  • believing no matter how hard you try you can never be good enough,.

Living in this way can be exhausting, and can be a sign that you are not exercising self-compassion.

If it is something you believe is heavily impacting your everyday life, it could be that you would be helped by some support.

Counselling is a safe place to explore any issues that you may be struggling with.  You can be helped to overcome self-doubt, leaving you free to live your life as you were made to.

Please get in touch if you would like to find out more about how I can help you, by clicking the link below:

Counselling Enquiries and Booking

 

Friendship Struggles

Who is affected by ‘Friendship Struggles’

You may be reading this because something in the title resonated with something going on in you own life.

  • Perhaps you are a young person at university finding it difficult to find friends.
  • Or perhaps the friends you have, seem to feel threatened or jealous about you.
  • Or maybe you are at secondary school and feeling like the friends you have always     hung around with are not being very friendly to you any more.
  • Perhaps you have moved to a new school, or new area and are finding it difficult to find new friends
  • Or maybe as a parent, you are naturally worried and concerned about your child being lonely, bullied, withdrawn or unhappy and don’t know where to turn to.

There can be many reasons why we, or our children, experience friendship struggles at certain times in our lives.

But What Can We Do When This is Happening to Us?

The first thing to remember is, you don’t have to suffer alone.  And the best thing you can do is talk to someone about it.

This might be a trusted friend, a parent, teacher or counsellor.

Remember, whatever might be going on in your friendship circle, it is probably not your fault, and most likely comes from the insecurity of those who seem to be behaving in a rejecting or unkind way towards you.

There are all kinds of reasons which make other people behave unkindly towards others, and most of the time it springs from their own sense of insecurity, or they may feel threatened by you in some way.

Parents, if you are worried, you can:

  1. Keep a closer eye on your child
  2. Be a bit more understanding if they are ‘acting out’ through their behaviour – try and let them know you understand they are angry/irritable/upset.
  3. Asking direct and ‘closed’ questions is not always helpful, and often results in children telling you they are ‘fine’.
  4. Watch out for changes in their old behaviour – eating habits, time spent alone or increased time on computer games, withdrawing from meeting up with friends.
  5. If your child does confide in you about a friendship problem, it is better to try and stay calm and not get too angry on their part.  Lots of understanding for the way they are feeling is usually the best way.
  6. Try and involve your child in finding a solution to their problem. This might be by agreeing to talk to a teacher at school, or perhaps gaining some counselling support, if you feel the problems might be a bit deeper.

Students:

If you are away from home for the first time, it is very common to experience struggles in the first few weeks, or at any time for that matter.

There a lots of new situations for you to get used to, and amidst all the social navigations, there are inevitably going to be academic pressures too.

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or unhappy, it can feel like everyone else is having an amazing time, and this can add to your sense of misery.

Please be reassured, there will be many others who feel exactly like you, and there is no shame in admitting to yourself you need help.

Try to keep communication open with friends and family at home, as they will want to support you as you settle in.

If you have concerns about any aspect of your life at uni, including the other students, speak to a pastoral care, or personal tutor.

Remember, Student Support Services are used to handling enquiries and concerns that students have, and can point you in the right direction for support.  Reach out for help.

And of course, the Student Counselling Services will be able to offer the right support if you go along and arrange an appointment.

Above all, remember, things will get better.

If you have concerns for yourself, or your child about anything that has come up for you after reading this article, please feel free to get in touch.  Counselling can support you in many ways, helping to understand yourself and others, and break free from difficult situations.

Click on the link below to find out more about how counselling can help you or your child.

https://www.southmanchestertherapy.co.uk/contact/

 

 

Boundaries, and why we need them

I am certain we have all been there; agreeing to something we are not certain about, only to regret it later:

  1. At work do you take on extra responsibilities even though you are swamped?
  2. At home, do you volunteer to help a friend even though you you are exhausted?
  3. Or perhaps you find yourself agreeing to a family request out of a sense of guilt, duty or expectation?

Yes, that’s the one.  You accept and go along with the request, but part of you, deep down inside, knows you don’t really want to be dong it.

Often it isn’t until after the event that we are able to truly acknowledge to ourselves that  our first instincts were right.  But by then, perhaps we are feeling more exhausted, resentful and possibly angry with ourselves for not exercising a boundary in the first place.  And if it happens often enough, that we don’t act in a way that is true or kind to ourselves, it can start to affect our self-esteem.

But what, I hear you say, is a boundary?

Psychologists, Dr Henry Cloud and John Townsend, in their book Boundaries (1992), describe a boundary as ‘anything that helps to differentiate you from someone else, or shows where you begin and end‘ (p.33.).

Boundaries can be:

  • Physical – helping us to determine who may touch us, how, and when
  • Mental – giving us the freedom to have our own opinions
  • Emotional – helping us to manage our own emotions and disengage from the harmful and manipulative emotions of others.

 

But what makes us say yes, when we really mean no?

  • perhaps we worry that we won’t be liked if we don’t agree with someone else’s proposal – rejection is a powerful emotion.
  • perhaps you say yes on moral grounds, believing you would want others to help you if you were in need
  • or do you consider yourself as that person who is always there for others
  • we might tell ourselves we haven’t got a good enough excuse to decline someone’s offer
  • or maybe we are afraid of letting others down – often we can be conditioned to putting others’ needs before our own and we can act in a way that is self-deprecating
  • or sometimes we live our lives with a strong desire to please other people
  • or we may have a fear of conflict.  Past associations of saying no may have caused arguments, leaving us wanting to avoid potential conflict.

 

Brene Brown, in her studies on shame and vulnerability, said, ‘we tend to imagine setting a boundary means being rude or pushy, but setting boundaries doesn’t mean you’re being coldhearted’.

                Let’s have a look at some of the ways we can say NO:

 

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If you are finding anything in this article resonating with you, don’t wait for others to  change, recognise that the changes will need to come from you.

It can help to start small.  Once you start to feel the benefits of putting up some small boundaries, you  should start to feel encouraged to carry on

If you believe a lack of boundaries is impacting in a bigger way on your life, remember it can help to talk things over with a trained therapist.

I have worked with many people who have been helped through counselling to make significant changes in their lives and regain a sense of control.  Please get in touch if you would like to make an appointment and find out more about how I can help you:

Counselling Enquiries and Booking

http://www.southmanchestertherapy.co.uk